Vauvenargues (1715–1747). Selections from the Characters, Reflexions and Maxims. 1903.


Titus, or Energy

TITUS rises without assistance, and without a fire during the winter. When the servants come into his room they find on his table a pile of letters that he has written by candle-light ready for the post. He begins several pieces of work at once and finishes them with incredible speed; his impatient genius does not permit him to polish them. Whatever he undertakes, it is impossible for him to linger over it; if he put any matter aside, he would feel uneasy until he was able to take it up again. Although occupied with affairs of so serious a nature, he is to be met in society, just like any idle man. He does not confine himself to one sort of society, but cultivates several sorts at the same time, and maintains relations with numerous persons, both within and without the kingdom. He has travelled, he has written, he has been at Court and at the wars; he excels in several callings, and knows both men and books. He has enjoyed all sorts of pleasures but has not on that account neglected his business. He employs the time spent in society in forming intrigues, and cultivating his friends. He does not understand how people can talk for the sake of talking, or act only in order to be doing something, and it is evident that his mind suffers when necessity or politeness uselessly put a curb on it. If he seeks pleasure, he does not take less trouble about that than about more serious matters, and the employment thus given to his mind is more important to him than the particular pleasure he pursues. In sickness, or in health he preserves the same energy. He prosecutes a lawsuit on a day on which he has taken physic; another time, he composes verses with a fever on him, and when his friends beg him to take care of himself, “Eh!” he says, “how can I just now? Just look at the business with which I am overwhelmed,” although, to be exact, he has no business that is not purely voluntary. Prostrated by a dangerous illness, he had himself dressed so that he might put his papers in order. He remembered how Vespasian desired to die standing.