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Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, My Thoughts (Mes Pensées) [2012]

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Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, My Thoughts (Mes Pensées). Translated, edited, and with an Introduction by Henry C. Clark (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2012).

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About this Title:

My Thoughts provides a unique window into the mind of one of the undisputed pioneers of modern thought, the author of The Spirit of the Laws. From the publication of his first masterpiece, Persian Letters, in 1721, until his death in 1755, Montesquieu maintained notebooks in which he wrote and dictated ideas on a wide variety of topics. Some of the contents are early drafts of passages that Montesquieu eventually placed in his published works; others are outlines or early versions of projected works that were ultimately lost, unfinished, or abandoned. These notebooks provide important insights into his views on a broad range of topics, including morality, religion, history, law, economics, finance, science, art, and constitutional liberty.

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Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
My Thoughts
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron of La Brède and of Montesquieu

Edition: current; Page: [iii]
My Thoughts (Mes Pensées)
Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron of La Brède and of MONTESQUIEU
translated, edited, and with an introduction by Henry C. Clark
liberty fund
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

This book is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., a foundation established to encourage study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.


The cuneiform inscription that serves as our logo and as the design motif for our endpapers is the earliest-known written appearance of the word “freedom” (amagi), or “liberty.” It is taken from a clay document written about 2300 bc in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash.

Introduction, translation, editorial apparatus, and index © 2012 by Liberty Fund, Inc.

Most of the annotations in the present volume are based on the endnotes in Montes quieu: Pensées, Le Spicilège, edited by Louis Desgraves, © Éditions Robert Laffont, S.A., Paris, 1991; used by permission.

Image of Montesquieu from Œuvres de Montesquieu, nouv. ed. (Paris: J. J. Smits, 1796).

Illustrations on pages 433 and 453 are reproduced by permission from Les Plus belles pages des manuscrits de Montesquieu confiés à la bibliothèque municipale de Bordeaux par Jacqueline de Chabannes, ed. Catherine Volpilhac-Auger with the collaboration of Hélène de Bellaigue (Fondation Jacqueline de Chabannes: William Blake and Company Press, 2005), pp. 17 (#1) and 55 (#13). © William Blake and Co. Press, BP. no. 4, F-33037 Bordeaux Cedex (France).

All rights reserved

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de, 1689–1755.

[Mes pensées. English]

My thoughts / Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron of la Brède and of Montesquieu; translated, edited and with an introduction by Henry C. Clark.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references (p.) and index.

isbn 978-0-86597-824-9 (hardcover: alk. paper)—isbn 978-0-86597-825-6 (pbk.: alk. paper)

1. Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de, 1689–1755—Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc. I. Clark, Henry C. II. Title.

pq2011.a2c58 2012



Liberty Fund, Inc.

8335 Allison Pointe Trail, Suite 300

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Edition: current; Page: [v]


  • Introduction vii
  • A Note on the Text xv
  • Translator’s Note xix
  • A Note on Currency xxiii
  • Acknowledgments xxv
  • My Thoughts 1
  • Thematic Table 679
  • Concordance 689
  • Select Bibliography 699
  • Index 709
Edition: current; Page: [vi] Edition: current; Page: [vii]


Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron of La Brède and of Montesquieu (1689–1755), was born into a noble family in southwestern France. After an early education at home and with the village schoolmaster, he was sent away to Juilly, an Oratorian school in Meaux, just outside of Paris, at the age of eleven. Returning to Bordeaux for legal studies, he seems again to have been in Paris for four years, from 1709 until 1713, to gain legal experience. In 1713, at the death of his father, he went back to Bordeaux and in 1715 married the well-to-do Huguenot Jeanne de Lartigue, with whom he would have a son, Jean-Baptiste (1716), and two daughters, Marie-Catherine (1717) and Marie-Josèphe-Denise (1727). When his uncle (also named Jean-Baptiste) died in 1716, Montesquieu inherited most of his fortune, including his office as president in the Parlement of Bordeaux, a magistracy possessing both judicial and administrative authority.

At about the same time (April 1716), he became a member of the provincial Academy of Bordeaux, where he conducted and observed scientific experiments, read and discussed essays on history and philosophy, and generally became an active member of the region’s intellectual life. In 1721 he published anonymously in Amsterdam the first of the three major works by which he is known today. He called Persian Letters “a sort of novel” and once described its principle of coherence as “a secret and, in some respects, hitherto unknown chain.”1 Using the literary device of the guileless foreign visitors, Montesquieu presented a wide-ranging and candid discussion of religion, politics, economics, history, manners, and morals. While the narrative structure did much to shape the French Enlightenment method of indirection that would later be developed by Voltaire and Diderot, Persian Letters was anchored by the story of Roxana, the Persian wife who struggles with the conflict between her desire to love her despotic and self-deluded master, Usbek, and her natural liberty.

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The spectacular success of this work—it went through several printings in its first year—made its author a sought-after companion in the salons of Paris, where he spent much time in the 1720s. He had the unusual experience of being elected to the French Academy (1727) mainly on the strength of a work that many found both light and of dubious orthodoxy. At the end of the decade, he traveled throughout Europe, including to Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Austria, and, notably, to England, where he spent a year and a half, becoming friends with Alexander Pope, the Tory leader Viscount Bolingbroke, and many others. It was then (1729–31) that he read the English political press, attended debates in Parliament, and otherwise became more familiar with the English political and constitutional system that he would one day do so much to define.

It was also now that Montesquieu seems to have conceived the idea of writing what would become the second of his major works, namely, the Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline. Published anonymously in Amsterdam in 1734 and revised for a 1748 edition, Considerations was one of the most influential interpretive studies of Roman history. The book is less a narrative history than an attempt, not unlike Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy, to isolate analytically the factors conducive to Roman success and failure. Montesquieu saw Rome as an agrarian power, not a commercial one, and laid great emphasis upon conquest as the leitmotif of Roman experience. His explanation for Roman decline went beyond the standard narrative of the corruption of moral and civic virtue by Oriental luxury. Instead he provided the kind of deliberately complex, multilayered analysis—embracing laws, institutions, manners, and morals, even the intellectual influences of Epicureanism and Christianity—that he would develop further in The Spirit of the Laws (1748). It seems that Montesquieu conceived of his famous chapter on the English constitution (Laws, 11.6) as a twenty-fifth and final chapter in the Considerations—an idea he abandoned, apparently, when he witnessed the censorship in 1733 of Voltaire’s Philosophical Letters, a work that criticized France by praising England. That chapter was going to underscore the fundamental difference Montesquieu saw between ancient and modern liberty. Where ancient liberty in its Roman guise hinged upon virtue and conquest, modern liberty rested more on commerce, communication, information, and the arts of peace. The contrast between conquest Edition: current; Page: [ix] and commerce, like that between ancients and moderns, would become a recurrent theme in his writings.

The Spirit of the Laws turned the author from a moderately important figure into one of the founders of modern thought. Exercising an influence often described as diffuse rather than focused, Montesquieu’s magnum opus has been detected at the birth of sociology, comparative legal studies, and, indeed, any social science involving the cross-cultural analysis of some or all of the factors isolated by the author at the beginning of his study—namely, the “physical aspect of the country,” the “way of life of the people,” the “degree of liberty that the constitution can sustain,” the people’s “religion,” “inclinations,” “wealth,” “number,” “commerce,” and “mores and manners,” and the relationships among the laws themselves.2

One of the most important avenues of his influence concerned constitutional theory; the principles of checks-and-balances and separation of powers are the best-known examples. According to one study, the American founders turned to Montesquieu more often than to any other source—four times as frequently as the second-most-cited figure (John Locke). But at the local level, too, his influence in areas such as criminal-justice reform was pervasive and fundamental. In France as well as in America, Montesquieu’s work had a more authoritative status in constitutional discussion throughout 1789 than that of Voltaire, Rousseau, Mably, or any other important figure.3 More broadly, he had a formative influence on the Scottish Enlightenment through his friendship with David Hume and in the writings of Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, and others. Even in China, he was one of a handful of Western figures—along with Mill, Spencer, Thomas Huxley, Jevons, and Adam Smith—who were translated into Chinese by Yan Fu in the first decade of the twentieth century in hopes of liberalizing and modernizing that vast country. In sum, there is no disputing Montesquieu’s central and durable place in enlightenment thought.

The work translated here, which Montesquieu called Mes Pensées, is a Edition: current; Page: [x] long series of handwritten notes that the author began compiling in bound notebooks around 1720—either in his own hand or with the help of private secretaries—and assiduously maintained until his death, with the idea of eventually working most of them into published form (pensée 1). Some contemporaries knew he was keeping such a collection, and a few of the entries found their way into print during the eighteenth century. But generally this treasure trove did not come to light until the twentieth century (see “A Note on the Text”). The pensées shed much light on the Montesquieu corpus. Sometimes they enable students of Montesquieu to trace the development of specific ideas over time. At other times, they directly illuminate the meaning of his published texts. And although some of the material will seem either familiar to those knowledgeable about his career or extraneous to the substance of his thought, the overall effect of the pensées is to offer a cornucopia of thought-provoking reflections on every conceivable topic.

Montesquieu warns at the beginning of the collection that he will not “answer for all the thoughts that are here” (pensée 3). This necessary precaution imposes a certain interpretive restraint, reminding us of the unfinished state of many of the entries and of the seriousness with which the author took the publication process. But the disclaimer also has varying applicability. Some of the items ended up being incorporated verbatim into his published works, especially Laws. Others are referred to elsewhere in the collection, indicating at least a certain level of authorial satisfaction. At the other end of the spectrum, some entries are signaled by Montesquieu himself for their inadequacy, with deletions or marginal notes of rejection. Between these two poles, there are some pensées that are reasonably straightforward and others so obscure and so lacking in context that it is difficult to know what to do with them. Specialists have struggled to find an adequate characterization of the project as a whole, describing it variously as an “intellectual laboratory,” a “writing crossroads,” or a “portfolio of portfolios.”4 The reader can expect to find in this volume tools and materials in every stage of the production process.

In pensée 1525, Montesquieu offers another observation that affects the way the reader approaches the collection. Discussing the art of printing Edition: current; Page: [xi] and its effect on the writing of history, he observes that “princes have made of this art the principal object of their administration; the censors they have set up direct all pens. In the past, one could speak the truth but did not speak it; today, one would like to speak it but cannot.” Throughout his career, Montesquieu had his own encounters with the French censorship apparatus, and one value of the pensées is the opportunity to sample some of the author’s more unvarnished thinking, especially on topics such as religion and current politics where the censors would have been particularly vigilant.

Montesquieu was a fussy editor of his own writings, one who left far more unfinished works than finished. Indeed it is difficult not to detect a note of personal defensiveness in pensée 1950, where he states that “An author who writes much regards himself as a giant and views those who write little as pygmies.” Montesquieu wrote much, but he published little—only a handful of substantial titles in his lifetime. In pensée 1631a, at the beginning of the third and final manuscript notebook of the pensées, he summarizes some of the wide variety of abortive projects covered in that notebook alone.

One of these unpublished works is a History of Jealousy, a work that evidently would have combined his interests as an observer of manners and morals with the critical approach to history that he would make famous in Laws. In this case, only deleted fragments are left to us (see especially pensées 483–509). In Treatise on Duties, on the other hand, what we seem to have are mostly polished sections of a work that Montesquieu abandoned before seeing it through to the press (see especially pensées 1251–61, 1263, and 1265–80). Of avowedly Ciceronian inspiration, the work resembles the De Officiis in its application of moral principles to the civic world. But it also provides suggestive reflections on the differences between ancients and moderns.

As a historian Montesquieu wanted to go far beyond his Roman foray in Considerations. In the very long pensée 1302, he provides an outline for a sweeping history of France. In other entries he occasionally elaborates on some of the historical questions preoccupying his contemporaries. In pensée 1184, for example, he comments on Boulainvilliers’s own history of France, and in pensée 1962 he offers an extended critique of Voltaire’s use of historical evidence in the contemporary controversy over Richelieu’s Political Testament.

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Montesquieu had planned a separate study of the long and important reign of Louis XIV (pensée 1306), who occupied the throne during all of his own formative years (he was twenty-six when the Sun King died). But of equal interest, perhaps, is his ill-fated history of the rather neglected French king Louis XI (r. 1461–83), to whom he appears to have attributed special significance. The remarkable story of how that manuscript seems to have been lost is told at pensée 1302, note 14, below. But in pensée 1302 itself, he begins his lengthy account of the Spider King’s reign with a ringing remark, “The death of Charles VII [in 1461] was the last day of French liberty.” Such a comment, so tantalizing for understanding Montesquieu’s view of liberty and of France, foreshadows Tocqueville’s later reflection that the middle of the fifteenth century saw “the period of transition from feudal freedom to absolute government.”5

Montesquieu’s general definitions of liberty are well known from books 11 and 12 of The Spirit of the Laws, but the pensées offer revealing insights into their evolution. For the concept of liberty is one of those that can be traced throughout the present volume. From his rather wry and skeptical treatment in pensée 32, an early entry, through his piecemeal development of the metaphor of the fish caught in the fishnet (pensées 434, 597, 828, 874, and 943), through his entry at pensée 751 entitled “Liberty”—which may be an early source of his famous definition of English constitutional liberty—Montesquieu’s engagement with the contested and ill-defined concept of liberty was variegated and persistent. Sometimes he found a clever salon-like witticism or a lapidary formula to express his views, as at pensées 577, 783, 784, and 1574. But in pensée 884, entitled “Political Liberty,” he expressly distinguishes his view from that of the “orators and poets,” indicating a preference for the more analytical approach for which he is known. In pensée 907, indeed, he refers to his evolving ideas as “my system on liberty.” He also offers interesting perspectives on the origins, consequences, or prospects for liberty throughout the volume—for example, in pensées 1630, 1735, and 1780, and in his important letter to the Englishman William Domville on the prospects for English liberty at pensée 1960.

More specifically redolent of Tocqueville’s later enterprise is Montesquieu’s discussion of the office of intendant, the royal agent given broad Edition: current; Page: [xiii] powers to implement the king’s will at the local level. Tocqueville would make the intendant a focal point of his sustained critique of centralization in the Old Regime French monarchy. Montesquieu, who never discusses the intendant in his published works and mentions that figure only in passing in his correspondence (usually with reference to specific individuals), presents some more-pointed general remarks about them here (at pensées 977, 1353, 1572, 1835, 1840, 1846, 1898, 2066, and 2099).

Relatedly, the question of whether Montesquieu had a normative preference for republics or monarchies has occurred to many readers of The Persian Letters, the Considerations, and The Spirit of the Laws, and the pensées again provide numerous insights on this question—see pensées 769, 1208, 1494, 1760, 1854, and 1891 for some examples. After the upheavals of the Napoleonic wars, Madame de Staël would look back upon the eighteenth century and cite with approval what she called the “science of liberty” that it had developed; the present volume shows perhaps the leading “scientist of liberty” at work in his workshop.6

Other frequent topics of Montesquieu’s attention are economics and finance. Although he died just a couple of years before political economy was launched with the emergence of the Physiocrats, his numerous treatments in Persian Letters and Considerations, and especially his chapters 20–23 in The Spirit of the Laws, had a powerful influence on economic and financial discussion throughout the century. In the pensées, his remarks are sometimes in the vein of observations about current events (for example, pensées 17, 153, 169, and 249), sometimes they have a more normative or theoretical bent (see pensées 45, 146, 161, 178, and 246 for some samples), and on still other occasions he makes broad historical observations informed by his economic views (pensées 77, 86, 113, and 245 for a few examples). Montesquieu saw the “spirit of commerce” as distinctive of modernity and of modern liberty, an approach illuminated at numerous points in the pensées.

Mes Pensées also contains candid observations on topics such as life at court, the reign of Louis XIV and of the Regency after his death, or the place of women in modern societies. The art of the aphorist was highly valued in the social circles that Montesquieu frequented, especially in Paris, Edition: current; Page: [xiv] and his attempt to cultivate that art is on prominent display throughout the collection. Moral-psychological topics such as happiness, jealousy, vengeance, boredom, and courtship are frequent preoccupations. One moment he is offering alternative Persian letters; another, he is providing further ruminations about the challenge posed by Hobbes’s and Spinoza’s moral anthropology. And throughout, he presents wide-ranging strategic reflections on European power politics, past and present.

One of the noteworthy topics on which he expresses unusually frank views is religion, especially in its political dimension. The role of the Jesuits as royal advisors and mobilizers of Catholic opinion, to take one prominent example, was a durable feature of French life from the Counter-Reformation into the eighteenth century. The Society of Jesus became increasingly controversial as the century wore on, however, until they were expelled from one Catholic realm after another (Portugal, France, Spain, Naples, the Duchy of Parma, Austria, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) in the two decades after Montesquieu’s death. His comments on the Jesuits can be traced in this volume (see, for example, pensées 11, 55, 104, 180, 293, 394, 395, 453, 482, 544, 581, 715, 728, 730, 1038, 1223, 1301, 1302 n. 52, and 1959). Readers can also follow his thoughts about the bull Unigenitus, a papal edict of 1713 that began as a declaration of heresy against certain French Jansenists (that is, austere Augustinian critics of Jesuit laxity and royal pomp) but soon triggered a recurring dispute involving the Church hierarchy, the Jansenist-led parlementary magistrates, and the Crown. This imbroglio lasted through Montesquieu’s lifetime and beyond (see especially pensées 55, 215, 273, 426, 437, 764, 914, 1226, 2158, 2164, and 2247).

As is often the case with compendia of this sort, however, the true pleasure of reading it is the pleasure of discovery. Not unlike the more famous eponymous work by the seventeenth-century mathematician and religious thinker Blaise Pascal (1623–62), which Montesquieu owned, Montesquieu’s Mes Pensées often features paradoxical or unexpected observations about the condition of man in the world and in society that provide rich food for thought—not only for the author, as was its intention, but now for the reader as well. The Baron of La Brède was an inveterate observer of all around him, and this volume presents an essential window onto his energetic and creative mind, one of the formative minds of the eighteenth century and of the modern world.

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A Note on the Text

The pensées, a set of three bound handwritten notebooks, were not published in the author’s lifetime. Thus, except for those individual entries that were eventually published—often appearing in the notebooks with indications that they had already been “put in the Romans” or “put in the Laws”—we have no conclusive knowledge of the author’s intentions at a given point in the text. Nor do we know exactly when they were written. The reader can assume that the pensées appear in at least roughly chronological order, beginning in the early 1720s and continuing to the end of the author’s life. On occasion, Montesquieu dates an entry himself (see pensées 17, 141, 873, 1226, 1962, 1965, 1967, 2048, 2158, and 2164), which usefully lights the reader’s way, although it does not resolve all dating problems (cf. pensées 17 and 141, for example).

In addition to the chronological uncertainties, there are at least three other features of the manuscript with which any editor has to contend. First, for more than three decades the text underwent significant revisions under several pens. Although much progress has been made in identifying or at least distinguishing among the different hands, and even situating them approximately in time, there are still many passages of unidentified hand and uncertain purpose.

Second, a few of the manuscript markings are ambiguous. What strikes one reader as a deletion might strike another as an intercalation. In rather more cases, what seems to one reader like a later addition might seem to another like part of the original text. Montesquieu was fastidious about expressing his published thoughts with precision, and this disposition accounts for his notebooks’ being festooned with editorial markings. Although the meaning of most of the entries is clear enough, there are many points of doubt throughout.

Third, there are numerous errors in the manuscript, ensuring that fidelity to the text will sometimes conflict with fidelity to the author’s intentions. These errors span the spectrum from incorrect spelling (less fixed Edition: current; Page: [xvi] in the eighteenth century than now), to mangled syntax, to missing or repeated words. In most cases, the probable intention is discernible; in a few cases, there is more than one plausible interpretation. But this Liberty Fund volume does not pretend to be a critical edition. Instead, the preference here has been to err on the side of readability by selecting the most probable rendering, indicating possible alternatives only where there was a material difference in meaning between them. Likewise, punctuation has been modernized, although the reader will find some terms capitalized that would not be in a modern text.

The base text for this edition is Montesquieu: Pensées, Le Spicilège, edited by Louis Desgraves for the Robert Laffont press in 1991. His edition has the virtues of being the most recent available and of containing the lifetime’s knowledge of one of the world’s leading Montesquieu specialists. A number of adjustments have been made to the Desgraves text for the present edition. First, whereas Desgraves used square brackets to indicate both deletions from and later additions to Montesquieu’s text, signaling only the deletions in his notes, the present edition uses square brackets for deletions and curly brackets for additions. Second, Montesquieu frequently began an entry one way, crossed it out, and started over. Whereas Desgraves reproduced most of these cross-outs where legible (indicating them with the phrase “first version”), the present edition, again for readability’s sake, reproduces only those cross-outs that represent a substantive change. In those cases, I insert punctuation suitable to the final text likely intended by Montesquieu. Finally, the present edition incorporates textual corrections contained in the transcription work supervised by Carole Dornier.

As for the footnotes, the 155 pages of endnotes contained in the 1991 Desgraves edition, which are often adapted and elaborated from Henri Barckhausen’s notes in the original 1899–1901 edition,1 furnish an invaluable resource for students of Montesquieu and form the base text for the notes contained here. Again, however, several adaptations have been made in the presentation of those notes. While maintaining all of Desgraves’s references to Montesquieu’s published works to which a given entry is related, I have condensed significantly the quotations Desgraves used to illustrate such relationships. I have streamlined the primary and secondary literature Edition: current; Page: [xvii] referred to in Desgraves’s notes and have added cross-references for the reader’s convenience. I have contributed some identifying or illustrative notes where it seemed appropriate and have added notes concerning points of translation as well. Whenever a new note appears, for whatever reason, it has been distinguished from the Desgraves notes by use of the present editor’s initials (HC). In addition, I have translated foreign-language titles of works that Montesquieu refers to in text or in notes where cognates did not make the translation obvious.

There is a select bibliography at the end of this volume. The most common abbreviations used in the notes are as follows:

Adam Montesquieu. Lettres persanes [Persian letters]. Edited by Antoine Adam. Geneva: Droz, 1954.
Allen Montesquieu. The Personal and the Political: Three Fables by Montesquieu. Translation and commentary by W. B. Allen. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2008.
Brèthe Montesquieu. De l’Esprit des lois. Edited by Jean Brèthe de La Gressaye. 4 vols. Paris: Belles Lettres, 1950–61.
Catalog Louis Desgraves, ed. Catalogue de la bibliothèque de Montesquieu [Catalogue of Montesquieu’s library]. Geneva: Droz, 1954.
Considerations Montesquieu. Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline. Translated by David Lowenthal. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1999.
DAF Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française [Dictionary of the French Academy]. 1694, 1762, 1798, and 1835 editions.
Derathé Montesquieu. De l’Esprit des lois. Edited by Robert Derathé. 2 vols. Paris: Garnier Frères, 1973. A notes and variants edition.
Dodds Muriel Dodds. Les Récits de voyages, sources de “l’Esprit des lois” de Montesquieu. Paris: Champion, 1929.
Encyclopédie Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société des gens de lettres [Encyclopedia, or critical dictionary of the sciences, arts and trades, by a Society of men of letters]. Edited by Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert. 17 vols. Paris: Briasson et al., 1751–67.
Furetière Antoine Furetière. Dictionnaire universel contenant generalement tous les mots françois tant vieux que modernes et les Termes de toutes les sciences et des arts [Universal dictionary, containing generally all French words, old and new, and terms from all the sciences and arts]. 3 vols. The Hague: Leers, 1690.
Laws Montesquieu. The Spirit of the Laws. Translated and edited by Anne Cohler, Basia Miller, and Harold Stone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
OC Montesquieu. Œuvres complètes de Montesquieu. Edited by André Masson. 3 vols. Paris: Nagel, 1950–55.
OCVolt Montesquieu. Œuvres complètes de Montesquieu. Edited by Jean Ehrard, Catherine Volpilhac-Auger et al. 22 vols. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation and Société Montesquieu, 1998–2010.
PL Montesquieu. The Persian Letters. Translated by George R. Healy. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1999. Letter numbers in roman, pages in arabic.
Shackleton Robert Shackleton. “La Genèse de l’Esprit des lois” [The genesis of The Spirit of the Laws]. Revue d’Histoire Littéraire de la France 52 (1952): 425–38. Reprinted in Essays on Montesquieu and on the Enlightenment, edited by David Gilson and Martin Smith, 49–63. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1988.
Spicilège Montesquieu. Le Spicilège. In Pensées, Le Spicilège, edited by Louis Desgraves. Paris: Robert Laffont, 1991. Numbered by entry, not by page.
Vernière Montesquieu. Lettres Persanes. Edited by Paul Vernière. Paris: Garnier Frères, 1960.
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Translator’s Note

The style of Mes Pensées, especially in the early part of the collection, often featured a Latinate syntax with long sentences and complex participial phrases. With reluctance, I have mostly abandoned this syntax, instead opting for a somewhat simpler construction that would more likely be accessible to the kind of readership Montesquieu sought in his lifetime. For in the language of his age, his intended audience was clearly mondain (worldly) rather than strictly érudit (learned). Otherwise I have attempted a translation that is as close to the tone and literal meaning of the text as possible. Where two renderings of a passage seemed about equally plausible, this is indicated in the footnotes. It should also be noted that on some occasions where Montesquieu seems to be writing down a passage from memory, the translation is presented from the correct text rather than from the author’s faulty memory.

One pitfall for the Montesquieu translator is distinguishing between the descriptive and the normative. As an inveterate comparativist, Montesquieu was concerned both to describe in detail the objects of his capacious observation and to detect general similarities or differences between them—some of which were intended to have normative force, but not all. The ambiguities in the French verb devoir have sometimes made it difficult to tell these two voices apart, for devoir can mean “ought,” “should,” or “must,” but it can also mean “is supposed to” or “is bound to,” as in “All men are bound to die” (Littré). In these instances, the translator is perforce an interpreter. Montesquieu was rather careful about making normative commitments, so this translation attempts to be careful about attributing them to him.

The text contains a number of terms and concepts that pose particular translation problems. Instead of deciding upon a single rendering of any given term and adhering to it throughout, I have taken my cue from the context, following in this regard Montesquieu himself, who notes that a word like esprit will mean different things in English, depending on the Edition: current; Page: [xx] circumstances (pensées 685, 1160, and 1682). Since the Pensées cover a full gamut of topics, the problematic terms are also eclectic in scope. A number of recurring words raised special difficulties:

admirer; admiration. More likely “to marvel,” “to feel wonder at,” rather than “to regard with approval.”

bel esprit; beaux esprits. Usually a “polite and well-adorned mind,” but often used ironically and disparagingly. In the latter cases, it is not always clear whether Montesquieu means to disparage the content of the mind or the elegant manner of its presentation, so sometimes I have gone with “dandy” and other times with “know-it-all.”

climat. Usually translated as “climate,” but where the meaning seems to be a place where the weather occurs rather than merely the weather itself, “clime” has sometimes been used.

dégout; dégouter. Although “disgust” is the closest literal equivalent, that is too strong a word for what Montesquieu generally has in mind, so I have usually resorted to terms such as “distaste,” “aversion,” or being “put off.”

disais. Montesquieu begins a sizeable number of entries with je disais or its third-person equivalents. This imperfect indicative would normally suggest “I was saying” or “I used to say.” But the context rarely seemed to fit these phrases, so I have generally settled for “I said.”

droit. What is right or just. Often translated here as “law,” as in “divine law,” “civil law,” “natural law,” “canon law,” “the law of nations,” and the like. Sometimes it means a moral or legal claim, in which case I have translated it as “right.” Also used for taxes, tariffs, or duties, as in le droit d’entrée (“the import duty”).

esprit. Philosophically, this notoriously multivalent word can mean spirit (vs. matter) or mind (vs. body). But in Montesquieu’s text, the difficult decision has more often hinged on social qualities (“wit,” conversational prowess) vs. intellectual qualities (being “intelligent” or “smart”). At pensées 1160 and, especially, 1682, Montesquieu defines the term, gently chiding his fellow Frenchmen along the way while explaining why it is so problematic (see also pensées 685 and 686). Sometimes, it has seemed prudent to leave the term untranslated (pensées 213, 1062, 1122, 1145, 1160, 1218, 1370, 1426, and 2239).

état. Politically, the “regime” or “government” and usually capitalized here, Edition: current; Page: [xxi] although at one point (pensée 1546), in discussing the Venetian republic, Montesquieu expressly equates the “state” with the collectivity of subjects, so “state” does not mark a distinction between government and governed as clearly as it might later on. Often, too, the term has a social meaning, in which case it has been translated as “status” or “condition.”

fable. Normally translated as “myth” except when the context suggests “fable.”

génie. Since “genius” often has a strong, almost transcendent inflection in modern usage that it lacked in the eighteenth century, I have only rarely resorted to it, instead preferring terms like “talent” or “character” that retain the more mundanely descriptive function of the original (despite its etymology).

les grands. Ambiguous because grand can mean both “large” and qualitatively “great.” I have reluctantly adopted the term “grandees” for most instances despite its slightly archaic flavor, though on occasion I have gone with “the great nobles” or even “the great” where the context dictated.

honnête. Can mean “honest,” “honorable,” or even “good,” depending on the context. industrie. Generally a moral rather than strictly economic category in this period, meaning “dexterity,” “ingenuity,” “industriousness,” “resourcefulness,” and the like. On rare occasions (pensées 181 and 639, for example), Montesquieu applies the term specifically to artisans, but even then it is not clear that this moral dimension is entirely absent. Rarely does it apply to manufacturing as a sector (see pensées 281, 291, 323, 1650, 1801, and 1960 for possible or partial exceptions), and never to factory industry. liberté. Generally I have used “liberty,” except where the specific context seemed to make “freedom” more advisable. mœurs. Notorious for its coverage of the English terms “manners,” “customs,” and “morals,” this word has been translated “mores”—which evokes them all—unless the context clearly indicates a more conclusive alternative. pays; patrie. Pays is a general term that can refer to any distinct territory, whether city or region or province or nation. Patrie can also refer to these geographically diverse entities in the eighteenth century, but since Edition: current; Page: [xxii] it always means “natal land,” it puts the emphasis on the human dimension rather than on the merely physical, a fact that would become clearer in the generations after Montesquieu’s death, when patriotism would emerge with emotive force. In Montesquieu’s text, “country” is often the best translation for either pays or patrie. To preserve the distinction between them, however, I have capitalized Country to indicate patrie, and have left it uncapitalized where the term was pays. (See pensées 1158, 1260, and 1645 for cases where Montesquieu uses both terms nearby in the same entry.) police. This distinctively eighteenth-century term can have either an administrative or a cultural significance. Administratively, it can mean “administration” or even “government” if it refers to an entire state, or to “regulations” if it refers to a specific institution within a state. Culturally, it can mark off the broader difference between civilized and precivilized societies; on a few occasions (pensées 108 and 1532), the context has made “law and order” seem like the best option, but generally I have translated the term in its cultural dimension simply as “civilization.” société. On a few occasions, this word may be translated as “society,” indicating the sum of individuals living in a certain place, as in modern usage. But usually what Montesquieu means is better captured by such terms as “association,” “human intercourse,” or even “company,” as in “the company of our friends.”

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A Note on Currency

At a number of points in his Pensées, Montesquieu discusses monetary values (see, for example, pensées 17, 181, 214, 245, 250, 274, 317, 386, 530, 650, 661, 801, 1188, 1302, 1320, 1339, 1452, 1485, 1489, 1639, 1641, 1645, 1649, 1651, 1708, 1826, 1877, 1962, 2168, 2174, 2232, and 2258). Although it is famously difficult to perform cost-of-living conversions across the centuries, and although the currencies themselves were remarkably variable through time and place, it will at least convey a sense of Montesquieu’s orders of magnitude to know that an écu—translated as “silver crown” for recent periods, “gold crown” for earlier ones—was equal to 3 French pounds, a gold louis was worth 24 pounds, a French pound (or franc, an older term still used for accounting purposes in Montesquieu’s time) was equal to 20 sols, or sous, and a sol was equal to 12 deniers (from L., denarius). For the English equivalents, 1 pound sterling was 20 shillings, and 1 shilling equaled 12 pence; one guinea was 21 shillings. The rough Dutch equivalent to a French pound was the guilder.

Historians have attempted to measure cost of living by developing rough calculations of, for example, the income of day laborers. An English laborer in the middle of the eighteenth century might earn roughly 20 pence per day, or 20–30 pounds sterling per year. In France, a Parisian construction worker in Montesquieu’s time was making about 15–20 sous per day, or a very few hundred French pounds per year, and a Dutch apprentice might earn a similar number of guilders per year.1

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I began this project as a visiting scholar at Liberty Fund in Indianapolis in 2005–6. Without the generosity of that foundation, and the congenial surroundings they supplied, this volume would not have been conceived, much less executed. In particular, Emilio Pacheco deserves my heartfelt gratitude for supporting this undertaking from the beginning.

Professor Catherine Volpilhac-Auger, President of the Société Montesquieu, was unfailingly helpful whenever I approached her with general questions about this enterprise. Professor Carole Dornier, who has been supervising a new transcription of the Pensées, has been a frequent source of encouragement and illumination, generously and promptly responding to many inquiries over the years of our correspondence. The changes I have made to the Desgraves edition of the text (Montesquieu: Pensées, Le Spicilège, edited by Louis Desgraves, [Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont, S.A., 1991]) draw heavily upon her efforts.

My institutional debts begin with my former employer Canisius College, for a sabbatical and for generous release time during the drafting and completion of the volume. In 2009–10 I was a visiting scholar at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism; the institute (under its director, C. Bradley Thompson), as well as the Clemson Department of History, afforded me a most welcome venue for the final work on this edition.

The interlibrary loan services and technical support staffs of Canisius College, Dartmouth College, Liberty Fund, and Clemson University, as well as the rare book librarians at the Rauner Library of Dartmouth College, have lent their assistance from start to finish.

A number of individuals have contributed their time and expertise to the translation itself along the way. Christine Henderson spent many hours offering her sound advice early on. Once a draft was complete, Alan Kahan reviewed a substantial portion of the manuscript, answering numerous questions and providing many useful recommendations. David Carrithers brought his unrivaled knowledge of Montesquieu to the task of reviewing Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] a later draft sample, supplying pages of helpful suggestions and corrections. Laure Marcellesi and Marie-Paule Tranvouez patiently clarified some fine points of French usage.

In translating the Italian passages, I am indebted to Nancy Canepa and Graziella Parati for their helpful advice. The much more abundant Latin passages fall in two categories. Many consist of quotations from classical texts now available in modern editions. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations of these are taken with permission from the Loeb Classical Library®, a registered trademark of the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Many others are nonclassical sources, such as book titles, common phrases, medieval law codes, or Montesquieu’s own compositions. Kathy Alvis has reviewed all Latin quotations and kindly offered her suggestions. Tom Banchich and Kathryn Williams of the Canisius College Department of Classics have also helpfully responded to particular inquiries.

Many other people have made useful suggestions or answered queries concerning the text or translation, including Keith Michael Baker, Holly Brewer, Paul Carrese, Aurelian Craiutu, Paul Rahe, Stuart Warner, Catherine Larrère, and perhaps others to whom I apologize for forgetting. Despite these numerous helping hands, the responsibility for all translations—from whatever language—and for all editorial decisions remains my own.

As to the volume itself, my sincerest thanks go to Colleen Watson, Patti Ordower, and Madelaine Cooke for their admirable patience and professionalism in preparing the text, and to Kate Mertes for her usual thorough work on the index.

Finally, my wife, Kathleen Wine, has been a constant companion and consultant throughout this long-gestating enterprise, at a time when many other distractions beckoned, and has put her mark upon the translation in innumerable ways. It is a pleasure to dedicate this volume to her.

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My Thoughts

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[1] some detached reflections or thoughts that i have not put in my works.

[2] These are ideas that I have not delved into deeply, and that I am putting aside in order to think about them as the occasion allows.

[3] I will be very careful not to answer for all the thoughts that are here. I have put most of them here only because I have not had time to reflect on them, but I will think about them when I make use of them.

[4] Devotion arises from a desire to play some role in the world, whatever the cost.1

[5] My son,1 you have enough good fortune not to have to either blush or swell with pride because of your birth.2

{My birth is proportionate to my fortune3 in such a way that I would be disturbed if one or the other were greater.}

You will be a man of the robe4 or the sword. Since you will be responsible for your status, it is up to you to choose. In the robe, you will find more independence and freedom; in the sword camp, gran der hopes.

You are permitted to want to rise to the more eminent posts, because every citizen is permitted to want to be in a position to render greater services to his Country. Moreover, noble ambition is a sentiment useful to society when it is well directed.

[It is a great workman who has made our being and has given our souls certain tendencies and certain penchants.]

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Just as the physical world continues to exist only because each part of matter tends to move away from the center, so too the political world is maintained by that restless inner desire possessed by everyone to leave the situation in which he is placed.5 It is in vain that an austere morality would efface the features that the greatest of all workmen has imprinted on our souls. It is up to morality, which would work on man’s heart, to regulate his sentiments, not destroy them.

[6] Our moral authors are almost all extremists; they speak to the pure understanding, not to that soul which in its unity is newly modified by means of the senses and the imagination.

[7] It is always adventurers who do great things, not the sovereigns of great empires.

[8] The invention of the postal service has created politics; we don’t politick with the Mughal.1

[9] Does this art of politics make our histories more splendid than those of the Greeks and Romans?

[10] There are few events in the world that do not depend on so many circumstances that it would take a worldly eternity for them to occur a second time.

[11] If the Jesuits had come before Luther and Calvin, they would have been masters of the world.

[12] Perhaps one could say that the reason why most peoples give themselves such an ancient lineage is that, the creation being incomprehensible to human understanding, they think the world itself has existed forever.

[13] Nice book by one André cited by Athenaeus:1 De Iis quae falso creduntur [On those things that are wrongly believed].2

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[14] When one wants to abase a general, one says that he is lucky. But it is fine that his good fortune makes the public fortune.

[15] A courtier is like those plants made for creeping, which attach themselves to everything they find.

[16] What an obscure mystery is generation! The microscope, which revealed larvae in the seed of fertile animals but not in infertile ones like the mule, gave currency to the notion of the larvae, which has its difficulties. For (1) the larva must carry its placenta with it, for if the placenta were in the egg, how would one conceive of the larva attaching itself to this [umbilical] cord, which would pierce it in the navel in order to establish a vascular continuity; (2) it is difficult to conceive of how it is—given a million larvae, two tubes, and two ovaries—that children are not normally born as twins: thus, it must be that in each female, there is always only one egg fit to be fertilized. {Journal des Savants, March 21, 1690, there are many curious things on these matters.}1

It is very difficult to say why mules do not procreate and why a mare which has conceived from a donkey can no longer conceive from a horse. {Countess Borromée2 had a mule that procreated.}

[17] England is in virtually the most flourishing condition it could be in. Yet she owes fifty-three to fifty-four million sterling, that is to say, as much as she could owe at the height of her greatness without losing her credit. Thus, this high point of greatness has become a necessary condition for her; she cannot fall from it without being ruined.

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As for France, she owes much, but only as much as comports with the decadence she has reached, so that all the probabilities are in favor of France in this regard, just as they are all against England.

England needs to dominate in order to sustain herself {and maintain the established government}; France, on the contrary, needs only a middling condition.

English commerce must be more odious to France than that of any other power. For if the other powers extend their trade far and enrich themselves, we profit from their opulence, since they engage in much trade with us; whereas England, hardly trading with us at all, acquires wealth that is entirely lost to us. We run the risk without ever being able to enjoy the profit.

The present rivalries between Austria and Spain, on the one hand, and England on the other, can in this regard become advantageous to France, if it could thereby ensue that the prohibitions against the transport of English merchandise to Spain and the lands of the Emperor1 were to last beyond the peace. {It was impossible for that to last.}2 This is because the English would then find themselves deprived of two great markets: the Imperial lands and Spain; thus, she would lose much more than she would gain by the preservation of Gibraltar and the ruin of the Ostend Company.3

This May 7, 1727.4

[18] We seek out the authors of the ancient fables. They were the nurse-maids of ancient times and the old men who amused their grandchildren by the fire. It is like those stories that everyone knows, even though they don’t deserve to be known by anyone, the beauty of the better ones not being so well grasped by ignorant folk. The fewer books there were, the more of these sorts of traditions there were. A Locman, a Pilpai, an Aesop1 compiled them. They may even have added some reflections, for I know of Edition: current; Page: [5] nothing in the world on which a tolerably moral man cannot make some speculations.

It does the fables too much honor to think that the Orientals invented them to speak truths to princes indirectly. For if they could have a specific construction, nothing would be gained, because in that case, an indirect truth is no less offensive than a direct one, and often even more so. For then, there are two offenses: the offense itself, and the offender’s idea that he could find a man stupid enough to endure it without noticing.

But if these truths were merely general, it would still have been useless to take an allegorical detour. For I don’t know if there has ever been a prince in the world who has been offended by a treatise on morality.

[19] How many abuses are there, which have been introduced as such and tolerated as such, and which are found afterward to have been very useful, even more useful than the most reasonable laws! For example, there is scarcely a sensible man in France who does not rail against the venality of offices, and who is not scandalized by it.1 And yet, if you pay close attention to the indolence of neighboring countries, where all the offices are given out, and if you compare it with our activity and resourcefulness, you will see that it is extremely useful to encourage in citizens the desire to make a fortune, and that nothing contributes more in this regard than making them see that wealth opens the path to honors. In all governments, there have been complaints that people of merit attained honors less often than others. There are many reasons for this, and especially one that is quite natural: it is because there are many people who lack merit, and few who have it. Often, there is even great difficulty in distinguishing between them without being mistaken. That being the case, it is always better that rich people, who have much to lose and who, moreover, have been able to have a better education, assume public office.

[20] How imperious is chance! And how shortsighted are the politicians! Who would have said to the Huguenots, when they saw Henry IV on the steps of the throne, that they were ruined? Who would have said to Charlemagne, when he elevated the power of the Popes against that of the Edition: current; Page: [6] Greek emperors—the sole enemies that he had to fear—that he was going to humiliate all his successors?1

[21] The Epicurean sect1 contributed much to the establishment of Christianity. For in revealing the stupidity of paganism and the artifices of the priests, it left without religion people accustomed to having a rite. Although the Christians were their mortal enemies (witness Lucian,2 an Epicurean or nearly so who cruelly insulted the Christians), nonetheless, they both were treated by the pagan priests as enemies, as unholy, as atheists. They made only this distinction: they did not persecute the Epicureans, since the latter did not break statues and had only contempt and not hatred for the dominant religion.

Thus, when the Christians attacked pagan errors, it was a great advantage for them to speak the language of the Epicurean sect, and when they established their dogmas, it was also a great advantage to speak the Platonists’ language. But it was gratuitous for us to have taken up Aristotle’s jargon,3 and I don’t know that we have ever gained anything by it.

[22] The idea of false miracles1 comes from our pride, which makes us believe that we are an object important enough for the supreme being to overturn all of nature on our behalf; which makes us view our nation, our city, or our army as more dear to the divinity. Thus, we want God to be a partisan being, who is constantly declaring himself for one creature against another and enjoys this sort of warfare. We want him to enter into our quarrels as passionately as we do, and at every moment to do things even the smallest of which would paralyze all of nature. If Joshua,2 who wanted to pursue the fugitives, had demanded that God truly stop the sun, he would have been asking to be annihilated himself; for if the sun stops Edition: current; Page: [7] in reality {This example is poorly chosen, for one can scarcely interpret Scripture here except literally}, and not in the manner usually interpreted, then there is no more movement, no more vortices, no more sun, no more earth, no more men, no more Jews, no more Joshua.

[23] The gods are equally charged with the care of all men; they return the great nobles to equality through misfortune.

[24] When Commodus1 made his horse consul, he committed a great offense against himself: he removed the sense of illusion from office, including his own.

[25] The vast number of things that a legislator decrees or prohibits makes the people more unhappy, not more reasonable.1 There are a few good things, a few bad things, and an enormous number of in different ones.

[26] The Romans killed themselves only to avoid a greater evil, but the English kill themselves for no other reason than their own sorrow.

The Romans were bound to kill themselves more easily1 than the English because of a religion that left them scarcely any sense of accountability.

The English are rich, they are free, but they are tormented by their minds.2 They despise or are disgusted by everything. They are really quite unhappy, with so many reasons not to be.

[27] Christian humility is no less a dogma of philosophy than of religion. It does not signify that a virtuous man must think himself a worse man than a thief does, or that a man of talent must believe that he has none, since this is a judgment impossible for the mind to form. It consists Edition: current; Page: [8] in making us visualize the reality of our vices and the imperfections of our virtues.1

[28] Those who devote themselves to disgraced grandees in the hope that the return of the latters’ fortunes will make their own are engaging in an extraordinary self-deception. For they will be forgotten by them as soon as they are restored to favor. A man who emerges from disgrace is charmed to find people everywhere who yearn for his friendship. He devotes himself to these new friends, who give him a livelier image of his grandeur. Just as what amused him in his disgrace no longer amuses him, he classes you with the things that are no longer amusing. He has changed, and you, who have not changed, inspire aversion. However, there is injustice on your part in wanting a heart that everyone seeks to fill to be as much yours as it was {in solitude}. Amidst the noise of great fortune, he returns to his old friends, as he would return to solitude. It seems they remind him of his humiliation. If you make him aware that you sense his change, he looks upon you as he would an inconvenient creditor. He will soon come to dispute the debt, and the more he removes his friendship, the less he will believe he owes you. [There you have the source of most men’s ingratitude.]

[29] The natural purpose1 of vengeance is to reduce a man to the feeling of wishing he had not offended us. Vengeance does not lead to this goal, but instead makes it so that the man would be happy if he could offend us again. Forgiveness would lead a man to repentance much more surely.

There is still another pleasure, which is the honor we think we obtain from the advantage we have gotten over our enemy.

The Italian who makes his enemy commit a mortal sin before killing him loves the vengeance for itself and independent of the point of honor; he wants him to repent for all eternity at having offended him.

Nothing diminishes great men more than the attention they give to certain personal conduct. I know of two who have been entirely unmoved by these things: Caesar and the last Duke of Orleans.2 When the latter entered Edition: current; Page: [9] government, he rewarded his friends and relieved his enemies of their just fears; they found themselves at peace in the shadow of his authority.

[30] Happiness1 or unhappiness consists in a certain arrangement of organs, either favorable or unfavorable.

With a favorable arrangement, accidents such as wealth, honor, health, or illness either increase or decrease happiness. On the other hand, with an unfavorable arrangement, the accidents increase or decrease unhappiness.

When we speak of happiness or unhappiness, we are always mistaken, for we judge conditions and not persons. A condition is never an unhappy one when it pleases, and when we say that a man in a certain situation is unhappy, this means only that we would be unhappy if we, with the organs that we have, were in his place.

Let us therefore cut from the ranks of the unhappy all those who are not at Court, even though a courtier regards them as the most unfortunate members of the human Species. {It is said that everyone thinks himself unhappy. It seems to me, on the contrary, that everyone thinks himself happy. The courtier thinks it is he alone who lives.} Let us cut out all those who live in the provinces, even though those who live in the capital regard them as vegetating beings. Let us cut out the philosophers, even though they do not live in the bustle of the world, and the worldly, even though they do not live in retreat.

Let us likewise remove from the number of the happy the great nobles, even though they are adorned with titles; state financiers, even though they are rich; men of the robe,2 even though they are proud; men of war, even though they often talk about themselves; young people, even though they are thought to enjoy good fortune; women, even though they are flirted with; finally Churchmen, even though they are able to acquire reputation by their obstinacy and dignities by their ignorance. The true delights are not always in the hearts of kings, but they can easily be there.

What I say can scarcely be disputed. And yet, if it is true, then what will become of all those moral reflections, ancient and modern? We have scarcely ever more grossly deceived ourselves than when we have wanted to reduce men’s feelings to a system; and undoubtedly the worst copy of man is the one found in books, which are a pile of general propositions, almost Edition: current; Page: [10] always false. {Look at the galley slaves, all cheerful and gay; after that, go seek a blue ribbon3 for your happiness.}

An unhappy author, who does not feel fit for pleasure, who is overwhelmed with sadness and distaste, who lacks the fortune to enjoy the conveniences of life (or the wit to enjoy the conveniences of his fortune), has nonetheless the vanity to claim to be happy and gets lost in words: sovereign good, childhood prejudices, dominion over the passions.

There are two types of unhappy people.

One type has a certain lassitude of soul, which nothing can excite. The soul lacks the strength to desire anything, and everything that touches it excites only vague feelings. The owner of this soul is always in a state of languor; life is a burden to him; all its moments weigh upon him. He does not love life, but he does fear death.

The other type of unhappy people, the opposite of the former, are those who impatiently desire everything they cannot have and who pine away in the hope of some good that is always receding.

I am speaking here only of a frenzy of the soul and not a simple movement. Thus, a man is not unhappy because he has ambition {Somewhere in this volume I have written down how much pleasure ambition brings.}, but because he is devoured by it. And even such a man almost always has his organs so constructed that he would be unhappy in any case, even if, by some chance, ambition—that is, the desire to do great things—had not entered into his head.

But the simple desire to make a fortune, far from making us unhappy, is, on the contrary, a game that delights us with a thousand hopes. A thousand routes seem to lead us there, and scarcely is one closed off before another seems to open up.

There are also two types of happy people.

One type is strongly excited by objects that are accessible to their soul and that they can easily acquire {hunting, gambling that one can afford}. They desire strongly, they hope, they enjoy, and soon they begin to desire again.

Others have their machinery constructed in such a way that it is being constantly but mildly put in motion. It is maintained, not agitated; a reading or a conversation is enough for them.

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It seems to me that nature has labored for the ungrateful. We are happy, but our speech is such that it seems we have no inkling of it. Still, we find pleasures everywhere; they are attached to our being, whereas pains are merely accidents. Objects seem to be everywhere prepared for our pleasures; when sleep calls, the darkness pleases us, and when we awaken, the daylight delights us. Nature is adorned with a thousand colors; our ears are gratified by sounds, dishes possess pleasurable tastes. And as if this were not enough existential happiness, our machinery also has to need constant restoration for our pleasures.

Our soul, which has the faculty of receiving through the organs both pleasant and painful feelings, has the resourcefulness to procure the former and discard the latter. And in this, art constantly supplies the defects of nature. Thus, we constantly correct external objects; we subtract from them what might harm us, and add what can make them agreeable.

There is more. Sensual pains necessarily lead us back to pleasures. I challenge you to cause a hermit to fast without simultaneously giving him a new taste for his vegetables. It is in fact only sharp pains that can injure us. Moderate pains are very close to pleasures; at least they do not take away that of existing. As for mental pains, they cannot be compared with the satisfactions that our perpetual vanity gives us; there are very few quarter-hours when we are not in some way self-contented. Vanity is a mirror that always reflects to our advantage; it diminishes our faults and enhances our virtues; it is a sixth sense of the soul, which at every moment gives it new satisfactions. The agreeable passions serve us with much greater exactness than the sad ones. If we fear things that will not happen, we hope for a far greater number that will not happen. Thus, these are so many happy quarter-hours gained. Yesterday a woman hoped she would find herself a lover. If she does not succeed, she hopes that another one she saw will take his place, and thus she spends her life hoping. Since we spend more of our lives in hope than in possession, our hopes are multiplied quite differently from our fears. All this is a matter of calculation, and it is thus easy to see how far what is for us outstrips what is against.

[31] If pain distracts us from pleasure, doesn’t pleasure distract us from pain? The slightest object acting on our senses is capable of eliminating the most all-consuming thoughts of ambition.

{Men ought to be persuaded of the happiness they are overlooking at Edition: current; Page: [12] the very moment they are enjoying it.1 I have seen the galleys of Livorno and of Venice;2 I have not seen a single sad man there—seek now, if you would be happy, to wear your scrap of blue ribbon3 like your colors.}

[32] The sole advantage that a free people has over another is the security each individual possesses that a single individual’s whim will not take away his property or his life.1 A subject people who had that security, whether well- or ill-founded, would be as happy as a free people—mores being equal, because mores contribute even more to the happiness of a people than laws.

This security of one’s condition is2 not greater in England than in France, and it was scarcely greater in certain ancient Greek republics which, as Thucydides says,3 were divided into two factions. Since liberty4 often generates two factions in a state, the superior faction mercilessly exploits its advantages. A dominant faction is not less terrible than a wrathful prince. How many individuals have we seen lose their lives or their property during the recent disturbances in England! It is useless to say that one needs only to remain neutral. For who can be sane when the whole world is mad? Not to mention that the moderate man is hated by both parties. Moreover, in free states, the common people are normally insolent. It is useless; there is scarcely an hour in the day when an honorable man doesn’t have some business with the lower classes, and however high up a nobleman may be, one always ends up in that situation. As for the rest of it, I count for very little the happiness of arguing furiously over affairs of state and never uttering a hundred words without pronouncing the word liberty, or the privilege of hating half the citizenry.

[33] Who are the happy people? The gods know, for they see the hearts of philosophers, kings, and shepherds.

[34] The Athenians subjected defeated peoples to their dominion, the Edition: current; Page: [13] Lacedemonians gave them their laws and their liberty. The latter acted like Hercules and Theseus,1 the former like Philip and Alexander afterward.2 [The people of Athens were greater, the people of Lacedemon more magnanimous.] Marvelous thing! There was no more ambition in Sparta than in Capua, Croton, or Sybaris.

[35] theologians. They love a new article of belief more than a million Christians; provided they gain an article for the profession of faith, they are not bothered by the loss of some of the faithful.

A tyrant had an iron bed where he measured everyone.1 He arranged to cut off the feet of those who were taller, and stretch out those who were shorter. But these go further: to torment more, sometimes they extend the bed, sometimes they shorten it.

[36] the carthaginians, their good fortune and their sudden humiliation.1 Great wealth, but no military virtue; bad armies, which, however, they easily rebuilt.

Their weakness arose from the fact that their great strengths were not in the center of their power. Internal vice.

1. The cities of Africa were not enclosed by walls.

2. They had none-too-friendly neighbors who abandoned them when they could do so without peril. And then, enemies within and without, combined, put them within a hair’s breadth of their ruin.

3. Their constant imprudence: they would send half an army into exile; they would punish their generals for their misfortunes, so they were thinking more about defending themselves against the citizenry than against the enemy.

4. Their disastrous divisions.

5. Bad administration.

6. The mania for distant conquests: Carthage would think about conquering Sicily, Italy, and Sardinia, while paying a tax to the Africans.

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Thus, all those who landed in Africa drove them to despair: Agathocles, Regulus, and Scipio.2

African heat. Harsh domination. Carthaginians hated as foreigners.

[37] The Greeks had a great talent for making themselves look good. There was nothing really remarkable in the war against Xerxes.1 That prince has a boat bridge built across the Hellespont;2 not a very difficult thing. He has his army cross. The Lacedemonians seize the passage at Thermopylae, where manpower could be advantageous only in the long run. The Lacedemonians are exterminated; the remaining Greek troops are defeated and retreat. Xerxes comes along, conquers virtually all of Greece. All his gains evaporate in the battle he loses at sea, where there was little inequality. He was going to die of hunger, no longer being master of the sea. He retreats with the greater part of his army and leaves Mardonius3 to preserve his conquests. The battle is joined. It is contested. The Persians are defeated and expelled from Greece.

Speechifying apart, there you have the bottom line of Greek history, which amounts to a war like countless others, from which one can conclude only that a maritime power is hardly ever destroyed except by another and superior maritime power, and that it is highly reckless to expose a land army against it if you are not absolute master of the sea.

As for the history of Alexander,4 although the conquest is true, there is hardly a sensible man who does not see it in virtually all its circumstances as grossly false.

Those who had the mania for getting their princes to imitate Hercules and Bacchus5 imagined adventures to match. But the world of Alexander’s time was not like it was in the time of Hercules.

[38] The peoples of that American continent between Spanish and English country give us an idea of what the first men were like, before agriculture and the establishment of large societies.

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Hunting peoples are generally man-eaters. They are often exposed to hunger. Moreover, since they live only on meat, they have no more horror of a man they have taken than of an animal they have killed.

[39] Who would have said that the styloceratohyoidian1 was a little muscle that serves only (tenth)2 to move a tiny bone? Doesn’t such a grand and Greek name seem to promise an agent that would move our entire machinery? And I am convinced that, as for the omphalomesenteric3 vessels, a simple little monosyllable would have honorably fulfilled all the functions of this magnificent term.

[40] Those who perfect their souls by the virtues and knowledge they acquire resemble those men from the myth who lost all their mortality by feeding on ambrosia. But those who base the excellence of their being only on external qualities are like those Titans1 who thought they were gods because they had large bodies.

[41] Here, it seems to me, is how time was shortened and how the difference in calculation between the Septuagint1 and the Hebrew text was introduced.

During the advent of Jesus Christ and long after, there was a tradition that the world must have existed for only six thousand years. When Jesus Christ came into the world, it was reckoned that the end of the world was near; that is, that the six thousand years were already well advanced. That is what made St. Paul2 talk about the consummation of the ages, the last times. St. Barnabus3 follows the same idea in the epistle attributed to him. According to Tertullian,4 public prayers were performed in order to push Edition: current; Page: [16] back this end of the World: “Oramus etiam pro Imperatoribus, pro statu saeculi, pro rerum quiete, pro mora finis.5

In the third century, as this end was not arriving and as no one wanted it to arrive so soon, they counted only fifty-five hundred years; that was the chronicle of Julius Africanus.6

In the fifth century, it was necessary to push back again, since no one wanted to see this end of the World, so they counted no more than fiftytwo hundred years.

Writing in the year 320, Lactantius,7 following the calculation of Julius Africanus and based on the idea that the world was to exist for only six thousand years, says that the world is going to last for only two hundred more years.

Finally, as the prescribed time passed by, it was necessary to push back again and posit only four thousand years to the advent of Jesus Christ. Toward the end of the seventh century, one finds in the Talmud8 the tradition of the house of Elie,9 which maintains that the World is to last six thousand years: two thousand years of futility, two thousand years under the Law, and two thousand years under the Messiah, which affords plenty of time before the six thousand years are over.

It is thus clear that, to the extent that time added up after Jesus Christ, time had to diminish before Jesus Christ. Notice that the cuts were made quite easily, because they were made on empty times. Notice also how well fitted this division of the World’s duration is between two thousand years and two thousand years.

Nota that it was reading the extract from the Defense of the Antiquity of Time, from the Bibliothèque universelle [Universal library] (page 104, volume XXIV, February 1693),10 that gave me the occasion to bring forth this idea. {See my remark with an asterisk on the shortening of time. It is (I think) on the occasion of the Persian or Arab chronology, where they put Edition: current; Page: [17] (I think) Abraham and then David. Thus, see either the extract from the Koran, or from Chardin, or from Hyde.11 See also my extract from Justinus (book 36, p. 65).12 The story of Joseph is recounted there with tolerable accuracy. He says Moses was his son, proof that ignorance of history has rather the effect of shortening time than of lengthening it.}

[42] spanish women. The Spanish country is hot, but the women are ugly. The climate1 is made in favor of women, but the women are made against the climate.

[43] Isn’t it something, the things that make the most personal distinctions among us! The loosening of two or three fibers would have turned Mme de Mazarin into a very unappealing woman.1

[44] See the Journal des Savants XXXIII of the year 1720, in-4°, page 516,1 where there is a description of the different beds and levels of earth found in the territory of Modena,2 up to seven or eight of them, including a city at fourteen feet, and at fifty feet an underground river whose noise you can hear. When they dig down to the sand bed, a little too far down, they often penetrate the sand, and, to the great danger of the workmen, they fill the excavation and go right to the roofs of the neighboring houses. I believe it could be the case that this underground river, swelled by some accident, may have produced some openings from time to time by which the waters have passed, become elevated, covered the countryside, and successively Edition: current; Page: [18] created new levels—the waters receding or the passage becoming blocked up, once the cause of these swelling underground waters ceased. {No. The terrain has become packed together. See my itinerary on Viterbo or afterward.3 See my extract on this: Bernardino Ramazzini, De fontium mutinensium admiranda scaturigine.}4

[45] Wealth consists in real estate or in movable property.1 Real estate is ordinarily possessed by natives, since every State has laws that deter foreigners from the acquisition of its land. Thus, this sort of wealth belongs to every individual State. As for movable property—such as money, paper instruments, bills of exchange, or shares in companies, any kind of merchandise—they are common to the whole world, which, in this respect, counts for a single State, of which the other States are members. The State that possesses the most of this movable property in the world is the richest; Holland and England have an immense quantity of it. Each State acquires it by its commodities, its workers’ labor, its ingenuity, its discoveries—even by chance—and the avarice of nations competes for the furniture of the world. There may be found a State so unfortunate as to be deprived not only of all the assets of other States, but also of practically all its own, so that the owners of its real estate would be nothing but colonies of foreigners. This State will be poor, lacking everything and deprived of all means of acquisition. It can happen sometimes that States where commerce flourishes see their money disappear for a certain time. But it returns immediately because the countries that have taken it at a certain rate of interest owe it and are obliged to return it. But in the countries we are talking about, the money never returns, because those who take it owe them nothing.

[46] It should not be surprising that all false religions have always had something childish1 or absurd about them. There is this difference between Edition: current; Page: [19] religions and human sciences, that religions come from the people first-hand and pass from there to the enlightened, {who systematize them}, whereas the sciences are born among the enlightened, whence they can be spread among the people.

[47] boring. There are quite a few types. Some are so uniform in their conversation that nothing ever comes of it. Others are so lazy that they let everything drop; in vain do you exhaust yourself trying to revive the conversation; you toss out some topics to them, they abandon them all. Others make us go into the void, trahunt per inania.1

[48] In Rome, everyone was permitted to accuse those suspected of intending to stifle the liberty of the Republic.1 But since all those accusations produced only debates, they only added to the divisions and armed the leading families against each other. The remedies against nascent factions were very long, since they had recourse only to speeches. In Venice,2 on the other hand, the Council of Ten3 stifles not only factions but unrest. It is highly prudent of the Venetians never to combine honors and power in the same person.

[49] {By an overly long war, Hannibal1 accustomed the Romans to war. He pressed too hard to attack Saguntium, he should have shored up his power in Spain beforehand.2

Rome, which alone was at war constantly, defeated all the republics, one after the other. She then defeated the kings by means of kings: Philip with the help of Attalus,3 and Antiochus4 with the help of Attalus and Philip.}

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[50] plagiarist. One can make that objection with very little ingenuity.

Thanks to petty talents, there are no more original authors. There is no one up until Descartes1 who did not derive his entire philosophy from the Ancients. They find the doctrine of the circulation of the blood in Hippocrates,2 [and, if the differential and integral calculus were not saved by their sublimity from the pettiness of these people, they would find it in its entirety in Euclid].3 And what would become of commentators without this privilege? They could not say: “Horace4 said this . . .—This passage is related to another by Theocritus,5 where it is said . . .: I am committed to finding in Cardano6 the thoughts of whatever author, even the least subtle.”

To those authors who have seemed original in several places in their works, one owes the justice of acknowledging that they have not stooped so low as to descend to the condition of copyists.

[51] There are three tribunals that are almost never in agreement: that of the laws, that of honor, and that of religion.

[52] singular people. There are people so bizarre that they are the grotesque figures of our species.

{Their minds generally diverge from all minds.}

As soon as a man thinks and has a character, they say: “He’s a singular man.”

Most people resemble each other in that they do not think: eternal echos, who have never said anything but have always repeated; crude artisans of others’ ideas.

Singularity has to consist in a fine manner of thinking that has eluded others, for a man who can distinguish himself only by a special footwear would be a fool in any country.

The thoughts and actions of a singular man are so particular to him that another man could not employ them without betraying and diminishing himself.

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[53] laziness. “Valet of the Society!—Say, what do you have better to do?” I should rather excuse the laziness of monks1 who are occupied only with eternity. But that which has no purpose serves only to make a man unhappy.

[54] The obsession with astrology is a pompous extravagance. We think our actions are important enough to merit being written in the great book of Heaven. And there is no one, down to the poorest artisan, who does not believe that the immense and luminous bodies that roll overhead are made only to announce to the World the hour when he will emerge from his shop—or again, that in an hour, he will emerge from his shop.

[55] The Jesuits and Jansenists are going to carry their quarrels all the way to China.1

[56] In France, it is not noble names but well-known ones that give luster: a celebrated prostitute or a celebrated player1 honors her house by placing it among the ranks of the well known.

[57] If the immortality of the soul1 were an error, I would be very upset not to believe it. I do not understand how atheists think. I admit that I am not as humble as the atheists. But for me, I do not want to swap and will not go on to swap the idea of my immortality for that of a day’s felicity. I am very charmed to believe myself immortal like God himself. Independent of revealed truths, metaphysical ideas give me a very strong expectation of my eternal happiness, which I would not want to renounce.

