(Last update of the Chamfort section: February 18, 2014.)
French author, wit, moralist and writer of maxims, thoughts and anecdotes.
Chamfort (a pseudonym, whence "dit Chamfort") was not an optimist, but then he was extra-ordinarily intelligent and perceptive, and a man of considerable courage and independence of mind.
Chamfort was an ill man for a more than half of his life. He supported the French Revolution originally, and was secretary of the Jacobin Club until August 1791. Under the régime of Marat and Robespierre he was arrested, was ill treated in prison, and grew more ill.
In September 1793 he feared another arrest, and attempted suicide, both by shooting himself and opening his veins. He failed, and wrote when he was found in his own blood, part of his cheek and one eye shot to pieces
“I, Sebastien-Roch Nicolas Chamfort, declare that I rather wanted to die as a free man than be taken to and enslaved in a prison."
After that he lingered on till April 13, 1794, when he died. To a friend he said
“Ah! my firend, I finally leave this world, where one's heart must break or turn to brass."
His "Maximes et Pensées" was admired by Hazlitt, Mill, Schopenhauer, Burckhardt and Nietzsche, to name some.
On this site there are (or will be)
The English translation and my comments have my copyright.
My edition is based on (1) a literal french reproduction of the first edition of the "Maximes et Pensées" (2) a paperback edition of "Produits de la civilisation perfectionnée" that I bought in 1969 and that includes (a) the "Questions", (b) the "Maximes et Pensées", (c) the two "Appendices", and (d) "Caractères et Anecdotes". The last item is not on this site. Also, I have used Merwin's translation of (a) and (b) when in doubt about my own.
The French edition I present is intermediate between (1) and (2): The paperback edition has too many capital letters of non-initial nouns in a sentence for my taste (while the first edition seems to have had hardly any), and the literal reproduction has too many empty spaces in front of " ' ", " ; " and the like. Apart from these differences, (1) and (2) seem the same, and therefore so is my edition, with these qualifications just made.
Those who want to be sure of Chamfort's actual text should get a good printed edition; those who want to improve my translations of his texts may roll their own, though I am willing to see my mistakes corrected.
There is a little more about Chamfort and his life in my first note.
About this edition and notes:
The texts that follow have many links, and come all with a group of usually four arrows at the beginning and the end of each text, that look thus:
These have in general the following effect when clicked:
- previous file
- Table of Contents
- Notes or Text associated with the file
- next file
Every file of Chamfort's text in my translation links to a file with my notes and conversely, by using the arrows or the "Text" or "Notes" links in the upper left.
All the aphorisms in the various chapters are separated by a star from the next one:
Any star if underlined is a link to the note on the aphorism immediately above it. At the end of each of my notes there is a 'Back' link that moves the reader back to the beginning of the aphorism it annotates in the text.
The above holds for my English translation and English notes. You can also read the original French text, that is without notes. Also, as the reader who compares may find, I have in my English translation frequently added an empty line or two in longer aphorisms, to stress separate ideas in it, and make them stand off more clearly. The French editions I have seen all print the longer aphorisms as one paragraph of text.
Those who download my edition of Chamfort's "Maximes et Pensées" and my notes should realize that the links to and from the notes are retained only if they are placed in directory-structures of the following form:
"/Chamfort/" - that includes the introduction
"/Chamfort/French/" - that includes the original French text
"/Chamfort/English/" - that includes my English translation
"/Chamfort/English/Notes" - that includes my notes to the last
How this directory and its subdirectory are otherwise attached to a filesystem on the computer you use is irrelevant, but the above is required for having the many links work when reading off line.
There are also some links to my Philosophical Dictionary (and possibly other items on my site) that will not work off line.
And this Chamfort-project started at the end of October 2007, and will take some time to be completed as regards the translation and notes, though the full French text is available from the start.
Chapter 1 + notes were done by January 9, 2008, first version.
Chapter 2 + notes were done by January 16, 2008, first version.
11-feb-09: It seems titles with accened e-s - as in "Pensées" are still too difficult for filenames on the internet. Accordingly, I restyled the French files-titles and renamed the links, but I have so far not done anything else on Chamfort on my site.
I did not do anything since 2009 except loading them up, but on January 22, 2014 I did run through the French text of everything that is on my site and removed many new line characters - that I do not know why they were there. But they have been removed, and I have uploaded all of the Chamfort section again, and also checked that the rest looks OK now - though I also should say this was done rapidly, because I still have difficulties with looking at white backgrounds.
I do as I can, not as I please. Hopefully, the rest will be translated to English this year, and my own aphorisms also will be added, though both depend on my health and my eyes, and I give no guarantees of anything.
I have changed the white background colour to a light grey in this English translation, because that is easier on my eyes, and am translating chapter III.