Monday, December 20, 2010

From "Maxims & Thoughts"

By Sebastien-Roch Nicolas Chamfort, trans. Maarten Maartensz.


Why do you give no more to the public?


It is that the public seems to me full of bad taste and the rage for denigration.

It is that a reasonable man doesn't act without motive, and that a success would not give me any pleasure, whereas a failure would perhaps give me much pain.

It is that I don't want to spoil my leisure, just because the folks pretend that they should be amused.

It is that I work for the amusement halls, that are the theatre of the nation, and that I am producing, together with this, a work of philosophy, that should be printed by the Royal Printing Office.

It is that the public treats men of letters like the press gangs of the Point St. Michel treat those they enrol: drunk the first day, ten crowns and beaten by rods the rest of their lives.

It is that those who urge me to work are motivated as those who set themselves at their windows in the hope to see men leading monkeys or bears in the street.

For example M. Thomas, insulted during the whole of his life and praised after his death.

The noble gentlemen in waiting, comedians, censors, the police, Beaumarchais.

It is that I fear to die before I have really lived.

It is that everything I am said to make me produce is good to say to St. Ange or Murville.

It is that I have worked and that success is a loss of time.

It is that I did not want to do like the men of letters, who resemble asses that quarrel and fight in front of an empty through.

It is that if I had given all those trifles that I could have produced, I would have had no more rest on earth.

It is that I much prefer to be praised by honorable men, and prefer my private happiness over a few elogies, a few crowns, and many injuries and calumnies.

It is that if there is one man on earth who has the right to live for himself, then it is me, after all the malice I have been subjected to with each succes I had.

It is that, as Bacon said, one never sees glory and leisure go together.

Because the public is not interested in success it doesn't understand.

Because I acquiesce in less than half of the glory of Jeannot.

Because I do not want to please anyone but those who are like me.

It is that the more my literary renown fades, the happier I am.

It is that I have known almost all the famous men of our time, and that I have seen them unhappy because of this beautiful passion for fame, and die after having degraded their characters and morals.

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