[58] Whatever I said about happiness1 being founded on our machinery, I do not on that account say that our soul cannot also contribute to our Edition: current; Page: [22] happiness by the habit that it takes on. The reason is that since most sorrows are greatly amplified by the imagination (which appears very clearly in women and children, who despair over the least pains and the least sorrows), they are also greatly amplified by fear of the aftereffects. Now one can accustom one’s soul to examine things as they are. One cannot vanquish one’s imagination—that is impossible—but one can diminish its fitfulness. One of the most effective reflections for hardening ourselves against our misfortunes is reflection on the immensity of things and the pettiness of the sphere we inhabit. Since these are things that philosophy proves to us by the senses themselves, we are much more affected by them than when they are proven to us by theological and moral reasoning, which reach only pure mind.

[59] It is not two hundred years since French women made the decision to wear petticoats; they soon got rid of that obstacle.

[60] As soon as polygyny is prohibited and monogamous divorce1 is also prohibited,2 it is absolutely necessary to prohibit concubinage. For who would want to get married if concubinage has been permitted?3

[61] We never reflect disagreeably upon ourselves without vanity immediately creating some distraction: we immediately look at ourselves from a different angle. [And we seek to compensate ourselves in some respect.]

[62] [Envy is normally more sensitive to glory than to shame. That is because vanity inflates things in the one, but in the other it diminishes them.]

[63] Modesty is fitting for everyone, but you have to know how to master it and never lose it. {Every man must be polite, but he must also be free.}1

[64] Theologians maintain that there is no one whose atheism is a matter of feeling. But can one judge what happens in the hearts of all men? The existence of God is not a clearer truth than these: man is composed of two substances; the soul is spiritual. And yet, there are whole nations that Edition: current; Page: [23] doubt these two truths. This is because our inner feeling is not theirs, and education has destroyed it. It is true that there are clear truths, but there are blind people. There are natural feelings, but there are people who do not feel.

[65] Saint-Evremond1 speaks in French the way Saint Augustine2 used to speak in Latin. In reading them, one gets exhausted seeing the words always clashing, and finding their minds always enclosed within the boundaries of an antithesis.

[66] The Pythagoreans always hid behind their master. “Ipse dixit,” they said. But Ipse dixit is always a nonsense.1

[67] If there was no time before the Creation, it would necessarily follow that the world is as old as God and is coeternal with him.1

[68] We have no tragic author who imparts greater movements to the soul than Crébillon;1 who tears us more from ourselves; or who fills us more with the vapor of the god who agitates it. He makes you enter into the transports of the Bacchae. You cannot judge his work, because he begins by disturbing the reflecting part of the soul. [He is the true tragic author of our time, because he excites (the only one who knows how to excite) the true passion of tragedy, which is terror.]

[69] To be always forming new desires and satisfying them as they are formed is the height of felicity. The soul does not linger enough on its anxieties to become overly sensitive to them, nor on its satisfactions to lose its taste for them. Its movements are as mild as its rest is animated, which prevents it from falling into that languor that drains us and seems to presage our annihilation.

[70] Most men who are called fools are so only relatively.

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[71] The world is full of men like Janus in the myth, who was depicted with two faces.1

[72] The Stoics believed that the world was going to perish by fire. Thus, minds were prepared to hear that prophecy of Jesus Christ, who predicted that the end of the world would arrive in this fashion.

[73] The miser loves money for itself, not because of the utility he derives from it. That is called appetere malum quia malum.1

[74] [One can be polite in society while preserving one’s freedom.]1

[75] When Elizabeth provided judges to Mary Stuart, she weakened in English minds the idea of sovereign grandeur.

{It is probable that Cromwell1 would never have imagined having the head cut off the one, if the head had not already been cut off the other.}

[76] One can say that everything is animated; everything is organized. The slightest blade of grass makes millions of brains see. Everything is constantly dying and being reborn. So many animals that have been recognized only by chance1 must give rise to conjectures about others. Matter, which has experienced a general movement by which the order of the heavens has formed, must have specific movements that lead it to organization.

Organization, whether in plants or animals, can scarcely be other than the movement of liquids in tubes. Circulating liquids can easily form some tubes, or stretch out other ones. That is how trees arise from cuttings. They come from seedlings only by analogy with the cuttings,2 the seedling being merely a part of the wood. {Reserving thought to man, it is difficult to deny feeling to everything that exists.}

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With regard to animals, circulation from mother to child occurs quite naturally in a body such as that of the mother, where all the liquids are in movement; everything found there is permeated by them.

[77] It is surprising that men had not invented bills of exchange until so recently, even though there is nothing in the world so useful. It is likewise with the postal service.1 By the invention of bills of exchange, the Jews have assured themselves of permanent refuge{; they have stabilized their uncertain status}. For any prince who would like to get rid of them will not, for all that, be of a disposition to get rid of their money.2

Besides that, we have the invention of linen; plus, many specific remedies. But we also have many diseases that did not exist before.

[78] Father Calmet1 doubts the existence of Sanchuniathon,2 but the reasons he adduces are pathetic.

1. He says that Porphyry,3 great enemy of the Christians, postulated him in order to adapt to the pagans everything that Moses attributes to the Jews. It is true that everything that comes from Porphyry’s pen must be suspect. But if one pays attention to Sanchuniathon’s account, one will find it so different, and conforming in such small and inessential circumstances, that one cannot use such conformity to reject an author venerable for his antiquity—and the only one who presents to us all the authors of Phoenician history.

2. If such a factor of conformity holds water, it would also be necessary to reject Pherecydes,4 who begins his book like that of Moses. It would be necessary to reject Aesop, from whom Saint Paul copies a thought; that other author from whom Saint Paul has taken “Cretenses semper mendaces, ventres pigri.5 It would be necessary to reject the entire Platonic Edition: current; Page: [26] sect, which spoke like Saint John. We must put to trial the Bishop of Avranches,6 who maintained that the patriarchs were no different from the heroes of Antiquity. We must thunder against Father Thomassin7 as a man who wants to degrade the Jews’ legislator, and we must regard these two great men as new Porphyries.

Was it not merely these sorts of advantage that Porphyry had over the Jews?

At least this was not how Apion8 reasoned. He went straight to the target: he told them that in the beginning, they were a multitude of lepers; that Moses was a priest of Heliopolis; that he gave them a law out of hatred for the Egyptians, whom they had served. Then he denied, attenuated, or whimsically explicated all the miracles of the Ancient Law. There you have all his blows, and not those deflected blows that are so many lost blows.

[79] bird flight. Here, there are three things to consider: the weight of their bodies, the extension of their wings, and the strength of the muscle that pushes the air. Different observations are necessary for different birds: given an adequate number of wings for flight, see if the extension (or diameter) of the wing is proportional to the weight, and what relationship there is with the strength; for the stronger the muscle is, the more quickly it can act upon the air. Now it is this speed that creates the force; witness the sheet of paper that a bullet pierces without making it move. Besides this, there is also habit, for birds that are not accustomed to flying can no longer fly.

Now what prevents men (I believe) from managing to fly is:

1. Their great weight, which would require a wing of excessive extension that would be too difficult to move without accident;

2. The movement of the shoulder that must supplement that of the wing’s muscle, which is so strong in birds, would be too weak in man; not to mention that the movement has to start from the center of gravity, which cannot occur in man. To make up for that, the wings would have to stretch along the whole body; and even so, you would have to imagine some machine by which the strength of the shoulder’s movement might be enhanced.

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3. The danger.

Even if the necessities were in place for flying, one would still not succeed on that account; every man can swim, but very few know how to do so, and thus to reduce to act what they have in potential. In this case, you would have to be suspended on a rope along your whole body and put yourself in motion to move the wings. Thus the Romans, before putting a fleet out to sea, instructed their future sailors by making them perform the maneuver on land. The birds in our barnyards do not fly (I believe) most of the time because they are not accustomed to flying.

One could give strength to arm movement by making a sort of lever, applying the fulcrum to the middle of the arm. The long arm would be from the arm to the fulcrum; the short one, from the fulcrum to the point where the wing was attached.

One could provide a feather tunic constructed in such a way that in beating the wing to ascend, the feathers would become attached to the body, after which, they would stand on end.

You would have to choose young children: more boldness, less weight; more docile, and with practice, the arm muscles would strengthen.

They would begin by letting themselves fall from a spot not very high up, onto a spot covered with straw or cushioning.

I think that their feet would have to fall under their stomachs, and that you would have to give them a sort of tail. The same action that makes the wings move could make this tail move.

The fulcrum would be applied to an iron belt, very thin and light.

You would have to compare the wings of several birds with their weight. You would see what remains, with respect to muscle strength.

You would have to see the clarifications you could get from Borelli’s treatise, De Motu Animalium [On animal motion].1 {There is a book on bird flight, in-folio. Must look at it.}

[80] To pacify all religious disputes in France, you would have to prohibit monks from receiving any novice who had not taken his philosophy and theology in the universities, and prevent them from having courses in these sciences in their own institutions. Otherwise, the disputes will last forever. Each order will form a sect apart, and a very unified sect. Monks Edition: current; Page: [28] have always been great squabblers. Pace vestra liceat dixisse: “Primi omnium Ecclesiam perdidistis.1 In the earliest ages of the Church, when monks still worked with their hands, didn’t the monks of Scythia put everything in tumult?2 They had to have this proposition passed: “One of the Trinity has been crucified.” Idem {p. 56}, the monks cause dispute over the three chapters. Each order has a library of its authors, and individuals study only in that library.

[81] I believe that what especially causes the declination of the ecliptic is a certain conjunction of the Earth—aside from differences in weight, the northern side weighing more toward the Sun than the southern. That indeed seems to be the case, in that the largest seas are found on the southern side. Thus, the earth is deeper there, and, in addition, my sense is that water weighs less than earth. On this, must look at History of the works of the learned, February 1692, article 10: Essay on the new system of the world.1

[82] It is difficult to understand by reason alone the eternity of the punishments of the damned,1 for punishments and rewards can be established only in relation to the future. A man is punished today so that he will not err tomorrow, so that others will not err as well. But when the blessed are no longer free to sin, nor the damned to do good, what good are punishments and rewards?

[83] The ecstasies with which Muslim men look at courtesans and dancers make it quite clear that the gravity of marriage bores them.

[84] Precepts must not be made that cannot be commonly followed: abstinence from women by Christians, from wine by Muslims. When you have breached the barriers, you become emboldened, and you indulge yourself everything else.

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For this reason, one must make laws only on important things, for whoever has violated a useless law will diminish the respect for those laws that are necessary to society; and as soon as he has ceased to be faithful, by violating one point, he follows his convenience and violates all others that get in his way.

[85] Just as there should be no childish religious precepts, there should also be no laws that are useless, or on frivolous things.

[86] Our eau-de-vie, which is a new invention by the Europeans, has destroyed an enormous number of Caribbeans; likewise, since they have been drinking it, they do not live as long. And I am not surprised, given that they are not prepared by the prior usage of wine for the drunkenness caused by eau-de-vie, that it should have such strange effects on them.

We have also brought the Caribbeans the Siamese disease.

I believe that we have also brought them the smallpox (as to America), which had been brought to us by the Arabs.1

These countries have brought us yaws, which is transmitted (some say) by the sting of certain flies on a spot where the skin has peeled, which communicates through the blood, or (as an English author says) by a snake bite.

Mortal diseases are therefore not the most catastrophic ones. If flies had carried only the plague, those who had it would be dead, but the contagion would have ceased; instead, it has become endless.

With the wealth of all climes, we have the diseases of all climes.

[87] When you look at ancient statues, you find a quite remarkable difference between the Ancients’ faces and ours, and it is impossible for it to be otherwise, since each nation has, so to speak, its own color{, height} and physiognomy. But since the Greeks and Romans, nations have become so dislocated, everything has become so displaced, that all the ancient peoples’ physiognomies have been lost and new ones have been formed, so there is no longer any Greek or Roman face in the world.

Our imaginations are extremely deceptive. Since we know that the Romans were a victorious people and master of others, we imagine they were a people of large stature; a small woman will never evoke in us the image of Edition: current; Page: [30] a Roman woman. And yet, in the ancient statues that are not inflated, the eyes always find a certain compression, and in fact we must be larger than they, because since that time, the peoples of the North have inundated Europe.

{Vegetius1 says in plain language that the Romans cannot compete in size with the Gauls.}

However little our trade with the West Indies were to grow—that is, if the Spanish were to lift the prohibition they have imposed, on pain of death, against all Europeans approaching the Indies—the white color would run the risk of being lost to the world, and there would remain only the image of our beauties of today.

A proof of this is that in the West Indies, where the three colors—black, white, and that of the faces of America—have mingled, there are no longer any whites properly speaking, and out of two hundred faces, no two are the same color.

The Turkish nation and the Persian are made by art—by the males of these nations and the women of Circassia, Georgia, and Mingrelia.

If a more distant nation than the Tartars had conquered China, farewell to the Chinese faces, and if the yellow peoples of Asia spread into Europe, what would become of us?

And what do we know about the changes that would have occurred in our species as a whole, not only in appearance but also in reasoning, if care had not been taken to kill all the monsters?

[Today’s sculptors should therefore not take a Greek statue as their model, nor judge Greek statues by our modern appearances.]

As for the mind, I would not want to say that there could not be a certain mélange of nations, such that the most inventive nation possible—in relation to the bodily organs—might be formed.

[88] As for differences in constitution, as soon as we talk about them, we latch onto spices, as if they were the sole cause of the malady or a new cause.

The Ancients had their spices, their relishes, just like us; these things stimulated their appetites, just like ours.

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[89] There’s an author1 who has written a treatise on diseases of the arts; I would like to write one on diseases of religions.

[90] I would not dare say that the oak trees of the past were not taller than those at present, and likewise with other plants. The earth is being used up, by virtue of being cultivated. We see it in our Antilles islands, where the land is already tired of producing. Perhaps the only reason Asian land is more fertile than that of Europe is because it has not been exhausted by continual cultivation. It is happening in all the world’s changes, which we do not perceive because we are not in touch with the two extremities.

[91] [At every moment, new species of animals are being formed, and I believe that some are being destroyed at every moment as well.]

[92] In their apologies, the earliest Fathers did less to prove Christianity than to destroy Paganism, and they did well to go at it in that way, since nothing is better suited to make people embrace a new religion than an understanding of the absurdity of the old one. This is because most men, not wanting to live without religion, return to the one that remains.

Two other things solidified the establishment of Christianity: the length of Constantine’s reign, the brevity of Julian’s.1

The Pagans were ill-equipped to contest the miracles of Scripture: the miracles of the Platonists were countless, and [almost] all the philosophers’ sects were oriented toward the most childish credulity.

It is true that the Christians’ apologies were scarcely seen by the Pagans. The contemptuous terms the former used when speaking about them would have been imprudent if their works had been seen by the Pagans. {The Christians’ apologies were written to persuade Christians themselves.}

Eusebius, in his Evangelical Demonstration, is (it seems to me) the first to lay out the system of our religion in its full light.2

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[93] An ungrateful Country constantly tells its learned men that they are useless citizens, and while it enjoys the fruits of their long labors, it asks them what they have done with them.

[94] One takes pity seeing Hannibal—returned from Trebia, from Cannae, and from Trasimene—go and administer Carthage!1

[95] I had put in my Dialogue of Sulla:1

“I soon had present actions for myself, whereas Marius2 had only the always faint memory of past things. I walked in his steps, and as soon as he stopped, he found me in front of him.”

[96] If the gods were as depicted, they ought1 to blush at their whimsy.

[97] Bad faith of the French, since they have so many judges to repress it.

[98] Julian was not an apostate, since he was never properly a Christian; for you cannot be a Christian without renouncing Paganism, whereas you can be pagan without renouncing Christianity, since Paganism adopts all sects, even the intolerant ones. That is why Constantine’s change did not produce a revolution in the Empire.

In the time of Constantine, his children, and even Julian, Christianity was not very widespread. Paganism flourished as before under Constantine, and it was destroyed only under Theodosius.1

It is probable that Julian would have been fatal to Christianity upon his return from Persia, but his death, bolstered by the prejudice about divine punishment, was a very favorable blow, because it struck wavering minds.

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One cannot marvel enough at the moderation of that emperor toward the seditious speech the Christian clergy engaged in against him, even in his presence; never has the crime of lèse-majesté been carried further than it was against him.

[99] In Alexander’s time, the world situation was such that everything that was not Greek was barely noticed, and there was no world but his empire.

I find nothing so splendid1 as the world’s confusion and consternation after his death. The whole world looks at itself in profound silence. The rapidity of his conquests had outrun all laws. The world could have been subjected to the conquerors; wonder kept it faithful. The world had been seen as conquest, but not succession. All the captains found themselves equally incapable of obeying and commanding. Alexander dies, and he is perhaps the only prince whose place could not be filled. Both the man and the king were lacking. The legitimate succession was despised, and it was impossible to agree even on a usurper.

That great machine, deprived of his intelligence, became dismembered. All his captains parceled out his authority; out of respect, no one dared succeed to his title. The word King seemed to be buried with him—not, as has sometimes happened, out of hatred, but out of respect for the one who had borne it.

The captive nations forgot their chains and mourned him; it seems they believed their captivity began only on that day, after having lost that man whom alone it was not shameful to obey.

[100] From time to time there are inundations of peoples in the world who impose their morals and customs everywhere. The inundation of the Muslims brought despotism, that of the Northern peoples brought government by nobles. It has taken nine hundred years to abolish this latter government and to establish in each state the government of one. Things will continue like that, and it seems we will move along from age to age to the final degree of obedience, until some accident changes the arrangement of brains and makes men as indocile as they were in the past. Behold how there has always been a constant ebb and flow of empire and liberty.1

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[101] In our current taste for collections and libraries,1 there ought to be some industrious writer who wants to make a catalogue of all the lost books cited by ancient authors. It ought to be a man free of cares and even of amusements. Some idea ought to be given of these works and of the life and character of the author—as much as possible given the fragments that remain and the passages cited by other authors who have escaped the ravages of time and the zeal of emerging religions. It seems we owe this tribute to the memory of so many learned men. Very many great men are known by their actions and not their works. Few people know that Sulla wrote Commentaries and that Pyrrhus wrote Military Institutions {, and Hannibal some Histories}.

This work would not be as immense as it appears at first. One would find fertile sources in Athenaeus, in Plutarch, in Photius, and in some other ancient authors.2 One could even limit oneself and treat only poets, philosophers, or historians.

I would also like someone to work on a catalogue of the arts, sciences, and inventions that have been lost, giving as precise an idea of them as possible, the reasons why people lost their taste for them or why they have remained neglected, and finally, how they have been replaced.

I would also like someone to write about the diseases that no longer exist and those that are new, the reasons for the end of the former and the birth of the latter.

{I would also like someone to collect all the quotations from Saint Augustine, the lost authors and others, etc.}

[102] These animals that we call mythical, because we no longer find them on earth, even though they have been precisely described by ancient authors—could they not have existed and their species disappeared? For I am convinced that species undergo extraordinary change and variation, that some are lost and new ones formed. The earth is changing so markedly Edition: current; Page: [35] every day that it will give constant employment to natural philosophers and naturalists. {Idem, illnesses to physicians.} What am I saying? It will always dishonor them. Pliny and all the ancient natural philosophers will be convicted of fraud, however true they were in their own time.1 There is no one today who, looking at the river Jordan, does not regard everything said about it by the sacred authors as a pompous form of expression. A fountain today has a certain property; it is impossible, in the movement of all its elements, for it to maintain that property without variation. Now the more or the less would suffice to change everything. The authors who describe Gaul to us could not have erred to the point of being mistaken on a thing so general and well known. Look, however, at how Justin describes it! We constantly accuse the Ancients of betraying the truth. Why do we pretend they love it less than we do? On the contrary, they would have loved it more, because their philosophy had morals as its object more than ours does. That admirable work by the gentlemen of the Academy2 that we regard as the natural truth will someday be subject to the criticisms of future moderns; they will be unable to stand reading descriptions they find inconsistent with what they see. [Nota that I have heard of a voyage by Addison where he sought—by things the poets celebrated and by what those things are at present—to reveal how dangerous it would be to believe them.3 But what he attributes to poetic lies could well be attributed, perhaps, to real changes.]

[103] {I have seen Lake Regillus, which is no larger than a hand.}1

[104] If the books written against the Jesuits endure into a distant future and survive the Jesuits themselves, won’t those who read them think that the Jesuits were assassins, men blackened with crime, and won’t they be surprised that they could have been allowed to live? They surely will not imagine that they are pretty much like other religious, like other ecclesiastics, like other men. “If those people still existed,” they would say, “I would not want to find myself on a highway with them.”

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{I don’t know that Bayle hasn’t said something like that.}1

[105] An original work almost always causes five or six hundred others to be constructed; these latter use the former rather like geometers use their formulae.

[106] When a man lacks a quality that he cannot have, vanity compensates and makes him imagine that he has it. Thus, an ugly woman believes she is beautiful; a fool believes he is smart. When a man feels that he lacks a quality that he could have, he compensates by jealousy.1 Thus, one is jealous of the rich and the great.

{The true reason is that it is not possible for vanity to deceive itself on wealth and greatness.}2

[107] Giving pleasure in a vain and frivolous conversation is today the only merit. For this, the magistrate abandons the study of his laws. The doctor would think himself discredited by the study of medicine. We flee as something pernicious any study that might take away from the frivolity.

To laugh about nothing and carry some frivolous thing from one house to another is called the science of society, and one would fear losing it if one applied oneself to another science.

Eliminate from the constant conversations the detail of some pregnancy or some childbirth; that of some women who were at the Races or the Opera that day; some news item brought from Versailles, that the Prince did that day what he does every day {of his life}; some change in the interests of fifty-odd women of a certain air, who take on, barter with each other, and give back to each other fifty-odd men, also of a certain air—you have nothing left.

I remember that I once had the curiosity to count how many times I would hear told a little story that certainly did not merit being told or retained for the three weeks that it occupied the polite world. I heard it told two hundred twenty-five times, which made me very happy.

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[108] {Out of several ideas that I had, here are those that did not make it into my work on Taste and the works of the Mind.}1 We owe to the rustic life that man led in early times that joyful air diffused throughout all the myths. And also those happy descriptions, those naïve adventures, those agreeable divinities, that spectacle of a condition different enough from ours for us to desire it, but not far enough removed to shock our sense of verisimilitude; finally, that mixture of passions and tranquillity. Our imagination laughs at Diana, Pan, Apollo, the Nymphs, the woods, the fields, the fountains.2 If the earliest men had lived as we do in the cities, the poets would have been able to describe to us only what we see every day with anxiety, or what we feel with distaste. Everything would reek of avarice, ambition, and the tormenting passions. All that would matter is [the rules of law and order, the cares and in the end] all the fatiguing detail of social life.

The poets who describe the rustic life for us speak to us of the golden age, for which they are nostalgic; that is to say, they speak to us of a time even more happy and tranquil.

[109] There has hardly ever been a legislator who, to make his laws or his religion respectable, has not resorted to mystery. The Egyptians, who are the authors of all sanctity, used to hide their ritual with very great care.

It was prohibited among the Greeks to unveil the ceremonies of Ceres, and the Romans regarded it as an inexpiable sacrilege to reveal the mysteries of that Greek divinity and those of the Egyptian divinities.1

There was another type of mystery, which consisted in hiding the name of the divinity being worshipped. It was prohibited to the Jews, on pain of death, to pronounce the name of God, and it was prohibited to the Romans, on the same punishment, to pronounce that of the gods of their city {and even the true name of the city}.

The reason for this prohibition was not, however, the same for the two Edition: current; Page: [38] nations: a religious fear held back the Jews, but a political fear held back the Romans.

The Jews regarded the name as the principal attribute of the thing. Thus God, who always acted in conformity with the ideas that that people should have, took particular care to impose a name on things as he created them, and to change the names of the patriarchs as they changed their situation and their fortune.

But the Romans feared that if foreigners knew the names of their city gods, they might call them forth and thereby deprive the Romans of their support and their presence.

There is a sort of religious mystery that consists in attributing to certain places a sanctity that must exclude the profane.

Christians also have their mysteries, which do not consist, like those of the Ancients, in certain hidden ceremonies, but in a blind submission of reason to certain revealed truths.

Here would be a question: to know whether the mysteries of the Ancients, which consisted in hiding ritual, were more striking than those of the Christians, which consisted in hiding dogma.

Be that as it may, all religions have had their mysteries, and it seems that otherwise, there would be no religion.

[110] I admit my taste for the Ancients. That Antiquity enchants me, and I am always led to say with Pliny: “It is to Athens that you are going. Respect their gods.”1

[111] I like to see the quarrels of the Ancients and the Moderns; this makes me see that there are good works among the Ancients and the Moderns.

[112] In the system of the Jews, there is a great deal of aptitude for the sublime, since they had the habit of attributing all their thoughts and actions to the particular inspirations of the divinity, which gave them a very great agent. But although God thus appears to act as a corporeal being as much as in the pagan system, he nonetheless appears to be agitated only by certain passions, which eliminates not only graciousness but also variety from the sublime. And besides, a lone agent cannot offer variety; he leaves the imagination with a surprising void, instead of that plenum formed by the innumerable pagan divinities.

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The Christian system (I use this term, improper though it is), in giving us healthier ideas of the divinity, seems to give us a greater agent. But since this agent neither permits nor experiences any passion, the sublime must inevitably atrophy. Moreover, the mysteries are sublime rather for reason than for the senses, and it is with the senses and the imagination that works of the mind are concerned.

But what seals the loss of the sublime among us and prevents us from amazing and being amazed is this new philosophy that speaks to us only of general laws, and eliminates from our minds all particular thoughts of the divinity. Reducing everything to the communication of motion, it speaks only of pure understanding, clear ideas, reason, principles, consequences. This philosophy, which has extended down even to that sex that seems to have been made only for the imagination, diminishes the taste one naturally has for poetry. It would be too bad if a certain people were to become infatuated with the system of Spinoza; for aside from the fact that there would be no sublime in the agent, there would be none even in actions.1

[113] Frightful diseases, unknown to our forefathers, have attacked human nature right down to the source of life and pleasure.1 We have seen the great families of Spain, which had survived so many centuries, almost all perish in our time; devastation that war has not caused, and that must be attributed solely to an evil that is too common to be shameful, but that is nothing less than disastrous.2

Pleasure and health have become almost incompatible. The pains of love, so rhapsodized by the ancient poets, are no longer the rigors or the inconstancy of a mistress. Time has given birth to other dangers, and the Apollo of our day is less the god of verse than of medicine.

[114] Homer was a theologian only to be a poet.

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[115] The divine work of this age, Telemachus,1 in which Homer seems to come alive, is irrefutable proof of the excellence of that ancient poet.

I am not among those who regard Homer as the father and master of all the sciences.2 This accolade is ridiculous for any author, but it is absurd for a poet.

[116] M. de La Motte is an enchanter who seduces us by force of charms and spells.1 But one must beware of the art he employs. He has brought to the dispute that divine genius, those happy talents that are so well known in this age, but that posterity will know better still.

Mme Dacier, on the other hand, has joined to all of Homer’s defects all those of her mind, all those of her studies, and I even dare say all those of her sex, like those superstitious priestesses who dishonored the god they revered, and who diminished the religion by dint of augmenting the worship.2

I am not saying that Mme Dacier does not merit that fine place she has been accorded in the Republic of Letters, and that she seems to have obtained in spite of Destiny itself, which had brought her forth to make the happiness of some Modern rather than for the glory of the Ancients. Every one has felt the skill and even the fire of her translations. But she ended her life in an age in which the sovereign merit is to think precisely, and which, while admiring a fine translation of the Iliad, is not less impressed by bad reasoning on the Iliad.

Thus, one could say of this war what is said about the war between Pyrrhus and the Romans: that the Epirotes did not defeat the Romans, but the consul was defeated by the king of the Epirotes.

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[117] I admit that one of the things that has most charmed me in the works of the Ancients is that they capture the grand and the simple at the same time; whereas it almost always happens that our Moderns, in seeking the grand, lose the simple, or in seeking the simple, lose the grand. It seems to me that in the former, I see vast and beautiful landscapes with their simplicity, and in the latter, the gardens of a rich man with their thickets and parterres.

I urge you to look at most of the works of the Italians and the Spanish. If they lean toward the grand, they go beyond nature instead of depicting it. If they lean toward the simple, it is clear that it has not presented itself to them, but that they have sought it out, and that they have so much wit only because they lack genius.

[118] Of all the genres of poetry, the one where our Moderns have equaled the Ancients, to my taste, is the play. I believe I have discovered the reason. It’s that the pagan system counts for much less in it. That sort of work is by its nature movement itself. Everything, so to speak, is on fire. There is neither narrative nor anything historical that needs extraneous assistance; all is action. You see everything; you hear nothing. The presence of the gods would be too jarring and too unrealistic. It is rather a spectacle of the human heart than of human actions. Thus, it has less need of the wondrous.

I am not saying, however, that the pagan system does not have a lot of influence here, for very often the spirit and nearly all the main or subsidiary ideas are derived from it. Witness the beginning of The Death of Pompey,1 where neither gods nor goddesses enter as actors:

  • Fate hath declar’d herself, and we may see
  • Th’ Intrigue of the great Rivals Destiny:
  • That quarrel which did all the Gods divide,
  • Pharsalia hath the Honour to decide.

and this other passage where Cornelius says, etc.

[119] Our Moderns are inventors of a certain genre of spectacle which, made solely to ravish the senses and enchant the imagination, has needed Edition: current; Page: [42] those alien expedients that tragedy rejects. In that spectacle, made to be admired but not examined, such happy use has been made of the resources of myth, ancient and modern, that reason has protested in vain, and those who have failed at simple tragedy, where nothing helped them agitate the heart, have excelled in this new spectacle, where everything seemed to come to their aid. Such has been the success that the mind itself has gained by it. For everything that we have of the greatest delicacy and exquisiteness, everything that the heart has that is most tender, is found in the operas {of Quinault, Fontenelle, La Motte, Danchet, Roy,1 etc.}.

[120] One sees nothing so pitiful as the poetry of five or six centuries ago. And yet, everything should have contributed to give us good works. The number of poets was countless. The nobility made a profession of the poet’s craft. Fortunes were made from poetry around women and princes. Europe could not have lacked for genius. Emulation existed, too. And yet, one sees only miserable works, written by people whose only ideas are taken from Holy Scripture. {The extravagant interpretations of many monks in the reading of Scripture brought forth quite a few bad profane works. All etymologies were taken from the Hebrew, and all histories were related to those of the Holy books.} But as soon as people began to read the Ancients, after losing a century in translating and commenting on them, they saw the authors appear, and (what seems to me the glory of the Ancients) they could compare them to the Moderns.

[121] With the Ancients, we must not analyze things in detail in a way that they are no longer able to support. This is all the more true with regard to the poets, who describe mores and customs, and whose beautiful turns, even the least refined, mostly depend upon circumstances that are forgotten or that no longer move us. They are like those ancient palaces whose marble is under grass but which still let us see all the grandeur and magnificence of the design.

[122] We criticize the Ancients for having always elevated heroes’ bodily strength. But in works made to stimulate wonder, we, whose new methods of combat have rendered bodily strength useless, still represent heroes who Edition: current; Page: [43] kill everyone and overturn everything that stands in their way. Sometimes it’s giants, sometimes lions, sometimes floods. And to show the marvelous, we always return to that bodily strength that our mores, not nature, make us regard as contemptible.

[123] I am inclined to believe that epithets should be frequent in poetry. They always add something; they are the colors, the images of objects.

The style of Telemachus is enchanting, though as full of epithets as that of Homer.1

[124] The Greeks who violated a cadaver were perhaps following nature in doing so. A certain ceremonial politeness, misplaced when religion is not its source, has made us weep at the death of our enemy, by which we are delighted within our souls; for otherwise, we would not have killed him, etc.

[125] I do not know if the Ancients had better minds; but by the passage of time, it has happened that we sometimes have better works.

[126] But to judge Homer’s beautiful turns, one must put oneself in the Greeks’ camp, not a French army.

[127] We can enjoy seeing the mores of a barbarous people represented, provided we find passions that are pleasing and moving. [And although the Slavs have not mastered, as we have, the way of acting most destructive of the human species, this matters not: it is enough that their passions move us.] We like to see the same passions on a new subject. We much prefer to hear the vizier Acomat speak of his manner of loving, than Bajazet as a naturalized Frenchman.1

[128] One cannot be sufficiently astonished at how slowly the French arrived at Venceslas and Le Cid, and at how rapidly the Greeks passed from the bad to the excellent. I believe we were damaged by the ideas of Holy Scripture, which we always wanted to carry over into poetry.

[129] Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus at the outset carried the genius of invention to the point where we have changed nothing since then in the rules they left us, which they could only have done through a perfect knowledge of nature and the passions.

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[130] Those who have scant knowledge of Antiquity see Homer’s defects arising with the times that succeeded him.

[131] [My whole life, I have had a decided taste for the works of the Ancients.] Having read many critiques of the Ancients in our time, I have admired many of these critiques; but I have still admired the Ancients. I have studied my taste and examined whether it was not one of those sick tastes on which you should base nothing substantive. But the more I examined it, the more I found that I was right to think the way I felt.

[132] What Homer added to the system of myths in Hesiod’s Theogony ought to be looked at.

[133] The gods’ adulteries were not a sign of their imperfection; they were a sign of their power{, and talking about their adulteries honored them}. {The reason for this could be given, derived from the nature of the subject.}

[134] Wouldn’t the poets’ epithets come from the superstition of the Pagans, who believed that the gods wanted to be called by a certain name and liked to be considered under certain attributes? The poets therefore had to adjust to this. Heroes were treated like gods.

[135] There are none who are more in need of avoiding dishonor than those who have made a reputation for themselves in the world by their knowledge, their wit, or some talent. For if, in spite of what they have in their favor, their bad qualities have broken through, if they have caused the public that had been seduced to turn against them, these bad qualities must be very great, and the contempt they have obtained must be entirely just, since it is only after lengthy wavering that the people have bestowed it on them.

[136] It has been said that a body cannot entirely lose its motion; since it is always sharing it, there always remains some for itself. I find this very reasonable, for a body that encounters another communicates its motion, as if it were merely the same body. Thus, it always keeps some in proportion to its mass. In addition, it seems to me that if a body were ever at rest, it would be impossible for it to move except by the action of an infinite cause, since there is an infinite distance from rest to motion.1

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[137] It seems to me that we in Europe are not in a position to make appropriate observations about the plague.1 That disease, transplanted here, is not manifested with natural symptoms. It varies more according to the diversity of climate, not to mention that we cannot make continual observations, since the disease is not continuous, as whole centuries go by in between outbreaks; besides which, the observers are so disturbed by fear that they are not in a condition to make any observations.

But very precise, very enlightened, very well-paid observers ought to be sent to places where this disease is epidemic and occurs every year, like Egypt and several parts of Asia. We should look into what are its causes, what seasons are favorable or unfavorable, the winds, the rains, the nature of the climate, the ages and temperaments of those who are more exposed, what remedies, preventatives, cures, varieties there are; getting observations from many places, many times, using some insight that certain countries can give us. Egypt, among others, is subject to the plague every year, and it stops as soon as a certain rain that they call the drop has fallen. We should examine the nature of this drop and see if, along with a bedpan, we couldn’t produce in the bedrooms of the stricken an artificial drop, in the way that all natural phenomena have been imitated: since M. Lémery has made earthquakes, bombs, etc.2 Remedies have been found in the home of the smallpox that were not in our climes, and one could cite plenty of similar examples.

[138] When we say that nature is so provident that she always makes us find particular remedies in the places afflicted with certain diseases (because, absent that, men would not have been able to survive there), we must beware that we are reasoning a priori, even though we would perhaps do better simply to relate these remedies to different combinations. On earth, there are certain locations that are uninhabitable; others that are habitable without any drawback; others, finally, that would not be habitable because of certain drawbacks, if some remedies for these drawbacks had not been encountered. Thus, it is not, I believe, true that, through Edition: current; Page: [46] special providence, remedies have been established in certain locations to render them habitable; it must instead be said that the remedies having been found, the locations have been rendered habitable.

[139] According to Justin, 1, page 232, 1.23, the Sabis is a river that runs into the Danube. I have not found it in Baudran, nor in Stephanus of Byzantium, Holstenius, Moréri, Bayle, or Corneille.1

[140] It would be difficult1 to find in history two princes who more strongly resembled each other than the King of Sweden, Charles XII,2 and the last duke of Burgundy:3 same courage, same self-importance, same ambition, same boldness, same success, same misfortunes, same designs executed in the flower of youth and at a time when other princes are still being governed by their regent. Charles XII undertook to dethrone King Augustus, just as the Charolais undertook to dethrone Louis XI, and when he was covered with glory, he went and lost his entire army before Poltava, just as the other one lost his before Morat.4

[141] On December 22, 1722. There is appearing here a play called La Fagonnade.1 A violent tax has given the author the fire and brimstone of Rousseau.2

Racine’s poem on Grace is infinitely admired and disdained here.

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[142] Contradiction of Marsham,1 who bases his book on a passage by the ancient author Syncellus,2 and who, a page later, says that Syncellus is a man without credibility and without judgment.3

[143] I heard the first performance of the tragedy Inès by M. de La Motte;1 I clearly saw that it succeeded only by virtue of being beautiful, and that it pleased the spectators in spite of themselves. [One may say that the grandeur of tragedy, the sublime, the beautiful prevail throughout.] There is a second act that, to my taste, is above all the others. [I found in it a hidden and learned art, one that does not reveal itself at first showing.] I was more touched the last times than the first. There was a children’s scene in the fifth act that seemed ridiculous to many people, and the audience was divided; some laughed, others cried. I am convinced that that scene would be surprising to a people whose mores were less corrupt than ours. We have achieved a too-unfortunate refinement.

Everything that has some connection with the education of children, with the natural sentiments, seems to us something low and vulgar. Our mores are such that a father and mother no longer raise their children, no longer see them, no longer nurture them. We are no longer moved to pity at their sight; they are objects concealed from all eyes; a woman would no longer be sophisticated if she appeared to concern herself with them. By what means can minds prepared in this way savor a scene of that sort? Racine, who would have been able to do this with more impunity, did not risk it and did not dare show Astyanax.2 Little Regulus used to be enjoyable because mores were not so perverted; at present, we would no longer put up with him. There is a surprising injustice in men’s judgments: we accuse our forefathers of having little intelligence because they wept on seeing little Regulus; we think they were weeping because they lacked common sense. No! They had as much intelligence as we do, neither more Edition: current; Page: [48] nor less, but their mores were different, their hearts differently arranged. That is why they wept, and we do not. The same can be said about virtually all tragedies.

[144] Against the supposed constancy of the martyrs, some have pointed to what happened to the Jews during their prosperity. Each good fortune brought a fall along with it. But since they were the most wretched people in the world, they were as firm as they were inconstant.

Progress of Lutheranism and Calvinism despite the Inquisition.1

[145] State ministers can know from the currency exchange a neighboring State’s secret movements,1 because a great military enterprise cannot be launched without money, and thus without a big change in exchange rates.

[146] There have been States which, to keep a foreign commodity at a low price, have raised the export tariff. That does no good, because the merchant impeded by this can bring in little. He does not want to be impeded. And even though he does not profit at all from permission to export the commodity (disdaining a small profit), he nonetheless wants to have this capacity, in order to save on the transport risks.

[147] By Justinian’s laws, it appears that in the earliest ages, simple fornication was not regarded as illicit.1 Justinian, who had taken it so much to heart to abrogate all laws contrary to Christianity, made one, the third in the Code,2 Communia de Manumissionibus [General Rules of Manumissions], by which an unmarried man who has taken one of his slaves as a concubine and dies, leaves this concubine free: “Ipsi etenim domino damus licentiam ancilla sua uti,3 which would not be the same, he says, if he had Edition: current; Page: [49] a wife: “Hominibus etenim uxores habentibus concubinas habere nec antiqua jura nec nostra concedunt.4 Antiqua, that’s the pagan religion; nostra, that’s the Christian.

[148]Obedite principibus etiam dyscolis!1 and certainly a Christian revolting against an Emperor because he was an idolater was doing wrong, because the constitution of the State was such that the empire was supposed to be in the hands of idolatrous princes.

[149] What La Bruyère1 said—“A man has invented a story; by virtue of retelling it, he ends up persuading himself that it is true”—is very well put. It is because he remembers retelling it better than he remembers inventing it. If this is true, what must be the power of childhood prejudices!

[150] If thieves who do not kill were not punished by death, they still would not kill, certain thereby of avoiding the gibbet.

[151] The English have the convenience of disseminating all sorts of pamphlets by means of their foot post. {That is why people have not wanted to establish it in Paris.} The Queen1 testified to the 1713 Parliament that she would like a law to be established to repress the pamphlet mania. Parliament refused; one member said this would make the government too powerful.

[152] It is not in France’s interest to make an offensive and defensive alliance with England. The assistance of France is prompt, but that of En gland is long and uncertain because of the deliberations. It is true that France is more exposed than England, and thus more often needs assistance.1

[153] England has no regular tariff schedule with other nations; their schedule changes, so to speak, with each Parliament. To unload a landed property, they impose very large fees.

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The import tariff on foreign wheat falls in proportion to the rise in the wheat price there.1

[154] England and Holland have made very bad use of their credit. Those same establishments and companies that have made their power will one day destroy it. This is because men abuse everything. It is only a hundred years since these companies were established, and already their debts are immense and are increasing every day.1 In a country where there is credit, all the projects that enter the head of a state minister are implemented; in other countries, they stay put.

[155] [Our refugees1 are all Whigs, and if the English throne is ever overturned, it will be by those people, as it was in Charles I’s time2 by the French refugees of that time.]

[156] Substance, accident, individual, genus, species, are merely a manner of conceiving things according to the different relationships they have with each other. For example, roundness, which is a bodily accident, becomes the essence of a circle, and redness, which serves as the color of a physical circle, becomes the essence of a red circle. Idem, for the idea of genus, which is nothing in itself, being only that of an individual insofar as I do not determine it, and which I keep in mind without applying it to one subject rather than another; the idea of the infinite, in which Father Malebranche1 finds so much reality that he believes particular ideas come from it, making a kind of arithmetical subtraction (if I dare use this term) from it, whereas it is only by adding ceaselessly to the end without finding any limit that I form the idea of the infinite. It is thus that I think of an extension that I am always adding to, of a being whose perfections I limit so little that I could always add new ones in my mind. But I have no Edition: current; Page: [51] idea of matter or a being to which I would be unable to add anything, any more than I do a time or a number. It is quite true that God has been for all eternity, for there is no entity that can be made from nothing, so there has been infinite duration. But for all that, I have no idea of such duration, and I only see it from the consequences I derive from certain principles.

[157] When Father Malebranche says, “We do not see objects in themselves, for those who are sleeping see them without being present; nor in ourselves, for we have the idea of the Infinite; we therefore see them in God,” one can respond that we see objects as we feel pain: all of this is in ourselves. We even feel our soul, which reflects upon itself and perceives that it is thinking without doubt within itself. Notice that Father Malebranche’s argument proves nothing more than that we do not know how we perceive objects.

[158] A prince could conduct a fine experiment. Raise three or four children like animals, with some goats or some deaf and mute nurses. They would fashion a language together. Examine this language. Look at nature in itself, disengaged from the prejudices of education. Learn from them, after their instruction, what they were thinking about; exercise their minds, by giving them everything necessary for invention; finally, write up the history.

[159] A prince, in the middle of a circle of courtiers, becomes a courtier himself as soon as another prince more prestigious than himself appears; the second will experience the fate of the first if a third and greater one happens on the scene. The worshippers change the object of their cult. If the king appears, he will absorb all honors; the courtiers will forget those they have just given, and the princes, the adoration they have received.

Women who change clothes four times a day resemble actresses who, after playing the role of empress in one play, run off and undress to play that of chambermaid in a second one.

[160] Government by nobles, when nobility is hereditary and not the reward for virtue, is as defective as monarchical government. Republican government in which the public funds are diverted in favor of private individuals is also defective like monarchy, for economy is the advantage of republican government.1

The estates of France being divided into three bodies assembled in three Edition: current; Page: [52] chambers, jealousy was sown among them. What the Clergy wanted, the People or the Nobles did not want. {The Nobles and Clergy ought to have formed one chamber.}

[161] Gold, easier of transport, is more disadvantageous to a State than silver.

[162] A prince who pardons his subjects1 always imagines he is engaging in an act of clemency, whereas he is very often engaging in an act of justice. When he punishes, on the contrary, he believes he is engaging in an act of justice, but often he is engaging in an act of tyranny.2

[163] Observations are the history of natural science, and systems are its myth.

[164] stupidity: crude folks. One can compare men of this sort to peoples that the Ancients imagined being in the unknown zones. “Intra, [si] credere libet, says Pomponius Mela in speaking of Africa, vix jam homines, magisque semiferi.—Blemmyis capita absunt; vultus in pectore est. Satyris praeter effigiem nil humani. Gamphasantes, sine lectis et sine sedibus, vagi, habent potius terras quam habitent.1

[165] rabelais. Every time I have read Rabelais,1 he has bored me; I have never managed to enjoy him. Every time I have heard him cited, he has pleased me [which has made me think that he is good in himself, and I find him bad only because I do not understand him.] {I have since read him with pleasure.}

[166] I have never seen a book so far below its reputation as Father Quesnel’s Moral Reflections;1 never so many base thoughts, never so many childish ideas.

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[167] When it is said that the Egyptians took up the Hebrews’ customs, it is as if one were telling me that the French have taken from the Irish {Jacobites} their manner of speaking and getting dressed.

[168]Dixit insipiens in corde suo: ‘Non est Deus.’”1 That does not apply to atheists except in a broad sense; it means in the literal sense: “Non est Jehovah!” What is spoken of here is nations who disdained the God of Israel, and who said he was an imaginary god. The Chaldeans were not prone to atheism; in no passage in Scripture is it a question of this enormous outrage.

[169] I am convinced that the Spanish prohibition against foreigners engaging in the Indies trade is highly detrimental to their power.1

If they could engage in it themselves, and if foreigners did not engage in it in their name, their policy would be good; but this prohibition is laughable.

Moreover,2 the same foreigners engage in this trade through their inter-loping merchant vessels, which destroy the Cadiz trade;3 not to mention that smuggling is always ruinous to the nation against which it is practiced, because it ruins their customs revenue.4 So that the victimized nation pays dearly for merchandise and gets no profit from its customs.

Free trade would lead all European nations to harm each other. The abundance of commodities they would send would keep them cheap, that is, would raise the price of gold, and silver, and the rest of the country’s merchandise.

The king of Spain would have his free fifth and some immense sums in customs from the country’s other commodities.

His expenses against freebooters would cease, and it would be left to the other nations of Europe to incur them, in whole or in part.

Spain would not face the burden of populating all those vast continents alone.

At his whim, the king would impose duties on European and American Edition: current; Page: [54] merchandise, and the more inhabitants there were, the greater the duties would be.

They could be well protected against the betrayals and encroachments of foreigners, and even their trading posts would be secure against possible insults and vexations.

The king of Spain could farm out his customs to private companies, and all European nations would become his vassal-states.

It would be easy to prevent foreign religions from corrupting the purity of the dominant religion.

The Spanish are so well established, since the long possession they have had, that a few foreign or naturalized merchants are not to be feared.

In a word, when a nation cannot engage in a particular trade alone, it must allow others to do so to its greatest advantage.

What at first led them to this prohibition was that the Spanish were afraid of being disrupted in their conquests. Thus, they prohibited foreigners from traveling there on pain of death.

[170] [Notice that the good faith of the Spanish has ruined their trade and transferred it to foreigners who engage in it without any fear under the name of a Spaniard.]

[171] [I like the quarrels over the works of the Ancients and Moderns; they prove that there are excellent authors among the Ancients and Moderns.1]

[172] The mathematician1 goes only from the true to the true or from the false to the true by ab absurdo arguments. They do not know that middle which is the probable, the more or less probable. In this respect, there is not more or less in mathematics.

[173] xenocrates at pherae.1

{You want me to talk to you about Pisistratus.}

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Of all the great men who have appeared on earth, there are hardly any more singular than Pisistratus.2

He was born with a superior talent, and yet he was subject to the influence of all other talents.

He has no vanity, and he has a sovereign contempt for all men.

Those who have deceived him have so discredited men in his mind that he no longer believes in honorable people.

He has few vices that come from a bad nature; not all of his virtues come from a good one.

[He accords to virtue only what he grants to the importunity of vicious people.] With him, the whole privilege of virtue is that it does no harm.

He well knows that he is above other men; but he does not feel it enough. That is why there is no one of talent who is unable to discover the art of leading him.

He is not familiar with that infinite distance between the honorable and the wicked man, and all the different degrees between these two extremities.

He has an ease in manners and command that charms all who obey him.

No one has carried domination so far, but he has not made it felt in proportion to its weight.

He sees men as individuals differently from the way he sees them in the midst of company.

He has an indifference toward events that is fitting only in those not brought forth by Heaven to determine them.

He does the work of the politicians without even trying; he encounters everything they had reflected on, and his witticisms are as sensible as their meditations.

He makes of his mind what others make of their senses. He governs all of Greece without seeming to, without even thinking about doing so, and everyone follows the order of his designs as if following the torrent of his power.

He succeeds much less in governing the interior of his realm, and while he treats with kings from a position of superiority, he is the eternal dupe of his courtiers.

In governing the interior, he always wants to go from good to better; he is always more struck by the malady than by the risks in fixing it.

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He corrects where toleration is called for. He imagines that the people, who think with such slowness, will follow the rapidity of his genius, and that they will open their eyes in an instant, to regard as abuses things that time, example, and reason itself have made them regard as laws.

With that sublime mind that produces great men and great crimes, Pisistratus would be a wicked man if his heart did not make up for his lack of principles. But his heart so dominates him that he knows neither how to refuse nor punish. Incapable of falling into any difficulties while doing ill, he falls into them constantly while doing good.

When he rose to the government of Sicyon,3 he pardoned the offenses that had been committed against him; he even pardoned (which is harder) those that were still being committed against him. You had to work at it to exhaust his clemency. But at that point, he struck promptly and boldly, and surprised both those who had offended him and those who feared to see him offend with impunity.

In the early years, Pisistratus loved. He found a tender heart and pleasures that Love reserves for true lovers.4 Afterward, he ran from object to object, and achieved possession without relish. He exhausted his senses in restoring what he lost, and he so used up the motive force of his passions that he became almost incapable of what is falsely called enjoying.5 Finally, he threw himself into debauchery, and he brought some charm to it. But whatever one may say about it, debauchery does not become refined. His mistresses became no more than witnesses to a life not free but licentious. But in his debauches, Pisistratus lost his reason, never his secret.

The gods, irritated at Sicyon, sent Pisistratus a dream one night: he thought he was master of all the world’s treasures, but this dream was the cause of public poverty.

A man of obscure birth6 was received into Pisistratus’s house. At first he was regarded with disdain, but afterward, without passing through esteem, he obtained trust. Proud of possessing his secret, he dared ask for the sovereign priestly ministry, and he obtained it. Soon Pisistratus, tired Edition: current; Page: [57] of command, placed sovereign power in those hands. The traitor prepared the cruelest acts of ingratitude against him. But Venus sent him a disease that made all his plans fade away.

Pisistratus was fortunate to have reigned at a time when obedience obviated the necessity of command, so to speak; for if he had reigned in times of disorder or confusion, the arrangement of his mind was such that he would never have dared enough, and he would have undertaken too much.

I certainly believe that Pisistratus fears the immortal gods; but it seems that he has no great regard for their ministers’ interests, and that he is too impressed by this principle: that Religion is made for men, not men for Religion.

Pisistratus refused few women of the court of Sicyon, but not a single one of them could boast that he had any esteem for her.

The king of Sicyon had conquered a neighboring prince’s states and left him only his capital. He sent Pisistratus to besiege it.7 The prince, reduced to despair and believing that not to exist or not to command was all the same to him, made some incredible efforts. Aid arrived. The Sicyonians let it pass. Pisistratus had all the conquests abandoned. He could have preserved them. But everyone defended Pisistratus’s honor: the soldiers agreed that he had not lacked resolution; the captains, that it was not he who had lacked leadership.

In unsuccessful affairs, a general is blamed for all the failures of the army and Court. Here the Court and the army blamed themselves for the entire failure, in order to absolve the general.

Pisistratus knew not the art of humiliation, but he knew the art of reversal.

Pisistratus was less touched by the good and the beautiful than by the extraordinary and the marvelous.

He had a brave heart and a timid mind.

He was more flattered for his talents than his virtues.

Pisistratus’s timidity came as much from laziness toward action, and from the pain of doing harm, as from any weakness of soul.8

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When it came to vices, finally, his mind was everything and his heart nothing.

Pisistratus is the only man I have known who has been uselessly cured of prejudices.

Pisistratus’s unhappiness was a sick taste, which led him to present himself as being worse than he was. He had a certain hypocrisy with regard to vices, which made him affect to appear to have them, as proof of his freedom and independence.

[174] Slavery is contrary to natural right,1 by which all men are born free and independent.

There are only two sorts of dependence that are not contrary to it: that of children toward their fathers; that of citizens toward magistrates. This is because, since anarchy is contrary to natural right (the human species being unable to exist with it), the power of magistrates, which is opposed to anarchy, must be consistent with it.

As for the right of masters, it is not legitimate, because it cannot have had a legitimate cause.

The Romans admitted three means of establishing servitude, all of them equally unjust.

The first, when a free man sold himself. But who does not see that a civil contract cannot violate natural right, by which men are as essentially free as they are reasonable? {Moreover, there cannot be a price attached. The slave was sold; all his goods passed to the master, and thus the reward for his money. Thus, the master gave nothing and the slave received nothing. Thus, no price. Moreover, a man can only contract as a citizen. Now a slave is not a citizen. Nature has made him a citizen; he cannot contract, for no longer being a citizen.}2

The second, when a man was taken in war; for since the victor was free to kill him, they said, he was also free to make him a slave. But it is false to say that it is permissible, even in war, to kill except in case of necessity; but as soon as one man makes a slave of another, it cannot be said that he was under a necessity to kill him, since he did not do it.3

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The entire right that war can give over captives is that of being so assured of their persons that they can no longer harm the victor.4

{We regard as assassinations the murders committed in cold blood by soldiers after the heat of action.}

The third means was birth. This one falls with the other two; for if a man could not sell himself, still less could he sell his unborn son.5 If a prisoner of war cannot be reduced to slavery, still less his children. {Civil law, which has allowed men the division of property, could not rank among the property a portion of the men who were to make this division.}

The reason why a criminal’s death is a licit thing is that the law that punishes him has been passed in his favor. A murderer, for example, has profited from the law that condemns him; it has preserved his life at every moment. He thus cannot complain about it.6 It is not at all the same with the slave; the law of his slavery has never been of any use to him. It is against him in all cases without ever being for him, which is against the fundamental principle of all societies.

If it were said that it could be useful to him because the master has given him food, slavery would thereby have to be limited to persons incapable of earning a living.7 But those sorts of slaves are not at all wanted.

A slave can thus make himself free; it is permissible for him to flee.8 Since he is no part of the society, the civil laws do not concern him.

The civil laws form chains in vain; natural law will always break them.

This right of life and death, this right to seize all the goods that a slave may acquire, these rights so barbarous and so odious are not necessary for the preservation of the human race; they are therefore unjust.

To condemn to slavery a man born of a certain woman is a thing as unjust as the Egyptians’ law that condemned to death all red-haired men;9 unjust, in that it was unfavorable to a certain number of men, without being able to be useful to them.

And how could they think of taking from a father the property of his children and from the children the property of their father?

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Spartacus’s war was the most legitimate ever waged.10

Woe betide those who make laws that can be violated without crime!

[175] In the New Account of the French Islands in America,1 it is seen that Louis XIII2 was extremely pained at establishing the slavery laws for the negroes of America, and that it was only on the expectation of their conversion that he consented.

[176] {Slavery, establishment of a right that renders a man so much the property of another man that the latter is the absolute master of his life and goods.}1

[177] No one is ignorant of the power of the ancient kings of Sicily over land and sea; rivals or allies of the Carthaginians or Romans, often victors of one or the other. That island itself had in its midst several great powers, a very sizeable number of large cities which governed themselves by their laws, equally capable of making war and sustaining it.

When Sicily became a Roman province, it was, with Egypt, the granary of Rome and Italy, and, consequently, one of the principal parts of the Empire.

Alien causes must therefore have put this fine country in its condition of decadence. I believe its origins must be sought nowhere else than in the causes I am going to provide: the absence of its sovereigns, who always removed gold and silver from the country; the depopulation occurring because of the large number of priests and monks—which is felt more in the southern countries, which are always being depopulated more than those of the North, because people live much less long there. [Here you have what should be done to obviate these problems.]

Don Carlos would attract a large Sicilian party if he employed their revenues in maintaining a fleet, and thereby, he would be highly respected on the coasts of the Archipelago, Asia, Barbary, Italy, Spain, and even by the English and the Dutch, who would need him for their trade.1 He could hold the Turk in check by sea. The taxes would not leave Sicily and would Edition: current; Page: [61] be consumed there, and the country would be in a better position to bear its tax burden. Fewer land troops would be needed in Sicily, since the fleet would guard the coasts. The king of Naples can scarcely use the land troops he has in Sicily, where they are hemmed in, so to speak. To put Sicily in a position to maintain this fleet, he has means at hand that other sovereigns do not. Since he exercises pontifical power in Sicily, he could at will reduce the number of monks, cut back on their property and use it to increase public revenue. A pretext suffices for these sorts of things. He could oblige the ecclesiastics either to farm their uncultivated lands or rent them out. He should conduct himself in such a way as to display plenty of respect for the indifferent superstitions, while destroying the harmful ones. The infirm among the royal troops could be placed in Sicily—they would serve to guard it—and the revenues from the main benefices applied to them. There should be laws favoring marriage, and an exacting rigor in administration. Jews and foreigners should be sought out and favored. The silks that arrive there should be employed in manufactures. Cultivation could be encouraged in two ways: (1) by favoring the export of Sicilian grain and finding an outlet to sell it to the Dutch, the Marseillais, and even in the Archipelago, where it is sometimes lacking; (2) by maintaining a slightly elevated price of wheat, which could be done very easily. Now, nothing does more to bolster the master’s and the settler’s enthusiasm for work than the hope of a reasonable price for his wheat. There is always a natural relationship between the price of the earth’s bounty and the wage given to the people who work it: if the crops are worth little, they are given little; if they are worth much, they are given much. Now it is clear that in this latter case, they are in a better position to pay taxes. The result of the policy of the Italian princes, who always maintain wheat at a very low price, is poverty for the master and idleness for the settler.

[178] The more populous a country is, the more it is in a position to furnish wheat to foreigners.

[179] In the five years of his pontificate, Sixtus V—by his good government, the moral austerity he established, the destruction of bandits, the constant protection given to the laws—saw himself in a position to effect immense projects in Rome, to amass great treasure and to make the Spanish jealous.1

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[180] The Romans had rigorous laws against those who remained celibate. All ancient peoples were horrified by sterility. It would be easy to prevent celibacy among the secular clergy by establishing the Roman laws.

In Bordeaux in 1622, out of sixty students of the Jesuits, there were thirty who entered the monastery.

Since all big changes are dangerous in a State, monasticism should be not destroyed but limited.1 All it would take for this is to reestablish the law of Majorian and the novella of Leo.2 I am not even sure that Louis XIV didn’t issue a law to prevent the taking of vows before age twenty-five. Innocent X destroyed all the little monasteries of his State:3 he got rid of fifteen hundred of them, and he had resolved to press all Christian princes to do the same thing. Fathers and mothers should be encouraged to raise their children. Small secondary schools should be destroyed, and the ones in the big cities promoted. Just as it is important for people of a certain status to be raised to be conversant with the world of letters, it is pernicious to orient the common people in that direction. Small benefices should be consolidated, which would reduce the number of benefice holders.

Paternal education would prevent many a vice. It would also make people pay more attention to marrying off and getting rid of their daughters. Prohibit the keeping of unmarried domestics over the age of twenty-five. Prevent the Parlements from annulling marriages so easily, the jurisprudence being such that most marriages last only because they have not been attacked. Thus, those that have been annulled should be celebrated anew. Give privileges to those who have a number of children, and certain honors to the same. Solidify uncertain ranks by the number of children. A special preference in all wills to whoever has the most children. A magistracy in every city hall to whoever has the most children. Make those who live in celibacy pay for twelve children.

Prevent the spread of venereal disease by establishing a kind of quarantine and inspection of those coming from the Indies.

In countries where there are slaves, they should be able to expect liberty by the number of their children.

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Giving the three-children privilege to those who did not have them, as the Romans did, should be guarded against, unless they lost them at war.4

The number of celibate people multiplies proportionally the number of prostitutes, and just as monks are rewarded by nuns, the celibate are rewarded by prostitutes.

General rule: it is only marriages that populate.

Females of animals have a fairly constant fertility, so that one can fairly well estimate how many little ones a female will produce throughout her whole life. But in the human species, passion, fantasy, caprice, the troubles of pregnancy and of an overly large family, the fear of losing one’s charms, all hinder the multiplication of the species.

Thus, you cannot expend too much effort in taking stock on the matter of fertility.

If an emerging people multiplies rapidly, this is not, as one author has said, because they did not check each other as they will later on, when they harm each other like trees, for this explanation leaves us with the whole problem. It is instead that the advantages of celibacy and small family size, which are enjoyed in a nation experiencing its full grandeur, are a very big inconvenience in an emerging nation.

[181] Most people complain about the great property possessed by the Church. As for myself, I believe that the main problem is not there, but in the great number of those who share it.1

Here’s how.

There is scarcely any little town that does not have one or two little ecclesiastical chapters, in which there are anywhere from ten to twenty or thirty positions of very small income, and which consequently can only be desired by the dregs of society. They become objects of ambition for the principal artisans and farmers, who attempt to get their children to study in order to obtain them, so that all these positions steal so many good subjects away from industry and agriculture. {These sorts of people are obliged to go live among artisans, where they could not live a very ecclesiastical life.}

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If these positions were more prestigious, they would concern the nobility, which is the only lazy body in the Realm, and the only one that needs alien property to support itself.

There is nothing so ridiculous as committing a man, for fifty silver crowns, to a breviary and eternal continence.

People of this stamp—without education, without letters, without respect—are the shame of the Church and the constant subject of worldly mockery.

It would be easy to remedy this problem by consolidations or eliminations, and you would fashion benefices that could be possessed with some dignity.

There wouldn’t even be need for foreign authority; that of the king and the diocesan bishop would suffice for this.

[182] Pope Innocent X destroyed all the little monasteries of the ecclesiastical State, and had their houses and properties sold. He abolished around a thousand {five hundred}, and if he had not been prevented by death, he would have invited all Catholic princes to do likewise in their States.

It is well known that the little monasteries serve only to support the relaxation of monastic discipline.

They also support the prodigious number of monks who, spread out to the tiniest hick town,1 have relatives everywhere, and who, looking in every child for the first inkling of sorrow or caprice or devotion, grab them immediately.

The properties of these little monasteries could be joined to other monasteries or to benefices, and in this case, one could favor many royally nominated benefices which, by the passage of time, have lost their properties and preserved virtually nothing but their name.

If they were joined to other monasteries, there should be no fear of their becoming too rich; for primo, the objection cannot concern mendicants, and monks who are paid rent would be in a better position to bear the State’s taxes.

Moreover, since they would have several distant properties, they would Edition: current; Page: [65] be inclined to let them out for rent, which would be a very big benefit to the State.

{One might allow only one house per order in the same city. (See extract from the Journal des Savants, 1689, a council that prohibits increasing the number of monks.)}2

[183] One of the greatest abuses in the realm is the establishment of mini–high schools1 in the small towns, where even artisans send all their children in order to teach them a few Latin words.

Far from being favorable to knowledge, this supports ignorance. For just as it is useful for there to be good academies in the main cities, where a certain youth may be instructed in the humanities, so too is it dangerous to put up with these mini–high schools in small towns, where artisans and petty traders are alienated from their status, without being put on track to fulfill another one very well.

[184] Machiavelli says it is dangerous to make big changes in a State, because you attract the enmity of all those to whom they are harmful, and the good is not felt by those to whom it is useful.1

I have still another reason to offer: by eliminating the respect one ought to have for the established things, they serve as an example and authorize the fantasy of someone who wants to overturn everything. [And indeed, there are plenty of things that do not last, because they have not been attacked like the great properties of . . .]

[185] Here are the laws that I would think most appropriate to make a republic or colony flourish.1

All property will be divided equally among the male [and female] children, Edition: current; Page: [66] without the fathers and mothers being able to favor the male child they think worthiest with more than a third of their estate.

{Daughters will take a third less of the inheritance than the males.}

[Not daughters but male consanguineous cousins will succeed to the inheritance; daughters will have only the daily necessities.]

In the division of property at succession,2 no distinction among property types will be allowed3—mobile and immobile, proper, acquisitions made during and outside of marriage, property that the husband does (through the dowry arrangement) and does not control, noble or commoner.

