Biography: François La Rochefoucauld | French moralist and philosopher.

(François, Duke of La Rochefoucauld; Paris, 1613-1680) French moralist and philosopher. As he recounted in his memoirs (1662), the first years of his adult life were spent between the army and the French court, involved in acts of weapons, numerous intrigues and love affairs. However, in 1652, due to an injury he suffered in the battle of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, it forced him to rest for a while, returned to Paris and came into contact with literary circles. Then he conceived his most famous work, the maxims (1665-1678), collection of seven hundred epigrams which constitute a landmark of French classicism. Taking the natural selfishness as the essence of all action, La Rochefoucauld attacked self-delusion and discovered with depth and wit the contradictions of human psychology, although it was reducing too emphatic character of some of his maxims in the successive editions.

François La Rochefoucauld
Son of a Duke and pair of France, La Rochefoucauld was educated by a tutor in the strongholds of Angoumois and Poitou without special care as was intended for weapons, although he learned something from latin. Fifteen it is married with Andrée de Vivonne, daughter of a captain of the guard of Médicis María which would give him eight children and live always in the dark. The following year the young La Rochefoucauld, who became until the death of his father the title of Prince de Marcillac, was already master of the Auvergne Regiment Camp.
Entered the Court in 1629, it gave beginning to a series of political and emotional intrigue in which revealed a marked fondness for adventure. In love with the Duchess of Chevreuse, in 1639 he began to boldly by her against Cardinal Richelieu and in favour of Ana de Austria, machine performance which earned him the captive in the Bastille and a banishment from three years in Verteuil. From there he kept contact with the enemies of the Cardinal, and participated in the conspiracy of Cinq-Mars and Thou.
In 1642, Richelieu died, returned to Paris; and when Queen, following the death of Luis XIII, she was named Regent, he waited to see rewarded his devotion. However, Cardinal Mazarino arose as a new obstacle to his ambitions. In order to take revenge on the ingratitude of the sovereign and oppose this another enemy entered in the "cabale des inportants", allied with the beautiful Duchess of Longueville, sister of the Duke of Enghien and relentless adversary of the Queen, and was left to drag into the adventure of la Fronda, movement of the high nobility against absolutist regime. He followed the Duke of Enghien from Flanders, and he was wounded at the battle of Mardiek. Returned to Paris, he again intrigued, and exploded the civil war among the great Condé and Turenne, fought in front of Saint-Antoine, where was in full face shot of arquebus that momentarily deprived of sight.
Abandoned by the Duchess of Longueville and disappointed in his political ambitions, his father took refuge first abroad, and then, after the death in 1653 (which resulted in the change of his title of Prince de Marcillac by the Duke of La Rochefoucauld), in their possessions of Verteuil. He saw success, after the Fronde, to Cardinal Mazarino, and warned, singularly, the emergence of a world in which there was no place for the independence of the nobility as he conceived it. Adversary of the centralization of power in the hands of the King and his Minister, encouraged an ideal which was defined as "feudal and anarchic", completely contrary to the evolution of the modern State.

La Rochefoucauld (portrait of Théodore Chassériau)
Thereafter, however, he renounced all political ambition and became a chronicler of events that had been participant and spectator, already then free of the passions that move you in different circumstances; in this way, his memoirs reveal a firm intention of impartiality, and even of impersonality, almost. Published in 1662 (except the first part, which was unpublished and did not appear until 1817), the life story of memoirs cover from 1624 until 1652 and was very well received and appreciated by his contemporaries.
Memories of La Rochefoucauld tone is sober, austere, often very lively; the author, who in the last few years and more dramatic speaks in third person, conceals well its intention to apologetics. Does not hide what was poorly ambitious in the great lords opposition to Royal authority, nor the less noble motives inducing the same La Rochefoucauld: disappointed craving for honours, quarrels, gallant and adventurous passions. In the secret Chronicle, the behind the scenes of la Fronda, La Rochefoucauld is revealed as a happy portrait and a sharp researcher of the soul that makes sense to the moralist of the maxims. With memories can relate the apology written in 1649 and published in 1855. In this, the very personal reasons to oppose Mazarin are confessed more frankly, according to the principle of the own utility, which also reminds about the maximum.
Moreover, La Rochefoucauld found his true vocation, not politician and man of action, but of "honnête homme" and observer subtle and profound, lucid and disillusioned at this stage. Installed again in Paris, continued attending the Court, although it was more regular classrooms. Caustic and laconic, it soon found its place in the entertainments of the spirit that were fashionable at the time. He participated in the game of portraits, and his own, which made in 1659, was one of the most successful of the genre. He began to frequent the tertulia of Madame de Sablé, where grew the genre of the "maximum"; After the discussion about a proposed theme, participants sought to condense the own thought in the short space of a sentence.
Thus were born, through a slow elaboration, the maxims, in which the "folds of the heart" are counted until the intentional privacy. In 1665, the publication in spite of the first edition of the thoughts or sentences and moral maxims (original full title of the maximum) caused scandal, since the exposed system and ruthless tone and adopted moralist exceeded allowing worldly conversation games that were at the origin of practice and of the form of the genre.
Comprised of seven hundred brief and subtle moral judgments, maxims (who met five editions between 1665 and 1678) have a strong unit by your dominant thought and endlessly repeated: self-esteem and interest are drawn at the bottom of all our actions, feelings and the so-called virtue. "Our strengths are not, generally, rather than masked defects." Hence, friendship, piety, honesty, feminine modesty or heroism to decompose under a ruthlessly scrutinizing gaze, which reveals the selfishness, weakness or the more subtle calculation.
The pessimistic tone and conviction of intrinsic selfishness of human nature in effect define his brief epigrams: "repentance lies more in fear of what might happen to us that regret our actions". If François La Rochefoucauld matches Pascal when it denounces the infinite human pride, faith does not light it; his wisdom is quite mundane and expresses only the ideal of the "honest man". The book also contains more extensive poetic descriptions, always around the springs which directed the conduct of men.
Even if the claims of the author were not overly original, the exact precision of his language gave them a devastating sharpness; severe and unrelenting vision of the human heart he gave the most absolute form French fitness to minimize thought fast and clear expression. The maximum, as well as exact, are penetrating and bright; they lack any hint of beauty, which accentuates the highly mundane and stately character of the book. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were seduced by his bitter and scornful view of man; and it also contemporises with such own Leopardi aspect, as you can see in some of their eleven hundred thoughts.
The last years of the life of La Rochefoucauld were occupied largely by its intimate and faithful relationship with Madame de La Fayette, who helped with advice during the drafting of the famous novel the Princess of Cleves. The author applied while both, he said, to correct the maximum "in his heart", attenuating its tone, without, however, altering its essential principle. Despite the pressures of her friends, La Rochefoucauld refused to stand as a candidate to the Academy. He died assisted Bossuet. His remaining works, collected posthumously, include nineteen short compositions known as Réflexions diverses (various reflections) and around 150 cards.
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