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is at its peak of perfection. This is especially true of the art of making
one's way in the world. There is more required nowadays to make a single wise
person than formerly to make the Seven Sages of ancient Greece, and more is
needed nowadays to deal with a single person than was required with a whole
people in former times.
and intellect. These are the two poles of our capacity; one without the other
is but halfway to happiness. Intellect is not enough, character is also
needed. On the other hand, it is the fool's misfortune to fail in obtaining
the position, employment, neighborhood, and circle of friends of his choice.
matters for a time in suspense. Admiration at their novelty heightens the
value of your achievements. It is both useless and insipid to play with your
cards on the table. If you do not declare yourself immediately, you arouse
expectation, especially when the importance of your position makes you the
object of general attention. Mix a little mystery with everything, and the
very mystery arouses veneration. And when you explain, do not be too explicit,
just as you do not expose your inmost thoughts in ordinary conversation.
Cautious silence is the sacred sanctuary of worldly wisdom. A resolution
declared is never highly thought of—it only leaves room for criticism. And if
it happens to fail, you are doubly unfortunate. Besides, you imitate the
divine way when you inspire people to wonder and watch.
and courage. These are the elements of greatness. Because they are immortal
they bestow immortality. Each is as much as he knows, and the wise can do
anything. A person without knowledge is in a world without light. Wisdom and
strength are the eyes and the hands. Knowledge without courage is sterile.
people depend on you. It is not he that adorns but he that adores that makes a
divinity. The wise person would rather see others needing him than thanking
him. To keep them on the threshold of hope is diplomatic, to trust to their
gratitude is boorish; hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad one. More is to
be got from dependence than from courtesy. He that has satisfied his thirst
turns his back on the well, and the orange once squeezed falls from the golden
platter into the waste basket. When dependence disappears good behavior goes
with it, as well as respect. Let it be one of the chief lessons of experience
to keep hope alive without entirely satisfying, by preserving it to make
oneself always needed, even by a patron on the throne. But do not carry
silence in excess or you will go wrong, nor let another's failing grow
incurable for the sake of your own advantage.
person at his peak. We are not born perfect. Every day we develop in our
personality and in our profession until we reach the highest point of our
completed being, to the full round of our accomplishments and of our
excellences. This is known by the purity of our taste, the clearness of our
thought, the maturity of our judgment, and the firmness of our will. Some
never arrive at being complete—something is always lacking. Others ripen
late. The complete person—wise in speech, prudent in act—is admitted to the
familiar intimacy of discreet people and is even sought out by them.
outshining your superiors. All victories breed hate, and that over your
superior is foolish or fatal. Preeminence is always detested, especially over
those who are in high positions. Caution can gloss over common advantages.
For example, good looks may be cloaked by careless attire. There are some that
will grant you superiority in good luck or good temper, but none in good sense,
least of all a prince—for good sense is a royal prerogative and any claim of
superiority in that is a crime against majesty. They are princes, and wish to
be so in that most princely of qualities. They will allow someone to help them
but not to surpass them. So make any advice given to them appear like a
recollection of something they have only forgotten rather than as a guide to
something they cannot find. The stars teach us this finesse with happy tact;
though they are his children and brilliant like him, they never rival the
brilliance of the sun.
without passions. This is the highest quality of the mind. The very eminence
redeems us from being affected by transient and low impulses. There is no
higher rule than that over oneself, over one's impulses; there is no higher
triumph than over your free will. When passion rules your character do not let
it threaten your position, especially if it is a high one. It is the only
refined way of avoiding trouble and the shortest way back to a good reputation.
the faults of your nation. Water shares the good and bad qualities of the
channels through which it flows and people share those of the climate in which
they are born. Some owe more than others to their native land, because there
is a more favorable sky in the zenith. There is not a nation among even the
most civilized that has not some fault peculiar to itself that other nations
blame by way of boast or as a warning. It is a triumph of cleverness to
correct oneself in such failings, or even to hide them. You get a great credit
for being unique among your fellows because what is less expected is esteemed
all the more. There are also family failings as well as faults of positions,
of office, or of age. If these all meet in one person and are not carefully
guarded against, they make an intolerable monster.
and fame. Where the one is fickle and the other is enduring. The first is for
life, the second is for the next; fortune against envy, fame against oblivion.
Fortune is desired, and sometimes nurtured, but fame is earned. The desire for
fame springs from virtue. Fame was and is the sister of the giants; it always
goes to the extremes—either horrible monsters or brilliant prodigies.