Page:Moralreflection00stangoog.djvu/13

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LIFE OF ROCHEFOUCAULD.

predicament as Macihiavelli with regard to political morality. J. J. Rousseau, who was certainly not free from selfishness, has abused La Rochefoucauld's maxims, and yet, in his "Emile," he observes that "selfishness is the mainspring of all our actions;" and that "authors, while they are ever talking of truth, which they care little about, think chiefly of their own interest, of which they do not talk." La Fontaine, in his fable, (b. i. 11,) "L' Homme et son Image," has made an ingenious defence of La Rochefoucauld's book. The "Maxims" receive a portion of their peculiar point from the very courtly scene of contemplation, and from the delicacy and finesse with which the veil is penetrated that is spread over the surface of refined society. It is well known that Swift was a decided admirer of Rochefoucauld, and his celebrated poem on his own death commences with an avowal of the fact.[1] The misanthropy of that great man renders his suffrage any thing but popular; but possibly, as in the doctrine of the invariable predominance of the stronger motive, that of self-love simply bespeaks a more strict attention to early cultivation and discipline, to render it not only compatible with virtue, but strictly and philosophically connected with the highest, the noblest, and, in common

  1. Dr. Swift wrote a poem of near five hundred lines upon the Maxims of Rochefoucauld, and was a long time about it. They were committed to the care of the celebrated author of "The Test;" an edition was printed in 1788, in which more than one hundred lines were omitted. Dr. King assigned many judicious reasons—though some of them were merely temporary aud prudential—for the mutilations; but they were so far from satisfying Dr. Swift, that a complete edition was immediately printed by Faulkner, with the dean's express permission.—Swift's Works, Sheridan's Edition, 19 vols., London, 1801.