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

La Bruyère

A blockhead cannot come in, nor go away, nor sit, nor rise, nor stand, like a man of sense.

A coquette is one that is never to be persuaded out of the passion she has to please, nor out of a good opinion of her own beauty: time and years she regards as things that only wrinkle and decay other women, forgetting that age is written in the face, and that the same dress which became her when she was young now only makes her look older.

A coxcomb is the blockhead’s man of merit.

A fool cannot look, nor stand, nor walk like a man of sense.

A good author, and one who writes carefully, often discovers that the expression of which he has been in search without being able to discover it, and which he has at last found, is that which was the most simple, the most natural, and which seems as if it ought to have presented itself at once, without effort, to the mind.

A good saying often runs the risk of being thrown away when quoted as the speaker’s own.

A judge’s duty is to grant justice, but his practice is to delay it; even those judges who know their duty adhere to the general practice.

A look of intelligence in men is what regularity of features is in women; it is a style of beauty to which the most vain may aspire.

A lovely countenance is the fairest of all sights, and the sweetest harmony is the sound of the voice of her whom we love.

A man can keep another person’s secret better than his own; a woman, on the contrary, keeps her secret though she blabs all others.

A man is thirty years old before he has any settled thoughts of his fortune; it is not completed before fifty, he falls a-building in his old age, and dies by the time his house is in a condition to be painted and glazed.

A man of moderate Understanding, thinks he writes divinely: A man of good Understanding, thinks he writes reasonably.

A man of the world must seem to be that he wishes to be.

A man unattached and without wife, if he have any genius at all, may raise himself above his original position, may mingle with the world of fashion, and hold himself on a level with the highest; this is less easy for him who is engaged; it seems as if marriage put the whole world in their proper rank.

A man’s worth is estimated in this world according to his conduct.

A modest man never talks of himself.

A prince wants only the pleasure of private life to complete his happiness.

A simple garb is the proper costume of the vulgar; it is cut for them, and exactly suits their measure; but it is an ornament for those who have filled up their lives with great deeds. I liken them to beauty in dishabille, but more bewitching on that account.

A slave has but one master; the ambitious man has as many masters as there are persons whose aid may contribute to the advancement of his fortune.

A vain man finds his account in speaking good or evil of himself.

A wise man neither suffers himself to be governed, nor attempts to govern others.

A woman is easily governed, if a man takes her in hand.

All the world says of a coxcomb that he is a coxcomb; but no one dares to say so to his face, and he dies without knowing it.

Amongst such as out of cunning hear all and talk little, be sure to talk less; or if you must talk, say little.

An assembly of the states, a court of justice, shows nothing so serious and grave as a table of gamesters playing very high; a melancholy solicitude clouds their looks; envy and rancor agitate their minds while the meeting lasts, without regard to friendship, alliances, birth or distinctions.

An egotist will always speak of himself, either in praise or in censure, but a modest man ever shuns making himself the subject of his conversation.

An inconstant woman is one who is no longer in love; a false woman is one who is already in love with another person; a fickle woman is she who neither knows whom she loves nor whether she loves or not; and the indifferent woman, one who does not love at all.

As riches and favor forsake a man, we discover him to be a fool, but nobody could find it out in his prosperity.

Avoid law suits beyond all things; they influence your conscience, impair your health, and dissipate your property.

Avoid making yourself the subject of conversation.

Born merely for the purpose of digestion.

Both as to high and low indifferently, men are prepossessed, charmed, fascinated by success; successful crimes are praised very much like virtue itself, and good fortune is not far from occupying the place of the whole cycle of virtues. It must be an atrocious act, a base and hateful deed, which success would not be able to justify.

Caprice in woman is the antidote to beauty.

Caprice in women often infringes upon the rules of decency.

Cheats easily believe others as bad as themselves; there is no deceiving them, nor do they long deceive.

Children have neither past nor future; and that which seldom happens to us, they rejoice in the present.

Criticism is as often a trade as a science; it requiring more health than wit, more labor than capacity, more practice than genius.

Cunning is none of the best nor worst qualities; it floats between virtue and vice; there is scarce any exigence where it may not, and perhaps ought not to be supplied by prudence.

Cunning leads to knavery; it is but a step from one to the other, and that very slippery; lying only makes the difference; add that to cunning, and it is knavery.

Death never happens but once, yet we feel it every moment of our lives.

Discourtesy does not spring merely from one bad quality, but from several—from foolish vanity, from ignorance of what is due to others, from indolence, from stupidity, from distraction of thought, from contempt of others, from jealousy.

Discretion is the perfection of reason, and a guide to us in all the duties of life; cunning is a kind of instinct, that only looks out after our immediate interests and welfare. Discretion is only found in men of strong sense and good understanding; cunning is often to be met with in brutes themselves, and in persons who are but the fewest removes from them.

Dissimulation, even the most innocent in its nature, is ever productive of embarrassment; whether the design is evil or not, artifice is always dangerous and almost inevitably disgraceful.

