La Rochefoucauld, François, duke de

(1613-1680)
   moralist, writer
   Born in Paris and destined for a military career, in which he would later gain a reputation for bravery, François, duke de La Rochefoucauld, became involved in intrigues, especially with distinguished noblewomen, against Cardinal richelieu and, as a consequence, was imprisoned in the bastille, then exiled to his estates in Poitou. in 1648, he took part in the fronde uprising of the nobles against jules mazarin and, in 1652, was badly wounded (alongside condé) in the fighting that took place during that rebellion. La Rochefoucauld subsequently abandoned his military activities and political conspiracies and joined the side of the king (his Mémoires, 1662, are a useful source for understanding the period 1624-52). Once back in favor, he began a life that centered on the salons, especially those of such eminent literary figures as Mme de la fayette and the marquise marie de sévigné. In his later years, La Rochefoucauld suffered from a serious illness that left him half blind and from personal tragedies. At this point in his life, melancholy, but always with a gentlemanly reserve, he loved "conversation with honest people" and used his incisive mind and psychological insight to analyze his culture and society. Starting to write, probably in 1658, he produced eventually his Maximes (1664), which scandalized many by their frankness and lack of pretense and illusion, along with a certain pessimism about human nature. in his maxims he denounced humans' egoistic motives in both emotions and social relationships ("Our virtues are often only our vices disguised"). As a French writer of epigrammatic maxims, he has never been surpassed.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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