6. Of Worldly Goods
From Characters by Jean De La Bruyère (1688)

1. A man who is very rich may eat delicacies, have his ceilings and alcoves painted, boast one palace in the country and another in town, keep a fine carriage, marry his daughter to a duke and make a great lord out of his son; he is entitled to all this; but to live content may perhaps be the privilege of others.

2. Noble birth or great wealth proclaim a man's merit and win earlier recognition for it.

3. How can we blame an ambitious coxcomb for his ambition, considering the care we take, if he should make a great fortune, to credit him with qualities which he has never possessed, and as great as those he thinks he possesses?

4. As a man falls out of favour and his wealth declines, we discover for the first time the ridiculous aspects of his character, which were always there but which wealth and favour had concealed.

5. If we did not see it with our own eyes, could we ever imagine the extraordinary disproportion created between men by a larger or smaller degree of wealth?

This little more or little less decides whether a man is to enter the Army, the Law or the Church: scarcely any other sense of vocation is needed.

6. Two tradesmen were neighbours and in the same business, but their subsequent destinies were very different. Each of them had an only daughter; these girls were brought up together, and lived as close friends, being of the same age and social condition: one of the two was driven by extreme poverty to seek employment; she entered the service of a lady of high rank, one of the first ladies of the Court, and her former friend.

7. If the financier's venture should fail, the courtiers will say of him: 'He's a bourgeois, a low fellow, a lout'; if it should succeed, they'll ask for his daughter's hand.

8. Some men were trained for one calling in their youth, who practise a very different one for the rest of their lives.

9. So-and-so is an ugly, stupid little man. Somebody whispers in my ear: 'He has fifty thousand livres a year.' That's his own affair, and it won't make him behave towards me either better or worse; if I should then begin to take a different view of him, if I should feel compelled to do so, what a fool I'd be!

10. It would be a futile project to try to hold up to ridicule a man who is both foolish and very rich; he has the laugh on his side.

11. N— has an uncouth, forbidding porter something like a Swiss guard, as well as a vestibule and an antechamber, where he keeps you wearily cooling your heels, and where he at last appears with solemn face and stately gait, listens to you a little, and does not see you to the door; however inferior he may be in other ways, he will make people feel for him something approaching respect.

12. I come to knock at your door, Clitiphon; my need of you makes me leave my bed and my room: would to heaven I were neither your dependant nor your dun! Your slaves inform me that you are engaged, and cannot see me for another hour. I return before the appointed time, and they tell me you have gone out. What keeps you so busy, Clitiphon, in the depths of your apartment, that you cannot listen to me? You run through a few reports, you check a register, you sign and add a flourish. I had only one thing to ask of you, and you had only one word to reply, yes or no. Do you want to be exceptional? Help those who are dependent on you; such conduct will enhance your merit more than aloofness could do. O self-important, busy man, when your turn comes to need my services, come to my solitary study: the philosopher is accessible; I shall not put you off to another day. You will find me studying Plato's books, which deal with the spiritual nature of the soul and its difference from the body, or pen in hand reckoning the distance that divides us from Saturn and from Jupiter; I admire God in his works, and I seek through the knowledge of truth to discipline my mind and become a better man. Come in, all the doors are open to you; my antechamber is not meant for people to kick their heels in, waiting for me; come and see me without making an appointment. You will bring me something more precious than silver and gold, a chance to be of service to you. Speak, what would you like me to do for you? Shall I put aside my books, my studies, my work, the line I have begun to write? I welcome the interruption if it is useful to you! The financier, the man who handles money is an untameable bear: he is scarcely to be seen in his den, indeed he is not to be seen at all; for at first you cannot see him yet, and then you can no longer see him. The man of letters, on the other hand, is as easy of access as the cornerstone in the public square: he can be seen by anyone and at any time, and in any state, at table, in bed, dressed or undressed, well or ill; he cannot be self-important, and he does not wish to be.

