Let’s find out about the quote celebrity is the chastisement of merit meaning explained in detail, together with other related quotes.
I am referring to this quote by Sébastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort:
Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent
(A Thousand Flashes Of French Wit, Wisdom, And Wickedness Collected And Translated By J. De Finod, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1881, P. 186) source
The original maxim in French is:
La célébrité est le châtiment du mérite et la punition du talent
(Maximes Et Pensées; Suivies De Dialogues Philosophiques; Text Revu Sur L’édition Originale Et Publié Avec Des Notes Et Un Index Par Ad. Van Bever, Paris: Les Éditions G. Grés & Cie, 1923, CCCXXXIII, P. 116 ) source
This judicious maxim exposes the irony of one’s merit and talent.
I will elaborate in more details as I go along.
Before I delve into the meaning of this aphorism by Nicholas Chamfort, let’s clarify the meaning of these keywords:
Celebrity means a famous person or the state of being famous or well-known.
As for this aphorism, it is the state of being famous or well known.
Chastisement means severe criticism, a rebuke or strong reprimand.
Punishment is infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense.
Merit means a quality or feature that has evident worth or value and it is highly commendable and deserving praise.
Talent is natural aptitude, ability, skill or flair to do something.
Celebrity Is The Chastisement Of Merit Meaning
To simplify the explanation, let’s treat the word ‘chastisement‘ as synonymous with ‘punishment‘.
I think what French writer Nicholas Chamfort meant is the state of being well known or fame (celebrity) is a punishment to your caliber (merit) and innate flair (talent).
Why did Chamfort say being famous or your fame is a punishment to your merit and talent?
As itself, both merit and talent are laudable and beneficial.
But the problem starts, when your merit or talent makes you well-known (becomes a celebrity).
In other words, celebrity is giving a hard time to your worthy merit and coveted talent, so to speak.
When people know you have an admirable caliber or a God-send talent, naturally they are fascinated and even idolize you.
In no time, everyone will be extolling your commendable quality or your flair of doing things.
In short, you become famous and ended up what we call a celebrity.
It is all because you have something great (merit and talent) which attract public recognition and attention.
And you cannot avoid not wanting to be well-known.
In fact, you do not even asked for the acclamation and fame.
It is because of your merit and talent that put you on the pedestal.
As a result, you have to face or brace the unwanted attentions and even loss of privacy.
Besides being worshiped, stalked and obsessed over by your raving fans, fame can attract jealousy, competition and rivalry.
In other words, fame can be a burden, a liability and even a hazard to your life.
We often read or heard, great fame has its price.
As I have mentioned above, having merit or talent is fine, or even a great thing.
But it is the state of being famous (celebrity) that is punishing your innocent merit and talent.
The irony is, in the first place, it is your praiseworthy merit or natural-born talent that make you a celebrity.
Of course, there are folks who are famous not because of their merit or talent.
They are what we called famous for being famous.
That is a different kettle of fish.
Talking about celebrity, here are some quotes on fame you might like to check them out:
“All fame is infamy, and all infamy is fame. Good luck to whoever is famous. It is not easy. It could break your heart.” – Yoko Ono
(Twitter, March 2016) source
“Fame is a side effect of one’s work.” – Marina Abramovic
(Once Upon A Time By Elisa Lipsky -Karasz, Harper Bazaar, February 7, 2012) source
“Fame is an undertaker that pays but little attention to the living, but bedizens the dead, furnishes out their funerals, and follows them to the grave.” – Charles Caleb Colton
(Lacon; Or Many things In Few Words; Addressed To Those Who Think By Rev. Charles Caleb Colton, London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme And Brown, 1821, DXXVII, P.217) source
“What’s fame? a fancied life in other’s breath.” – Alexander Pope
(The Poetical Works Of Alexander Pope, In Four Volumes, Vol. II, London: Printed For J. Sharpe, 1808, Essay On Man, Epistle IV, Nature And State Of Man, With Respect To Happiness, P. 64) source
“Of the goods that life supplies, greatest far of all is fame; though to dust the body flies, yet still lives a noble name.” – Johann Christoph Friedrich Von Schiller
“Von des Lebens Gütern allen Ist der Ruhm das höchste doch, Wenn der Leib in Staub zerfallen, Lebt der große Name noch.” (German)
(The Poems Of Schiller, Complete, Including All His Early Suppressed Pieces, Attempted In English By Edgar Alfred Bowring, London: John W. Parker & Son, 1851, Poems Of The Third Period, The Feast Of Victory, P. 125) source
(The quote in German is found in: Schiller’s Werke, Herausgegeben Von Robert Boxberger, Neue Illustrierte Ausgabe, Berlin: G. Grote’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1891, Das Siegesfest, P. 112) source