François de La Rochefoucauld

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La Rochefoucauld

François VI. de La Rochefoucauld (born September 15, 1613 in Paris ; † March 17, 1680 ibid) was a politically active French aristocrat and military man who went down in history primarily as a man of letters. With his aphoristic texts he is considered a representative of the French moralists .

Life and work

La Rochefoucauld came from an old noble family who had been raised from count to duke in 1622. Before he inherited the title of duke after the death of his father in 1650, he wore that of "prince [= prince] de Marcillac ". At the age of 15 he was appropriately married to Andrée de Vivonne. The marriage had eight children.

In 1629 he took part as an officer in a campaign under Louis XIII. to Italy part. After participating in a campaign against the Spaniards in the Netherlands, he was exiled to his estates because he had incurred Richelieu's displeasure. Also in the 1630s, under the influence of the Duchesse de Chevreuse, he took part in the unsuccessful intrigues of Queen Anne d'Autriche and the nobility against Cardinal Richelieu , which earned him a week's imprisonment in the Bastille in 1637 and his banishment from Paris. After the deaths of Richelieu (1642) and Louis XIII. (1643) he hoped for an influential post with the regent Anne d'Autriche, but came away empty-handed and had to see how she favored Cardinal Mazarin , who soon continued Richelieu's absolutist policy.

In 1648, under the influence of the Duchesse de Longueville , with whom he had an illegitimate son in 1649 , La Rochefoucauld took part in the Fronde , an armed uprising against Mazarin by the high judges of the Parliament , the people of Paris and the nobility. Here he played a role several times in negotiations between the parties, but also suffered major financial losses in the chaos of war. In 1652 he was fighting on the side of the Prince de Condé against Mazarin and the crown, wounded in the face and blind in one eye and withdrew to one of his country estates. As he was too proud to ask for his pardon after Mazarin's victory, he was declared without rights and fled to Luxembourg, Austria .

In 1653 he made his peace with Mazarin and the young Louis XIV , whom he always remained suspicious of. He came back to Paris and tried to improve his precarious financial situation. In order to process his disappointment after Mazarin's victory, he wrote the Mémoires , which ran from 1624 to 1652 and which appeared anonymously against his will in 1662 as a pirated print in Amsterdam and are an important source for the history of the Fronde.

In Paris he frequented court and aristocratic circles, but more often in salons, e.g. B. that of the Marquise de Sablé as well as in Jansenist- inspired circles, where one developed a new interest in the individual, his psychology and his behavior in view of the question of why one person is obviously chosen by God and the other is not. In 1658 La Rochefoucauld began to write shorter aphoristic reflections on the nature of man in general and the behavior of members of noble society in particular. In 1664 he published a collection of these pointed, mostly pessimistic, often sarcastic texts under the title Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales .

Since the book sold well, he had new editions followed in 1666, 1671, 1675 and 1678, in which the number of "Sentences and Maximen" of approx. 300 to approx. 500 grew. The collection, which in literary history mostly goes under the simple title Maximes , thus became his main work. An anthology with various other texts came out under the title Réflexions diverses posthumously.

In 1671, La Rochefoucauld transferred his title of duke to his eldest son, who was chamberlain to the king. His later years were overshadowed by a severe gout disease and the loss of two sons in the war (1672). A close friendship with the novelist Madame de La Fayette gave him some consolation during this time .

La Rochefoucauld is one of the most important authors of the late 16th to 18th centuries who reflected on man and society and who are summarized in French literary historiography under the name "moralists" and for whom there is no counterpart in German literary history.


  • Memoires , 1662
  • Réflexions ou Sentences et maximes morales , 1664, 5th edition 1678. Modern critical edition: Maximes suivies des Réflexions diverses, du Portrait de La Rochefoucauld [...] . Edited by Jacques Truchet. Frères Garnier, Paris 1967 (below)
  • Réflexions diverse , 1731 (posthumous). Modern edition: see above (Jacques Truchet)
German translations

August Bohse's maxims were first translated into German in 1699 .

  • Reflections or moral sentences . Übers. Ernst Hardt . Jena 1906
  • Reflections and moral sentences . Translated from Fritz Schalk . In: The French moralists. Wiesbaden 1947; again with additional abated and suppressed maxims in: The French Moralists. La Rochefoucauld, Vauvenargues , Montesquieu , Nicolas Chamfort . detebe Klassiker 22791, Diogenes, Zurich 1995, pp. 61–142
  • Maxims and reflections . Translated by K. Nussbächer. Stuttgart 1977
  • Maxims and reflections . French and German. Transl. And appendix Jürgen von Stackelberg. Munich 1987 (Goldmann's classic with explanations) ISBN 3-442-07668-4

See also


  • Gerhard Hess : On the emergence of the “maxims” of La Rochefoucauld (= Working Group for Research of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Humanities. H. 67, 1957, ISSN  0570-5649 ). Westdeutscher Verlag, Cologne et al. 1957.
  • Margot Kruse : The maxim in French literature. Studies on the work of La Rochefoucauld and his successors (= Hamburg Romance Studies. Series A: General Romance Series. 44, ZDB -ID 718283-1 ). Cram, De Gruyter & Co, Hamburg 1960, (at the same time: Hamburg, University, habilitation paper, from February 21, 1959).
  • Hans Peter Balmer : Condicio humana or What human being means. Moralistic Perspectives on Practical Philosophy . readbox unipress, Münster 2018, ISBN 978-3-95925-067-2 , pp. 132-146 (Open Access: -9 )
  • Oskar Roth: The Society of the Honnêtes Gens. On the socio-ethical foundation of the honnêteté ideal at La Rochefoucauld (= Studia Romanica. H. 41). Winter, Heidelberg 1981, ISBN 3-533-03084-9 (at the same time: Marburg, University, habilitation paper).
  • Jutta Weiser: Texting strategies under the sign of désordre. Rhetoric, topic and aphorism in French classical music using the example of the Maximes by La Rochefoucauld (= New Forum for General and Comparative Literature. 25). Winter, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-8253-1639-4 (also: Duisburg, Essen, University, dissertation, 2003).
  • Edoardo Costadura: The nobleman at the desk. On the self-image of aristocratic writers between the Renaissance and the Revolution (= Mimesis. 46). Niemeyer, Tübingen 2006, ISBN 3-484-55046-5 (also: Jena, Universität, habilitation paper, 2002).
  • Hans Georg Coenen: The fourth offense. La Rochefoucauld's work of maxims (= Ars poetica. 6). Deutscher Wissenschafts-Verlag, Baden-Baden 2008, ISBN 978-3-935176-80-4 .
  • Oskar Roth: La Rochefoucauld in search of the self-determined taste (= Studia Romanica. H. 154). Winter, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8253-5641-5 .

Web links

Wikisource: François de La Rochefoucauld  - Sources and full texts
Commons : François de La Rochefoucauld  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. there some German editions of his maxims; they are often relocated in a changing selection
  2. Bilingual: 150 maxims. French with German translation v. Julius Schmidt. Series: Collection of world literature. Lambert Schneider, Heidelberg 1961 a. ö.