13. We need not envy certain people their great wealth; they acquired it at a heavy cost, which would not suit us; they staked their rest, their health, their honour and their conscience to acquire it, the price is too high, and there is nothing to be gained by such a bargain.

14. The P.T.S. make us feel every passion in succession: we begin by contempt for their low origins; then we envy them, hate them, fear them, we sometimes esteem and respect them; and in due course we end by pitying them.

15. Sosias, who once wore livery, has risen from a small-scale exciseman to an under-farmer; and by means of peculation, violence and misuse of his powers, he has finally climbed on the ruins of several families to attain a certain rank. Having acquired nobility by means of his function, he only needed wealth: a position as administrator of Church funds worked that miracle.

16. Arfure used to make her way alone, and on foot, to the great porch of Saint ***, where she listened from afar to a sermon by some Carmelite friar or learned preacher whom she could only see obliquely, and many of whose words she failed to catch. Her virtue went unrecognized, and her piety was no more famous than her person. Her husband became a tax-farmer of the huitième denier; what a monstrous fortune in less than six years! She rides to church ill a chariot; a servant carries her long train; the preacher breaks off his sermon while she takes her seat; she sits right in front of him, loses not a single word nor the slightest gesture. Priests vie with one another to confess her: all are longing to grant her absolution, and the Curé wins the day.

17. Croesus is carried to the graveyard: of all his immense wealth, which he acquired by fraud and peculation, and squandered on luxury and good living, there is not enough left to pay for his burial; he died insolvent, destitute, and deprived of all help; he had neither julep nor cordial, no doctor visited him, no priest assured him of salvation.

18. Champagne, his stomach bloated at the end of along dinner and amid the pleasant fumes of wines from Avenay or Sillery, signs an order handed to him, which would deprive a whole province of bread if it were allowed to pass. He is excusable: how can a man understand, in the early stages of digestion, that people may, somewhere, be dying of hunger?

19. Sylvain has bought himself birth and another name: he is lord of the parish where his ancestors paid taxes; in the old days, Cleobulus would not have had him for a page-boy, and now he has him for a son-in-law.

20. Dorus travels in his litter along the Appian way, preceded by his freemen and his slaves, who thrust aside the crowd and clear a way for him; he lacks only lictors; with such a train he enters Rome, as though in triumph over the humble estate and poverty of his father Sanga.

21. It would not be possible to make a better use of one's fortune than does Periander: he acquired thereby rank, credit and authority; people no longer ask him to grant them his friendship, they implore his protection. He began by saying: 'a man of my sort'; he now says: 'a man of my quality'; for that is what he makes himself out to be, and none of those to whom he lends money or gives exquisite dinners will choose to contradict him. His home is superb; outside, the Doric order prevails throughout; that is no door, it is a portico: is this a private dwelling? is it a temple? common folk are misled. He is the lord of the whole region. He is the man whom people envy, and whose fall they would welcome; whose wife, with her pearl necklace, has antagonized all the ladies of the neighbourhood. He is all of a piece; there is as yet no flaw in that greatness which he has acquired, for which he owes nothing, which he has paid for. Why did not his old, decrepit father die twenty years ago, before the name of Periander became known in society? How will he be able to endure those odious death certificates that reveal a man's social condition and often mortify his widow and his heirs? Will he suppress them in full view of so many jealous, shrewd and spiteful townsfolk, and at the funeral? Is he to describe his father as Master or Esquire while he himself boasts a nobleman's title?

22. How many men resemble those trees which are already stout and well-grown when transplanted into gardens, where they astonish those who see them standing in some fine site where they never saw them growing, and who know nothing about their origins nor their progress!

23. If certain of the dead came back to this world and saw their great names borne, and their most proudly titled lands, their mansions and their ancient homes owned by people whose fathers may have been their tenant-farmers, what would they think of our century?

24. Nothing more clearly shows how little God esteems his gift to men of wealth, money, position and other worldly goods, than the way he distributes these, and the sort of men who are most amply provided with them.

