Rochefoucault, Francis, Duke Of

, prince of Marsillac, and governor of Poitou, was born in 1613. He was the son of Francis, the first duke of Rocbefoucault, and was distinguished equally by his courage and his wit. At the instigation of the duchess de Longueville, to whom he had been long attached, he engaged in the civil wars, and signalized himself, particularly at the battle of St. Antoine. After his return his house became the rendezvous of all the wits of Paris, Racine, Boileau, &c. who were captivated by the charms of his conversation. He died at Paris in 1680, aged seventy-seven. As a writer he is chiefly known by a small work, which has often been reprinted in this country, in English, entitled “Maxims,” of which Voltaire has not scrupled so say, that it contributed more than any performance to form the taste of the French nation, and give it a true relish of propriety and correctness. “Though there is,” continues he, “but one truth running through this whole piece, namely, that ‘ selflove is the spring of all our actions and determinations;’ yet this thought presents itself under such a variety of | forms as never fail to strike with new surprise. It is not so properly a hook itself, as a set of materials to embellish a book. This little collection was much read and admired; it accustomed our authors to think, and to comprise their thoughts in a lively, correct, and delicate turn of phrase; which was a merit utterly unknown to any European writer before him since the revival of letters.” It has, however, been mostly admired by those who entertain an unfavourable opinion of mankind, and who have been soured by disappointment and misfortune, particularly by disappointed ambition. Chesterfield and Swift are on the side of Rochefoucault. We have also of this noble author “Memoires de la Regence de la Reine Anne d’Autriche,” written with great sense and a deep penetration.

The abbe" D’Olivet, in his History of the French academy, says that Rochefoucauit could never be a member of it, though greatly desired both by the academicians and himself, from the necessity of making a speech of thanks on the day of admission: with all the courage he had shewn on so many eminent occasions, and with all the superiority that birth, and such prodigious parts as the world allowed, gave him, he was not able to bear the look of an audience, nor could pronounce four lines in public without fainting. 1


Dict. Hist. Siecle de Louis XIV.