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James Wood, comp. Dictionary of Quotations. 1899.


A man only understands what is akin to some things already in his mind.

A multitude of sparks yields but a sorry light.

A narrow faith has much more energy than an enlightened one.

A progress of society on the one hand, a decline of souls on the other.

About Jesus we must believe no one but himself.

Absolute individualism is an absurdity.

Action is but coarsened thought.

An error is the more dangerous in proportion to the degree of truth which it contains.

Analysis kills spontaneity, just as grain, once it is ground into flour, no longer springs and germinates.

Art is simply a bringing into relief of the obscure thought of Nature.

At the sight of a man we too say to ourselves, Let us be men.

Barbarism is no longer at our frontiers; it lives side by side with us.

Capable of all kinds of devotion, and of all kinds of treason, raised to the second power, woman is at once the delight and the terror of man.

Christianity has not yet penetrated into the whole heart of Jesus.

Christianity is salvation by the conversion of the will; humanism by the enlightenment of the mind.

Christianity is the apotheosis of grief, the marvellous transmutation of suffering into triumph, the death of death and the defeat of sin.

Christianity is the practical demonstration that holiness and pity, justice and mercy, may meet together and become one in man and in God.

Civilisation tends to corrupt men, as large towns vitiate the air.

Clever people will recognise and tolerate nothing but cleverness.

Cleverness is serviceable for everything, sufficient for nothing.

Common-sense is calculation applied to life.

Common-sense is the measure of the possible; it is calculation applied to life.

Democracy has done a wrong to everything that is not first-rate.

Doubt is the abettor of tyranny.

Doubting the reality of love leads to doubting everything.

Dreams are excursions into the limbo of things, a semi-deliverance from the human prison.

Duty has the virtue of making us feel the reality of a positive world, while at the same time it detaches us from it.

Each man begins the world afresh, and the last man repeats the blunders of the first.

Every loving woman is a priestess of the past.

Every real need is appeased and every vice stimulated by satisfaction.

For a republic you must have men.

From every spot on earth we are equally near heaven and the infinite.

Great men are the true men, the men in whom Nature has succeeded.

Great souls care only for what is great.

Happiness is nothing but the conquest of God through love.

He who ceases to grow greater grows smaller.

He who does not advance falls backward.

He who is too much afraid of being duped has lost the power of being magnanimous.

Health is the first of all liberties, and happiness gives us the energy which is the basis of health.

Heroism is the brilliant triumph of the soul over fear; fear of poverty, of suffering, of calumny, of sickness, of isolation and death…. It is the dazzling and glorious concentration of courage.

If we wish to do good to men, we must pity and not despise them.

In Catholic countries religion and liberty exclude each other; in Protestant ones they accept each other.

In choosing friends, we should choose those whose qualities are innate, and their virtues virtues of the temperament.

Intellect is aristocratic; charity is democratic.

It is better to be lost than to be saved all alone.

It is not history which educates the conscience; it is conscience which educates history.

It is not what he has, nor even what he does, which directly expresses the worth of a man, but what he is.

Knowledge, love, power, constitute the complete life.

Liberty raises us to the gods; holiness prostrates us on the ground.

Life alone can rekindle life.

Life is but a tissue of habits.

Life passes through us; we do not possess it.

Man becomes man only by the intelligence, but he is man only by the heart.

Man is nothing but contradiction; the less he knows it the more dupe he is.

Man is only what he becomes, but he becomes only what he is.

Materialism coarsens and petrifies everything; makes everything vulgar, and every truth false.

Men feed themselves rather upon illusion than upon truth.

Never mind the future: be what you ought to be; the rest is God’s affair.

Nothing is more characteristic of a man than his behaviour towards fools.

Nothing resembles pride so much as discouragement.

Order is a great man’s need, and his true wellbeing.

Order is power.

Reflection dissolves reverie and burns her delicate wings.

Religion is a higher and supernatural life, mystical in its roots and practical in its fruits.

Religion is not a method, but a life.

Respect for others is the first condition of “savoir-vivre.”

Reverie is the Sunday of thought.

Sacrifice still exists everywhere, and everywhere the elect of each generation suffers for the salvation of the rest.

Sacrifice, which is the passion of great souls, has never been the law of societies.

Sad natures are most tolerant of gaiety.

So long as a man is capable of self-renewal he is a living being.

Society lives by faith, and develops by science.

Society rests upon conscience, not upon science.

Style is what gives value and currency to thought.

Sympathy is the first condition of criticism; reason and justice presuppose, at their origin, emotion.

Tears are the symbol of the inability of the soul to restrain its emotion and retain its self-command.

The age of great men is going; the epoch of the anthill, of life in multiplicity, is beginning.

The best path through life is the highway.

The complete spiritualisation of the animal element in nature is the task of our species.

The divine state, “par excellence,” is silence and repose.

The fire which enlightens is the same fire which consumes.

The germs of all things are in every heart.

The man who insists upon seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides.

The more a man lives, the more he suffers.

The only substance properly so called is the soul.

The only true principle for humanity is justice.

The Promised Land is the land where one is not.

The soul moralises the past in order not to be demoralised by it, and finds in the crucible of experience only the gold that she herself has poured into it.

The virtue of sex is the occasion of mutual teaching; the woman preaching love in the ears of justice, and the man justice in the ears of love.

The world grows more majestic, but man grows less.

The world is but an allegory; the idea is more real than the fact.

There is no repose for the mind except in the absolute.

There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.

Thought is like opium: it can intoxicate us while it leaves us broad awake.

Time is but the measure of the difficulty of a conception. Pure thought has scarcely any need of time, since it perceives the two ends of an idea almost the same moment.

To be misunderstood is the cross and bitterness of life.

To depersonalise man is the dominant drift of our epoch.

To do easily what is difficult for others is the mark of talent

To do what is impossible for talent is the mark of genius.

To judge is to see clearly, to care for what is just.

To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.

To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching.

To live is to achieve a perpetual triumph.

To repel one’s cross is to make it heavier.

To the Hindu the world is the dream of Brahma.

To understand things we must once have been in them, and then have come out of them.

True humility is contentment.

True love is that which enobles the personality, fortifies the heart, and sanctifies the existence.

True poetry is truer than science, because it is synthetic, and seizes at once what the combination of all the sciences is able, at most, to attain as a final result.

We are all visionaries, and what we see is our soul in things.

We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented with ourselves.

We have all a cure of souls, and every man is a priest.

What governs men is the fear of truth, except such as is useful to them.

What we do not understand we have no business to judge.

Will localises us; thought universalises us.

Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility.

Woman is at once the delight and the terror of man.

Woman is the salvation or the destruction of the family.

Women wish to be loved, not because they are pretty, or good, or well-bred, or graceful, or intelligent, but because they are themselves.