After one of the marriage partners is deceased,4 the enjoyment of his or her goods passes to the survivor—except, however, the third of the deceased’s inheritance, the enjoyment of which passes to the children.

[Where there are no children, each spouse will be able to dispose of half as he or she wishes, but the other half will belong to the nearest male relations.]

During marriage, the entire estate will be considered to belong to the husband as far as its use is concerned, and he will be able to dispose of it freely; all right of legal initiative will be in his hands.

In the event of dissipation and prodigality, the wife will ask for separation and will obtain a third of the {remaining} property for herself, another third for her children, and the final third will remain for the husband’s subsistence, under a guardian’s authority.

Those who have no children will be unable to make a will. {Their estate will pass to the nearest relative, the males being preferred;} but they will be able to make whatever donation they want to living persons, provided they immediately divest themselves of its use, and provided they dispose of no more than half their estate. {Contradiction with what I have said hereafter, that one cannot receive by will.}

What children acquire by their industry or through donations from strangers or collateral relations will belong to them both as property and in usufruct, and they will be considered free of paternal authority on this count. If said children die without issue, the father and mother, not the brothers, will inherit. Girls at the age of twenty and boys at the age of Edition: current; Page: [67] twenty-five will be able to marry without the consent of their fathers, and in this case alone, if they acquire property, the fathers may not inherit it.

There will be no regard to the right of representation, nor of retrait lignager;5 substitutions and fidéicommis6 will not take place.

Unmarried males will be unable to give and receive in wills {from the age of twenty-five}.

Unmarried persons will succeed, however, to their father and mother like the other children; will not be able to possess any judicial office, or be witnesses in a civil case. All places of honor will be indicated in churches and other locations according to the number of children.

Wherever there is competition for [offices and] privileges or honors, the decision will be by the number of children—except, however, for military awards and honors.

Those with seven children alive or having died in war will be exempt from every type of tax; those with six will only pay half.

All ordinary privileges, such as exemption from guardianship and from the burden of billeting war personnel, will be accorded those with five children.

Finally, the city dweller who has the most children will enjoy the honors and privileges of magistrates—not, however, the functions. And in case of a tie, whoever had a child that year will be preferred.

Disparity of social condition will not be sufficient reason to annul a promise of marriage. Abduction by seduction will not be a capital crime, but will be followed by marriage.

Every unmarried daughter living outside the company of her father and mother, grandfather or grandmother, without their express permission authorized by the magistrate, will be punished as a woman of bad morals.

Every girl of bad morals will be sheltered in a workhouse and will not leave until someone presents himself to marry her.

All women who keep places of debauchery will be punished in such a way as to prevent recidivism.

A man under forty will not be able to marry a woman over fifty.

[Disparity of social condition will not be sufficient reason to annul a promise of marriage, any more than the bad morals of one of the parties.]

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The entire Republic will be divided into families.

It will be prohibited to keep any unmarried domestic, unless he is at least twenty-five—except, however, for girls.

Substantial property, an amount to be fixed by Law, will be necessary to attain judicial office.

In trial sentencing, neither counsel nor a lawyer nor a prosecutor will be used. There will be no writing, unless the judge orders it for his instruction. The counsel of a friend, however, may be used.

You will grab the attention of your party {before two witnesses} to lead him before the judges, and he will be obliged to follow orders, under stiff penalty.

There will be only one level of jurisdiction, and up to five judges will always be judging.

No regular returns7 will be possible on properties that cannot be indemnified; no debts that cannot be liquidated by consignment.

There will be no real takings, but on a creditor’s demand, the judge will condemn the debtor to convey a sales contract to his creditor for the assets that are most agreeable to said creditor. All this, for the settling of the debt and subject to the advice of experts.

There will be no privileged creditors. There will be debtors’ prison for debts above one hundred pounds.

Judges will be able to release a prisoner after a certain time, when his good faith and insolvency are well known.

All sorts of contractual restitutions, such as damages for more than half in the sale, more than a quarter in the distribution, will not be allowed.

Personal fraud will not be subject to restitution, but it will be pursued as a criminal matter.

Minors and the children of families will be compelled to pay their debts, except when usurers are being punished.

Those named guardian by the father will accept the guardianship on pain of infamy. Their governance will end at the age of fourteen. Within three months thereafter, they will render their accounts before experts commissioned by the judge. They will be held only for fraud or for negligence that approaches fraud. If receipts exceed expenses, they will not be Edition: current; Page: [69] obliged, if they do not want to, to place the money in an interest-bearing investment. They will farm out the fixed property, unless, on the advice of the parents, they agree to the contrary.

No one will be able to sell his fixed property before the age of twenty, without the permission of the parents and the judge.

One may lend at interest in any way one wants, provided the interest does not exceed a fifteenth of the principal.

Criminal laws will be so fashioned that, on the one hand, punishment can be achieved, and on the other, people will be safe from the ambushes of slanderers.

All benefices will be for cure of souls, and there cannot be more ecclesiastics than benefices. Said ecclesiastics will be maintained appropriately, and will occupy themselves in service, not contemplation.8

[186] the knights templar. Their condemnation proves nothing; neither do the trials in which a prince left.1

The Jews accused of the fire in Rome—falsely, but condemned.2

The affair of the nuns of Loudun.3

Our earliest Christians condemned for ridiculous crimes. If we had legal procedures, we would see witnesses, confessions, accused, etc.

The Knights Templar had been virtually condemned before being accused; at least their destruction had been decided.

Saint Bartholomew’s!4 Didn’t the king send out letters everywhere in which he said the Huguenots meant to kill him? Didn’t he even go to court and have some Huguenots hung by the Parlement of Paris? And yet, who doesn’t know what it was all about, and that their destruction had been decided long beforehand?

[187] Notice that after civil wars, the most calamitous that States face, they suddenly are in the highest echelon of their power.1

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We have seen it three times: in France, under Charles VII, under Henry IV, Louis XIII, and Louis XIV; we have seen it in England, under Cromwell and under Henry VIII; in Rome, after the wars of Sulla and those of Caesar’s faction.2 This is because, in civil war, the whole people is at war, and when, with the return to peace, the arts begin again to flourish and forces are again combined, this State has a very great advantage over the state that has only bourgeois.3

Every State has to think of making soldiers, and the one that has the most is the strongest.

[188] Chimerical plan for a perpetual peace in Europe, attributed to Henry IV: good for arming Europe against Spain, but bad if viewed in itself; the first barbarians would have subjugated Europe.

[189] In his Ecclesiastical Annals, Father Lecointe maintains, against all the ancients, that the assembly of the Franks did not send away to the Pope to consult him on the deposition of the last king of the first dynasty.1 The Oratorian Father Châlons,2 in a History of France whose extract is in the eighteenth Journal des Savants (1720),3 says there is no evidence the Pope wanted to commit such a great injustice. That’s charming: he will not acknowledge that the Pope could do something that he admits all lords have done.

[190] I can’t understand French historians.

Look at how Father Alexandre cast doubt on the most certain facts of French history, in order to diminish the Pope’s authority.1 How can the testimony of all contemporary historians be contradicted? Can it be denied that there was a lot of blindness in those days regarding the Pope’s authority? What good does it do to deny one of these individual facts? Isn’t the Edition: current; Page: [71] whole historical record a monument to the blindness of our forefathers in this regard? For myself, I would rather not write history than write it for the purpose of following the prejudices and passions of the times.

Here, someone makes the Capetians descend from the Merovingians; there, someone else has it that the name very Christian has always been applied to the {French} princes.

They don’t form a system after reading history; they begin with the system and then search for proofs. And there are so many facts over a long history, so many different ways of thinking about it, its origins are ordinarily so obscure, that one always finds materials to validate all sorts of opinions.

[191] the maid of orleans. The English took her for a sorceress; the French, for a prophetess and envoy of God. She was neither. Look at the same Journal, where one seems inclined to believe that it was a deception, and look at the historical reasons given there.1 On an event of this nature, however little the story may lend itself to a similar explanation, one must embrace it, because reason and philosophy teach us to doubt something so offensive to both of them. The witchcraft prejudice is no more, and that of the possessed barely survives. Look at the story of Jacques Cœur in the history of France; he was Charles VII’s treasurer.2

If the story of the Maid is a myth, what can one say about all the miracles that all the monarchies have claimed, as if God governed a realm with a special providence, different from that with which he governs its neighbors?

[192] The Chinese annals1 observe that in 1196 bc the Barbarians of the North spread into the oriental islands because of their great number.

[193] Look at how much danger conquests bring: Roman soldiers were rebellious and insolent from the time of the victory over Perseus.1

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[194] roman republic, sulla.1 Caesar’s victory had the same effect with respect to the Roman Republic as the victory of Marius over Sulla would have had, if he had won.2 And if Pompey had come out on top, perhaps he would have restored liberty to his country, as Sulla did. For whoever supports the people, being from the people himself, has interests that are more tangled up than the nobleman who supports the noble party.

All the ancient republics perished by the people, who authorized one man against the senate.

Two {chance} causes of the fall of the Roman Republic: the rendering of accounts that Cato arranged for the Knights; the division of fields to the soldiers.3

{Cause of the fall of the Empire: the seat transferred by Constantine to Byzantium.}

[195] One must not be surprised by the change in spirit among the Romans after Caesar.1 They were the same as they were in the time of the Gracchi,2 the Mariuses, the Catilines;3 not to mention that this change is no greater than the one we have seen in our France from century to century, especially the transition from Charles VII to Louis XI.4

[196] You ask me why the English, who have much imagination, invent little, and the Germans, who have little imagination, invent much.1

There are things invented by chance, and in this connection, it cannot be asked why one nation invents more than another; thus, the Germans cannot be either blamed for, or credited with, the invention of gunpowder and other things of that sort.

Moreover, imagination is good for inventing systems, and on that score, the English have provided their share more than any other nation; but Edition: current; Page: [73] most discoveries in natural science are only the result of long and arduous labor, of which the Germans are more capable than other nations.

You see clearly that a thousand German chemists who experiment constantly and never get sidetracked will more easily discover the effects of combining certain elements in chemistry than a thousand Englishmen who study some chemical element, but who spend three-quarters of their time discoursing about religion and government.

[197] charlemagne. His injustice in plundering the Lombards and supporting the Popes’ usurpation.

The Popes support the Carlian House in its usurpation, and the Carlians support the Popes in theirs.

The Merovingians were excluded without cause.

Charlemagne raised the Popes’ power because his authority was founded on that power. I have heard this observation made: that the reason why he gave lands to the Holy See was that they were borderlands of the two empires and served as a barrier between the Empires of the Occident and the Orient. Now, he was not afraid that the Emperor of the Orient and the Pope, who harbored a mortal hatred for each other, would ever reach an accommodation.

[198] In my extract of the Works of the Learned, November 1690, page 114,1 you will see the horrible persecutions in Sweden and discover the character of those times, and of Charlemagne’s reign.

[199] Here is my reason to prove that the first dynasty was hereditary: it is that long line of kings, all without power and authority. The French must therefore have had a respect for the family of Merovech nearly equal to that of the Turks for the blood of Othman, which presupposes a hereditary and not an elective crown. And if it were elective, how would they have elected all those idiots?1

[200] Marks of indifference should not affect us,1 but marks of contempt certainly should.

[201] Men never appear more extravagant than when they disdain, or Edition: current; Page: [74] when they admire; it seems there is no middle between the excellent and the detestable.

[202] Metaphysics has two very seductive things.

It accords with laziness; one studies it everywhere: in one’s bed, on a walk, etc.

Moreover, metaphysics treats only big things; big interests are always being negotiated in it. The scientist, the logician, the orator are concerned only with small subjects, but the metaphysician invades all of nature, governs it at will, makes and unmakes gods, gives and takes intelligence, puts man in the condition of the beasts or removes him from it. All the notions it offers are interesting, because present and future tranquillity are at stake.

[203] I am more moved when I see a beautiful painting by Raphael that represents a nude woman in the bath than if I saw Venus emerge from a wave.1 This is because the painting represents only women’s beauty, and nothing that can reveal her defects. Everything pleasing is seen, and nothing that can diminish one’s interest. In the painting, moreover, the imagination always has something to do; this is a painter who always represents the beautiful side.

Why does Aloisia charm us so much in Latin and so little in French?2 It is because French represents things to the Frenchman as they are. It gives him an exact idea, which is so clear that he cannot add accessories to it. In the Latin, which we do not understand perfectly, the imagination adds to the true idea an accessory idea, which is always more agreeable. That is why translations do not please us as much as the originals, even though in reality they are equally beautiful, since each language has its equally perfect expressions.

[204] Constantine made a mistake in consenting that the ecclesiastical jurisdiction that the Christians had established among themselves from the time of the pagan Emperors be authorized.1

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The Christians could hardly go plead their trial cases before the Pagans, for they would have conveyed a bad idea of the charity prevailing among them.

[205] Marriages between relatives to the first and second degree are prohibited in virtually all religions. And although there used to be peoples {(there still are: the Tartars and other peoples, the Huns, etc.)}1 where it was permissible for fathers to marry their children, I don’t know that there are any like that in the world today. At least they are so obscure that they are not worth being cited.2

And yet, considering these marriages in themselves, they are no less licit than others, for they are not contrary to natural law, like the sin of Onan3 and of cities that perished by the flame. Nor, by their nature, are they contrary to civil and political law, like arson, robbery, and murder. They even offend against divine law only in the sense that it prohibits them, and not in themselves, like impiety and blasphemy. So all that can be said about them is that they are prohibited because they are prohibited.

It seems that this prohibition is quite ancient, indeed that it is as ancient as can be, that is, that it comes from the earliest patriarchs, and that it has avoided our natural inconstancy.

This appears clearly in the fact that, if these marriages were legitimate among some of the earliest peoples, it was only by the abolition of the ancient custom, because we see the marriage of one’s sisters introduced by Cambyses, that of mothers and their children by Semiramis.4

Now, in considering the mores of the earliest times, we will easily discover Edition: current; Page: [76] the reasons for a repugnance that has since passed into the force of law.

In these earliest ages, there was no other authority than that of fathers. That was the plenitude of power: father, magistrate, monarch signified the same thing.

In the earliest times, we do not find that men exercise the same dominion over their wives as over their children. On the contrary, the first marriages give us the idea of a perfect equality and a union as sweet as it was natural. It was only with the despotic empires that the enslavement of women was established. Princes, always unjust, began by abusing that sex, and found subjects entirely disposed to imitate them. In free countries, you never saw these disproportions.

It is clear that such a difference must have generated a repugnance for marriages among relations. How would a daughter have married her father? As a daughter, she would have owed him unbounded respect; as wife, there would have been equality between them. These two conditions would therefore have been incompatible.

Once this repugnance was established, it soon spread to marriages of brothers and sisters. For since the first type of marriage inspired horror because of the consanguinity, it is clear that a lesser proximity was bound to evoke less horror, but still some.

Once this was engraved in men’s minds, God wanted to conform to it, and he made it a fundamental point of his law. For when God gave laws to men, he had only one thing in view, which was to have a faithful people, the natural source of all precepts.

Of these precepts, there are two types: those concerning the relationship that men have among themselves, which I will call moral precepts; and others concerning the relationship they have with him, which I will call sacred precepts.

There are again two sorts of moral precepts: those which have some relation to the preservation of society, as almost all do; and others, which are founded only on the ease of execution. The prohibition against marriage between relations may be placed among these latter.

Likewise, there are two sorts of sacred precepts: some are entirely founded on an eternal reason, such as loving and worshipping God; others are purely arbitrary and are rather a sign of the religion than the religion itself, and these are the ceremonial ones.

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The foundation of religion is to love God and worship him, and the ceremonies are designed merely to express this sentiment. But they must signify what they are supposed to signify, and God rejects those that cannot signify a true worship, and that are bad as signs because they are bad in reality: such was the case with those that made him the author of the most infamous prostitutions.

[206] on the eternity of the world. Lucretius’s argument1 against the eternity of the world proves too much:

  • Praeterea, si nulla fuit genitalis origo
  • Terrai et Caeli, semperque aeterna fuere
  • Cur supre bellum Thebanum et funera Trojae
  • Non alias alii quoque res cecinere poetae?
  • Quo tot facta virum toties cecidere? Nec usquam
  • Aeternis famae monumentis insita florent?
  • Verum (ut opinor) habet novitatem summa, recensque
  • Natura est Mundi, neque pridem exordia cepit.2

I say it proves too much. We know nothing before the Olympiads, that is to say before two thousand five or six hundred years. All the rest is myth and obscurity. We are certain, however, that the world has lasted for at least six thousand years. We therefore have three thousand five hundred years of the world’s existence, at least, for which the history is lacking.

For Lucretius’s argument to be valid, we would have to have a quite precise and continuous history from the epoch of the world’s birth.

Now one could say: “The world must not have begun beforehand, since we have no memory of anything preceding it.”

But here, there is a previous era that is certain, of which we have no memory, and for the knowledge of which we need revelation.

His other proof:

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  • Quare etiam quaedam nunc artes expoliuntur,
  • Nunc etiam augescunt; nunc addita navigiis sunt
  • Multa: . . .3

is worth no more; for it would have to be proven beforehand that there has never on earth occurred a catastrophe similar to the one the Greeks speak of in their Deluge, and Moses in his Genesis. For if one or a very small number of men were left in a large country in which communication was difficult, all the arts would necessarily decline and be forgotten—even if they were the most knowledgeable men in the nation, since one or two men know only a few of the arts and are even less able to practice them; even if they knew the art, they would neglect it. Moreover, poverty—necessarily attached to a small number of men—will cause all the arts to be forgotten, except those that can procure the most indispensable necessities. {Moreover, virtually all the arts are connected; a needle is the result of many arts.} Do not imagine that a Noah or a Deucalion thought about the printing press and exerted themselves in making distance glasses or microscopes, or that they put money in use. Unable to construct a ship, would they have remembered or even bothered with the compass?

Imagine a pastor among his flock; how many arts does he know something about? A peasant in an unfrequented place—how many ideas does he have? The entire people would thus have to start with this small number of ideas. And before they made the least progress, how much time would pass! For most of the arts concern a great people, not just a certain number of men. Before they made good laws, before they had the imagination to make a State flourish, how much time would flow by?

It is certain that the origin of the world is proven only by the sacred Books, because, as for historical proofs, they are all against the accepted system. The unanimous agreement of all historians in favor of a more distant antiquity forms a demonstration of this sort. To say that all peoples have pushed back their origins out of vanity is to be unreasonable, since vanity has little to do with this. Don’t we have a writer of our history who has cut back our earliest kings? It’s Father Daniel.4

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It seems the theory of the indestructible world also presupposes that it had no beginning. The theory of the world’s destruction by fire, which is the ancient philosophers’ theory and which is orthodox among us, involves only a disturbance of order—which, by the laws of motion, must necessarily lead to another orderly arrangement. Our whole theology—the resurrection of bodies, destruction by fire—all this merely presupposes a new orderly arrangement. And assuming that matter in motion is unacceptable, the world must last eternally. Lucretius reasons unphilosophically when he says that the destruction we see in parts of the world implies total destruction, since each thing is being reordered to the extent that any other thing is disordered. A vortex, for example, cannot be destroyed without growing larger or forming another, nor a planet without forming other small ones or moving closer to or further from its sun.

Most of the reasoning of the Ancients is not precise, which arises from the fact that they did not have the ideas about the universe that the discoveries of our time have provided. They paid attention almost exclusively to the vast expanse of the earth, which they considered almost by itself to be the universe, and they easily imagined that it could perish. Here’s how they reasoned, and rightly—especially Lucretius and the Epicureans, who thought the stars had only their apparent size: “If you admit,” they said, “that peoples have perished, great cities have been destroyed, rivers have formed and covered the countrysides, you must also admit that it is very easy for heaven and earth to be dissolved, if the causes became greater.”

  • Quod si forte fuisse antehac eadem omnia credis
  • Sed periisse hominum torrenti saecla vapore,
  • Aut cecidisse urbeis magno vexamine mundi,
  • Aut ex imbribus assiduis exisse rapaceis
  • Per terras amneis, atque oppida cooperuisse:
  • Tanto quippe magis victus fateare necesse est,
  • Exitium quoque terrai caelique futurum.
  • Nam cum res tantis morbis tantisque periclis
  • Tentarentur, ibi si tristior incubuisset
  • Causa; darent late cladem, magnasque ruinas.5
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[207] One cannot think without indignation about the cruelties the Spanish inflicted upon the Indians, and when forced to write on this subject, one cannot avoid assuming a pompously polemical style.1

Bartolomé de Las Casas, eyewitness to all these barbarities, writes a horrific account.2 The hyperboles used by the rabbis to describe the seizure of Bethar do not convey ideas as frightful as does the naïvete of this author. Hadrian punished the rebels.3 Here free peoples are exterminated. Peoples as populous as those of Europe disappear from the earth. The Spanish, in discovering the Indies, have at the same time revealed the height of cruelty.

It is fortunate that the ignorance publicly professed by the Infidels hides our histories from them. They would find the wherewithal there to defend themselves and to attack. If they judged our religion by the destruction of the Indians, Saint Bartholomew’s4 and five or six other equally clear markers, how could one answer them? For in the final analysis, the history of a Christian people must be the practical morality of Christianity. The Persian Letters brought out the vanity contained in the pretexts that forced the Spanish to arrive at this extremity:5 unique method of self-preservation which the Machiavellians therefore cannot call cruel. It has been proven by the opposite conduct of the Portuguese, who have been expelled from practically everywhere.6 But the crime loses nothing of its enormity by the utility derived from it. It is true that actions are always judged by the outcome, but in morality, this judgment by men is itself a deplorable abuse.

If politics was the motive, religion was the pretext. It has been a long time since a poet complained that religion had fathered the worst evils, Edition: current; Page: [81] and it must indeed be true in the pagan religion, since it is not even always false in that of Jesus Christ.

What kind of abuse is it to make God serve the interests of one’s passions and crimes! Is there a more mortal offense than the one committed under the pretext of honor?

[208] How do we know that there have not been several worlds in succession before this one? This hypothesis would explain quite naturally the origin of good and bad angels. It would be appropriate to add to each world a universal judgment. The destruction of these worlds would be not annihilations but disturbances.

[209] Some years after the Spanish had discovered the New World, one of their storm-tossed ships capsized on the coast of an unknown island. This island was deserted. The inhabitants had abandoned it because the air was so bad that people did not live for more than thirty years there. The terrain was marshy but very fertile. The island was filled with goats1 so full of milk that they vied with each other to let themselves be milked, and this milk was always the diet of our Spaniard. What was hardest for him was that he was naked, having discarded his clothes when he saved himself by swimming.

He had been on this island for more than six months when, one day as he was on the beach, he saw a young twelve-year-old girl bathing; she was the only person on the island. She had been left behind (I don’t know how) when the inhabitants abandoned it. At first, they were both surprised, but they soon sensed that they were not enemies. As the Spaniard approached, the young American girl also approached, for she had not learned to be ignorant of what it is impossible not to know. They loved each other and gave each other a mutual pledge that they could not violate.2 They had four children.3 The father died, and the mother only survived him by a few days, leaving four inhabitants on the island, of whom the oldest was not yet four years old. The goats, accustomed to come nurse the little children, still continued to come, and still took care of them.

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When they had reached the age of twelve, they began to feel the designs of nature. The island was soon repopulated, so that in eighty years’ time, in the space of seven generations, a nation was made that had no idea that there might be other men or another people on earth. They made themselves a language.

A vessel4 having shipwrecked near the island, two men who had saved themselves by swimming came ashore. The inhabitants welcomed them with humanity and gave them milk, which was the only food they had yet imagined.

When they had learned the country’s language, they saw an entirely new people . . .

One of the islanders asked the old stranger how old he was. He answered: “I am ninety years old.” “What do you mean by a year?” replied the islander. “I call a year,” said the stranger, “twelve lunar revolutions.” “And by this reckoning, how old are you in lunar revolutions?” “Let me think a little. I would be a thousand eighty.” “Can one lie like that?” said the islander. “You would be older than our earliest forefathers!” “If you don’t believe me,” said the stranger, “perhaps you will believe this young man, who came with me and is from the same city where I had my birth.” “What?” said the islander, “are there then other cities than ours?” “Yes,” said the young stranger. “The city we are from is almost half the size of your island. Don’t think my compatriot wants to impose on you. He was the same age as my father, who, if he were alive today, would be no less than a thousand eighty in lunar revolutions.”

The whole people began to laugh. “Don’t be surprised at that!” resumed the young man. “We live a long time in our family. I’ve heard from my father that my grandfather died after ninety times twelve moons. My great grandfather was seventy.” “Gods! What lies!” cried the islander. “I am the son of Heptalip. His father was named Berzici, who was the son of Agapé, who lived for only fifteen years. Agapé’s father was Narnacun, who was born from a goat, as well as Neptata, his wife and sister, from whom you are descended just as we are.” (Note that the story must be told by the youngest stranger from the island. Note that in the Indies women conceive at eight years of age. {Perhaps I could weave this into a longer novel.})

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[210] lacedemonians. There is nothing that resists people who observe the laws out of passion, who support a State out of passion and not with that cold indifference that one most often has for the society one is in.

Idem, most of the Greek republics and the earliest Romans.1

[211] Greek philosophy amounted to very little. They spoiled the whole world—not only their contemporaries, but also their successors.

Look at the pathetic precepts of the Pythagoreans, which were to be hidden from the people: don’t sit on the horse’s measuring cup; don’t cut the fire with the sword; don’t look behind you when you go outside; make even-numbered sacrifices to the heavenly gods and odd-numbered ones to the worldly gods, and other childishness. {All this was only enigmas; we do not have enough monuments of their philosophy. Diogenes Laertius was a bad author. Aristotle’s works are corrupted. We no longer understand the ancient systems. Plato’s is so fine that it is practically our own. We do not know Heraclitus’s system any better than we would Newton’s by reading Newton’s Weight and Void. Cicero has given us only metaphysics and morals, and what he has given us is perfectly good.1 What Lucretius has given us of Epicurus is very fine; he was lacking only a knowledge of astronomy. As for geometry, they got quite far along.}

Tatianus Assyrius,2 in a Discourse against the Greeks, proves they did not invent the arts and sciences, but got them from the Barbarians.3

[212] What brought the Greeks to the world’s attention was a crisis that occurred within the Greek body, which a hundred petty tyrants were governing. Edition: current; Page: [84] All these monarchies were set up as republics. In these new times, the liberty frenzy1 gave them a love of Country, a heroic courage, a hatred of kings that made them do the greatest things. Their power and glory attracted foreigners to them, and consequently the arts. Their situation on the sea brought trade their way.

[213] A person of my acquaintance said:1

“I am going to do a pretty foolish thing: here is my self-portrait.

I know myself well enough.

I have hardly ever experienced sorrow, and boredom even less.

My bodily machinery is so fortunately constructed that all objects strike me forcefully enough so they can give me pleasure, but not enough to give me pain.

I have enough ambition to take part in the things of this life, but not enough for the post that nature has placed me in to be distasteful to me.

When I taste a pleasure, I am affected by it, and I am always surprised at having sought it out with such indifference.2

In my youth, I was happy enough to attach myself to women who I thought loved me. As soon as I ceased to believe it, I would suddenly detach myself from them.

Study has always been for me the sovereign remedy against life’s unpleasantness, since I have never experienced any sorrow that an hour’s reading did not eliminate.

In the course of my life, I have never found folks who were generally despised except those living in bad company.

I wake up in the morning with a secret joy; I see the light with a kind of rapture. The whole rest of the day I am happy.

I pass the night without waking up, and in the evening when I go to bed, a kind of torpor prevents me from engaging in reflection.

I am almost as happy with fools as with smart people, and there are few men so boring that they have not amused me very often; there is nothing so amusing as a ridiculous man.

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I have no aversion to making inner sport of the men I see, which does not prevent them from doing the same to me in their turn.

When first looking at most grandees, I have had a childish fear. As soon as I have gotten to know them, I have made the transition to contempt with almost no middle ground.

I have often enough liked to pay banal compliments to women and to render them services that cost as little.

I have had a natural love for the well-being and honor of my Country, but little for what is called its glory. I have always felt a secret joy when a statute or ordinance has been passed that tends toward the common good.

{When I have travelled3 in foreign countries, I have become attached to them as to my own; I have shared in their fortunes and would have wished a prosperous condition for them.}

I have often thought I detected esprit in people who passed for not having any.

I have not been sorry to pass for being distracted: this has made me risk many a nonchalance that would otherwise have made things awkward for me.

In conversation and at the table, I have always been delighted to find a man who was willing to take the trouble to shine: a man of this sort always presents his flank; all others are uptight.

Nothing amuses me more than to see a boring raconteur tell his minutely detailed story, without quarter; I am attentive not to the story but to the manner of telling it.

For most people, I would rather approve of them than listen to them.

I have never been willing to put up with a witty man taking it into his head to mock me two days in a row.

I have loved my family enough to do what tended toward the good in the essential things, but have emancipated myself from the little details.

Although my name is neither good nor bad, having hardly three hundred fifty years of proven nobility, nonetheless I am very attached to it, and I would be one to make legal substitutions.4

When I confide in someone, I do so without reserve, but I confide in few persons.

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What has always given me a rather bad opinion of myself is that there are few stations in the Republic for which I might have been truly well-suited.

As for my occupation as president, I had a very correct heart, I understood the questions in themselves well enough, but as for the legal procedure,5 I understood nothing. I applied myself to it, however. But what disgusted me the most was that I would see idiots with the very talent that eluded me, so to speak.

My machinery is so arranged that I need to collect myself in any subject matter that is at all elaborate. Otherwise, my ideas become confused, and if I sense people are listening, it then seems that the whole question vanishes before me. Many traces are revived at once, and it thereby happens that no trace is revived.

As for discursive conversations, where the topics are constantly being cut off, I do pretty well in them.

I have never seen tears flow without being moved.

Because I do not know how to hate, I forgive easily. It seems to me that hatred is depressing. When someone wants to make up with me, I have felt my vanity flattered, and have ceased to regard as an enemy a man rendering me the service of giving me a good opinion of myself.

On my property, with my liegemen, I have never been willing to bear being embittered on someone’s account. When someone has said to me: ‘If you knew what people were saying!’ ‘I don’t want to know,’ I’ve replied. If what they were telling me was false, I did not want to run the risk of believing it. If it was true, I did not want to take the trouble of hating a scoundrel.

At the age of thirty-five, I still loved.

{It is as impossible for me to go to someone’s home with a view to my self-interest as it is to fly in the air.}

When I have been in society, I have loved it as if I could not stand retreat into the country. When I have been on my property,6 I have no longer thought about society.

I am (I believe) practically the only book author who has ever labored under a constant fear of getting a reputation as a know-it-all.7 Those who Edition: current; Page: [87] have known me know that in my conversation, I did not try too hard to appear like one, and that I had tolerable skill at assuming the language of those with whom I was living.

I have very often had the misfortune of conceiving a dislike for the people whose good will I had most desired. As for my friends, with one exception, I have always preserved them from this.

I have always had the principle of never having another do what I could do by myself. This is what has led me to make my fortune by the means I had at hand—moderation and frugality—and not by alien means, always low or unjust.

I have lived with my children as if with my friends.

When I have been expected to shine in conversation, I never have. I have preferred to have a witty man assist me rather than fools approve of me.

There is no one I have despised more than the little know-it-alls {and the grandees of no integrity}.

I have never been tempted to compose a song verse against anyone, whoever it might be.

I have not appeared to be a spender, but I have not been a miser. And I can’t think of anything feasible that I have not done to make some money.8

What has hurt me a lot is that I have always overly despised those I did not esteem.”

[214] The good of the Church is an equivocal term.1 In the past, it expressed holiness of manners. Today, it signifies nothing but the prosperity of certain people and the increase in their privileges or revenue.

To do something for the good of the Church is not to do something for the Kingdom of God and that society of the faithful of which Jesus Christ is the head, but to do something opposed to the interests of laymen.

When someone has wanted to attach the goods of the Church to certain associations of the poor, such as at the Invalides2—that is, to people Edition: current; Page: [88] who, aside from their poverty and their wounds, also possess a shame that prevents them from asking for support for their daily lives—the Church has been opposed and has regarded this as a profanation. And people have yielded and have believed its outcries legitimate—proof positive that the goods of the Church are regarded not as the goods of the poor but as those of a certain association of people dressed in black who do not marry.

When our kings have sworn their oath at their consecration, do not imagine that the Church, which has demanded it, has made them swear to see that the laws of the Realm are observed, to govern their subjects well, to be fathers of their people. No! They have been made to swear only that they will preserve the privileges of the Church of Reims.3

When the Estates have been held, do not imagine that the Clergy have asked for a reduction in taxes and relief for the people. They did not think about an evil that they did not feel, but asked only for some extension of their jurisdiction or privileges. {The reception of the Council of Trent, which is favorable to them.}

They did not dream of a reformation of morals. It is a fact that when the other orders spoke of it, they cried out that it belonged only to them to meddle in their affairs—wanting always to be the reformers, in order never to be the reformed.

Everyone is so convinced that the ecclesiastics’ great wealth is an abuse that if I presumed to prove it here, I would pass for an imbecile. But such is the force of prejudice that it endures even after having been destroyed. And whoever tells you that the ecclesiastics’ great wealth is the most violent abuse will be the first to tell you that religion prevents you from touching it and from (as they say) putting your hand on the thurible,4 as if to reduce their revenue was to usurp their functions.

I urge you to make three reflections here:

The first is that, whatever tax is imposed on the Clergy, this cannot be pernicious to the State; whereas if the cultivator is overcharged with the taille or the bourgeois with tolls, the entire State will necessarily be turned upside down. If a peasant is taxed in such a way that the taille exhausts his revenue, or that this revenue is so meager that it is not worth the trouble to make the expenses and payments for the cultivation, he will leave his Edition: current; Page: [89] land uncultivated or will do only the work necessary to live. Again, if you overburden merchandise with entry tolls, there will be no consumption. But as for the Church, it can be taxed with impunity because, since virtually its entire revenue consists in land rents and tithes, there is no danger of their abandoning them, however small the profit from collecting them might be.

The second reflection is that Church wealth is contrary to the interests of the Churchmen themselves, because it makes them the slaves of princes and magistrates. Ecclesiastics can undertake nothing, for fear of the seizure of their temporal goods, and bishops can no longer say: “One must obey God rather than men.” {And even if the faith were in peril, perhaps there would be some who would hardly bother about an article of faith or discipline that would deprive them of fifty thousand pounds in land rent. In the Parlement, Henry IV used to put it very well to all the great League blow-hards: “All I have to do is give them a benefice to make them shut up.”}5

This gives birth to my third reflection, which is that the Pope also has no stake in protecting the Church’s wealth, since it works against him and prevents him from being able to dispose of bishops at will: witness the affairs of Sicily under Clement XI and of Venice further back.6

Furthermore, the Pope is {almost} without interests {today}, for he derives nothing from benefices and monasteries, except for some provisions in the former, which do not amount to much. In France, he no longer has promissory notes to give out, tenths7 to raise, the right of spoils, and other rights which in the past it would have been in his interest to uphold, and for which Rome in the past published its bull In Cena Domini.8

There is more. All this wealth always puts it in danger of losing ground. It puts Catholicity in danger, by facilitating the means by which princes interest all the most respectable families of their States in its destruction, and attach them to schism and heresy as strongly as to their fortune—as the example of the Protestant princes has made clear enough. In France itself, we see in Mézeray that, if the Huguenots had been exempted from Edition: current; Page: [90] the payment of tithe during the reigns of Henry II’s children, everyone would have been Huguenot.9

Thus, the device of the inverted torch suits the Church very well: “What nourishes me kills me.”10 It groans under the weight of gold.

The first Christians were almost all poor, the poor being attracted to a religion that honored poverty and sanctified that state.

I would much rather there be no poor people in a State than to see so many houses set aside to provide for them.

When the Church is rich, the government has a stake in its disorders; witness what is said in the Life of Abelard.

It is a matter of indifference to the people whether clergy or laity judge certain cases, and yet the disputes on this head are the most disputed things. It is not a matter of indifference to the people that ecclesiastics abound in wealth, but no one gets upset about this. {Cardinal Richelieu, who sought all sorts of renown, who had plenty to expiate in the eyes of Rome through his concord with the Protestants, who had to manage a devout prince, began the reforms.}

[215] liberties of the gallican church. They should much rather be called the servitude of the Gallican Church, since they serve only to maintain the King’s authority against ecclesiastical jurisdiction and take away the Pope’s power to maintain it, since they remove the ecclesiastics’ right over magistrates and kings themselves, as members of the faithful.

These liberties are not Church liberties in the normal sense—that is, the liberties of ecclesiastics—for they are almost always contrary to the privileges that they claim to have. They are the liberties of the people of France, who have the right to uphold the independence of her laws.

It should not be said that they are everything brought forth by the ancient canons, for France would be in a sad state if she were obliged to accept as law the collections made of these.

These liberties are founded only on the law of nations, by which a nation that is governed by its laws and has not been subjugated is not subject Edition: current; Page: [91] in temporal matters to a foreign power; and in spiritual matters, they are founded on divine law, by which the Council is above the Pope {and on Reason, which also says this}, since there is no body that does not have more authority united than divided.

[216] It is credible that syphilis came to us from the Indies, and that it was unknown to the Ancients. Mézeray (chapter 8) says the French got it from the Neapolitans, who got it from the Spanish returning from the Indies. Those who have confused this disease with leprosy are unaware that there are countries where these two diseases are both known. There are people who claim it came from the Caribs, who ate men.

The Novus Orbis1 says that in 1506 syphilis ravaged the land of Calcutta,2 that this previously unknown disease had been brought there by the Portuguese seventeen years before, which squares with the discovery of the Indies in 1493. {On the last Scottish campaign, some officers who had taken refuge in the mountains brought syphilis there, where it had never been.3 The men fell apart; surgeons from Edinburgh or London had to be sent.} If it be objected that there have been no more lepers since smallpox has been known, this comes from the fact that there are no more crusades; men no longer descend in massed formation on the Holy Land, where that disease is common. What makes one lean toward the opposite view is that Suetonius, in the Life of Tiberius, gives him all the symptoms of that disease: pimples, rash on the forehead, insomnia.4

[217] shows. I remember that, leaving a play entitled Aesop at Court,1 I left so deeply touched by the desire to be a better man that I am not aware of ever having formed a stronger resolution; quite different from that ancient who used to say that he never left a play as virtuous as when he had entered.

{That is because it is no longer the same thing.}

[218] secondary schools. The education received in secondary Edition: current; Page: [92] schools is low.1 I can say nothing worse about it than that the best you take away from it is a spirit of phony devotion. A hundred petty betrayals that a man is made to commit every day against his comrades, the treacheries inspired in him, can well serve to maintain a certain external order in these houses, but they ruin the hearts of all the individuals.

[219] It is not accepted that a knave might become a good man, but it is well accepted that a good man might become a knave.

[220–224] some fragments that did not make it into my “moral thoughts.”

[220] Human actions are the subject of duties.1 It’s reason that is the source of duties, and this makes us fit to perform them. It would debase this reason to say that it has been given to us merely for the preservation of our being, for the animals preserve theirs just as we do. Often, indeed, they preserve theirs better, since instinct, which leaves them all the passions necessary for the preservation of their life, almost always deprives them of those that might destroy it; whereas our reason not only gives us destructive passions, but often makes us engage in a very bad use of those meant to preserve us.

Just as there are forces in us that annihilate the citizen’s spirit by leading us to evil, there are also those that slow it down by distracting us from doing good. Among them are those that inspire a kind of quietism, which takes a man away from his family and Country.

The means of perfecting the virtue of justice is to make such a habit of it Edition: current; Page: [93] that it is observed even in the smallest things, and that one bends to it even in one’s manner of thinking. Here is a single example. It is quite indifferent to the society in which we live that a man who lives in Stockholm or Leipzig makes epigrams well or poorly, or is a good or bad scientist. However, if we bring our judgment to bear on it, we must seek to judge justly, in order to prepare ourselves to do likewise on a more important occasion.

We all have machines that subject us constantly to the laws of habit. Our machine accustoms our soul to think in a certain fashion, or it accustoms it to think in a different fashion. It is here that science could find place in the study of morals, by making us see how far the dispositions toward human vices and virtues depend on bodily mechanics.

[221] It is love of Country that has given Greek and Roman history that nobility that ours does not have. It is the continual spring of all their actions, and one feels pleasure in finding it everywhere, that virtue dear to all those who have a heart.

When one thinks about the pettiness of our motives, the baseness of our means, the avarice with which we seek out vile rewards, the ambition—so different from love of glory—one is astonished at the difference in the spectacles, and it seems that, ever since those two great peoples ceased to exist, men have lost a few inches in stature.1

[222] Of all the sayings of the Ancients, I don’t know any that indicate more barbarism than a saying by Sulla.

He was presented with a fisherman from the city of***, who was bringing him a fish.

“After all I’ve done,” he said, “is there still a man left in the city of***?”

That sinister man marveled that his cruelty could have some limits.

[223] If science had no other inventions but gunpowder, one would do quite well to banish it like magic.1

[224] This principle of Hobbes is quite false:1 that since the people Edition: current; Page: [94] have authorized the prince, the prince’s deeds are the people’s deeds, and consequently, the people cannot complain about the prince nor demand any account of his actions, because the people cannot complain about the people. Thus, Hobbes has forgotten his principle of natural law: Pacta esse servanda.2 The people have authorized the prince under conditions; they have established him under a convention. He must observe it, and the prince represents the people only as the people have wanted or are reputed to have wanted him to represent them. {Besides, it is false that the delegate has as much power as the one who delegates, and no longer depends upon the latter.}

[225] Regulus’s deed has been so strongly praised that we can scarcely praise that of Francis I. A prisoner of Charles V, ceding Burgundy for his ransom, he excused himself as soon as he was free on the grounds that Burgundy did not want to change masters.1 But he did not return to Madrid as Regulus did to Carthage.

[226] Our duchy of Guyenne has been the occasion for two deeds of great integrity: Louis the Bold and St. Louis both handed it over—the one to Eleanor, the other to the English.1 {But Louis the Bold was forced to; Eleanor’s subjects would never have obeyed him.}

[227] Consecration of the crocodiles1 in Egypt.—Prohibition against sailing on the rivers in Persia.—Destruction of houses touched by an Infidel in some parts of the Indies.

[228] It is essential not to inspire men with too much contempt for death; they would thereby elude the legislator.

[229] A religion that offered sure rewards in the afterlife would see its faithful disappear by the thousands.

[230] The dogma of the soul’s immortality inclines us toward glory, whereas the contrary belief weakens our desire for it.

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[231] The dogma of the soul’s immortality—that so blessed dogma—seems as if it was bound to produce only feelings of gratitude for a Creator who had made our being as durable as his own, feelings of trust toward such a great benefactor, feelings of equity, of justice toward men fated for eternity like us and with us. But superstition,1 which exaggerates everything—far from having derived such natural consequences from it—has, one may say, used it to ravage the human species. Go to Egypt and look at those barbarous monuments to the dogma of immortality, which cost so much labor, were the source of so many vexations, and made princes so odious to peoples. Go see the kings’ sepulchres in Persia, whose upkeep could furnish the subsistence of many cities. Go to the Indies and watch this dogma give birth to that of the transmigration of souls. Look at the men, after suffering hunger from having to live on vegetables, suffer again from the cold, not daring to burn any wood, which might serve as a refuge for some insect; the women forced to burn themselves after their husband’s death;2 the treasures everywhere buried and returned superstitiously to the earth, whence they have been gotten.

Look throughout Asia at that countless number of dervishes3 and fakirs who, with their pompous and austere penances, turn toward them the entire devotion of the people, whom they astonish; so that instead of candor, good faith, and virtue, which religion ought to inspire, all duties are limited to honoring or enriching them.4

But this is not all that superstition has taken from the dogma of immortality. We have seen men devote their entire persons, and princes receive from their subjects that horrible tribute of their frenzy. We have seen ill or elderly fathers killed or eaten by their children’s frightful compassion.

[232] The Hebrews must have been far removed from the Egyptians not to have picked up from them the dogma of the soul’s immortality. It is because the Hebrews did not, strictly speaking, go down amongst the Egyptians, but amongst the shepherds, from Avaris1 to Cethron.

{A proof that the Hebrews went down not amongst the Egyptians but Edition: current; Page: [96] amongst the people of Cethron is that they did not pick up from them the dogma of the soul’s immortality. But how did they get so many other things from the Egyptians? It is because the people of Cethron had superstitions that they picked up, and besides, the Hebrews were so ignorant, so crude, and so poor that they took up nothing but their own superstitions.}

[233] Only marriages propagate. They are discouraged in France, primo, in that the laws give such great nuptial advantages to women that everyone is afraid to get married—so you see yourself ruined if you survive your wife, or your children ruined if you do not survive her. It is the men who need to be encouraged toward marriage, not the girls, because the latter’s situation adequately inclines them to marry, since honor permits them to taste the pleasures of life only by starting with marriage.

Fathers are equally inclined to bring an end to their daughters’ perilous condition.1

Wise laws ought to encourage second marriages; ours discourage them. There is also among us this unfortunate fact that the condition of the unmarried is more favorable; they enjoy all the laws’ favor, without having the burdens of the Republic. Marriage, moreover, is unfavorable in that it determines ranks and puts limits on social condition.

[234] What I have said on world depopulation requires some modification with regard to China, which seems to be a special case [although they kill their children]. {The population of China: (1) there are no eunuchs, as there are in the rest of Asia; (2) the Chinese propagate because of religion, in order to give their ancestors people who can worship them. Look at what I have collected from M. Fouquet on China.1

Rice, cause of the population of China and of other countries where it appears.}

It must be that the nature of that country’s climate encourages generation,2 to which one may add the general abundance of all things necessary for life,3 the impotence of the Chinese to wage a war against their Edition: current; Page: [97] neighbors, except the Tartars, since their country is entirely separate from the others. That country must not be as populous at present as the ancient accounts say, because of the Tartar wars and the introduction of the sect of Foë, etc.4

The marvel of the Chinese empire’s duration vanishes when approached closely. This is no more the same empire than the Persian is the same as that of Cyrus, or the government of Europe is the same as in Caesar’s time. China being separated from other nations, it has always been regarded as a special empire, whatever revolution it has endured.

[235] Whatever one may say, the Chinese were barbarous people; they ate human flesh, etc.

[{This item is (I believe) false, even though reported by the Relation1 of the two Arab travelers.}]

[236] What sustained the Huguenot party in the civil war that took place under Charles IX1 in Poitou and in provinces beyond the Loire was the sale of ecclesiastical properties by the Huguenot chieftains. The Huguenots from these areas boldly employed what they had, because of the good market and the expectation they were given that neither the King’s authority nor the Catholic religion would ever return to these areas.

[237] I will not write a dedicatory epistle:1 those who profess to speak the truth must not expect protection on earth.

I am undertaking a long-term work; the history of the society is more fruitful of great events than that of the most warlike nations. A great company is found there, in a continual war against a world of enemies, attacking and defending itself with the same courage. Always persevering in good times and bad, it profits from the former by its dexterity and remedies the latter by its constancy. It is under the banner of religion that they fight for purely human interests, and work to destroy each other. The Edition: current; Page: [98] princes brought to the scene, far from pacifying the disorder, exacerbate it, and instead of comporting themselves as mediators, they themselves become factional leaders.

[238] {In the meeting that took place July 13, 1727, at the home of Prince Eugene of Savoy on the subject of the obligatory act signed by . . .}1

[239] Since Louis XIV, there have been nothing but great wars—half of Europe against half of Europe. The allies of Hanover1 have 585,000 men; those of Vienna,2 555,000.

[240] Scripture says that Tubalcain invented ironworks.1 It is not the invention of ironworks that is remarkable, nor that of smelting or cutting, etc.; it is extracting it from the earth. How was it conceived that this earth, whose surface shows us no metals, contained them in its bowels? How could it be conceived that the inner earth—metallic—contained substances of a different nature from the ordinary earth? It seems to me that many centuries were needed for that.

[241] What accounts for most of man’s contradictions is that physical logic and moral logic are almost never in agreement. Moral logic should lead a young man to avarice, but physical logic turns him away from it. Moral logic should lead an old man to prodigality; physical logic leads him to avarice. Moral logic gives an old man strength and constancy; physical logic deprives him of it. Moral logic gives an old man contempt for life; physical logic makes it more precious to him. Moral logic should give life great value to a young man; physical logic diminishes it. Moral logic makes us regard the pains of the afterlife as very near; physical logic, by attaching us to all that is present, distances us from them.1

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[242] What makes a good actor is not making the appropriate facial movements at the time the lines are being recited; it’s making them appear beforehand; for most of the time the recited lines are merely the effect of some new passion that has been produced in the soul. This passion must therefore be made to appear. This is where Baron1 always excels.

[243] The greatest project ever conceived1 is the foundation of Alexandria by Alexander after the destruction of Tyre.2 By it, he opened trade with the two seas, weakened that of the Carthaginians, and opened up, so to speak, the Orient. One has only to see what the Ptolemies,3 the richest kings in the world, made of this: Egypt, the finest kingdom in the world by its situation, its fertility, the number of its inhabitants.

[A king of France (or of Spain), with thirty thousand men and a well-stocked fleet, would conquer all of Egypt and would have the finest kingdom in the world for trade and the finest establishment for his youngest brother. Free exercise of all sorts of religion everywhere. No allies, but surprise. No people of established fortune. Egypt still conquered by main force. Nonetheless, it is easy to defend, except for the seacoast.]

[244] A great minister who would like to restore Spain, ruined by the monks,1 ought to increase their honors and decrease little by little their number and their authority.

[245] In the preface to the Dictionary of Commerce,1 it is said that the customs of Alexandria rose to more than thirty million pounds per year in the Ptolemies’ time, a prodigious sum!

[246] Right of escheat and shipwreck,1 ridiculous right, of little use to the prince, extremely harmful in that it discourages foreigners from Edition: current; Page: [100] coming and establishing themselves. “God bless our coasts,” they say in countries where the right of shipwreck is established.

Letters of reprieve, pernicious.2

[247] The not-doing, says Montaigne,1 is more difficult than the doing; few treaties, no commitment.

[248] A prime minister should not displace the ministers he inherits; the follies they commit are not on his account, but those of the people he puts in certainly are.

[249] The Electorate of Saxony1 is a very small State. And yet, whether from trade or from the silver mines, it yields very substantial revenues. It used to be the trading post of all the neighboring States. But merchandise has now been so burdened with tolls that far fewer people pass by Saxony. It is a surprising thing what the king of Sweden drew from there in one year: it reached more than one hundred million, French currency. Its mines2 still produce silver, which remains in the country.

[250] poland. The King does not get six hundred thousand silver crowns of his revenue in Poland.1 Nothing is so easy for the Prince as to acquire great credit in Poland; he gives out all sorts of favors in every village. There are the same officials as in the kingdom. The King gives out all that. The realm is divided among many great lords who come carrying the list of offices for the King to fill. If the King lets this list go for even two weeks without responding, you’ll see even the man with the greatest credit sink into nothingness. Whence the baseness of the Great toward those who have some credit at Court.

[251] greek authors. They had less wit than the Roman authors. Edition: current; Page: [101] Plutarch, almost the only one. He also had profited from the Latins. The Greeks did not know the epigram, nor the Latins until Martial;1 the Greek epigrams were scarcely more than inscriptions, and they were not familiar with acute dictum.2 It seems to me that the Greeks were bold in style, timid in thought. M. says he is surprised the English so admire the Ancients, since there is no one who imitates them so little and is further removed from them. I said to an Englishman who was showing me something fairly delicate: “How have you folks been able to say such nice things in such a barbarous language?” In the time of Francis I, it was the learned who made an author’s reputation; today, it is the women. Ronsard proves this.3 He cannot be read any more, even though no one had a higher reputation. And what ruins him personally is that authors further back than he are still admired.

[252] All European States spend their capital; revenues are not enough. Public credit, well established in certain countries, ruins them because, since the funds are always present, States have been ever more inclined to undertake things. The constant bankruptcies of the government of this realm have ruined many families, but they have brought relief to the rest, who were paying all they were able to for current expenses. Europe is ruining itself and will ruin itself more and more unless by common consent it reduces the number of troops, which would amount to the same thing. The only means I can think of for cutting the debt, and the least onerous, would be for each individual’s royal assets to be cut in proportion to his other remaining assets. Because a man who has twenty thousand pounds in real estate rent and two thousand pounds in royal assets would gain from the loss of his two thousand pounds in paper returns, since by this arrangement, his lands would get relief, and {thereby}, those who should most be spared are those who have all their income tied up in the State.1

[253] One ought not make proposals in countries where, once the people have been persuaded, it still remains to persuade the Minister—who always rejects the proposal because it is not his own.

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[254] In England, there are investments in land and investments in companies. There are forty million acres in that realm. Whatever the Nation owes, it must be paid—by the owners of land investments, by the owners of company investments, by the very creditors of the State, who are obliged to pay themselves; and finally, by the workers and artisans.1 But since these latter still have their subsistence, if they pay taxes to the State concurrently with the other citizens, they are then compensated by a premium from the other citizens, in the form of an increase in the price of the things their industry produces relative to the tax on them. Thus, only the first three types of individuals should be counted as paying State debts. And what we have said of the artisans could also, for the most part, be said of the merchants and others who live by their own resourcefulness.

[255] In Europe’s current condition, State creditors and debtors are in a perpetual war. Investors in real estate and in the companies are at war against the State creditors, and the State creditors are also at war against themselves,1 because they must pay themselves a part of what the State paid them and what the State paid out of the taxes it levied on them.

[256] There must be proportionality between the State as creditor and the State as debtor,1 for the State can be a creditor indefinitely, but it can be a debtor to only a certain level; if this level is surpassed, the status of creditor vanishes.2

[257] Every individual in the Kingdom should cede to the State a tenth of his capital, and should make this payment in whatever assets it may be—whether in a quittance, or in company assets, or in money, or in lands sold for the State’s profit.1 That way, there will not be a single individual who pays a cent, since one pays only what one would have been obliged Edition: current; Page: [103] to pay anyway. The creditor loses nothing; the only cutback he faces is what the taxes would have obliged him to pay himself. But State funds will be much relieved, and Brittany as creditor will be superior to Brittany as debtor.

[258] A lottery,1 with money shares and paper tickets. A gain of one-fifth. The tickets given out in payment, then retaken as tickets in a new lottery.2

[259] Our situation is vastly more fortunate than England’s. With the tax of four shillings per pound sterling on land, she raises only six million sterling, but she owes three in interest.

{She pays no more than one shilling per pound. As of this November 7, 1733, she owes only 51 million pounds sterling, at 3 percent. Some of these accounts, too, are coming to term. Thus, she owes only a million and a half plus 30,000 pounds sterling, which is only a quarter of what she raises.

She does not owe that in 1734, but no more than 48 million plus.}

We, who owe barely 46 million, French currency (before the reduction of lifetime annuities, after all, we owed only 52 in money rent, French currency),1 assuming the pound sterling equal to 20 pounds in France, we owe only 2,000,300 pounds sterling in rent, and we raise 10; for our revenues amount to 200 million in our currency. Half the English revenues are therefore earmarked, and only 23/103 of the French, which is only about 1/5 to 1/4.

[260] By the union with Scotland,1 English power has been extraordinarily enhanced. For the government used to have to send over money to get what it wanted passed in Parliament, and nothing or almost nothing was brought back to England. Today Scotland, which used to owe nothing, has entered into the debts of the Nation; she pays in proportion. [Her trade is not enhanced, as used to be said; it has instead been destroyed.] Edition: current; Page: [104] Everyone leaves the realm to go to England: the rich, [the beaux esprits], the younger sons of households; no more Parliament in Edinburgh. Taxes carry off all the money.

{It is true that Scotland has been cultivated and has dedicated herself to trade. The peasants have abandoned arms for work. Thus, she has not become impoverished; on the contrary, she has become wealthier in spite of the abovementioned disadvantages.}

[261] England has paid little or nothing of her debts since the treaty of Utrecht.1 It is difficult for her to pay: (1) because of the wars that the contested succession brings her, and those which the Empire’s affairs will always bring her, and which she will no longer be able to avoid getting involved in {and those which Gibraltar will bring her. It is in France’s interest that the English keep Gibraltar, which will always keep them embroiled.} Lord Oxford’s plan2 a good one: to place the States of Germany on another head. The fortunes of princes who have acquired new States have always been baleful to one or another of these States. Didn’t Aragon lose much by the succession to Castile? Flanders, by the succession to both of them? These are new means placed in princes’ hands to overturn those new States.

[262] Horrible blunder by Spain and Portugal—which, on the pretext of a useless war with the Turks, deprive themselves of the trade of the Echelles du levant,1 which they could have much more easily than other nations, since they have the silver bullion which is indispensable for that trade and which the Dutch and other nations seek out from them or from the Genoese. There is no Dutch vessel en route to the Levant, for example, that does not stop at Cadiz or Livorno to take on some piastras that the Genoese furnish them. Moreover, the cloth that the English bring to the Levant is {almost} all of pure Spanish wool, and the rest of their trade, except for their fish {and a few other items}, is practically all in knitted fabric. They could transport cochineal, wood from Brazil, indigo (especially to Smyrna), vermilion to Egypt.2

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[262a] [Every day, cheating goes on by means of those who ought to prevent it. All sorts of prohibited things are done easily. The only remedy for this is to use a valet whose practice is to send swindlers on assignment and bear their burdens . . . and a man . . .]1

[263] A monastic convent placed in Bagnères or Barèges1 would do quite well in a period ignorant of science and religion. What sources of wealth! Besides, what kind of virtue would it be, joined to the power of nature and of trust?

[264] levantine trade for spain. They would receive: waxes from Barbary, Smyrna, Constantinople, Alexandria, Satalie,1 and would impose a heavy tariff on all merchandise to enter Spain from the Levant in foreign ships; the wheat brought from the nearby coasts of Smyrna and even from some islands of the Archipelago; if they set up manufactures, some first-hand mohair from Angora and some cotton from Aleppo and other ports.

In addition, they would directly draw all sorts of cotton cloths from Aleppo, some admirable mixed-fabrics from Alexandretta,2 and finally {a part} of that boundless merchandise that comes into Europe from Cairo and Alexandria. Nothing has done more harm to Spain than this interdiction of mutual trade between her States and the Sultan’s, because it so reduced her shipping as to transfer naval power to the heretical nations of Europe, which has so alienated the kingdom of God and so weakened Catholics’ power. Spain’s situation makes this trade natural, and now that she is deprived of parts detached from her domination, she will be detached so to speak from the rest of the world, if shipping and trade do not bring her back into it.

Moreover, Spain could conduct the Levantine trade by means of a company established in Barcelona or some other Mediterranean port, where the King himself could take part.3 And the convoys he would offer, as the Dutch are obliged to do because of the Barbary pirates, would increase shipping commensurately.

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If the King of Spain established cloth manufacturing, it would be much more suitable for the Levant than for America, because the Levant needs cloth that is much nicer and much finer—that is to say, of pure Spanish wool. {Spain also profits from trade with England, which consumes some of her commodities that others would not consume.}{Much coarse cloth is also needed.}

[265] It seems the pagans must have regarded the worship of only one god as a greater crime than the Christians regard that of1 worshipping many, because whoever worships many does not destroy the true god’s divinity completely, but among the pagans, a man who worshipped only one god insulted all the others.

[266] A Jewish city should be built on the Spanish frontier, in a place fit for trade, like Saint-Jean-de-Luz or Ciboure.1 They would swarm in there and manage to bring all the wealth they have into that realm. Just give them the same privileges they have in Livorno, or even more if you want.

[267] [We have the air of being happy but we are not; it is a false air.]

[268] on portugal. [I should be quite happy here; all I find is people uglier than I am.]—The climate is made in favor of women, but the women seem to be made against the climate.1 [For me, with new tendencies to become libertine, I have almost become a dévot.2] Nothing about a Portuguese woman inspires detachment. The Angels rejoice when a Frenchman is near a Po(rtuguese) woman. They have remedies for preserving their beauty that Ovid did not prescribe, and that Love never approved. Behold the fair sex! {You can judge the other one.} [If you have been marked by grace, come here.] The only real preachers for women are ugly men [and we excel here in this method of conversion—a devout woman is happy, Madam, in this country. No occasion to flee, no revolt to fear. One must be saved in spite of oneself. Come here then, but if you come here, things would soon change for me and I would lose all the advantages you may see in me. I would soon complain of being so attracted to you].

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[269] The reason why the British, French, and other merchants have lost the years 1723 to 1730 in the Brazilian trade is that Spain forbade the transport of piastras from Potosì to Buenos Aires. Now, merchandise used to be sent into Brazil to make it pass through Buenos Aires into America. But since the merchandise fetched no money—since Spain had arranged to have some merchants hanged who, contrary to the ordinances, had sent some piastras by the continent instead of sending them by Panama and Portobello1—the European merchants who have had merchandise in Buenos Aires have found the country devoid of money.

[270] I am firmly convinced that the Emperor could run the East Indies trade through Trieste1 at much less expense than the other nations of Europe. He would have to have from the Turk—through exchange, purchase or some other way—Ercokko {or Quaquen},2 which he conquered from the Abyssinians, or some other fortified place on the Red Sea, to be the center of his trade between the Orient and the Occident. If not, Suez would suffice, because the Emperor, by virtue of his forces in the Occident, is in a position to make himself respected in the Orient and to obtain the best capitulations of any prince in Europe. Even the Treaty of Passarowitz brings him a fair amount of benefit.3 The only thing needed would be to stipulate a reduction {or abolition} of tariffs on merchandise that is not consumed in Turkey and that passes duty-free into Trieste, Naples, Sicily, Italy.

The Emperor would have to attempt to sign a trade treaty with the Abyssinians’ emperor, and open up, so to speak, an entrée into that great empire, with which other nations trade only in an indirect manner. For it is difficult to make big profits in the trade conducted in competition with the English and Dutch.4

What made the route around the Cape of Good Hope seem more advantageous is that at that time, a single nation (the Venetian) was engaging in that trade. {Which meant that she sold at the price she wanted}, she Edition: current; Page: [108] did not buy first hand, she suffered countless outrages by the Turks, much more barbarous and much less timid than today.

It cannot be the ease and convenience of transport that has ruined the Indies trade through Egypt, or the difficulty of the isthmus of Suez. That distance is so short that it could not have made such a prodigious difference—all the more so since merchandise is still transported from the Indies to Aleppo5 via Basra, which is a prodigious distance by land. The Spice Islands, the tribute the Portuguese exacted from the Indian princes, the arbitrary conditions they imposed on trade with the Indians, the nearly universal exclusion of the Indians from shipping, the duties they levied when shipping, the immense profits from the Japan trade, the spices that took the place of money {for the purchases they made in the Indies}, which cost them little, which they sold at the price they wanted—these things brought an absolute collapse in the Indies trade through Egypt. And since the Dutch have inherited the maxims and the power of the Portuguese, this is what still gives them {and will give them} commercial superiority over other nations, whether they conduct this trade by {way of} Egypt or by the Cape of Good Hope.

Since the Dutch are obliged to maintain a large number of fortresses and many forces by land and sea, their Indies trade is far from being as lucrative as it might be; all the more so in that, to ruin other nations’ trade, they often sustain deliberate losses, so that neither they nor others get all the advantage they could from their trade. Notwithstanding, the Dutch make very big profits, and other nations make a great deal as well.

Some believe they can assure us that the expense would be much less by Egypt than by the Cape of Good Hope—insofar as the African route is long, the trade winds halt your course, and a long voyage kills sailors.

Still, trade at Trieste is far more advantageous than at Ostende, through the ease of distributing returns in Italy and in the Hereditary Countries.

Merchandise could easily be transported from the Austrian lands to Alexandria or even Trieste.

Perhaps an emporium beyond the straits of Bab el Mandeb would be needed for depositing merchandise when the straits are difficult to pass.

In the emporium chosen either on this side or the other side of the straits, there would always be small vessels busily going from the Red Sea Edition: current; Page: [109] to the Indies and returning from the Indies to the Red Sea, and also going from the emporium to Suez and from Suez to the emporium.

