Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

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It is the beginning of the end.

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (2 February 175417 May 1838) was a French diplomat. He worked successfully from the regime of Louis XVI, through the French Revolution and then under Napoleon I, Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe. Known since the turn of the 19th century simply by the name Talleyrand, he remains a figure that polarizes opinion. Some regard him as one of the most versatile, skilled and influential diplomats in European history, and some believe that he was a traitor, betraying in turn, the Ancien Régime, the French Revolution, Napoleon, and the Restoration.


  • Celui qui n'a pas vécu au dix-huitième siècle avant la Révolution ne connaît pas la douceur de vivre et ne peut imaginer ce qu'il peut y avoir de bonheur dans la vie. C'est le siècle qui a forgé toutes les armes victorieuses contre cet insaisissable adversaire qu'on appelle l'ennui. L'Amour, la Poésie, la Musique, le Théâtre, la Peinture, l'Architecture, la Cour, les Salons, les Parcs et les Jardins, la Gastronomie, les Lettres, les Arts, les Sciences, tout concourait à la satisfaction des appétits physiques, intellectuels et même moraux, au raffinement de toutes les voluptés, de toutes les élégances et de tous les plaisirs. L'existence était si bien remplie qui si le dix-septième siècle a été le Grand Siècle des gloires, le dix-huitième a été celui des indigestions.
    • Whoever did not live in the eighteenth century before the Revolution does not know the sweetness of life and cannot imagine what happiness there can be in life. It is the century that forged all victorious weapons against this elusive adversary called boredom. Love, Poetry, Music, Theater, Painting, Architecture, Courtyard, Lounges, Parks and Gardens, Gastronomy, Letters, Arts, Sciences, all contributed to the satisfaction of physical, intellectual and even moral appetites, to the refinement of all voluptuousness, all elegance and all pleasures. The existence was so full that if the seventeenth century was the Great Century of glories, the eighteenth was that of indigestion.
    • Mémoires du Prince de Talleyrand: La Confession de Talleyrand, V. 1-5 Chapter: La jeunesse – Le cercle de Madame du Barry.
  • Ce n'est pas un événement, c'est une nouvelle.
    • It is not an event, it is a piece of news.
    • On hearing of Napoleon's death; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922).
  • Je connais quelqu'un qui a plus d'esprit que Napoléon, que Voltaire, que tous les ministres présents et futurs: c'est l'opinion.
    • I know where there is more wisdom than is found in Napoleon, Voltaire, or all the ministers present and to come – in public opinion.
    • In the Chamber of Peers (1821); reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 570.
  • Vous ne jouez donc pas le whist, monsieur? Hélas! quelle triste vieilesse vous vous préparez!
    • You do not play then at whist, sir! Alas, what a sad old age you are preparing for yourself!
    • Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 90.
  • C'est le commencement de la fin.
    • It is the beginning of the end.
    • Ascribed to Talleyrand in The Hundred Days (1815); reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 66. Also attributed to General Augereau.
  • Qui n'a pas vécu dans les années voisines de 1789 ne sait pas ce que c'est le plaisir de vivre.
    • Whoever did not live in the years neighboring 1789 does not know what the pleasure of living means.
    • Reported in Memoirs pour Servir a l'histoire de nous Temps by François Guizot, Volume I, p. 6.
  • To succeed in the world, it is much more necessary to possess the penetration to discern who is a fool than to discover who is a clever man.
    • Reported in, C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. (1917).
  • "The tricolour flag, symbol of revolution, was raised on the cathedral's towers and the bells rang to the frantic acclamation of the crowd. 'Listen to the tocsin! We are triumphing' remarked the Prince de Talleyrand gleefully: 'Who are we?' he was asked: 'Quiet! Not a word. I will tell you tomorrow' was the reply."
    • "The July monarchy: a political history of France, 1830-1848" (1988) by H. A. C. Collingham, ‎R. S. Alexander. Pg 9.


  • Noir comme le diable, chaud comme l'enfer, pur comme un ange, doux comme l'amour.
    • Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.
    • frequently misattributed to Talleyrand, no primary source exists, its not his style of speech, and he famously drank tea not coffee.
  • C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute.
    • It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake.
    • Reaction to the 1804 drumhead trial and execution of Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, on orders of Napoleon. Actually said by either Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe, legislative deputy from Meurthe (according to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations) or Joseph Fouché, Napoleon's chief of police (according to John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919),
  • They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing. (and variations)
    • Recognized since the 19th century as a borrowing, possibly used by Talleyrand, from a 1796 letter to Mallet du Pan by French naval officer Charles Louis Etienne, Chevalier de Panat: Personne n'est corrigé; personne n'a su ni rien oublier ni rien apprendre. "Nobody has been corrected; no one has known to forget, nor yet to learn anything."
      • Sources: Craufurd Tate Ramage Ll.D.Beautiful thoughts from French and Italian authors, E. Howell (1866)

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