Duty is what goes most against the grain, because in doing that we do only what we are strictly obliged to, and are seldom much praised for it.

Eloquence is to the sublime what the whole is to its part.

Eloquence may be found in conversation and all kinds of writings; ’tis rarely where we seek it, and sometimes where ’tis least expected.

Eminent station makes great men more great, and little ones less.

Extremes are vicious, and proceed from men; compensation is just, and proceeds from God.

False glory is the rock of vanity; it seduces men to affect esteem by things which they indeed possess, but which are frivolous, and which for a man to value himself on would be a scandalous error.

False modesty is the masterpiece of vanity: showing the vain man in such an illusory light that he appears in the reputation of the virtue quite opposite to the vice which constitutes his real character; it is a deceit.

Favor exalts a man above his equals, but his dismissal from that favor places him below them.

For a woman to be at once a coquette and a bigot is more than the humblest of husbands can bear; she should mercifully choose between the two.

Friendship***is a long time in forming, it is of slow growth, through many trials and months of familiarity.

Great things astonish us, and small dishearten us. Custom makes both familiar.

He is good that does good to others. If he suffers for the good he does, he is better still; and if he suffers from them to whom he did good, he is arrived to that height of goodness that nothing but an increase of his sufferings can add to it; if it proves his death, his virtue is at its summit—it is heroism complete.

He is rich whose income is more than his expenses; and he is poor whose expenses exceed his income.

He who can wait for what he desires takes the course not to be exceedingly grieved if he fails of it; he, on the contrary, who labors after a thing too impatiently thinks the success when it comes is not a recompense equal to all the pains he has been at about it.

He who excels in his art so as to carry it to the utmost height of perfection of which it is capable may be said in some measure to go beyond it: his transcendent productions admit of no appellations.

He who has lived a day has lived an age.

High birth is a gift of fortune which should never challenge esteem towards those who receive it, since it costs them neither study nor labor.

How happy the station which every minute furnishes opportunities of doing good to thousands! how dangerous that which every moment exposes to the injuring of millions!

How much wit, good-nature, indulgences, how many good offices and civilities, are required among friends to accomplish in some years what a lovely face or a fine hand does in a minute!

I am told so many ill things of a man, and I see so few in him, that I begin to suspect he has a real but troublesome merit, as being likely to eclipse that of others.

I do not doubt but that genuine piety is the spring of peace of mind; it enables us to bear the sorrows of life, and lessens the pangs of death: the same cannot be said of hypocrisy.

I should like to see a man sober in his habits, moderate, chaste, just in his dealings, assert that there is no God; he would speak at least without interested motives; but such a man is not to be found.

I take sanctuary in an honest mediocrity.

If it is fortunate to be of noble ancestry, it is not less so to be such as that people do not care to be informed whether you are noble or ignoble.

If men wish to be held in esteem, they must associate with those only who are estimable.

If poverty is the mother of crimes, want of sense is the father of them.

If some men died and others did not, death would indeed be a most mortifying evil.

If this life is unhappy, it is a burden to us, which it is difficult to bear; if it is in every respect happy, it is dreadful to be deprived of it; so that in either case the result is the same, for we must exist in anxiety and apprehension.

If you suppress the exorbitant love of pleasure and money, idle curiosity, iniquitous pursuits and wanton mirth, what a stillness would there be in the great cities! The necessaries of life do not occasion at most a third part of the hurry.

In art there is a point of perfection, as of goodness or maturity in nature; he who is able to perceive it, and who loves it, has perfect taste; he who does not feel it, or loves on this side or that, has an imperfect taste.

In friendship we only see those faults which may be prejudicial to our friends. In love we see no faults but those by which we suffer ourselves.

In the world there are only two ways of raising one’s self, either by one’s own industry or by the weakness of others.

Intelligence is to genius as the whole is in proportion to its part.

It is a proof of boorishness to confer a favor with a bad grace; it is the act of giving that is hard and painful. How little does a smile cost!

It is a sad thing when men have neither wit to speak well nor judgment to hold their tongues.

It is easier to enrich ourselves with a thousand virtues than to correct ourselves of a single fault.

It is motive alone that gives real value to the actions of men, and disinterestedness puts the cap to it.

It is quite as much of a trade to make a book as to make a clock. It requires more than mere genius to be an author.

It is through madness that we hate an enemy, and think of revenging ourselves; and it is through indolence that we are appeased, and do not revenge ourselves.

It is very rare to find ground which produces nothing; if it is not covered with flowers, with fruit trees and grains, it produces briers and pines. It is the same with man; if he is not virtuous, he becomes vicious.

It is virtue which should determine us in the choice of our friends, without inquiring into their good or evil fortune.

It is worse to apprehend than to suffer.

It seems to me that the spirit of politeness is a certain attention in causing that, by our words and by our manners, others may be content with us and with themselves.

Jesting, often, only proves a want of intellect.

Languages are the keys of science.

Laziness begat wearisomeness, and this put men in quest of diversions, play and company, on which however it is a constant attendant; he who works hard, has enough to do with himself otherwise.