{I do not say that this would be impossible for some other power, but it is for the Emperor, for whom Trieste is absolutely useless. There are neither men nor merchandise in Trieste, nor anywhere in that territory, and an immense journey by land would be needed to send out commodities and bring back others.}

[271] What gives strength to the military forces of France1 is that they communicate so well that it seems they are brought together into one point.2 The army of Flanders is right next to that of the Rhine; that of the Rhine, next to that of Dauphiné; that of Dauphiné, next to that of Roussillon; that of Roussillon, next to that of Guyenne—the only places by which the realm (in any case defended by mountains, large rivers, or the sea) can be attacked by land. These armies can be transported, in whole or in part, from one of those places to a neighboring one in a week’s time, and orders are sent in one day or in a day or two. In short, you could, if you needed to, combine all your armies in three weeks’ time. You thus have your forces everywhere, so to speak, and you are not afraid of any enterprises that need more than a fortnight or three weeks to be executed. And virtually all great enterprises need much more time.3

It is the moderate size of the French realm that gives it these advantages, a size proportioned both to the speed that nature has given men to be transported from one place to another, and to the length of time necessary for the execution of men’s ordinary enterprises. Thus, if a power that had defeated4 the army of Flanders were going on to besiege Paris, first, the remainder of the army would reassemble easily because the retreats would be close by, and because that night or the next day a new corps would be formed, whereas it is impossible for an army that is dispersed and has no retreat within a hundred leagues ever to reassemble, or at least for a very long time; (2) a portion of our troops would receive orders to come to the aid of Paris in one, two or three days. They would arrive—some one week, and some a fortnight afterward.5 The enemy, embroiled in a large siege, Edition: current; Page: [110] occupied moreover with the difficulties of provisioning their army in enemy territory and bringing in everything demanded by a large enterprise, would perforce endure great battles and all the endless obstacles put in the way of their designs—cutting off their supply lines, burning all their boats, depriving them of communication by river.

Let us now examine a great and vast realm. Let us take that of Persia. This is a realm of such prodigious extent that it takes two or three months for its troops to be able to communicate with each other. Notice too that you do not force troops to march for three months, as you do for a week or two. {It is only a gambler who has his money two hundred leagues away.}6 Let us suppose the army of Kandahar is dispersed. A part of the victorious army advances with great progress, finds no resistance, goes and captures some advantageous posts in the capital city, and fills all with consternation. The victor has arrived before Ispahan {and is preparing the siege there},7 by the time the governors of the frontier provinces are alerted to send assistance. These governors, who see that a revolution is imminent, that the capital and also the Prince will be taken before they can arrive, speed up and bring about the revolution by not obeying and by thinking of their private interests. People accustomed to obeying because punishment is extremely near no longer obey when they see it is extremely far. The Empire is dissolved, the capital is taken, and the conqueror contests the provinces with the governors. It is in this fashion that the Empire of China has been destroyed several times by bandit chieftains and several times by the Tartars.

In a word, for a state to be in a condition of permanence, there must be a correspondence between the speed with which an enterprise can be executed against it, and the speed with which the enterprise can be rendered vain.

Notice that the princes of large States8 usually have few neighboring countries that can be the object of their ambition. If there had been any, they would have been swallowed up in the rapidity of the conquest. Thus, they are usually vast deserts, seas or mountains—territories, in short, whose poverty brings them disdain. Thus, a vast State founded by arms is no longer sustained by arms, but lapses into a profound peace. And just as, Edition: current; Page: [111] whenever there is disorder and confusion somewhere, one cannot imagine how peace can return, so too, when full peace and obedience reign, one cannot imagine how it might come to an end. Such a government thus inevitably neglects the troops and the military, because it thinks it has nothing to hope for and nothing to fear {from enemies. The military can only be against the State. Thus, the Prince seeks rather to weaken it.} It is therefore prey to the first accident.9

[272] Father Buffier has defined beauty: the assemblage of that which is most common.1 When his definition is explained, it is excellent, because it accounts for something very obscure, because it is a matter of taste.

Father Buffier says that beautiful eyes are those of which there is the greatest number of the same kind; likewise the mouth, the nose, etc. It is not that there isn’t a much greater number of ugly noses than beautiful noses, but that the ugly ones are of different kinds, and each kind of ugly one is much less numerous than the kind of beautiful ones. It is as if, in a crowd of a hundred men, there are ten men dressed in green, and the ninety left are each dressed in a different color; it is the green that dominates.

In short, it seems to me that deformity has no bounds. The grotesques of Callot can be varied indefinitely.2 But regularity of features is within certain limits.

This principle of Father Buffier is excellent for explaining how a French beauty is hideous in China, and a Chinese hideous in France.

In a word, it is excellent {perhaps} for explaining all the beauties of taste {even in the works of the mind}. But this will require some thought.

[273] There is a danger that Papal authority might someday be undermined by the Jansenists.1 The acts of persecution against them in France have led some of them to opt to move to Holland,2 where they have Edition: current; Page: [112] adopted principles contrary to an authority that was constantly condemning them. Now, it is impossible that the Jansenists of France and Holland are not communicating with each other a great deal. Since the Jesuits—by their credit, their ingenuity, their arduous labors—are still arming that power against them, it is scarcely possible for them to free themselves from the Jesuits except by undermining that power. And if a Prince ever gets it into his head to plunder the Church of its property, there can be no doubt that the Jansenist party, out of vengeance against the Court of Rome, will be for him. And if he employs these properties for the subjects’ relief, there can be no doubt that the people will be for him, too.

Although I do not in any way approve of such an enterprise, here is how I imagine it will be executed, if it ever is. All the abbeys, monasteries, priories, chapels, cathedral churches, and nonepiscopal canon chapters will be abolished, and only the bishoprics and pastoral offices, hospitals,3 and universities will be kept. Everyone will be left with the peaceful possession of his goods, but as a benefice becomes vacant it will be abolished, and the goods attached to it, even the houses, will be sold for the State’s profit. The monks and religious will also remain in the possession of their goods, but as they die, those who have not made a vow of stability4 will be transferred from urban convents into rural convents, and the empty convents and goods attached to them will be sold for the State’s profit. As for the monks who have made a vow of stability, the portion belonging to the deceased will accrue to the State and will be sold in due course.

The bishops will be urged not to create any more ecclesiastics until those already created, seculars as well as regulars, are provided with benefices. And if they were to create one, he will be exiled outside the Kingdom. Idem, for the monks, besides which, the prior who receives a novice will also be exiled with him.

The sale of vacant properties will be made to the highest bidder, and in contracts or official royal papers. Said properties will be subject to taxes and charges of the localities where they are situated, and what these properties had paid when they were ecclesiastical will be cut from the charges on the clergy. Every year a calculation will be made of the amortized royal bonds, Edition: current; Page: [113] and some onerous tax will be lightened proportionally; for example, the salt tax could be abolished.

It will be essential to be on guard against changing anything in the religion, and especially against deviating from what has been defined by the holy Council of Trent. That is why I imagine that such a prince, if he is wise, will not permit monks to break their vows or leave their cloisters.

[274] Here are the principal operations that I have in mind to make the Kingdom flourish and restore its finances.1

I estimate that forty-seven million are due in payments of all kinds.

I would begin, first of all, by relieving myself of around seven million by cutting out one sou per pound on everything the State pays out and draws from the royal treasury, with the exception of soldiers’ pay.

Next, I should think the present goal ought to be to relieve the subjects rather than to pay off the capital debt, because once prosperity is restored, it would be easy to pay.

In the event that the proposal on Church properties were to be implemented, the salt tax would be abolished, and the King would be content with a 20 percent tax on the salt that comes from the salt mines and marshes, to be distributed throughout the Realm.

As pensions fall vacant (they amount to 5 million), I would restore only half of them. Idem, princes’ pensions.

As governorships fall vacant, they would be abolished, and only the commanders would remain.

A quarter of the royally ordained salaries of all the officers of justice, administration, and finance would be cut. Naturally, those presently in office will sustain no cuts during their lifetimes.

Every year there would be an exclusive lottery, in order to reduce the capital owed.

The Louvre, three royal houses, and three captains’ lodgings: reduction of expenses on this item.

Reduction in the number of ambassadors and in the amount in foreign subsidies, inasmuch as the great princes ought rather to receive from the petty ones, for their protection, than give to them.

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At each change in ownership, the perpetual annuities would be reduced by one-thirtieth2 from father to son and one-tenth in collateral cases.

{Besides this, the holders of royal debt would pay an annual tax that would reduce the value of their holdings by three percent.}

Add to this what is inevitably gained on the death of lifetime annuity owners.

A triple head tax would be imposed on all unmarried lay persons in the realm.

Those provinces subject to the salt tax, which alone would be relieved,3 ought to contribute to relieving the burden of the other provinces—and on a prorated basis.

When, by these arrangements, the King has recovered what he will have lost by the abolition of the salt tax, it will be necessary to think of other projects.

Eliminate tariffs between provinces reputed and not reputed to be foreign—and this, with the King bearing one-quarter of the loss, the other three-quarters being made up by a 5 percent increase in tariffs at the entry into, and exit from, the Realm. The charges on tariff collection eliminated, along with the vexations by the officials, will be a gain for the people.

To recover the loss that the King would incur in taking on himself a quarter of this cutback, a recoinage would be called for, of such minor scope as not to deter anyone from bringing the coin in. It could be, for example, at a profit of four or five percent. Which profit would be employed in paying 80 million in cash that the King owes the Indies Company in return for 100 million in State notes at 4 percent, which the Company took so that the King might take back his tobacco concession. Which payment would be made by the King in four years, in such a way that the King would recover a quarter of the concession in the first year4 (20 million paid), half in the second year, until the payment and reversion are complete.

It should be noted that, in the said period of time, a second recoinage could be done, in order to contribute to the payment of the said 80 million.

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These operations must be undertaken only little by little, one after the other—while waiting, through the passage of time, for the King to gain what we have said he was going to gain.

Once the above-mentioned operations have been done, it would be time to think of reducing the registration fees, by following pretty closely the model implemented in Paris: increasing the stamped paper and imposing a light tax [one-time only] on notaries and on cities, a tax payable only in royal notes and for only three years. Cities would be permitted to borrow, or to sell their domain lands for this. A sale of certain onerous taxes to the subjects could be offered, all in royal notes. [Some commercial establishment would have to be set up.]

All these things ought to be implemented slowly and with prudence, taking care not to put the King in arrears on his revenue, and not eliminating the means to be able to collaborate in making commerce and the arts flourish, and in making public reparations.

Inasmuch as the Royal domains are always poorly managed, a State law ought to ensure that they are sold irrevocably and in perpetuity—and this, for the good of the State (with the exception of the forests). Which sale will be made at 3 1/3 percent in royal notes, at the rate of 5 percent. And as for simple mortgages, they would be sold in perpetuity, by the proprietors paying appropriate charges in royal notes: an equitable adjustment that could be done in such a way that the King gains a third by it.

The King would sell his right of escheat to his subjects, as well as his right over bastards; he would join the Admiralty to the Crown during a vacancy, and would sell its duties and charges in royal notes and currency. In cases where he did not want to unduly humble the house that possesses it, he could leave them the title, while attaching to it the office and functions of Secretary of State for the Navy.

Once these things are done, and receipts are again squaring with expenses, the taille and taillon5 would be abolished, and only the head tax would be left, so there would only be one type of tax of this nature. But the head tax would be increased, once and for all, by half (more or less), to whatever the sum of the eliminated taille may have covered. Thereby, Edition: current; Page: [116] the tax would be borne more equally by rich and poor alike, and the countryside, which is the source of the Kingdom’s wealth, would get more relief. And there would be this law that whoever finds himself taxed beyond a fifth of his income could relinquish said fifth to the tax collectors. Of course, if he were of bad faith and brought to justice, he would be condemned to pay four times as much.6

Any man convicted of embezzlement in the management of public revenues, punished by death.

No death penalties other than hanging or beheading.7

Once this is done, a recoinage of 50 million would be undertaken at State profit to amortize 3 million in payments, by means of which the King would relieve his subjects of 4 million in taxes.8 By this means, a way would be sought of setting up a fiscal administration that is less onerous to the subject, and if this were possible, these taxes would remain, converted to a toll.

To achieve this goal {and compensate the King for the loss of a million}, all taxes on the Jews that have been given to private individuals will be eliminated, and broader privileges would be sold to them, in exchange for a sum payable in royal assets for three years {all of it valued at one million in revenue}; so they would come into the enjoyment of a third of these privileges during each of the said years.

Once these things are done over the space of twelve or fifteen years, no further change in the finances would be made, except for the lotteries, to achieve the reduction9 in payments backed by the city of Paris. Let the annual gain be merely 100,000 silver crowns. The people would contribute to it willingly, if they saw fidelity in it, and if they saw a tax reduction at year’s end equal to the State’s gains. And to encourage these lotteries, all sorts of games of chance would have to be eliminated under dire penalties, and these lotteries made a sort of game {or else revalue the currency by a seventh; taxes by a tenth; abolish the salt tax}.

[275] I said: “We don’t know how to go about doing a great deed. If our interest is involved, we say it’s self-love; if it is not involved, we say it’s fanaticism.”

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[276] There is a falsity about women. This comes from their dependence; as dependence increases, falsity increases. It is like the royal tolls: the more you raise them, the more you increase smuggling.

[277] It is said the king of France is rich. He is not. His expenses exceed his revenues. It is only the kings of Asia, whose revenues exceed their expenses and who put the surplus in their treasury every year, who are rich.

[278] fundamental principles of politics.

First Principle.1 The legislator must not compromise his laws. He must prohibit only things that can be prohibited. Thus, women must have their affairs, and theologians must debate.

Second Principle.

[279] Louis XIV had a soul larger than his intellect. Mme de Maintenon1 constantly humbled that soul to make it do her bidding.

[280] [Since the invention of bills of exchange, the Jews have assured themselves of fixed refuge, for any prince who would really like to get rid of them is not, for all that, of a disposition to get rid of their money.1]

[281] It is impossible for a nation built on industry not to fall from time to time,1 for the very prosperity it has enjoyed is harmful afterward, and produces decline. Thus, a State’s flourishing trade in manufactures causes the workers to become more expensive, spend more and consume more. Merchandise becomes more expensive, and other nations can offer it at a better price.

[282] We have left to princes the gratifications of command, in order to have those of obedience. They were to have the grandeur and perils for themselves; we, the moderation, security, and repose. But there is a constant effort to worsen our deal: our smallness is left to us, but they want to take our tranquillity from us.

[283] The manner in which women are treated in France, where a young Edition: current; Page: [118] woman of eighteen, as pretty as Love itself, is despised by her husband in his demeanor—this is a debauchery of the mind, not a vice of the heart.

[284] It is said that the Turks are wrong, that women must be managed, not tyrannized. Myself, I say they must either command or obey.

[285] Transpositions, permitted in poetry, often give it an advantage over prose, because the important word for the thought is put in the most striking place, and the whole sentence can turn on this word.

Thus, in the lines:

    • Et vous, d’un vain devoir imaginaires lois,
    • Ne faites point entendre une inutile voix.
    • Sans vous, chez les mortels, tout était
    • légitime. C’est vous qui, du néant, avez tiré le crime.
    • (And you, fanciful laws of an idle duty,
    • Don’t make us a useless voice to hear.
    • Without you, all was licit among mortals.
    • It’s you who, from the void, made crime appear.)

The impression would have been less striking if it had said: “Sans vous tout aurait été légitime chez les mortels: c’est vous qui avez tiré le crime du néant.” (Without you everything would have been licit among mortals; it is you who have made crime appear from the void.)

[286] There are as many vices that arise from too little self-esteem as from too much.

[287] It is impossible, almost, to fashion good new tragedies, because almost all the good situations have been taken by the early authors. It is a vein of gold that is exhausted for us. There will come a people who will be for us what we are for the Greeks and Romans. A new language, new mores, new circumstances, will produce a new body of tragedies. The authors will take what we have already taken, from nature or from our own authors, and soon they will be exhausted as we have become exhausted. There are only about thirty or so good characters, marked characters. They have been taken: the Doctor, the Marquis, the Gambler, the Coquette, the Jealous man, the Miser, the Misanthropist, the Bourgeois. A new nation is needed to create new plays, to mix their own mores with men’s characters. Thus, it is easy to see the advantage the earliest authors of our dramatic Edition: current; Page: [119] pieces have over those who work in our time. They have had the grand features, the marked features for themselves. All that is left for us is refined characters, those who elude common minds—that is, almost all minds. Thus, Destouches’s plays {and Marivaux’s} are more labored in their high quality than Molière’s.1

[288] Curiosity, source of the pleasure one finds in works of the mind. Hobbes says curiosity is peculiar to man, on which he is mistaken; every animal has it within the sphere of its acquaintance.

[289] Test weight1 by means of magnetite carried to the top of a tower or down below. Or from a mountain or a quarry. {See if it weighs less up high than down below.}

[290] quietists.1 It is impossible to have any sense and not see that love of self and love of union are the same thing; a lover who wants to die for his mistress does so only because he loves himself, because he imagines that he will taste the pleasure of knowing that he has done such great things for her. His brain is modified not by the idea of death, but by the pleasure of the love he has for his mistress.

[291] It is unfitting for M. Ramsay, Fréret,1 and their ilk to make up their system {of the idea of the three states of man among all peoples}: felicity and innocence, degradation and corruption after the fall, and restoration. Edition: current; Page: [120] For primo, the ancient philosophers are quite unknown, and although they speak the same terms, they do not have the same ideas. Greek philosophy is quite unknown to us: we have scarcely more than a few fragments of Diogenes Laertius {none-too-accurate author}. Aristotle and Plato are the only two originals who remain; Plato speaks almost exclusively in sayings, and Aristotle is very obscure. What we know of the systems of these philosophers is enough to make us see that we do not have them. Thus, when a philosopher tells us that the origin of things is water, we see clearly that we have only a saying, and are ignorant of the meaning. But if we know almost nothing about Greek philosophy, how ignorant are we of that of the Egyptians, the Persians, and the Chaldeans? If we know only a tenth of Greek philosophy, we know only one two-hundredth of the Egyptian, and a thousandth of the Persian and Chaldean. Thus, one cannot form a common system from these three religions. I would add that the idea of the three conditions is not even found in Greek philosophy, which is the best known. The Greek idea of the golden age, which supposedly corresponds to the state of innocence among the Hebrews and Christians, does not come from the same source: it came to the Greeks only from pastoral life, which was innocent and tranquil, and which men abandoned to go live in the cities—which was followed by commerce, industry, the arts, business, and, consequently, by crimes, which engendered the iron age. {Abbé Mongaut2 believes that} the idea of the four ages of the world comes from the four ages of the life of man. Thus, if the only philosophy that is at all well known eludes system, what is to be said about that of other peoples?

[292] I saw in Prideaux that the reason why Cyrus sent the Jews back home was that Babylon was a newly conquered city, that the Jews were in and around Babylon, and that he wanted to weaken it. If that were true, then it would be the case that Providence disposed things in such a way that Cyrus’s policy was obliged to follow it.1

[293] I have heard that in the story of the possessed of Loudun, one finds a very subtle devil. Expulsed by the force of the exorcisms, he took refuge from one place to another, going from the concupiscible to the Edition: current; Page: [121] irascible faculties. Finally, not knowing where to go, he went and jumped into the mouth of the exorcist, a Jesuit who described the ravages that devil committed in his body.1 Though the ravages were frightful, his soul was always in a state of tranquillity from which, as if from a haven, it viewed the ravages of his senses.

[294] It was for very good reason that the Popes made such efforts to establish priestly celibacy.1 Without it, their power would never have reached so high and would never have lasted if every priest had been attached to a family, or if they themselves had been so attached. Then monasticism arrived, even more attached to the Popes than the earlier clergy had been. What distinguishes our priests is opposition to the lay state, in which they are entirely different from the pagan priests.

[295] I found this exposition in Chardin, concerning the peculiar dethronement of the last king of Persia.1 Besieged in Ispahan by Mir-Mahmoud,2 he left his palace and went on foot dressed in mourning on a kind of procession through the streets of Ispahan; then he went to Mahmoud’s camp and placed the crown on his head, ceding him the realm, on condition that he save his life and spare his wives. It is because the Persians believe that the last imam will return, and when he does, the king will be obliged to cede him the crown and assume a private life. Apparently the Persians thought Mahmoud was the last imam. It is a fact, however, that Mahmoud was not of the same sect.

[296] A State dedicated only to agriculture {must be subjected to an equal distribution of land, as in the ancient republics, or else it} cannot be populated; this is because, if each family cultivates a field that yields more wheat than necessary for its subsistence, all the cultivators in general will have more wheat than they need. {This is the condition of Spain and Portugal, because of their particular situations, but not the ancient republics of Rome or Lacedemon.} Thus, to engage them to cultivate the Edition: current; Page: [122] following year, they must no longer have useless wheat. The wheat would therefore have to be consumed by lazy people. Now lazy people will lack the wherewithal to pay for it; thus, it must be the artisans. {Besides, for a man to cultivate beyond the necessities, he needs to be given an incentive to possess the surplus. Now, it is only the artisans who provide it.}1

[297] The number of Catholic feast days causes them to work a seventh1 less than the Protestants;2 that is, Catholic manufacturers make a seventh less merchandise than Protestant manufacturers, and in that way, with the same number of workers, England sells a seventh more products than France.

[298] San Pietro, portitore del Paradiso. Cerbero dagli Antichi, era creduto esser alla porta del Inferno.1

[299] ideas that did not make it into my “academy declamation.”

If I did not have some hope of one day resembling the great man1 that I am succeeding, I would have to commence, in receiving the honor you have done me, by blushing; consenting in advance to such a debasement, I would have to act like those children who are overwhelmed by their father’s glory. No, no! However distant he has been, it is up to me to follow him, and one must not attribute to pride what has become a necessity.

Gentlemen, I dare say nothing to you of the choice you have made. There is vanity in speaking of oneself, even when one is speaking with modesty; it is a method of attracting the attention of others. One reveals all one’s self-love when one appears so ingenious in hiding it; (or else) and Edition: current; Page: [123] to tell you that I did not merit your endorsement would be to demand it from you again, at a time when I no longer have any reason to fear your rejection.

You have lost a fellow member: his talent, his virtues, even your regrets have made him renowned . . . [He believed that having written on morality, it would be inexcusable if he abandoned his own maxims; that he had to be more demanding than another regarding his duties; that there were no exemptions for him, because he had laid down the rules; that it would be ridiculous for him not to have the strength to do the things of which he had believed all men capable; that he was his own deserter; and that in every deed he had to blush simultaneously at what he had done and what he had said . . .

No wonder that such a man should have well fulfilled the Academy’s designs, for you want Virtue always to accompany those who stride toward glory, and the finest genius would be unworthy of You, if he were merely a fine genius. Whatever talents he may have, you would have believed that nature had made of him but a poor gift, suited only to provide strength or a wider stage for his vices.

Your founders . . ., they wanted to march toward posterity, but they wanted to march there with you, all covered with your laurels and with theirs.2]

Since the gods do not receive incense indiscriminately from all mortals, it seems that these great men have sought only your praise and that, wearied by public acclaim, they wanted to silence the multitude, in order to hear only you . . .

Séguier3 . . . He knew that fidelity4 is found between liberty and servitude, and that true dominion is never exercised except on a contented people.

Louis XV . . . You depict this charming physiognomy, which strikes all who view him, and which he alone does not see. You rank secrecy among the virtues of his childhood. You follow him in that youth that is amiable, but exempt from the passion that most often blinds kings. By the just accolades that you bestow on him, do not cease to encourage him to surpass Edition: current; Page: [124] himself. Let whatever you say, whatever you admire, aim always at the public felicity. It would be dangerous to speak to him about the victories he might win. One ought to be fearful of exciting this young lion; he would be rendered terrible. If he heard the sound of trumpets, everything the wise man near him might do to pacify him would be useless; he would feel only his strength and would follow only his courage.

Depict the Prince’s love for his people, and the People’s love for such a good prince. Happy subject to treat! You will make future kings aware that between those who command and those who obey, there are stronger ties than terror and fear. You will be the benefactors of the human race. Your writings will be admired for their genius, and cherished for their utility. Those who praise a wicked prince cover themselves with all the vices of which they approve. As for you, Gentlemen, you will praise Louis, and you will find your glory therein.

Or again:5 Begin to give them the idea of a splendid reign. Let it be sacred and venerable for them. Give the gift of a model to future kings. They will perhaps imitate it. You will be the benefactors of the human race. Your writings will be admired for their genius and cherished for their utility. That is how an illustrious Greek instructed kings, not by precepts but by the simple exposition of the life of Cyrus. The philosophers of the Orient instructed by myths and allegories. You will instruct by the truth of history. It is the mark of virtue to make itself loved as soon as it is revealed. Cicero used to say to his brother: “Can it be that you do not know how to make yourself loved in your governance after reading the Life of Agesilaus?”

He has all the virtues that adorn men, along with all the ones that embellish kings. Each day reveals new perfections within him, and with such an interest in resembling himself, he is always better than himself.

Richelieu: under his ministry, the great Nobles, sometimes distinguished by command, were always equal in obedience . . .

In giving me his6 position, it seems you have compared me to him. Pardon me, Gentlemen, for this reflection. I fear there is considerable vanity in having made it . . .

M. de Sacy often abandoned the serious work in his study for belleslettres. This was, so to speak, the sole debauchery he allowed himself. The Edition: current; Page: [125] public lost nothing by it; he carried over from his study those graces that invite reading . . .

I sought out only your mind, your talents, your immortal writings, and despairing of ever being able to resemble you, I believed that it mattered little for me to be closer to you.


Most authors write to make themselves admired. It seems that M. de Sacy wrote only to make himself loved . . .

They have established you to be the depositories of their glory, to be jealous of it as they were themselves, to transmit to all times deeds which, during their lives, renown had transmitted to all places . . .

You have lost an illustrious fellow member, and I must not seek to console you for it. Sorrows are a species of pain that is dear to us. We love to feel it; we do not want to lose it; we are touched by everything that enhances it. It seems it must take the place within us of the very subjects that produced it.

He was far removed from those authorial jealousies that prevent so many well-adorned minds7 from enjoying their reputation, and that one often disguises from oneself—sometimes under the name of emulation, sometimes under that of equity. He did not feel the pangs of envy, and he never placed that weight upon his heart. He would have preferred everyone to feel all that he felt and to know all that he knew.

This was a man who will always be praised, less for the interest of his glory than for the honor of virtue; a man who, to the qualities that confer a great reputation, joins also that sort of merit that does not make a fuss, and all those virtues that are so easily neglected—perhaps because they are necessary, and because they are the virtues of man, not of the illustrious man.

This was one of those accomplished men—infinitely more rare than those commonly called extraordinary men, than those who, with external aid and often with some vices, find the path of glory . . .

You will describe, at first, the happiness of peoples: this happiness so often promised, always hoped for; today tasted and felt.

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You are, Gentlemen, like those children, whose illustrious fathers have left them a great name to uphold, and who, if they were to debase their inheritance, would be disgraced again by their ancestors’ very splendor . . .

The illustrious Richelieu8 was your protector only by preserving the right to be your rival. He held indiscriminately all the routes that could lead to glory. He followed avidly the careers of your poets and your orators. Superiority of mind was not enough for him; he also sought out superiority of talent. He was indignant at second place, in whatever sphere he found it. He was the first to recognize that Le Cid should not unsettle his disposition, and that first place in French poetry could still be disputed.

If you were to cover him with a thousand new accolades, you could not add a single day to the eternity that he will have in the memories of men . . .

An illustrious man merits all your regrets; you have sustained a loss that you have not yet repaired . . .

Everything, even my Country, seemed destined to distance me from the position you have accorded me . . .

[300] Let us not look for marvels in Antiquity.1 Those of Babylon and those other cities that contained a world of inhabitants: that world was a single city within a State. They employed art and an immense labor to make walls that could resist scaling. That city made up the State’s strength; everything else was nothing. This is why you see expeditions among the Ancients but never wars,2 and it was impossible for a prince who had lost several battles not to see his country invaded. The marvel is France, Flanders, Holland, etc. Under Louis XIII and Louis XIV, we have seen things that are found only in our history: under Louis XIII, the Spanish, during twenty or twenty-five campaigns, almost all of them unsuccessful—without losing, however, more than a small part of a small territory under attack. Louis XIV, in the last war, overwhelmed by the cruellest scourges a prince can receive: Hochstädt, Turin, Ramillies, Barcelona, Oudenarde, Lille3—bearing the wrath and the constant superiority Edition: current; Page: [127] of the enemy, while losing practically nothing of his grandeur. This is what is not found among the Ancients, and there is nothing remotely comparable to it among them except the Peloponnesian War; and again, that war lasted as long as it did only because victory was divided for a very long time; as soon as it was determined against one side, the latter was suddenly annihilated.

The cities of Asia could be much larger, primo, because much less is necessary for the subsistence of the Asiatics than of the Europeans. For what may prevent the growth of cities is the necessity of provisioning the people; it is the mortalities, the plagues, etc.; it is the difficulty of communications, the nearly inevitable expense of transport from one area to another.

I find more to marvel at in the king of France having two hundred well-fortified places on the frontiers of his State, and having them in three rows, than in the king of Babylon having one place in the center, in which he employed all his power.

[301] Here is how I would pay off all the capital on the bonds the King owes and abolish the taille throughout the realm, leaving the head tax.1

I assume that the bonds amount to 48 million, and the tailles likewise.2

Of these 48 million, there are about 11 or so that are lifetime annuities only.

Useless monasteries would be abolished—that is to say, all of them—and their houses and estates would be sold off as perpetual annuities.

The King’s profits from perpetual annuities would serve to increase the fund for the creation of lifetime annuities.

All duplicate entries throughout the realm, all nonmilitary pensions, not renewed3 as they become vacant; all this to increase the fund for lifetime annuities.

In a word, the 48 million would still be paid. Everything that reduces the perpetuals would increase the lifetimes. With the perpetual annuities Edition: current; Page: [128] coming to an end, the tailles would be reduced in proportion as the lifetime annuities expired, up to their abolition.

Or again, I would make some cuts in certain areas that are not absolutely necessary, such as several Court expenses, and for nineteen years. I would abolish for nineteen years, for example, the registers of officeholders, a third of the pensions, and on this basis I would create lifetime annuities. For example, if the cut4 were two million, I would create as many lifetime annuities as would be liquidated by a million in perpetual annuities. I would reduce by a million the excise tax and the salt tax. Idem, in the other areas. And since, at the end of nineteen years, there would remain some portion of the lifetime annuities, I would leave the old lifetime annuities in place, and not replace them with anything the last three years, so that those who survive the nineteen years have a certain fund.

[302] [An atheist: Bacchatur vatis magnum si pectore possit excurisse deum.]1

[303] Sire,1 the French Academy would seem obliged to speak to kings, her protectors, only with that eloquence that {is the purpose of its establishment}. {Permit us, Sire, to make your Majesty a party to our fears. Everyone was afraid of losing a King . . ., or a generous friend, or a tender father.} But she will appear to your Majesty more simple and more naïve. She comes to speak to you in the language of all your subjects. She loves you. The mind has nothing to say when the heart can speak so well. She makes bold to say that she is untouched by the brilliance and the majesty that surround you. Nothing shows her her king except your very person. Glory, grandeur, majesty—she finds everything there.

{We cannot forebear making your Majesty a party to the fears that we have had. We were trembling for the days of a king, a citizen, a friend, a father. For Sire, among so many royal virtues, we were especially struck by those . . .}{Excuse us, Sire, if, among so many royal virtues, we cannot Edition: current; Page: [129] forebear singling out those which would have distinguished you from all Frenchmen, if you had been born to private life.}

{Each was afraid of losing the head of his family. It seemed that throughout the realm you no longer had subjects; you had only friends. Our principal desire is to live to see the great things for which heaven has preserved you.}

[304] I find that most people labor to make a great fortune only to despair, once they have made it, that they are not of illustrious birth.

[305] Never has a religious visionary had more common sense than Father Malebranche.

[306] It is dangerous to rescue from humiliation those whom unanimous consent has condemned to it.

[307] talkers. Certain occupations make men talkers.1 Thus, the Persians call courtiers dellal, or big talkers.

People who have little to do are very big talkers. The less one thinks, the more one talks. Thus, women talk more than men, by dint of idleness. They have nothing to think about. A nation in which women set the tone is more talkative. Thus, the Greek nation, more talkative than the Turkish [the French, than the Italian].

All people whose occupation is to persuade others are big talkers, because their interest is to prevent you from thinking, and to occupy your soul with their reasonings. Another matter is those people who seek less to persuade you than to persuade themselves.

[308] friends. Your friends snipe at you {by choice} so that they will avoid being criticized for lack of subtlety in their discernment, and for not having been the first to see the faults you have.

There are also friends who, in the accidents that befall you or in the mistakes you have made, show a false pity, so that by dint of being sorry for you, they exaggerate your mistake.

Moreover, to make clear that they have more wisdom than you, they make you seem either opinionated or incorrigible by the fine things they say about their own foresight, or by the prudent things they pretend to have said to you.

If you are on the receiving end of a good joke, you can be sure that it is Edition: current; Page: [130] one of your friends who has done it to you; someone else would not have taken the trouble or picked up on it.

Friendship is a contract by which we engage1 to render small services to someone, so that he will render large ones to us.

[309] Praise is speech by which one seeks to display one’s wit or one’s good nature {or else it is an attack on someone to confound him or make him show his effrontery}.

Raillery1 is speech in favor of one’s wit against one’s good nature {only pleasantry is tolerable}.2

[310] voluntary death. Given the manner in which the English think about death, if the laws or religion came to favor it, it would wreak frightful havoc in England.1

[311] Nothing is extraordinary when one is prepared. We are astonished that Nero took up acting, but not that Louis XIV danced a ballet.1 This is because dancing came from tournaments, I believe, and had a fine pedigree.

[312] The excellence of this realm of France consists especially in the great number of commodities suitable for abroad that grow here, as can be seen by the single example of the drugs appropriate for dying; France produces them in greater quantity than any country in the world; as . . .

Which is even more significant if you look at what our colonies produce or could produce;1 they could cultivate all the drugs brought to us by most of the countries of the world. Cayenne is {roughly} at the fifth degree of northern latitude; Santo Domingo, at the fifteenth; our other islands, between the two; the island of Bourbon, at roughly the twenty-third degree of southern latitude. It cannot be doubted that in climates so similar to those of the East Indies, you could obtain most of the drugs that come here, as has already been experienced in coffee.2 A large part of the Mississippi has the Edition: current; Page: [131] same climate as a very large part of China. {Canada has part of the climate of Northern Europe.} Our northern and southern France produce different drugs according to their climate. In such different countries, I do not doubt that one could attempt the cultivation of most of the world’s drugs and plants, and it has often happened that seeds or plants brought from elsewhere have fared better than in the countries from which they came. With a good knowledge of climate and of the nature of the territories where certain plants are cultivated, one could therefore easily multiply the commodities of our trade, and conduct trials and experiments on similar lands.

[313] [It would be very much in the Duke of Savoy’s interest to exchange his Sardinia1 for the Mediterranean Riviera of the State of Genoa; the Genoese as well. They would put the center of their power in Bonifacio, at the tip of the island of Corsica, which almost touches Sardinia, and would create a great maritime power there.

Primo, it is in the King of Sardinia’s interest2 not to divide his forces; the more he can be attacked in a large number of places, the weaker he is.

It would be exceedingly convenient for him to have the Mediterranean Riviera. By means of Savona, he could conduct the same trade as Genoa, and Genoa would fall almost to nothing. But she would be compensated by this new power. If the States of Sardinia and Corsica became powerful, this would be in the interest of the prince who possessed Savoy and Piedmont, since the least powerful princes maintain themselves best only when power in Europe is most divided.

He should not be afraid of losing the title of King, having already that of King of Cyprus,3 which was already giving him honors within Europe; and there is no doubt that, in increasing his power, he will find his honors disputed.]

[314] Sardinia will always be a poor realm in the hands of a prince for whom she is a mere tool; in case of war, occupied or defended with a large reduction of forces.1

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On the other hand, what advantages have the Venetians derived from their Morea?

[315] Charles-Emmanuel took the Mediterranean Riviera.1

[316] I would like to pass this law in Spain:

Those who have been convicts are prohibited from engaging in farming or the liberal arts; but we permit them to live on alms.

Any man who calls another lazy or idler will be condemned to a fine and subjected to criminal prosecution.

[317] On commodities, customs are better than taxes.1 A shoemaker from whom you demand two silver crowns in taxes will dispute it as much as he can; but if you make him pay twenty-five pounds in customs for a hogshead of wine, he will pay it without noticing, and gaily.

[318] A prince thinks he will be made greater by a neighboring State’s ruin.1 On the contrary! Things in Europe are such that States depend on each other. France needs the opulence of Poland and Muscovy,2 just as Guyenne needs Brittany, and Brittany, Anjou. Europe is one State composed of many provinces.

[319] On women’s birthmarks, two impossibilities: that all bodies are so formed that they will never have certain marks; the other, that these marks do not resemble something.1

[320] [In 1714, there appeared a book entitled The Witnessing of the Truth.1 The author maintains that in the councils, bishops are merely witnesses to their church’s faith.

It is like the French Academy, which does not . . .]

[321] One indication that the English nation is mad is that the English perform only great deeds but not middling ones; only those who perform the great and the lesser are prudent.

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[322] There is no pace better for health than that of a horse. Thus, whoever invented the iron coach has rendered a great disservice to the public. {A horse’s every step causes a heartbeat in the diaphragm, and in one league, there are roughly four thousand heartbeats more than one would have had.}

[323] Spain is bound to perish, because she is composed of excessively honorable men. The integrity of the Spanish has transferred all trade to foreigners, who would not have taken part in it if they had not found people in whom they could invest unlimited confidence.1

If, on the one hand, virtue ruins the Spanish, then honor, which makes them ashamed of commerce and industry, ruins them no less.2

[324] We have some authors of the ancient history of France who are favorable to the Burgundians; others, to the Austrasians.1

Today, now that these different interests have ceased, this partiality scarcely makes itself felt.

An author ceases to be partial by virtue of being ancient, and we must well believe that past writers were like the above-mentioned ones.

[325] Roman curse: Ultimus suorum moriatur!1 A terrible punishment to have no children to be your heirs; to give you the honors of the sepulcher. It was a way of thinking quite favorable to the propagation of the species!

[326] Facienda erit extractio extractorum nominata “Ridicula.”1

[327] In my stay in Italy,1 I was very much converted to Italian music.2 It seems to me that in French music, the instruments accompany the voice, Edition: current; Page: [134] but in the Italian, they take it and lift it up. Italian music is more supple than the French, which seems stiff. It is like a more agile wrestler. {The one enters the ear, the other moves it.}

[328] Flavus capillus, flava coma;1 it is the blond, not the redhead. Red hair is hated because it is regarded as a sign of other natural defects. {David is praised, quia erat rufus.2 In warm countries, there is little blond hair.}

[329] It is surprising that the Romans, who had glass, did not employ it in windows, but instead used transparent stones, which certainly do not create such a good effect.

[330–338] some fragments that did not make it into my “dialogues.”

[330] Flora said: “My conduct has been very disorderly. Most women do not want my company. I have only one remedy: to make myself a goddess. Men bestow worship more easily than esteem.”

[331] “All the other gods have temples, but I have none.—Love, I say, all hearts are your temples. Go into the temple of Cephisia. Make your presence felt there. You will be worshipped there by all mortals.”

[332] The other day, Venus was getting dressed. The Graces wanted to put her sash on her. “Leave it, leave it,” she told them. “Today, I am seeing only my husband. This is enough beauty for him. I reserve my charms for the god of War.”

[333] “Divine Apollo, how is it that all the Nymphs flee from you? You are young, you have blond hair, and your face is very handsome. Do you want me to tell you? You are much criticized among them. They believe you don’t think about a word of what you are saying. I am only a poor shepherd, but Cephisia does not flee from me. When I am around her,1 I keep quiet, I sigh, I gaze, I wander, I burn, I embrace her. {I swoon, I expire.}”

[334] [“I cannot understand, Mercury, how you, who have given laws and mores to savage men, are such a big thief.”—M[ercury]: “You think then, do you, that it is for your good that I have placed you in society, {have made you work in the mines} . . .”]

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[335] “Yes, Cloris, you can love me.—Alas! I no longer know what I’m allowed. The pleasure I feel in loving makes me suspect that I must not love. How is it that I can’t tell you this without blushing?”

[336] “Ulysses, you have turned down immortality in order to see your wife again, and see whether she has been having forty good years. I would not have suspected that of you, for you have searched throughout your whole life for the very shadow of immortality, which is glory.—Eumaeus!1 Are we reasoning? All we are doing is feeling . . .”

[337] Procrustes: “I am continuing my reform. You know that all the men I catch, I place them stretched out on my bed. Those who are too short are extended, and those who are too tall have their legs trimmed. Look! I intend that all men be made like me. But they are so stubborn, they all want to keep their height . . .”

[338] “Cruel Myrrhine, because you are followed by thirty thousand women foot soldiers and ten thousand women cavalry, you want to reduce Africa to servitude.”1 Myrrhine: “I want to emancipate my sex from the tyranny it is in. You place us under honor’s laws only to be able to dishonor us when you please. You’re irritated if we refuse you, and you despise us if we don’t. When you tell us you love us, that means that you wish to plunge us into the greatest dangers, without sharing them.”

[339] I said I wanted to see Hungary, because all European States used to be the way Hungary is at present, and I wanted to see our forefathers’ mores.

[340] cause of dutch power.1 It is the lowest country on all sides, so that a very large number of rivers flow into it, such as the Scheldt, which receives the Lys and others; the Meuse, which receives the Sambre and others; the Rhine, which receives the Main, the Mosel, the Lippe, and others; and finally, the Ems {flows there}, of which Holland is mistress by way of Emden. Moreover, she is mistress of all the navigation of these rivers and streams, by means of fortresses she has possessed by treaty, and those Edition: current; Page: [136] she has had demolished: Dunkirk2 is demolished; on the sea, Nieuport is worthless and obstructs Ostend’s trade. She has a garrison in Meenen, on the Lys. She has the Scheldt by means of Tournai, the Barrière fortress, and Dendermonde, where she has half the garrison by treaty. She has eliminated the port of Anvers on the Scheldt and has obstructed it still more by the territories whose transfer she has arranged in the Lower Scheldt, by the treaty of Barrière.3 She has a garrison in Namur, at the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse. On the Meuse, she has had the fortresses of Huy and Liège razed. She has Maastricht, Steenvoort, and Venlo. The Rhine is divided in Holland, and she has the Ems by way of Emden.

[341] State debts1 could be paid off by setting up a sinking fund, which would be: one sou per pound {held back} on all debts; 6 deniers per pound, on everything the King pays, and double that at each transfer of ownership; 3 deniers per pound on any increase in the King’s levy, which would make a fund of at least 6 million. Let the King add the excess of the gold mark2 for the upkeep of the Order,3 and a third of all the royal favors he distributes, up to the point where the redemption fund is 8 million. Let the redemption4 take place every year, in proportion to the fund in the Bureau: either in cash, retaining five percent, or a bond from the managers {negotiable}, payable in a year. Let shares as well as contracts be purchased, to the King’s profit. Let the King resell the shares he buys; he would have the sole dividend from the trade. Let half the interest from the repurchased assets accrue to the fund, and the other half serve to reduce taxes proportionately each year; this would barely reduce {taxes} except at the end of the operation.

[342] If things continue, nations will be trading with themselves virtually alone. Each nation that has establishments in America trades there alone. Efforts are being made to attract into these establishments what is procured from foreign countries. Thus, the English want to get from their Edition: current; Page: [137] North American1 colonies what is useful for their navy. We want to import silks from the Mississippi, coffee from Cayenne and even from Bourbon Island. We have placed or found cassia in the Antilles islands. And in fact, having territories in practically all climes, there are few products that we could not bring here.2

[343] Even though nations that do not have manufactures are establishing them, it seems to me that this ought not to alarm those that have them. The former are powerless to dress themselves; they must act like the Hungarians, who wear the same outfit for fifteen years.1 And with them, the establishment of manufactures merely puts them in a better position to buy from those nations they cannot imitate—whether because they do not have the same industry or because they lack something in the nature of their soil.

[344] People say: “A league with the Italian princes!” But how to ally yourself with nothing? This is a league on paper. Only the King of Sardinia has preserved his military power, and he will lose it again if Italy’s neutrality and our distaste for conquests there last for long.

{Since this comment, our last war in Italy has put the King of Sardinia in position to maintain his military power more than ever.} {That was the war of 1733. That of 1741 has made the whole comment absurd.1 One more try, and we will make him master of Italy, and he will be our equal.}

[345] Those Dutch, French, and English fish—what a terrible indictment they are against Italy and Spain! Those nations would find it in their interest to change their manner of abstinence. [They could engage in fishing themselves, especially in the Papal States . . .]

[346] There was no one who should not have thought that Charles V was going to dominate everyone, and the Popes were so convinced of it that out of fear of his power, they lost England. France, which had to resist him, had neither the authority at home nor the power abroad that she has Edition: current; Page: [138] at present. She possessed less of: Calais, part of Flanders, Hainault, Artois, Cambrésis, the principality of Sedan, part of Luxembourg, Lorraine,1 the Three Bishoprics, Alsace, Strasbourg, Franche-Comté, Bresse, Bugey, Valromey and Gex, Roussillon, Béarn and Lower Navarre, and her establishments in the Indies. She resisted him, nonetheless. This is because Charles’s power was too divided.

[347] Only the conquests we have made step-by-step remain to us. But we have always been unsuccessful in the distant enterprises. It is hard to keep track of how many times we have conquered and lost the Milanese territory, the Kingdom of Naples, and other Italian States. We are difficult to defeat on our frontiers, but cavendum a nimia ambitione.1 It is impossible for us to leave our Country for long. The idea of a stay in Paris immediately assaults the minds of our young people.2 After the battle of Turin,3 didn’t the impatience to return—I don’t say of our dandies but of our generals—make us retreat to France and lose Italy?4

[348] The manners and mental characteristics of different people, guided by the influence of the same court and the same capital, I call the genius of a nation.1

[349] No one wants to die. Every man is strictly speaking a sequence of ideas that one does not want to interrupt.

[350] If I knew something that would be useful to my nation and ruinous to another nation, I would not bring it before my prince, because I am a man before being a Frenchman; or again, because I am necessarily a man but am only a Frenchman by chance.1

[351] I miss that last branch of the House of Austria, which since Ferdinand1 has produced such good princes.

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[352] If the Low Countries are worth one in the hands of the Emperor, they would be worth a hundred in the hands of France.1

[353] The Emperor would be one of the world’s great princes if the Low Countries were ruined by an earthquake. That is his weakness, the Low Countries.1

[354] French indiscretion, in the insults made to the honor of Italian husbands, has lost them the Kingdom of Naples, that of Sicily, the Milanese territory, and some of those states several times. They butchered them in Sicily; they revolted elsewhere; and at a time when those people were most tired of the French, the French were no less tired of them, owing to the mania for returning to France.1

[355] The true power of a prince consists solely in the difficulty of attacking him. Thus, it is far from being the case that a Duke of Savoy is as powerful with Sardinia as without Sardinia, because he can be taken from this weak side at the outset, and if he fortifies it—whether during peace or war—he weakens his states.

[356–358] thoughts that did not make it into my “dialogue of xanthippus.”1

[356] In truth, Gylippus,1 if the gods had placed me on earth only to lead a voluptuous life, I should think they would have given me a great and immortal soul in vain. To enjoy the pleasures of the senses is something all men are capable of,2 and if the gods have made us only for that, they have made a work more perfect than they intended; they have accomplished more than they have undertaken.3

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[357] Sparta: a nation that not only despises but detests the soft pleasures, where people and kings alike know how to command and obey, where the least of the citizenry are what philosophers alone are elsewhere.

[358] I love only my Country; I fear only the gods; I hope only for virtue.

[359] fragments of a tragedy1 that i wrote in high school, and that i tossed in the fire.

The subject was taken from Cleopatra,2 {the name}, Britomartis

    • (Pompey says to me)
    • “I fly where the fate of the whole world calls me;
    • But I leave you a son, the fruit of our amours,
    • The image of a husband who adores you always.”
    • He left, and soon the civil discords
    • Laid waste the fields, overturned the towns,
    • And in Pharsalus, at last, Caesar, victorious,
    • Saw blush the mortals—whimsies of the Gods.
    • {Dream:}
    • One night when I was in that tranquil state
    • Where one’s mind—more free, less weighted down—
    • Is not to sense’s empire subordinate
    • {Britomartis says:}
    • I’ve chased a thousand times my liberty;
    • But failing to squelch the consuming fire
    • I can’t stop loving what I raptly admire.
    • The blood whence you came,
    • All kings, all hearts that give unto you your due,
    • And Divinity, in its work’s prevailing hue.
    • But far from snuffing out a flame so fine,
    • My efforts merely grant it endless time.
    • Edition: current; Page: [141]
    • Alas! They had to hide from my view
    • The celestial attractions that belong to you.
    • Such is the art they have to charm us;
    • To commence to see you is to commence to love.
    • One moment saw rise an everlasting flame;
    • Each instant that follows shows you off again.
    • It brings to my eyes a thousand new allures.
    • In just one of your charms, I see all amours.
    • If a crime it be, to love you and adore,
    • I will each day be criminal, and every day still more.
    • But why in fact would my love be so at odds?
    • Worship does not at all insult the gods.
    • Ah! Don’t blame me for my furious arms;
    • My entire crime was not knowing such charms.
    • Why hid you the shine of your ocular rings?
    • I’d have ceded, Madame, to such gods, to such kings.
    • I’d have borrowed from them such a thunderous crash,
    • I’d have borrowed from them these fate-directed shafts.
    • And to march o’er your steps, and to fight by your laws,
    • I’d have known how to live by such gods, by such kings.
    • Let resentment fall, along with your chains,
    • And in rank supreme, where the gods make your reigns,
    • Follow them, Madame, and pardon my pains.
    • (Tigranes says:)
    • My tiniest passion is all violent,
    • It’s the frightening storm of a soul turbulent:
    • Reason sees nothing in this foggy gloom.
    • A lover more gracious who lifted my chains,
    • In this messy mélange of pleasures and pains,
    • Just now underneath, just now more above,
    • Would then taste the pleasure of lover and loved.
    • (Elise says:)
    • In the state I’m now in, alas! what can I say
    • And why should I bother, and why should I bay?
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    • If Mars and his wrath would send terror to me
    • Or some stronger god who would reign over me,
    • I feel all moved, and maybe, Phoedimus,3
    • The emotion itself may indeed be a crime.
    • When a heart, to abhor, all constricts self and sinks,
    • It finds that amour is more near than one thinks.
    • Love claiming its rights over each living thing,
    • On both heaven and earth it alone is the king.
    • I have no more enemy, when I have no more equal.
    • (Elise to Tigranes:)
    • No! You alone bring forth by big test:
    • My heart, full of you, is closed to the rest.
    • If only you knew how I do you detest.
    • I heeded you not when your name led the race
    • Do you think I’ll hear better with you mired in disgrace?
    • I’m not at all sure, in the frenzy I feel,
    • If you’ll see my love first or my temerity.
    • You knew how to win me after so much combat,
    • In one word, I love you, and won’t blush for that.
    • The time to feel shame was when my insensate soul
    • Dared to conceive of the first idea bold.
    • The time to feel shame was when the cruel poison
    • Left in my mind a small speck of reason.
    • Now beaten down and now filled with glee,
    • I was clinging still then to my urge to be free.
    • But while making no unneeded efforts today
    • I dare say I love, send my blushes away.
    • (Phraates, from Britomartis:)
    • Just one of his looks casts me down all nonplussed.
    • I just cannot bear his so arrogant line.
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    • The star of his birth has e’en more force than mine.
    • At the baleful recital of his deeds and his times,
    • I imagine him armed to avenge all my crimes,
    • And this terrible hero, all a haze in my head,
    • Shows virtues and enemies equally bred.
    • (Tigranes says:)
    • Gods! . . .
    • It’s you who have settled the staff in my hand
    • Just to make of a king the entirely last man.
    • I accuse only you of a design so sinister,
    • And Britomartis, in brief, was merely the minister.
    • You’ll have no more rights to mistreat such a wretch.
    • I return you now till the day you have said.
    • (Britomartis says:)
    • A great heart . . .
    • Does not want to escape fate’s decree.
    • And always, impassive, he awaits his demise.
    • Upon Heaven’s word, he accepts where it lies.
    • (Tigranes speaks:)
    • What’s this! Is it true? What sweetness for me!
    • The gods are appeased, Madame, if you’d agree.
    • (Elise says:)
    • Death is a cruel torment
    • Which leaves but a single moment
    • To worship Britomartis.
    • (Phraates says:)
    • When bathing myself in the blood of my kin,
    • The gods, the just gods, just did not rein me in.
    • In the deepest aplomb, they allowed me to reign,
    • Such a great criminal thereby saved himself pain.
    • Even those who had blood that was spilled by my crimes
    • Served as victims to me to appease Heaven’s times:
    • This Heav’n, which now dared no more thunder below,
    • Seemed to fear a mere mortal who such fear did not know.
    • Edition: current; Page: [144]
    • But ever since losing my first impudence,
    • Arbatus, I’ve wished to step back with some sense,
    • And ever since virtue appeared to my eyes,
    • And I gave up on crime and respected the Skies,
    • Then my cursed innocence, since that unlucky date,
    • Has done nothing but rain on me vengeance and hate.
    • Always unhappy, no surcease as a prey,
    • The deity weighs on me up to this day.

[360] It is said that in Venice, since the settlement with Paul V,1 ecclesiastics can no longer make new acquisitions, but are obliged to take their money to a bank, where they are paid interest, so they pay for the interest on old capital with the aid of the new. I would like to see much the same happen in France for new acquisitions; let the clergy be obliged to sell half of their capital in contracts on City Hall. It is good that the clergy has its capital in money,2 for it is constantly increasing in Europe. It is good for this capital to be in the Prince’s hands.

[361] Cardinal Corsini1 has said that the invention of wigs ruined Venice because the old men, no longer having white hair, are no longer ashamed to make love. I would add that, in the Council, there was no longer any distinction made between the advice of the old men and that of the young.

[362] Buying peace: what a bad business that is! You buy it because you have already bought it. The Duke of Savoy was sought out by both parties in the last war,1 because he had put France to the trouble of giving him a good thrashing in the previous one.

[363] A man wanted to write the history of bad deeds by cardinals.

[364] Maxims of State need to be changed every twenty years because the world changes. The dukes of Tuscany had played a big role due to the credit they had in Rome in Henry IV’s time, when Rome was the center of Edition: current; Page: [145] everything. (They could do this easily because they always had a cardinal from their house as protector of some great crown, and always gave out pensions to the officers of the Roman court.) They continued to play such a role under Cosimo III, at a time when the Court of Rome no longer had any power. Charles II’s will and testament is the only big affair in which Rome has had a part, and in fact, I am not even sure about that.1

[365] The Ancients made the main attribute of the gods immortality. They did not say the good gods, or the powerful gods, but the immortal gods. This is because they regarded that quality as the distinctive quality.

[366] It is within the past fifty years that in Spain, when a man had his right arm bled, his left arm was bled as well, to keep the equilibrium. It is only within the past few years that cinchona bark has been used in Italy; at present, mercury and emetic are very frightening there. {Fashions arrive slowly in medicine.}

Our forefathers—who took daily ablutions and caustics in health; who in sickness kept their fever until it left them; who burdened themselves with as many medicinal juleps as the apothecaries gave out to them; who kept a lint bandage1 on wounds for six months—would be quite surprised if they saw the expeditious method of our medicine and surgery.

[367] In the past, the apothecary’s fees were one of the big expenses; for the family’s care, you gave as much to the apothecary as you give nowadays to a purveyor.

[368] One will therefore never want to calculate, and yet I want to; I want to weigh in the balance the old medicine and the new.

I want to take the most famous princes and private individuals from the major countries, from century to century,1 and see: with what medicine did they live the longest; what did the new discoveries, the specific new remedies, do; what effect did the old diseases have, the new diseases. It is certain that in the old days, they {almost} all died of an unknown Edition: current; Page: [146] disease—from a tumor, said the people, and the historians followed them; for the people always claim that princes die in some extraordinary way. And since princes love to live as much in one era as in another, we must believe that they have always defended themselves against poison with the same care.

All princes who died violently should be excluded from my calculation. They should, however, be mentioned.

This calculation should be made for every country: begin with France. And I think one should take up whole social conditions, because there, certainly, there is no choice involved. Thus, you would take all kings, all chancellors, all first presidents, all archbishops of Paris and other dioceses; all queens, who are less exposed than kings; all dukes and duchesses of Lorraine, all dukes and duchesses of Savoy; lists of other princes or lords who come after. And get the results from this.2

[369] There is no authority that has fewer limits than that of a prince who inherits a Republic after defeating it.1 For he inherits a power that has no limits, namely, that of the people or the republic; for the people have not had to {nor been able to} limit its {own} power. Thus, the kings of Denmark, the dukes of Tuscany (who cannot properly be called princes) have a power that is limited by no tribunal.

[370] An aristocratic State cannot be called free.1

[371] When there are factions in a republic, the weakest party is no more cast down than the strongest; it is the republic that is cast down.1

[372] The English Republic1 lasted for only a short interval, namely, between the defeat of the King’s party and the beginning of Cromwell’s military power. During Cromwell, it was tyranny. After him, up to the restoration, part tyranny, part anarchy.

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[373] An Englishman {historian} has said of Henry VIII what we could well apply to Louis XI, that if the memory of the Dionysiuses, the Neros, the Caligulas were lost, this reign would bring back an idea of it.1 Henry VIII hanged the Catholics, who did not believe him to be head of the Church; he burned the Protestants, who were far removed from the opinion of the Catholics. Under Louis XI, no lord was sure of being alive the next day.

[374] One sign that intolerance is a dogma of the Jewish religion is that in Japan, where there are, I believe, seventy sects, there is no dispute for preeminence among them, even though the Dairo is the head of a sect and is esteemed by the Emperor more than the Pope is by our kings.1

I am not aware that there are disputes between different sects in China. {Father Du Halde reports an erudite work against the sectarians of Buddha.}2 There are quite a few against the Christians, because we begin by saying: “All religions are bad except ours.”

[375] I said, “I do not believe, like Louis XIV, that France is Europe, but the leading power of Europe.”

[376] An Englishman, a Frenchman, an Italian: three esprits.

[377] Somewhere I have treated the prohibition against marriage between children and parents and have derived its origin and cause from the fact that f***ing1 is an act of intimacy.2

[378] I would have done well at fulfilling the pagan religion: it was just a matter of bending the knee before some statue. But with us, not f***ing1 is a frightful matter.

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[379] The wars of the Low Countries did not move along quickly, because they were wars involving the slowest nations in the world: the Spanish and the Dutch.1

[380] I want to make a list and see how many times the French have been expelled from Italy, how many times they have been expelled because of their indiscretions with women. In my Pufendorf extract,1 I calculated that they have been expelled nine times—almost always because of their indiscretion—not to mention their retreat to France after the battle of Turin, which occurred only by their impatience.2

I also want to see how many times the Popes have excommunicated the Emperors, and how many times they have caused Italy and Germany to revolt.

[381] In my travels, I always found the leagues near big cities to be shorter than in the country,1 and I would reflect that the reason for this was that leagues around the big cities are determined by people who are always bored, namely, the great lords who go to their estates or their neighbors’; whereas in the country they are determined by people who never get bored, namely, the peasantry.

[382] Villages are closer to each other near the big cities. Now, we do not like fractions. If there are three-quarters of a league, we say one league. {False}

[383] General B. was telling me1 that there had been some thought of putting him at the service of Denmark, as commanding general. I told him: “You would have done badly. I imagine that troops who have always been defeated have an internal defect (I don’t know what), which produces this effect, so that whoever commands them always loses his reputation. The Danish have some Germans, but these Germans, back home, are always defeated.” “You’re right,” he said, “and I think this defect comes from Edition: current; Page: [149] the fact that with the general, there is always a Court commissary who has charge of the army provisions and who has more credit than the general, so it is his ignorance and greed that guide the army.”

Likewise, the Saxons have always been defeated by another internal defect: namely, that the peasants of Saxony, all rich, do not want to get themselves killed once they become soldiers.

[384] There is a certain noble pride that suits those who have great talent.1

[385] Magliabecchi did not like to go see the late Grand-Duke, when the latter summoned him.1 He found his company too painful. When strangers spoke well of him to the Grand-Duke, the latter would say: “E vero; ma non lo posso praticare.”2

[386] In Italy, there is always a certain king of France who has wanted to heap gold on one of their paintings, and a certain signor inglese1 who has wanted to buy their gallery for twenty, twenty-five, fifty thousand silver crowns! After that, you cannot offer little for them, or make a low estimate. I have never been able to meet this certo signor inglese, ch’era pieno di denaro.2

[387] When I see Rome, I am always surprised that Christian priests have managed the creation of the world’s most delectable city, and have done what Mohammed’s religion has not been able to in Constantinople or any other city—even though the latter religion is founded on pleasure, and the former on opposition to the senses.1

The Roman priests have managed to make devotion itself delectable through the constant music that is found in the churches and that is excellent {all the artistic masterpieces that are in the churches}. They have established the best operas, and they profit from them. One lives there Edition: current; Page: [150] with a liberty in the love affairs of one or the other sex that the magistrates do not permit elsewhere.

As for the government, it is as mild as it can be.

[388] {I cannot get used to the voices of the castrati.}1 The reason (I think) is that, if a castrato sings well, that does not surprise me, because he is made for that, independent of his talent, and I am no more surprised by it than when I see a bull that has horns or an ass with big ears. Moreover, it seems to me that all the castrati’s voices are the same. These castrati, I think, first arrived in Venice through the trade that city had with Constantinople. They came from the Greek Emperors, who made much use of them in their palace service, so much so that they sometimes became army generals.

[389] In Rome, there is good reason to establish a severe inquisition against those who are so unfortunate as to speak or write against religion; for in other countries, this is impiety, but in Rome, it is impiety plus rebellion.

[390] All unhappy people have recourse to God, often from human perspectives. The man who is led to the scaffold wants there to be a God so that He will take vengeance upon his enemies. Louis XI wants God to convey to Mr. Good Fellow the power to cure him.1 Our unhappiness makes us seek out this powerful being; happiness makes us flee him or fear him. We are curious to know his nature because we have an interest in knowing it, just as subjects seek to know what their king is like, and domestics seek to know their master.

[391] This great power that God has placed in the hands of the King, my master, does not make him more fearsome to his neighbors. It is a pledge from Heaven for the peace and liberty of Europe. And just as the weakest princes muster the courage to extend their power, the great ones do likewise to moderate their own.

[392] A libertine could say that men made a bad deal in renouncing paganism, since paganism encouraged the passions and imparted to religion a laughing countenance.1

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[393] Maybe1 it’s that there are good French poets, but that French poetry is bad.

[394] I was very surprised in my travels to find Jesuits governing Venice1 and entirely lacking credibility in Vienna.

[395] I fear the Jesuits. If I offend some grandee, he will forget about me, I will forget about him; I will go to another province, another realm. But if I offend Jesuits in Rome, I will find them in Paris; they will surround me everywhere. The custom they have of constantly writing each other extends their enmities. {An enemy of the Jesuits is like an enemy of the Inquisition: he finds his intimate circle everywhere.}1

[396] Horace and Aristotle already told us about the virtues of their forefathers and the vices of their times, and authors down through the centuries have spoken in like manner. If they had told the truth, men would nowadays be bears. It seems to me that what makes all men reason this way is that we have seen our fathers and our masters correcting us, and we believe them exempt from the faults for which they were correcting us.

This is not all. Men have such a bad opinion of themselves that they have believed that not only their minds and souls have degenerated but also their bodies, and that they have become smaller; and not only themselves but the animals; the earth, less fertile; themselves, less perfect. This was the opinion of the Stoics, Egyptians. (See my extract from Coringius, De Habitu Corporum Germanorum.)1 Saint Cyprian,2 who reasoned very badly, instructed a heretic that there is no longer as much rain in winter, as much warmth in summer, there is less marble in the mountains, less gold and silver, less harmony in friendships, fewer farmers in the fields, and other nonsense.

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{Moreover, men are found to be depicted in splendid colors in the histories, but the men we see are not like that; and there are certain faults that need to be seen in order to be grasped, such as the habitual ones.}

[397] I have put in my Spicilegium1 some remarks on painting, sculpture, and architecture that I picked up from certain conversations with M. Jacob.2 Here are the observations I have made since then, which did not make it into my various works.

[398] In the Florentine school of painters,1 I found a forcefulness of design that I had not felt elsewhere. They put the body in quite unusual postures, but there is never anything awkward about it. Sometimes the shading is a bit dry, but the design is so well pronounced that it always brings you up short. The Florentines do not put the body in darkness; they do not affect false shadows; they make it appear in sunlight. Whatever their shading, you are moved by the boldness of their brush. Look at the figures from the back, from the side, in profile, head turned, lowered, the body bent. Everything you see seems to make you see everything that is hidden. The body is always in a precise equipoise, placed just as it should be.

[399] The sculptor—who has none of the expedients of the painter, is supported neither by color nor by the advantage of elaborate arrangement, nor by the sense of surprise evoked by the art of making bodies emerge and flee from a flat surface—has only the expedient of putting fire {and motion} into his works, by putting his figures in fine postures and giving their heads graceful airs. Thus, when he has put proportion into his figures, when his drapery is fine, he has done nothing if he does not put them in action, if the position is hard or stiff; for sculpture is naturally cold.1

Symmetry in the postures is unacceptable here (I have spoken of it in Taste). But overly contrasting contrasts often are as well, such as when one Edition: current; Page: [153] arm is seen doing exactly what the other is doing, and when one sees that a real effort has been made to make one precisely like the other.

