Chamfort, a French wit and littérateur, born in Auvergne; took to
the Revolution, but offended the leaders, and being threatened with
arrest committed suicide, "cutting and slashing with frantic, uncertain
hand, gaining, not without difficulty, the refuge of death"; he was a
born cynic, and was famous for his keen insight into human nature and his
sharp criticisms of it, summed up in a collection of maxims he left, as
well as for his anecdotes in incisive portraiture of character. "He was a
man," says Professor Saintsbury, "soured by his want of birth, health,
and position, and spoilt by hanging on to the great persons of his time.
But for a kind of tragi-comic satire, a soeva indignatio, taking the
form of contempt for all that is exalted and noble, he has no equal in
literature except Swift" (1741-1794).
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