25. If you could go into those kitchens where the secret of flattering your taste and making you eat more than you need is practised as an art and a method; if you could examine in detail the preparation of the foodstuffs which are to make up the feast in store for you; if you should see through what hands they pass, and what various forms they take before becoming an exquisite dish and acquiring that daintiness and elegance that delight your eyes, make choice difficult and induce you to sample everything; if you could see the whole meal anywhere else than on a well-laid table, how nasty, how loathsome it would seem! If you go behind the scenes at a theatre and count the weights, the wheels, the ropes which make the machines work and the actors fly, if You consider how many people are involved in making the things move, and what strength of arms, what muscular exertion they display, you will say: 'Are these the principles and the secret springs of that splendid spectacle that seems so natural, as though it were alive and moved of its own accord?' You will protest: 'What strenuous and violent efforts!' In the same way, do not seek to look deeply into the fortune of the partisans.

26. This brisk, blooming fellow, in such perfect health, is lord of an Abbey and ten other livings: all together, they bring him in an income of a hundred and twenty thousand livres, paid him in gold louis. Elsewhere there are a hundred and twenty need), families who cannot keep warm in the winter, who have no clothes to wear and often lack bread; their poverty is extreme and shameful. What unfairness! And is it not clear proof of an after-life?

27. Chrysippus, one of the new rich, and the first nobleman of his line, looked forward, some thirty years ago, to having one day an income of two thousand livres at most; that was the summit of his hopes and his highest ambition; he said as much, as people well remember. He has now risen so high, by what means I know not, that he can give one of his daughters for her dowry the sum he hoped to have as capital, for his sole fortune, for the whole of his life. A like sum is set aside for each of his other children for whom he has to provide, and there are a great many of them; this is only in anticipation of their inheritance: there are other possessions to be hoped for after his death. He is still living, though somewhat advanced in years, and he spends the rest of his days working in order to grow rich.

28. Let Ergastus have his way, and he will demand a toll from anyone who drinks river water or walks on solid ground: he can turn everything into gold, even the reeds and rushes and nettles. He listens to everyone's opinion, and puts forward all those he has listened to. Any gifts that the prince makes to others are at Ergastus's expense, any favours he grants them were really due to him. His hunger to have and to hold is insatiable. He would traffic in the arts and sciences, and would even farm out harmony; if he's to be believed, people should forget the music of Orpheus and enjoy only his own, in order to have the pleasure of seeing him wealthy, with a stable and a pack of hounds.

29. Don't do any business with Criton, he is concerned only with what may benefit himself. The trap is ready laid for those who covet his position, his estate or his possessions: he will impose extravagant conditions on you. There is no consideration and no compromise to be expected from a man who is so full of his own interests and so hostile to your own; he needs a dupe.

30. Brontin, people say, goes into retreat and shuts himself up for a week with saintly men: they have their own thoughts, and he has his.

31. The common people may often enjoy the same pleasure that one gets from watching a tragedy: they witness the death, on the stage of this world, of the most odious characters, those who have done most harm in various scenes and been most hated.

32. If we divide the life of the P.T.S. in two equal portions, the first, lively and active, is wholly taken up with seeking to ruin the public, and the second, as death draws near, with unmasking and ruining one another.

33. This man, who made a fortune for many others, who made yours, was neither able to maintain his own nor, before his death, to ensure that of his wife and children: they live in seclusion and in distress. However well informed you may be of the wretchedness of their condition, you never think of relieving it; you cannot do so, of course, for you entertain, you build; but you keep, out of gratitude, the portrait of your benefactor, although it has been moved from the study to the antechamber: how considerate! it might have gone to the lumber-room.

34. There is a sort of hardness that is temperamental, and another sort that is due to a man's calling or condition. The second, as well as the first, enables one to be callous about the sufferings of others, and even indifferent to the misfortunes of one's own family. A good financier will shed no tears for his friends, his wife or his children.

