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This article is taken from PN Review 63, Volume 15 Number 1, September - October 1988.

Vauvenargues C.H. Sisson

Vauvenargues is hardly the most fashionable of writers; he has a further distinction, that there never was a time when his work was fashionable, yet for some two hundred and fifty years there has never been a time when he might not have been said to have friends and admirers. He has a firm place in that row of French moralists which include La Bruyère and La Rochefoucauld, to name no others in a rich tradition - moralists, that is to say, not in the minatory Puritan sense but as observers who lived in the world and recorded their findings in more or less summary fashion. In a time crowded with specialists who claim to know - and some of whom actually do know - more than the rest of us about some aspect of human behaviour, it is to be expected that such observers should encounter a certain neglect, if not scorn. They are, however, no more to be despised than poets, whose subject-matter no one expects to be limited by the diplomas or employments which happen to be theirs.

The subject-matters of Vauvenargues's reflections were collected in the course of a life which did not extend quite to thirty-two years and which was spent in milieux not particularly favoured by the lore of the twentieth century. He was the son of a nobleman and spent most of his adult life as an army officer. Lest these circumstances should seem to raise him further out of ...


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