François Fénelon

French archbishop, theologian and writer (1651–1715)

François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, Archbishop of Cambrai (August 6 1651January 7 1715) was a French educationalist, critic, poet, and political and religious philosopher.

All men are brothers, and ought to love each other as such.


  • D'ordinaire, ceux qui gouvernent les enfants ne leur pardonnent rien, et se pardonnent tout à eux-mêmes.
    • In general, those who govern children forgive nothing in them, but everything in themselves.
    • Traité de l'éducation des filles, ch. 5, cited from De l'éducation des filles, dialogues des morts et opuscules divers (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1857) p. 15; translation from Selections from the Writings of Fénelon (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wilkins, 1829) p. 137. (1687).
  • Remarquez un grand défaut des éducations ordinaires: on met tout le plaisir d'un côté , et tout l'ennui de l'autre; tout l'ennui dans l'étude, tout le plaisir dans les divertissements.
    • The greatest defect of common education is, that we are in the habit of putting pleasure all on one side, and weariness on the other; all weariness in study, all pleasure in idleness.
    • De l'éducation des filles, ch. 5, cited from De l’éducation des filles, dialogues des morts et opuscules divers (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1857) p. 21; translation from Selections from the Writings of Fénelon (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wilkins, 1829) p. 72.
  • Les traités de paix ne couvrent rien, lorsque vous êtes le plus fort, & que vous réduisez vos voisins à signer le traité pour éviter de plus grands maux: alors il signe comme un particulier donne sa bourse à un voleur qui lui tient le pistolet sur la gorge.
    • Peace treaties signed by the vanquished are not freely signed. Men sign with a knife at their throat, they sign in spite of themselves, in order to avoid still greater losses; they sign as men surrender their purse when it is a case of your money or your life.
    • Directions pour la conscience d'un roi (Paris: Estienne, 1775) p. 60; translation by A. Lentin, cited from Margaret Lucille Kekewich (ed.) Princes and Peoples: France and the British Isles, 1620-1714 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994) p. 226. (c. 1694).
  • Toutes les guerres sont civiles; car c'est toujours l'homme contre l'homme qui répand son propre sang, qui déchire ses propres entrailles.
    • All wars are civil ones; for it is still man spilling his own blood, tearing out his own bowels.
    • Dialogues des morts, ch. 17, cited from De l'éducation des filles, Dialogues des morts et opuscules divers (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1857) p. 149; translation from Mr. Elphingston (trans.) Dialogues of the Dead, Together with Some Fable Composed for the Education of a Prince (Glasgow: Robert and Andrew Foulis, 1754) vol. 1, p. 87. (1700).
  • Je proteste que personne n'admire Cicéron plus que je fais: il embellit tout ce qu’il touche.
    • I protest that no one admires Cicero more than I do. He enriches all that he touches.
    • Lettre sur les Occupations de l'Académie Française, sect. 4, cited from Œuvres de Fénelon (Paris: Lefèvre, 1835) vol. 3, p. 227; translation from Paul Bertie Bull Preaching and Sermon Construction (New York: Macmillan, 1922) p. 256. (1714)
    • Cf. Dr. Johnson's epitaph for Oliver Goldsmith: "…qui nullum fere scribendi genus non tetigit, nullum quod tetigit non ornavit," ("…who left no species of writing untouched by his pen, and touched none that he did not adorn").
  • Le bon historien n'est d'aucun temps ni d'aucun pays: quoiqu'il aime sa patrie, il ne la flatte jamais en rien.
    • The good historian is not for any time or any country: while he loves his fatherland, he never flatters it in anything.
    • Lettre sur les Occupations de l'Académie Française, sect. 8, cited from Œuvres de Fénelon (Paris: Lefèvre, 1835) vol. 3, p. 240; translation by Patrick Riley, from Hans Blom et al. (eds.) Monarchisms in the Age of Enlightenment (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007) p. 86.
  • Nous verrons à sa lumière, dans l'éternité, que ce que nous désirions nous eût été funeste, et que ce que nous voulions éviter était essentiel à notre bonheur.
    • In the light of eternity we shall see that what we desired would have been fatal to us, and that what we would have avoided was essential to our well-being.
    • Instructions et avis sur divers points de la morale et de la perfection chrétienne, ch. 18, cited from Œuvres de Fénelon (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1845) vol. 1, p. 325; translation from Selections from the Writings of Fénelon (Boston: Samuel G. Simpkins, 1844) p. 82.
  • Sur-tout ne vous laissez point ensorceler par les attraits diaboliques de la géométrie.
    • Above all, do not allow yourself to be bewitched by the evil charms of geometry.
    • Lettres Spirituelles, no. 59, cited from Correspondance de Fénelon, archevêque de Cambrai (Paris: Ferra Jeune, 1827) vol. 5, p. 514; translation from Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot (eds.) A History of Women in the West (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994) vol. 3, p. 405.Œuvres complètes De François de Salignac De La Mothe Fénélon. TOME V Briand 1810 LETTRE CXLII (142) p.106.
  • When you come to be sensibly touched, the scales will fall from your eyes; and by the penetrating eyes of love you will discern that which your other eyes will never see.

