13. Of Fashion
From Characters by Jean De La Bruyère (1688)

1. A crazy thing indeed, and one which reveals our triviality of mind, is our subjection to fashion when it extends to matters of taste, living habits, health and conscience. Game is out of fashion, and therefore insipid; and it would be an offence against fashion to be cured of a fever by bleeding. In the same way, Theotimus has attended no deathbeds for a long time now; his soothing exhortations have saved only the common people, and Theotimus has seen his own successor.

2. The mania for collecting is a fondness not for what is good or beautiful but for what is rare and unique, for what one has and others have not. It is not a liking for what is perfect but for what is sought after, what is in vogue. It is not an amusement but a passion, and one which is often so violent that only the slightness of its object makes it second to love and ambition. It is not a general passion for everything that is rare and in great demand, but only for a certain thing which is rare and yet fashionable.

The connoisseur of flowers has a garden outside the city: he hurries there at sunrise and comes home at bedtime. He seems to have been planted there, and to have taken root among his tulips, in front of La Solitaire: he opens his eyes wide, rubs his hands, bends down, examines it more closely, he has never seen it look so beautiful, his heart overflows with delight; he leaves it to gaze at L'Orientale, thence he goes on to The Widow, next to Cloth of Gold, and from this to Agathe, returning at last to Solitaire, where he stands transfixed, grows weary, sits down, forgets his dinner: for it is subtly shaded and edged, glossy, with fringed petals; it has a fine vase or calyx; he contemplates it, he marvels at it. In all this, God and Nature are what he forgets to marvel at; he does not go beyond the bulb of his tulip, which he would not give up for a thousand crowns, and which he'll give away for nothing when tulips are out of fashion and carnations have won the day. This rational man, who has a soul, a creed and a religion, goes home exhausted and starving, but delighted with his day: he has looked at tulips.

Speak to this other man of rich harvests, of ample crops, of a good vintage: he is a connoisseur of fruit; your words make no sense to him, he does not understand you. Speak to him of figs and melons, tell him that the pear-trees are laden with fruit this year, that the peach-trees have yielded abundantly; all this is a foreign language to him: he is devoted to plum-trees and nothing else, he does not answer you. Don't even try to talk about your own plum-trees: he loves a certain sort exclusively, and any other you may name calls forth a mocking smile. He takes you to the tree, and with an artist's skill plucks this exquisite plum; he cuts it open, gives you one half and takes the other:

'What flesh!' he says, 'don't you find it delicious? isn't it divine? this is something you won't find elsewhere.'

And thereupon his nostrils expand; he can barely conceal his delight and vanity under a slight show of modesty. O what a godlike man indeed! a man never to be sufficiently praised and admired! a man who will be talked about for centuries to come! let me gaze at his face and figure while he is still living! let me observe the features and countenance of a man who alone among mortals possesses a plum like this one!

A third man whom you visit talks to you about his fellow-collectors, and particularly about Diognetus.

'I marvel at him,' he says, 'and I understand him less than ever. Do you suppose he seeks instruction from his ancient coins, and considers them as speaking proof of certain facts, as sure and certain documents of ancient history?'

Nothing of the sort. You believe perhaps that all the trouble he takes to secure a good face is due to the pleasure he enjoys at seeing an uninterrupted series of emperors? you're even further from the mark. Diognetus knows when a coin is worn, defaced or in good condition; he has a case where all the places are filled except one: that empty space offends his eyes, and to fill it is precisely and literally the sole end to which he devotes his wealth and his life.

'Would you like to see my prints?' adds Democedes, and he quickly spreads them out to show you. You see one which is neither dark enough nor clear, nor even well drawn, and which seems less suited to form part of a collection than to adorn the Petit-Pont or the Rue Neuve on a gala day: he admits that it is badly engraved and even worse drawn; but he assures you that it is by an Italian whose work is very scarce, that there are hardly any prints of it and that this is the only one in France of this drawing, that he paid a high price for it, and that he would not exchange it for the best thing in his collection.

