4. Of The Heart
From Characters by Jean De La Bruyère (1688)

1. There is a delight in pure friendship which is beyond the reach of the average man.

2. Friendship can exist between people of different sexes, and may indeed be free from any sensuality; nevertheless a woman always thinks of a man as a man, and reciprocally a man thinks of a woman as a woman. Such a relationship is neither passion nor pure friendship; it forms a class by itself.

3. Love is born suddenly, without further thought, as a result of one's temperament or one's weakness: a single trait of beauty can hold one fast, can settle one's fate. Friendship on the contrary grows up gradually, in course of time, through association, through long familiarity. How much wit, goodness of heart, loyalty, kindness and consideration one's friends need to achieve, over a number of years, far less than is sometimes done in one instant by a fair face or a fair hand!

4. Time, which strengthens friendship, weakens love.

5. While love lasts, it subsists on itself, and sometimes thrives on those very things which seem likely to kill it, on caprice, unkindness, distance or jealousy. Friendship on the contrary needs help: lacking care, mutual trust and kindness, it withers away.

6. It is more common to see excessive love than perfect friendship.

7. Love and friendship are mutually exclusive.

8. The man who has experienced a great passion will disregard friendship; and the man who has done with friendship is no nearer love.

9. Love begins with love, and the strongest friendship call only lead to a weak sort of love.

10. Nothing more closely resembles a lively friendship than those relations which we cultivate in the interests of our love.

11. The best love is the first love; those that follow are less involuntary.

12. The love that is born all of a sudden takes the longest time to recover from.

13. The love that grows up little by little and by degrees is too like friendship to become a violent passion.

14. The man who loves enough to want to love a million times more than he does is surpassed as a lover only by the man who loves more than he wants to.

15. If I grant that in the violence of a great passion one may love someone else more than oneself, whom shall I please most: those who love, or those who are loved?

16. Men often want to love, and cannot succeed in loving: they seek their own defeat without finding it, and are, so to speak, constrained to remain free.

17. Those who at first love one another with the most violent passion are each presently responsible for loving one another less, and then for no longer loving one another. Which, the man or the woman, contributes most towards this rupture? It is not easy to decide. Women accuse men of being fickle, and men declare that women are flighty.

18. However sensitive one is in love, one forgives more shortcomings than in friendship.

19. The sweetest revenge, for one who is deeply in love, is to act so as to make an ungrateful person into a very ungrateful one.

20. It is sad to be in love without great wealth, which would enable one to gratify the loved one's desires and make them so happy that they have nothing more to wish for.

21. If one has had a great passion for some woman who has not responded to it, whatever important services she may render us in later life we are most likely to prove ungrateful.

22. Great gratitude brings with it much liking and affection for the person who has been of service to one.

23. Being with those one loves is enough; musing, talking to them or not talking to them, thinking about them or about less important things, it's all one, so long as one is with them.

24. Hatred is not so remote from friendship as is antipathy.

25. Antipathy may give place to love more readily, it would seem, than to friendship.

26. A friend will confide his secret; a lover will let it slip.

One may enjoy another's confidence without his affection. Where the heart is given, there is no need for disclosures or confidences; nothing is concealed.

27. In friendship we notice only those faults that can injure our friends. In love, we notice only those faults in the loved one from which we ourselves suffer.

28. The first lovers' quarrel, like the first offence against friendship, is the only one that can be turned to good account.

29. Surely, once the name of jealousy has been applied to an unjust, perverse and unfounded suspicion, that other jealousy which is a just and natural feeling, founded on reason and experience, deserves another name.

Sensuality plays a large part in jealousy, which does not always imply a great passion. Yet there is something paradoxical about violent love without susceptibility.

We often suffer alone through susceptibility. But when we suffer through jealousy, we make others suffer.

Women who show no consideration for us and miss no occasion of making us jealous would not deserve our jealousy, if this were determined by their feelings and behaviour rather than by one's own heart.

30. Coldness and estrangement between friends have their causes. Between lovers, the only reason for no longer loving is having loved too much.

31. It is no more in one's power to keep on loving than it was to avoid falling in love.

32. Satiety kills love, and forgetfulness buries it.

33. We can recognize the dawn and the decline of love by the uneasiness we feel when alone together.

34. The end of love is a tangible proof of the limitations of man's nature and of the heart.

Falling in love is a sign of weakness; so, often, is falling out of love.

We recover from love, just as we find consolation for our sorrows; nobody can weep forever, or love forever.

35. There should be inexhaustible springs of grief in the heart for certain losses. It is not through virtue or strength of mind that we recover from a great affliction: we shed bitter tears, we are deeply moved; but we are so weak, or so shallow, that presently we are comforted.