Les aventures de Télémaque (1699)


Quotations in French are cited from Œuvres de Fénelon (Paris: Lefèvre, 1835) vol. 3; quotations in English from an anonymous translation, The Adventures of Telemachus, the son of Ulysses (Philadelphia: Mathew Cary, 1806).

  • Quiconque est capable de mentir est indigne d'être compté au nombre des hommes; et quiconque ne sait pas se taire est indigne de gouverner.
    • Whoever is capable of lying, is unworthy of being reckoned in the number of men; and whoever knows not to be silent, is unworthy of ruling.
    • Bk. 3, p. 14; translation pp. 34-5.
  • Tout le genre humain n’est qu’une famille dispersée sur la face de toute la terre. Tous les peuples sont frères, et doivent s’aimer comme tels.
    • All the human kind is but one family, dispersed over the face of the whole earth; all men are brothers, and ought to love each other as such.
    • Bk. 9, p. 67; translation p. 162.
  • Les hommes sont fort à plaindre d'avoir à être gouvernés par un roi, qui n'est qu'homme semblable à eux; car il faudroit des dieux pour redresser les hommes. Mais les rois ne sont pas moins à plaindre, n'étant qu'hommes, c'est-à-dire foibles et imparfaits, d'avoir à gouverner cette multitude innombrable d'hommes corrompus et trompeurs.
    • Men are very much to be pitied in that they are to be governed by a king who is but a man like them; for it would require Gods to reform men. But kings are not less to be pitied, since being but men, that are weak and imperfect, they are to govern this innumerable multitude of corrupt and deceitful men.
    • Bk. 10, p. 72; translation p. 174.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Jesus Christ was born in a stable; He was obliged to fly into Egypt; thirty years of His life were spent in a workshop; He suffered hunger, thirst, and weariness; He was poor, despised, and miserable; He taught the doctrines of heaven, and no one would listen. The great and the wise persecuted and took Him, subjected Him to frightful torments, treated Him as a slave, and put Him to death between two malefactors, having preferred to give liberty to a robber, rather than to suffer Him to escape. Such was the life which our Lord chose; while we are horrified at any kind of humiliation, and cannot bear the slightest appearance of contempt.
    • P. 60.
  • Let us endeavor to commence every enterprise with a pure view to the glory of God, continue it without distraction, and finish it without impatience.
    • P. 128.
  • A cross borne in simplicity, without the interference of self-love to augment it, is only half a cross. Suffering in this simplicity of love, we are not only happy in spile of the cross, but because of it; for love is pleased in suffering for the Well Beloved, and the cross which forms us into His image is a consoling bond of love.
    • P. 169.
  • We must bear our crosses; self is the greatest of them all. If we die in part every day of our lives, we shall have but little to do on the last. O how utterly will these little daily deaths destroy the power of the final dying!
    • P. 170.
  • This poor world, the object of so much insane attachment, we are about to leave; it is but misery, vanity, and folly; a phantom, — the very fashion of which "passeth away."
    • P. 206.
  • If we had strength and faith enough to trust ourselves entirely to God, and follow Him simply wherever He should lead us, we should have no need of any great effort of mind to reach perfection.
    • P. 240.
  • God's treasury where He keeps His children's gifts will be like many a mother's store of relics of her children, full of things of no value to others, but precious in His eyes for the love's sake that was in them.
    • P. 262.
  • As a general rule, those truths which we highly relish, and which shed a degree of practical light upon the things which we are required to give up for God, are leadings of Divine grace, which we should follow without hesitation.
    • P. 264.
  • "My Father, it is dark!" "Child, take my hand,
    Cling close to me; I'll lead thee through the land,
    Trust my all-seeing care, so shalt thou stand
    'Midst glory bright above."
    Can we be unsafe where God has placed us, and where He
    watches over us as a parent a child that he loves?
    • P. 264.
  • The kingdom of God which is within us consists in our willing whatever God wills, always, in every thing, and without reservation; and thus His kingdom comes; for His will is then done as it is in heaven, since we will nothing but what is dictated by His sovereign pleasure.
    • P. 269.
  • This is the love that does all things; that brings to pass even the evils we suffer; so shaping them that they are but instruments of preparing the good which, as yet, has not arrived.