'There's one thing that distresses me greatly,' he goes on, 'and will make me give up prints for the rest of my days: I have the whole of Callot except for one single print which, to tell the truth, is not one of his good works; on the contrary it's one of the feeblest, but it would complete Callot for me: I've been striving for twenty years to get hold of that print, and I've lost all hope of doing so; it's a hard blow!'

Another man speaks satirically of those people who out of restlessness or curiosity embark on long journeys, who keep no diaries and write no descriptions, who carry no notebooks; who go to see things, and who either don't see them or forget what they have seen; who are only anxious to look at unfamiliar towers or steeples, and cross rivers that are not called Seine or Loire; who leave their native land merely in order to return to it, who like being away from home, and hope some day to be travelled men; and his satire is justified, it deserves listening to.

But when he adds that books teach one more than journeys, and gives me to understand by his remarks that he has a library, I am anxious to see it: I go to visit this man, who welcomes me into a house where, as soon as I set foot on the staircase, I am overcome by the smell of the black morocco leather in which all his books are bound. In vain he tries to restore me by yelling in my ears that they are all gilt-edged, adorned with gold fillets, and the choicest editions, enumerating the names of the best of them, telling me that his library is full except in a few places, which are painted to look like real books standing on shelves, most realistically, adding that he never reads anything, that he never sets foot in that room, that he will go there to please me; I thank him for his kindness, and am no more anxious than he is to visit that tannery that he calls a library.

Some men, who have an intemperate thirst for learning, and cannot bring themselves to renounce any sort of knowledge, embrace all kinds at once and master none of them: they seek rather to know a great deal than to know anything well, and would sooner have a weak and shallow grasp of various sciences than a sound and thorough grasp of a single one. On countless occasions they meet someone who knows better than they do and who corrects them; they are the dupes of their vain curiosity, and the most they can do, by long and painful efforts, is to extricate themselves from the crassest ignorance.

Others have the key to knowledge, and never make use of it; they spend their lives deciphering the languages of the East and the North, those of the two Indies and of the two poles, and the language spoken on the moon. The most useless idioms, written in the strangest and most cabalistic characters, are precisely those that arouse their passion and spur them on to work; they pity those simple souls who merely know their own language, or at most the Greek and Latin tongues. These people read a great many books and get no good from any of them; they display an utter sterility of facts and principles, together with the richest harvest and the most abundant wealth of words imaginable: they bend under the weight of it; their memories are overloaded while their minds remain empty.

A certain bourgeois loves buildings; he has a house built for himself which is so handsome, rich and ornate that it is uninhabitable. Ashamed of living in it, and reluctant perhaps to let it to a prince or a financier, he withdraws to the attic, where he ends his life, while the suite of rooms and the parquet floors are overrun by English and German travelers, who visit them after the Palais-Royal, the L— G— palace and the Luxembourg. People are for ever knocking at the splendid door; they all want to see the house, but nobody asks to see the owner.

We know of others who have daughters living with them, for whom they cannot provide a dowry, who indeed are wretchedly clad and half starved; they cannot afford a valance for their bed, or clean linen; they are poor; and the source of their poverty is not far to seek: it is a junk-room cluttered up with rare busts, already covered with dust and filth, the sale of which would enable them to live at their ease, but which they cannot bring themselves to sell.

Diphilus began with one bird, and he ends with a thousand: they do not enliven his house, they defile it. The courtyard, the hall, the stair, the vestibule, the rooms, the study are one huge aviary; birdsong has become a deafening din: the autumn gales and rivers in full spate don't make so shrill and piercing a noise; people can no more hear each other speak than in those rooms where you have to wait to greet your host until the small dogs have finished barking. For Diphilus it is no longer a pleasant pastime, but rather a laborious task which he is scarcely equal to. He spends his days, those days which once gone can never return, pouring out seed and cleaning up droppings. He pays wages to a man who has no other function than to teach canaries to sing with his flageolet, or get their liens to brood. It is true that what he spends with one hand he saves with the other, for his children have no teachers and get no education. He shuts himself up at night, worn out with his own pleasure, unable to enjoy the slightest rest until his birds are resting and all these little creatures, whom he loves only because they sing, have stopped singing. He is back with his birds in sleep: he becomes a bird himself, crested, warbling, perching; he dreams at night that he is moulting, or hatching eggs.

Who could exhaust all the different types of collector? Would you guess, to hear so-and-so talking about his leopard, his feather, his music, and praising them as the rarest and most marvellous things on earth, that he is trying to sell his shells? Why not, since they cost him their weight in gold?

Another man loves insects; he makes some fresh purchase every day; he is, in particular, the leading butterfly-collector in Europe; he has them of all sizes and colours. You've chosen the wrong time to visit him; you find him sunk in deep despair; he is in the blackest and bitterest of moods, and his whole family are the victims of it; for he has suffered an irreparable loss. Go up and look at what he's showing you on his finger, a lifeless object that has just breathed its last: it is a caterpillar, and what a caterpillar!

3. Duelling is fashion's greatest triumph; nowhere else has its tyranny been displayed more startlingly. This custom denied a coward the option of living; it drove him to get himself killed by one braver than himself, and thus to be taken for a man of courage; it attached honour and glory to a foolish and crazy act; it won the approval of kings; it has sometimes been practised with religious zeal; it has been used to decide on a man's innocence, on the truth or falsehood of an indictment on a capital charge; and it had finally become so deeply rooted in public opinion, and had taken such firm hold of men's hearts and minds, that one of the finest actions of a great King's life has been to cure them of this madness.

4. A man may once have been in fashion, as general, administrator, preacher or poet, who is out of it now. Have such men deteriorated from what they once were? are their good qualities exhausted, or merely people's fancy for them?

5. A man in fashion does not last long, for fashions pass: if he happens to be a man of ability, he is not quite destroyed, and something of him still subsists; he is still as admirable, he is merely less admired.

Virtue has this great asset, that it is self-sufficient and can do without admirers, partisans and patrons; a lack of support and approbation not only does it no harm, but preserves it, purifies it arid makes it perfect; whether it be in fashion or out of it, it is still Virtue.

6. If you say to men, and to great nobles in particular, that so-and-so has virtues, they will tell you: 'Let him keep them'; that he has abundant wit, of a delightful and amusing sort, they'll reply: 'So much the better for him'; that he has a cultured mind and knows a great deal, they'll ask you what time it is or what the weather's like. But if you tell them about Tigillinus, who can toss off a whole glass of brandy and, wonderful to relate, do so several times in one meal, then they say:

'Where is he? bring him to me tomorrow, tonight; won't you bring him along?'

The man is brought to them, and though he is fit only for the fairground, or to make a show of himself for money, they welcome him with open arms.

7. There is nothing that brings a man more suddenly into fashion, or attracts so much attention to him, as playing for high stakes; it's on a par with drunkenness. I should be surprised if the most cultured, witty and vivacious of men, Catullus himself or one of his disciples, could stand comparison with one who has just lost eight hundred pistoles at a sitting.

8. A person who is in fashion is like that blue flower that grows wild in the furrows, where it chokes the ears of corn, lessens the harvest and takes up the room of something better; it has no value or beauty, save what it borrows from a shallow whim that is born and dies almost at the same moment: today it's all the rage, women adorn themselves with it; tomorrow they'll despise it, and leave it for the common people.

A person of real worth, on the contrary, is a flower that is not merely referred to by its colour but called by its name, cultivated for its beauty or its scent; one of Nature's best gifts, one of those things that beautify the world; known of old, loved and enjoyed in all ages; admired by our fathers, and by ourselves after our fathers; unimpaired by the aversion of a few individuals: a lily, a rose.

9. We see Eustrates sitting in his little boat, where he enjoys the pure air and the cloudless sky; he floats forward, blown by a favourable wind which shows every sign of persisting; but this suddenly drops, the sky clouds over, the storm breaks out, an eddy surrounds the craft, and submerges it; we see Eustrates rise to the surface, struggling feebly; we hope that he will at least be able to save himself and reach the shore; but a wave beats him down, he seems lost; he surfaces again, and one's hopes are reawakened, when a fresh billow overwhelms him: he is seen no more, he has been drowned.

10. Voiture and Sarrazin were born for their age, and appeared at a moment when they seem to have been expected. Had they delayed, they would have come too late; and I venture to doubt whether they would have been today what they were then. The graceful talk, the salons, the delicate humour, the lively and informal letters, and those little parties to which only the witty were admitted, have all vanished. And don't tell me that these poets would have revived them; all that I can do in favour of their ghosts is to concede that they might perhaps have excelled in another field; but women nowadays are given to piety or coquetry, to gambling or to ambition, some of them indeed to all these at once; and wit today fights a losing battle against social rivalry and card-playing, the gallant and the director.

11. An absurdly affected man wears an enormous hat, a doublet with epaulettes, breeches with laces, and short boots; he dreams each night how he can make himself conspicuous next day. The wise man lets his tailor dress him: it is as foolish to shun the fashion as to follow it slavishly.

12. We criticize the fashion which divides a man's figure into two equal parts, one of which forms the bust, leaving the other for all the rest of his body; or that which makes a woman's head the basis for a many-storied edifice, the order and structure of which vary according to her whims, lifting the hair off the face which it should naturally frame, so that it stands on end like that of a Bacchante and changes a modest, gentle feminine countenance into something proud and bold; we protest, in short, against some particular fashion which, bizarre though it may be, adorns and beautifies the wearer while it lasts, and from which one gains all the advantage one might hope for, which is to seem attractive. It strikes me that we should merely marvel at the inconstancy and frivolity of men, who attribute charm and propriety to quite opposite things in succession, and who use to comic effect and in masquerades what once constituted their most formal dress and their most treasured ornaments; and that so short a time should make such a difference.

13. N— is rich, she eats well, she sleeps well; but hair-styles change, and when she is least aware of it and thinks herself happiest, hers is out of fashion.

14. Iphis, at church, notices a shoe of a new fashion; he looks at his own and blushes; he thinks himself undressed. He had come to Mass to show himself off, and now he hides; his foot keeps him at home for the rest of the day. His hands are soft, and he keeps them so with perfumed ointment; he takes care to laugh, so as to show his teeth; he purses his lips daintily, and is always ready to smile; he looks at his legs, and studies himself in the glass; you couldn't be more pleased with anyone than he is with himself; he has acquired a clear delicate voice, and fortunately he lisps his r's; he takes care to enhance his charms by a certain way of moving his head, a certain soft look in his eyes; he has an effeminate walk and the prettiest posture he is able to achieve; he puts on rouge, but not often, he doesn't make a habit of it. It's true, moreover, that he wears breeches and a hat, and has neither earrings nor a pearl necklace; which is why I have not put him in the chapter on Women.

15. The very fashions that men adopt so readily for their persons, they profess to disdain for their portraits, as though they felt or foresaw how indecent and ridiculous these would appear as soon as the bloom or charm of novelty had vanished; they choose, rather, an arbitrary style of dress, some indeterminate drapery, some fanciful invention of the painter's, unrelated to their face or figure, and inappropriate both to their appearance and their character. They are fond of forced or extravagant attitudes, a harsh, wild, foreign air which makes a swashbuckler out of a young abbé, a bravo out of a magistrate; or turns a citizen's wife into Diana, and portrays a shy and simple woman as an Amazon or Pallas Athene, a virtuous girl as Laïs, or a good and magnanimous prince as a Scythian or as Attila the Hun.

A fashion has barely destroyed another fashion when it is superseded by a newer one, and this in turn gives way to the one which follows it, and which will not be the last: such fickle creatures we are. During these revolutions a whole century has elapsed, relegating all these various adornments into the category of things past and gone. Then the fashion that interests and attracts us most is the oldest: aided by time and the lapse of years, it has the same charm in old portraits as Roman dress on the stage, or mantillas, veils and tiaras in our tapestries and paintings.

Our forefathers have handed down to us, together with their likenesses, a knowledge of their dress, their hair-styles, their weapons and the other accessories that they loved during their lifetime. We can only show our gratitude for this sort of favour by doing the same for our own descendants.

