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François La Rochefoucauld, duc de

La Rochefoucauld, François, duc de (fräNswäˈ, dük də lä rôshfōkōˈ) [key], 1613–80, French writer. As head of an ancient family (in his youth he bore the title prince de Marcillac) he opposed Richelieu and was later active in both Frondes. Wounded and disheartened, he made his peace (1652) and retired to his estates in Angoumois. Later he settled (c.1658) in Paris where he moved in the literary circle of Mme de Sablé, which included Mme de La Fayette, whose close friendship had an important influence on him. Although his Mémoires are interesting historically, La Rochefoucauld's place in French literature is assured by his moral maxims and reflective epigrams, which are marked by lucidity and polished brilliance. A collection was published in 1665 as Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales. The fifth edition, which appeared in his lifetime, contained 504 maxims. La Rochefoucauld's philosophy derives from his pessimistic view that selfishness is the source of all human behavior—a famous maxim is "The virtues join with self-interest as the rivers join with the sea." Translations of the Maximes include that by Louis Kronenberger (1959).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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