C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


A false mind is false in everything, just as a cross eye always looks askant. But one may err once, nay, a hundred times, without being double-minded. There can never be mental duplicity where there is sincerity.

A few words worthy to be remembered suffice to give an idea of a great mind. There are single thoughts that contain the essence of a whole volume, single sentences that have the beauties of a large work, a simplicity so finished and so perfect that it equals in merit and in excellence a large and glorious composition.

A man who shows no defect is a fool or a hypocrite, whom we should mistrust. There are defects so bound to fine qualities that they announce them,—defects which it is well not to correct.

A maxim is the exact and noble expression of an important and indisputable truth. Sound maxims are the germs of good; strongly imprinted in the memory, they nourish the will.

A temperate style is alone classical.

Agriculture engenders good sense, and good sense of an excellent kind.

All are born to observe order, but few are born to establish it.

All disputation makes the mind deaf; and when people are deaf, I am dumb.

All luxury corrupts either the morals or the taste.

Antiquity! I like its ruins better than its reconstructions.

Avoid singularity. There may often be less vanity in following the new modes than in adhering to the old ones. It is true that the foolish invent them, but the wise may conform to, instead of contradicting, them.

Be charitable and indulgent to every one but yourself.

Be saving, but not at the cost of all liberality. Have the soul of a king and the hand of a wise economist.

Beautiful works do not intoxicate, but they enchant.

Before employing a fine word, find a place for it.

Chance generally favors the prudent.

Children have more need of models than of critics.

Children must be rendered reasonable, but not reasoners. The first thing to teach them is that it is reasonable for them to obey, and unreasonable for them to dispute.

Contempt for private wrongs was one of the features of ancient morals.

Criticism even should not be without its charms. When quite devoid of all amenities, it is no longer literary.

Drawing is speaking to the eye, talking is painting to the ear.

Every legitimate authority should respect its extent and its limits.

Every modulated sound is not a song, and every voice that executes a beautiful air does not sing. Singing should enchant. But to produce this effect there must be a quality of soul and voice which is by no means common even with great singers.

Eyes raised toward heaven are always beautiful, whatever they be.

Fancy, an animal faculty, is very different from imagination, which is intellectual. The former is passive; but the latter is active and creative. Children, the weak minded, and the timid, are full of fancy. Men and women of intellect, of great intellect, are alone possessed of great imagination.

Fate and necessity are unconquerable.

Fear loves the idea of danger.

Forms of government become established of themselves. They shape themselves, they are not created. We may give them strength and consistency, but we cannot call them into being. Let us rest assured that the form of government can never be a matter of choice: it is almost always a matter of necessity.

Fully to understand a grand and beautiful thought requires, perhaps, as much time as to conceive it.

Genius begins great works, labor alone finishes them.

Genuine witticisms surprise those who say them as much as those who listen to them; they arise in us in spite of us, or, at least, without our participation,—like everything inspired.

God has commanded time to console the unhappy.

God multiples intelligence, which communicates itself, like fire, ad infinitum. Light a thousand torches at one touch, the flame remains always the same.

“God will punish,” say the Orientals, “him who sees and him who is seen.” Beautiful and terrible recommendation of modesty!

Good maxims are the germs of all excellence.

Grace imitates modesty, as politeness imitates kindness.

Grace is in garments, in movements, in manners; beauty in the nude, and in forms. This is true of bodies; but when we speak of feelings, beauty is in their spirituality, and grace in their moderation.

Hatred itself may be a praiseworthy emotion if provoked in us by a lively love of good.

Haughty people seem to me to have, like the dwarfs, the stature of a child and the face of a man.

He who cannot see the beautiful side is a bad painter, a bad friend, a bad lover; he cannot lift his mind and his heart so high as goodness.

He who exhibits no faults is a fool or a hypocrite, whom we should mistrust. There are faults so intimately connected with fine qualities that they indicate them, and we do well not to correct them.

He who has imagination without learning has wings but no feet.

He who has not the weakness of friendship has not the strength.

History needs distance, perspective. Facts and events which are too well attested cease, in some sort, to be malleable.

How many books there are whose reputation is made that would not obtain it were it now to make!

How many weak shoulders have craved heavy burdens!

I do not call reason that brutal reason which crushes with its weight what is holy and sacred, that malignant reason which delights in the errors it succeeds in discovering, that unfeeling and scornful reason which insults credulity.

I love prudence very little, if it is not moral.

I quit Paris unwillingly, because I must part from my friends; and I quit the country unwillingly, because I must part from myself.

I resemble the poplar,—that tree which, even when old, still looks young.

I would fain coin wisdom—mould it, I mean, into maxims, proverbs, sentences, that can easily be retained and transmitted.

If fortune wishes to make a man estimable she gives him virtues; if she wishes to make him esteemed she gives him success.

If you are poor, distinguish yourself by your virtues; if rich, by your good deeds.

Illusion and wisdom combined are the charm of life and art.