    • P. 270.
  • We may be sure that it is the love of God only that can make us come out of self. If His powerful hand did not sustain us, we should not know how to take the first step in that direction.
    • P. 270.
  • Thou lovest like an infinite God when Thou lovest; Thou movest heaven and earth to save Thy loved ones. Thou becomest man, a babe, the vilest of men, covered with reproaches, dying with infamy and under the pangs of the cross; all this is not too much for an infinite love.
    • P. 271.
  • The presence of God calms the soul, and gives it quiet and repose.
    • P. 276.
  • God works in a mysterious way in grace as well as in nature, concealing His operations under an imperceptible succession of events, and thus keeps us always in the darkness of faith.
    • P. 280.
  • We are never less alone than when we are in the society of a single, faithful friend; never less deserted than when we are carried in the arms of the All-Powerful.
    • P. 281.
  • God never makes us sensible of our weakness except to give us of His strength.
    • P. 283.
  • Carefully purify your conscience from daily faults; suffer no sin to dwell in your heart; small as it may seem, it obscures the light of grace, weighs down the soul, and hinders that constant communion with Jesus Christ which it should be your pleasure to cultivate.
    • P. 317.
  • True love goes ever straight forward, not in its own strength, but esteeming itself as nothing. Then indeed we are truly happy. The cross is no longer a cross when there is no self to suffer under it.
    • P. 396.
  • Pure love is in the will alone; it is no sentimental love, for the imagination has no part in it; it loves, if we may so express it, without feeling, as faith believes without seeing.
    • P. 399.
  • If there is any thing that can render the soul calm, dissipate its scruples, and dispel its fears, sweeten its sufferings by the anointing of love, impart strength to it in all its actions, and spread abroad the joy of the Holy Spirit in its countenance and words, it is a simple, free, and child-like repose in the arms of God.
    • P. 446.
  • O Lord! take my heart, for I cannot give it; and when Thou hast it, O! keep it, for I cannot keep it for Thee; and save me in spite of myself, for Jesus Christ's sake.
    • P. 542.
  • If we love Him infinitely more than we do ourselves, we make an unconditional sacrifice of ourselves to His good pleasure, desiring only to love Him and to forget ourselves. He who thus loses his soul shall find it again with eternal life.
    • P. 542.
  • There is but one way in which God should be loved, and that is to take no step except with Him and for Him, and to follow with a generous self-abandonment every thing which He requires.
    • P. 542.
  • O God, the creature knows not to what end Thou hast made Him; teach him, and write in the depths of his soul that the clay must suffer itself to be shaped at the will of the potter.
    • P. 543.
  • If we love Him infinitely more than we do ourselves, we make an unconditional sacr
  • Here it is that the Spirit teaches us all truth; for all truth is eminently contained in this sacrifice of love, where the soul strips itself of every thing to present it to God.
    • P. 543.
  • As the reflections of our pride upon our defects are bitter, disheartening, and vexatious, so the return of the soul towards God is peaceful and sustained by confidence. You will find by experience how much more your progress will be aided by this simple, peaceful turning towards God, than by all your chagrin and spite at the faults that exist in you.
    • P. 566.
  • We sleep in peace in the arms of God when we yield ourselves up to His providence, in a delightful consciousness of His tender mercies; no more restless uncertainties, no more anxious desires, no more impatience at the place we are in, for it is God who has put us there, and who holds us in His arms. Can we be unsafe where He has placed us, and where He watches over us as a parent watches a child? This confiding repose, in which earthly care sleeps, is the true vigilance of the heart; yielding itself up to God, with no other support than Him, it thus watches while we sleep. This is the love of Him that will not sleep even in death.
    • P. 600.
  • Commit yourself then to God! He will be your guide. He Himself will travel with you, as we are told He did with the Israelites, to bring them step by step across the desert to the promised land. Ah! what will be your blessedness, if you will but surrender yourself into the hands of God, permitting Him to do whatever He will, not according to your desires, but according to His own good pleasure?
    • P. 601.
Wikipedia has an article about: