I’m currently re-reading a book called Readings by Michael Dirda. It was published in 2000, and I’m not sure but this is probably my 4th or maybe 5th time through it. It’s one of my all time favorites. It’s a superb book of “essays and literary entertainments.” There is an essay in the book called Maxims, Etc. In this piece Dirda tells us that his favorite type of book has been the journal, or collection of letters, books of maxims and observations—which, I’m happy to say, is a taste both Dirda and I share.
After an opening discussion in his essay, Dirda lists some of his favorite books of this type along with some of his favorite maxims from them under the subtitle Pith and Vinegar. I, too, have a large cash of maxims from my readings in my ever growing digital commonplace book. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided I’m borrowing Dirda’s subtitle for all maxims I post on this diary going forward.
I will begin with a short list of maxims from one of the great maxim-ists of western history, Francois de La Rochefoucauld.
The person who lives without folly is not as wise as he thinks.
Little minds are too easily wounded by little things; great minds see all such things without being wounded by them.
Most young people think they are being natural when they are merely uncivil and uncouth.
Average minds usually condemn whatever is beyond their grasp.
Fortune reveals our virtues and vices, just as light reveals objects.