Imagination is the eye of the soul.

Imitate time; it destroys everything slowly; it undermines, it wears away, it detaches, it does not wrench.

In bringing up a child, think of its old age.

In clothes clean and fresh there is a kind of youth with which age should surround itself.

In really good acting we should be able to believe that what we hear and see is of our own imagining; it should seem to us as a charming dream.

In temperance there is ever cleanliness and elegance.

In the commerce of speech use only coin of gold and silver.

In the interchange of thought use no coin but gold and silver.

In the present day our literary masonry is well done, but our architecture is poor.

In these times gain is not only a matter of greed, but of ambition.

It is easier to be mistaken about the true than the beautiful.

It is not my periods that I polish, but my ideas.

It may be said that it is with our thoughts as with our flowers. Those whose expression is simple carry their seed with them; those that are double by their richness and pomp charm the mind, but produce nothing.

It would be next to impossible to discover a handsome woman who was not also a vain woman.

Just as politeness imitates kindness, so does grace imitate modesty.

Justice is truth in action.

Know that morality is a curb, not a spur.

Lenity is a part of justice; but she must not speak too loud for fear of waking justice.

Let us be men with men, and always children before God; for in His eyes we are but children. Old age itself, in presence of eternity, is but the first moment of a morning.

Light is, as it were, a divine humidity.

Liquid, flowing words are the choicest and the best, if language is regarded as music. But when it is considered as a picture, then there are rough words which are very telling,—they make their mark.

Living requires but little life; doing requires much.

Logic is to grammar what the sense of words is to their sound.

Logic works; metaphysic contemplates.

Man is born with the faculty of speech. Who gives it to him? He who gives the bird its song.

Maxims are to the intellect what laws are to actions; they do not enlighten, but they guide and direct, and, although themselves blind, are protective.

Mediocrity is excellence to the eyes of mediocre people.

Men must be either the slaves of duty, or the slaves of force.

Minds which never rest are subject to many digressions.

Moderation consists in being moved as angels are moved.

Monuments are the grappling-irons that bind one generation to another.

National literature begins with fables and ends with novels.

Necessity may render a doubtful act innocent, but it cannot make it praiseworthy.

Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure; emotion is easily propagated from the writer to the reader.

Nothing which does not transport is poetry. The lyre is a winged instrument.

Of the two, I prefer those who render vice lovable to those who degrade virtue.

Of what delights are we deprived by our excesses!

Old age takes from the man of intellect no qualities save those that are useless to wisdom.

Old age was naturally more honored in times when people could not know much more than what they had seen.

One can with dignity be wife and widow but once.

One day, a daughter of Aristotle, Pythias by name, was asked what color pleased her most. She replied, “The color with which modesty suffuses the face of simple, inoffensive men.”

Only just the right quantum of wit should be put into a book; in conversation a little excess is allowable.

Order is to arrangement what the soul is to the body, and what mind is to matter.

Ornaments were invented by modesty.

Our ideas, like pictures, are made up of lights and shadows.

Our worries always come from our weaknesses.

Poetry is to be found nowhere unless we carry it within us.

Politeness is a kind of anæsthetic which envelops the asperities of our character, so that other people be not wounded by them. We should never be without it, even when we contend with the rude.

Politeness is the flower of humanity.

Politeness is to goodness what words are to thought. It tells not only on the manners, but on the mind and the heart; it renders the feelings, the opinions, the words, moderate and gentle.

Politeness smooths wrinkles.

Professional critics are incapable of distinguishing and appreciating either diamonds in the rough state or gold in bars. They are traders, and in literature know only the coins that are current. Their criticism has scales and weights, but neither crucible nor touchstone.

Reason is a bee, and exists only on what it makes; his usefulness takes the place of beauty.

Religion is fire which example keeps alive, and which goes out if not communicated.

Religion is neither a theology nor a theosophy; it is more than that, it is a discipline, a law, a yoke, an indissoluble engagement.

Religion is the only metaphysic that the multitude can understand and adopt.

Religion must be loved as a kind of country and nursing-mother. It was religion that nourished our virtues, that showed us heaven, that taught us to walk in the path of duty.

Remorse is the punishment of crime; repentance, its expiation. The former appertains to a tormented conscience; the later to a soul changed for the better.

Science confounds everything; it gives to the flowers an animal appetite, and takes away from even the plants their chastity.

Slander is the solace of malignity.

Some persons there are who intellectually are reasonable enough, but whose life is quite irrational; and there are, on the other hand, those whose life is rational, and whose minds are devoid of reason.

Space is the statue of God.

Speech is but the incorporation of thought.

Strength is natural, but grace is the growth of habit. This charming quality requires practice if it is to become lasting.

Strength is not energy; some authors have more muscles than talent.

Success serves men as a pedestal. It makes them seem greater when not measured by reflection.

Superstition is the only religion of which base souls are capable.

