Famous quotes explained: « Politeness consists in appearing to forget oneself for others », The Lily of the Valley, Balzac, 1836.


Famous quotes explained: « Politeness consists in appearing to forget oneself for others », The Lily of the Valley, Balzac, 1836.

This quote from Balzac is taken from one of his great novels, The Lily of the Valley (1836). It is located in the passage known as « Henriette’s Letter », in which Henriette de Mortsauf gives advice to the hero, Felix de Vandenesse, on how to behave in aristocratic society. Felix, a young man, is about to make his entrance into Paris, and his platonic lover, in this letter, tries to guide him in the world he will soon know.

Thus, she emphasizes the noble attitude to adopt during social events, and Balzac, through his character Henriette, offers us a simple and elegant definition of politeness: to appear to forget oneself for others. Politeness can be understood as delicacy, good taste, and also a set of rules and conventions that define the attitude and language to be adopted in society.

Here, the definition is more spiritual. It takes up the notion of good taste and rules to be respected: appearance. Politeness is not an inherent quality of a person, nor a profound aspect, it is a behavior to be shown: if one is sad, one must appear to be smiling with others, if one is worried, one must appear to be happy with others… This is how politeness almost always makes us answer the question « How are you? » with « Fine. »

To forget oneself for others, because it is precisely not about oneself, but about one’s relationship to the world, to society. Therefore, in the relationship with others, we must prioritize them, by showing respect, interest, and delicacy. To be polite is therefore to put oneself in the background and to seem to place the other at the center of your concerns.

Politeness consists in appearing to forget oneself for others

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1 commentaire sur “Famous quotes explained: « Politeness consists in appearing to forget oneself for others », The Lily of the Valley, Balzac, 1836.”

  1. Ping : Famous quotes explained: « One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. » from The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, 1949. - Les Cours Julien

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