Friday, February 24, 2012

Women, The French and Their Wicked Witty Wisdom... of sorts

Heche presented to me a couple of very old looking books, all of which I shall share with you one day. But perhaps the most quirky little hardcover is a book entitled ‘A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom & Wickedness’ - A compendium of collectible French quotes and proverbs by one J. De Finod. The book was first published in 1880 and this particular copy being the 1916 publication. The book is almost 100 years old with 100 years old social niceties and prejudices. People were quite conservative in those days, priggish even. Or at least Finod himself had that impression, when he wrote in his prefatory to the collection…

“In compiling this book, I have carefully excluded everything that would seem objectionable to you, my liberal but virtuous reader, the English language being the more austere than the French in its expressions; but, after having paid a legitimate tribute to your just susceptibilities, I have, without timorous scruples, preserved such piquant gems as could be enjoyed without endangering your morals.”

He is afraid of endangering your morals. But I think we will do just fine, sunshine. Moving on he writes…

“A final word to the lady reader: You will see, fair reader, that much good has been said of you, and, alas! Much bad also; this is because no subject more worthy of attention has ever haunted the minds of all great philosophers of the world. But listen to this well-meant injunction: Believe unhesitatingly all that is said in your favor, and deny energetically, as myself do, all that is said to your prejudice. Do not criminate an innocent compiler, who would not exchange one of your smiles for all the wisdoms of Solomon, and who has inserted in his book the malicious remarks of certain ill-natured philosophers, only to show how far man’s ingratitude can go. “

De Finod

My initial impression was - An Apologia pathetic and groveling to womankind. But having read some of the quotable quotes from the French about women, I am not surprised. Perhaps he was not compiling all these French sayings alone. Perhaps De Finod was married, and his wife (or mistress) was hovering around him, reading the manuscripts and muttering, “Hmm… I hope you yourself do not subscribe to some of these vicious things that the French say about women!” To which De Finod may have protested, “Of course not, my little pumpkin! I condemn such prejudices from the core of my being. They are after all, just being French”

Just perhaps.

Well, without further ado, these are some of the more succulent morsels of French wit, wisdom and wickedness that I found worthy for my reader’s attention. And just like De Finod, let me tell you that I am just quoting. Please don’t shoot the messenger. 

 Poor old Hugo. Either he fell irresistibly in love with a Femme Fatal
or maybe his Landlady kicked him out.
Criticism of the sex does not totally come from the opposite. 
I disagree with this 17th century writer. I think that wrinkles are
the grave of vanity, not love at all. But of course some are
prone to treat them both alike.
 True. And boy, are men good kindler of fire!
Uh oh.
 Who's gonna argue with De Sade?
Have a lovely Friday, sunshine.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way


Denise Emanuel Clemen said...

I enjoyed your excerpt immensely.

Milky Tea said...

Thank you kindly, Denise!