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James Wood, comp. Dictionary of Quotations. 1899.


A man’s virtue is to be measured not by his extraordinary efforts, but his everyday conduct.

All man’s miseries go to prove his greatness.

Between us and hell or heaven there is nothing but life, which of all things is the frailest.

Common-place people see no difference between one man and another.

Continued eloquence wearies.

Earnestness is enthusiasm tempered by reason.

Eloquence is a pictorial representation of thought.

Eloquence is the painting of thought; and thus those who, after having painted it, still add to it, make a picture instead of a portrait.

Experience makes us see a wonderful difference between devotion and goodness.

Faith affirms many things respecting which the senses are silent; but nothing that they deny.

Fickleness has its rise in the experience of the deceptiveness of present pleasures, and in ignorance of the vanity of absent ones.

Force rules the world, and not opinion, but opinion is that which makes use of force.

Glory is so enchanting that we love whatever we associate with it, even though it be death.

Good actions done in secret are the most worthy of honour.

Habit is a second nature, which destroys the first.

Happiness is neither within us nor without us; it is the union of ourselves with God.

High station has to be resigned in order to be appreciated.

If everybody knew what one says of the other, there would not be four friends left in the world.

If the nose of Cleopatra had been a little shorter, it would have changed the history of the world.

If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past and the future.

In a great soul everything is great.

In composing a book, the last thing that one learns is to know what to put first.

Incrédules les plus crédules—The incredulous are the most credulous.

It is an egregious error to go by the exception instead of the rule.

It is impossible to be just, if one is not generous.

Je mets en fait que, si tous les hommes savaient ce qu’ils disent les uns des autres, il n’y aurait pas quatre amis dans le monde—I lay it down as beyond dispute that if every one knew what every one said of another, there would not be four friends in the world.

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parceque je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte—I have made this (letter) a rather long one, only because I had not the leisure to make it shorter.

Justice and truth are two points of such exquisite delicacy, that our coarse and blunted instruments will not touch them accurately.

Justice without power is inefficient; power without justice is tyranny.

L’esprit a son ordre, qui est par principes et démonstrations, le cœur en a un autre—The mind has its way of proceeding by principles and demonstrations; the heart has a different method.

L’habit ne fait point le moine—It is not the garb he wears that makes the monk.

L’homme n’est ni ange ni bête, et le malheur veut que qui veut faire l’ange fait la bête—Man is neither an angel nor a brute, but, as the evil genius will have it, he who aspires to be an angel degenerates into the brute.

L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, le plus faible de la nature, mais c’est un roseau pensant—Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a reed that thinks.

La justice et la vérité sont deux pointes si subtiles, que nos instrumens sont trop émoussés pour y toucher exactement—Justice and truth are two points so fine that our instruments are too blunt to touch them exactly.

La mort est plus aisée à supporter sans y penser, que la pensée de la mort sans péril—Death is more easy to bear when it comes without thought of it, than the thought of it without the risk of it.

La nature s’imite—Nature imitates herself.

Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît pas—The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.

Le hazard donne les pensées; le hazard les ôte: point d’art pour conserver ni pour acquérir—Chance suggests thoughts; changes deprive us of them: there is no rule for preserving or acquiring them.

Le moy est haïssable—Egotism is hateful.

Le temps guérit les douleurs et les querelles, parcequ’on change, on n’est plus le même personne—Time heals our griefs and wranglings, because we change, and are no longer the same.

Les belles actions cachées sont les plus estimables—The acts that we conceal are regarded with the highest esteem.

Les choses valent toujours mieux dans leur source—Things are always best at their source.

Les grands et les petits ont mêmes accidents, et mêmes fâcheries et mêmes passions, mais l’un est au haut de la roue et l’autre près du centre, et ainsi moins agité par les mêmes mouvements—Great and little are subject to the same mischances, worries, and passions, but one is on the rim of the wheel and the other near the centre, and so is less agitated by the same movements.

Les rivières sont des chemins qui marchent—Rivers are moving roads.