16. The courtier formerly wore his own hair, dressed in doublet and breeches, flaunted broad lace ruffles and was a freethinker. This is no longer the thing: he wears a wig, a close-fitting coat, plain stockings, and he is devout: fashion decides it all.

17. How could a man whose piety, a little while ago, made him, against all good reason, seem almost ridiculous at Court, have hoped that he would some day be in the fashion?

18. What will a courtier not do for the sake of advancement, if he can turn pious to secure it?

19. The palette is prepared, the canvas is all ready; but how can I catch the likeness of that restless, frivolous, fickle man, who is forever changing his shape? I paint him as a pious hypocrite, and I think I have him; but he gives me the slip, and has already become a libertine. If only he'd persist in those evil ways I should know how to depict him recognizably, in a state of moral and mental depravity; but fashion will not wait, and he is pious.

20. The man who has studied the Court knows what virtue is, and what false piety is: he can no longer mistake one for the other.

21. To despise vespers as something outdated and old-fashioned, to have one's place kept for the Salutation, to know one's way about the Chapel, which is the best side, where one can be seen and where one cannot, to meditate, in church, about God and about one's own affairs, to see visitors there, to give one's orders and instructions and await the answers; to listen to one's director rather than to the Gospel; to derive one's prestige and odour of sanctity from that director's reputation, despising those whose director is less fashionable, and barely allowing them salvation; to love only so much of the word of God as is preached in one's own church or by one's own director, to prefer his saying of the Mass to all others, and die sacraments administered by his hand to those that lack this privilege; to read nothing but books of mystical theology, as if the Gospels, the Epistles and the teachings of the Fathers did not exist; to read or speak a jargon unknown in earlier days; at confession, to give a detailed account of others' faults and pass lightly over one's own; to accuse oneself of one's sufferings, of one's patience; to admit, as a sin, one's slow progress in heroism; to be secretly leagued with certain people against certain others; to esteem only oneself and one's clique, and hold virtue itself suspect; to enjoy, to relish prosperity and favour, seeking it for oneself alone, refusing help to the deserving, using piety to further one's ambition, seeking salvation by way of success and honours; such is the finest achievement of the piety of our day and age.

A pious hypocrite is one who, under an atheistic king, would be an atheist.

22. Pious hypocrites admit no crime but incontinence, or to speak more precisely, rumoured and apparent incontinence. If Pherecidus is said to be cured of womanizing, or Pherenice to be faithful to her husband, that's good enough; let them ruin themselves at cards, bankrupt their creditors, rejoice at others' misfortunes and profit by them, idolize the great and despise the humble, grow intoxicated with their own merits, be consumed with envy, tell lies, slander, intrigue, hurt other people, that is their vocation. Surely you don't want them to encroach on that of upright men, to whom pride and injustice are as abhorrent as more secret vices?

23. When I shall see a courtier who is humble, who has renounced pomp and ambition, who does not build his own fortune on the ruin of his rivals, who is just, who eases his vassals' burden and satisfies his creditors; who is neither a swindler nor a scandalmonger; who has forsworn feasting and illicit amours; who prays not with his lips alone, and even when he is not in the Prince's presence; if, moreover, he is not haughty and unsociable, austere and gloomy in his looks; nor yet an idle dreamer; if he knows how to combine various functions, by scrupulous care; if he is able and indeed willing to turn his mind and attention to great and exacting tasks, those in particular of most importance to the nation and the whole State; if his character is such that I scarcely dare name him here, while his modesty will prevent him, unless I do so, from recognizing himself: then I shall say of this man:

'He is truly pious'; or rather: 'This is a man granted to his contemporaries as a model of sincere virtue, so that they may know it from hypocrisy.'

