François, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680). Moral Maxims and Reflections. 1912.

The Translator’s Preface



Written in French, by the
DUKE of Rochefoucault

Now made English.

The Second Edition, Revised and Corrected, with the Addition of CXXXV MAXIMS, not Translated before.

Printed for Richard Sare, at Grays-Inn-Gate, in Holborn,MDCCCVI.

AS soon as this little Book fell into my Hands, I could not forbear making Enquiry, whether any of our Country-Men had done the good Service of communicating it to the English Readers. The Entertainment it gave me, the exceeding Characters I had heard of it, (which indeed I thought extravagant, till my own Perusal convinced me, they were its just due) and the Desire of making these wise Observations, and the Advantages of them more diffusive, as well at that of impressing them more strongly upon my self, moved me to resolve upon spending some leisure Hours in naturalizing this great Foreigner. But the Undertaking soon appeared more difficult, than the proportion of the Book tempted me to expect. For the Translating every where literally and concisely, would have left some Passages dark, and scarce intelligible. And a loose Paraphrase (besides that it is a Liberty not to be indulged, except in Cases of great Necessity) would take off from the Beauty and Strength of such REFLECTIONS; the very Design of which requires a short close Style. With what Success I have endeavoured to decline both these Extreams, the judicious Reader will discern better, because more impartially than I can; and the Failings he discovers, will, I promise my self, be easily forgiven, for the sake of so good a Design, as the giving him this ingenious Book in our own Language. For it is to be hoped, he will think it more pardonable, that this is done now by a very indifferent and unknown Hand, than that it hath not had this Right done it, by some of the Best and most Eminent, before.

Mrs Behn indeed has attempted part of it, but she seems not to have intended a perfect Work, so much as Entertaining her Self and her Lysander, with such Passages as were most applicable to her darling Passion of Love. Upon which occasion, and some others, she takes the Freedom of Paraphrasing, and Accommodating as she saw fit, more perhaps to her own Diversion, than the doing Justice to the Author. And besides, Hers is only a Collection of some scattered Reflections, out of the First and Second, without any Notice taken of the Third and Fourth Parts.

This Translation follows the Edition of Lyons, 1691. But because there is another of the same Year, at Paris, without any distinction of Parts, in which there are several Additions, to what my Original hath in the Two First Books, I have taken Care to subjoin those Additions at the End of the Second Part here; and believe, that in comparing the Two Books together, none will be found to have escaped me, nor any other Difference between them now remaining, except in the Order of the REFLECTIONS. The Passages added are likewise numbred according to the Paris Edition, from whence they are taken. The French Preface to the Reader Translated from thence, because something larger; and referring particularly to a Discourse upon these REFLECTIONS, wholly wanting in the Impression at Lyons. That Discourse, (Englished by another Hand) is likewise inserted here, the Design whereof is to remove some Objections, to which this Book hath been thought liable. So that all due Care hath been taken, that this Translation might have it’s utmost Perfection, and the Author now appears in English, more full, and with much greater Advantage, than any Edition of his, that ever I yet saw in the Original Language.