35. 'Fly, withdraw; you are not far enough away.' 'But,' you will say, 'I have sought out the farther tropic.' 'Go past the Pole and into the other hemisphere, climb to the stars if you can.' 'I am there.' 'Good, now you are safe. Here on earth I have met a man who is avid, insatiable, inexorable and resolved, at the expense of all whom he meets or finds in his way, and at whatever cost to other people, to provide for himself alone, to increase his own wealth till he is glutted with possessions.'

36. To make one's fortune is so fine a phrase, and it expresses so excellent a thing, that its use is universal: it is recognized in all languages, strangers and barbarians delight in it, it reigns at Court and in town, it has penetrated cloisters and leapt over the walls of monasteries and nunneries: there are no sacred places into which it has not found its way, no desert and no solitude in which it is unknown.

37. By dint of making new contracts, or knowing that money is accumulating in one's coffers, one comes to consider oneself a man of parts, and almost capable of governing.

38. It needs a kind of intelligence to make one's fortune, particularly a great fortune: this is neither sound sense nor brilliance, neither depth nor loftiness of mind, neither boldness nor subtlety of ideas; I don't know precisely what sort of intelligence it is, and I am waiting for someone to enlighten me.

It needs experience rather than intelligence to make one's fortune; one is apt to think of it too late, and when at last one sets about it, to make mistakes which there is not always time to correct; which is perhaps why success is so rare.

A man with mean abilities may seek advancement; he neglects everything, he thinks from morning till night and dreams all night about one thing only, which is how to get on. He began early, and while still a youth, to tread the path that leads to fortune: if he finds an obstacle barring his way, he dodges it instinctively and turns right or left, whichever offers the best opening and chance of success, and if fresh impediments confront him he goes back to the path he had left; he decides, according to the nature of these difficulties, whether to overcome them, or avoid them, or take other measures: he is guided by his interest, by custom, by circumstances. Does a traveller require such great talents and so good a brain to follow the high road at first, then if it should be overcrowded to turn aside and travel through the fields, returning at last to his original route and following it to the end? Does it need so much intelligence to pursue one's ends? Is a rich and respected fool so rare a prodigy?

There are even some stupid, nay, idiotic men who acquire lofty positions and end their days in opulence, although they can in no way be suspected of having contributed to this by any labours of their own; someone has led them to the source of a river, or else chance alone has made them discover it; they have been told: 'Do you want water? draw some'; and they have drawn it.

39. When one is young, one is often poor: one has as yet acquired nothing and inherited nothing. One becomes rich and old at the same time, so seldom can men enjoy all their advantages at once! and if this should happen to some, we need not envy them: death will deprive them of so much that they deserve to be pitied.

40. At thirty, one dreams of making one's fortune; by fifty, it is not yet made; we start building when we are old, and we die before painters and glaziers have finished their work.

41. What is the fruit of a great fortune, save to benefit by the vanity, industry, labour and expense of those who came before us, while we ourselves toil, plant, build and make money for posterity?

42. They open their shops and display their wares every morning, to cheat the public; and they shut up shop every evening, after cheating all day.

43. The tradesman shows off his merchandise so as to dispose of the worst of it; he conceals its faults by means of gloss and cunning lighting; he overcharges, so that he can sell it for more than it is worth; he forges mysterious markings, to make one think that the price is a fair one, and uses fraudulent measures so as to cut his cloth as sparingly as possible; and he has a precision balance, to make sure that his purchaser pays him the proper weight of gold.

44. In every sphere of life, poverty and honour are near neighbours, and the wealthy man is not far removed from knavery. Ability and talent do not lead to vast riches.

One can get rich, in any trade or business whatsoever, by the ostentatious display of a certain probity.

45. Of all the ways of making one's fortune, the quickest and best is to induce people to see clearly that it is in their interest to help you.

46. The pressure of their daily needs, and sometimes the longing for gain or glory, lead men to cultivate worldly talents or engage in questionable professions, the dangers and consequences of which they are reluctant to admit to themselves: they abandon these later, through a discreet piety which only develops after they have reaped their harvest and are enjoying a well-established fortune.

