Ik heb inderdaad wat aan Chamfort gedaan
(waarvan ik ook de bestandsnamen veranderd heb) en ben begonnen aan een
vertaling en een
een deel van het laatste:
relatively little that is known about Chamfort. Here
is a summary.
probably born in 1740 in Clermont-Ferrand; he was probably an
illegitimate child; he was raised by the family Nicolas; he was a very
good pupil, and attended the Collège des Grassins in Paris (for poor
but gifted boys) from age five or six, and was quite succesful, winning
many prizes for scholarship; he refused to take religious orders, and
tried a career as a journalist and writer for the stage, in both of
which he had some successes; he was both very attractive and very
witty; he knew most of the leading men and women of his time; he had
much success with women but soon got a venereal disease that, possibly
with other ailments, made him weak or ill much of his adult life; he
was befriended by noble men and by the court, but did not much enjoy
being a wit, and spoke and wrote often about removing himself from
society; he never married; he was elected to the Académie Francaise; he
supported the French Revolution and was a member of Club of Jacobins,
and also one of those who left it when it became very radical; he wrote
and spoke in favour of the Revolution, and wrote or improved speeches
of Mirabeau and Talleyrand; he was arrested during the régime of Marat
and Robespierre and maltreated in prison; when he was arrested again he
attempted suicide, which failed painfully, and he died after half a
year of suffering on April 13, 1794.
after his death his collected works were printed in four volumes, which
included Products of the perfected civilization, that includes
his Maxims and Thoughts, that was once enlarged with two
appendixes in a new edition of 1869, from what remained of the
originals, after which these disappeared.
is known after his death only because of his Products of the
perfected civilization, and especially his Maxims and Thoughts,
which are some 90 printed pages of aphorisms, sayings and thoughts,
that are mostly thought to be both cynical and misanthropic, for which
reason Chamfort is also known as 'the laughing misanthrope':
Philosophie, rélativement au monde, est d'allier, à son régard, le
sarcasme de gaité avec l'indulgence du mépris."
"The best philosophy, with regards to the social world, is to combine,
as far as it is concerned, the sarcasm of amusement with the indulgence
were much admired by men such as Hazlitt, John
Stuart Mill, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.
is probably satiric after Rousseau, who was admired, if not
uncritically, by Chamfort, and who maintained that the civilised state
of mankind - France first - was a poor parody, a falsification, a
travesty, a hypocrisy of natural man, who was perhaps a savage, but at
least a noble savage, and naturally good.
implication, the France of Chamfort, of the Enlightenment including the
court, the courtiers, the noblemen, the savants and wits, at once were
the highest in civilization, science and technological achievements and
arts, and the lowest in morality and in genuine humanity, being false,
phoney and hypocritical through and through, and in effect, as Chamfort
says somewhere, formed a class of some 700.000 rich exploiters,
collectively forming the nobility and clergy, plus hangers on, who
parasited on some 24 million poor people, who had virtually no
rights, no means, and no riches.
genesis of the work is also curious:
to have been written in the last ten years of Chamfort's life, when he
had ceased to publish, except when moved by the Revolution, and anyway
had ceased to look for literary fame, of which he had found enough so
as to be elected as a member of the Académie Francaise.
written on small square scraps of paper that were sorted
pell-mell by Chamfort in boxes, without any indication of what he
wanted to do with them. After he died - during a time of revolutionary
terror and upheaval - many of these boxes were destroyed. The few that
remained were put in an order by his literary editors, and published as
part of his collected works.
"the real Chamfort" - selon lui même - is somewhat of a mystery, in as
much as what what we have and what his fame is based on is, apparently,
only a small part of a large collection of many papers with many
sayings assembled for an unknown purpose.
other hand, it is clear from what we have that Chamfort sought to speak
his mind in Products of the perfected civilization, about men,
women, society, human relations, and human illusions, hypocrisies, and
weaknesses, and that many but not all of the fragments were polished,
as intentional aphorisms, paradoxes or witticisms.
considerable part of his collected sayings are not by himself -
especially in 'Caractères et Anecdotes', that is not part of the
present edition, and is the last part of Products of the perfected
civilization - but by others, sometimes named, sometimes merely
indicated by letters or abbreviations. This then also is a collection
of wit in the highest French circles during the Enlightenment.
Chamfort appears as an extra-ordinarily perceptive and extra-ordinarily
intelligent man, who saw deep into men, women and society, and who
happened to be very well placed to judge his time and circumstances,
knowing so much of it on so many levels, and being of very independent
mind - and be it noted also that, in spite of the cynism and
misanthropy so often attributed to him, he was neither a social failure
nor a poor or young man when he wrote his maxims and thoughts.
was a great writer - so that one can only lament that so much of what
he really meant to say seems to have been as irretrievably lost as
Aristotle's published writings.
have not read Chamfort, La Rochefoucauld, Swift, and Bierce have missed
much about men and women, and their ways and weaknesses, that has been
expressed very wittely by very fine human minds, who dared to write
truly and honestly, and could do so extra-ordinately well.
een allereerst bescheiden beginnetje, en de rest hangt zoals
gebruikelijk van mijn gezondheid af.
ik het andere deel van mijn commentaar eindig:
opens Products of the perfected civilization, and stands by
itself. Presumably it is Chamfort's somewhat sarcastic introduction to
what follows. The briefest summary seems to be:
wrote honestly. If we disagree it must be because we are not alike.
Make of it what you want, according to your abilities.