36. Love for an ill-favoured woman must be a frenzied passion; for it can only be accounted for by a singular foible of her lover's, or by charms more secret and more irresistible than those of beauty.

37. Lovers go on seeing one another out of habit, and telling one another that they are in love, long after their behaviour betrays the fact that they have ceased to love.

38. To try to forget someone means to think of them. Love has this in common with scruples of conscience, that we aggravate it by reflecting and dwelling on it in our efforts to be free of it. One should, if possible, not think about one's passion in order to weaken it.

39. One seeks to make the loved one entirely happy, or, if that cannot be, entirely wretched.

40. Grief at the absence of a loved one is happiness compared to life with a person one hates.

41. However unselfish one may be towards those one loves, one must sometimes make an effort for their sake and be generous enough to receive.

That man may accept a gift who finds as subtle a delight in receiving as his friend finds in giving.

42. Giving is active; it does not mean suffering from one's own generosity, nor yielding to the importunity or the need of those who beg from us.

43. If we have given something to those we love, whatever may happen we must in no circumstance think of ourselves as benefactors.

44. It has been said in Latin that hatred costs less than love, or, in other words, that friendship is more of a burden than hostility. It is true that one is dispensed from giving to one's enemies; but does it cost nothing to take one's revenge on them? Or, if it is natural and satisfying to injure the person one hates, is it any less so to do good to the person one loves? Would it not be hard and painful not to do so?

45. There is a delight in meeting the eyes of one to whom one has just done a kindness.

46. I don't know whether a benefit conferred on one who is ungrateful and thus unworthy should not bear a different name, and whether indeed it deserves any greater gratitude.

47. Generosity lies less in giving much than in giving at the right moment.

48. If it is true that pity or compassion are self-regarding feelings through which we put ourselves in the place of those who are wretched, why do they get from us so little relief to their sufferings?

It is better to risk ingratitude than to fail to help the unfortunate.

49. Experience confirms that softness or indulgence towards oneself and harshness towards others are one and the same vice.

50. A man who can stand toil and suffering, without self-pity, is indulgent towards others only through extreme reasonableness.

51. However inconvenient we may find it to be burdened with an impoverished dependent, we resent the changed circumstances that release him from our sway: in the same way, the joy we get from our friends' promotion is offset by a slight resentment at seeing them in a position higher than, or equal to, our own. Thus we cannot agree in our own minds; for we want dependents, but at no cost to ourselves; and we wish good luck to our friends, but when they get it our response is not always to rejoice at it.

52. We issue invitations, we offer the hospitality of our homes and tables, our wealth, our services: the only thing that costs us anything is to keep our word.

53. A single loyal friend is enough for oneself; indeed, to have found one is no small thing: but when seeking to help others, one cannot have too many.

54. When you have done enough for certain people to deserve their friendship, if your efforts should fail, you have still another resource, which is to do nothing further.

55. To behave towards our enemies as if they were one day to become our friends, and towards our friends as if they might become our enemies, is contrary both to the nature of hatred and to the rules of friendship; it is not a moral but a political maxim.

56. We should not make enemies of those who, if we knew them better, might be numbered among our friends. We should choose friends who are so reliable and of such infallible probity that, should they cease to be our friends, they will not betray our confidence nor give us cause to dread their enmity.

57. It is delightful to seek out one's friends from sympathy and esteem; it is painful to frequent them from self-interest; that is like soliciting.

58. We should court the favour of those whom we wish to benefit, rather than those from whom we hope for benefits.

59. We do not fly as swiftly in pursuit of worldly success as we do for frivolous and capricious aims. There is a sense of freedom about obeying one's whims, and on the contrary a sense of bondage about bestirring oneself for one's promotion: it is natural to desire this keenly and to do little towards it, thinking oneself worthy to acquire it without having sought it.

60. The man who knows how to wait for the benefit that he longs for is not likely to despair if he does not gain it; whereas the man who longs for something with great impatience is too deeply committed to be adequately rewarded by success.

61. There are some people who are so ardently and resolutely bent on gaining a certain thing that, for fear of losing it, they do everything that is likely to lose it for them.

62. The things we have most longed for do not happen; or if they do, it is never at the time nor under the circumstances when they could have made us happiest.

63. We should laugh before being happy, for fear of dying without having laughed.

64. Life is short, if it only deserves that name when it is enjoyable; since if one were to join together all the hours one spends in pleasant company, a great number of years would scarcely yield a few months of life.