47. There are states of misery on this earth which wring one's heart; some men have not enough to eat; they dread the winter, they are frightened of living. Elsewhere, other men eat early fruit, forcing soil and seasons to satisfy their fastidious tastes; ordinary bourgeois, simply because they were rich, have had the audacity to swallow at one mouthful what would have fed a hundred families. Let who will brave such extremes: I will choose, if I can, neither fortune nor misfortune; I gladly take refuge in a middle state.

48. We know that the poor are distressed by their many wants, and that nobody relieves them; but if the rich feel resentment, it is at lacking any single thing, or meeting with resistance from a single person.

49. That man is rich, who gets more than he spends; that man is poor, whose expenses exceed his receipts.

One man with an income of two million livres may be impoverished each year to the tune of five hundred thousand.

Nothing lasts longer than moderate wealth; nothing betrays its imminent end more clearly than a great fortune.

Great wealth is the immediate cause of poverty.
If it is true that wealth consists in having few wants, the wise man is a very wealthy man.

If it is true that poverty consists in desiring a great many things, the ambitious man and the miser suffer from extreme poverty.

50. Passions tyrannize over man; ambition holds other passions in abeyance, and makes him for a time seem a model of all virtues. Consider Tryphon, who has every known vice: I once believed him sober, chaste, generous, modest and even devout: I should still think him so, had he not made his fortune.

51. Man never gives up his desire for gain and aggrandizement; as death draws near, a prey to bile, with withered face and palsied legs, he will speak of my fortune, my situation.

52. There are only two ways of getting on in the world: either by one's own cunning efforts, or by other people's foolishness.

53. One's features betray one's temperament and habits; but one's expression implies one's worldly goods: a man's face will tell you whether he has more or less than a thousand a year.

54. Chrysante, an opulent and insensitive man, does not like being seen with Eugène, who is a worthy man, but poor: he would consider himself dishonoured. Eugene feels the same way about Chrysante; so they run no risk of meeting.

55. When I see certain people, who once forestalled me with their courtesies, waiting for me to greet them, and standing on ceremony with me, I say to myself:

'Very good, I am delighted, I congratulate them: you'll see that this man has a better lodging, better furniture, and better food than he used to; he must have embarked on some profitable business deal during the last few mouths. God grant that he may shortly reach the point of despising me!'

56. If thoughts, books and authors depended on rich men and on those who have won worldly success, we should find ourselves proscribed wholesale, and with no appeal! What a superior tone they adopt towards those paltry fellows whose merit has won them neither position nor wealth, and who are still concerned with thinking and writing judiciously! It must be admitted, the present belongs to the rich, and the future is for men of virtue and intelligence. Homer lives still, and will go on living: tax-collectors and publicans no longer exist; did they ever? are their homes and names known? were there ever tax-farmers in Greece? What has become of those selfimportant persons who despised Homer, who cold-shouldered him in public places, who did not return his greeting, or who addressed him by his name alone, without any title; who did not deign to admit him to their company at table, who considered him as a man who was not rich, and who was writing a book? What will become of such men as Fauconnet? Will they last as long, for posterity, as Descartes, who was born a Frenchman and died in Sweden?

57. The same pride that makes a man look down contemptuously on those who are below him impels him to crawl contemptibly before his superiors. Such is the nature of that vice, which is founded neither on personal ability nor on virtue but on wealth, position, credit and useless learning, that it leads us both to despise those who are less well endowed than ourselves with these advantages, and to esteem too highly those who enjoy a measure of them that exceeds our own.

58. There are some souls so base and filthy that they love gain and interest as noble souls love fame and virtue, knowing one pleasure only, that of making money or of not losing it; anxious and avid for their ten per cent; entirely preoccupied with what is owed them; forever concerned about the depreciation or discredit of money; buried, and as it were engulfed, amid contracts, title-deeds and parchments. Such people are neither parents, friends, citizens or Christians, nor, perhaps, even men; they merely have money.