In a statue, the flanks must not be equally pushed in and, as the Italians say, pari à pari; one should be going in and the other out.

A shadow that falls on a statue{’s limb}, or some object that is applied to it, such as a shepherd’s stick on a saint’s arm, can reduce the appearance of these parts of the body.

The eyes in the creases must be narrower, less rounded, and more unrefined than the rest of the creases. Likewise, the crease or the part of the crease that is down below must be more unrefined and less rounded than the one above.

Bas-reliefs are a large part of the difficulty in painting: the figures have to be made to flee; the distances must be perceived; elaborate arrangements must be made.

One reason why our sculptors do not make draperies as well as the Ancients is that the Carrara marble used today is harder than that of the Ancients. It is like a flintlock. It is even harder than it was forty years ago. The quarries have crumbled; the veins have been lost. Thus, the marble resists the workers.

Our monks and saints sometimes have impossibly graceless outfits.

[400] Foggini was lame and deformed,1 which accounts for his works not having all the perfection one might desire; for when making a statue, one must not always be seated in one place. It must be seen from all sides—near, far, up, down, in all directions. Paintings are seen from only one point of view, but statues are seen from many, which is what makes it difficult for sculptors.

[401] You cannot find a painting by Il Domenichino, Il Guido, or Carracha that is badly designed. {They are like Rousseau, who could never versify badly.}1 You can scarcely find a painting from the School of Venice in which there is not something to criticize from a design point of view.

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[402] I clearly see four sorts of contour: that of women, which are plump, fleshy, and not strongly marked; that of noble men, which are similar to those of women and are like those of the Apollo: large, rounded, little marked; that of powerful men, like that of the Hercules,1 which are marked, but fleshy, large, rounded, and dominant over lesser ones; that of old men, which are marked, dry and pointed. That of rustic men—which are fleshy but coarse, confused, uncertain, numerous, and which are all equal in having nothing—is the contour of working men. On the one hand, the gross essence of their diet makes them fat, but on the other hand, fatigue and labor make creases throughout their bodies. Thus, their hands and faces are seen to be wrinkled, marked, divided into little parts; idem for the rest of their bodies. The Little Faun2 from the gallery of Florence gives a good idea of this latter contour.

[403] When you arrange a building in rustic1 form, it is essential that there be a kind of deterioration about it, so that the stones at the bottom have more mass than the ones above, and the interspaces between the bosses are always less. In fact, if it is not that way, it should appear that way, because what is higher up has to be seen from a narrower angle. A fine example of this deterioration is seen in the Strozzi Palace2 in Florence, which is rustic on all floors.

And if only the first is rustic, the second must be Doric with as few ornaments as possible, for the eye cannot pass from the grossness of rustic to the gentleness of the Ionic or the Corinthian.

[404] When a window is placed too high, the cantilever in the projecting part can be made to protrude a great deal, which will make it appear lower. When a pedestal is too low, it must be kept free of ornament and all of a piece to make it appear higher. When a street is too narrow, the projecting parts must not be large, for they could not be seen. When a church is narrow, projecting parts must not be placed on the column pedestals along the wall—like tori, reglets, and others. {Thus, when one face of a building is on a broad street and the other on a narrow street, the cornice on the narrow street must be reduced proportionally.}

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[405] Look at what I have said in my work on Taste about chiaroscuro in painting, sculpture, architecture.

[406] What makes most Italian churches seem large is their darkness; for in the light, their borders are more visible. It is said that this makes for more meditation and respect. The painted windows also eliminate the daylight. It is not worth the trouble to stop for them, since they are poorly painted; the Italians have never succeeded in that art like the French. {That is because it is older than the renewal of painting in Italy.}

[407] Climbing up with a scale and a string with a plumb at the end of it, one makes all the measurements in architecture: not only height but protuberance, which requires close attention. For if painting, which is mere imitation, is so concerned with making bodies advance and retreat, how about architecture?

[408] Joy itself is fatiguing in the long run; it employs too much spirit. And it must not be imagined that people who are always at table and playing games are getting more pleasure than others. They are there because they cannot be elsewhere, and they become bored there in order to become less bored somewhere else.

These are people who have demanded incompatible things of their bodily machinery: constant pleasures and forceful pleasures. Viewing life as enjoyment, they have believed that each moment was irretrievable, and have wanted each instant to pay returns.

But by virtue of giving their fibers big stimuli, they have rendered them sluggish and eliminated any recourse to moderate stimuli.

[409] The true does not always have verisimilitude; here is an example. When Dionysius-the-Tyrant, Phalaris1 [, Nero] and Caligula inflicted all their barbarisms, it was thought at first that those folks believed they were doing ill, and you would pass for crazy if you said today that they believed they were doing good. But what will be said one day about a category of men who are every day inflicting exactly the same cruelties as those folks, and who believe they are doing good? That’s the Inquisitors from Spain and Portugal.

[410] The terms beautiful, good, noble, great, perfect are attributes of objects that are relative to the beings who consider them.

It is essential to put this principle in one’s head: it is a sponge for handling most prejudices. It is the scourge of all ancient philosophy, Aristotle’s Edition: current; Page: [156] science, Plato’s metaphysics. And if one reads the latter philosopher’s dialogues, one finds that they are but a tissue of sophistries made out of ignorance of this principle. {Father Malebranche has fallen into countless sophistries by his ignorance of it.}

[411] In the Regenskii Exercitationes Sex, p. 85, a rabbi advises lunch for thirteen reasons. It is not difficult to imagine the best one.1

[412] Many people in France, especially M. de La Motte, maintain that there is no harmony. I prove that there is, just as Diogenes proved to Zeno that there was motion by walking around the room.1

[413] We always want to fix the manifestations of God’s power. We fix it to a land; we fix it to a people, a city, a temple, . . . It is everywhere.

[414] Pagan temples were small. They had hardly any common worship; everyone offered his sacrifices and prayers as an individual. No sermons to listen to. Few common sacrifices.

[415] The French language consists entirely of iambs—that is, everything is separated into intervals of two syllables, in which the first is short, the second long. The Italian language, on the contrary, consists entirely of trochees, and is cut into intervals of two syllables, one long, one short. This makes for two totally different declamatory styles, which can scarcely be understood if one is ignorant of the reason for it. Since the Italian recitative is a higher declamation, we Frenchmen can no more bear it than we can the Italian declamation itself. Now, whatever produces such a different declamation must also produce very different music. Italian music emphasizes the penultimate syllable; French the last one.

The English and Germans {and Teutonic natives} form neither trochees nor iambs; they form dactyls. Lord Cārtěrět; děr, děn Vătěr; and since the dactyl is closer to the trochee than to the iamb (for the last syllable is short in each), these languages1 are better able to bear Italian than French music. Edition: current; Page: [157] Each music is therefore excellent; that is, it is as excellent as each language can support. It just seems to me that our declamation is better, but our music less good. The difference between these two styles of music must be sought in these principles. {Examine whether this difference in declamation does not arise from the fact that one of these two languages has more vowels than the other, or from some other reason. It is an arbitrary matter that one turns on trochees, the other on iambs.}

Italian declamation is weak and cannot be good in tragedy, because it is impossible to pronounce a word with emphasis, because one always ends with a short syllable.

I do not yet know why verse {rhyme} is unbearable in an Italian comedy or tragedy, as I am told.

The advantage of our iambs over the Italian trochees is that iambs strike the organs better. The long syllable that finishes the word seems to add something to it; the short one that finishes it seems to take something away. When we want to move a body, we shake it and always reserve the big striking action for the end. It is the same with the movements of the soul. Thus, the Ancients put iambs in verses that were to be declaimed, in order to strike the ear constantly. And in examining Italian declamation, it is clear that the Italians do well to stick to the Polichinelles and the Harlequins; this is because they cannot do better. The tragic needs strength, and Italian pronunciation does not have this strength. The cadence in dance and music is to fall suddenly in order to shake the soul. All Latin verses ended their rests and the last foot with a long syllable; a short one was a license. There you have, I believe, why a French play cannot be well translated into Italian as well as an English play can. It is because English always has dactyls and ends with short syllables like the Italian. It is also true that there is another reason, which is that the French language is purer and simpler, and the Italian is loftier and more elevated. This means that what is grand for us is common for them, and what is for us common is for them insipid.

Articles, with which our language is replete, prevent our verse from being as concise as Latin verse. That elongates the words, even though the sense is the same. The Greeks also had articles, but they trimmed them when they wanted to. These articles are barren. Moreover, it is only the transpositions of the genitive and dative that are permitted in French. We always have our caesura in the same place, but the Italians put it after the first, second, or third foot; witness the first three lines of Tasso.

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[416] The main difference between the pagan system and our own is that we believe that intelligent beings of an inferior order were created, and the pagans, who did not have the idea of creation, believed them to be engendered.

[417] Paganism had to be. Let us say there are some Mexicans or Peruvians1 imbued with the Christian religion who go a hundred years without books and preachers; they would soon be idolaters. For we are inclined to fix our ideas of greatness, superiority, wonder on some particular object; besides which, obsequiousness would bring about the same result.


[419] Notice that all countries that have been heavily populated are very unhealthy; thus, the territory of Rome has become very unhealthy, Egypt1 has become very unhealthy. Apparently men’s great projects, the ones which penetrate the earth—canals, cellars, underground shelters—take in water which stagnates there. The country is destroyed little by little, and the destruction is increased by the negligent maintenance of the old canals. Thus, Egypt has that plague every year.

[420] M. Pascal’s famous argument is very good for giving us fear, but not for giving us faith. Epicurus made gods, so as not to be treated like Socrates.1 He wanted, he said, to deliver men from the yoke of religion, but pagan religion was not a yoke.2

[421] Is it not true that the author of nature views differently Dionysius-the-Tyrant, who pillaged temples, and Antoninus and Trajan,1 those pious princes who were so zealous for paganism? Thus, if the Christian religion were false, it should still be protected, because we would please the divinity more than if we were to violate it.

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[422] Those who say there are no punishments or rewards in the afterlife are not saying it on behalf of the good, for they are depriving them of rewards.1 They are thus establishing their system on behalf of the bad, whom they are relieving of punishment. This argument, which Cardinal de Polignac put in his Lucrèce, would be stronger in the law of nature or in a religion that only recognized equity, than in a law which, acknowledging a revelation, damns those who do not believe, and in which Hell and Heaven are distributed between believers and nonbelievers.2

[423] In all nations, the first authors have always been much admired, because for a while, they were superior to all who were reading them.1

[424] Just as Tasso imitated Virgil and Virgil Homer, Homer may have imitated someone else.1 It is true that Antiquity is silent in this regard. Some have nonetheless said that he merely collected the myths of his time.

[425] Sheep do not cry when they are fleeced, because in their machinery, crying is not the expression of pain.

[426] Tranquil people who love peace never act in an affair—like, for example, that of the Constitution1—as effectively as those who love war. For they bring to it the tranquillity that has given them their character, whereas those who love war bring the vivacity that has given them that Edition: current; Page: [160] character. A man therefore who is only guided by reason is always cold compared with one who is led by zeal, and one man of faction will make more noise than a hundred prudent men. I will always remember a good one told by an Englishman {I think it was Lord Falkland},2 during the long dispute in the English Parliament under Charles I: namely, whether bishops should be abolished or not. Those defending the Church were prudent and moderate people who left when the dinner hour arrived; the others stayed behind. One man said that those who loved the bishops loved them less than their dinner, and those who hated them hated them more than the devil.

[427] An ass, pressed to flee the enemy, said: “I know what I can carry; I’m not going to be made to carry more.”

The ass, in dialogue with the horse, which wants to persuade him to come into the stable: “Does one baudoisine1 there?” he says. “Shut up!” says the horse, “the stableboy would take a fork.”

Those asses have often said some very good things [they’re folks with good sense].

[428] Great maxim for France to compel England always to have a land army. That costs her a lot of money, ties her up because of the distrust she has toward that army, and reduces proportionally the funds available for the navy.

[429] It seems to me that the places that have been very populous in the past and that no longer are, such as the Roman Campagna {and the Kingdom of Naples}, Egypt, have become unhealthy—unstable weather in the one, plague in the other.1

[430] No religious figures in public affairs! If they are good churchmen, they have a poor understanding of worldly affairs. If they understand worldly affairs, they are bad churchmen.1

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[431] In a letter, Saint Cyril speaks of the Ephesian people’s acclaim when they learned that the council had declared the Virgin to be mother of God.1 “All the people,” he says, “were at the gates. Everyone, upon seeing us, went out in front of us, thanked us, congratulated us, blessed us, . . .” The people are always delighted to enhance the cult and are always led toward these sorts of devotion, and if left alone, they would always go further.

[432] Cardinal de Polignac said that the only happy people are princes who die a violent death—they follow their fantasies, think about nothing. But prudent princes, who spend their life in foresight, live a long time and unhappily.

Mme de Montespan said that the King was always talking politics with her.1

[433] It is a surprising thing how all histories of the Orient always smack of servitude. When the old emperor of China became drunk, the man he had gotten drunk with was suddenly possessed of the thought that in his drunken state, the King had condemned him to death, which made him never get drunk again.

[434] Admirable idea of the Chinese, who compare God’s justice to a net so big that the fish that wander into it think they are free, but actually they are caught.1 Sinners, likewise, think they will not be punished by God; but they are in the net.

[435] When I act {in the ordinary actions of my life}, I always act from a motive that is efficacious, because I act; this does not eliminate my freedom, because I was able to not act. It is the same with works that need grace. I act in the same manner, I act freely, I act efficaciously, but with a grace—that is, by a motive that comes to me from the other world. For if I had had no knowledge of revealed truths, I would not have resolved to do good. {This is from Cardinal Polignac.}

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[436] Fr. Malebranche compares the God and man of the Thomists to a sculptor who has made statues that lower their heads when he pulls a little brass wire and commands them to lower their heads when he pulls the wire. When he has not pulled the wire, since they do not lower their heads, he whacks them with a sword—except for one, to display his goodness, which salutes him because he pulls the wire . . .

[437] It was enough to condemn Calvin because his principles destroy freedom, and Pelagius because his destroy grace, without going off to look for sufficient grace or congruent grace to explain why.1 It is enough to say: “It is certain from Scripture that God issues me some commandments. I am therefore free: for it would be ridiculous for him to issue me commandments if I were not free.” {Polignac}

[438] The Romans who built temples to patrician Modesty and plebeian Modesty could not imagine their wives’ modesty as a Goddess. They therefore were only honoring Providence insofar as it gives women the virtue of modesty.1 {Polignac}

[439] There are orders {of religious} that do penance; others that practice a trade.

[440] Happiness of the Romans, who never had but a single war, and whose enemies never formed a league, so they oppressed them one after the other. They became more proud as they became less successful. Thus, Tacitus says it was possible to prevail over them in a battle, but never in a war: “Facile superari posse praelio, bello numquam.1

[441] It seems to me that what made Rome populous in a neighborhood that had not been beforehand is that, upon the return of the Avignon Popes,1 they went and lodged at the Vatican, and not at the Lateran Palace.

[442] There is no profession that custom cannot bring into credit and encourage all manner of people to embrace. Witness that of the gladiators, Edition: current; Page: [163] who brought people down into the arena by the thousands, even senators, even emperors; witness Commodus, who called himself in an inscription Sovereign Prince of Gladiators, and who, say the authors, had killed ten thousand with his left hand. An infamous profession, set aside at first for criminals or slaves, then debtors, then citizens, then senators, emperors.1

[443] Constantine spoke at the Council of Nicaea for Jesus Christ’s divinity.1 That emperor was like the Jews, who wanted to have a king, as the Nations did;2 as for himself, he wanted to have a God, like the Nations. When it was a question of declaring whether the Virgin was mother of God, the people of Ephesus hastened to support this declaration; this brought him more pleasure. Divine truths have always encountered something like seeds in people’s minds that have made them germinate and led them to believe them.

[444] I wrote to a young man: “You are entering the world and I am leaving it. Everything gives you hope and me regret.”

[445] Why is it that most kings are devout?1 It is usually from a misunderstanding. Devotion allows them politics, and politics allows them all the vices: avarice, pride, thirst for others’ goods, ambition, vengeance. What does it cost them to be devout? They would be bloody fools to mess with Heaven over nothing, to vainly renounce the pleasure of hoping. Besides, they bring gravity to most of their actions. Now, to conduct oneself in a church with gravity, that is being devout. (Write a treatise on the vices of princes.)

[446] A civil history of the kingdom of France, as Giannone has written the Civil History of the Kingdom of Naples.1

[447] The Papal States would perish if they were not attached to an eternal asset, which cannot be used up, for whoever is sovereign pope is so only on borrowed authority, and those who have the properties will again only enjoy them on borrowed authority.

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[448] To respond to libertines who doubt the Gospels’ authenticity, I say: Origen must indeed have believed them true, since he castrated himself over a passage he read.1

[449] There are no people who are better orators for persuading us than those we esteem.

[450] [There are two or three arguments that corner atheists, to which it is impossible to respond well; but they make their best effort to elude them: (1) that of the pers . . .]

[451] I am not surprised to see the ambitious give themselves an air of modesty and renounce ambition as one would a shameful vice. Whoever revealed all his ambition would amaze all who would like to serve him. Besides, since no one is assured of success on the path of fortune, one prepares the expedient of making others believe one has disdained it.

[452] A young man1 who is incapable of either proving or destroying his religion by his reasoning takes on the air of ridiculing it. I say he takes on an air, because the ridicule seems to presuppose that he has reasoned, examined, judged; in a word, that he is sure of his success.

[453] Send a Jesuit and a Jacobin1 into a newly discovered realm: in a year, you will learn that the Jesuit is at Court, and the Jacobin with the rabble.

[454] All men are beasts; princes are unattached beasts. {Cher.}

[455] We private men are surprised at the ardor with which ministers seek out affairs, and the grandees the Court. We do not know the gratifications they taste. {Cher.}

[456] Women are often1 avaricious out of vanity, and to make others see that someone is spending money on them.

[457] Unfortunate people should be pitied, even those who have deserved it, even if only because they have deserved it.

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Misfortunes are new chains for well-made hearts.

[458] The heroism professed by Morality touches but few people. It is the heroism that destroys Morality that impresses us and makes us marvel.

[459] I knew an ecclesiastic who made himself esteemed because he was fat. He projected a serious air that was spread throughout all the dimensions of his body, and he spoke so little that it took him practically all day to utter three silly remarks.

[460] A thing is not just because it is the law, but it should be the law because it is just.1

[461] The most that can be said about an individual who does something impolite is that he does not know how to live, but a judge who lacks consideration can make himself fearsome, can raise doubts about his integrity and impartiality.

[462] I think we need to be zealous for others’ salvation, but this should not make us any less zealous for our own. Now, it is truer that murder, assassination, torture, and persecution are prohibited than that they are allowed for the conversion of others and the glory of Religion (which does not need glory).

[463] There is no State that is so dangerous, and that so threatens other States with conquest, as a State that is in civil war.1 This is because all the people—nobles, bourgeois, yeomen—become soldiers. Moreover, great men are made then because in the confusion, those who have merit come to the fore; whereas when the State is at peace, men are chosen, and chosen badly.

The Romans after the civil wars of Marius and Sulla, of Caesar and Pompey; the English after the civil wars under Cromwell; the French after the civil wars under Henry IV, after the civil wars under Louis XIII, after the civil wars under Louis XIV; the Germans against the Turks, after the civil wars in Germany; the Spanish under Philip V2 in Sicily, after the civil Edition: current; Page: [166] wars for the succession. {If, therefore, the State is not destroyed, which easily happens, it becomes stronger. It is destroyed by partition or by a neighbor’s usurpation.}

[464] It is the desire to please that gives cohesion to society, and such has been the good fortune of the human species that this self-love, which should have dissolved society, instead fortifies it and renders it unshakeable.

[465] With regard to fashions, reasonable people should be the last to change, but they should not keep others waiting.

[466] Nations that live in slavery, where men are like beasts, whose lot is only obedience and instinct.

[467] envy. Wherever I find it, I take pleasure in driving it to despair. In the presence of an envious man, I always praise those who make him turn green . . . What baseness to feel deflated by the happiness of others and to be burdened by their good fortune!

[468] Fear of the punishments of the afterlife is not as constraining a motive as fear of the punishments of this life, because men are impressed by evils not in proportion to their size, but in proportion to how far removed they are in time, so that a small present pleasure affects us more than a large distant pain. Witness women, who do not make a big deal of the pains of childbirth at the moment they are going about causing them, because childbirth is a distant thing, {Pleasure acts nearby; pain affects at a distance.} so it is a very fortuitous part of nature that so much time is needed from conception to childbirth. Now those who see the evils as closely as the pleasure, such as those who are afraid of venereal diseases, usually abstain from the pleasure.

Mohammed offers two motives for observing the Law: fear of the pains of this life, and of the other.

[469] Aristotle says that vengeance is a just thing, founded on this principle: that it is necessary to render each his due.1

And this is the only means nature has given us of arresting the evil inclinations of others; it is the sole coercive power that we had in that state of nature. {Each person had a magistracy that he exercised out of vengeance.}

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Thus, Aristotle would have reasoned well if he had not spoken of the civil state. Since vengeance needs measures, and since an offended heart or a man in a state of passion is scarcely in a position to see justly the punishment that the offender merits, the civil state has seen the establishment of men who have taken on themselves all the passions of others, and have exercised their rights in cold blood.

If the magistrates do not avenge you, you must not on that account take revenge yourself, because it is assumed they think you ought not to take revenge.

Thus, when the Christian religion prohibited vengeance, it did nothing more than maintain the tribunals’ power. But if there were no laws, vengeance would be permitted—not the feeling that makes taking an eye for an eye enjoyable, but an exercise of justice and punishment.

Thus, in countries where there are no tribunals for women, children, slaves, or subjects, private individuals exercise their vengeance like magistrates.

And there are even occasions when pardoning is contrary to duty. Thus, the law says to prosecute the father’s assassin. It even obliges disinherited children and {encourages} slaves to do this.

It is the same for the father who does not pardon a son who has merited disinheritance. The father is acting like a judge.

[470] ecclesiastical jurisdiction. I am not obsessed about the privileges of the ecclesiastics,1 but I would like injustices against them to be avoided. I would prefer that the boundaries of their jurisdiction be marked out once and for all, but that they be reciprocal, and that Févret’s hypotheses2 and the private decrees not have legal force against them. Otherwise, this jurisdiction is sure to be wiped out, since new decrees are constantly chipping away at it. And it is certain that, if discernment is not lacking in the judges, it will at least be lacking in the compilers. The poor Church-court judge3 almost never knows where to turn; whatever side he pronounces on, there is an abuse.

The Courts,4 which are also absorbing seigneurial justice, have not Edition: current; Page: [168] wanted an exact definition of royal cases. And at the time of the new ordinance,5 the functionaries had this tag line added to the enumeration of royal cases: “those which royal judges have, from all time, judged,” and were not ashamed {virtually} to acknowledge that this was in order to plunder the other judges more easily.

[471] By the fanciful distinction between the tithe’s pétitoire and its possessoire, ecclesiastics have entirely lost the understanding of this matter.1

[472] Against the writers of anonymous letters1 (such as Father Tournemine, who wrote to Cardinal Fleury against me when I was nominated to the French Academy),2 I say, “The Tartars are obliged to put their names on their arrows, so it is known whom the shot is coming from.”

In the siege of a city, Philip of Macedon was hit by an arrow. On the arrow, it read: “Aster sends this mortal shaft to Philip.”3

[473] I said: “It is good fortune to be of great birth; it is not ill fortune to be of mediocre birth; merit is consolation for everything.”

[474] The French labor to amass and spend suddenly. “It seems,” I said, “that they have one greedy hand and the other prodigal.” {They are at the same time Milanese and Florentines.}1

[475] I do not espouse opinions, except those in Euclid’s books.1

[476] dethronement. A sin which, as soon as it is committed, becomes a just matter.

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[477] I heard someone say to Cardinal Imperiali:1 “There is no man that Fortune does not come to visit once in his life. But when she finds that he is not ready to receive her, she enters by the door and goes out the window.”

[478] Regarding the horrors and tyrannies of the Turks, the Persians, and the Roman Emperors,1 I said it is remarkable that the Christian religion, which was created only to make us happy in the next life, also makes us happy in this one. A king is no longer afraid that his brother will steal his crown; the brother does not even think about it. This arises from the fact that subjects in general have become more obedient and princes less cruel.

[479] We trust in an honorable man as we trust in a rich banker.

[480] “There is in Europe,” I said, “too much intolerance and too much tolerance: Spain, England.”

[481] We argue about dogma but do not practice morality. That is because it is difficult to practice morality, but very easy to argue about dogma.

[482] The Jesuits, I am afraid of them. It is a corps that envelops me and finds me everywhere. If I offend a great lord, I leave and do not encounter him anymore. But the Jesuits are like the intimate circle of the Inquisition.1

The princes who make them their confessors do very badly. For this spreads a spirit of servitude throughout the nation and makes me honor a Jesuit priest in the provinces as a courtier honors the confessor.

Moreover, since corps have particular interests, confession—where they always treat matters between the Prince and themselves—provides them the expedient of being secret informers and ruining whomever they want, without his being able to defend himself.

[483] I had written a work entitled History of Jealousy; I have changed it into another: Reflections on Jealousy.1

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Here are the fragments that did not make it into the new project:

[484] I am very pleased, my dear***, to dedicate this little work to you, so that if chance should make it pass into posterity, it will be the eternal monument of a friendship that is no less precious to me than glory.1

[485] In honor of Isis, Egyptian wives had all the authority in the family,1 the public positions, the external affairs; the husband had the domestic details.2

In the marriage agreement, the husband promised to be submissive to his wife.

In the fragments of Nymphodorus3 (Rerum Barbar., book XIII), we find that Sesostris introduced this custom to demoralize the Egyptians. But those are not the real characteristics of that prince, who exuded only war and granted the soldiers so many privileges.

[486] The Scythians1 were a people composed of many others; they were rather a name for barbarism than for a nation.

[487] It could well be that the cult of Semiramis was the reason for the obscurity of the effeminate reigns that followed.1 History has had nothing to say about them. Sardanapalus’s end made people speak of his life.2 That life seems to have been entirely dedicated to the goddess. Arbaces the Mede,3 the only one who saw him, found him amidst his wives, dressed like them (a religious act),4 distributing wool to them, and performing his task as they were.

[488] History makes mention of four colonies that came from Egypt Edition: current; Page: [171] to set up in Greece. One, led by Danaüs, founded the kingdom of Argos. Another, mingling Egyptian and Phoenician peoples, had Cadmus as its head, who, originally from Egyptian Thebes, founded Boeotian Thebes. Cecrops and Erechtheus, who were both kings of Athens, were the leaders of two others.1 Thus, the Egyptians said that the political governance of Athens was similar to theirs.

[489] Before Cecrops, marriages were unknown among the Athenians. That prince, who reduced to formalities what nature alone had regulated before him, wanted men to marry only one woman. Those who have said that Socrates had two have been criticized by sensible authors.

[490] The Greek people were a composite of Egyptians, Phoenicians, and earth children, that is, of men who had escaped the great catastrophe that afflicted Greece—whether they had been born there, or came from the North.

[491] Solon raised a temple to a common Venus, which he did not allow to run short of priestesses.1 When the Greeks wanted to implore Venus for protection, they did so through the agency of the courtesans. During the Persian war, the Corinthian courtesans assembled and prayed for the salvation of Greece. When the People asked her for some indulgence, they immediately promised to bring some new courtesans into her temple.

Thus, it should not be surprising that those sorts of women were so highly honored among the Greeks. They played a role in the world; they had gods and altars.

It could be said of them what a Roman orator said about a Vestal: “You should not disdain the one who sways the gods for you, who preserves the eternal flame and applies herself night and day for the Empire’s salvation.”

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Thus, some great figures2 have employed their pen in writing about the lives of Athenian courtesans—their character, that of their lovers, their repartee, the features of their minds and their faces, the luster and decline of a profession that is never the last to be embraced.

[492] The Lydians introduced the practice of women’s eunuchism.1 History notes that this was not out of jealousy, but so that the serving women might be fresher and keep their youth longer.

It is not well known whether the operation was the same as is still done in some countries, or whether it was a veritable extirpation. What argues for the latter opinion is the motive for this practice. There are two opposite causes that spoil women’s beauty: pregnancies and weary virginity. Now it is only a complete extirpation that can simultaneously remedy both of these disadvantages.

[493] Candaulus was not subject to that jealousy that makes one fear all the witnesses to one’s happiness.1 Intoxicated by the Queen’s charms, he thought he would enjoy them less if someone else did not envy them.

[494] The Lydian kings down to Gyges were of the Heraclid race.1

[495] The Greek colonies submitted to Croesus, and contested their liberty only when the Persians, a barbarous people, wanted to become their masters.1

History says there was no difference between Lydian and Greek customs, except that {all} the Lydian girls prostituted themselves, a thing the Greek girls did not do.

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In Lydia, there was an immense work made almost wholly by the hands and the money of these girls.

[496] The peoples of Africa bordering upon Egypt had the same customs as the Egyptians.1

The Greeks built Cyrene2 in Libya.

[497] When Dido1 had arrived in Cyprus, the grand-priest of the island joined her, on condition that he have the same dignity. Since they lacked women, they took some of those girls who were prostituting themselves on the beach in honor of Venus. This should not have shocked them, since the women of their country prostituted themselves in honor of the Syrian goddess. {This clearly proves that syphilis was unknown.}

[498] As for the other coastal peoples, the authors spoke of the Nazamons, among whom the husband carried home on his wedding day all the gifts that his wife had received from her lovers, and the Gyndames, whose women wore fringes around themselves where they made knots to indicate their love affairs; those most heavily loaded with these knots boasted of having a greater share of public esteem.

As for the peoples of the interior, they were so barbarous that they had no laws. Men but not citizens, they breathed the air but were not alive.1 Most of them did not know marriage, and found children only by resemblance.

[499] Besides the good treatment that the Romans were obliged to accord the Sabine women1 whom they had abducted, the Roman women, who had manifested zeal for the public good in difficult times, received new marks of esteem.

Such an engaging sex is always picking up new advantages. They rendered their husbands less hard to please every day and made them agree to Edition: current; Page: [174] things to which other peoples were not accustomed. An old censor waxed indignant at seeing a people who commanded all men being entirely dominated by women.

Jealousy was so little known among the Romans that the surviving authors hardly ever speak of this passion. And the abuse went so far that the public authority was obliged to punish husbands for their excessive indulgence toward their wives. And the Roman Emperors, in their continual abuse of power, disdained to make use of it to keep their own wives within the bounds of fidelity. They were almost always content to repudiate them, and often they pushed patience further. We see a long train of empresses who dishonor the imperial bed in a reprehensible manner; several were even public courtesans such as Messalina, Claudius’s wife, and Julia, Severus’s wife.2 The name of Julia became proverbial as a name for debauchery and prostitution.

It is not that attempts were not frequently made to correct the dissipation, especially when the Republic was governed by prudent people. Under Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, laws were made which, on the pretext of maintaining the Roman matron’s dignity, were a bit inhibiting.3 But when the mores and character of a nation are fixed at a certain point, what is necessary to change them is not laws but a revolution.4

It is in vain that Livia seeks to correct the mores of her age by means of her own;5 Rome sees only Julia’s debaucheries, and that is the sole example she follows.

When Caesar’s law punished matrons’ adultery, they eluded the punishment by making themselves public courtesans. But Tiberius’s law chased them from this shameful shelter.

But to what lengths would they not carry their impudence? Not only did they attend public spectacles,6 even those where naked men were seen in combat;7 they dared to engage in combat themselves, and go into the arena with the athletes and gladiators. They even appeared all naked in Edition: current; Page: [175] the public baths, and soon were reduced to being ashamed of covering themselves up. When some of them did so, you can see in the poets what humiliating conclusions were drawn from that modesty.

Trajan was obliged to pass a law prohibiting them from bathing with men. He obliged them in spite of themselves to hide those charms which, if modesty would not keep them secret, prudence alone would conceal from the eyes, the better to reveal them to the imagination.

[500] At the time when the Roman Empire was in its grandeur, there emerged another destined to mortify it: the Parthians. {They made Crassus perish and covered Marc Antony with shame; they insulted Tiberius.1 In short, the Carthaginians, Mithridates, and they themselves were the Romans’ only real enemies.}2

[501] If someone wanted to marry a Sace girl, he was obliged to engage her in combat, and if he was defeated, she carried him off as a prisoner.

[502] christian religion. Paganism exhausted itself in vain trying to destroy it. Superior to princely talent, to magistrates’ severity, to priestly jealousy, to popular superstition, it made itself dominant.

[503] The Christian prophets, who were put on display in humiliation, established equality everywhere. Mohammed, who lived in glory, established subordination everywhere.

Once Mohammed’s religion was carried to Asia, Africa, and Europe, the prisons were created. Half the world disappeared; all you saw anymore was iron bars and bolts. Everything in the world was covered in black, and the fair sex, buried along with its charms, everywhere wept for its liberty.

[504] To assure themselves of their wives, the Italians in the past found means that had eluded the Asiatic imagination: they armed them with spikes and grates and did with them what those ancient poets used to do who, to make their heroes more courageous, made them invulnerable.

[505] Eunuchs are not permitted to approach women—unless, in addition to the capacity to procreate, they have also been denied even its appearance. No foothold is afforded to an imagination that is always straining. There are even countries where the wretches fabricated in this way still cause anxiety. No scalpel can bring reassurance. Four eunuchs carry in a Edition: current; Page: [176] well-closed sedan the queen of Tonkin, and she is seen only by her ladies-in-waiting and her king.

[506] We have a certain fear of ridicule which the jokers of all nations have heaped onto the accidents of marriage. Everyone is always happy to bring up a passion which, when evoked in one man, has its effect on all others.1

[507] Speak about vengeance, and you will touch only the one who is steeped in an affront he has received. Everyone else will be like ice. But speak about love, and you will find all hearts open and all ears attentive.

[508] Religion has almost always decided the rights of the two sexes and the fate of marriages, and modesty has quite naturally made religion get involved in these things.1 Since certain causes and certain acts have been hidden, people have been inclined to regard them as impure and illicit; since they were necessary, however, religion had to be called in to legitimize them in one case and reprove of them in another.

[509] Love wants to receive as much as it gives; it is the most personal of all interests. It is there that one compares, that one counts, that vanity mistrusts and is never adequately reassured.

For being loved, love gives us a title that our vanity wants to enforce with rigor, and the least lovable men always label as ingratitude one’s indifference toward their passion. If, in the uncertainty or fear of being un-loved, we come to suspect someone of being loved, we feel a pain called jealousy. It is much more natural for us to relate the contempt that one shows toward us to the injustice of a rival than to our own defects. For our vanity always serves well enough to make us believe that we would have been loved if another had not acted against us. We hate a man who takes what we believe is our due; in love, we imagine that the claim alone confers a legitimate title.

[510–513] fragments that did not make it into my work on “criticism.”1

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[510] Works lacking in talent prove only the memory or patience of the author.

[511] Critics have the advantage of choosing their enemy, attacking the weak point, ignoring the strong, and, through contradiction, making at least problematic what the other had advanced as certain. [The works of our finest talents are like the children of the Amazons, destined to be maimed suddenly after their birth.]1

They are like bad generals who, unable to conquer a country, poison the waters.

[512] The joke that is not grasped rebounds onto the one who tells it.1

[513] There is a prevailing disgust for new works, which comes from the fact that, for most people, there are already only too many good works; they are stocked up. There is so little reading that in this area, receipts are well above expenses.

[514] In England, there is plenty of useless money.

[515] The epoch of the Reformation is put down to doctor Luther, but its coming was inevitable. If it had not been Luther, it would have been another. The sciences and letters brought from Greece had already opened eyes about abuses.1 Such a cause had to produce some effect. Proof of this: the Councils of Constance and of Basel had introduced a sort of reformation.2

[516] In a short life of St. Giovanni Nepomuceno,1 written in a blue book,2 it is said that when a woman had scorned that saint’s cult, he took his revenge against her in that, in leaving the Church, a wind arose that affected only that lady, and the wind lifted her skirts so that it revealed her a——to the whole assembly.

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[517] to sarrau of pichon.1 You are not, as you say, a simple farmer in the Republic of Sciences (observer), unless this is like bygone days, when kings were farmers and shepherds.

[518] A secretary of Prince Louis of Baden did not take money, but he sold lazy old saddle horses to all who needed him.1

[519] I said: “The Catholic Religion will destroy the Protestant Religion, and then the Catholics will become Protestants.”

[520] One must clearly distinguish when an author has meant to speak a truth,1 and when he has meant to utter a witticism. For example, when Saint Augustine said: “Qui te creavit sine te, non te salvabit sine te,2 it is clear that the author meant to create an antithesis.

[521] Princes must travel very young, so they can be teachable; but we must travel at a ripe age, so we can be in a better position to be instructed.

{Private individuals, just the reverse.}

[522] The Popes’ good fortune was that the Kingdom of Italy was attached to the Empire, and that the Emperors went to reside in the Kingdom of Germany. Thus, the Emperors being Germans, the Popes had the opportunity to take up the defense of Italy against the invasion of the Germans.1

[523] Since the Quadruple Alliance, the great European princes have acted like the Romans: they dispose of the small princely States from the standpoint of their interests, not justice.1

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[524–526] some fragments that did not make it into the “spanish library” article on princes.1

[524] An individual who respects the laws that threaten him can, without morality and as if in spite of himself, be a good citizen; but a prince without morality is always a monster.

[525] An individual criminal has this advantage over a prince who has performed a bad deed, that it took him a sort of courage to endanger himself by violating the laws that threatened him.

[526] The author says, “Such a prince had better hope that his subjects are more honorable than he is, for if that were not the case, his state would immediately be overturned.”

[527] Since, in England, the {income from} real estate depends on the number of sheep whose wool the farmer can sell, they see the prosperity of their commerce by the high price offered their lease.

[528] It is not surprising that London is growing: it is the capital of the three kingdoms and of all the English establishments in the two Indies.

[529] In his book On the Nature of the Gods, Cicero says, “If one saw houses in Brittany, would one not say that there were men? And if one found a clock, would one not say there were skilled workers there? Thus, when one sees this order in the world . . .”1 What is funny is that today, it is from that barbarous Brittany that the best watches in the world are coming. (Pembroke)2

[530] Holland is remarkable in having only a single specie for payment, fixed in trade, namely, silver specie. When you want gold, you go to the Jews, who speculate in it. Whereas in England, where the price of the guinea has been set at twenty-one shillings {in silver}, the guinea is worth more or less depending on whether the Spanish fleets arrive or not, so that a man is free to pay you in gold or silver, and always pays you in whatever is worth less. Idem, in France.1 But if you proceeded as in Holland, where Edition: current; Page: [180] you can only pay in silver, there would be no need to fix the proportion, because it would fix itself of its own accord. This was apparently Law’s idea in proscribing gold.2

[531] I would not want people to go preach to the Chinese; since it is necessary to make them see the falseness of their religion, they would be bad citizens before one could make them Christians.1

[532] The mourning rituals introduced in all nations make it quite clear that we always assume that men seek to make themselves loved.

[533] What an idea for a dying prince, to think that his misery is going to constitute the public felicity.

This idea brings tyrants such despair that many of them, in order to prevent the day of their death from being a day of joy, have decreed that a portion of their people be exterminated on that day, to prevent the rest from rejoicing.

[534] Generally, princes are badly raised because those who are entrusted with their education are themselves intoxicated by their grandeur. Thus, they make princes feel what they feel themselves. When one says to a prince that he should be humane, one proves it with the worst reason, namely, that it is useful to him to make himself loved. So if it happens, which is not rare, that they disdain a man enough not to take the trouble to please him, they are no longer humane. Thus, one must at the same time bring them back to the great principles of religion, society, natural equality, the accident of greatness, and the commitment they are engaged in to make men happy.

[535] It is good for you to know, O Princes, that in the conflicts that those who exercise your authority have with your subjects, they are usually wrong. Far from thinking of attacking those who have your power in their hands, the people—who are naturally timorous, and with reason—actually have trouble bringing themselves to complain.1

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[536] When a prince elevates some dishonorable man, he seems to be showing him to the people to encourage them to resemble him.

[537] Men’s corruption is such that it is prodigiously increased by the hope or fear one can imagine on the prince’s part. Thus, the condemnation of the criminal is not always proof of the crime of the accused, and in this respect, they cannot have their consciences at peace if they do not allow the justice of the established tribunals to act, without providing for special tribunals.

[538] The word justice is often quite equivocal. Louis XIII was given the name the Just because he witnessed with aplomb his minister’s acts of vengeance; he was severe, not just.1

[539] There is a kind of prince who would consider himself reduced to nothing if he did not have advisors around him deliberating at all times.

[540] M. Zamega1 asks if a prince should put his state affairs in the hands of those who govern his conscience. “No! No!” he says, “for those who have a worldly spirit are entirely incapable of governing his conscience, and those who do not have this spirit are incapable of governing his state.” He even says this would make his director of conscience useless, for he is put there to warn him about the mistakes he is making. But how will he warn him about those mistakes he would cause him to make? A prince is not all square with God by relying upon his director for the obligations God has imposed upon him. For he is not discharging his duties, and he is preventing the other from discharging his own. “In a word,” he says, “of all those who approach his person, the one who directs his conscience is the one who should have the most credit, and the one who should have the least.”

M. Zamega also wonders if the Prince should consult his director on the choice of persons that he should elevate to honors. He again answers more affirmatively than not. This can be subject to countless drawbacks. Since the choice of some necessarily entails the exclusion of others, and since you do not exclude anyone without giving the reason, it happens that each Edition: current; Page: [182] individual would be judged in a secret tribunal, without having any way of justifying himself.

He does not even believe that the Prince should bestow credit on those who are attached to a particular monastic body, and he gives very sensible reasons for this, including among others: this afflicts a nation and brings a spirit of servitude to it that is entirely contrary to the Prince’s interests. For just as whoever he seeks in a corporate body to vest his trust in is respected at Court, those who are from the same body are equally respected in town and country. Thus, since the lowest henchman from this body is an important figure, each one finds a thousand favorites hounding him instead of one, and all you see on all sides are masters.

The sovereign’s trust: The exercise of sovereign power must be communicated to as many people as necessary, but to as few as possible. Princely authority must be communicated to as many people as necessary, through the laws, but to as few as possible. The Prince must share it with those he has chosen,2 but in such a manner that it not pass into other hands.

[541] Someone was saying to me that despotic princes should be better because, since men belong to them, they should be afraid of losing them. I respond that the loss is trivial compared to the satisfaction of following his passions. Besides, the comforts of despotism make the Prince throw himself into pleasure, not governing but leaving all the governing to his ministers. But men do not belong to the minister.

[542] States are governed by five different things: religion, general government maxims, individual laws, mores, and manners.1 These things all have a mutual relationship with each other. If you change one, the others follow only slowly, which brings a kind of dissonance throughout.

[543] The Christian Religion weakened the Empire—first as not being tolerated, then as not being tolerant. When a state is plagued by religious disputes, it happens that the Prince’s providence is entirely occupied with these disputes and neglects the other less essential points. It happens1 that Edition: current; Page: [183] a great many people are disgusted by the government. Although the ill will of a sector of the citizenry appears impotent, because they do not make a flashy impact, they nonetheless have their silent effects, which occur in the shadows and over time; whence arise great revolutions. It happens that it is neither personal merit that garners offices nor incapacity that takes them away, but alien qualities such as the advantage of being from a certain faction or the misfortune of being from another one.2

[544] Who would have guessed that the Jesuits—so blackened with accusations against our kings, so often accused and even condemned—would come to govern France with a dominance unprecedented up to that time?

[545] Roman historians constantly observed that the Northern peoples, who were practically invincible in their own country, were very far from it in warmer countries.1 They never stop making this remark about the Gauls, the Germans, the Suebi, the Alamanni. This is why Marius only wanted to fight the Cimbrians and Teutons in the most scorching times and places. And on these matters, there are no historians who can help us form more solid conjectures, because the Romans were at war constantly for eight hundred years, successively with all the world’s peoples.

This has not stopped the Northern peoples from always subjugating the Southern peoples, because they are eternal, invincible peoples—mainly because they are not worth the trouble of being defeated—who take the Southern empires in the period of their decadence, and precipitate their fall.

[546] That Aristotle was Alexander’s tutor, or that Plato was at the court of Syracuse—this counts for nothing toward their glory. [Although in the past, this might perhaps have contributed more to their reputation than their philosophy.]1 Their philosophical reputations have absorbed everything. Who knows Rubens by his negotiations?2

[547] It is good that there are goods and evils in the world; otherwise, one would despair at quitting life.

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[548] Letter from Iris.

    • You have found a new means to be assured of my faithfulness;
    • I am no longer fit for anyone.
    • You have rendered me incapable of serving others’ pleasure.
    • Love, to give you a happy retreat,
    • Increased my capacity.
    • It says to you: Dear abbot, I know that I’m adding
    • To your immensity.
    • When you were quite ready to leave me, I fixed up
    • My coiffure and rose up.
    • Dear abbot, such long arms
    • Must vanquish the world.
    • Your stiffness enchains
    • Hearts eluding your charms.
    • I’ve felt just for you a marvelous flame.
    • I never have loved as I do at this hour.
    • Priapus himself was my last silly fling,
    • But you were my first real amour.
    • Your inflexible firmness
    • Makes great your domain
    • Your inflexible firmness
    • Makes it majestic.

[549] Nothing would be more capable of bringing the Cardinal1 that immortality which is so fitting for his name, his virtues, and his talent, than a reform in the laws of the realm.

By some imperceptible changes in jurisprudence, quite a few trials could be eliminated.

The lawyers, delighted to see the fate of all individuals in their hands, will not go along with such a plan; all experts2 are suspect.

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M. Law wanted to cut the number of judges, but it is the trials that need to be cut.

Just as the multiplicity of treaties among princes only multiplies the occasions and pretexts for war,3 so too, in civil life, the multiplicity of laws merely gives birth to disputes among individuals.

[550] It takes only one gallant woman1 in a family to make the family known and place it among the first rank of families.

There are some illustrious families that are scarcely known because for two or three centuries, there has not been one woman who has distinguished herself.

[551] Although the Christian religion has not produced many virtuous princes, it has nonetheless tempered human nature. It has done away with the Tiberiuses, the Caligulas, the Neros, the Domitians, the Commoduses, and the Heliogabaluses.1

[552] In commercial cities such as the imperial cities and the Dutch cities, people are accustomed to put a price on everything; they rent out all their actions; they traffic in the moral virtues; and the things demanded by humanity, they sell for money.1

[553] It seems to me that the origin of allodial freehold in France comes from the fact that there were many Gauls who could not be made serfs—whether because of their birth, their employment, their credit, or even the service they had rendered in disposing the people to submit to the conquerors.1 Nor did people want them to have fiefs,2 that is, to bear arms and serve in war, for every fief involved that. Thus, the allodial freehold was invented.

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[554] The inflated and pompous style is so far the easiest, that if you see a nation emerge from barbarism, such as the Portuguese for example, you will see that at first their style favors the sublime; afterward they descend to the naturalistic. The problem with the naturalistic is that it borders on the vulgar. But there is an enormous distance between the sublime and the naturalistic, and between the sublime and gibberish.1

[555] [Even if France had won the battle of Hochstädt, this would not have made her the universal monarchy.]1

[556] Whoever believes that he needs to be involved in important affairs to have some merit in the world, and that he no longer counts for anything when he can no longer hide behind the figure of a public man, has precious little vanity.

[557] France, which considered herself mistress of all Europe because she had had some great successes, initiated the War of the Spanish Succession.1 She was already exhausted. She fielded more troops than she could handle. She extended her forces, occupied Italy on one side, pressed into Spain and toward the Danube. The {old} troops, defeated or killed, were replaced by new troops, by peasants. People think these were French troops; not at all: these armies were different from the ones that prevailed in previous wars. Never full battalions, while the enemy’s always were. And impoverished officers, too. When the officers are rich, they can aid an ailing soldier; he has a wagon, a horse, he puts the ailing soldier in it. When an officer has been on foot, and upon his arrival you tell him to join an expedition, he has no more good will. The soldiers die off. The great secret is to have troops that do not perish. When a soldier is ailing, when he stays in a bush, he dies, he deserts. In the last war, the stronger enemy battalions always outflanked ours. If you had set out a rope for a tug-of-war, one enemy battalion would have pulled two of ours.

[558] By their enthusiasm alone, the Jews defended themselves better Edition: current; Page: [187] against the Romans than all the other peoples who were absorbed into that empire.

[559] The title Unitary, which the Caliphs gave their soldiers, did much to enhance their zeal.

[560] Enthusiasm is quite the thing! When the Jews were guided by it, they destroyed all the Syrian armies with a handful of men. But after such brilliant successes, when they had made themselves masters of Jerusalem1 and created a principality, giving sovereignty to Simon, then under his successor Hyrcanus, Antiochus Sidetes2 {much weaker than his predecessors} took hold of Judea, besieged Jerusalem, and was on the verge of taking it, so they were obliged to pay him tribute and give him five hundred talents. This is because by then, they were no longer defending anything but the prince’s interests.

[561] France’s strength consists in the fact that the capital is closest to the weakest border.1 That makes her pay more attention to that which demands more, and enables her to send aid there more easily.

[562] I say it is not true that, if we had won the battle of Hochstädt, we would have been masters of Europe.1 Our frontier was becoming too extended. The Germans would have awakened and, instead of selling some troops, would have made it their own affair.2

[563] lysimachus. As far as I have trusted the gods in my adversity, just so far do I fear them in my good fortune.1

[564] from a “dialogue between vulcan and venus.” I don’t Edition: current; Page: [188] know what pains me more, that I’m an a——or that everybody knows it. In truth, I think it’s that I’m an a——, because when I called the gods to see Mars and Venus in my grasp, I was charmed. They were quite confused . . . But I don’t want to let my wife go running around anymore in Cyprus, Paphos, Cythera . . . I have no use for that troop of Nymphs, Loves, and Graces, and that coquettish paraphernalia that’s always following them. Let the whole world talk as much as they want about Vulcan’s jealousy. Wouldn’t the whole world talk anyway about Venus’s betrayals? I feel good thinking about the disgraces I’m going to avoid. [But here Venus appears.—My wife, you know that duty binds us?


Yeah, so it binds us!


But I claim you are mine.


Hey, I’m here! Get drunk on my favors. Be my husband, since you want it so much. Levy Hymen’s taxes.


But you have no love for me.


Hey, if I have no love, then no need for you to stand on ceremony. That way, you’ll make up for my offense in the contempt I show you.


But I’ll know how to guide you.


The good favors I’ve always had for you, you owe them solely to your sweet humor and remarkable indulgence; otherwise, I’d have played many a dirty trick on you.


Oh, my wife! Let’s not start in on those discussions; let’s not talk about what’s been done.


Vulcan, I’ve always served you well; I’ve artfully managed the tenderness I’m capable of toward you. And if I’d wanted to listen to your sorrows, you’d have seemed to me a hundred times more lame and deformed than you are.]

[565] [Here is what religious zeal is based on: When I debate someone Edition: current; Page: [189] about an opinion, I feel I can be mistaken, as he can.1 Thus, I am not stubborn or extremely obstinate. But when I belong to a religion, by the very fact that I believe it to be good, I believe the others to be bad. I cannot bear that others do not see what I see clearly. And a man that you want to preach to, and who sees that you are wrong, is likewise indignant that you want to make him exchange the truth for an error.]

[566] Custom can bring credit to anything: at first, gladiators were slaves condemned to death, then they were knights, then senators, then women, then emperors.1


[568] Europe, which has created the commerce of the other three parts of the world, has been the tyrant of these other three parts. France, England, and Holland, which have created Europe’s commerce, have been the three tyrants of Europe and the world, but this will not last. That is why the three powers made such a prodigious effort in the last war.1

[569] {Almost} all princes treat public affairs like Caligula treated his. During the diplomatic mission of Philo,1 who was admitted into his audience, the Emperor—passing through a gallery, his rash young followers with him—said to Philo: “Is it true that you don’t eat pig?” “Ha ha ha!” said the Emperor in passing, and his courtiers likewise.


[571] It is said that to get the natives to fight, some missionaries told them that Jesus Christ was French, that the English had crucified him.

[572–580] useless fragments from the work on the romans.

[572] However much the Romans may have enjoyed recounting their Edition: current; Page: [190] war with the Gauls, they nonetheless made that shameful treaty whereby they engaged thenceforward to use iron only for tilling the soil. And Brennus, despite the defeat they talk about so much, nonetheless pursued his course and his robberies.1

[573] Philip and Perseus were frightened rather than defeated.1 The Egyptian kings appeared only as supplicants. All the other kings bowed down their heads. Those of Pergamum and Bithynia boasted of their servitude.

[574] There is no reason to have started a {kind of} new epoch at Nerva, and to have counted twelve Caesars up to him, as if they had formed but one family that became defunct with Domitian.1 It seems probable that, since Suetonius wrote the life of these twelve Caesars, and since we have from Tacitus practically nothing but the history of these twelve emperors, the custom arose of putting them together and of counting, so to speak, a new dynasty with Nerva.

[575] The ancients, who had a religion that made them worship the ancient heroes as gods who had come to reveal themselves to men, had very mistaken ideas about genuine glory and virtue. Since Hercules and Theseus and others had been placed in the ranks of the gods because of their military deeds, this caused those who imitated them to be regarded as virtuous men, of a nature more excellent than other men.

Alexander was being perfectly logical in his vanity when he called himself son of Jupiter, like Hercules and Bacchus. He did not believe that, having done the same things they did, he was merely a man for having done them after they did. Instead, it was supposed to be said that there was a time when Hercules and Bacchus were merely Alexanders, or that Alexander was another Hercules and Bacchus.

Thus, men conquered without motive, without utility. They laid waste the earth to exercise their virtue and show the excellence of their being. Since we have begun to weigh the value of things a little better, heroes have been covered in ridicule, so much so that whoever wanted to defend them would be even a thousand times more ridiculous.

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[576] marcus aurelius.1 Never has a philosopher better conveyed to men the gratifications of virtue and the dignity of their being. The heart is touched, the soul enlarged, the mind is elevated.

[577] Liberty is obtained only by brilliant strokes, but it is lost by an imperceptible force.1

[578] [The truth of the matter is that the king of England is more absolute than . . .]1

[579] Bad territories are generally free; this is because they do not provide the prince enough to enable him to become their master.1

[580] Perseus was a man in whose hands a great enterprise could never succeed. He had a stupid avarice that made him view the preservation of his treasures as independent from that of his realm. For him, whatever might cost him money was not a means of defending himself. As soon as he enjoyed the least success, he deceived his allies. At the least reversal, he fell into a consternation that caused him to lose his sense. All he had to do was keep the routes into Macedonia closed; in his panic, he opened them. In a word, this prince—who was always occupied in discussing petty interests, who regarded cunning as the sole royal virtue—loved great affairs with a total incapacity to succeed in them.

If he had had some personal qualities, he was in circumstances where the Greek peoples were beginning to see that the Romans were talking to them about liberty only to become their masters. The Rhodians were no longer willing to act except as mediators.

[581] To indicate a great deception, the English say: “That is Jesuitically false, jesuiticaly false.”1

[582] The old men who have studied in their youth need only to remember, not learn. That is very fortunate!

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[583] In Burnet’s History, I found that Henry VIII, in a law he passed, ordered all his subjects to believe that . . .1 Nero’s life does not reveal a tyrant as cruel as that of Henry VIII. [In that entire reign, too, not one subject is seen performing a noble deed.] Under the forms of justice, the people were governed in the most unjust fashion.

[584] I think it was in Charles II’s time that a man was brought to trial for saying that the king of England does not cure those with scrofula.1

[585] These two lines were written for Conti;1 I apply them to Montaigne:

  • His fancy and his judgment such;
  • Each to the other seems too much.2

[586] It seems to me that the Spanish and Italian ecclesiastics who build up the ignorance of the lay people are like the Tartars who gouge out the eyes of their slaves so they can better churn their milk.1

[587] Take note that most things that give us pleasure are unreasonable.

[588] A modesty capital yields a very large interest.

[589] I said: “Even though the Parlements of France do not have much authority, this does not keep them from doing good.1 Neither the ministry nor the prince want to be disapproved by them, because they are respected. Kings are like the Ocean,2 whose impetuosity is often curbed, sometimes by the grasses, sometimes by the stones.”

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[590] Most princes, all things considered, are more honorable men than we are.1 Perhaps in the sphere entrusted to us we abuse power more than they do. There is scarcely a single one of them who does not want to be loved, but they cannot {easily} succeed.

[591] There is no nation that needs religion more than the English;1 whoever is not afraid of being hanged has to be afraid of being damned.

[592] In Holland every {service} is for sale.1 I said: “A Dutchman can die at the age of eighty without ever doing a good deed.”

[593] I said: “There are no petty sums when it comes to avarice. Didn’t {the Duke of} Marlborough ask for a shilling he had won, to pay (so he said) his porters, and then go off on foot? Pultney was a witness.1 In the end, he complained even about his avarice.”

[594] Devotion is a belief that one is worth more than another person.1

[595] I said: “I wish to have simple manners, to receive as few services as I can and make as much of them as possible.”

[596] I said: “Despotic government constrains the talents of subjects and great men, just as the power1 of men constrains the talents of women.”

[597] In a well-ordered monarchy, the subjects are like fish1 in a big net: they think they are free, and yet they are caught.

[598] I said that someone ought to write a Byzantine history, instead of the collection of so many volumes in-folio of detestable authors that we have on it.1

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[599] Here are the verses composed in Moscow on the death of Peter II.

  • Clauditur in Jano sic vita janua Petro.
  • Mors aperit limen, quando paratur hymen.1

You see that rhymed verse is always found when people are beginning to emerge from the earliest barbarism.

[600] The reason why fools succeed {usually} in their enterprises is that, since they never know or see when they are being importunate, they never stop. Now, there is no man foolish enough not to know how to say: “Give me that.”

[601] [In ordinary debates, since each man feels he might be mistaken, stubbornness and obstinacy are not extreme. But in religious ones, since it is in the nature of the subject that everyone is sure that his is true and others’ are false, he is indignant at all those who, instead of changing themselves, are bent on making him change.]1

[602] In the earliest times, heretic merely meant whoever had a private, particular opinion. But in the bitterness of debate, the word heretic signified all the most horrible things in the world and the most monstrous things in hell. But with the establishment of Lutheranism and Calvinism, since these religions have been tolerated in some countries and have been tolerant in others, men have been content to hate each other a great deal, without hating each other to the point of madness.1

[603] Since a particular form of government gives a certain orientation, a certain disposition to minds, you change the former without the latter following you, and you combine the new government with the old manner of thinking, which produces very bad effects.

[604] Tigranes, King of Armenia, as weak as he was presumptuous.1 Edition: current; Page: [195] He had himself served by kings because he was not merely a man. He undertook the war against the Romans, and he did not even have the sense to worry that he might not win. He put to death anyone who came to tell him that the Romans dared to advance. A single day—what am I saying? one moment—defeated him, and his loss of heart completed his ruin.

[605] The Romans were thinking they were in a state of grandeur where they no longer had anything to hope or fear, when they now saw themselves in danger of perishing. The Cimbri and the Teutons appeared in an instant—unknown enemies who astonished by their number, their ferocity, their war cries; who, like Hannibal, attacked Rome in Italy; and who came to destroy or be destroyed. Marius had the good fortune to exterminate them, delaying by several centuries the great revolution that the nations of the North were to bring about.1

[606] [The constant disputes1 over the primacy of the patriarchate completely indisposed the Popes against the Greek emperors. And Charlemagne—who {had just founded a new empire, and} had become a neighbor in Italy to the Eastern Emperor—seeing that he could not fail to become embroiled with a prince who would be equally jealous of his dignity and his power, thought he could do no better than to put the Pope, the Greeks’ irreconcilable enemy, between the two of them.2 Thus, he gave him some lands that might put him in a position to attack and defend himself. But in the event, this barrier was just as fatal to the empire he had just founded.

{False notion: the schism only arose after Charlemagne.}]

[607] Plutarch always charms {me}; he has a way of connecting circumstances to persons that always gives pleasure. In the Life of Brutus, when he describes the accidents that befell the conspirators, the objects of their fright at the moment of execution, one pities the poor conspirators.1 Then one pities Caesar.

{At first, one trembles for the conspirators; then one trembles for Caesar.}

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[608] I said: “One proof of men’s inconstancy is the institution of marriage that had to be set up.”1

[609] I said: “I speak of the different peoples of Europe as I speak of the different peoples of Madagascar.”

[610] {In The Princes,}1 I said of kings:

“Love for the successor is nothing else but hatred of the predecessor.”

[611] The Spanish ought to have pulled out as many Indians for Spain as they sent Spaniards to the Indies.1

[612] For all their vanity, the disproportions among men are quite meager. Some have gout, others the stone. Some are dying, the others are going to die. They have the same soul for eternity, and these are only different for a short while—that is, for as long as they are joined to a body.1

[613] It seems that plant seeds are analogous to animal eggs: their seminal spirit is in the earth. It is uncertain whether the virgin lands that produce plants have the seminal spirit within them, or whether the air is filled with it.1

[614] Never has a prince done harsher penance for his vices than Henry III.1

[615] catherine de medici.1 She was always surrounded by astrologers, soothsayers, and all those sorts of people who [only ever] follow weak souls.

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[616] [duke of guise’s assassination. Whatever the circumstances the King found himself in, it is impossible to approve of what he did. One must either condemn that act or, for the sake of virtue’s honor, withhold judgment. But as for Loignac and his Forty-Five, they will be covered with eternal infamy.]1

[617] Philip II’s desire to see his daughter on the French throne, and Louis XIV’s to see his grandson on the Spanish throne, equally weakened their respective powers.1

[618] Never did the gates of Hell open more widely than when the most wicked of men was seen on the Holy See, a thing less attributable to the perversity of those who elected him than to a secret judgment of God upon the faithful (Alexander VI).1

[619] chancellor de l’hôpital.1 His death can be ranked as a public calamity.

[620] The King of Spain was Catholic in good faith, that is, with a religiosity that well accommodated his ambition.

[621] Catherine1 {a woman in the study as in the ruelles2} brought together the old Huguenots and many Catholics, and presumed through a declamation by Pibrac,3 drawn from the examples of the Persians, Turks, and Muscovites, to demonstrate submission—examples, in my opinion, quite incapable of seducing men who have arms at hand. It is like that proconsul who brought all the philosophers to the square in Athens to make them agree.

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[622] Catherine, woman who was the comet of France. Fortunate France, if that marriage had merely degraded the majesty of her kings!

[623] Sixtus V1 had made the greatest fortune that even a monk born to thirst for that condition could make. He was among those that Fortune sometimes elevates to inflame the hopes of those who worship her. Few popes who preceded him and none who have followed him have brought pride in supreme rank any further. In the disorder and confusion of things, he dared to see that religion had to be restored, but the Spanish—who were protecting it—abased.

[624] One must choose as ministers those who have the most public esteem; then, one no longer stands surety for one’s choice.

[625] Jacobites, ridiculed at present in England.1 That is because the doctrine of passive obedience has become so. In fact, it is unimaginable that it had so much credit. But what can’t the clergy cause to be persuasive and supported?

[626] It’s a cruel business, the history of Henry VIII. Not an honorable man in his entire reign. {Perhaps Cranmer and certainly More must be excepted.}1 Here is where we see that tyrants who mean to use the laws are as tyrannical as those who trample on them. That king had his parliament do things that he would never have dared undertake himself. What laws he had passed—a law that obliged a girl whom a king would marry to declare it if she was not a virgin, on penalty of treason. Idem, for mothers and relatives {who knew about it} to make a similar declaration, on pain of misprision and treason.2 No one dared to inform him of his impending death, for fear of being punished by the statute passed against those predicting the king’s death—which had become treason.3

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In 1539 under that reign, there began to be trials—and condemnations—without hearings. Perhaps this originated in more barbarous times, like (I believe) the bills of attainder.

[627] The French lords did not usurp royal authority; they could not usurp from the kings what the kings did not have. They merely continued certain offices in their families, as would happen in Poland if the palatinates became hereditary; the king would lose no other right than that of naming the palatine. As for the fiefs, they belonged to them under the conditions that the laws established, that is, as long as they could perform the service.1

[628] When you are prodigal with honors, you gain nothing,1 because all you do is ensure that a greater number of men are worthy of them, so that the more you reward people, the more it happens that others deserve to be rewarded. Five or six other persons are worthy of an honor you have granted to two or three; five or six hundred are worthy of an honor you have granted to a hundred, and so forth.

[629] The religion that condemned a man for going hunting would make hunters who would otherwise have been honorable men no longer take the trouble to be.