Taste has never been corrupted by simplicity.

Tenderness is one repose of passion.

That which astonishes, astonishes once; but whatever is admirable becomes more and more admired.

The abridgments of wisdom.

The art of saying well what one thinks is different from the faculty of thinking. The latter may be very deep and lofty and far-reaching, while the former is altogether wanting.

The beautiful invariably possesses a visible and a hidden beauty; and it is certain that no style is so beautiful as that which presents to the attentive reader a half-hidden meaning.

The Bible is to religion what the Iliad is to poetry.

The dregs may stir themselves as they please; they fall back to the bottom by their own coarseness.

The early and the latter part of human life are the best, or, at least, the most worthy of respect; the one is the age of innocence, the other of reason.

The evening of life brings with it its lamps.

The God of metaphysics is but an idea. But the God of religion, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sovereign Judge of actions and thoughts, is a power.

The great objection to new books is that they prevent our reading old ones.

The joy which is caused by truth and noble thoughts shows itself in the words by which they are expressed.

The last word should be the last word. It is like a finishing touch given to color; there is nothing more to add. But what precaution is needed in order not to put the last word first.

The lively phraseology of Montesquieu was the result of long meditation. His words, as light as wings, bear on them grave reflections.

The mind conceives with pain, but it brings forth with delight.

The mind is the atmosphere of the soul.

The ordinary true, or purely real, cannot be the object of the arts. Illusion on a ground of truth,—that is the secret of the fine arts.

The pain of dispute exceeds by much its utility. All disputation makes the mind deaf; and when people are deaf I am dumb.

The passions should be purged; all may become innocent if they are well directed and moderated. Even hatred may be a commendable feeling when it is caused by a lively love of good. Whatever makes the passions pure, makes them stronger, more durable, and more enjoyable.

The punishment of those who have loved women too much is to love them always.

The simple-hearted and sincere never do more than half deceive themselves.

The soul that is the abode of chastity acquires an energy which enables her to surmount with ease the obstacles that lie along the path of duty.

The style of St. Jerome shines like ebony.

The supreme sway of chastity over the senses makes her queenly.

The true character of epistolary style is playfulness and urbanity.

The voice is a human sound which nothing inanimate can perfectly imitate. It has an authority and an insinuating property which writing lacks. It is not merely so much air, but air modulated and impregnated with life.

The ways suited to confidence are familiar to me, but not those that are suited to familiarity.

There are opinions which come from the heart, and whoever has no fixed opinions has no constant feelings.

There are some heads which have no windows, and the day can never strike from above; nothing enters from heavenward.

There are some men who are witty when they are in a bad humor, and others only when they are sad.

There is always some levity even in excellent minds; they have wings to rise, and also to stray.

There is graciousness and a kind of urbanity in beginning with men by esteem and confidence. It proves, at least, that we have long lived in good company with others and with ourselves.

There is in the soul a taste for the good, just as there is in the body an appetite for enjoyment.

There was a time when the world acted upon books. Now books act upon the world.

Think of the ills from which you are exempt.

Those readiest to criticise are often least able to appreciate.

Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they love truth.

Thoughts there are, that need no embodying, no form, no expression. It is enough to hint at them vaguely; a word, and they are heard and seen.

To be capable of respect is wellnigh as rare at the present day as to be worthy of it.

To see the world is to judge the judges.

To the liberal ideas of the age must be opposed the moral ideas of all ages.

Truth takes the stamp of the souls it enters. It is rigorous and rough in arid souls, but tempers and softens itself in loving natures.

Virtue by calculation is the virtue of vice.

Virtue is the health of the soul. It gives a flavor to the smallest leaves of life.

We disjoint the mind like the body.

We know God easily, provided we do not constrain ourselves to define Him.

We live in an age in which superfluous ideas abound and essential ideas are lacking.

We measure minds by their stature; it would be better to esteem them by their beauty.

We should always keep a corner of our heads open and free, that we may make room for the opinions of our friends. Let us have heart and head hospitality.

We should do good whenever we can and do kindness at all times, for at all times we can.

We use up in the passions the stuff that was given us for happiness.

What can one possibly introduce into a mind that is already full, and full of itself?

When credulity comes from the heart it does no harm to the intellect.

When my friends are blind of one eye, I look at them in profile.

When the painter wishes to represent an event, he cannot place before us too great a number of personages; but he cannot employ too few when he wishes to portray an emotion.

When we love, it is the heart that judges.

When you give, give with joy and smiling.

Whence? whither? why? how?—these questions cover all philosophy.

Which is more misshapen,—religion without virtue, or virtue without religion?

Woman’s grief is like a summer’s shower—short as it is violent.

Words become luminous when the poet’s finger has passed over them its phosphorescence.

Words, like glass, darken whatever they do not help us to see.

Xenophon wrote with a swan’s quill, Plato with a pen of gold, and Thucydides with a brazen stylus.

Young authors give their brains much exercise and little food.