59. Let us begin by making an exception of those noble and courageous souls, if there are any such left on earth, kindhearted, expert at doing good, whom no straits, no inequality, no artificial barrier can separate from those they have once chosen as friends; and having made this reservation, let us boldly state something that is sad and painful to think of: there is no person in the world, however closely bound to us by friendship and goodwill, however fond and appreciative of us, however ready to offer his services and sometimes to be of service to us, who is not predisposed, by his attachment to his own interests, to break with us and to become our enemy.

60. While Oronte's wealth accumulates with his years, a girl is born into some family, is brought up, grows tall and beautiful and reaches her sixteenth year. Oronte at fifty is persuaded to take this young, lovely and intelligent bride: a man of low birth, without brains or mcrit, he is chosen in preference to his rivals.

61. Marriage, which ought to be a source of all good to man, often proves, through the disposal of his fortune, a heavy burden under which he succumbs: and that is when a wife and children prove a violent temptation to fraud, deceit and illicit gain; he is torn between knavery and indigence: a strange pass!

To marry a widow, in plain French, means to make one's fortune; but the implied result is not always achieved.

62. The man whose share of an inheritance is just enough to let him live comfortably as a good attorney wants to be a legal officer; the officer seeks to be a magistrate, the magistrate to be a president; and this happens in all social conditions, where men endure constraint and indigence after having aimed higher than their means allowed, and so to speak forced their destiny: incapable either of not seeking wealth or of remaining wealthy.

63. Enjoy a good dinner, Clearcus, take supper at night, put wood on your fire, buy a cloak, hang your walls with tapestry: you do not love your heir, you do not know him, you have no heir.

64. In youth, one lays by for old age; in old age, one saves up for one's death. A prodigal heir pays for a splendid funeral, and squanders the rest.

65. A dead miser spends more in a single day than he did in ten years while he was alive; and his heir spends more in ten months than he himself did during his entire lifetime.

66. What we spend recklessly, we take away from our heirs; what we hoard meanly, we take away from ourselves. The middle course means justice for oneself and for others.

67. Sons would be dearer to their fathers, perhaps, and fathers, in return, to their sons, without the name of heirs.

68. Man's state is a pitiful one indeed, and makes one sick of living! We have to sweat keep vigil, be submissive and dependent, in order to get some little fortune, or else owe it to the death-pangs of our kindred. The son who can forbear to hope that his father may be taken soon is a good man.

69. The character of a would-be heir is akin to the time-server's; we are never more highly flattered, better obeyed, better attended, more surrounded, more sought after, more considered, more cherished by anybody during our whole lives than by the man who longs for our death, from which he hopes to profit.

70. All men, on account of their various positions, titles and successions, consider themselves as heirs of one another, and owing to this interest they foster, throughout their lives, a secret and disguised desire for another's death: the most fortunate man in every rank of life is the one who has most to lose by dying and the most to leave to his successor.

71. Gaming, they tell us, makes all ranks equal; but these are sometimes so strangely disproportionate, and there is such a deep and gaping gulf between one gambler's rank and another's, that it hurts one's eyes to see such extremes meeting; it is like discordant music or clashing colours, like violent words that offend the ear, like those harsh sounds that make one shudder; in short, it's a reversal of all that is seemly. If you tell me that such is the practice throughout the West, I reply that it may well be one of those things that make us seem barbarous in the eyes of the other part of the world, and which Eastern visitors note on their tablets: I am even convinced that this excess of familiarity shocks them more than we are ourselves offended by their kowtowing and other prostrations.

72. A session of some provincial Assembly, or the Council of State meeting to discuss some matter of capital importance, do not present so grave and solemn a spectacle as a table of people playing for high stakes; an austere gloom pervades their faces; implacable towards one another, and irreconcilable enemies while the game lasts, they no longer recognize bonds of friendship, marriage connexions, distinctions of birth or rank: Chance alone, that blind and savage deity, presides over the gathering, and passes final judgement; they all honour her by maintaining a profound silence and an attentiveness of which they are quite incapable elsewhere; all passions are in abeyance and yield to a single passion; the courtier, here, is no longer smooth or subservient, nor a timeserver, nor even a religious hypocrite.

