Monday, September 08, 2014


Not Epictetus, But Epicurus

Gustave Flaubert, letter to George Sand (October 28-29, 1872), tr. Francis Steegmuller, The Letters of Gustave Flaubert: 1857-1880 (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 199-200:
Every time I've undertaken to lead an active life I've been burned. So — enough is enough! "Conceal your life," says Epictetus. My entire ambition now is to avoid trouble. And by doing so I'm certain to avoid causing any to others, which is saying much.
The French:
Toutes les fois que je me suis livré à l'action, il m'en a cuit. Donc, assez! assez! «Cache ta vie», maxime d'Epictète. Toute mon ambition maintenant est de fuir les embêtements, et je suis certain par là de n'en pas causer aux autres, ce qui est beaucoup.
Steegmuller has no note on the reference to Epictetus. The quotation is actually from Epicurus, fragment 551 Usener: λάθε βιώσας, on which see Geert Roskam, Live Unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας): On the Vicissitudes of an Epicurean Doctrine (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

Related post: Flaubert and the Study of Greek.

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