Nicolas Chamfort? Marchand? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: You have previously examined a well-known comment comparing the construction of laws and sausages:
Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.
I believe that a similar remark was made earlier by the Frenchman Nicolas Chamfort comparing justice and meals, but I have not been able to find a citation. Are you familiar with his statement? Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: The French writer Nicolas Chamfort was a famous wit and epigrammatist who socialized with the aristocracy but supported the French Revolution. He died in 1794 and several collections of anecdotes and aphorisms were published posthumously. In 1798 the periodical “L’Esprit des Journaux” printed material from Chamfort’s pen that included the following item: 1
Un certain Marchand, avocat, homme d’esprit, disait: On court les risques du dégoût en voyant comment l’administration, la justice & la cuisine se préparent.
Here are two possible translations into English:
A clever lawyer named Marchand used to say, “It can be disgusting to see what goes into public administration, justice, and food.”
A certain witty advocate, Marchand, observed: “One would risk being disgusted if one saw politics, justice, and one’s dinner in the making.”
Interestingly, Chamfort disclaimed credit, but his name has remained firmly attached to the saying because of his long-lived fame.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- Year: 1798 (Prairial, an 6 de la République Française), Periodical: “L’Esprit des Journaux, Français et Étrangers”, Organization: Par une Société de gens-de-lettres, Volume 6, Article: “Anecdotes & pensées inédites de feu Chamfort, de l’académie française”, Start Page 170, Quote Page 173, Valade, Paris. (HathiTrust Full View) link link ↩