From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

which due allowance should be made, has been already hinted at, namely, that the mode of composition in detached maxims, to be at all effective, requires a generality of expression greater than is strictly warranted by reason, or is perhaps, really intended by the author. Neither is it fair as before remarked, to charge La Rochefoucauld with any deliberate system of vilifying human nature, or with any theory destructive to morality. Like Montaigne, he might plead, that he was not so much an instructor as an observer:—"Others form man; I only report him."

Controversy apart, there are many of the "Maxims,' the profundity of which will at once be admitted, and which have been enrolled as axioms in moral science; and of all it may be safely pronounced, that there is sufficient truth in them to make the work of the utmost value in it true character,—that of a record of moral observations not so much in themselves representing a theory of morals as hereafter to be used as the basis of new discoveries, and in the end of a scientific moral system. "As young men,' to use the words of Bacon, "when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature, so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, is it growth; but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may, perchance, be further polished and illustrated and accommodated for use and practice, but it increasetly no more in bulk and substance."