[630] The monarch of a large empire is a prince who has his ready cash three hundred leagues from him.1

[631] In love affairs, I have always thought that he who was the most gullible1 plays the finest role.

[632] {In Rome, I said to} Cardinal Alberoni {that he} had restored Spain with these two words: Yes and no.1 When he had uttered one of these words, and he would utter them up front, they were irrevocable. {There was} no more slowness.

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[633] In most authors, I see the writing man; in Montaigne, the thinking man.

[634] Though one should love one’s Country, it is as ridiculous to talk about it with prejudice as about one’s wife, one’s birth, or one’s property. How foolish vanity is everywhere!1

[635] The slow passions do not reason anymore than the raging ones. Does avarice calculate? Examples: the King of Prussia,1 Louis XIII, Lord Marlborough.

[636] Avarice grows stronger with age. {This is because we always want to enjoy.} Now, in youth we can enjoy by dissipating, but in old age, we can enjoy only by preserving.

[637] Expense is a comparison between the money we spend (or the price of what we would like to imagine having) {for our pleasure} and the thing we are spending on. Now in old age, few things bring us pleasure by themselves.

[638] In poor nations, the poorest are the most powerful. In rich nations, the richest are the most powerful.

[639] It is no longer possible today for a small power to stop a large one; States are more disproportioned than they were in the past.1 In most of the little republics of Greece and Italy, or rather of Europe in the past, there was a division of land: each citizen, equally rich, had an equal and dominant interest in defending his Country, and his life was a small matter when he compared it with the loss of his liberty, his family, and his possessions. That is what made an entire nation [of soldiers] fit for war, as well as a disciplined army.

But when the division was no longer equal, the number of citizens fell immediately; a twentieth or a thirtieth of the people had everything, and the rest nothing. Whence the arts, as much to satisfy the luxury of the rich as to be a situation for maintaining the poor. Whence two things: bad soldiers (for artisans do not have a Country, properly speaking, but enjoy Edition: current; Page: [201] their industry everywhere, since they have hands everywhere); and again, few soldiers (for the yield from these landed estates, which had fed only soldiers, must also feed the entire retinue of the rich and a certain number of artisans, without which the State would perish). And it is something experienced [by us] today that a State that has a million subjects can only maintain ten thousand by vexing the people a great deal. In Lacedemon, Lycurgus had established——portions,2 from which he drew as many citizens. The law having allowed purchase, there were no more than seven hundred citizens. See Plutarch, Life of Cleomenes.3

[640] fragments that did not make it into the “letters from kanti.”1

Power does not belong to me: I have only its use, and only for a moment.2

If any being could abuse its power, it would be heaven, which, being eternal, sees all creatures pass before it. But it conducts itself with as much order and regularity as if its power were dependent.

Show my justice only with my mercy. Do as heaven does, which unleashes its thunder on one criminal only to alert many.

[641] history of charles xii.1 There is an admirable fragment, written as vividly as anything in there, namely, Schulenburg’s retreat.2 Sometimes the author lacks sense, as when he says that Patkul was surprised when he was informed that he was going to be put on the wheel—this man who had been courageous in battle.3 As if death and the manner of death were not two different things.

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[642] When, in a kingdom, there is more advantage in paying one’s social respects than in doing one’s duty, all is lost.

[643] torture. Each province1 has established special torments for torture, and it is a painful spectacle to run through one’s mind the fecundity of inventions in this regard, most of them absurd.2 In some places, a criminal is stretched out on a wheel, as Procrustes used to do.3 It was established that there would be twelve turns for ordinary torture, twenty-four for the extraordinary. It is easy to see that they wanted to double the punishment, but they have more than quadrupled it, since the thirteenth turn was doubtless the cruellest.

I have noticed that nine out of ten persons condemned to torture are made to undergo it. If so many innocents have been condemned to such a great punishment, what cruelty! If so many criminals have escaped death, what injustice!

But, someone will say, a practice authorized by so many laws cannot be rejected. But by the same reasoning, trial by hot iron, by cold water, by duels ought not to have been abolished, nor the absurd and infamous practice of trying married couples for their sexual potency. All thin people or people who have lungs made in such a way as to keep them afloat should also be punished as witches.

Menochius (book 1, question 89) treats the indications for torture.4 He has some absurd ones, such as those derived from bad physiognomy, ex nomine turpi,5 from the fact that the accused has made the blood of a cadaver flow.

Torture comes from slavery: servi torquebantur in caput dominorum,6 and this is not surprising. They would be whipped and tormented on that occasion as they were on every other, and for the least fault. Since they were not citizens, they were not treated as men. {This was not more extraordinary than the law that put to death all the slaves of a man who had been assassinated, even though the guilty party was known.}

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[644] The celebrated author of Portrait of the Inconstancy of Demons and Witches,1 who has a man who was saying he had been at the witches’ sabbat stay up all night, when he had not budged from his bed! He says the Devil had put an imaginary body in his place. The force of prejudice prevented that judge from submitting to the sole proof that the accused could have of their innocence.

[645] In the last war, we saw a power whose principal force consists in her credit and her trade use those two advantages to send into combat against us as many men as she could buy.1 Tranquil within, but lacking a single fortified city to defend herself, she made fictive wealth real against us, and became a tranquil spectator of her mercenaries, whom she lost2 without regret and replaced without difficulty. Whereas out of a spirit of whimsy, we awaited the blows in order to receive them and fielded great armies only to see our fortresses taken and our garrisons demoralized, and to languish in a defensive war of which we are not capable. The thing to do would have been to go to that nation, to try constantly to cross the sea, and to drench her natal land with her blood and our own. To make war on her would have been to defeat her; to place her in danger would have been, for us, to conquer her. We would have been making her lose the credit that was so fatal to us, and casting suspicions on the credit of another maritime power. We would have compelled her to recall her Hannibal with his old army, or make peace, or halt before us.

The sole great enterprise that we undertook abroad was fatal to our cause. We went and awakened the jealousy, the fear and the hatred of a nation that was merely an instrument of that war. Slow and almost immobile by herself, receiving all her movement from elsewhere, this nation was like Antaeus,3 who constantly rediscovered the strength he had lost.

[646] Death for a Roman and death for a Christian are two different things.

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[647] The invention of money contributed much to the making of great empires.1 Thus, all those empires in which there is no money are savage, for the prince cannot surpass other men enough in wealth to make himself obeyed, nor buy enough men to overwhelm everyone else. Every man has few needs and satisfies them easily and equally. Equality is therefore forced upon them. Thus, savage and Tartar chieftains are never despotic.

[648] Throughout the various changes of religion in England, the ecclesiastics of the various parties burned each other in turn.

[649] It is surprising that in the Catholic Church, where the marriage of priests has been prohibited so they will not meddle in worldly affairs, they meddle more than in England and other Protestant countries, where marriage has been permitted to them.1

[650] The power that the various European countries had in the past must not be judged by what they have today. It was not only a kingdom’s extent and wealth that made its power, but rather the size of the princely domain.1 The kings of England, who had very large revenues, did very big things, but the kings of France, who had greater vassals, were less aided than obstructed by them for a long time.

When armies conquered, the lands were parceled out between them and the chieftains. But the older the conquest, the more it happened that kings could be dispossessed by rewards or usurpations. And since the Normans were the last conquerors, King William2—who preserved all of his ancient domain, along with what he had by the new apportionment—was the richest prince in Europe.

[651] Henry VIII, contradictory man. He had the Catholics hanged and the Protestants1 burned. He demanded subsidies from his parliament for war; then he demanded them for peace, which, he said, had cost him more than the most onerous war. He had his marriage with Anne Boleyn Edition: current; Page: [205] declared null, and at the same time had her condemned for adultery. The whole rest of his life is of the same stamp. {He made Cromwell peer and Knight of the Garter, then had his head cut off for that.}2

[652] An honorable man is a man who orders his life by the principles of his duty. If Cato were born in a monarchy1 established by Law, he would have been as faithful to his prince as he was to the Republic.

[653] We have discovered a large-scale new world and a small-scale new world, through the telescope and the microscope. We have the printing press to preserve these discoveries, the compass to publicize and disseminate them.

[654] For a long time, I have sought the reason why the Roman soldiers who worked on so many projects, who were so burdened that Marius’s soldiers were called mules, did not die when they were made to work—as ours do, as we have seen in the [indecipherable] camp and elsewhere.1

I think the reason that the Roman soldiers did not die during the work projects is because they worked all the time, whereas ours are do-nothings who never move the soil; for we use sappers or local peasants for that.

Look at what a Roman soldier’s duties were.

[655] I said: “If there were no king in England, the English would be less free.”1 This is proven by Holland, where the people have become more enslaved since there is no longer a stadholder;2 all the magistrates {of each city}, petty tyrants.

[656] In England, I saw a dog playing cards and answering questions put to it by assembling the letters and arranging the names asked of it—and, so to speak, writing. When I had discovered the signs that this art Edition: current; Page: [206] depended on, without intending to I became upset; which makes me see clearly how much men love the marvelous.

{The letters were tossed on the ground; the man was talking constantly, and when the dog had its nose on the required letter, he stopped talking.}

[657] England is like the sea, which is agitated by winds that are made not for submerging but for leading to port.

[658] Each man must procure throughout life as many happy moments as possible. For this, one must not flee the affairs of life, for they are often necessary for its pleasures, but one must ensure that they are ancillary to these pleasures, and not vice versa. And one must not get it into one’s head to enjoy constant pleasure; this is impossible. But the more one can . . . Thus, when the Sultan is tired of his wives, he must go out of his seraglio. When one has no appetite, one must leave the table and go hunting.

[659] avarice. There are often misers who are not bothered by wholesale expense. It is only retail expense that troubles them. This is because they are creating a work that engages them: forming a gross sum out of petty ones. I compare them to that folly of Marc Antony’s soldiers in the Parthian expedition who ate a grass whose effect was to make them arrange all the stones in a pile, after which, they didn’t care about it.

[660] I do not like petty honors; beforehand, it was not known what you deserved, but these define you and determine precisely what is done on your behalf.

[661] What I dislike at Versailles is an impotent desire, which you see everywhere, to do great things. I always think of donna Olympia, who said to Maldachini, who was doing what he could: “Animo! Maldachini. Io ti faro cardinale.1 It seems to me that the late King said to Mansard:2 “Courage, Mansard! I’m going to give you a hundred thousand pounds in income.” As for him, he made his efforts; he put on a wing, then a wing, then another. But if he had put them on all the way to Paris, he still would have made a small thing.

[662] The Queen of England1 did me the honor of telling me that she thanked God that the English kings’ power was limited by law. I said Edition: current; Page: [207] to her: “Madam, Your Majesty is saying something here so splendid that there is not a decent man anywhere who would not give his right arm for all the world’s kings to think the same way.”

[663] commentators. Some have pruned the authors, like the Jesuits. Others have added to them, like Nodot in his Petronius.1

[664] I believe the inventors of engraving plates paved the way for the invention of printing, or that printing made people think of engravings.

[665] In my travel journal, I have noted the gourmandise or rather the gluttony of the ancient Romans and their surprising sobriety today.1 I did not indicate the reason, but I believe I have found it: it is the Ancients’ frequent use of baths.

In the Edifying Letters,2 volume II (Father Antoine Sepp’s letter to Father Guillaume Stinglhaim, on Paraguay), it is said: “The rivers are necessary for Indian habitations, because these peoples, being of a markedly warm temperament, need to bathe several times a day. I have even been surprised to see,” he adds, “that when they have eaten too much, a bath was the only remedy that cured them of their indigestion.”

You will note that the Romans always bathed before dinner. This appears in Plutarch, I think in the Life of Cato. See my Plutarch extract, where I think I put down some passages on this.3 Idem, ancient Greeks.

I believe, moreover, that in the populated countryside around Rome, the air may have become heavier and consequently have less resilience to it.

All one can point to in response is the Turks, who bathe much and eat little. But they smoke constantly, which takes away their appetite.

[666] The same missionary, Antoine Sepp, discovered a stone called itacura, strewn with black marks, which separate in the fire and make a very good iron, which he needed for building.

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[667] The Maxims of M. de La Rochefoucauld are the proverbs of the witty.1

[668] We love our grandchildren better1 than our sons. This is because we know almost precisely the help we get from our son, the fortune and merit that he has, but we have hopes and sweet illusions for our grandson.

[669] Three incredible things among the incredible things:1 the pure mechanism of animals, passive obedience, Papal infallibility.

[670] With despotic monarchs, law is merely the Prince’s momentary will.1

[671] Despotism collapses of its own weight.1

[672] {Someone said that} medicine changes with cuisine.

[673–678] leftover from my work on the romans.1

[673] When one sees a prince whose life is full of splendid deeds tarnished by the historians, it is a sure sign that he found himself in circumstances that made more of an impression on their way of thinking than all his virtues could do. And when another one, despite his vices, is elevated to statuesque levels, it is certain that he found himself in circumstances that flattered the historians’ prejudice more than his faults offended their reason.


[675] The elephants employed in Asian and African armies were good only the first time against a nation; they inspired terror at the outset, but soon a way was found of making them rage against their own army.

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[676] The Romans had the good fortune to find a machine that gave them great facility in hooking up with enemy vessels, so that their soldiers, who were better than the Carthaginians’, engaged in combat at the outset. And it happened that, although they had no knowledge of maneuver, the coasts, the seasons, or the weather patterns, they ended up having the advantage and the honor, so much so that the consul Lutatius’s victory ended the First Punic War.

[677] Dio1 says that Augustus wanted to have himself called Romulus, but when he learned that the people were afraid that he wanted to make himself king, he desisted.2

The earliest Romans did not want a king because they could not put up with a king’s power. The Romans of that time did not want a king in order not to put up with his manners. For although Caesar, the Triumvirs, Augustus were real kings, they had kept all the trappings of equality, and their private life contained a kind of opposition to the royal pomp of that time. And if they did not want a king, this meant that they wanted to keep their manners and not pick up those of the African and Asian peoples.3

{Florentine simplicity of manners.4

Misfortune of Alexander for wanting to make himself worshipped by the Macedonians.

Princes who have changed the form of the State, who have made themselves masters and want to prevent the people from perceiving it, must keep the Republic’s simplicity of manners as much as they can, because nothing is more capable of making people think that the State has not changed or has changed little, since they still see the trappings of the republican State. And this is what the grand dukes of Florence did wondrously well; they took over domination, but preserved the Republic’s simplicity.}

[678] Augustus set up1 a five percent income tax. That caused murmuring Edition: current; Page: [210] among the people and the Senate. He told them to look for some other, less onerous way of raising money. They were confounded, and it was necessary in the end to return to the five percent. It would be easy for princes to rescue their subjects from the despair in which the very name of certain taxes plunges them. The natural weakness of the people and the ignorance in which they are kept make them so sick that there is an inhumanity in not wanting to cure them.

[679] [Antoninus Pius having a good heart that led him to the good, an enlightened mind that showed him the best.]

[680] Mithridates alone, with great talent and an even greater soul, suspended the fortunes of the Romans.1 He grew old in his hatred, his thirst for revenge, and his ardor for victory. He was indignant at the blows he received, like a lion looking at his wounds. Always present or ready to reappear, never vanquished except when on the point of vanquishing, constantly constructing new power, he went to look for nations to lead them into combat again. He made them emerge from their deserts and showed them the Romans. He died a king, betrayed by an army that was frightened by the grandeur of his designs and the perils he had conceived.

[681] If Charles I, if James II, had lived within a religion that permitted them to kill themselves, would they have accepted so many outrages from Fortune? What a death for the one, and what a life for the other!1

[682] The ancient Romans had five meals. The fifth {took place during the night,}1 was called comissatio. Not everyone had it.

Today in Rome, a dignity that is obtained only in old age inspires in the leaders, and thus in everyone, a general sobriety.2

[683] The ancient physicians said that the sick never rebelled so much Edition: current; Page: [211] as when they prohibited them from using the baths: “Artemidorus ait balneum nihil aliud suo aevo fuisse quam transitum ad coenam.1 (Lipsius)

[684] Often a particular taste is evidence of a general taste; the Muses are sisters who touch one another and live in company.

[685] The French are wrong to mix together what the English call wit, humor, sense, understanding.1

[686] Believe me, esprit1 is often present where it does not shine, and {like those artificial stones} it often seems to shine where it is not present.

[687] It is not surprising to find so much antipathy toward those who have too much self-esteem, because there is not {much} difference between greatly esteeming oneself and greatly disdaining others.

[688] [An empire founded by arms needs to be supported by arms.1 But just as, when a State is in trouble and confusion, we do not imagine how it can escape, so too, when it is at peace and its power is respected, it does not enter our minds how that can change. Thus, it inevitably neglects the military, from which it thinks it has nothing to hope and much to fear. It even seeks to weaken it, and thereby becomes prey to the first accident.]2

[689] When one has as a neighbor a State that is in decline, one should take great care to do nothing to hasten its ruin, because this is the most fortunate situation to be in. There is nothing more convenient for a prince than to be near another who receives in his stead all the blows and outrages of fortune.1

[690] When a State is wracked by religious disputes, it inevitably happens Edition: current; Page: [212] that the Prince is entirely occupied by them, which makes him subordinate all other points to these, as being less essential.

It happens that, since the Prince almost always becomes an interested party, these disputes fix upon him at the same moment the love and respect of one portion of his subjects and the hatred and contempt of the other.

It happens that, just as the Prince is no longer judged according to his vices or virtues, so too the Prince no longer judges his subjects except by extraneous qualities; that it is no longer personal merit that confers place, nor incapacity that takes it away, but the advantage of being from a certain faction or the misfortune of being from another.

It happens that countless people are disgusted at the government. Now, although the ill will of a part of the citizenry seems impotent because it does not make a flashy impact, this does not stop it from having silent effects that are produced in the shadows and over time; whence arise great revolutions.1

It happens that foreign countries are full of citizens expelled from their homeland who reveal its secrets, communicate its advantages, exaggerate its strictness, desire its humiliation—in a word, who seek to make people feel sorry for them in all sorts of ways.

The prudent men who might be able to remedy the evil—being, by their very moderation, soon wearied by contention—bring the indolence of their characters into their actions, whereas the others bring all the activity of their own characters.

To remedy the evil, it is useless to work on the theologians’ minds, but not on the people’s; since the latter enter passively into the quarrel, they are more capable of being cured.

The attention {paid} to this problem increases it immeasurably, by making people think it is greater than in fact it is; the present questions become frivolous after a while, whereas religion, as a heavenly matter, frees itself from them and still endures.

The theologians have to be reduced to defending their opinions solely through love of truth, by which means they will never go very far.

If you want to accommodate the parties, you give them credibility, by Edition: current; Page: [213] indicating that their manner of thinking is very important—decisive for the State’s tranquillity and the Prince’s security.

By a contradiction that is natural to the human mind, two parties that you want to unite become, by that fact alone, more inclined toward mutual contention.

We always want to have recourse to the Prince’s authority, because we love to give luster to quarrels.

One should not be surprised that many people love these disputes, because they embroil in public affairs all kinds of people whose status, birth, and profession had excluded them.

The people scarcely enter into these contests except for the role that the Prince wants them to take, and at once, everyone becomes a spectator to see what will be the role of such a large actor.

At that time, the Prince puts his subjects in a position to offer him the only resistance they are capable of, which is to follow their opinions.

[691] Those who have read only Holy Scripture constantly derive the origins of all peoples from the Hebrew.

[692] When I read the Letters of the Kn[ight] of H[e]r . . .,1 I am enraged to see such a great man write like that.

[693] It cannot be said that something has not been done because it is bizarre. Didn’t Sejanus used to make sacrifices to himself?1

[694] On their rings, the Romans would have figures engraved that they believed had certain special virtues. If they wanted to make themselves loved, they put the Graces there; to make themselves feared, a Gorgon.1 To shelter themselves from accidents, they wore the figure of the Emperor. Thus, they took one of the great examples on earth of Fortune’s inconstancy, and made it a model or even a cause of its immutability.2

[695] The Asians regard female chastity as mere powerlessness to falter.

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[696] Fear adds to our pains, just as desires add to our pleasures.

[697] [It used to be said1 {of Caligula} that there has never been a better slave or a more wicked master. This is natural; the same mental disposition that makes us impressed by the unlimited power of whoever commands also makes us impressed by it when we ourselves command.]

[698] Two masterpieces: Caesar’s death in Plutarch, Nero’s in Suetonius. In the first, you begin by pitying the conspirators, whom you see in danger, and then Caesar, whom you see assassinated. In Nero’s, you are surprised to see him obliged by degrees to kill himself without any constraining cause, and yet, in such a way that he cannot avoid it.1

[699] What made the Goths who invaded the Roman Empire establish republican government is that they were not aware of the idea of any other.1 And if, by chance, a prince had taken it into his head in those days to talk about unlimited authority and despotic power, he would have made his whole army laugh, and he would have been viewed as insane.

[700] What produces grievous divisions in the world is sovereign authority, on the one hand, and the force of desperation, on the other.

[701] The king of Prussia, who absolutely wants to resemble the king of Sweden,1 is like the kings who succeeded Alexander {whom Plutarch talks about, Life of Pyrrhus}, who sought to imitate him in his clothes, his guards, his way of tilting his neck, and his manner of speaking pompously, but did not imitate him in his impetuosity and his movement in battle.

[702] The English are not like Marius, who did not want to learn Greek, since it was a language of those who had not been able to defend their liberty.

[703] I said: “Old books are for authors; new ones, for readers.”

[704] You find in Corneille’s Dict [ionary],1 at the word sclavon: Sclavon Edition: current; Page: [215] means glory, a name that those peoples took because of their conquests; whence it arises that most of their family names end in slaw: Stanislaw, Wenceslaw, Boleslaw.

[705] If Hannibal had died immediately after the battle of Cannae, who wouldn’t have said that without his death, Rome would have been ruined?1 There is often an unknown force within States.

[706] In the book Origo Gentis Romanae {thought to be by Aurelius Victor},1 the Latins, colonies of Alba Longa formed under the reign of Latinus Sylvius:2 Praeneste, Tibur, Gabii, Tusculum, Cora, Pometia, Locri, Crustumium, Cameria, Bovillae, caeteraque oppida circumquaque.3

However, not all of these cities were of the Latin nation. Cora and Pometia were from the league of the Volsci. These cities often changed sides. Thus, Titus-Livy (1st decade, book II) distinguishes the ancient Latins from those who had entered into the alliance of these peoples. Crustumerium at first, in the league of the Sabines; then, in that of the Latins.

[707] The Catilinian conspiracy is only famous because of the number of villains who formed it and the great figures who sought to encourage it. For otherwise, it was an ill-conceived, ill-digested scheme, less the effect of ambition than of impotence and desperation.1

[708] [Men ought to be convinced of the happiness they are overlooking at the very time they are enjoying it.]1

[709] The more the poem The League seems to be The Aeneid, the less it is.1

[710] There are men who go to the ends of the earth to convert, and at Edition: current; Page: [216] first think only of converting princes. They want to submit the grandeur of kings to God because they are dazzled by it themselves. But he does not accept their offerings, and since he does not want worldly outlooks in the establishment of a religion made to offer different ones, he expels them from Japan and China. And content with the triumph of a few martyrs, he finds his glory more in the destruction of their work than he would have in its fulfillment.1

[711] A thought by Plutarch, in the Life of Nicias: that Plato, in acknowledging a superior mind that governs the world, silenced the slanderers, who regarded as atheists all those who subscribed to the stars’ regular movement and explained celestial phenomena scientifically, who were called meteorologues.1

[712] M. Sainte-Aulaire said it well:1 “We say: ‘We cannot understand how matter thinks; thus, we have a soul different from matter.’2 Thus, from our ignorance we derive a reason to make ourselves a substance more perfect than matter.”

[713] If a corporate body that has a great reputation in the world were ever—entirely at its leisure—to write our modern history, I believe the princes who have entrusted their consciences and their affairs to them would loom very large, and the others very small.1

[714] That soldiers’ custom1 of electing emperors had its origins in Republican times. When a general had performed some splendid deed, his soldiers would proclaim him emperor. This was only an honorific title.2 But when this name entailed power, the armies continued to confer it, and Edition: current; Page: [217] what happened is what we always see: that names make things and govern the world.

[715] One thing I cannot reconcile with the enlightenment of this age is the Jesuits’ authority.

[716] In the acts of dissolution for the marriage of Louis XII and Queen Claude, Saint-Hyacinthe has found a petition in which it was revealed that the marriage was null because he had not slept nudus cum nuda,1 but with a shirt on.2 I say this is evidence that back then people slept that way. Our corruption has increased our modesty. The early times had a simplicity by which the whole family and the unmarried daughters slept with their father and mother in the same bed.3

[717] The books of the casuists of old were written because the tribunals in Spain and Italy—warm countries, where people like refined tastes—were full of those cases, and there was no knowledge of natural science. Thus, a release had to be found in scholasticism, and that science was bound to be the occupation of the bright people. (Fontenelle)

[718] I am not surprised by the sweet delights found at Court and the impossibility of changing one’s way of life. You are all together at every moment. A hundred little things to amuse or engage you, and to enter into the petty ambition you have conceived; moreover, no more part in that lottery made of the Prince’s graces bestowed upon the Nation; the pleasure of seeing that, whatever petty post you may hold, it is envied; in a word, this active life cannot be replaced by repose.

[719] I think we are jealous from a secret pain at others’ pleasure when we are neither its cause nor its object;1 or from a certain modesty, that is, the shame of our imperfections which has obliged us to hide certain things from sight—whence it happens that a husband has regarded his wife’s secrets Edition: current; Page: [218] as his own; or by an awareness that each of us has of the limited extent of the passions, too easily satisfied, and of that imbecility of nature by which the heart divided between two persons gives itself whole to one or disengages from both; or because of a property granted to the husband in the children born from a certain woman, a property whose uncertainty one seeks to reduce as much as possible; or from a certain fear of the ridicule that the jokers of all nations have heaped onto this matter, since everyone is always happy to bring up a passion which, once evoked in one man, has its effect on all others; (Speak about vengeance, and you will touch only the one who is steeped in an affront he has received. Everyone else will be like ice. But speak about love, and you will find all hearts open and all ears attentive;) or, finally, by a certain desire to be loved by persons that one loves, which is in the substance of the soul—that is, in its vanity—and is no different from the desire we have to be esteemed by everyone, especially by those who have the closest relation to us. A Frenchman likes to be esteemed more in Germany than in Japan, more in France than in Germany. And since nothing concerns us more intimately than the persons we love, it is therefore by them that we most wish to be loved.2

[720] Mathematical propositions are received as true because no one has an interest in their being false. And when someone has had such an interest, that is, when someone, by doubting them, has wanted to make himself head of a faction and, in overturning them, drag down all other truths, he has been doubted: witness Pyrrho.1

[721] When someone asks me if a word is French, I can answer. When someone asks me if the diction is good, I cannot answer, unless it violates good grammar. I cannot know the circumstance in which it will be good, nor the use that a smart man will be able to make of it. For in his works, a smart man is a creator of diction, of turns of phrase and concepts. He dresses his thought according to his fashion, forms it, and creates it by manners of speaking that are removed from the vulgar, but that do not appear to have been used for the purpose of being removed from the vulgar. A man who writes well writes not the way people have written, but the way he writes, and it is often in speaking poorly that he speaks well.

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[722] I know of a man {very ignorant} who, if he had employed in study the time and trouble necessary to pass for being learned, would be one of the most learned men in Europe.

[723] It was the Muslims (Moors of Spain) who brought the sciences to the West. Since that time, they have never wanted to take up again what they gave us.

Under the twenty-seventh Caliph, Al Mamoun, the Arabs began to study the Greek texts, and founded numerous academies in Africa. {I believe the destruction of the Caliphate has destroyed the sciences in the Muslim world.}

[724] the virgilian fates. Nothing better proves the Romans’ great respect for Virgil. The first words of his that they would read were regarded as an oracle: Sortes Virgilinae.1

[725] A bad law always obliges the legislator to pass many others—often very bad as well—in order to avoid the bad effects, or at least fulfill the purpose, of the first one.

[726] The constancy of the Grand Alliance against France is a practically unheard of thing in history, and yet it did not really have the effect that might have been expected from such a success, which was to humiliate France.1

[727] {Often} those who have no religion do not want to be obliged to change the religion they would have if they had one, because they feel that this is an act of power that should not be exercised against them. The spirit of contradiction makes them find a pleasure in contradicting—that is to say, a good. Besides, they feel that life and property are no more their own than their religion or their manner of thinking, and that whoever can take away the one can even more easily take away the other.

[728] When I see Louis XIV—guided by the Jesuits—sending his enemies subjects, soldiers, merchants, workers, his commerce, and expelling the Huguenots,1 I have more pity for him than for the Huguenots.2

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[729] Those ceremonies of the Egyptians and other peoples—of carrying in procession some human limbs or some testicles—were contrary to modesty, but they were not absolutely contrary to good sense. Peoples who did not believe in the creation thought that generation was the origin of everything, and they worshipped that generative faculty of nature that was to be their God. Thus, Priapus was set up in the gardens, as the God1 of the fertility of plants and of all nature.

[730] The Jesuits defend a good cause, Molinism, through quite bad means.1

[731] The Ancients must have had a greater attachment to their Country than we do, for they were always buried with their Country. Was their city captured? They were made slaves or killed. As for us, all we do is change princes.

[732] [When Hannibal approached Rome, the Republic substantially inflated the currency.]

[733] We like to be loved and esteemed by persons who are present, because they make their love or esteem felt more often, and, so to speak, at every moment, an advantage we do not get from that of distant folks.

[734] Princes change the meanings of words: the King of Sweden, Charles XII, in the cruelest act of our age, the condemnation of Patkul,1 took the title very clement prince.

[735] Sentences should not be too cruel, so that men are not accustomed to be affected only by the fear of cruel punishments. The king of Persia,1 the most humane of all princes, who was dethroned by the Aguans, saw that his goodness was abused, because his nation was not accustomed to such mildness.

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[736] The King of Sweden, defeated, still said of the Muscovites: “But the Muscovites were able to become men!”1

[737] A general corruption has spread everywhere. Those who approach princes make incessant demands. The gifts they come away with serve only to establish a luxury that those are obliged to accept who, lacking credit in the money markets or unconcerned about getting credit, seek to live within the means of their ancestral possessions.1

[738] It is no longer a prudent dispenser of public revenue who is called a {great} minister, but only someone who has ingenuity and what are called expedients.

[739] We have no minister, no functionary with a thousand-crown salary who is so petty that he does not have more public business than the grand viziers of the East who are at the head of the military, justice, and finances of the Empire.

[740] We can never have order in our finances, because we always know we are going to do something, but never what we are going to do.

[741] If I knew something that was useful to me and harmful to my family, I would banish it from my mind. If I knew something useful to my family but not to my Country, I would seek to forget it. If I knew something useful to my Country and harmful to Europe, or else useful to Europe and harmful to the human race, I would regard it as a crime.1

[742] Cardinal Richelieu’s maxim to negotiate constantly, that maxim so fit for increasing mistrust among princes, has become more and more established. The treaties that result, and the clauses that are put in them {to foresee what never happens and to never foresee what does happen}, only multiply the occasions for rupture, just as the multiplicity of laws increases the number of trials among citizens.1

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[743] Bad faith has become so reinforced in politics that it cannot be said that all the treaties continually being signed today have the slightest meaning.

[744] King Charles XII of Sweden could be compared to that cyclops from the myth, who had very great strength but was blind.

The same {king}, after having long misused his successes, was less than a man in adversity—that is, in that state of life when it is essential to be more than a man.

The same, always in the marvelous, never in the real; enormous, but not great.

[745] Louis XIV bought Dunkirk for four million.1 He has scarcely ever paid a better price for a fortress that he has acquired.

[746] Look into France’s proportion of troops to revenues, comparing it with the King of Prussia’s ratio of troops and revenues.

[747] Great conquests, all in haste, are rather the work of rashness than of prudence, and are designed less for the monarchs of great States than for adventurers.

[748] What made Roman fortunes unalterable is that, sure of their superiority in the military arts, they made offensive wars with few troops and employed prodigious forces on the defensive.

[749] We are not in those warm climates where men and animals, virtually without needs, traverse boundless territories and leave one monarchy to go and attack another. Our conquests take a long time, and before they have been completed, there is always a certain reaction that puts the conqueror back in the situation from which he started.

[750] Asia was not as strong in the past as Europe is today;1 she was hardly any stronger in the past when, in each state, the only concern was to secure the prince’s place of residence. In the ancient histories, therefore, one finds expeditions but rarely wars, invasions rather than conquests.2

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[751] liberty.1 We must put these words throne and senate {or estates} out of our heads; that is not what characterizes liberty. There are points and moments of liberty in monarchies.

No one free in Turkey, not even the Prince.2

[No one free in Venice,3 not even . . .]

In Venice, the senators free politically, but not civilly.

The Genoese aristocracy equal to that of the Algiers army.4

Holland is no longer free ever since it no longer has a stadholder.5

In Holland, the magistrates are free. In England, they are slaves as magistrates and free as citizens.

It is a bad thing when a magistrate is free as a magistrate, and this always happens if there is not some ordering and moderating power.

In England, the man who is being prosecuted, and who will be hanged the next day, is freer than any citizen in the rest of Europe.

In Spain, the Clergy free,6 the people in a strange slavery.

Any overly small republic cannot be called free: libertas non sua vi nixa.7

In Rome, liberty of the ecclesiastics and of foreigners; mild though deficient government.

[752] charlemagne. Under him, the Northern peoples were subdued, and the river flowed back toward its source.

[753] During the period of Charlemagne’s first successors, there were no regular troops, no garrisons were put in the cities, and there were no citadels, so it was impossible to maintain fidelity in a distant nation, as the example of the Saxons and the Italians made clear.

[754] Ecclesiastics have an interest in keeping the people in ignorance; otherwise, since the Gospel is simple, people would say to them: “We know that {just} as well as you do.”

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[755] A prince who makes himself head of a faction resembles a man who would cut off one arm so that all the nourishment goes to the other.

[756] It is a bad maxim to make dictionaries from living languages; this limits them too much. All words that are not in there are considered improper, foreign or out of use. It is the Academy itself that has brought forth the neological satires,1 or has caused them to be.

[757] Jealousy seems to me necessary in warm countries, liberty in cold climes. Here is a natural reason for it.1

It is certain that women are nubile in warm climates at eight, ten, twelve years of age, and are immediately old; that is, that childhood and marriage are almost always together. Now since it is reason that provides control, and since reason is almost never present together with attractive charms, which exercise a still stronger control, women are necessarily subordinated. Now reason cannot enable them to regain in their old age the power they lost when they had their charms and beauty. In warm countries, in a word, women are rational only when they are old, and they are beautiful only when they are not rational. {Thus, they have never been able to assume a certain influence over men, and their rapid aging had inevitably to introduce polygamy.}

In cold countries, women marry at the age when their reason is strongest, and their attractions are better preserved, so that their husbands’ aging follows their own. The use of strong drinks, which brings with it intemperance among the men, usually gives even women an advantage in reason over them. There are countries in which every night, the entire nation is drunk. Women, who have in this regard a natural reserve, because they always have to defend themselves, have therefore great advantages over men; since the latter also have their advantages, there results this equality.

That is why the Roman law that permits only one wife, which became a Christian law, conforms to the nature of the European climate but not to the nature of the Asian climate. And that is why Islam has found it so easy to become established in Asia and so difficult in Europe, why Christianity Edition: current; Page: [225] has been maintained in Europe and destroyed in Asia, why the Muslims are making so much progress in China and the Christians so little.

Nature, which has not given men such attractions, has given them no limit but that of their strength and their reason. She has given women attractions; their limit is the end of their attractions. {For Eastern women, youth is at the beginning of their life cycle, whereas for our women youth is in the middle.} That is why it was inevitable for the plurality of wives to be established, as a thing in some sense necessary. On the other hand, if it had not been established, the law of a single wife would have given women a tremendous advantage, given the incontinence produced by the climate.

[758] The Germans are too indolent to be so expert at public business.1 That is why they are less involved in it. They leave most things as they are. In Vienna, a government minister who has worked two hours in the morning goes and has dinner and plays the rest of the day. Public business remains in the ordinary tribunals, and no one dreams of either removing it from them or disturbing them. Unhappy vivacity of our nation, which sets the fashion even in financial schemes, council resolutions, and provincial administration! We dislike everything that is established, and a minister who does nothing is regarded as a bad minister.

[759] Great joy always has one of two effects: when it does not make others gay, it saddens them, as something out of place. The great secret is to parcel out only the convenient dose; otherwise, one is very often sadly gay. To be likeable, you must be able to lend your character to the occasion; when it does not put you on track, it derails you.

Likewise with constant joy: if I am sad, the joy of others afflicts me, because it pulls me away from the pleasure I get by indulging my sadness and thus does me violence, which is a type of pain.

[760] It is probable that what is called heroic valor is going to be lost in Europe. Our philosophy, the end of chivalry, indifference in belonging to one master or another for our fortunes. In the past, it was a matter of one’s destruction, being sold into slavery, losing one’s family, one’s city, one’s wife, one’s children.

[761] That spirit of glory and valor is being lost little by little among Edition: current; Page: [226] us. Philosophy has gained ground. The former ideas of heroism and the chivalric romances have been lost. Civil offices are filled by men who have wealth, and military offices are discredited by men who have nothing. In short, it is almost everywhere a matter of indifference for one’s fortunes to belong to one master or another, whereas in the past a defeat or your city’s capture was linked to destruction—it was a question of being sold into slavery, of losing one’s city, one’s gods, one’s wife, and one’s children. The establishment of commerce in public funds; the immense gifts of princes, which enable an enormous number of people to live in idleness and obtain esteem by their very idleness, that is, by their charm; indifference toward the afterlife, which entails flabbiness in this life, and makes us unfeeling and incapable of anything that takes effort; fewer occasions to distinguish ourselves; a certain methodical way of taking cities and engaging in battle—being merely a question of making a breach and surrendering once it is made; all of war consisting more in the technique than in the personal qualities of those who fight it—at each siege, the number of soldiers to be sacrificed is known in advance; the nobility no longer fight as a corps.1

[762] to the queen of england.1 “Your largeness of mind is so renowned in Europe that it seems no longer permissible to praise it.

“It is that happy talent, that seductive charm, that enables you to communicate with your subjects without losing anything of your rank and without confounding social conditions.

You reign over a great people. Heaven, which has granted you the reign over so many realms, has granted none of your subjects the happiness you enjoy in your family.”

[763] to the king.1 “Most amb[assadors] come with hidden designs and secret negotiations. As for me, I can reveal to Your Majesty all my instructions: I come only to cultivate friendship.”

[764] I never judge men by what they have or have not done as a result Edition: current; Page: [227] of the prejudices of their times.1 Most great men have been subject to them. The problem is when they have added their own. For most of the time, I might add, they have not seen the prejudices of their times, because they have not wanted to see them. Who are the fools who claim to be smarter than the great men who have been subject to them? I do not judge Saint Louis by his crusades. It is indifferent to me that M. Arnaud was a Jansenist, if he reasoned well about Jansenism.2 Nor do I respect a man because he has followed them; I set no store by Fabricius’s poverty or Regulus’s return (I speak only of his return), but I do set store by Plato’s and Socrates’ constancy and virtue.3

[765] I have no more esteem for a man who has devoted himself to one science than for someone who has devoted himself to another, if both have contributed intelligence and good sense to them equally. All the sciences are good and they assist one another. Molière’s dancing master and master of arms are the only ones I know who argue about the dignity and preferability of their arts.1

I say all this against the geometers.

What shocks me about geometry and strips it of all sublimity in my eyes is that it’s a family affair, and that geometers go from father to son. How many Bernoullis have we seen?2

[766] A prince wrote this letter: “I declare that you have become my friend. You have such great talent for fixing my wig and my stockings that I like you at the same time that I admire you. You never tell me anything but pleasant things, whereas those beastly ministers never have anything but impertinent things to tell me. I would do very well to entrust my affairs to your care. My ministers will report to you, you will report to me.”

[767] english. If I am asked which prejudices they have, I would in truth not know which to answer: neither war, nor birth, nor dignities, nor Edition: current; Page: [228] men who get lucky,1 nor the frenzy over ministerial favor. They want men to be men. They set store by the Duke of Marlborough, Lord Cobham, the Duke of Argyll, because they are men.2 They respect only two things: wealth and personal merit.3

They have more pride than vanity; a neighboring nation has more vanity than pride.

When a foreigner is received there at the level of citizen, it is much better. No one mistrusts him, because his interests are not mingled with anyone else. They disdain you like mud, because they think you esteem only yourself.

They neither love nor hate their kings, but they do fear them or disdain them.

[768] We praise people in proportion to the esteem they have for us.

[769] It is surprising that the people so strongly cherish republican government, but that so few nations have it; that men so strongly hate violence, but that so many nations are governed by violence.

[770] They are the eternal monument of a friendship that touches me more than {all} the renown I might get from my writings.1

[771] In the last revolution in Constantinople, when the new emperor saw that the rebel Janissaries had committed enough outrages to make themselves odious, he exterminated and punished them.

[772] Frenchmen are agreeable, communicative, varied, abandon themselves in their discourse. They go out, walk, run, and are always on the go until they drop.

[773] On the fragments of Cicero’s book Of the Republic, I said, “We owe many of these fragments to Nonius, who, in giving us the words, has preserved the things.”1

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I am naturally curious about all fragments from the works of ancient authors, just as one likes to find the debris from shipwrecks that the sea has left on the beach.

Cicero, in my view, is one of the great minds that has ever existed: a soul always beautiful when it was not weak.

[774] For about a century, Sweden has done great things.1 But her resources are easily exhausted; poverty prevents her from making up her losses. Her neighbors fear her, and her declared enemies are always encouraged by secret enemies.

She is fit only for serving in the designs of some great State. But if she has some success, she is soon halted by the very power that is making her act.

Charles XII, who employed only his own forces, determined his fall by forming designs that could only be executed through a long war, something of which his realm was not capable.

It was not an empire in decline that he undertook to overthrow, but an emerging empire. The Muscovites used the war he was waging against them as a school. With each defeat, they were approaching victory, and while losing abroad, they were learning to defend themselves at home.

Charles thought he was master of the world in Poland’s deserts, where he was wandering around and where Sweden was stretched rather thin, while his main enemy was fortifying himself against him, tightening up his realm, establishing himself on the Baltic Sea, destroying or taking Livonia.

Sweden resembled a river whose waters are cut off at the source and diverted in its course.

It was not Poltava that ruined the King of Sweden; if he had not been destroyed in that place, he would have been in another. Accidents of fortune are easily repaired; accidents in the nature of things are not repaired.

But neither nature nor fortune was ever as strong against him as he was himself.

He did not follow the actual arrangement of things, but a certain model he had picked up; and he followed it very badly, too. He was not Alexander; but he would have been Alexander’s best soldier.

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Alexander’s plan only succeeded because he was sensible.

The Persians’ failure in their invasions of Greece, the conquests made by Agesilaus, and the retreat of the Ten Thousand had made perfectly clear the Greeks’ superiority in their manner of waging combat and in their types of arms, and it was well known that the Persians were incorrigible.2

They could no longer disturb Greece because of her divisions. At that time, she was united under a leader who could have had no better means of holding her together than to dazzle her with the destruction of her eternal enemies and the expectation of Asian conquest.

An empire cultivated by the most industrious nation in the world, which worked the lands because of religious principle and was fertile and abundant in all things, gave its enemy all sorts of means of subsistence.

One could reckon by the pride of those kings, always vainly mortified by their defeats, that they would precipitate their fall by still giving battle, and that flattery would never permit them to doubt their grandeur.

Not only was the plan wise, but it was wisely executed. Alexander, in the rapidity of his actions, in the fire of his passions {themselves}, had, if I dare use this term, a sally of reason that guided him, and that those who have wanted to write a novel out of his story, and whose minds were more vitiated than his own, have not been able to hide.

[775] Descartes taught those who came after him to discover his very errors.

I compare him to Timoleon, who used to say, “I am delighted that by means of me, you have obtained the freedom to oppose my desires.”1

[776] What makes commercial people more independent is that their goods are further from the sovereign’s reach.

[777] In his History, Pufendorf1 says that, in States where the citizens are enclosed in a city, the people are more suited for aristocracy and democracy.2 Edition: current; Page: [231] For if someone governs a city tyrannically, the people can unite against him in an instant, whereas in dispersed countries, they cannot unite. {I would add that since Sweden has not been subjugated like Muscovy, Hungary, Poland, Bohemia, Silesia, and other German territories close to the Baltic Sea, her peasants have not been made slaves. (Page 269)} I would offer another reason. When whoever has only one city is expelled by his subjects, the trial is over. When he has several cities and provinces and is expelled from one city, the enterprise has just begun. And it is a bad situation in the kingdom of Naples, where almost half the kingdom is in the City. (Page 245)

In Sweden, says Pufendorf, where there are few cities, the peasants attend the estates, because they are the body of the nation rather than the bourgeoisie. They attend solely to give their consent to taxes.

[778] The Mohammedan tradition that contains the reason why Mohammed prohibited the use of wine is no more true than is customary with other popular traditions.1 Diodorus, on the public business of Demetrius, says the Arabs had always drunk water.2 And in Niger’s time, the Romans, after being defeated by the Arabs, said: “We have no wine; we cannot do battle; Erubescite, inquit Imperator, qui vos vincunt aquam bibunt.3 This should be examined in Diodorus.

[779] The establishment of monarchies produces politeness. But works of the mind appear only at the beginning of monarchies, since the general corruption affects even that part.1

[780] The English are busy; they don’t have time to be polite.1

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[781] the difference between the english and the french. The English get along with their inferiors but cannot stand their superiors. We are accommodating to our superiors but insufferable to our inferiors.

[782] In the Amsterdam Gazette for February 12, 1734, which I have inserted into my Spicilège, there is a letter from the Grand Vizier to Prince Eugene on Polish affairs,1 in which, speaking of the late king Augustus II, he states: “Now their king, surnamed Nal-Kyran, being deceased for a long time already”; on which, I say let someone go seek the {true} names of the Babylonian and Assyrian kings, since among the Turks, King Augustus {their neighbor} is called Nal-Kyran!2

One sees in this letter the imprint of great goodness and mildness.

[783] Government ministers always work against liberty; they hate the laws because these pose obstacles to all their passions.

[784] Free nations are policed nations. Those that live in servitude are polite nations.1

[785] When birth and dignities do not confer authority in a nation, everyone seeks a natural authority, which is that of personal merit.

[786] Frivolous things, which give nothing to those who enjoy them and degrade those who care about them.

[787] I am not surprised that Henry VIII had tyrannical power. That was the moment when the nobility’s power had just been abolished and that of the people began to take wing.1 During this interval, the king became a tyrant.

[788] Animal intelligence is proportional to the means they have of exercising it—the monkeys with their hands; the elephants with their trunk; the beavers with their tail; men with their arms and their tongue.

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[789] In Europe, there is a sort of balance between the peoples of North and South.1 The latter—with an abundance of all things, enabling them to dispense with everything, live close to home, and have but few needs—would have too many advantages over the former if climate and nature did not give them a laziness that equalizes them. The former, on the other hand, can enjoy the conveniences of life only through their work and resourcefulness, which nature seems to have given them only to equalize their condition and their fortune; without which, they could only survive as barbarians. Each part is defended by its climate as much as by its sources of strength.

[790] It took more than six thousand years to know how to do what the Grammar Master teaches1 the Bourgeois gentleman: writing.

[791] As princes have discovered the arts of mastering our secrets, through the art of opening letters without anyone noticing, we have discovered the art of publicizing theirs through more secret methods of printing.

[792] In a nation in servitude, one works more to preserve than to acquire; in a free nation, one works more to acquire than to preserve.1

[793] The greatest misfortune for the commerce of certain States is that there are too many people who are in abject poverty and live on little. In a certain sense, they are nullities because there is practically no connection between them and the other citizens. {This is false; this is impossible. On the contrary, it is when, in a noncommercial State such as Spain, the land belongs to a few individuals and the people have none.}

[794] In my life, I have committed many follies but no iniquities.

[795] In his work on the beginnings of our monarchy, abbé Dubos reads only to seek the authority of kings and the dependence of the ancient French, and the right they had of fleecing the lords. That man never saw anything in that history but a pension.1

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[796] I would like to render a judgment on the History of Hernando Cortez by Solis, with some reflections;1 I already have it all done.2

[797] It would not, perhaps, be impossible to lose the compass someday.1

[798] When it is said that we are not sure there is a world because God could be a trickster and could affect us in such a way as to make us like dreamers, or like those who have had a leg cut off and who feel it without having it, this reasoning (I say) is conclusive only for those who believe that the soul perceives independent of the organs. For in the two cited cases, the soul perceives by means of the organs, and these two cases themselves prove that there is matter.

[799] The same error permeated the Greeks’ whole philosophy; what made for bad science made for bad moral philosophy, bad metaphysics. It is that they did not see the difference that exists between positive and relative qualities. Just as Aristotle erred with his dry, his humid, his hot, his cold, Plato and Socrates erred with their beautiful, their good, their foolish, their wise. {Great discovery that there are no positive qualities.}1

[800] The Duke of Orleans only feared ridicule aimed at him.1 It was the age of the one-liner; he conducted himself by the one-liner and others managed him by the one-liner.2 The Parlement’s cabal was destroyed when someone said to him that Mme de Maisons expected to have precedence over Princess——. The Duke of Brancas destroyed the great talker M. de Canillac by telling him that a lackey—bored with M. de Canillac, who would make him spend whole nights listening to him—had come Edition: current; Page: [235] to offer his services to him. “And what did he talk to him about?” “His quarrels with M. de Luynes and the advice he gave M. d’Orleans.”3 Thus, the character of such a man cannot be defined. Why was he dominated by {abbé} Dubois? Those who have known him are obliged to cry out: “O altitudo!”4

[801] People who do not have their business affairs in order say: “I would be on easy street if I had ten thousand pounds more.” If they had those ten thousand pounds more, they would immediately mess things up and say: “If I had those ten thousand pounds more!” Et in infinitum.

[802] Women obtain Court favors better than men, princesses more than princes. This is because they never hear the reasons offered for their refusal, so they always return to the charge and tire people out. [M. de M.]

[803] The peoples of Northern Europe, source of liberty. The peoples who came from Northern Asia brought servitude with them, as I have noted.1

[804] When I see a man of merit, I never dissect him; a mediocre man who has some good qualities, I always dissect1 him.

[805] What an age is ours, when there are so many judges and {critics and} so few readers!

[806] The North must have changed a great deal in fifteen or sixteen centuries, and the land become more sterile.

The reports on Iceland that we have at present no longer square with what the ancient authors tell us. That is where the Herules1 came from, and there were a large number of kingdoms on that island.2

What we have from Greenland and from the ancient Danish colonies in the country also does not comport with the reports we have today.

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The ancient land of Asia3 was highly subject to earthquakes in the past. It no longer is at present.

To which you may add the reflections I have made on the changes in the land that could make Pliny a liar today. The same will happen to the books by the Academy of Sciences.

Perhaps this is the true reason for the differences found in the North, which no longer sends colonies to the South as they used to, although Sweden has sent quite a few in the wars of the Gustavuses and the two Charleses.4

[807] Fools who follow the way of fortune always take the beaten path. Has a Royal tutor become prime minister?1 Every petty ecclesiastic wants to be a Royal tutor, in order to be prime minister. Smart people follow their own route; they have new and hidden paths. They march where no one has been before. The world is new.

[808] I said: “One must regard one’s property as a slave, but one must not lose one’s slave.”

[809] In despotic states, tranquillity is not peace; it resembles the silence found in cities that the enemy is ready to occupy.1

[810] Philosophy and, I dare say, even a certain commonsense have gained too much ground in this day and age for heroism to make much headway in the future.1 Once vainglory has become a little ridiculous, conquerors—no longer consulting anything but their own interest—will never go very far.

Each age has its particular character: a spirit of disorderly independence was created in Europe with Gothic government; the monastic spirit infected the times of Charlemagne’s successors; then reigned that of chivalry; that of conquest appeared with orderly troops; and it is the spirit of commerce that dominates today.

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This spirit of commerce makes everything a matter of calculation. But glory, when it is all alone, enters only into the calculations of fools.

I speak here only of vainglory, not that which is founded on the principles of duty, virtue, zeal for the Prince, love of Country; in a word, I speak of the glory of Alexander, not of Epaminondas.2 The latter, being real, is or ought to be for all nations and all times; the former, being chimerical, has the same vicissitudes as prejudices do.

[811] Please let no one accuse me of attributing to moral causes things that belong only to climate.1 I know the role climate plays in the formation of character, but I am going to make some observations. Today’s Romans have all the principles of character that the Romans had in the past, for they will never enjoy a play if there are no fights on stage.2 The Athenians are just as subtle today, the Lacedemonians just as coarse. But what effect does this have?

I well know that, if moral causes did not interrupt natural ones, the latter would emerge and would act to their full extent.

I also know that, if natural causes had the capacity to act by themselves, as when peoples inhabit inaccessible mountains, they would not soon destroy the moral cause, because the natural cause often needs the moral cause in order to act.

[812] An ambassador cannot be tried by the host prince. The nature of his functions removes him in some sense from the civil state, because of natural law (by which the lips are sealed), because of fear, and even because of the law of nations. For since his functions could be disturbed at any moment by unjust accusations, a free prince would be speaking through the mouth of a man who did not have freedom.

[813] The grander the Prince, the pettier the Minister; and the grander the Minister, the pettier the Sovereign.

[814] In England, since you see an unbridled liberty in the newspapers, you at first think the people are going to revolt. But the people are unhappy with the ministry there as elsewhere; what is written there is what is thought elsewhere.1

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[815] In that State, punishment will be moderate because any punishment that does not derive from necessity is tyrannical.

The Law is not a pure act of power.1 Any useless law is a tyrannical law, like the one that obliged the Muscovites to have their beards cut off.2 Things that are indifferent in nature are not within the compass of the Law. Since men have a passionate desire to follow their will, the Law that obstructs it is tyrannical, because it obstructs the public happiness.

Moderate punishments have the same effect {as atrocious punishments have} on minds accustomed to atrocious punishments.3

The Romans can be believed on this—always so moderate in their punishments and with such a fine justice system. It was permissible for a person accused {before the people} to go away before his sentencing. Theft was punished only by double, and sometimes by quadruple.4

[816] England is agitated by winds that are made not for submerging but for leading to port.1

[817] What is beginning to ruin our comedy is that we want to find the ridiculous in the passions instead of finding the ridiculous in manners. But the passions are not ridiculous by themselves.

[818] When it is said that there are no absolute qualities, I believe this means not that there are none in reality but that our minds cannot determine them.1

[819] If men had remained in the little garden, we would have had a different idea of happiness and unhappiness from the one we have.1

[820] Van Helmont’s experiment is that, when rain water is left to stand, a kind of sediment is found at the bottom of the vase.1

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That being the case, I reason thusly {and say that} the rains fall constantly on the earth, {and since they} come from the sea, they leave a sediment which, being deposited in the earth, balances what the sea receives from the earth. Otherwise, the earth would become dry, rocky, and bare. All rivers, all streams large and small, flow ceaselessly into the sea. It is quite useful for this balancing to occur, since the water deposits its sediment, which consists in light and angular particles that stop and become attached to each other in the earth, and since the waters carry away the sands, made of round parts easy to take away. This is why, although the fat of the land is always being lost, the riverbeds have only sand, since the fat of the land has gone with the water to the sea, and the sand has remained in the rivers and the sea. If the sea did not give back, waterfronts would be constantly having to recede and islands to shrink, which is not the case. It is true enough that the great rivers are always increasing the territory in front of them. But this is a special case, which arises from the fact that they let out onto a single location—namely, their mouth—what they have picked up from everywhere. An experiment ought to be done with a tube on this sediment. Just as the sun lifts the rains, the interior heat lifts the water from the seas, and this sediment rises up in natural water just as it does in the rains.

Experiment. Take a vase of six square lines2 at the base and several square feet at the top. Through this experiment, see how many lines of sediment fall on the earth.

The receding of the sea on the Italian coasts and on our Mediterranean tells us nothing. This is because of a devastating catastrophe that occurred in the past, which brought the sea onto the land. Now, equilibrium is restoring things little by little to the way they were.

It is easy to see the waters that descend from the mountains, and how one can see that the rivers’ sources do not come from the rain. A little mountain in the Tyrol forms two rivers, as I have said.

This sediment rests in the earth, where the water flows as if into its womb or its menses. The water discharged from there picks up sand particles in the earth. Since they are round, they are more fit for motion, so that the water takes on particles of sediment, as analogues, and grains of sand, as of a body that the water carries along. Now the particles of sediment stop and combine in the particles of earth, as analogues but not in Edition: current; Page: [240] the particles of sand, where they cannot stop. This is why the rain does virtually nothing for the vegetation in sandy terrain.

The rains carry sediment into the ground, and discharge it from the particles of sand that they drag into the sea. These particles of sand, which are deposited on the riverbeds, ensure that the sediment that remains in the water is not deposited there, but goes on to the sea. The sandy parts of the rivers that remain in the flood zones are deposited there because of their weight, but the particles of sediment cannot settle there because the sand is not analogous to it. This is why floods are harmful. {I am mistaken, I believe, on river flooding. It’s been found by experience that floods destroy newly cultivated lands; the waters carry away all the fat of the land, and the sand settles in its place. The floods do no harm, I believe, to uncultivated land. I do not believe, however, that they do any good. Look into this.}

The land near rivers is fertile, because the river water communicates with it underground and infiltrates it as if through capillary tubes, disposing of its sediment there.

Thus, sediment comes from the sea and sand returns there.

{An experiment should be done as to whether this sediment mingles with the sand: mix them in a vase where sand and earth have been placed.}

Those who say that springs come from the rain have not traveled in mountain country. It is not necessary to prove that the water that falls on the earth is enough to make rivers. It is necessary to prove that the water that falls on the mountaintop is enough. The snows are beside the point, since the snows are only on the mountains because they do not melt there, especially in the summer. For as soon as they melt, there is nothing left of them.

The riverbeds should be lowered by machine. I have seen one in Venice, very good for this, made by Bonneval.3

The earth does not send all the water it receives back to the rivers; a lot of it remains in its womb, impregnating it. How much stagnant water remains in a pound of earth should be looked into. Now, since the numerous shoots do not fall to the ground at the same time, everything less than in the above-mentioned account is nil. This is because the water must reach a certain quantity for it to flow; otherwise, it forms into droplets and evaporates in the heat.

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It is readily seen how the effect of rainwater is prompt and discontinuous. In the Romagna, I have seen streams falling from the Apennines that swell in terrifying fashion when it rains.4 If they are allowed to flow for an hour, they become streams again, unless the cause continues.

In a village in the Tyrol named Mittenwald, near the Bavarian border, I was shown snow that has been there for more than a hundred years; this is because it does not melt.5 Now snow that does not melt is nil. Thus, we see that the effects of snowmelts are not moderate, as they would have to be in order to be continuous, but extreme.

I would say nothing to defend what I am writing here. I am not passionately in favor of opinions, except those that are in Euclid’s books.6 I am no more inclined to do battle for my work than for anyone else’s. If what I say is true, it belongs to everyone, for truth is the property of all. If it is false, I do not intend to defend it. Besides, either the objection is valid, and in that case I do not intend to respond to it, or it is invalid, in which case the one who makes it, being an intelligent man, will himself find the response.

[821] [I was saying of abbé de S.: “A man lacking wit and discernment who, luckily for men of letters, has no letters, and who would dishonor the learned if he were learned; constantly condemned by that justice that has authority only over the vilest criminals; a man whose acquaintance is everywhere disavowed.”]1

[822] the “life of marie alacoque”1 has this particular impertinence, that it is a man of composure, who presumably has some sense since he is a bishop, who recounts the biggest inanities in the world—apparitions, conversations, marriages, exchanges of hearts, and other frivolities; whereas Saint Theresa, Madeline Pazzi, and others talk about what they have seen, what they have felt; it is their own ecstasies, their enchantments.2 Now, Edition: current; Page: [242] someone who describes things that have affected himself is forgiven, but this is not forgiven in a bland storyteller.

[823] A man lacking wit and discernment, who finds the means of supporting his [wretched] life only by the slanders he sells his publishers; whose {wretched} works one reads only to learn by what stroke of malice he will attack some reputation; constantly condemned by that justice that punishes only the vilest criminals; a man that is not silenced,1 out of fear of debasing the hand that would bring about this effect; a man, in a word, whose acquaintance is everywhere disavowed, and who makes one blush when one has spoken of him.2

[824] Because men are wicked, the laws are obliged to presume them to be better than they are.1 Thus, the deposition of two witnesses suffices in the punishment of all crimes. Thus, every child born during a marriage is considered legitimate.

[825] What proves to me the necessity of a revelation is the inadequacy of natural religion, given men’s fear and superstition. For if you place men today in the pure state of natural religion, tomorrow they would fall into some gross superstition.

[826] [The tranquillity of despotic governments is like the silence found in cities that the enemy is ready to occupy.]1

[827] english. The nation insolent, the individuals modest.1

[828] The men who enjoy the government I have spoken of are like fish who swim in the sea without constraint.1 Those who live in a prudent and moderate monarchy or aristocracy seem to be in large nets, in which they are caught, though they think themselves free. But those who live in purely despotic States are in such tight nets that they feel themselves to be caught right at the outset.

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[829] When prosperity is merely external, the evidence of well-being is quite equivocal. For often a prince who has great qualities, but does not have them all, can do great things abroad for a State that he governs very badly.

[830] Authors are not good judges of their works. Here is the reason why: if they had thought that a sentence was bad, they would not have written it.

[831] The reason why most governments on earth are despotic is because this happens all by itself. But for moderate governments, it is necessary to combine and temper powers, to know what to give to one, what is left for another; in a word, a system is necessary—that is, an agreement of many, and a discussion of interests. Despotic government is uniform; it is plain to see everywhere.1

[832] balance. Every State that sends out less than it receives puts itself in balance by impoverishing itself;1 that is, it receives less and less until, in a state of extreme poverty, it is obliged not to receive anything more.

[833] How can princes be sure of winning battles? This depends on so many circumstances. You find a big obstacle like this bar? A squadron or batallion must be unleashed. There’s an opening! Now, if you enter this little opening? Maybe a rank is too compressed; it’s bent into an arc. You’re too squeezed (big disadvantage). Ditto, too loose.

[834] The Germans have this going for them: they know how to rally. But they do not do as well by themselves as when joined with a nation that has more forward thrust, like the English or even the Spanish. They do not have that forward thrust and that strength of attack that other nations do.

{The large number of our officers contributes to giving us this forward thrust; our entire first rank is officers.}

[835] Quite a few professions1 destroy themselves through imitation. The orators ruined themselves by imitating the poets, just as the sculptors ruined themselves by copying the painters.

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[836] What M. Van Dale1 says about priestly trickery concerning oracles seems to me in no way proven. There is every probability that they were themselves deceived. I base this on the {miracle of the} blood of Saint Januarius, which I can prove was not a scam.2 The priests are of good faith; Naples is in good faith; and this cannot be otherwise. In a matter involving general and continuous credulity, it must be that the ministers are deceived. What M. Schot3 says about the tripod {of Delphi}, which spoke through the mountain wind, entered the hollow of that machine, and seemed to be increased or decreased by some hidden spring, does not seem probable to me—unless the priestess herself was deceived (this is in the Journal littéraire4 of November and December 1714). It may have happened naturally that the priestess, in her fury, was herself seduced by the persuasiveness of the gifts that had been brought to the temple, or by a tendency to welcome flattery, or even by a prejudice she conceived for one man over another. But that this could be fabricated by trickery, that cannot happen in any age. There may well have been an early con artist; but a continual and secret succession of con artists, under shadow of religion, this cannot be or is unlikely.

Nota: M. Hickman5 explains the phial of Saint Januarius’s blood by well-rectified oil of anise, mixed with, I believe, good spirits of well- rectified vitriol. This makes it so susceptible to changes in temperature that touching suffices. Now this was regarded as miraculous before the invention of thermometers, and it was believed to be blood because it was red.

Against me, there is the story from the Book of Daniel,6 the trickery of the priests of Darius Medus. I do not know whether it is found in a canonical book. Absent that, it is going to have very much the air of a story contrived for amusement. And we see by these priests’ lack of success how easy it was to convince them; in a word, it is an unusual event. But being Edition: current; Page: [245] duped comes more easily to men than being imposters, especially when a large number of people are needed for that. The reason is that the number of accomplices is detrimental to trickery, but the large number of accomplices is useful for prejudice and credulity, and encourage it.

[837] I have the disease of writing books and being ashamed of them when I have written them.

[838] To be true everywhere, even about one’s Country. Every citizen is obliged to die for his Country; no one is obliged to lie for it.1

[839] Fontenelle: “Nothing produces more cuckolds than the Parisian custom that gives the wife permission to be obliging1 for her husband’s sake.”