Let it not be imagined that the life of a good Christian must necessarily be a life of melancholy and gloominess: for he only resigns some pleasures, to enjoy others infinitely greater.

Losses are comparative, only imagination makes them of any moment.

Love has no age, as it is always renewing itself.

Love is a debt which inclination always pays, obligation never.

Man does not wish to be told the truth.

Man is but a reed, the weakest thing in nature, but he is a reed that thinks.

Man is neither an angel nor a brute, and it is his evil destiny if he aspires to be the former, to sink into the latter.

Miracles do not serve to convert, but condemn.

Most of the mischief in the world would never happen if men would only be content to sit still in their parlours.

Munificence is not quantity, but quality.

Nothing is thoroughly approved but mediocrity. The majority has established this, and it fixes its fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way.

Nous ne vivons jamais, mais nous esperons de vivre—We never live, but we hope to live.

On jette enfin de la terre sur la tête, et en voilà pour jamais—Little earth is cast in the end upon the head, and there is no more of it for ever.

On se persuade mieux pour l’ordinaire par les raisons qu’on a trouvées soi-même, que par celles qui sont venues dans l’esprit des autres—We are ordinarily more easily satisfied with reasons that we have discovered ourselves, than by those which have occurred to others.

Opinion is, as it were, the queen of the world, but force is its tyrant.

Our senses will not admit of anything extreme: too much noise confuses us, too much light dazzles us.

Peu de chose nous console, parceque peu de chose nous afflige—Little consoles us because little afflicts us.

Quand on voit le style naturel, on est tout étonné et ravi; car on s’attendait de voir un auteur, et on trouve un homme—When we see a natural style, we are astonished and charmed; for we expected to see an author, and we find a man.

Rien ne s’arrête pour nous—Nothing anchors itself fast for us.

Rivers are roads which travel, and which carry us whither we wish to go.

Se moquer de la philosophie, c’est vraiment philosopher—To jest at the expense of philosophy is truly to philosophise.

Some philosophers seek to exalt man by display of his greatness, others to debase him by pointing to his miseries.

That unity which has not its origin in the multitude is tyranny.

The last thing that we discover in writing a book is to know what to put at the beginning.

The mind of the greatest man on earth is not so independent of circumstances as not to feel inconvenienced by the merest buzzing noise about him; it does not need the report of a cannon to disturb his thoughts. The creaking of a vane or a pulley is quite enough. Do not wonder that he reasons ill just now; a fly is buzzing by his ear; it is quite enough to unfit him for giving good counsel.

The multitude which does not reduce itself to unity is confusion; the unity which does not depend upon the multitude is tyranny.

The universe is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is everywhere, and the circumference nowhere.After St. Augustus.

The world is content with words; few think of searching into the nature of things.

There are fewer students of man than of geometry.

There are only three classes of people—those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him; and those who live without either seeking or finding him—the first, rational and happy; the second, unhappy and rational; the third, foolish and unhappy.

There are three means of believing—by inspiration, by reason, and by custom. Christianity, which is the only rational institution, does yet admit none for its sons who do not believe by inspiration.

To find recreation in amusement is not happiness.

To go beyond the bounds of moderation is to outrage humanity.

To think aright is the sum of human duty.

True eloquence scorns eloquence.

True morality scorns morality; that is, the morality of the judgment scorns the morality of the mind, which is without rules.

Vanity is so anchored in the heart of man that the lowest drudge must boast and have his admirers; and the philosophers themselves desire the same.

We never live, but we hope to live; and as we are always arranging for being happy, it cannot be but that we never are so.

What a vanity is painting, which attracts admiration by the resemblance of things that in the original we do not admire!

When we meet with a natural style, we are surprised and delighted, for we expected to find an author, and we have found a man.

Where there is too much light, our senses don’t perceive; they are only stunned or dazzled or blinded.

Wisdom sends us to childhood; “unless ye become as little children.”

Would you have men think well of you, then do not speak well of yourself.