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Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715 - 1747)


French moralist and essayist, Vauvenargues was born in 1715 in Aix-en-Provence (southern France). After serving the French army in the wars of the Polish (1733-39) and Austrian (1740-48) successions, in 1745 he moved to Paris and turned to literature He published only one moderately successful book, which grew in esteem with time, Introduction r la connaissance de l'esprit humain, suivie de réflexions et de maximes (1746; "Introduction to an Understanding of the Human Mind, Followed by Reflections and Maxims"). It consisted of the title essay and some 700 maxims, aphorisms, and reflections. Voltaire proclaimed the Maximes as possibly one of the best books in the French language.
Vauvenargues's belief in the individual's capacity for goodness played a part in the shift of opinion away from the pessimistic view of human nature elaborated by such 17th-century thinkers as Blaise Pascal and the Duke de La Rochefoucauld. The hero, he believed, is one who is impelled by strong passions to win renown through the performance of great deeds-preferably (but not necessarily) those contributing to the well-being of humanity (in this he anticipated the novelist Stendhal).

 - Vauvenargues: a Polish biography

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