73. We can no longer recognize in those who have won fame and wealth through gambling any trace of their earlier condition; they lose sight of their equals and rise to the level of the greatest nobles. It is true that the luck of the dice or lansquenet often casts them back where it first raised them from.

74. I am not surprised that there are public gaming houses, like so many traps laid for the greed of men, like so many gulfs into which an individual's money may sink irretrievably, like some frightful reefs against which gamblers crash and founder; that messengers are sent out from these places, at certain appointed times, to find out who has landed newly enriched with prize-money, who has won a lawsuit which has ensured him handsome damages; who has been given a present, who has made a large sum at play, which youth of good family has just inherited a rich estate, or which rash clerk is ready to risk the contents of his cash-box on a card. Cheating is a base and shameful practice, it is true; but it is one which has been known of old and used from time immemorial by the sort of men who keep gambling-hells. Their sign hangs over the door, you might almost read on it: Here we cheat you honestly: for surely they would not claim to be above reproach! Does not everyone know that to enter such an establishment and to lose are one and the same thing? What passes my understanding is that they should so readily get as many dupes as they need to keep going.

75. A thousand people ruin themselves at play, and tell you calmly that they cannot do without gambling: what an excuse! Is there any passion, however violent or shameful, which could not justify itself in the same terms? Would one be entitled to say that one cannot do without stealing, murdering or committing suicide? This fearful, continuous, frenzied, limitless gambling, in which a man's sole aim is the total ruin of his adversary, where he is transported by the desire for gain, driven desperate by loss, consumed by avidity, in which he ventures on a single card or the throw of a dice his own fortune and that of his wife and children, is this a thing that should be allowed, or a thing which one must learn to do without? Surely a man has to do even greater violence to his feelings when, sometimes, reduced by gaming to utter ruin, he has to do without clothing and food, and to deny them to his family?

I would allow nobody to be a knave; but I would allow a knave to play for high stakes; I would forbid an honourable man to do so. To expose oneself to great losses is unworthy of a grown man.

76. There is only one sort of affliction that lasts, namely that which comes from the loss of one's possessions: time, which heals all others, makes this more bitter. We feel at every moment of our lives how much we miss the wealth that we have lost.

77. It is pleasant to keep company with a man who uses his money neither to marry his daughters, nor to pay his debts, nor to make settlements, provided one is neither his wife nor one of his children.

78. Neither the troubles that disturb your empire, Zenobia, nor the war you have courageously waged against a powerful nation since the death of the king your husband, have in any way diminished your magnificence. You have chosen the banks of the Euphrates in preference to any other region to raise there a superb edifice; the air is healthy and temperate, the prospect pleasing; a sacred wood shelters it towards the west; the Syrian gods, who sometimes inhabit the earth, could not have chosen a more beautiful dwelling. The countryside all around is covered with men carving and cutting, coming and going, hauling or carrying wood from Lebanon, bronze and porphyry; the air rings with the sound of cranes and machines, encouraging those who journey towards Arabia to hope that when they reach their homes again they will see that palace completed, in all the splendour you wish to impart to it before dwelling there with the princes your children. Spare nothing, great Queen; use gold, use all the skill of the finest artists; let the greatest sculptors and painters of your age, men like Pheidias and Zeuxis, display all their talents on your ceilings and panelled walls; lay out vast and delicious gardens, so enchanting that they seem not to be made by human hand; exhaust your wealth and your industry on this incomparable masterpiece; and when you have put the finishing touch to it, Zenobia, one of the herdsmen who live on the sandy deserts in the neighbourhood of Palmyra, grown rich by collecting tolls on your rivers, will one day buy this kingly house for cash and then beautify it to make it worthier of himself and his fortune.

