François VI de La Rochefoucauld Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

François de La Rochefoucauld (lah rawsh-few-koh), a French aphorist of the seventeenth century, was born into the high nobility and educated primarily as a soldier and a courtier. Until his father’s death in 1650, he was known as Prince de Marcillac. He never considered himself a writer as such, although he did once state: “I write good prose, I compose good verse; and, if I desired the glory that comes with such things, I believe that with little work I could acquire for myself a sufficient reputation.” Ironically, in the affairs of government—the one area in which his ambitions lay—he acquired for himself no reputation at all. What fame he actually achieved in his lifetime, and his entire reputation as far as posterity is concerned, came entirely from those writings which were not originally intended for publication.{$S[A]Rochefoucauld, François La;La Rochefoucauld, François}

As has been suggested by F. G. Stevens, his editor and translator, the times were not right, either for the employment of La Rochefoucauld’s great intellectual gifts in affairs of state or for the full development of his talents as a writer. In the first place, as a nobleman and a member of the military caste, he received a minimum of education. Born in Paris on September 15, 1613, he was married for family purposes at the age of fifteen and began his active service as an officer of the king a year later. In the second place, his was not a period during which any nobleman in France could aspire to a high position in the government. Louis XIII was an absolute monarch, and the only delegation of power in the realm was into the hands of two successive cardinal ministers.

The situation was certainly one that could embitter a young man of La Rochefoucauld’s temperament....

(The entire section is 728 words.)