[840] I say that rouge, far from being a sign that women are thinking more about their beauty, actually makes them think less about it. It is incredible how preoccupied women used to be with their complexions; how much they looked in the mirror; what precautions they took; how they lived behind a mask for fear of suntan. Since there were complexions at that time, and since beauty was individualized, the complexions offered great distinctiveness and great advantage. Today, all faces are the same.

Idem, since they no longer wear tailored bodices.

[841–842] Ideas that did not make it into my “Academy speech.”1

[841] Like children who have lost a cherished father and who, while the public pays attention to their new wealth, see only the loss they have suffered.

[842] I hope that by my efforts I might convey to you the man of virtue, if I cannot convey the man of wit. Heaven has distributed different talents to men, and has thereby prescribed limits to each that he cannot transcend, but heaven has given us an equal right to virtue. All of us can acquire it because it is necessary, while talents are only useful.

How splendid it is to see this illustrious man who, able through his brilliant qualities to make a great name for himself in a day, neglected none of those virtues that confer reputation only slowly and with the help of an entire lifetime of action!

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[843] The political men1 have studied their Tacitus in vain; all they will find there are subtle reflections on events that would require an earthly eternity to recur in the same circumstances.

[844] Here is why our works bring a sovereign pleasure to us, independent of self-love: it is because they cohere with all our other ideas, and are analogous to them. And the reason why they are no longer so pleasing to us after a certain time is that they no longer cohere so much with our other ideas and are not so analogous to them.

[845] When we read books, we find men better than they are, because each author, not lacking in vanity, seeks to make others think he is a more honorable man than he is, by always coming down on the side of virtue. In a word, authors are theatrical characters.

[846] I approve of the English nation’s taste for short works. Since there is a lot of thinking going on there, one quickly finds that everything has been said. In nations where there is not much thinking going on, people find that after speaking, they sense their impoverishment, and that there is still something to say.

[847] From the submissiveness that we naturally have toward our confessor, we can judge how easy it was to move toward submission to the pope.

[848] Saint Louis1 calls disavowal a greate mortall sinne, which leads soul and feith to perdition. In reality, since the lords’ property in those days consisted solely in their vassals, to deny one’s vassalage was to do them the greatest damage one could do.2 That is why the old acts of recognition were so short, so general, so imprecise, since vassalage or the act of recognition was known by the fact, and possession was being exercised constantly.3

[849] Without syphilis, honorable women would be ruined; everyone would take the courtesans. {Thus, it is syphilis that produces gallantry.}

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[850] I said: “To avoid being dishonored in this world, it is enough to be only half a fool and half a fraud.”

[851] One should always leave1 a place a moment before becoming the butt of a joke. It is the way of the world that causes this.

[852] Of all the pleasures, the only one the Jansenists allow us is that of scratching ourselves.

[853] Look at how, in Plutarch’s Life of Nicias,1 the scientists who explained lunar eclipses by natural causes were suspect to the people. They called them weather fanatics,2 convinced that they reduced all of divinity to natural and scientific causes, until Socrates cut to the root of everything by subjecting the necessity of natural causes to a divine and intelligent origin. The doctrine of an intelligent being was thus discovered by Plato only as an antidote and a defensive weapon against the calumnies of the pagan zealots.

[854] Men are governed by five different things:1 climate, manners, morals, religion, and laws. In each nation, to the extent that one of these causes acts with more force, the others give way proportionally.2 Climate dominates over savages almost by itself; manners govern the Chinese; the laws tyrannize Japan; morals would set the tone in Rome and Lacedemon; and religion does everything today in Southern Europe.

The English nation scarcely has manners or even morals to call its own. She has at most an enlightened respect for religion.3 She is tremendously attached to the laws that are particular to her, and these laws are bound to have unlimited force when they counter or favor the climate.4

[855] english. Singular talents: they will not even imitate the Ancients, whom they admire, and their plays are less similar to the regular productions of nature than to those games in which nature has followed fortuitous chance.

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[856] I have screened the essays to be sent to the Academy, so we would not be accused of being like those folks who live near the sea, and who survive only by scavenging through everything tossed up on their shores.1

[857] When the great cardinal to whom an illustrious academy owes its foundation1 had seen royal authority solidified, France’s enemies in consternation, and the King’s subjects returned to obedience, who would not have thought that this great man would be content with himself? No! While he was at the height of his fortunes, there was in Paris, hidden away in an obscure study, a secret rival for his glory. He found in Corneille a new rebel, whom he could not subdue. It was enough that he had to suffer the superiority of another genius; nothing more was necessary to make him lose the taste for a great ministry destined to be the envy of generations to come.

[858] On a quarrel with a prince of the blood, I said: “As soon as a prince of the blood claims1 to be offended, he is.”

[859] Estates of Languedoc, tranquil: the bishops—who have no interest in the matter and who need to have the abbeys and some barons—entirely in the pockets of the Court.

Estates of Brittany, tumultuous but useful to the province.1

[860] Supplications used to be made from the income off the property of the condemned. That is why they were called supplicia;1 that is also why sacred things were sometimes called venerable, sometimes execrable: de bonis execrandorum.2 These confiscations3 were made by means of the high priest, but by order of the consul or the magistrate {and, says the same Edition: current; Page: [249] Giraldus, the people had to be present, otherwise the confiscation would have been useless.}4 And this again outlines for us an idea of the Roman distinction between the two powers, which I have spoken of in my work.

[861] See my Lilius Giraldus extract on these confiscations, p. 72.

[862] The Romans wanted the Latin name of the city of Rome to be unknown, as we see in Plutarch, who sought the reason for it.1 Giraldus looks for the name of Rome’s tutelary God, and he thinks it is Ops consiva.2 But this is a great absurdity; it was no longer a name once no one knew it. As for the city’s name, we have absolutely no knowledge of it, says Giraldus. {Among the Hebrews, the name of the Ineffable was not hidden, since it was written in all the books. It was merely prohibited, out of respect, to pronounce it. But among the Romans, the name was unknown; that is, it was not a name.}

[863] The Romans, says Lilius Giraldus, evoked the tutelary gods of the cities they besieged, either because they thought they were unable to take the City otherwise, or because they thought it was a sacrilege to make the gods captive.1

Now, from all this, I conclude that the Romans and the Pagans did not have the gross idolatry to believe that their statues were gods. For they saw clearly that, even though they had evoked the divinity, the statues still remained after the seizure of the city, and they doubtless did not figure that the statues were about to venture off.

[864] Lilius Giraldus (page 17) cites Festus, who said that the idol of Modesty was the same as that of Fortune.1 Did the Romans believe that modesty was not a natural virtue, and that it could only be obtained as a result of chance?

[865] Priapus: Servius says he was from Lampsacus, from which he was Edition: current; Page: [250] expelled because of the size of his male organ. {He is, I believe, the first to whom such a thing happened.} He was unfortunate, that one.

[866] Lilius Giraldus says the temple of Diana of Persia at Castabalis was highly renowned, because the virgins who served in that temple walked barefoot over burning coals without doing themselves any harm. Many authors say the same thing happened on Mount Soracte, to a certain family of Hirpi, in the Temple of Feronia. (Pliny, Solinus, and Servius.) Pausanias assures us of having seen this miracle.1 Trial by fire is {thus} quite ancient.

[867] Barbata Venus:1 Because Roman women had an attack of a certain disease that made all their hair fall out. (Extract from Lilius Giraldus, page 54.) “At the time that I write this,” says the author, “there is a disease going around that makes men and women lose their hair. They say this problem comes from intercourse with women.”

This is doubtless2 syphilis. Look into when Lilius Giraldus lived.

[868] In my extract from the same author, page 73, he says that among the Lindians, it was pious to vomit out curses against Hercules, and it was believed that the more you insulted him, the more honored he was. This makes it quite clear that the pagans thought they were honoring the gods in bringing their vices to the fore, whether they came from force or from cleverness.1 It has been wrong, therefore, to criticize Homer over this, since he was merely following his theology. Cleverness and force are marks of power, and it is power that the pagans honored in their gods.

[869] The Arabs performed sacrifices on the altars of the unknown God, it is said in my Lilius Giraldus extract, page 73.1 {The Athenians were thus not the only ones who had such a divinity.}

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[870] Among the Pedalians (an Indian nation),1 there was no established priestly order, it is said in the same extract, page 76,2 but whoever passed for the most prudent immolated the victims. {They were the Quakers of that era.}3

[871] The ancient myths are explained very well by the situation the earliest men found themselves in before they had discovered offensive and defensive arms.1 They were weak and timid, prey to ferocious beasts, and their condition must have been uncertain or at least perilous until the invention of iron, or at least equivalent materials. That’s why those who killed monsters were heroes. Occupied with ferocious beasts, men did not dream of attacking each other. They were too timid and too few.

[871a] In book two of his Laws, Cicero cites this passage from the Book of the High Priests: “Sacrum commissum, quod neque expiari poterit, impie commissum esto; quod expiari poterit, publici sacerdotes expianto.1 Thus, there were inexpiable crimes among the pagans, and apparently that is the basis of Zosimus’s account, in favor of poisoning the motives behind Constantine’s conversion.2

[872] Father Hardouin was a man whose head was on no straighter than that of the man who believed himself the Eternal Father in the Little-Houses.1

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[873] Folly of the Portuguese, who just this year (March 1734) formed a company to support the price of diamonds, which will inevitably lower their price. It is said there: that only a certain number of workers will work in the mines, on pain of death; that the Company alone will sell the diamonds, and always at a price proportional to the old one. But who doesn’t see that the high price of diamonds was based on the fact that they were thought to be rare in the world, and that they will lose their value as soon as it becomes clear that it belongs to a single company to raise it or lower it, to mine many diamonds or few?

[874] [A free government can be compared to a big net in which fish move around without thinking they are caught; the nonfree government, on the other hand . . .]1

[875] At first, the works bring renown to the worker; afterward, the worker brings renown to the works.

[876] The new Christians, nurtured on idolatry, still had their minds filled either with gods who had left Heaven to come live among men, such as Apollo, Neptune, etc., or with men who had been raised to godly rank. This is what facilitated the establishment of the truth of the mystery of the Trinity. But people did not strongly adhere to these truths. As Christianity ridded itself of Jewish superstitions, it filled itself with pagan ones, in the same way liquors lose the odor they had contracted in the vase they are no longer in, to take on that of the vase they are now in. If the religion is ever established in China,1 Oriental Christianity will be quite different from the Occidental.

[877] It is the idea of God’s unity that has made for such an easy reception of the Christian and Mohammedan religions. When it is said that there are many gods, it is necessary to know what these many gods are all about. When it is said that there is only one, it suffices to know that there is only one; that says everything.

[878] My friend N. devoted himself to philosophy at the age of eighty. He was the hero of book III of Virgil:1 stronger than the young folks.

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[879] D***, who had certain goals, gave me to understand that someone would give me a pension. I said that, having done no servile acts, I had no need to be consoled by favors.

[880] On Mme L.’s affliction, I said: “Goodness of heart is the source of great maladies.”

[881] “I am from a sect {I was having a Quaker speak to the King of England} that takes part in men’s various calamities only by the tender compassion it has for them, and by its patience. In the unhappy times that agitated our island, it knew how to feel grief and never complain.

“Just as it knows how to suffer evils, it knows how to enjoy goods, and the feeling of happiness that it possesses under Your Majesty’s reign cannot be separated from a feeling of gratitude toward the one who guides the hearts of Kings.”

[882] At a dinner in Milan, at the home of Prince Trivulce,1 an Italian said he had no esteem for French architecture. Count Archinto2 said to me: “Sir, you are saying nothing about what Monsieur has just put forward.” I responded: “Sir, this is because it is impossible to respond to such a proposition. Monsieur says he does not esteem French architecture, but this means he does not esteem architecture, for French architecture is the same as the Italian and that of all other nations. It consists everywhere of the five orders, whose proportions the French have neither increased nor decreased, and in this regard, they merit neither praise nor blame. And if I were to say to Monsieur that I do not esteem Italian geometry, he would do very well not to respond to me either.”

This is by way of telling you, my dear President,3 that the Ancients discovered that the pleasure we feel, in looking at a building, is caused by certain proportions that the different architectural elements that compose it have among themselves. They found that there are five different sorts of proportions that stimulate this pleasure, and they called these orders. When the column had a height seven times its diameter, they called this the Tuscan order; when it was eight, Doric order; when it was nine, Ionic Edition: current; Page: [254] order; ten, Corinthian order; and it can be said that there are only four orders, because the composite has practically the same proportions as the Corinthian, differing only in that the column and other elements are made even more slender.

Whatever ornaments are added to these orders, whatever disguise is applied to them, this never changes them. Put oak leaves instead of acanthus leaves on the Corinthian capital—this will still be the Corinthian order, because its proportions will conform to the Corinthian order.

This makes it impossible to change the orders, to increase or decrease the number, because these are not some arbitrary beauties that can be replaced by others. This is taken from nature, and it would be easy for me to explain the scientific reason for this, and I will do it someday.

[883] Since one must be faithful to one’s Country, one must also be faithful to one’s prince or magistrates who govern it.

The authority of princes and magistrates is not only founded on civil law, it is also founded on natural law.1 Since anarchy is contrary to natural law (because the human race is unable to survive it), the magistrates’ authority, which is opposed to anarchy, must be in conformity with it.

What gives strength to the authority of princes is that often the harm they do can only be prevented by a still greater harm, namely, the danger of destruction.

[884] on political liberty.1

This word liberty in politics is far from signifying what the orators and poets make it signify. Properly speaking, this word expresses only a relationship, and cannot serve to distinguish the different types of government. For the popular state is the liberty of poor and weak persons and the servitude of rich and powerful persons; monarchy is the liberty of the great and the servitude of the small.

Thus, in Rome, monarchical government was lamented by the children of the very consul who had established the government of the many. And when the Romans gave liberty to Macedonia, they were constrained to exile her nobles with as much care as with the King himself.2

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And it must not be thought that the Swiss and Dutch nobility imagine themselves to be quite free, for the word nobility entails distinctions—real in monarchy, chimerical in the republican state.

Thus, the English nobility3 buried itself with Charles I under the ruins of the throne. And before that, when Philip II thrust the word liberty into the ears of the French, the crown was still supported by that nobility that prides itself on obeying a king, but that regards sharing power with the people as a supreme disgrace.

Thus, when one says in a civil war that one is fighting for liberty, it is not that. The people are fighting for domination over the great, and the great are fighting for domination over the people.

A free people is not the one that has this or that form of government, it is the one that enjoys the form of government established by Law; there can be no doubt that the Turks would think themselves slaves if they were subjugated by the Republic of Venice, or that the peoples of the Indies regard it as a cruel servitude to be governed by the Dutch East Indies Company.

From this, it must be concluded that political liberty concerns moderate monarchies just as it does republics, and is no further from a throne than from a senate. Every man is free who has good grounds to believe that the wrath of one or many will not take away his life or possession of his property.

Just as, in a corrupt monarchy, the Prince’s passions can become lethal to private individuals, so too, in a corrupt republic, the dominant faction can be as rabid as a wrathful prince. And on this, one can look at Thucydides’ fine passage on the condition of various Greek republics.

[It is true that the evils of the corrupt republic are transitory—unless it changes, as often happens, into a corrupt monarchy—whereas the evils of the corrupt monarchy never end.]

[885] despotic governments. It is only by dint of philosophy that a sensible man can support them, and by dint of prejudice that a people can bear them. These sorts of government are self-destructive.1 Each day leads them into decline, and with them, there is virtually no middle ground between childhood and old age. It would be more difficult for the Emperor Edition: current; Page: [256] to strip the Duke of Parma2 of his states than it was for Mir Wais, with ten or twelve thousand thieves, to destroy the formidable Persian Empire.3 The capital was besieged, only the bourgeois defended it, and with all his power, the presumptive heir could bring only two or three thousand men to his aid.

[886] Princes who do not like war have sought to distinguish themselves by another talent, namely, courtly mystery and deception. For there are few men who have the good character to measure their personal merit in virtue, candor and courage.

[887] ordeal of civil wars. Don’t tell me that in the middle of two different factions I have only to keep my neutrality.1 For what are the means of staying sane when everyone else is mad, and keeping one’s cool in the general frenzy? Moreover, I am not isolated in society, and cannot avoid taking part in all kinds of things with which I am connected. Besides, neutrality is not a prudent option, for I am quite sure of having enemies, but I am not sure of having a friend. Thus, I must take sides. But if I choose badly? In addition, the stronger party may not be stronger everywhere, so that I may very well die a martyr to the dominant faction, which is very disagreeable.

[888] [I don’t believe there is a man in the world who brings to the examination of things a more . . .]

[889] The perennial character of the English is a certain impatience imparted to them by the climate, which permits them neither to act for long in the same manner, nor to endure the same things for long1—a character that is not great in itself, but that can become very great when it is mixed not with weakness, but with that courage furnished by climate, liberty, and the laws.2

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[890] On the Emperor’s failures in the war of 1733 and 1734,1 I said:

“What causes the Emperor’s true weakness is that that court is not accustomed to playing a leading role either in politics or in war. In the era of the Spanish monarchy, it was she who played this role in Italy and in the Low Countries; then, the Dutch; then, King William; then, Queen Anne.2 They have been quite confounded when they have had to play a leading role. His monarchy was made all of a sudden out of bits and pieces. Ours is a monarchy made little by little; as a problem has appeared, it has been fixed. But the Viennese monarchy has not had the institutions necessary to preserve its power. Not having an engineering establishment, she has been unable to defend her fortifications. She has had adequate artillery ranks. She has regarded the Italian States as her revenue streams, but has consumed the income from those countries in pensions. All the revenues from that country should have been used to maintain it: to keep a permanent army of thirty thousand fully-equipped men in Lombardy; near the Papal borders, ten thousand men; in the kingdom of Naples, as well (near the Papal borders); and ten thousand more men {partly} astride the straits. That would in some sense have combined all his forces, and he would have projected them where he wanted to.”

{In the past, Imperial salvation lay in the Empire and the Hungarian sector; the rest was scarcely part of their beat.}

[891] Ever since I saw in Amsterdam the tree that bears the sap called dragon’s blood—big as a thigh when it was near the female tree, and no bigger than an arm when it was alone—I have concluded that marriage is a necessary thing.1

[892] It should not be surprising to see that virtually all the world’s peoples are so far from the liberty they love. Despotic government is plain, so to speak, for all to see, and is established virtually all by itself. Since the Edition: current; Page: [258] passions alone are necessary to form it, everyone is fit for that. But to form a moderate government,1 it is necessary to combine powers, temper them, make them act, and adjust them; to give ballast to one, so to speak, in order to put it in a position to resist another. It is a masterpiece of legislation that chance very rarely achieves, and that prudence is scarcely allowed to effect.2

[893] It seems to me that in the prettiest women, there are certain days when I see how they will be when they are ugly.

[894] In the last debates over the Ancients and the Moderns, M. Pope alone hit the target.1 Mme Dacier did not know what she admired. She admired Homer because he had written in Greek. M. de La Motte lacked feeling, and his mind had been narrowed by regular contact with the circle of folks who engaged only in small talk, and neither he nor they had any knowledge or understanding of antiquity. As for abbé Terrasson, he was missing the five senses. Boivin was merely a scholar. As for the poet Gacon, a more contemptible one has never been known.2

[895] M. Pope alone perceived Homer’s greatness, and that is what was at issue. It is true that M. de La Motte has been dragged into the details by Mme Dacier herself, who found them all completely divine in Homer.

[896] I said: “Voltaire is not noble;1 he is only nice. It would be shameful for the Academy for Voltaire to belong; it will someday be shameful if he has not.”2

[897] We can make goods out of all our goods, and we can also make goods out of our ills.

[898] In abbé de Bellegarde’s History of Spain, when the grand inquisitor Torquemada {the first one} offered a general amnesty, more than seventeen Edition: current; Page: [259] thousand persons came voluntarily to confess their crimes in the hope of absolution.1 “But they were tricked”: more than two thousand were burned, and the others ran off to various realms. {One cannot read these words, “But they were tricked,” without feeling sadness in one’s heart.}

[899] When you see the huge to-do made in Antiquity over a renowned philosopher or a scholar, and how folks came from all over to hear him, you might say we no longer have the same love for the sciences. This is because, since books and libraries were rare, the knowledge of those who were living books was more valued. “He knows history.” “But I have history.” It is the discovery of printing that has changed this: in the past, it was men who were valued; today, it is books.

[900] Admirable maxim: no longer talk about things after they are done.

[901] Dominion of the sea has always given the people who possessed it a natural pride,1 because, feeling themselves capable of insulting everywhere, they think their power has no other limits than the Ocean.2

[902] The Monks: “Genus hominum quod damnabitur semper et semper retinebitur.1

[903] It is not philosophers who disturb states, but those men who are not philosophical enough to know their happiness and enjoy it.1

[904] Timidity appears to be linked to avarice: thus, old men, eunuchs, women; all this comes from weakness of soul.

[905] It is odd that, in the climes of Southern Europe, where celibacy is more difficult, it has been retained, but in the climes of Northern Europe, where the passions are less lively, it has been rejected.1

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[906] I would readily raise the question of whether men have gained anything by the custom of eating animal flesh, instead of feeding on their milk and on the fruits of the earth. I am convinced that men’s health has been diminished by it. The meat had to be prepared; the stews, ragouts, and saltiness had to be enhanced; in addition, the pasture has to be employed in feeding the animals that must in turn feed man. Now if man were to feed directly from the fruits of the earth, the same territory would feed many more men. The experience in England is that the multiplication of pasture reduces the number of men, by reducing the number of those who cultivate the land. And I am convinced that the large number of people in China arises only from the fact that most people there live on rice,1 which enables a field to feed a very large number of men.2

[907] As for my system on liberty, it will have to be compared with the other ancient republics,1 and for this, read [Aristotle’s Politics], Pausanias, Reinerius, Reicennius, De Republica Atheniensium; examine the aristocracy of Marseilles {which was wise, no doubt, since it flourished for a long time}, the republic of Syracuse, which was foolish, no doubt, since it was never preserved for more than a moment; Strabo, book IV, which seems to apply my system; [Plato, book III of the Laws;] Plutarch, Life of Theseus, on the republic of Athens; Ibid. Plutarch, Life of Solon; Xenophon, Republic of Athens; Julius Pollux, Onomasticon, de Republica Atheniensi; Kekermannus, De Republica Atheniensium; Sigonius, De Republica Atheniensium; Thesaurus Republicarum by Coringius.2

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[908] Pericles1 gave the people all judicial power, consilia totiusque Reipublicae gubernationem,2 with remuneration. Good thing the civil judges were picked from among the people. It was, I believe, like that at Athens.3

[909] I no longer like oratorical speeches; they are works of ostentation.

[910] It is a mistake not to speak the truth when possible, for one does not always speak it when one intends to, and when one is seeking it.

[911] One will never think well of men if one does not give them a pass on the prejudices of their times.1

[912] Nothing better proves how easy it is to govern a large State than M. d’Orléans, despite the essential faults he had in the area of good administration.

{If M. the Duke1 had not been so foolish as to think he had little ability, he would have governed just like anyone else.}

[913] At present, the Jews are saved. Superstition will not return, and they will no longer be exterminated out of a principle of conscience.1

[914] cardinal fleury. He succeeded in crushing Jansenism and achieving the reception of the Constitution;1 [This has certainly changed.] and he did this, per alluvionem,2 {by marching slowly and} not taking one step that did not move toward his goal. The self-contradictory paces of M. d’Orléans, the impetuosity of most others, would have put the evil beyond remedy. [I set aside everything there is to say about his candor, his modesty, and his gentleness—about war and peace since Pharamond Edition: current; Page: [262] . . . What is extraordinary is that this was thought about him during his lifetime.]

[915] frenchmen. Their character: Among the ancient Gauls, they set out on the highways to learn the news. Jesters: when Roman ambassadors came to inspire them to oppose Hannibal, their young people burst out laughing. Look at Anna Comnena’s History.1

[916] Histories are false facts composed on the basis of true ones, or else on the occasion of true ones.

[917] Luther, having Princes in his favor, could not make them appreciate an authority lacking external signs of preeminence. And Calvin, having in his favor peoples kept in the dark under monarchy, or peoples living in republics, could scarcely establish dignities and signs of preeminence in religion.

This is because Lutheranism was established by the Northern kings, Calvinism in popular States and in those where certain people sought to make it so.1

Each of these two religions believed itself the more perfect—the Calvinist considering itself more in conformity with what Jesus Christ had said, the Lutheran, with what the Apostles had done.

The religious disputes made government no longer a constitution for living according to the laws, but instead a conspiracy of those who thought one way against those who thought another; a type of evil that we owe to our modern times, and on which the ancient men of politics have nothing to tell us.

[918] Every moderate government—that is, where one power is limited by another power—needs much wisdom to be established, and much wisdom to be preserved.

During certain disorders and disturbances, when every citizen is head of a faction, how can a government be set up—unless it is the one that is established, so to speak, by itself, namely, the tyrannical, or the one that is merely the deprivation of government, namely, the anarchical?

When the English people had overturned their constitution, passing Edition: current; Page: [263] from government to government and finding each one harsher than the last—free in appearance, slave in fact—they were obliged out of desperation to restore a monarch.1 By the nature of the thing, it was necessary to arrive at a situation where the sects would be contained by the government, and not the government contained by the sects.

[919] I said: “Prigs are never wicked. This is because they admire themselves and are not irritated against anyone.”1

[920] the learned. In their books, one would like them to have learned women’s jargon. But they know all languages except that one. They are gauche when they want to be trifling, and foolish when they want to reason with machines that have never done anything but feel.1

[921] Animals are happier than we are. They flee difficulty, but they are not afraid of death, of which they have no idea.

[922] Most men are more capable of doing great deeds than good ones.1

[923] Those who make digressions think they are like those men who have long arms, and who reach further.

[924] The cases of conscience that the pagan philosophers set up for each other indicate such great sincerity of soul and such refinement that there are few Christians who dare judge themselves by their principles. Look at the case of the grain merchant in Cicero’s Offices.1 One sees with pleasure that Christian charity scarcely demands more of us than what the Pagans felt humanity and love of the common good demanded of them.

[925] If abbé Dubos’s system is true, what would be the origin of servile conditions in France?1

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[926] It is improbable that Maevius did not write against Virgil and against Horace.1 Otherwise, those two great men would not have written against him. But time has not made the offensive writings of that mean poet pass into posterity.

[927] On the historians of France: “Et, sicut prima aetas vidit quid ultimum in libertate esset, ita nos quod in servitute.1

[928] In the ode Donec gratus eram tibi,1 which has been so much praised, Horace is inept in the dialogue. Horace says he has been dying for Chloë; Chloë responds that she would consent to die twice. That is not felicitously said.


  • Jure perhorrui
  • Late conspicuum tollere verticem1


  • Virtutem incolumen odimus
  • Sublatam ex oculis quaerimus invidi.1


  • Iam nec spes animi credula mutui.1

[932] The success of this book has amply fulfilled my ambition,1 since all the criticisms that have been made are buried, after a month of life or of torpor, in the eternal darkness of the Mercure,2 with the enigmas {and the accounts of the gazetteers.

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  • Hoc miserae plebi stabat commune sepulcrum}.3

[933] This great power that God has placed in the hands of the King, my master, does not make him any more fearsome to his neighbors. It is the guarantee of the peace of Europe. Prouder of the title friend than he would be of conqueror, Heaven, in causing him to be born, has made all his greatness; he himself adds only virtues. He believes that Kings are not only born to make their subjects’ happiness, but that they are also destined to make the felicity of the human race. Such are the sentiments of the great soul of . . .

[934–935] some fragments that did not make it into the “political liberty”

[934] I do not at all think that one government ought to make other governments repulsive. The best of all is normally the one in which we live {and a sensible man ought to love it}. For since it is impossible to change it without changing manners and mores, I do not see, given the extreme brevity of life, what use it would be for men to abandon in every respect what they have gotten used to.1

[935] What makes most governments on earth despotic is that such a government is plain for all to see, it is uniform everywhere.1 Since violent passions alone are necessary to establish it, everyone is fit for that. But to establish a moderate government, it is necessary to combine powers, temper them, make them act, and adjust them; to give ballast to one in order to put it in a position to resist another. In short, it is necessary to make a system.2

[936] Whatever good thing I say, I relinquish it completely to the pride of those who would like to criticize it.

[937] People may think you put no fire into your thoughts because you put none in your manner of defending them.

[938] Nothing is closer to divine Providence than that general benevolence and that great capacity for love that embraces all men, and nothing more closely approaches animal instinct than those boundaries that the Edition: current; Page: [266] heart gives itself when it is touched only by its own interest, or by what is right near it.1

[939] I have been working for twenty-five years on an eighteen-page book that will contain everything that we know about metaphysics and theology, and that our moderns have forgotten in the immense volumes they have offered on those sciences.1

[940] No one is free in Turkey, not even the Sultan.1

In absolute States where there is a nobility, slavery–increasing imperceptibly—extends downward from the Prince to the lowest subject.

In those states where there is no nobility, slavery—increasing imperceptibly and passing through all ranks—extends upward from the most wretched subject to the Sultan.

The aristocracy of Genoa is like that of the army of Algiers.2

Holland has become less free since it no longer has a stadholder.

In England, the magistrates are slaves as magistrates but free as citizens.

In a well-constituted government, the man who is being prosecuted, and who will be hanged the next day, is freer than a good citizen is in a bad government.3

The governments of Spain and Portugal are liberty for the clergy and a strange slavery for the people.

Any overly small republic cannot be called free: fato potentiae, non sua vi nixae.4

To remedy this, the ancient republics of Greece, Italy, Gaul, Spain, and Germany formed associations, as the Swiss and the peoples of {Germany and} the Low Countries do today.5

[941] A government is like a sum composed of many numbers. Add or subtract a single digit and you change the value of all the others. But since Edition: current; Page: [267] in arithmetic the value and relationship of each number are known, one is not deceived. It is not the same in politics; one can never know what will result from the changes one makes.

[942] Many people have examined what is best: monarchy, aristocracy, or the popular state. But since there are countless types of monarchy, aristocracy, or popular state, the question thus posed is so vague that awfully little reasoning ability is needed to deal with it.

[943] Pure liberty is more a philosophical than a civil condition;1 which does not prevent there being very good and very bad governments, nor does it even prevent a constitution from being more imperfect to the extent that it is further removed from this philosophical idea of liberty that we have.2

An ancient compared the laws to those cobwebs that, being only strong enough to stop flies, are broken by birds.3

As for myself, I would compare good laws to those big nets in which fish are caught, while thinking themselves free,4 and bad ones to those nets in which they are so squeezed that they immediately feel themselves to be caught.5

[944] There are few1 in which those who govern do not in general have good intentions and want their administration to be good. For since they are on stage for all the world, however little feeling of honor they may have, etc.

In some, enlightenment may be lacking; in others, education or the aptitude for work. Many are guided by the prejudices of their country, their age, or their own state.2 Others are dragged along by the problem that has already been caused, or demoralized by the difficulty of solving it. For it is difficult not to make a mistake when one wants to correct individual problems, and when one was not lucky enough to be born with the ability to fathom in a stroke of genius a State’s whole constitution.

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[945] It is not philosophers who disturb states; it is those men who are not philosophical enough to know their happiness and enjoy it.1

[946] Though one should love one’s Country supremely, it is as ridiculous to talk about it with prejudice as about one’s wife, one’s birth, or one’s property, because vanity is foolish everywhere.1

[947] Montrésor says Saint-Mars’s tattletale1 was saying that one of his great crimes was to have sought to oust the Cardinal. “To deprive the Prince of his minister,” he said, “is as if he were depriving him of his arm.” As for me, I say that if servitude itself were to arrive on earth, it would not speak differently.2

[948] When the Abbasid caliphs wanted to restore the Temple with more magnificence, the learned men responded (it is said in Boulainvilliers’s Life of Mohammed)1 that the one who established the Temple in this place left it in its natural poverty for many centuries, that gold and rocks are equally the creatures of the same sovereign.

I say this is the first time that clergymen refused money. {This is the oddest event in the history.}

[949] All timid people readily make threats. This is because they know that threats would make a big impression on themselves.

[950] People were talking about Marivaux’s play La Mère confidente,1 in which the mores are admirable. I said: “The people2 are honorable in their tastes, although not in their morals. We are delighted to find honorable folks, because we would like people to be that way toward us.”

[951] Most people’s vanity is as well founded as the vanity I would feel over an episode that took place today at Cardinal Polignac’s, where I was Edition: current; Page: [269] having dinner. He took the hand of the House of Lorraine’s eldest son, the Duke of Elbeuf, and after dinner, when the prince was no longer there, he gave his hand to me.1 He gives me his hand [because he has contempt for me]; that’s an act of contempt. He took the prince’s hand; that’s an act of esteem. That is why princes are so intimate with their [most cherished] domestics. They think it’s favor; it’s contempt.

[952] I saw a fool who had returned from a diplomatic mission and who never spoke anymore except in monosyllables. If that man only knew how much he lost by acting like the Count of Avaux, and how much he would gain with us by being plain!1

[953] A prince must never descend into the details. He must think, then let others and make others act. He is the soul, not the arm. It is a job that he can never do well, and if he did it well, it would make him do the other things poorly.

[954] When I see a great prince who has reigned in our time seduced by a blind counsel, despite his natural good sense, and suddenly send subjects, soldiers, merchants, workers, commerce to his enemies, I lament the Catholic religion more, and if I dare say so, I lament it even more than I do the Protestants.1

[955] When a State is prospering, it is essential not to make decisions without weighing with the utmost care all of their disadvantages. But when one finds oneself surrounded by difficult circumstances, when one does not know what to do, one must act, since at that point there is no mistake so pernicious as inaction.

[956] We do not have R[eligion] firsthand, but perhaps tenth-hand.

[957] Take away from a nation’s general spirit the sentiments of honor, duty, love, and you do the same harm as when you take from a private individual all his principles.1

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And when you have done everything necessary to have good slaves, you will be left with nothing but bad subjects.

[958] France is no longer in the middle of Europe; it is Germany.

[959] Generous, liberal, magnificent, ready to do all sorts of splendid deeds, unless they were merely good ones.1

[960] Italy is no longer at the center since the discovery of the Cape and the West Indies; she is in a corner of the world. And since the Levantine trade is dependent upon that of the Indies, her trade is of only secondary importance.

[961] One finds in the earliest days of the Republic the explanation for what happened when it no longer existed. It was the same Romans in different circumstances. The historians, who for the sake of narrative brevity tell us the facts without going into the causes, depict the Romans after the Revolution as an entirely new people, and one who loved slavery, because they seemed to be seeking it.

[962] It is clear that a certain vanity among the Romans was not as ridiculous as it is with us. It is seen in that mania they had for demanding that their friends praise them, that they put them in their histories, their dedications.

The particular fact of Caesar’s death seemed so splendid that people who were not even in on it boasted of it. Trebonius wrote to Cicero that, if the latter writes something on Caesar’s murder, he hopes he will not occupy the least significant place.1 {Cicero, who begs people to put him in Roman history, and even to lie for him!2 This immoderate love of celebrity comes from the education of that time.}3

[963] Look at Ostendanae Obsidionis Diarium.1

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[964] [That constant train of vexations that the Emperors’ subtly insatiable desires had conceived were seen to be reduced merely to a simple tax easily paid and as easily received, which was doubtless the reason for the facility they experienced in their conquests.]1

[965] After the sovereign has made the most general and impartial laws that he can, he must conduct himself in such a way as to leave the details to others while being severe against important infractions, rise above the two parties {and not side with any party}, and not make himself suspect. Since he possesses more in trust, he has more need of confidence. Let him be especially afraid of falling in with private interests. This is revolting to Truth itself! Let him wait for the time, let him watch much, act little, and not think he is {doing} simply by virtue of doing; let him study the spirit of his nation. In things that are not frivolous, such a spirit is rarely that of the Court.

[966] One might believe that God, who loves men, [—and who is not bothered about whether his religion is held in glory or humiliation in terms of external power, because in either case, it is equally fit to produce its natural effect, which is to sanctify—one might believe, I say, that God, out of love for human nature],1 endured at that time the frightful Muslim inundation of the Empire,2 in order to deliver it from so many taxes, charges, and abusive exactions that were occurring there.

Men were astonished to see themselves under a government where they saw neither avarice nor larceny; where, instead of that constant train of vexations that the Emperors’ subtly insatiable desires had conceived, they saw themselves subject merely to a simple tax, easily paid and as easily received, which was doubtless the reason for the facility they found in their conquests.

[967] A splendid deed is a deed that has goodness in it, and that1 requires strength to do.

[968] In republics, a general spirit must always be dominating. As Edition: current; Page: [272] luxury becomes established in a republic,1 the spirit of particularism becomes established as well. For people who need only the necessities, there remains nothing to desire but the Country’s glory and their own. But a soul corrupted by luxury is an enemy of the laws, which always constrain the citizens. What led the Roman garrison in Reggium to bleed the inhabitants dry at the instigation of Decius, their tribune?2 It is because in their sojourn in Reggium, they had begun to lapse into luxury.

[969] Paganism was at that time in decline. Founded on poetic delirium, it was incompatible with every kind of philosophical sect and human knowledge. Ignorance established it in the East and brought it to the Greeks. But since it is impossible for a country to flourish without there being countless people who, enjoying happiness, seek to cultivate their minds and acquire knowledge, it happened that in Greece people began to devote themselves to Philosophy. The Athenians, who saw that fear of the gods was going to be taken away from the people, condemned Protagoras and Diagoras, put Socrates to death, and banished Aristotle.1 Plutarch tells us that all the scientists were regarded as atheists, because in teaching the people that the stars were merely bodies driven by regular movements, they destroyed the idea of the Divinities that Paganism had attached to them.2

Cicero, who was the first to put the dogmas of Greek philosophy in his language, dealt a mortal blow to Roman religion. It began to undergo a sort of civil war. Within the Empire, Pyrrho’s sect is seen doubting religion and that of Epicurus is seen holding it up to ridicule. The sects of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle enlightened the mind, and that of Zeno corrected the morals.3

It is in these circumstances4 that Christianity spread through the Empire, and I cannot refrain from making a few observations about this establishment, which have not perhaps been made by the apologists of the Christian religion.

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If the Christian religion is not divine, it is certainly absurd. How then was it received by those philosophers who were abandoning Paganism precisely because of its extravagance? What! Those philosophers, who were maintaining that Paganism was harmful to divine Majesty, accept the idea of a crucified God, after they had taught men about the immutability, the immensity, the spirituality, the wisdom of God? The torturing of a God, what a revolting idea! It was much more revolting than all the monstrous opinions in Paganism, which concerned beings that were merely superior to us, but still imperfect. Paganism became established because it had a reasonable origin at first, and because its extravagance emerged only little by little. But with the Christian religion, everything revolting to the human mind had to be said from the outset. Cerinth and Ebion are proof that it was said. Arius, who never denied the divinity of Jesus Christ but only his consubstantiality, makes clear that that divinity was the common opinion.5 Thus, they began by proposing a crucified God. But this idea of the Cross, which has become the object of our respect, is far from being as damning for us as it was for the Romans. There is more: there did not exist a people so vile in the Roman mind as the Jews. All their works are full of the ignominy they heaped upon them. And yet it is a man from that nation that they are supposed to worship; it is the Jews who announce him, and Jews who offer themselves as witnesses. The Gospels are published, and are accepted by the Pyrrhonians, who say everything must be doubted; by the Naturalists, who believe everything is the effect of form and motion; by the Epicureans, who mock all the miracles of Paganism; in short, by the enlightened world, by all the philosophical sects. If the establishment of Christianity among the Romans were an event solely in the category of things of this world, it would be the strangest event of its kind that has ever occurred.

[970] State power is attached not to the conquering State that has been founded, but to the army that founded it.

[971] sensible people. They have more reason to be disdainful, but they have less disdain.

[972] Two sorts of men: those who think and those who amuse.

[973] I have not wanted to make my fortune by means of the Court; Edition: current; Page: [274] my design has been to make it by improving my lands, and to hold my fortune directly from the hands of the gods.1

[974] I said: “All women can please {someone}; each has a net after her fashion; some larger, others smaller; some with a mesh of one kind, others of another.”

[975] Someone has said that God is only committed to the preservation of species, and not at all individuals.

[976] I see people who get discombobulated at the slightest digression; but as for me, I think those who know how to digress are like men with long arms who can reach further.1

[977] It has been fifty years since it was decided at the Council that the intendants are right. They say they are going into the provinces to win respect for the King’s authority, but it is the King’s authority that makes them respected.1

[978] If we only wanted to be happy, that would soon be done. But we want to be happier than others, and this is almost always difficult because we believe others to be happier than they are.1

[979] astruc.1 He has never said anything; he has always repeated himself.

[980] Religious polemicists defend the established religion for the sole reason that it is established; they combat those who attack it for the sole reason that they attack it.1

[981] prophecies. If they are obscure, it is said they do not apply. If they are clear, it is said they [are too clear and] have been made after the fact.

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[982] Moderate States overturned in popular uprisings, when the people did not succeed and even when they did: witness England’s devotion during the restoration of Charles II.1

[983] Those scholars whose whole knowledge is outside their souls, and who announce the wisdom of others without being wise themselves.

[984] {women and} big talkers. The emptier a head is, the more it seeks to empty itself out.

[985] [I have always marveled at the facility with which princes do impious things but not devout ones.]

[986] In the present era, no more Greek, no more verse, no more sermons.

[987] The Academy will never fall: as long as there are fools, there will also be well-adorned minds.1

[988] I never saw a nation that thinks less than this nation. Unlike animals, she does not even know what does her good or what does her harm.1

[989] Nothing is so easy as destroying the sentiments of others; Bayle took the easiest path to glory.1

[990] Persons of wit, who have read a great deal, often lapse into a disdain for everything.

[991] The word trinquer doubtless comes from the noise that two glasses make in hitting each other. And if one no longer knew the correct pronunciation of the French i, one would [doubtless] find it by means of reading this word in books, just as the correct pronunciation of the u has been found by the word cuculus.1

[992] One may recognize how the Ancients’ weights and measures have come down to us through the means by which the weights and measures Edition: current; Page: [276] of the Indies have come to us since the East Indies trade has been engaged in directly by Europe.

[993] In France, nothing saves you from contempt: honors, dignities, birth. Princes are hardly exempt from the need for personal merit.

[994] People are much mistaken over the size and power of ancient States, because they often judge by the notions that fear conveyed to the peoples who had dealings with them: thus, the Jews’ fear of the Assyrians, the Greeks’ fear of the Trojans. The Greeks did not talk in the same way about the Assyrians and Babylonians.

[995] I said: “Supper kills half of Paris; dinner, the other half.”

[996] An honorable man who produces Characters like La Bruyère should always do scenes, not portraits; should depict men, not one man. Even so, he will always be suspected of bad intentions, because the particular applications are always the first things fools notice, since they are made easily and as often as one wants; plus, their petty malice is more active.

[997] When I was in Florence and saw the simple manners of that country—a senator with his straw hat by day and his little lantern by night—I was enchanted; I acted like them and said: “I am like the great Cosimo.”1 In fact, you are governed there by a great lord who acts like a bourgeois; elsewhere, by bourgeois who act like great lords.

[998] I hate Versailles because everybody is small there. I love Paris because everybody is large there.1

[999] I said: “You can grumble as much as you want, as long as you don’t have the air of doing so.” It’s the same with praise.

[1000] A man was consulting me on a marriage. I said to him: “Men in general have decided you would be foolish; most men as individuals have decided not.”1

[1001] While I was in Chantilly, I said I was abstaining from the meat out of politeness; M. le Duc was being pious.1

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[1002] In cosmetic matters, I said, one must always do less than one can.

[1003] [Continuation] I have always had a timidity that has often revealed some confusion in my responses. I have sensed, however, that I have never been as confused with smart people as with fools. I would get confused because I believed I was confused, and because I felt ashamed that they could get the better of me.1

On occasion, my mind, as if it had made an effort, would get by well enough. Once when I took a trip, I arrived in Vienna. Being {in Laxembourg}, in the hall where the Emperor was dining, the Count of Kinski said to me: “You, Sir, who come from France {and have seen Versailles}, you are quite surprised to see the Emperor so poorly lodged.” “Sir,” I said, “I am not upset to see a country where the subjects are better lodged than the master.”2 Indeed, the palaces of Vienna and Laxembourg are plain, but those of the leading lords are beautiful. Being in Piedmont, King Victor said to me: “Sir, are you related to the abbé of Montesquieu whom I saw here with abbé d’Estrades, during the time of Madame, my mother?”3 “Sir,” I said, “Your Majesty is like Caesar, who never forgot any name.” The Queen of England said to me on a walk: “I give thanks to God that the kings of England can always do good, and never evil.” “Madam,” I said, “there is no man who ought not but give an arm for all kings to think as you do.”4 {Sometime later, I dined at the Duke of Richmond’s. The gentleman ordinary Labaune, who was a smug fool, although French envoy in Holland, maintained that England was no larger than Guyenne.5 The English were indignant. I abandoned my envoy on that one, and fought on the others’ side. That evening, the Queen said to me: “I understand you defended us against M. Labaune.” “Madam, I could never imagine that a country where you reigned could fail to be a big country.”}

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[1004] To succeed perfectly well in the world, I have always seen that you have to appear mad while being wise.1

[1005] I have never liked to enjoy the ridicule of others.

I have not been hard on others’ minds; I have been friend to almost all minds and enemy to almost all hearts.1

Timidity has been the curse of my whole life. It has seemed to bring confusion right down to my organs, to leave me tongue-tied, to cloud my thoughts, to muddle my expressions. I have been less subject to these weaknesses with smart people than with fools. This is because I have had the hope that they would understand me; this gave me confidence.2

[1006] It cannot be said that letters are an amusement for only a certain portion of the citizenry; they must be viewed from a different side. It has been noted that their flourishing is so intimately connected to the flourishing of empires that they are invariably either the sign or the cause of the latter. And if we want to take a look at what is presently happening in the world, we will see that, for the same reason that Europe is flourishing and is dominating the other three parts of the world while everyone else groans under slavery and misery, Europe is likewise more enlightened, relatively speaking, than the other parts of the world, which are buried in the depths of darkness. Now if we want to have a look at Europe, we will see that the states where letters are most cultivated also have, relatively speaking, more power. If we have a look only at our France, we will see letters being born or buried with her glory—giving a somber glow under Charlemagne, then dying out; reappearing under Francis I and following the brilliance of our monarchy. And if we limit ourselves to the great reign of Louis XIV, we will see that during the period when that reign was most flourishing, letters enjoyed their greatest success as well.

If you have a look at the Roman Empire, if you examine the works of art that survive, you will see sculpture, architecture, all the other arts decline and fall like the Empire—sculpture and architecture on the increase from Augustus to Hadrian and Trajan, but withering until Constantine.

If you have a look at the Caliphs’ empire, you will see that those from Edition: current; Page: [279] the Abbas1 family, whose general spirit was to make the sciences flourish—Almanzor, Rashid and his son Alamon, who surpassed all his ancestors in this love, who obtained all the Greek philosophy books from the Eastern emperor, had a large number of them translated . . .2

If you have a look at the Turkish empire, at its weakness in the same country where such a large number of powerful nations had been seen in the past, you will see that in that country, only ignorance equals the weakness that we have been discussing. And if we compare this state in its present condition with those states that had the power to conquer all and destroy all, you will see that this arises from that definite principle that there can be only two sorts of truly powerful peoples on earth: either entirely civilized nations, or entirely barbarous nations.

It is known3 that those vast empires of Peru and Mexico perished only from their ignorance, and it is probable that they would have defended themselves against our arts if that same ignorance had not placed in their hearts a superstition that constantly made them hope for what they should not have hoped for and fear what they should not have feared. Proof positive of this is that the small barbarous peoples found on that vast continent could not be subjugated, and most still are not.

Thus, the sciences must not be regarded as a vain occupation in a large nation; they are a serious matter.

And we have no need to criticize ourselves for our nation not working diligently on this front. But just as, where empires are concerned, nothing is closer to decline than great prosperity, so too is there reason to fear that prosperity may lead to decline in our literary republic. We have only the drawbacks that we find in our prosperity itself, happy that we are no longer in those times when only the drawbacks produced by an opposite cause were found.

Knowledge, due to all the types of support we have had, has assumed among us an easy air, an appearance of facility that leads everyone to consider himself knowledgeable {or a fine mind} and to think he has acquired the right to disdain others. Hence that neglect toward learning what we Edition: current; Page: [280] think we know. Hence that foolish confidence in our own powers, which makes us undertake what we are incapable of executing. Hence that frenzy for passing judgment, that shame at indecision,4 that air of contempt toward anything we do not know about, that desire to debunk anything found to be too lofty, in an age when everyone thinks himself or sees himself as an [important] personage.

Hence—in those who think they are obliged to be know-it-alls5 but who cannot help sensing their inferior merit—that mania for diatribe that has multiplied writings of that kind among us, which produces two sorts of bad effects: discouraging the talents of those who have them, and generating the {stupid} malice of those who do not.6 Hence that constant tone that consists in turning good and even virtuous things to ridicule. Everyone has gotten involved in it, and taste has become all mixed up. By virtue of claiming to look for it, people have made it disappear; if we no longer have a Socrates, even less do we have any Aristophanes.

In their time, Virgil and Horace felt the weight of envy. We know it, and we know it only through the works of these great men. The diatribes written against them have perished, the works they attacked are eternal—like the insects that die drying out the leaves of the trees which, upon the return of Spring, always reappear green.

A certain delicacy has made people extremely difficult on anything that lacks that perfection of which human nature is not capable, and by demanding too much, we discourage talent.7

In a word, great discoveries made in recent times make people regard as frivolous anything that does not carry with it an air of present usefulness, without considering that everything is linked, everything holds together.8

[1007] general maxims of politics.

I. Princes should never make apologias; they are always strong when they are deciding and weak when they are debating.1

II. They must always do reasonable things while reasoning very little.

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III. The preambles of Louis XIV’s edicts were more unbearable to the people than his edicts themselves.

IV. What can be done by mores must not be done by laws.

V. Fear is a resource that must be managed; one must never make a severe law when a milder one suffices.

VI. Useless laws weaken necessary ones.

VII. Those laws that can be eluded weaken legislation.

VIII. When correction suffices, removal must be avoided.

IX. The Prince should have his eye on public decorum, never on private.

X. Heaven {alone} can produce devout people; Princes produce hypocrites.

XI. A great proof that human laws ought not to obstruct religious ones is that religious maxims are highly pernicious when they are brought into human politics.

XII. There are countless cases in which the lesser evil is best.

XIII. [The best is the mortal enemy of the good.]

XIV. Correction presupposes time.

XV. Success in most things depends on knowing {well} how much time is needed to succeed.

XVI. Most princes and ministers have good will; they do not know how to take measures.

XVII. Hating esprit and making too big a deal of it: two things that a prince should avoid.

XVIII. The prejudices of the age must be well known, so as to avoid either offending them too much or following them too much.

XIX. Everything done must be reasonable; but great care should be taken not to do every reasonable thing.

XX. All my life, I have seen folks losing their fortune out of ambition and ruining themselves out of avarice.2

XXI. To see the manner in which Princes are raised, you would say they all have their fortunes to make.3

[1008] Practically all virtues are a particular relationship between one man and another. For example, friendship, love of Country, compassion Edition: current; Page: [282] are particular relationships. But justice is a general relationship. Now all the virtues that destroy this general relationship are not virtues.1

[1009] I said: “I am friend to almost all minds and enemy to almost all hearts.”1

[1010] In unimportant points of controversy, quarrels where Religion makes war on itself.1

[1011] In the past, women were beautiful; today they are nice. They used to be constrained in their manner; little social exchange; thought only about their complexion; did not dare show their nose for fear of ruining their complexion, which held them in servitude; constant bathing. This perpetual attention narrowed their minds. The novels of those days always depict beauty, majesty, an aquiline nose, big eyes; they do not depict the graces. Today, our women cannot be criticized {for not having} great freedom of mind, manners, and morals.

[1012] When Madame la p——de Lix had asked my opinion of her marriage with M. de M.1 [I was of a contrary opinion and disapproved of it], I sent her these maxims:

I. Love never reveals the things that supreme friendship has made one say.

II. Even if it is true love, it has its rules; and in well-born souls, these are stronger than its laws.

III. The heart is entirely given over to love; the soul remains for virtue.

IV. Two ordinary beauties undo each other; two great beauties highlight each other.

V. It reflects extraordinary merit to be in one’s element in the presence of such great merit.

VI. [I said: “I am in love with friendship.”]

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[1013] It seems to me the Romans had no word to express a dandy;1 their gravity was too contrary to that kind of figure.

[1014] There must not be constant cross-purposes in conversations, or they become tiresome. Marching together is called for. Even if you do not march {side by side, or} on the same line, you keep to the same path.1

[1015] end that i wanted for my “oration to the king.”1

With these virtues appropriate for governing, how have you been able to combine all those necessary for pleasing? Permit me, Sire, to cease for a moment being dazzled by the majesty {grandeur} that surrounds you. You would be the most amiable private individual in the world if you were not the greatest of kings.2

[1016] A ridiculous thing is a thing that does not accord with life’s ordinary manners and actions.

[1017] Old man Law, talking about all the fine geniuses ruined amidst the countless number of men,1 said, as if speaking of merchants, “They died without displaying their wares.”

[1018] When the Duke of Chartres took Quinault, people wanted to flatter the Regent:1 “He is beginning to be like the others, he has vices” . . . “But how would he have vices?” said M. d’Orléans. “He doesn’t even have virtues.” Good line and very philosophical! That regent had a philosophy of one-liners.2

[1019] I don’t know that I have yet spent four louis for the sake of giving airs, nor paid one visit out of self-interest. In what I have undertaken, I Edition: current; Page: [284] have employed only common prudence, and have acted less to avoid missing out on affairs than to avoid failing in my own affairs.1

[1020] It is first of all necessary to cure oneself of the vices of one’s country and not resemble Ovid’s Thrace.

  • Flagrat vitio gentisque suoque1

Otherwise, one is revealed as being among the common run of one’s compatriots, and thus, among the common run of men.

[1021] Saint Francis of Sales, very moderate in his morality. I said: “He was too reasonable to be a saint. He thought that in conversations meant to unbend the mind, there was no ‘vain speech.’”1

[1022] I said: “Nature has offered the problem of squaring the circle to bad geometers, in order to bring joy to their lives.”

[1023] I had the good fortune of liking practically everyone, and this trait was the luckiest thing in the world for me. For since my face was an open book, since it was impossible for me to hide my love, my contempt, my friendship, my boredom, my hatred, since I liked most people, they found on my face a favorable account of themselves.

[1024–1049] letters1

[1024] You send me word that you love me a little. If it has taken you a year to love me a little, how long will it take you1 to love me a lot?

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[1025] [Why are you worried that I am not supping with you this evening? I love you and you love me. You are much more truly in my heart than in any other place in the world.]

[1026] [Mademoiselle de***, who always distinguishes you from everyone, wants to bore you today, out of her preference for you: she asks you to have supper this evening.]

[1027] I have seen the afterlife up close. I cannot tell you about those who live in the heart of the country; but those on the frontier have a pale face, a grave air, and are big talkers, etc. {The Little One from Launay}

[1028] You cannot do better than to marry. Thus, get married quickly.

  • Necte, Amarylli, modo et “Veneris” dic “vincula necto.1

[1029] [It is my heart that is speaking, why does yours not respond?]

[1030] The rule is to request entry into the Academy. I know well that rules are not made for persons like you. But persons like you rarely want to abandon them.

[1031] [My uncle1 just told me that he would send to have me go to sleep in two hours . . . I’ll slip away and be able to spend at least two with the one I love.] I declare by the divinity that I adore you; you know my idolatry. [What! I’m sorry! . . . We have only a few days to see each other—that is, to live—and we have to spend them away from each other! . . .]

[1032] I’m sending you what you ask of me. However great the loss, I’ll never criticize you for follies I can fix.

[1033] Transfer taxes!1 Good God! Transfer taxes! What diction! It’s a barbarous word that ought never to pass the lips of a man such as you. I Edition: current; Page: [286] especially don’t want to know its signification, and I beg you not to talk to me anymore about transfer taxes.

[1034] [You consult me1 over whether you ought to marry or not. I don’t know what to tell you, because men in general have determined that it’s folly to marry, but most men as individuals have decided the contrary.]

[1035] You inform me, dear father,1 that you will not tell my uncles2 about the grounds for complaint you have against me. I will comport myself in the future in such a way that you will no longer be in a position to grant me similar indulgences. [I wasn’t ten years old] {I was very young when I wrote this letter.}

[1036] [We are two great examples of constancy: I love you always and you hate me likewise.]

[1037] You have done it in vain, I will never hate you. You can distress me but it is impossible for you to displease me.

[1038] [The old king1 died generally lamented by all the abusive tax collectors and all the Jesuits.]

[1039] [Yesterday I was in a house where people were talking loudly about you. Everybody said you were very amiable. It was only me who said you were very wild.]

[1040] You have just lost your husband; you will no longer love me.

[1041] [Your devotion put me on bad terms a month ago with Mme***. You have made every effort to spoil Mme***’s view of me. If you continue, I’ll go around saying you love me.]

[1042] Asper eram, et bene dissidium me ferre loquebar.1

You well know the power you have over me. You are enjoying your usual influence. I intend to adjust.

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[1043] [Your rival, but you have no rival, has the task of telling me something. I do not want a third party to negotiate with you. I want to learn everything, right down to rejection, from the most lovable mouth in the world.]

[1044] [Why do you complain about the title I give you? I call you my wife, because you are not. If you were, I would call you my mistress.]

[1045] [Your inconstancy pains me, but your choice consoles me. You no longer want to love me, but it seems to me you are doing everything you can to miss me.]

[1046] So, you’re leaving me, and you’re leaving me for a worthless man. Wretch that I am! What sadder thing could have happened to me than to see myself obliged to blush at having loved you? Usually, when one stops being in love, there still remains in the mind an agreeable memory of past pleasures. But here, the present brings shame, and the past, despair.

[1047] How just is the hatred you have for marriage! Reason has made you feel what experience alone has made others know.1

  • When, by solemn ties,
  • Two faithful lovers, whom equal ardor fires,
  • Join together, before Immortal eyes,
  • Love itself expires,
  • Always the altar’s sacrifice.

You know very well that in the past, sophisticated folks did not get married.

  • You know old Coriolan,
  • Amadis, Roger and Roland.
  • Though in real love, true and well,
  • They detested the sacrament,
  • And content to please their belles,
  • They wedded only their quarrels.

You see, Mademoiselle, that the chains of Hymen must not be confused with the chains of Love; one must not marry, but one must love, and everyone should belong to the same religion on that score.

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  • Iris, be not so hard on me.
  • Love and pine away, night and day.
  • The most adorable mystery
  • Is Love’s mystery, far and away,
  • No salvation outside Kythery.2

On my word, Mademoiselle, love; I know what it’s about.

  • Taste this sovereign delight:
  • It is alone a true felicity.
  • The gods themselves it makes feel right,
  • Lifts boredom from their immortality.

[1048] I’m desolate. Picture me still in that {horrible} state we were in when we separated. Remember it, my dear child? Your anxiety allowed you to perceive all of mine. I’ll talk no more about that day we spent in tears, but about that cruel moment when both the pleasure of weeping and the consolation of lamenting each other were torn from us. Remember Juno studying us constantly and seeking our sighs down to our very hearts? Remember that pirate who brought cruelty to the point of wanting to amuse us? How I suffered! Still, if I’d been able in leaving you to clearly paint my despair, I’d have found consolation in making you see that I’m not unworthy of all your love. I’m always afraid of not having made you aware of all my own. I’ve told you a million times that I love you madly. I always think I’ve not told you enough, and I’d like to die telling you.1

[1049] I said: “A man who is quick-witted is a man who has his wealth in ready cash. A man who is not is a man who has his wealth in land.”

[1050] The more primitive and unperfected the art of music,1 the more surprising its effects have been. Here, I believe, is the reason: They had instruments that make more noise and would thereby strike the ears more forcefully, since the latter are not accustomed to music, or rather to better music, Edition: current; Page: [289] which is more pleasing even though it is less moving. But when this new music began to be more pleasing, the prior music began to be less moving.

[1051] I have in my head (and in truth, all the chronicles of France and Normandy compiled by André Duchesne1 should be read closely) that Brittany was not given in its entirety to the Normans, but only the Nantes region and what surrounded the lower Loire.2 It was the Normans’ constant practice to seize an island at the mouth of a river where they were fortifying their positions. From there, they carried their brigandage everywhere. But the country close to the lower part of the river was singled out for ruin. From which I conclude that they were at first given the most ruined portion of Brittany. It even seems from Father Lobineau, book III, that at the same time, there were counts of Rennes, who remained.3 It may even be, according to Father Lobineau’s opinion, that only a part of Normandy was given to Rollo at first, such as the diocese of Rouen and neighboring lands, and that the Cotentin had already been given to the Bretons. For it seems to me that the eastern part of Normandy, being closer to the mouth of the Seine, must have been singled out for devastation.

[1052] Fiction is so essential to epic poetry that that of Milton, founded on the Christian Religion, only began to be admired in England1 once Religion began to pass for fiction there.2

[1053] I was watching a fool return from a diplomatic mission {and puffed up}. I said: “Now he talks his nonsense only in monosyllables.”1

[1054] I said: “M. de Cambrai’s book destroyed in three words: love is a relationship.”1

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[1055] Prosperity turns one’s head more than adversity; this is because adversity warns you, but prosperity makes one forget oneself.

[1056] There are many people for whom it is a great drawback to be known.

[1057] I said: “What good is it to write books for this little Earth, which is no larger than a point?”

[1058] One always hears it said: “Heaven and Earth.” It is like someone saying: “Heaven and nothing.”

[1059] In Paris, there was a casuist of such great reputation that everyone came to consult him; he was the arbiter of consciences and the great conductor on the road to salvation.1

He saw himself as a public man; he was of easy access, and everyone was satisfied with him.

He settled in a large office; he had a bureau in front of him, and on the two sides, parallel to each other, two large rows of books. Placed on one side, in neat order, were all the mild and benign casuists; on the other, the casuists who torment the heart and are in perpetual conflict with sinners.

The door was across from his bureau, and he saw from a distance those who were coming to consult him. He examined their air and countenance, and studied the situation of their heart, for having to serve them different dishes, he wanted to find something to their taste. When a man came with a composed air, a look that was fixed and a bit sad, his clothes in perfect order, he would turn to the right, to the side of the strict theologians, and serve him according to his pleasure. But if a worldly man, an abbé, a coquettish woman came to him, he would turn to the side of the lax theologians and serve them as well, according to their fancy; he made manna fall in the desert.

This craft was not without its drawbacks. One day, he fell into a frightful confusion. A man came to him who was so ambiguous that in greeting him with the usual civilities, it was impossible to decipher him. His confusion appeared; when the question was raised, he turned now to the right, now to the left, twenty times, taking an author and his antagonist. In fact, he was so flustered that he put an Escobar back in Sainte-Beuve’s Edition: current; Page: [291] slot, and a Grenoble Morals right next to Sanchez.2 “Your question is difficult,” said the casuist at that point, all distracted. “Difficult, how so?” said the client. “Can someone be exempt from paying me the damages?” “Ah! You’re right,” he said. “I wasn’t sorry to see what you yourself were thinking.” “But you have fine discernment, and if you’re in doubt about it . . .” Just then, he brought down a heap of casuists, one after the other, and overwhelmed the client with quotations and authorities.

[1060] By the divinity, I declare I worship you; you know my idolatry.1

[1061] It is quite certain that love has a character different from friendship; the latter has never sent a man to the Little-Houses.1

[1062] I was asked why there is no longer a taste for the works of Corneille, Racine, etc. I answered: “It is because all things that require esprit have become ridiculous. The problem is more general. Nothing that has a specific object is bearable1 anymore: men of war can no longer stand war; men of politics can no longer stand politics, and so forth. Only general objects are known, and in practice, that amounts to nothing. It is the company of women that has led us there, because it is in their character not to be attached to anything fixed. [Thus, we have become like them.] There is only one sex anymore; we are all women in spirit, and if we were to change faces one night, no one would notice that anything else had changed. Even if women were to move into all the employments that society offers,2 and men were deprived of all those that society can take away, neither would be disoriented.”

[1063] It is not surprising that Pompey and Caesar were jealous of each Edition: current; Page: [292] other; neither of those world leaders could have any superior but the other. But as for us, why would we be jealous of someone? What does it matter whether he is above us or not, since so many others are already?