65. How hard it is to be satisfied with anyone!

66. We cannot help feeling a certain joy at the death of a wicked man; we hope then to enjoy the fruit of our hatred, and the only satisfaction to be got from him, namely our pleasure at his loss. When his death occurs at last, it is in circumstances when our interests forbid us to rejoice at it; he dies too soon or too late.

67. It is painful for a proud man to forgive one who has surprised him in fault, and who rightly complains of him; his pride is only appeased when he recovers the advantage by putting the other in the wrong.

68. Just as we become increasingly attached to those to whom we do good, so we violently hate those whom we have deeply injured.

69.It is equally hard to repress a sense of our injuries when they are fresh, and to retain it after a certain number of years.

70. It is through weakness that we hate an enemy and long to be revenged on him, and it is through indolence that we are appeased, and take no revenge.

71. It is through indolence as much as through weakness that we allow ourselves to be governed by others.

One should never attempt to govern a man all of a sudden, without further preparation, in any important matter of vital interest to himself or to those near to him; he would immediately become aware of the control and influence one was trying to gain over his mind, and he would shake off the yoke out of shame or caprice; one should strive to win him over in small matters, and from thence the way is unfailingly clear to the greatest ones. A person who at first could undertake no more than to make him leave for the country or return to town ends by dictating a will in which his son's rights are reduced to the legal minimum.

In order to gain enduring and absolute control over a man one needs to have a light touch, and to make him as little conscious as possible of his subjection.

Certain people will let themselves be governed up to a certain point, but beyond that are intractable and escape control; one suddenly loses the key to their heart and mind; neither haughtiness nor pliancy, neither force nor cunning can tame them: but whereas some men act thus on reasonable grounds, others are guided by their mood and temperament.

There are some men who listen neither to reason nor to good advice, and who deliberately go astray through fear of being dominated.

Others consent to let their friends govern them in matters of no consequence, and thereby claim the right to govern those friends on grave and important issues.

Drancius seeks to give the impression that he controls his master, who believes no such thing, nor does anyone else: to chatter ceaselessly to the great lord whom one serves, in the least appropriate places and seasons, to address him in whispers or in mysterious language, to laugh loudly in his presence, to interrupt him, to intrude between him and those who are speaking to him, to treat with contempt those who come to pay their court to him, or to wait impatiently for them to withdraw, to stand close to him in too free and easy an attitude, to pose beside him leaning against a chimney piece, to pull him by the coat-tails, to tread on his heels, to act familiarly and take liberties, all this betrays a self-satisfied coxcomb rather than a favourite.

A wise man neither lets himself be governed nor seeks to govern others: he wishes reason alone to govern, and for ever.

I should not mind entrusting myself to a man of sense, and submitting to his guidance in all matters, absolutely and for ever: I should be sure of doing right without the trouble of deliberating, and I should enjoy the peace of mind of one who is governed by reason.

72. All our passions are deceitful: they wear a mask, as far as possible, in front of other people, and they hoodwink themselves. There is no vice which does not bear a misleading likeness to some virtue, and take advantage of this.

73. We open a religious book, and are moved by it; we open another, which treats of love, and this too makes its impression on us. Dare I say that the heart alone can reconcile contraries, and accept things incompatible?

74. Men are less ashamed of their crimes than of their failings and of what touches their vanity. A man may be openly unjust and violent, a traitor and a slanderer, who yet conceals his love or his ambition, purely for the sake of concealing them.

75. It never happens that a man can say: 'I used to be ambitious'; either one is not ambitious, or one remains so; but the time comes when one can admit that one used to be in love.

76. Men begin with love and go on to ambition, and often reach a calmer state of mind only when they are dying.

77. Passion finds it easy to get the better of reason: its greatest triumph is when it prevails over self-interest.

78. Qualities of the heart, rather than of the mind, make a man sociable and good company.

79. There are certain lofty feelings, certain fine and noble actions, which are due less to a man's intellectual powers than to his natural goodness.

80. There is no finer excess in the world than excess of gratitude.

81. A man must be very short of wit if love, spite or necessity fail to inspire him.

82. There are places that one admires: there are others that appeal to one, and where one would be happy to live.

It seems to me that places influence men's wit, their moods, their passions, taste and feelings.

83. Those who do something well would alone deserve our envy, except that there is a more profitable course to take, namely to do better: thus we delightfully revenge ourselves on those who arouse such jealousy.

84. Some men reject the imputation of being in love or of writing verse, as of two failings which they dare not admit, one of the heart and the other of the mind.

85. We meet sometimes in the course of our life with certain pleasures that are so sweet, and certain attachments that are so dear to us that, though they are forbidden, it is only natural to wish, at least, that they were permitted: such powerful joys can only be surpassed by that of being virtuous enough to renounce them.