24. Onuphre's bedcover is of plain grey serge, but his sheets are of cotton and his pillows of down; he is dressed simply but comfortably, I mean in some very light material in summer and something soft and warm in whiter; he wears loose shirts, which he is most careful to conceal. He does not say 'My hairshirt and my scourge', far from it; that would betray him for what he is, a hypocrite, and he wants to be taken for what he is not, a devout man; however, he acts so that people believe, without his saying so, that he wears a hair shirt arid flagellates himself. There are a few books scattered casually about his room: open them: they are Spiritual Battles, The Inward Christian, The Holy Year: other books he keeps under lock and key. if he goes about the town, and sees in the distance someone before whom he must display his piety, he assumes his familiar role, with lowered eyes, a slow and modest gait, a contemplative air. If he goes into a church, he first observes who is there to see him; and according to what he discovers, he either kneels down to pray or he does no such thing. Should some worthy and important person draw near, who may see and hear him, not only does he pray, but he seems absorbed in meditation, uttering sighs and cries of ecstasy; when he sees the good man move away, his fervour subsides, and he breathes not another sound. On some other occasion he goes into some holy place, thrusts through the crowd, chooses a place in which to meditate, so that everyone can see his self-abasement: if he hears courtiers talking and laughing, less careful to keep silence in chapel than they would be in the King's antechamber, he makes more noise than they do as he exhorts them to be quiet; then he resumes his meditation, which invariably turns on a comparison between such people and himself, and is always to his advantage. He avoids an empty and un frequented church, where he could listen to two masses in succession, a sermon, vespers and compline, all between himself and God, with nobody to give him credit: he prefers his own parish, and he frequents those churches where there is a great crowd; there, at least, one can't fail to be seen. He chooses two or three days in the year on which to fast, for no particular reason; but by the end of winter he coughs, his chest is bad, he has the vapours, he has been feverish; it takes prayers, entreaties, arguments to induce him to break the Lenten fast as soon as it begins, and he eventually yields good-naturedly. If Onuphre is appointed arbiter in a family quarrel or lawsuit, he takes the part of the stronger, that's to say the richer, and he cannot admit that anyone very wealthy can be in the wrong. If he is in favour with a very rich man, whom he has managed to take in, whose parasite he is, and of whom he hopes to make great use, he does not make advances to his wife, at any rate overtly; he will slip away, leaving his coat behind, unless he is as sure of her as he himself. He is even less likely to use the jargon of piety 1z to flatter and seduce her; he speaks it not out of habit, but intentionally, and only when it serves his purpose, never when it would merely make him ridiculous. He knows where to find women more welcoming and amenable than the wife of his friend; he does not neglect these for long, if only so that people may say he has been in a retreat: which indeed who could doubt, to see him reappear looking so exhausted, like one who has not spared himself? Those women suit him best who flourish and prosper under the cloak of piety, only with this distinction, that he neglects the old in favour of the young, and among these the prettiest faces and the best figures attract him: where they go, he follows; when they come back, so does he; if they stay, he stays: everywhere and at all times he gets solace from their company: who could fail to find it edifying? they are pious, and so is he. He does not forget to take advantage of his friend's infatuation and consequent prejudice in his favour; sometimes he borrows money from him, sometimes he acts so cleverly that the friend offers him some. He manages to incur the reproach of not applying to his friends for help; sometimes he is reluctant to accept a penny without giving a receipt for it, although he is quite sure of never repaying the debt; another time he will say, in a particular way, that he needs nothing, and that is when he only wants a small sum; on a further occasion he will publicly praise the man's generosity, in order to put him on his mettle and persuade him to make a lavish gift. He has no intention of becoming the man's sole heir, nor of persuading him to make entire donation of all his possessions, particularly at the expense of his son, the rightful heir; a devout man is neither avaricious, nor violent, nor unjust, nor even self-interested; Onuphre is not devout, but wants to seem so, and by a perfect, albeit false, imitation of piety, to further his own interests surreptitiously: so he does not venture to confront the immediate heirs, and never insinuates himself into a family where there are both a daughter to be provided for and a son to be settled; their rights are too strong and inviolable not to be infringed without causing some sort of scandal (and he dreads that), and without such an attempt coming to the ears of the Prince, from whom he conceals his procedure for fear of being shown up for what he is. He strikes, rather, at the collateral line: this can be attacked with more impunity; he is the terror of cousins male and female, of nephews and nieces, the flatterer and avowed friend of all rich uncles; he claims to be the legitimate heir of anyone who dies old, wealthy and childless, and who will have to disinherit him if he wants his kindred to benefit from his estate; if Onuphre does not find a way to defraud them of the whole of it, he secures a considerable portion at any rate; a slight calumny, less than that, a touch of slander is enough to achieve this pious end, and that's a talent he possesses to perfection; he even makes it a rule of conduct not to let it rest idle; there are some people, according to him, whom one's conscience obliges one to disparage, and they are the people whom he dislikes, whom he wishes to harm, and on whose inheritance he has set his heart. He achieves his ends without even opening his mouth: when Eudoxus is mentioned, he smiles or sighs: questioned persistently, he makes no reply; and he is quite right: he has said enough.

