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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, a French prelate and author; born in Perigord, Aug. 6, 1651; preceptor to the Duke of Burgundy, 1689; admitted to the Academy, 1693; archbishop of Cambrai, 1695; denounced by Bossuet for sharing the mystical sentiments of Mme. Guyon, and dismissed from court; wrote “Télémaque,” 1699; died Jan. 7, 1715.]
  • I am more of a Frenchman than a Fénelon, and more a man than a Frenchman.

  • He also said, “I love my country better than my family, but I love human nature better than my country.” This is an echo of the reply of Chremes when asked if he had time enough to interest himself in the affairs of others:—
  • “Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.”
  • (I am a man, and nothing which relates to man can be a matter of unconcern to me.)—TERENCE: Heauton, I. 1.
  • Socrates said, “I am not an Athenian, nor a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” He was the first cosmopolitan, though he had never been out of Attica. (Said, rather, by Diogenes.)
  • When Rousseau was walking one day on Mont Valérien, near Paris, with Bernardin de St. Pierre, the author of “Paul et Virginie,” and expressed his pleasure at the chanting of the monks established there, Bernardin said, “If Fénelon were alive you would be a Catholic to-morrow.”—“Ah!” replied Rousseau with emotion, “if he were alive, I would seek to be his lackey in order to deserve to become his valet-de-chambre” (s’il vivait, je chercherais à être son loquais, pour mériter d’être son valet-de-chambre). Voltaire said, “I do not know whether Fénelon be a heretic for saying that God should be loved for himself, but I know that Fénelon should be.”
  • Fénelon showed his liberal feelings by his manner of speaking of his opponents: “We Catholics go too slow, and our brothers the Protestants go too fast.” He could not convert heretics by a dragonnade; and on his return from an unsuccessful attempt to bring over by peaceful arguments the Protestants of Poitou, Harlay, the Archbishop of Paris, said to him, “It seems, M. l’abbé, that you wish to be forgotten, and you shall be” (vous voulez être oublié, vous le serez). It was a sentence of banishment.
  • When Louis XIV. asked Bossuet what he would do if his outcry against Fénelon’s “Maximes des Saints” were not supported by the king, he replied, “Sire, my cry would be still louder” (Je hausserais la voix davantage). Of this contest between Bossuet and the supporters of views considered Jansenist and heretical, which finally drove Fénelon into the obscurity of his bishopric of Cambrai, Pope Innocent XII. said that the latter “sinned by excessive love of God, Bossuet by insufficient love of his neighbor;” and of Fénelon’s book, that its maxims had less scandalized him than the conduct of his adversaries. Bossuet said of Fénelon at this time, “That man made me pass many a wakeful night,”—a remark also attributed to Philip IV. of Spain, of Turenne.
  • Two sayings of Fénelon illustrate his views of royal interference in matters of religion. He advised the Pretender, son of James II. of England, to practise religious toleration in case he came to the throne. “No human power,” he declared, “can force the intrenchments of the human mind: compulsion never persuades, it only makes hypocrites;” and again to the same prince, “When kings interfere in matters of religion, they enslave instead of protecting it.”
  • A good discourse is that from which nothing can be retrenched without cutting into the quick.

  • Letter upon eloquence.
  • St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622) has three maxims on the same subject:—
  • “The test of the worth of a preacher is when his congregation go away saying, not ‘What a beautiful sermon!’ but ‘I will do something.’”
  • “The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit.”
  • “When a sermon is too long, the end makes one forget the middle, and the middle the beginning.”
  • Our best friends are the source of our greatest sorrow and bitterness (Les vrais amis font toute la douleur et toute l’amertume de la vie).

  • Letter to M. Destouches on hearing of the death of the Duc de Beauvilliers, Aug. 13, 1714.