[1064] In a house, some women were talking about natural sentiments, a father’s love for his children, that of the children for their father, a certain propriety in desertion, what is owed in marriage. I said: “Don’t talk too loudly; you’ll be taken for chatterboxes. These are things that one can think, but that are not in good taste to say . . .” It is certain that these days, integrity is no longer a matter of indifference, and that nothing alienates a man from more people than the knowledge that he is an honorable man. I remember that Commander Solar came to France after having taken the investiture of certain fiefs in Vienna for the King of Sardinia, his master,1 who was at that time declaring his opposition to the Emperor. Since that man was regarded as an atrocious man—devious, subtle, treacherous, a man who had wickedly deceived the Viennese court—everyone welcomed him; people were throwing themselves at his feet. When they realized that he was merely an honorable man who had just been following orders, you cannot believe how people cooled toward him. He was only fashionable when he was thought to be a rogue.

[1065] Contades, low courtier even at death. Did he not write to the Cardinal that he was happy to die in order not to see the end of a minister such as him?1 He was a courtier by force of nature, or thought he could pull through.

[1066] I said:1 “I find nothing so difficult as to be smart2 with fools.”

[1067] On tyrannical and exploitative friends, I said: “Love has compensations that friendship does not have.”

[1068] I can imagine that a man who has acted pusillanimously on Edition: current; Page: [293] some occasion might die with much courage. In the first case, he wanted to preserve a good that he thought was in danger; in the second, he abandons a good that he sees he cannot preserve.

[1069] [eastern women. Their youth is at the beginning of their life cycle, whereas with our women, youth is in the middle.]1

[1070] On the new discoveries, I said: “We have been quite far for men.”

[1071] You cannot believe just how far the sense of wonder has declined in recent times.

[1072] There is one thing that ought to make all the ministers in most European States tremble: it is the ease with which they could1 be replaced.

[1073] Most of our Frenchmen who have written their own memoirs are so visibly vain that it is impossible for them to be true. They have done everything in war and in public affairs. But since men have virtually the same passions, the same anxieties, the same talents, it is not possible for them to relinquish to a single person the office of acting and thinking, without being held back by some overwhelming force.

[1074] I was saying that Philip V1 owed his crown to the Andalusian horses ridden by his Spaniards, and to Spanish wine, which killed the English.

[1075] A noble pride sits well with men of great talent.1

[1076] In reading an extract from M. Freind’s History of Medicine,1 I noticed that the physicians he talks about lived long lives. Natural reasons: (1) Physicians are inclined toward temperance; (2) ward off their illnesses Edition: current; Page: [294] at the outset; (3) because of their position, they get a great deal of exercise; (4) in seeing many sick people, their temperament adapts to all types, and they become less susceptible of disturbance; (5) are more familiar with danger; (6) those whose reputations have come down to us were skillful; thus, they were guided by skillful men, namely, themselves.

[1077] It is quite amazing that Churchmen’s wealth began with poverty as its first cause.1

[1078] [I said: “At Versailles everyone is small; in Paris everyone is large.”]1

[1079] In Paris, one is numbed by the social world; only manners are known; there is no time to know vices and virtues.

[1080] A man said: “I do not love God, because I do not know him; nor the neighbor, because I do know him.” I am not saying this impious thing, but I am indeed saying that those who argue over the love of God do not understand what they are saying if they distinguish this love from the sentiment of submission and from that of gratitude toward an all-powerful and beneficent being. But as for love, I can no more love a spiritual being than I can love this proposition: two and three makes five.

[1081] Smart people are managed by valets, and fools, by smart people.

[1082] A proof that irreligion has gained ground is that witticisms are no longer drawn from Scripture, nor from the language of religion; an impiety no longer has spice.

[1083] To do big things, it is essential not to be such a great genius; one must not be above men, one must be with them.

[1084] One must break up with women brusquely; nothing is so unbearable as a worn-out old affair.

[1085] Continual idleness should have been placed among the pains of Hell; it seems to me, on the other hand, that it has been placed among the joys of Heaven.

[1086] What orators lack in depth, they give you in length.1

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[1087] The story of the soldier that Clovis killed1 because he did not want to hand over a vase full of spoils that he had had a part in, which abbé Dubos uses to prove Clovis’s authority,2 does more to prove his impotence. Do not imagine that a Janissary might refuse something to the Sultan. The corps of Janissaries will indeed kill him, but one Janissary will never disobey him.

[1088] Simplicity {and minimal cultivation of the mind}, good for victories: witness the earliest Romans, the Tartars, the Arabs.

[1089] There is no fifty-year-old woman who has a good enough memory to recall all the persons with whom she has had a falling out, and with whom she has made up.

[1090] When a girl is seven, she seems to be smart, because she is afraid of nothing; at twelve, she falls into a kind of stupidity because she perceives everything. It is the same with those children who seem to be so smart, but become so foolish. They let out all manner of nonsense, because they neither know nor sense what they are saying; whereas those children who seem foolish have a kind of premature feeling for things, which makes them in some sense more reserved. Pay attention! What is pleasing in the child’s discourse arises, at bottom, from the folly of the child, who has not been struck by what he says as he should have been, and has neither seen nor sensed what he should have. {Only those who are smart seem foolish.}

[1091] [How many people I see who are very smart but are not smart enough. How many I see who are not very smart but are smart enough.]1

[1092] The four great poets: Plato, Father Malebranche, Lord Shaftesbury,1 {Montaigne}.

[1093] I wrote to a person: “I believe the Graces have sent you to teach us what they are saying and what they are doing.”1

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[1094] How many people do I see who are not smart enough, but are very smart! How many do I see who are smart enough, but are not very smart!1

[1095] On the front of the house of Chantilly, where M. le Prince retired for so long, I would like to put:

  • Haec limina victor
  • Alcides subiit; haec illum regia cepit.1

[1096] objections that atheists could make, to which i will respond.1

Since, when we see some watch or some other machine, we have always seen that it is some artisan who has made it, likewise, when we see the world, we judge that it is some superior being who has made it.

Since we see that everything made in the world has a cause, and since we see matter existing, we judge that there is some other being that is the cause of matter’s existence.

Since this matter, with the exception of some portions that we see organically structured, appears to us in a state of inertia, we judge that another being must have given it motion.

Since we have seen that bodies that appear to be at rest changed the direction of their motion only when we put our hands there to move them, we have judged that motion in general is alien to matter and must have been imparted to it by another being.

Since, when we do not see a cause for something, we say that chance has produced it, we likewise say that if a being has not created matter, it is chance that has created it, and that if it has not imparted motion to it, it is chance that has done so.

Since, when we find laws in our societies, we always have the idea of a legislator, seeing laws constant in nature, we do not fail to say that it is a being other than nature that has established them.

In the end, our judgments on this immense universe are always based on the ideas we have derived from our human operations, and since we Edition: current; Page: [297] see only particular effects everywhere, we judge that the universe is itself a particular effect.

Since we distinguish two things in every body, its essence and its existence, we make the same distinction concerning the universality of things—without considering that for an eternal, infinite, necessary extension without bounds, its essence is to exist, and conversely its existence necessarily presupposes its essence. It would not exist if it were not eternal; it would not be eternal if it were not necessary; it would not be necessary if it were not infinite; it would not be infinite if something could limit it; and if something could limit it, this something would not be infinite, either.

This universality of things, an atheist will say, must not have a cause, for if it were necessary to assume one, the same reasoning would assume a cause for this cause, and so on to infinity.

This existing matter will have properties, and these properties will be its laws, which we know by the result of the properties and of general necessary effects.

Since our perspective is very limited, and since we see only parts, we have no means of judging the properties of matter and, consequently, the laws of nature, except by the effects they produce. For in order to judge otherwise, we would have to know the whole, by which we would derive knowledge of effects from knowledge of cause, whereas we are obliged to derive knowledge of cause from some effects.

The properties of matter or laws of nature, the atheist will say, are: (1) extension; (2) force, which is motion; (3) the faculties that bodies have of attraction and repulsion; (4) gravitation; (5) the faculty matter has of vegetating; (6) its faculty of becoming organically structured; (7) its faculty of sensation; (8) its faculty of thought.

The faculty of these properties that constitutes the force that all bodies have to put themselves in action is found both in bodies that we call in motion and in those we call at rest. Motion and rest are different, but not contradictory. Bodies in both states have force. The difference consists entirely in the relations they have among themselves and with other bodies.

The faculty of vegetating is joined to the power of reproduction, which is found in all vegetation. Most plants produce by cuttings. They would all produce that way, if there were not many whose texture dries out immediately in the ground, which makes them spoil before being able to receive the juices that suit them. Such are the grasses and flowers. In this case, the seed is necessary. In a plant that produces by cuttings, there is no part that Edition: current; Page: [298] is not seed. Thus, it is a big mistake to say that the plant is contained in the seed, and a still bigger one to say that the first plant contained all those that were going to be born. As soon as any stalk can receive juices from the ground, you suddenly see a leaf push forth and reproduce, and the roots emerge as well.

Microscopes have enabled us to see in matter such a capacity to become organically structured that it is impossible to say which part of matter is not organically structured.

Such a tendency to attraction or repulsion has been found in matter {by observation} that it is impossible to say there is a single body that is not in some respect electric.

Now, an atheist will say that, with eyes such as ours and with such organs, it is seeing a great deal in matter to have discovered so many things. But how much new enlightenment would we need in order to conceive of how matter is capable of feeling and thinking?

But just as we judge that bodies are organically structured because we see their organs; that they have electricity because we see its effects; we should likewise say that matter is capable of feeling (an atheist will say) because we feel, and of thought because we think.

[1097] Those sermons by Maillard, Menat, Rollin, Barlette were written to be preached as seriously as ours are at present, even though we find a comedian everywhere in them, and scandalous applications of Scripture, and burlesque spread throughout the whole.1 Those men preached what they knew, and taught what they had been taught. In those days, people did not read Scripture; they read only stories based on Scripture or legends about the Saints. Scripture was known only by plays performed on Scriptural stories or on the mysteries. Combined with these were books based on revelations, legends and other stories that were in the hands of the entire people. Most of these books perished during the renewal of the sciences, and few deserved to see daylight when printing was discovered. The appearance of the Protestants was the reason why all these books perished—except the most extravagant, which they preserved as a stain on the old religion—and the Catholics neglected them or hid them as soon as a greater enlightenment appeared. We must therefore transport ourselves Edition: current; Page: [299] to those times when everything that might serve in the instruction of the people was of a different nature from all the works presently in their hands. This was bound to make for a new kind of preaching.

[1098] My belief has been that one should attempt to regulate one’s conduct as if prospering in one’s status and situation. For I have seen that most people lose their fortunes out of ambition and dissipate their estates out of avarice.

[1099] In Seneca’s Thyestes, Thyestes asks to see his children. Atreus, showing him his children’s remains, which he had served him in the meal, says to him:

  • “Venere. Gnatos ecquid agnoscis tuos?”

To which, Thyestes responds:

  • Agnosco fratrem.1

Crébillon’s translation is very good:

  • “Do you recognize this blood?”
  • “I recognize my brother.”2

But through an imperfection in the language, the French does not make as much of an impression as the Latin. A feminine rhyme is too mild to express Thyestes’ feeling. Besides which, the pronoun my, which our language unavoidably gives us there, spoils the thought: my brother is a term of endearment there, as of consanguinity. I would as much have liked to put:

  • “I recognize Atreus.”

[1100]Nec me divitiae movent in quibus Bonieri et Samueles Turennios et Warvicos superarunt.1

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I would have put: faex Gallica Bonieri et Samueles;2 but I would have said less, because when the thing says it all, one must not have new words.

[1101] I like it when a man of modest quality becomes vain and proud because he married the daughter of a knave who enjoys esteem. He prides himself on what ought to humiliate him. I have seen some of those types: O foex hominum e sanguine Deorum.1 {Rosmadec,2 who had married the niece of the Keeper of the Seals.}

[1102] [It is quite right to say that love is livelier than friendship; at least friendship has never sent anyone to the Little Houses.]1

[1103] One must never respond; if the public does not respond for us, the response is worthless.

[1104] It seems to me that love is agreeable in that vanity is satisfied without being ashamed of itself. If a mistress talks to me about myself, if I talk about myself to my mistress, if she caresses me less than she does another, if she does not give me complete preference, the petty feelings of my vanity1 are excited without my being able to criticize myself for it, which2 would happen if I had the same feelings in other circumstances.

[1105] Flattery is a soporific music. I heard M. Coste say that M. Locke Edition: current; Page: [301] could no longer live except by flattery and by talking about himself;1 that Lord Shaftesbury, after noticing that M. Locke had gotten so accustomed to this, fell into it himself without realizing it, from having lived for five or six years in the country with his inferiors; that when M. Locke had been at Lady Masham’s2 in the country with Sir Isaac Newton and himself, he was contained by M. de Newton; but that, as soon as the latter climbed into his carriage, M. Locke began to say: “As for me, I . . .” He was, I reckon,3 a wound up spring suddenly let loose.

[1106] Why is it that the children of misers are spendthrifts? It is because the goal of the latter is to make a fortune; the former, to enjoy it. In addition, the former are accustomed to opulence; the latter have been raised in frugality. Which is so true that rich merchants’ children are no more prodigal than their fathers.

[1107] A hard business, all these missions to the Infidels. If the King converts, he becomes an enemy of his people. If the people convert, they become enemies of the King.

[1108] The theologians write a chapter: De Simplicitate Dei, and in turning the page, you see the title: De Deo uno et trino.1 {I heard M. Coste make this observation.}

[1109] I like peasants; they are not learned enough to engage in crooked reasoning.

[1110] Virgil inferior to Homer, as we know, in the greatness and variety of his characters; in invention, wonderful; equal in the beauty of his poetry. His first six books are fine. I admit that his last six give me much less pleasure. I think the reasons are, primo, that six books from the arrival in Italy are too much; this should have been dispatched in one, because once Aeneas has arrived, everything is over. Homer did not make that mistake. Once Odysseus has arrived in Ithaca, the poem ends almost immediately, even though the reader yearns to learn how he will be received. Edition: current; Page: [302] Lavinia’s marriage is of little interest to the reader, is no more interesting than Lavinia herself, whose character is cold and lifeless—quite different from that of Helen, so marvelous in her adventures, in the goddesses’ quarrels, and in her beauty. I sense that Turnus should not have been defeated by Aeneas;1 it is the poet who needed Aeneas to win, not Aeneas who really had to win. There are, I reckon, many reflections to make on Virgil, while leaving him all the merit that he has, and that has been so justly attributed to him.

[1111] history of france. If I write it {I had thought of writing that of Louis XIV}, I will have to include the principal parts, will have to put the extracts from the documents in everywhere, more or less long according to whether they are more or less interesting. As for the rest, I thought I would succeed no less well than someone else, and particularly better than those who, having had a part in the events, have become interested parties. There are, I reckon, a thousand examples of this. It appears to me that Caesar, in the causes he assigns for the civil war, is in contradiction with Pompey; but I intend to examine that.1

[1112] I have not {yet} seen the letter by Scarron where he says: “I still remember that girl who came to my place, who had a dress on three inches too short and who was crying.”1 This has been published, M. de Fontenelle told me. I have to look at Scarron’s letters. He was himself surprised at having married her. I have to know how she moved from Scarron’s to the Court. She used to go to Ninon de Lenclos’ place. It is said she’s a descendant of d’Aubigné, who wrote the History.2

[1113] Most people who die from a kidney stone operation die from Edition: current; Page: [303] fright; the abbé de Louvois, for example.1 He was full of bluster, but his blood was so clotted that it never came through.

[1114] Rabelais jests naïvely, Voiture subtly. Thus, the former is always pleasing; the latter is tiresome over time.1

[1115] The geometers’ methods are types of chains that bind them and prevent them from deviating.

[1116] You have to have studied much in order to know little.

[1117] One must know the value of money. Spendthrifts do not know it; misers, even less.

[1118] Polygamy is unreasonable in that the father and mother do not have the same affection for their children,1 since it is impossible for a father to love fifty children in the way that a mother does two.

[1119] There is no country where there is more ambition than in France; there is no country where one ought to have less. The greatest dignities confer no esteem here: M. de Coigny, less esteemed since winning two battles; d’Asfeld, since he was made marshal; and likewise for everyone.1

[1120] M. de Fontenelle said it very well: “Good styles form bad ones.”

[1121] Charlatans succeed. Here’s how. There are excellent remedies that the physicians have abandoned because they are violent. They have a reputation to preserve. Thus, they have to use general remedies whose effect, if it goes badly, is not rapid. Now, a remedy that does not kill rapidly does not cure rapidly, either. Charlatans grab all these remedies, such as certain preparations of antimony, which produce sometimes miraculous cures. They do not have a reputation to preserve, but to establish. Now, this method does indeed establish a reputation, but does not preserve it. There you have why all the charlatans’ remedies fail in the long run. The Edition: current; Page: [304] people like charlatans, because they like the wondrous, and rapid cures fit with this sense of wonder. If an empiric and a physician have treated a patient, the people absolve the empiric—whom they like—of the patient’s death and blame the physician. It sometimes happens that a remedy cures one ailment and produces another; medicine bans it, and charlatanry grabs it. Thus, it cures gout by shedding blood. Lastly, it is believed that when a physician treats a long illness, it is nature that cures; but for an empiric, it is believed to be art.

[1122] [Louis XIV,1 neither pacific nor warlike. He had the forms of justice, politics and devotion, the subtleties of politics, the air of a great king. Mild with his servants, good with his courtiers, anxious with his enemies, greedy with his people, hard in his counsels, childlike in that of conscience, despotic in his family, king in his court, always governing and always governed, dupe of all who play games with princes—state ministers, women, the devout—born without taste, making the arts flourish without understanding them, seeking glory where he was told it was, miserable in his glory, infatuated with fools but suffering through the gifted, fearing smartness, serious in his love affairs, and pathetically weak in his last attachment; no mental toughness in his successes; some firmness in his reverses, and courage in his death. He loved glory and religion, but was prevented throughout his life from knowing either one. Of all his faults, he would have had hardly any if he had been better raised, or if he had been a little smarter.]

[1123] Kings, with all that equipage they have given themselves—those guards, those officers, that house—have been reduced to being subject to the hour and the ceremonial. It becomes a great commendation for a king to be punctual. His life has become his duties. There you have what Louis XIV gained over Henry IV: he lost his freedom, but his character as king was as attached to his person as his skin.

[1124] Authors are always using each other. They have three manners, like painters: that of their master, which is that of the secondary school; that of their talent, which makes them produce good works; and that of art, which among painters is called manner.

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[1125] Regarding certain people who live with their lackeys, I said: “Vices do have their penance.”

[1126] I said: “When a man has made a reputation for integrity and humanity, it happens that people seek to take advantage of it. They come to him with proposals that they would never dare make to someone else. They count on his generosity.”

[1127] I am the dupe of neither Madame de Sevac’s sorrow nor Madame de Berville’s love for her son; all this is done to stir up gossip.

[1128] Inside the building of the Church of Saint-Sulpice, which presses against the Seminary, I like to see the ecclesiastics, after forcing the seculars to retreat, make themselves retreat, and engage in a civil war after a victory in the foreign war.

[1129] For a woman to pass as bad, she needs to have wit. A thousand arrows from a foolish woman are wasted; a single one from a witty woman connects.

[1130] I vastly prefer being tormented by my heart than by my mind.

[1131] Too much regularity—sometimes, indeed many times, disagreeable. Nothing is so beautiful as the sky, but it is strewn with stars in no order. The houses and gardens around Paris have only the defect of being too much alike; they are constant copies of Le Nôtre.1 You always see the same ambience, qualem decet esse sororum.2 If someone has a peculiar terrain, instead of using it the way it is, they have made it regular so as to build a house that would be like the others. Our houses are like our characters.3

[1132] On the writings that Lord Townshend and M. Walpole arranged to appear in the Craftsman and in Lord Bolingbroke’s writings, I said: “Kings are strong when they are deciding, and always weak when they are debating.”1

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[1133] God has given me possession,1 and I have given myself surplus.

[1134] What a business it is to be moderate in one’s principles! I pass in France for having little religion and in England for having too much.

[1135] In England, they think half the Frenchmen are in the Bastille and the other half in the Poorhouse.1

[1136] The English are virtually never united except by the ties of hatred and the hope of vengeance.

[1137] Raymonde’s Essay on poetry: there are two or three ideas that have made it out of a sterile mind.1

[1138] I said in Rome: “I am buying neither virginities nor Raphael paintings.”

[1139] Men need a little logic and a little morality.

[1140] To perform a bad deed, devotion finds reasons that a simple honest man cannot find.

[1141] the castrati. For one who sings well, there are a hundred who do not succeed. “Multi sunt vocati; pauci vero electi,” Jacob used to say.1

[1142] Mare liberum sive de Jure quod Batavis competit ad Anglicana Commercia. {Book published in Leiden, 1689.} At first, they asked only for liberty; now they ask for dominion.1

[1143] I said of Madame de B[onneval] that no one better understood the etiquette of love and friendship than she did.1

[1144] Having an affair with a woman, I saw from afar that I was going Edition: current; Page: [307] to have a successor, and soon I saw it up close. I sent back her letters and wrote: “Perhaps you will find as much pleasure in receiving these letters as you had in writing them.”

[1145] Louis XIV, neither pacific nor warlike. He had the forms of justice, politics, and devotion, and the air of a great king. Mild with his servants, liberal with his courtiers, greedy with his people, anxious with his enemies, despotic in his family, king in his court, hard in the counsels, childlike in that of conscience, dupe of all who play games with princes—state ministers, women, and the devout; always governing and always governed; unfortunate in his choices, loving fools, suffering through the gifted, fearing smartness, serious in his love affairs, and pathetically weak in his last attachment. No strength of mind in his successes, some firmness in his reverses, and courage in his death. He loved glory and religion, but was prevented throughout his life from knowing either one. Of all these faults, he would have had hardly any if he had been better raised, or if he had been a little smarter.1

[1146] I have read in the Relations1 that when some American savages see that their hunts are not going well, they tighten up their stomachs and thereby enable themselves to withstand hunger for a long time. You will see in Aulus Gellius, book XVI, chapter III, that to withstand hunger, the Scythians tighten their stomachs with little bandages, as the physician Erasistratus says, using this fact to prove that “esuritionem faciunt inanes patentesque intestinorum fibrae, quae, ubi cibo complentur aut inanitate diutina contrahuntur, voluntas capiendi restinguitur.2 The hunger is more pressing at first but diminishes afterward.

[1147] In book XIV, chapter I, of Aulus Gellius, Favorinus, railing against astronomy, said he was surprised the planets were only seven in number: “Posse enim fieri existimabat ut alii planetae pari potestate essent, Edition: current; Page: [308] sine quibus perfecta observatio perfici nequiret.1 He had surmised the existence of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

[1148] [I thought I should screen a pile of essays that are going to arrive, so we would not be accused of being like those people who live near the sea, who survive only by scavenging . . .]1

[1149] Examine closely the vis comica in action, and examine it in speech.1

[1150] Ego odi homines ignava opera et philosopha sententia.1

Verses, cited by Aulus Gellius.

It seems to me these are our monks.

[1151] Dampier says the great lords of Tonkin all wear a long gown made of English wool, without which they would not present themselves at Court.1 It is curious that our European cloths, so appropriate for our colder climes, are hardly in use anymore among us, giving way to the silks and cottons of Tonkin, but that they are brought to Tonkin, where nature has provided so many silks and cottons, which we wear even though it runs counter to our climate.

[1152] It is unfortunate that there is too little interval between the time when we are too young and the time when we are too old.

[1153] Est miser nemo nisi comparatus.1

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If we had remained in the earthly Paradise, we would have an idea of happiness and unhappiness different from what we have.2

[1154] When it is said that there are no absolute qualities, this does not mean that there are none, but that there are none for us, that our minds cannot determine them.1

[1155] I said to Madame de——, “I want to have the best share in your friendship; I need the lion’s share.”

[1156] In Pithou, I have read Sextus Rufus, which is a summary of Roman history written in favor of Valentinian.1 It all amounts to a detailed account of the manner in which each piece that made up the Roman Empire came to be attached to it, and in that regard it is curious.

[1157] Physicians say that for one sick man, there are two women. It seems the ratio is equal in the countryside.1 Whence one can conclude quite naturally that half of women’s maladies are imaginary.

I am not talking about childbirths, which are voluntary maladies.

[1158] This did not make it into my Memoir on Rome’s Inhabitants:1

“Wine, by the joy it inspires, encourages intemperance and, bringing us imperceptibly back toward itself, regenerates our debauches or at least our taste.

Mohammed, who had been a merchant, rendered a great service to his Country by prohibiting wine; he made all of Asia drink the wine of his country—very good reason for enacting his law, if he had thought of it.”2

[1159] In America, the peoples subject to despotic kings, such as those Edition: current; Page: [310] of Mexico and Peru, have been found down south, and the free nations have been found up north.1

[1160] There is no agreement on esprit because, although esprit insofar as it sees is something very real, esprit insofar as it pleases is entirely relative.1

[1161] Talk in England about Government, and you will please as if you were talking about War at the Invalides.1

[1162] In the arts, and especially in poetry, there are certain felicities that cannot be recaptured.

[1163] I said Bohemian leagues are long because it is men who were not thinking who marked them out.1

[1164] I said {in Italy}: “The French are misers and spendthrifts; they are Florentines and Milanese all at the same time.”1

[1165] I said that if a Persian or an Indian came to Paris, it would take six months to make him understand what a commendatory abbot who pounds the pavement in Paris is all about. {This is by me; it has been attributed to abbé de Mongaut.}1

[1166] Anticipation is a chain that links all our pleasures.

[1167] Marshal Villeroy always talked to his ward about his subjects, never his people.1


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[1169] I said: “Truth has no clients;1 it has only martyrs.”

[1170] The big problem with the Constitution is that all the bishops had conceived the hope of making a fortune, like all the lords in Mississippi.1

[1171] I find in Tacitus, De Moribus Germanorum, the quite natural reason for the great authority that the bishops assumed among the Frankish converts to Christianity.1 This was in their ancient mores. “Reges ex nobilitate, duces ex virtute sumunt; nec Regibus infinita aut libera potestas . . . Ceterum neque animadvertere, neque vincire, neque verberare quidem, nisi sacerdotibus est permissum; non quasi in poenam, nec ducis jussu, sed velut Deo imperante, quem adesse bellatoribus credunt.2

The same Tacitus shows us the origin of our custom of always being armed: “Nihil . . . neque publicae neque privatae rei, nisi armati agentes.3

Likewise, the custom of hiring oneself out in war: “Si civitas in qua orti sunt longa pace et otio torpeat, plerique nobilium adolescentium petunt ultro eas nationes quae tum bellum aliquod gerunt.4

[1172] As to what Tacitus says about the Germans—“Omnibus iis idem habitus”—this proves that they had not been defeated, and that they had only sent colonies elsewhere, without receiving any.1

[1173] Since the vessels of the human body, the veins and arteries, are of {conical or} pyramidal shape, the blood goes through the arteries from Edition: current; Page: [312] bottom to top and returns through the veins from top to bottom. Look into what effect this must have on the movement of the blood.

[1174] All the origins in the epoch of Creation, all those little animals seen in the microscope, whose number is no less astonishing than their tininess, made on the same day as the lamias and the whales: “Creavit Deus cete grandia et omnem animam viventem atque motabilem.1

[1175] It is easier to write a micrography like messrs. Hooke, Atrocquer, and Joublot than to learn to play those games that idle people1 have invented to while away the time that weighs so heavily on them.2

[1176] the two worlds. This one is ruining the other one, and the other one is ruining this one. Two is too many; there should only have been one.

[1177] I said of a man: “He does good, but he does not do it in a good way.”1

[1178] I said: “It’s an extraordinary thing that all of philosophy consists in these three words: ‘Couldn’t care less.’”

[1179] On the Roman law permitting fathers to give strangers their estates, I said:1 “That’s an unloaded cannon; brutum fulmen.2

[1180] “God makes the thunder groan,” says Seneca, “paucorum periculo et multorum metu.1 The Legislator, in the establishment of punishments, should do the same thing.

[1181] Extremely happy and extremely unhappy people are equally inclined to harshness: witness monks and conquerors. It is only a middling condition, or a mixture of good and bad fortune, that yields pity.1

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[1182] I would not be able to console myself for not making a fortune if I had been born in England. I am not at all put out at not having made one in France.

[1183] I am in the most suitable circumstances imaginable for writing history.1 I have no eye toward a fortune. My estate and my birth are such that I have neither to blush at the one nor to envy or wonder at the other. I have not been employed in public affairs, and I do not need to speak for either my vanity or my self-justification. I have lived in the social world, and have had connections, even friendly ones, with people who have lived at the court of the prince whose life I am describing. I have known a great many anecdotes in the social world where I have lived part of my life. I am neither too far from the period that monarch lived in to be ignorant of quite a few circumstances, nor too near to be dazzled by them. I am living in a time when admiration for heroism is very much in retreat. I have traveled to foreign countries, where I have collected some good memoirs. Time has in any event brought out of the secret corridors of power all the various memoirs that men of our nation—where people love to talk about themselves—have piled up. And from these different memoirs, one draws out the truth when no memoir is followed and when all of them together are followed; when they are compared with more authentic monuments such as the letters of ministers and generals, the instructions for ambassadors, and the monuments that are like foundation stones for the edifice, within which all the rest is set. Lastly, I came from a profession where I acquired knowledge of the law of my country, and especially public law—if that is what we must call those feeble and wretched remnants of our laws, which arbitrary power has been able to hide up to now, but which it will never be able to annihilate except with its own demise.

In an age when everything is offered for amusement and nothing for instruction, there have been writers who have sought only to make their histories enjoyable. For this, they have chosen to treat a single point in history, such as some revolution, and they have written history as one writes a tragedy, with a unity of action that pleases the reader because it offers effortless movement, and because it seems to instruct without the need for memory or judgment. And this has put people off from that whole train of facts with which history is filled, and which weary the memory and are not all interesting.

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[1184] remarks on count boulainvilliers’ “history.”1

It seems the English custom that everyone must be judged by his peers, called juries,2 and the entire judicial order, used to be the same in France. It is found in the charters granted by Louis the Headstrong concerning the widespread nonsupport he found in the realm on the death of his father, Philip the Fair.3 In his History of Government, the Count of Boulainvilliers gives an account of these charters. In the second one, granted to the Lord of Cayeu and La Varenne, the King declares that his bailiffs and other officers will not have a voice in judicial decisions but will leave these to fief-holders, after assembling them and entreating them to it, and that they will be obliged to give their letters of judgment in conformity with their opinion.

These charters granted to various lords and territories are still in the Treasury of Charters, and among others, the one called Norman Charter,4 the most troublesome for kings. There remain eight. They were granted after royal deputies were sent into the provinces to redress the grievance that had given rise to associations formed against Philip the Fair, and it seems the King’s principal aim was to obtain the original of these associations; the ones in the Treasury of Charters are the ones obtained at that time. Count Boulainvilliers says these documents are the principal monument of our liberty, and would have preserved that liberty had it not been for our nation’s constant inattention.5 It seems indeed that it did more than that, says the Count. He says Nicholas Gilles informs us6 that, beyond this, the Headstrong made a declaration in which he recognized, both for himself and his successors, that he could levy no taxes without the consent of the three estates, which would themselves undertake their collection and use. There are authors, says the Count, who cast doubt on this declaration because it is not found in the Treasury of Charters. But it is clear that it was Edition: current; Page: [315] the foundation of the authority the three estates have acquired since that time; besides which, it is so connected to the above-mentioned charters that without it, they could not endure. The King declares in that place that he renounces any imposition of a taille or levies without obvious necessity or obvious utility. Now wouldn’t this be pointless if he had been the sole judge of both?7

Associations were prepared against Philip of Valois,8 as they had been against Philip the Fair. The Normans, slower to choose sides, were also the slowest to come to terms. They obtained confirmation of the charter granted by the Headstrong, with the declaration that no taxation would be permitted without the consent of the estates. This firmness was common throughout the realm. Nicholas Gilles and The Rosebush of France9 say that in that year, 1338 and 1339, before Easter, it was decreed before the three estates, with the King present, that the taille could be neither imposed nor levied if urgent necessity or obvious utility did not require it on the part of the estates.10

I would add and observe something peculiar here. While everyone rises up on the occasion of the taxes that the kings want to establish, which indicates that the rights of liberty were known, we see, on the other hand, acts of cruelty and barbarism by the kings that produce not the slightest peep throughout the nation. In one day, Philip of Valois has fourteen lords of Brittany and Normandy arrested and their heads cut off, without any formal trial, because he suspects them of taking the side of John of Monfort—and this, despite their being under the safeguard of a tournament, where they had been guests. His son King John begins his reign by having the Count of Eu, Constable of France, the flower of chivalry at that time, kidnapped and decapitated in his presence without due process.11 I say these things could not have made as much impression in that period, when the lords themselves were accustomed to engaging in similar bold strokes of authority against their vassals or others as they wished. This appears in countless examples—among others, in the example of the quarrel between Saint Louis and Enguerrand de Couci, whom that king arranged Edition: current; Page: [316] to be taken and tried for having hanged without due process three Flemish hunters in Couci’s forest.12

I will say next that the charters cited by Boulainvilliers are curious in that they give us an idea of the origins of our French law, and of the forms of royal and seigneurial justice, and of the changes that have taken place in them, and by what route we have arrived at those changes. Thus, they should be looked at; I’ll make an extract of them.13

It must be remarked that the kings mainly rose only by the immense profits they made on the currency,14 which went so far that they often tripled or quadrupled, to their benefit, all the money possessed by private individuals. This put them in a position to buy up everywhere cities, lands, castles, seigneuries, counties, duchies. This often made them richer than all the lords put together. The very remedies that the estates brought to bear on this only made things worse: they set up subsidies so the King would be able to produce a strong currency, which enabled him to claim weakness at the outset and thus make new gains. {The lords, who wanted a strong currency, consented to taxes on the People, so that a strong currency would be given them. I have cited Budé in the Spicilège,15 where he criticizes our nation for its constant inattention.}

[1185] What usually gives princes a very mistaken idea of their greatness is that those who raise them are themselves dazzled by them; they are the first dupes, and the princes are duped only afterward.

{Marshal Villeroy always talked to the King about his subjects, never about his people.}1

[1186] I said: “Those who have little vanity are closer to pride than are the others.”

[1187] The fibrous tips of our brains receive a small disturbance, which produces a feeling or a slight stimulus in us. This is enough to explain everything. For example, we see a square for the first time. Perceiving that we see it is enough to give us an idea of it, because otherwise, we would Edition: current; Page: [317] not see the square. To see the square, we need to perceive that four equal angles are being presented. We thus have an idea of the square’s properties, and as soon as the stimulus of the square comes to us, an idea of its properties immediately comes to us as well. We do not see a square by itself, we see a square of other things. Our soul, which sees them together, cannot avoid comparing them, for if it did not see that the square has angles and the circle does not, it would not see either the circle or the square. For our soul to see real relationships, it inevitably sees that there are others that are not. For it to see that a square has four sides and a circle does not, it must see that a square does not have eight sides, and that a circle does not have fifty.1 Thus, it sees the relationships that exist, and it sees that there are relationships that are not there. Sometimes, there are certain relationships of which it cannot tell very well whether they are there or not. Sometimes, it lets itself be touched by what makes it see that they are there, and then, by what makes it see that they are not there. It sees a square, and afterward another one. It says: “If this one were that one, then when I turned my eyes away from this one, I would no longer see that one; thus, there are two of them; another, there are three of them, and so forth.”

When it does not know how many there are, it uses an idea that corresponds to the idea of confusion, and sees many squares. In the end, it can let itself be stimulated by {all} the squares it sees, but also by the squares that could be in the adjacent space. Thus, it sees squares that do not exist but that are possible. It can envision all possible squares, and it will see squares in general, that is, the square insofar as it is not placed where I have seen one. Then, it will effect an abstraction and will see the quadrature—just as, when it sees a circle in general, it will see roundness. Now, one man will see a great many of these relationships at once; another will see few.

A man will be made to feel the stimulus of a false relationship, by virtue of renewing it and accustoming his soul to it, since all this is nothing but habit.

But if what I just said is quite true, why do animals not reason as men do?2

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[1188] I said: “There are so few bad deeds that a man of thirty thousand pounds in income has an interest in committing that I cannot imagine how he does it.”

[1189] the landes. On the map of Charlemagne’s empire, nothing is found from Bordeaux to Adour except Ager Syrticus, Basato in the west, and Aire, a river that goes from west to north into the Ocean, running parallel to the Garonne, emptying into the Médoc, and on the map of the Island, passes by Belin and flows into the Arcachon basin.

On the map of the councils, one city is found in these parts: Nugariolum.

[1190] A minister {of the Gospel} presently in Berlin had never been a poet. He falls into a hot fever; now he speaks only in verse. Good health had hidden his talents.1

Give him whatever topic you want, he will dictate on it as fast as you can read. There is a volume of his impromptu works published.

He must have been born a poet without being aware of it, and that fever, in giving him boldness, uncovered the talent which the man then turned to advantage. For we love to do an extraordinary thing, and the minister attributed to the fever what was only the effect of nature. For the thing in itself is not extraordinary; witness the Italian improvisers.

[1191 and 1192] this did not make it into the essay on the “differences between talents.”

[1191]1 A Spanish author, who perhaps will no longer be known by the time I cite him {it’s Huarte},2 tells a tale of Francis I, who, being dangerously ill and disgusted by the Christian physicians and the impotence of their remedies, sent a request to Charles V for a Jewish physician. The good Spaniard seeks the reason why the Jews have a mind better suited for medicine than the Christians, and he strongly believes that this comes from the great quantity of manna that the Israelites ate in the desert. He then presents himself with a very strong objection, which is that the descendants of those who ate manna must, little by little over time, have lost Edition: current; Page: [319] the dispositions that this diet had introduced among them. He answers that it seems from Scripture that manna had so disgusted the Israelites that in order to destroy the alteration that it had made in one day, they needed to follow a contrary diet for an entire month. On which, he makes this calculation: to destroy the qualities that manna had impressed upon the bodies of the Israelites over forty years, four thousand years and more were necessary, which means that the men of that nation still have, for some time yet, a special disposition for medicine.

[1192] How can anyone claim that a Carthusian’s mind is made like that of other men? It is made precisely to lead the athletic life; it is given no other function but to feed itself. All the body’s pleasures, all the mind’s activities that it is deprived of, are so many eliminated distractions that might prevent it from eating. The soul turns completely in the direction of the one pleasure remaining to it. It is at the age of sixteen that it is chosen1 for this type of life.

While on the one hand, its fibers are engrossed and thickened, on the other hand, they are left in a perpetual torpor, and my man is made to dream about Being in general throughout his whole life.

This is not all. Those same fibers are loosened because his brain is struck with continual fear. For now it is intimidated by a bizarre and pitiless superior, now by the vain scruples that monkishness always brings with it. The loosening of the fibers in the state of fear is perceptible, for when it is immoderate, the arms fall, the knees fail, the voice is poorly articulated, the muscles called sphincters slacken; in short, all parts of the body lose their functions.

While all moderate movements are eliminated from it, they are replaced by intermittent violent ones, of a sort that continence and regimens produce. During these attacks, spirits are brought to the brain; they tug at the fibers there and excite there a rather confused feeling; they do not awaken ideas there.

[1193] A great deal of wit is needed for conversations with princes. Since these are always men whose reputation is made, it is necessary in praising them to say only things that the listeners might think as well as the speaker.

[1194] [How many men lose their health by taking cures, who lose Edition: current; Page: [320] their fortune through ambition, their property through avarice, who fall into contempt by seeking distinction.]1

[1195] Father Malebranche’s system is finished.1 When extraordinary things like that are not new, it is impossible for them to last.

[1196] I believe I have remarked that many persons who have had the true pox have never had the small one:1 Prince Eugene is one. The . . .

[1197] You must never do something that might torment your mind in the moment of its weakness.

[1198] [As for our poets, I compare Corneille to Michelangelo, Racine to Raphael, Father Le Moyne to Joseph Pin, La Fontaine to Titian, Despréaux to the Carraci, Marot to Corregio, Crébillon to Guercino, Fontenelle to Bernini, Capistron to Guidi, La Fare and Chaulieu to Parmigianino, Voltaire to Pietro da Cortona, La Motte to Rembrandt, Régnier to Giorgione; Rotrou is better than Albrecht Dürer, but Chapelain is not better than X, that painter who painted in the Vatican library. {If we had a Milton we would compare him to Giulio Romano; if we had Tasso we would compare him to Dominicini; if we had Ariosto, we would compare him to no one, because no one can compare with him.}]1

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[1199] It is the constitution of the climate that makes customs. The Muscovites, who have very thick blood, are not bothered by the use of eau de vie; on the contrary, they need it. This would burn and inflame the blood of an Italian or a Spaniard. They need severe punishments; they need to be flayed before they feel anything.1 Another effect of the grossness of blood that has no spirits.

[1200] avarice. It is so foolish that it does not even know how to count.

[1201] When everything is good, we easily get tired of this good. This is because we are never doing so well that there is not something going amiss, and this is distasteful. Now, when things are good, we easily sense this distaste and do not sense the good very much. But when things are bad, we sense only the bad. The new bad that arrives does not make itself felt, either. Whence it arises that there are no domestics, or subjects, who enjoy changing masters more than those who are happy.

[1202] Ovid and Bussy, two exiles who have not known how to bear misfortune.1

[1203] King William, in a debate1 at which someone said, “But Sire, it might well happen that we make ourselves a republic,” answered with his usual aplomb, “Oh, that is what I am not afraid of; you are not honorable enough men for that.” Good line! And I am surprised that a king said it. This was also a newly created king. He saw clearly that virtue and love for the public good are needed to make a republic. Also, after Cromwell, one could not be made in a day. There was a change of government every week; everyone thought only of his own interests; in the end, the King had to be recalled.

[1204] I said: “Rameau is Corneille, Lully is Racine.”1

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1205. Mr. Locke said: “It is necessary to waste half one’s time to be able to employ the other half.”1

[1206] I said: “One proof of the Greeks’ novelty is those sayings that have brought such renown to the ones who said them, and that seem so common to us that they would not be noticed today if an artisan said them.”

[1207] The precepts of Lycurgus and Socrates on boys’ pure love make us see the decided Greek penchant for that vice, since legislators thought to make use of this penchant by regulating it, in somewhat the way Mme de Lambert and today’s moral systems have thought to make use of the love for women and women’s love for men, by purifying this love and regulating it.1 When a legislator employs a motive, he must judge it to be very strong.

[1208] I am not among those who regard Plato’s Republic as an ideal and purely imaginary thing, whose execution would be impossible. My reason is that Lycurgus’s Republic seems to be {just} as difficult of execution as Plato’s, and yet it was so well executed that it lasted as long as any republic we know of in its vigor and splendor.

[1209] Lully makes music like an Angel; Rameau makes music like a Devil.1

[1210] In conversations, I never respond to proofs1 based on comparisons; they are only good in oratory and poetry, and serve only to say the same thing, and worse.

[1211] I said: “Fortune is our mother; docility, our governor.”1

[1212] I said: “It is only common works that are boring; the bad ones we don’t count.”

[1213] I said: “How women calculate in changing lovers! The successor, Edition: current; Page: [323] with more merit, is always worth less to them than the predecessor; the awkwardness of making a change; a man they make unhappy; always less esteem for themselves; the danger of soon having to change again; etc.”

[1214] I constantly see people who destroy their health by taking cures, who become objects of contempt by seeking distinction, who lose their property by virtue of avarice, who destroy their good fortune by virtue of ambition.1

[1215] If one has to size up the quality of our poets, I compare Corneille to Michelangelo, Racine to Raphael, Marot1 to Corregio, La Fontaine to Titian, Despréaux to the Dominicini, Crébillon to Guercino, Voltaire to Guidi, Fontenelle to Bernini, Chapelle, La Fare, and Chaulieu to Parmigianino, Father Le Moyne to Joseph Pin, Régnier to Giorgione, La Motte to Rembrandt, Chapelain2 is below Albrecht Dürer. If we had a Milton, I would compare him to Giulio Romano. If we had Tasso, we would compare him to the Carraci. If we had Ariosto, we would compare him to no one, because no one can compare with him.3

[1216] I said: “It is the Marais that cost M. de Saint Mars his neck (gentlemen of the Marais).1 He could not live without the Marais; today, you cannot live in there.”

[1217] It is very amusing that in England, when it was uncertain whether inoculation for smallpox would succeed, everyone wanted to have himself inoculated, but now that success is assured, no one thinks about it. We love to have done something out of the ordinary, and moreover, we become stubborn about something we see contradicted improperly or through bad reasonings—such as in this case, where people saw the doctors for, and the theologians against.

[1218] louis xiv.1 He had to perfection all the middling virtues and the Edition: current; Page: [324] beginnings of all the great ones . . .; not smart enough for a great man . . .; big with his courtiers and foreigners, small with his ministers.

[1219] I said: “I esteem men not because they have no faults, but because they have corrected the faults they had.”

[1220] The pr——of Au——was telling me to speak. I responded: “Madam, if I were to speak, you would not speak.”1

[1221] I said to a lady:1 “You have none of the qualities that prevent you from being lovable; you may have some of those that prevent you from being loved.”

[1222] On the sale of Turenne, I said: “In his affairs, Bernard should calculate how much richer he will be, but M. de Bouillon should calculate how much greater a lord he will be.”1

[1223] On Father Tournemine,1 I said: “He had no good quality, and he was even a bad Jesuit.”

[1224] M. de Fontenelle was telling me of his belief that prophecies derived from the entrails of sacrificial victims came from the fact that peoples going off to colonies and wanting to stop in a place would examine animals’ entrails beforehand to see if the air and the terrain were healthy. From this, they could move easily into regarding one or another condition of the entrails as a good or bad omen. Idem, for bird flight: when they came from one place to another, it was conjectured that this was to search for food, and consequently, that this place was better than the ones they were coming from. From this, the good augur followed naturally. I said: “There is still another cause of the slitting of victims’ throats: warrior nations, and that is most of them, must have imagined a god who resembled them, who took pleasure in blood, who was cruel like themselves, who demanded victims’ blood, who demanded enemies’ blood, citizens’ blood, etc.”

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[1225] On the news making the rounds in January 1738 that the King was going to eliminate appeals to the Parlement against abuse of ecclesiastical authority,1 I said: “The King cannot do everything he is able to.”2

[1226] There is scarcely anyone I have heard reasoning on the present affairs, I will not say sensibly, but with a full knowledge of what they are talking about. For more than ten years now, it has no longer been a question of the Constitution;1 it is a question of knowing whether there is going to be a schism or not. Although the Court and the Parlement are opposed in the paths they are taking, they both have none other than the same objective, which is to prevent schism, but they go at it in different ways. Their objectives are so much the same that the same things the Parlement condemns, the Council is obliged to condemn. The Court and the Parlement know that once there is a schism, penal laws will have to be established, all of us on both sides will have to be hanged, and when you start down that path, no one knows where it will lead. The Jansenists, for their part, are still pushing ahead and seem to be seeking nothing else but to go and get themselves hanged; the Molinists2 are {already} preparing the ropes with which they will hang or be hanged. The Court of Rome, committed (it knows not how) in this affair, is following its principles of always driving things to extremes. All good Frenchmen, all true citizens, shudder at seeing the danger—both to Religion and to the Nation. One cannot erect enough statues to Cardinal de Fleury, who saw the problem, the causes, the effects, and who sought throughout his entire ministry to minimize the problem—and did so.3 And it can be said that he prevented the schism which the frontline troops4 of the two sides wanted to hasten with all their might. He gave employment to moderate folks, or at least he Edition: current; Page: [326] sought to do so. He put a stop to the outbursts of the Molinists and gradually eliminated the forces of the Jansenists, by depriving them of their best excuses. It is true that the Ministry greatly embittered the Parlement. Two things need to be thought about: first, calming people down; next, filling vacant posts with prudent people to the extent possible.

I always hear it said that the King has only to suppress, change, eliminate, quash the Parlement. It is ignorant people who talk like that, or people who have an interest in talking like that because of their fortunes in Rome. One of the good things done in our time is that which has most revolted the public, namely, the red hat given to the Cardinal of Auvergne;5 this has made the clergy understand that the excesses of individuals in today’s affairs would not lead on to dignities those who devour them.

It must not be thought that the Parlement of Paris is acting solely out of caprice and spite. Since, when we are irritated {by being contradicted}, we throw ourselves more strongly behind the opinion we hold than we were before, I admit that there can be and there were in the Parlement some petty minds who let themselves get worked up over the Jansenist idiocies and trivialities. But I cast my eyes not on the Parlement of Paris but on the magistracy of the Realm, and I find that magistracy in the principles of the Parlement.

Why so? Because for four centuries, {all} the books have been full of Parlementary principles; because that is what people have studied, that is how they have formed their minds, and men do not renounce their principles altogether and all of a sudden; because the disputes between Philip the Fair and Boniface VIII established the principles of France; because the Pragmatic confirmed them;6 because the misfortunes of the religious wars, the excommunications of Henry III and Henry IV rendered the magistrates more attached to these principles; because the peace in the reign of Louis XIII and the beginning of Louis XIV had kept minds within the dependence and respect necessarily due—both for the interest of Religion, and for our interest, including our civil interest, at the Court of Rome—when Louis XIV effected the famous assembly of the Clergy, which did Edition: current; Page: [327] more harm in Rome than the Parlements had done; because then Father Le Tellier arrived and wanted to make Frenchmen forget all their maxims in one day.7

But the magistrates have not forgotten them. They are not ill-humored, but they have knowledge. Thus, it is through reason and mildness that they need to be worked on, and brought imperceptibly back to the right path, in matters where disputes have carried them too far.

One must especially be on guard against losing the scent, where we move from the main question over to questions in which people have a vested interest, and where the Clergy might seek, in the shadow of the Constitution, to move on to other claims, on the pretext of implementing the aforementioned Constitution. A good citizen ought to seek, on the one hand, to calm people down, and to maintain each of the orders of the Realm within its limits. And when I say this, I am not speaking against the bishops. I have always thought their jurisdiction over the correction of morals was only too limited. I even believe that the Pope’s authority is, politically speaking, even infinitely useful to us. For what would become of us in this turbulent nation, where no bishop thinks like his neighbor? But this does not mean that you are going to be violently hauled off, and despotically, to an authority that we are told is always without limits (because it is sometimes), and on all occasions (because it is on some occasions).

(I have scribbled this out based on the ideas that came to me on the occasion of a dispute over the suppression of the offices of president of the Great-Council, January 1, 1738,8 against an Avignon man who was asserting that the King was going to eliminate the appeals to the Parlement against abuse of ecclesiastical authority; to whom I said that this would not happen, because the Council was too prudent not to see that this would make Jansenists out of all prudent men, who had no desire to be. And when he said to me, “Can’t the King abolish the Parlement?” I responded, “Sir, take it from me that the King cannot do everything he is able to.”)9

[1227] It is against the nature of things, in a federative constitution Edition: current; Page: [328] like Switzerland, for the cantons to conquer each other,1 as they have done recently, the Protestants vis-à-vis the Catholics.2 It is against the nature of a good aristocracy for the citizens from whom the magistrates, the Senate, the Councils are elected to be so few that they make up a very small part of the people, as in Berne, for in that case, it is a many-headed monarchy. Again, it is against the laws of nature for a republic that has conquered a people to continue treating it as a subject and not an ally when, after a considerable period of time, all sectors of one people have become allied with the other through marriage, customs, laws, general meeting of minds. For the laws of the conqueror are only good and tolerable because those things do not exist, and because there is such an estrangement between the nations that the one cannot trust the other.3

[1228] I said: “Dinners are innocent, suppers are almost always criminal.”

[1229] I envy the temerity of fools; they are always talking.

[1230] It is foolish of Bayle to say that a republic of good Christians could not last; it is rather that there could not be a republic of good Christians.1 Likewise, when it is said that a republic of philosophers could not last, it is rather that there could not be a republic of philosophers. Everything is mixed up.

[1231] “M. Coste,” I said, laughing, “thinks he has written Montaigne’s work, and he blushes when someone praises Montaigne in his presence.”1

[1232] I said: “It is nature that makes us pleasing and displeasing: Mlle de Clermont cannot be displeasing; the Duke of Villars cannot be pleasing.”1

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[1233] A great change must have been made in the Athenian mind by Socrates’ philosophy, since Plato thanked the gods for having been born in his time.

[1234] Mme of Mort. take the deffense of an honest man injustly injuried. I said to her: “Madam, I was well aware that you had lovely qualities, but I did not know that you had virtues.” People wanted to criticize this. I said: “Virtue is not ranked among the virtues.”1

[1235] Nephews are children when we want them to be; children are children in spite of ourselves.

[1236] I am going to begin with a foolish thing, my genealogy.1

[1237] [Mr. of Nieu, very big man, said to a priest, “I have the arms,” les bras longs.]1

[1238] Bloodletting from the jugular vein is revulsant, not relative to the side of the vein where the bloodletting takes place, but to the opposite side. For a clearer idea, let us suppose that the bloodletting takes place from the carotid on the right, for example. Relative to this vein, it will only be evacuative in its effects, for if it is diversionary from the head region, it is also diversionary from the heart region. These two opposite diversions will cancel each other out. But this bloodletting becomes revulsant relative to the left carotid. This is because the same quantity of blood always passes through the two carotids taken together, so that if more passes on the right because of the bloodletting, that much less will pass on the left. Thus, the bloodletting of the right carotid is revulsant to the left carotid.

Bloodletting is called diversionary, insofar as it calls forth the blood from the region where it is occurring, and revulsant, insofar as it reduces the course of the blood going toward the opposite side. Thus, the bloodletting of the right arm is diversionary from the right side and revulsant to the left side.

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People respond to the explanation I have given by saying that the jugular vein on the right side communicates with the jugular on the left side. But what does that prove? My principle still holds, as it does against the objection that the common trunk of the two carotids is so big that very little blood rises from it, less through the left carotid. But less rises from there; that is enough for my argument.

I must look at the treatise on bloodletting by M. Silva and the treatises of those who have written against him.1

[1239] Why do the thymus and the adrenal glands become smaller with adulthood? Why does the venous canal dry out? Why does {the} umbilical cord become a ligament? It is because everything is full in the animal, everything is in motion, everything presses against each other. As the neighboring parts grow, those whose functions are useless shrink and harden, and even dry out. {In the human body, everything depends on everything else.}

[1240] The blood in the coronary artery does not pass by the lungs. This makes a third circulation, different from the other two. I have found the reason: the blood is taken from the left auricula or ventricle and has not been venous; it is from the arterial blood. It has no need to pass by the lungs.

[1241] There is no communication of the mother’s blood to the fetus, but the placenta’s veins anastomose in the mother’s arteries, and the mother’s veins in the placenta’s arteries. In that way, the subtlest and best prepared of the mother’s fluids pass through, and not the red corpuscles. Today, this is the common opinion.

But a mother who has died of a hemorrhage, where no blood was found in the fetus, has been raised as an objection.

To this, I respond that, given the system of communication that we have worked out, the full supplied the empty, not the empty the full. The entire aqueous and lymphatic part of the child’s blood has therefore passed into the mother’s veins. The red corpuscles, which are in very small quantity in comparison with the other fluids of the blood, have remained in the fetal canals, where no one sees them.

[1242] I said of Mme de Lixin that she has a nice manner of being witty.1

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[1243] I talked about Astruc and his obsession with always wanting to teach things he does not know about to those who do know about them.1

[1244] The tone of the social world consists largely in talking about trifles as serious things, and about serious things as trifles.

[1245] Bourgeois women are looking for titles in their lovers; Court women are looking for other qualities besides those of heraldry.

[1246] When someone was saying that men do not love the truth, I said that instead of “You must believe it, because it is true,” one ought to say “You must believe it, even though it is true.”

[1247] Look at the destruction the Roman Empire caused! Titus-Livy says that in his time, one could scarcely find in the land of the Samnites——men of war. Plutarch says that in his time, one could scarcely find in all of Greece——men of war. This is because before the Romans, the world was divided into countless small States. The Macedonians and Carthaginians destabilized many; the Romans destroyed them all. Now, in all these small republics, etc.

[1248] Lycurgus did all he could to make his citizens more warlike; Plato and Thomas Morus, more honorable; Solon, more equal; the Jewish legislators, more religious; the Carthaginians, more wealthy; the Romans, more magnanimous.1

[1249] Saavedra, Corona Gothica. Look at this book.1

[1250] The Franks immediately blended in with the defeated nations; not so, the Saxons or Britons. And the Goths,1 during the three hundred years they ruled in Spain, did not contract marriages or mix together with the Spaniards. From this, I derive the origin of their decline and of the superiority of the Franks.

[1251] oaths.1 Oaths take the place of the pledge that one is naturally Edition: current; Page: [332] inclined to give for a promise, for men have always needed to procure the trust of others. Thus, they have often made the following agreements: “If I do not do what I promise you, I will lose the pledge that I am placing in your hands.” “If I do not do what I promise, I want my friend to take offense and be compelled to repair the damage I have done to you.” “If I do not do what I promise, I submit to the greatest of misfortunes, namely, God’s vengeance. And in this case, if I am not a believer, I am giving you a false pledge, and am deceiving you in two ways: for you have neither the thing that I have promised you, nor the pledge that you think you have.”

Those who say that oaths add nothing to the promise are greatly mistaken, for your promise binds you only because it commits me to believe you. The bond therefore strengthens with the motive of trust: I counted on what you were saying to me not only because you were saying it, but also because I believed that you had religion, and because you gave me no grounds for thinking you were an atheist.

If it is false that the oath is a new bond, it is also false that the word is a bond; for the word binds only through the degree {of credibility} that it offers the recipient.

[1252] on the government of england.1 On the question of whether it is permissible to resist tyranny, the English may ask: “Is it more useful to the human race for there to be an established opinion in favor of blind obedience than of limiting power when it becomes destructive?”

Was it better for flourishing cities to be drenched in blood than it would have been for Pisistratus to be exiled?2 Dionysius expelled? Phalaris stripped of power?

Let us suppose for a moment that a cruel and destructive government finds itself established throughout the whole world, and that it endures not by tyrannical force, but by a certain popular credulity and superstition. If someone came to disabuse men of that superstition and teach them about the fundamental and immutable laws, would he not be precisely the benefactor of the human race? And what hero would have a more just claim to the oak-leaf cluster?3

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There is no good sense in wanting the Prince’s authority to be sacred and that of the Law not to be.

Civil war is caused when the subjects resist the Prince; civil war is caused when the Prince does violence to his subjects; each is an external violence.

But, it will be said, no one disputes the right of peoples; but the miseries of civil war are so great that it is more useful never to exercise it. How can one say that? Princes are mortal; the Republic is eternal. Their dominion is transitory; the Republic’s obedience does not end. There is therefore no evil that is greater, or that has more disastrous consequences, than the tolerance of a tyranny that perpetuates itself into the future.

[1253] on friendship.1 The Stoics used to say that the Sage loves no one. They carried the reasoning too far. I nonetheless believe it is true that if men were perfectly virtuous, they would not have friends.

We cannot attach ourselves to all our fellow citizens. We select a small number, to whom we limit ourselves. We arrange a sort of contract for our common utility, which is merely a retrenchment of the one we have arranged with the entire society—and even seems, in a certain sense, to be detrimental to it.2

In fact, a truly virtuous man ought to be inclined to assist the most unknown man as his own friend. He has in his heart a commitment that does not need to be confirmed by promises, oaths, external testimony, and to limit him to a certain number of friends is to divert his heart from all other men; it is to separate him from the trunk and attach him to the branches.

If that is so, what can be said about those shameful souls who betray even this commitment, which has been established only to bring aid to our imperfect nature?

Friendship was the Romans’ distinctive virtue; one finds its traces in the history of their most corrupt ages; never more the hero than when they were friends. {Look at how far Lucilius carried his friendship for Brutus and Antony, Saint-Réal, 290.}3

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The constitution of the State was such that everyone was driven to make friends for themselves. The eternal need for friendship established its rights. A man was powerful in the Senate or among the People only because of his friends; he went on to public office only through his friends; and when the time of his administration was over, and he was exposed to every accusation, he needed his friends still more. Citizens were linked to citizens by all sorts of chains: they were bound together with their friends, their enfranchised, their slaves, their children. Today, everything is abolished, right down to paternal power; every man is isolated. It seems that the natural effect of arbitrary power is to particularize all interests.

In the meantime, those ties that detached man from himself to attach him to another brought forth great deeds. Without that, everything is vulgar, and there remains only a base interest that is properly speaking merely the animal instinct of all men.

Among us, those who can do good to others are precisely those who neither have nor can have friends. I am talking about Princes and about a third kind of men who occupy the middle between the Sovereign and his subjects; I mean the Ministers—men who experience only the misfortunes of the Princely condition and who have the advantages of neither private life nor sovereignty.4

[1254] The custom of Court women serving as power brokers has produced much harm: (1) It fills all sorts of positions with worthless men. (2) It has banished generosity, candor, good cheer, nobility of soul. (3) It has ruined those who were not engaging in this shameful traffic, by obliging them to rise at others’ expense. (4) Women being better suited to this commerce than men, they made a private fortune, which is what contributes most of all to the ruin of morals, to their luxury and their love affairs.

[1255] The love of money so debases a prince that it leaves no sign of any virtues in him. This is what made the great Condé’s father the laughingstock of Europe.1 There was as much song and story about the father’s avarice as about the son’s heroic deeds.

[1256] We like a noble pride that comes from that inner satisfaction Edition: current; Page: [335] left by virtue; it befits the great nobles, it gives luster to dignities.1 A great soul cannot avoid showing itself whole; it feels the dignity of its being. And how could it not know its superiority over so many others degraded in nature?

These proud men are the least arrogant, for it is not they whom one sees annihilated before the great, low as grass under their equals, raised like cedars over their inferiors.

A base soul that is arrogant has descended to the sole point of baseness to which it could descend. A great soul that abases itself is at the highest point of greatness.

One cause of the feebleness of our affections is our education, in which we have not sufficiently distinguished greatness of soul from arrogance, and from that vanity—unsuited for any good—which is founded on no motive. This has led us to weaken the principle of action, and the more motives we have eliminated from men, the more we have demanded of them.

[1257] The ways of dressing and lodging oneself are two things in which both too much affectation and too much casualness must be avoided.

The table contributes not a little to giving us that gaiety which, combined with a certain modest familiarity, is called politeness.

We avoid the two extremes that the nations of the South and North are prone to: we often eat together, and we do not drink to excess.

[1258] In France, we have not ceased to have those rare men who would have been acknowledged as Romans. Faith, justice, and greatness of soul ascended the throne with Saint Louis. Tanguy du Châtel abandoned his posts as soon as the public voice rose against him; he left his Country without complaining, to spare it his murmurs. Chancellor Olivier introduced Justice even into the Kings’ Council, and Politics gave way before it. France has never had a better citizen than Louis XII. Cardinal Amboise found the People’s interests in the King’s, and the King’s interests in the People’s. Even in his youth, Charles VIII understood all the vanities of his youth. Chancellor de l’Hôpital was as wise as the laws in a court that was only calmed by the most profound dissimulations, or agitated by the most violent passions. In La Noue, we see a great citizen in the middle of civil Edition: current; Page: [336] discords. The Admiral was assassinated with only the State’s glory in his heart, and his fate was such that after so many revolts, he could only be punished by a great crime.1 The Guises were extreme in the good and evil they did to the State: how fortunate France would have been if they had not felt the blood of Charlemagne flowing through their veins! It seemed like the soul of Miron, head of the merchants’ guild, was that of all the People. Henry IV, I will say nothing about him; I am speaking to Frenchmen. Molé showed heroism in a profession that usually rests only on other virtues. Caesar would have been compared to M. le Prince if he had come after him. M. de Turenne had no vices, and if he had had any, perhaps he would have carried certain virtues further; his life is a hymn to the praise of humanity. The character of M. de Montausier has something of the ancient philosophers in it, with their excess of reason. Marshal {de Catinat} bore victory with modesty and disgrace with majesty, still great after the loss even of his reputation. M. de Vendôme never had anything of his own but his glory.2

[1259] on rewards. I do not intend to speak of the posterity of those six bourgeois from Calais who offered up their lives to save their Country, and whom M. de Sacy has rescued from oblivion.1 I do not know what has become of the posterity of that woman who saved Amiens in Charles VIII’s time. Those bourgeois are still bourgeois. But if there has been some noteworthy knave in our France, you can be sure that his posterity is held in honor.

But virtue should nonetheless be the eternal object of our pursuits. It has almost always been left unrewarded; it has been shunned, feared, persecuted. It scarcely arrives before it is disdained.

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[1260] on history. It is fitting that everyone read history, especially that of his country. We owe this to the memory of those who have served their Country and have thereby contributed to giving virtuous people that reward which is their due, and which has often encouraged them.

The sentiment of admiration that their fine deeds excite in us is a kind of justice that we render them, and the horror we feel toward the wicked is another. It is unjust to grant the wicked oblivion for their name and their crimes. It is unjust to leave great men in that same oblivion that the wicked have seemed to desire.

Historians are severe examiners1 of the deeds of those who have appeared on earth, and they are an image of those Egyptian magistrates who would