25. Why don't you laugh, Z´lie, why not be gay and playful as usual? What's become of your gaiety?

'I am rich,' you say, 'I can live at ease, I can breathe at last.'

You should laugh louder, Z´lie, laugh freely; what's the use of a better fortune, if it brings with it gravity and gloom? Imitate great folk, who are born to wealth; they sometimes laugh, they obey their own nature, why not follow yours? Don't let it be said of you that a new position or a few thousand pounds a year more or less have made you go from one extreme to the other. 'I'm in a certain person's favour.' I guessed as much, Z´lie, but believe me, don't give up laughing, or even smiling at me from time to time, as you used to: don't be afraid, I shall take no liberties, seek no greater intimacies with you; I shall not think less of you and your position; I shall still remain convinced that you are rich and that you are in favour. 'I am pious,' you add. That's enough, Zélie, and I must remember that an expression of serenity and joy is no longer the sign of a quiet conscience; gloomy and austere passions have prevailed, and affect one's outward appearance; they go deeper, indeed, and it is no longer thought strange that piety, even more than youth and beauty, should make a woman proud and disdainful.

26. During the last hundred years we have gone a long way in the arts and sciences, which have all been carried to a high pitch of refinement, including the art of spiritual salvation, which has been reduced to rule and method and enriched with the finest and most sublime inventions of the human mind. Piety and geometry have their own ways of speech, or what are called the terms of the art: the man who does not know them is neither pious nor a geometrician. The first generation of pious men, those who were taught by the Apostles themselves, did not know these terms, being simple folk who had nothing but their faith and their works, and who were content to believe and to lead good lives.

27. It is a ticklish problem for a religious prince to reform his court and make it pious; knowing to what lengths his courtiers will go to please him, and what they will sacrifice in order to make their fortune, he deals tactfully and cautiously with them, showing tolerance and concealing his aims, for fear of driving them to hypocrisy or sacrilege; he expects more from God and from time than from his own zeal and skill.

28. It is a long-established custom at Court to give pensions and grant favours to a musician, a dancing-master, a comedian, a fluteplayer, a flatterer, a time-server; they have their accepted merits, their unquestioned and recognized talents, which amuse the great and allow them to relax from their greatness; everyone knows that Favier is a fine dancer and that Lorenzani composes fine motets. Who knows, on the contrary, whether a pious man is virtuous? There is nothing for him in the Royal purse or in the Exchequer, and quite rightly; this is a craft that's easy to counterfeit, and if it were rewarded the King would run the risk of honouring the dissembler and the knave, and granting a pension to the hypocrite.

29. Let us hope that the Court's piety will encourage bishops to stay in residence.

30. I am convinced that true piety brings peace of mind; it enables one to endure life and it sweetens death; hypocrisy cannot do so much for one.

31. Every hour is unique, both in itself and in relation to ourselves: once it is past it has perished entirely, millions of centuries will not bring it back. Days, months, years sink and are lost without return in the abyss of time; time itself will be destroyed; it is but a point in the vast spaces of eternity, and it will be obliterated. There are some slight and trivial circumstances of passing time which are impermanent, which pass themselves, and which I call fashions: greatness, favour, wealth, power, authority, independence, pleasure, delights, luxuries. What will become of these fashions when time itself has disappeared? Virtue alone, which is so little in fashion, lasts beyond time.