79. This palace, this furniture, these gardens, these fine fountains enrapture you and make you cry out in admiration, at a first glance, at such a delightful house and at the extreme good fortune of the master who owns it. He has ceased to be; he never enjoyed it as pleasantly nor as calmly as yourself; he never had a serene day there, nor a peaceful night; he plunged over head and ears in debt to raise it to that pitch of perfection which so delights you. His debtors drove him out of it; he turned back to look at it from afar for the last time and he died of grief.

80. One cannot help seeing in the case of certain families what may be called the whims of chance or the tricks of fortune. A hundred years ago nobody spoke of these families, they did not exist: suddenly the heavens open in their favour; wealth, honours, dignities rain down on them repeatedly; they bask in prosperity. Eumolpus, one of those men who never had a grandfather, had at least a father who had climbed so high that all he could hope for during the course of a long life was to equal him; and he did so. Was it, in the case of these two men, remarkable intelligence or profound ability, or was it force of circumstance? Now at last fortune has ceased to smile on them: she has favoured someone else, and has treated their posterity like their ancestors.

81. The most immediate cause of the ruin and undoing of professional men, whether in the law or in the army, is reckoning their expenses according to their condition and not according to their wealth.

82. If you have forgotten nothing towards the making of your fortune, what labour! If you have neglected the slightest thing, what remorse!

83. Giton is fresh-complexioned, with a full face and heavy jowls, a self-confident stare, square shoulders and a high stomach, and a firm deliberate gait. He speaks with assurance; he makes his interlocutor repeat his words, and then is but ill pleased with what he hears; he unfolds a huge handkerchief and blows his nose noisily; he spits a long way and sneezes very loud; he sleeps by day, he sleeps by night, and soundly too; he snores in company. At table and out walking he takes up more room than anyone else; when strolling with his fellows, he is the centre of the group, if he stops they all stop, if he goes on walking they all go on, all follow his example; he interrupts and corrects whoever is speaking; nobody interrupts him, all listen to him for as long as he chooses to go on talking, they agree with him, they believe all his stories. When he sits down he sinks into an armchair, flings one leg across the other, pulls his hat over his eyes so as to see nobody and then pushes it back, baring his brow with a proud, defiant gesture. He is jovial, much given to laughter, impatient, presumptuous, hot-tempered, independent, knowledgeable about politics, given to mysterious hints about the affairs of the day; he fancies himself talented and witty. He is rich.

Phédon is hollow-eyed, with flushed cheeks, a lean body and a gaunt face; he sleeps little, and that lightly; he is dreamy and absentminded, and though intelligent seems stupid; he forgets to say what he knows, or to speak of events about which he is well informed; if he sometimes does so he acquits himself badly; afraid of boring those to whom be is talking, he tells his story briefly but lifelessly, so that nobody listens and nobody laughs; he smiles approval of what others tell him, agrees with them, hastens, nay flies, to do them some small service; he is obliging, obsequious, over-zealous, secretive about his own affairs, sometimes untruthful; he is superstitious, scrupulous, timid; he walks quietly and lightly, seeming afraid to tread the ground; he walks with downcast eyes, which he dare not raise to look at passers-by; he is never one of those who gather in a group to talk; he stands behind whoever is speaking, takes furtive note of what is said and shrinks back if anyone looks at him; he has no place, he takes up no room, he goes about with his shoulders hunched up and his hat pulled over his eyes so as to be unnoticed, he withdraws and hides behind his cloak; no streets and galleries are so crowded and congested that he cannot pass through them with ease, and slip by without being seen; if he is asked to sit down, he perches on the edge of his chair; in conversation he mumbles and dare not raise his voice; yet he speaks freely about public affairs, grumbles about the way of the world and has a poor opinion of the government and its ministers. He opens his mouth only to answer you; he coughs and blows his nose under cover of his hat, he spits practically over himself; he waits until he is alone to sneeze, or if it should happen to him in company, nobody notices, nobody has to say God bless you. He is poor.

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