Let us not envy some men their accumulated riches; their burden would be too heavy for us; we could not sacrifice, as they do, health, quiet, honor, and conscience, to obtain them: it is to pay so dear for them that the bargain is a loss.

Liberality consists less in giving profusely than in giving judiciously.

Life is a kind of sleep: old men sleep longest, nor begin to wake but when they are to die.

Logic is the art of convincing us of some truth.

Love and friendship exclude each other.

Love seizes on us suddenly, without giving warning, and our disposition or our weakness favors the surprise; one look, one glance, from the fair fixes and determines us.

Man makes up his mind he will preach, and he preaches.

Men are the cause of women not loving one another.

Men blush less for their crimes than for their weaknesses and vanity.

Men make the best friends.

Next to sound judgment, diamonds and pearls are the rarest things to be met with.

One faithful friend is enough for a man’s self; ’tis much to meet with such an one, yet we can’t have too many for the sake of others.

Out of difficulties grow miracles.

Politeness does not always inspire goodness, equity, complaisance, and gratitude; it gives at least the appearance of these qualities, and makes man appear outwardly, as he should be within.

Praise, of all things, is the most powerful excitement to commendable actions, and animates us in our enterprises.

Profane eloquence is transferred from the bar, where it formerly reigned, to the pulpit, where it ought to come.

Pure friendship is something which men of an inferior intellect can never taste.

Some young people do not sufficiently understand the advantages of natural charms, and how much they would gain by trusting to them entirely. They weaken these gifts of heaven, so rare and fragile, by affected manners and an awkward imitation. Their tones and their gait are borrowed; they study their attitudes before the glass until they have lost all trace of natural manner, and, with all their pains, they please but little.

Talent, taste, wit, good sense, are very different things, but by no means incompatible. Between good sense and good taste there exists the same difference as between cause and effect, and between wit and talent there is the same proportion as between a whole and its parts.

The art of being able to make a good use of moderate abilities wins esteem and often confers more reputation than real merit.

The beginning and the end of love are both marked by embarrassment when the two find themselves alone.

The best thing next to wit is a consciousness that it is not in us; without wit, a man might then know how to behave himself, so as not to appear to be a fool or a coxcomb.

The events we most desire do not happen; or, if they do, it is neither in the time nor in the circumstances when they would have given us extreme pleasure.

The fears of old age disturb us, yet how few attain it?

The fool only is troublesome. A man of sense perceives when he is agreeable or tiresome; he disappears the very minute before he would have been thought to have stayed too long.

The generality of men expend the early part of their lives in contributing to render the latter part miserable.

The great charm of conversation consists less in the display of one’s own wit and intelligence than in the power to draw forth the resources of others.

The Great slight the men of wit, who have nothing but wit; the men of wit despise the Great, who have nothing but greatness; the good man pities them both, if with greatness or wit they have not virtue.

The greatest part of mankind employ their first years to make their last miserable.

The highest reach of a news-writer is an empty reasoning on policy, and vain conjectures on the public management.

The mind, like all other things, will become impaired, the sciences are its food,—they nourish, but at the same time they consume it.

The most amiable people are those who least wound the self-love of others.

The most delicate, the most sensible, of all pleasures consists in promoting the pleasures of others.

The nearer we approach great men, the clearer we see that they are men.

The News-writer lies down at Night in great Tranquillity, upon a piece of News which corrupts before Morning, and which he is obliged to throw away as soon as he awakes.

The opposite of what is noised about concerning men and things is often the truth.

The passion of hatred is so durable and so inveterate that the surest prognostic of death in a sick man is a wish for reconciliation.

The pleasure a man of honor enjoys in the consciousness of having performed his duty is a reward he pays himself for all his pains.

The pleasure of criticism takes from us that of being deeply moved by very beautiful things.

The rarest things in world, next to a spirit of discernment, are diamonds and pearls.

The same vices which are huge and insupportable in others we do not feel in ourselves.

The sublime only paints the true, and that too in noble objects; it paints it in all its phases, its cause and its effect; it is the most worthy expression or image of this truth. Ordinary minds cannot find out the exact expression, and use synonymes.

The unfaithful woman, if she is known for such by the person concerned, is only unfaithful. If she is thought faithful, she is perfidious.

The very impossibility in which I find myself to prove that God is not discovers to me His existence.

The whole genius of an author consists in describing well, and delineating character well. Homer, Plato, Virgil, Horace only excel other writers by their expressions and images; we must indicate what is true if we mean to write naturally, forcibly and delicately.

The wise man sometimes flees from society from fear of being bored.

There are but three general events which happen to mankind: birth, life, and death. Of their birth they are insensible, they suffer when they die, and neglect to live.

There are but two ways of rising in the world: either by one’s own industry or profiting by the foolishness of others.

There are peculiar ways in men, which discover what they are, through the most subtle feints and closest disguises.

There is a species of ferocity in rejecting indiscriminately all kinds of praises; we should be accessible to those which are given to us by good people, who praise in us sincerely praiseworthy things.

There is no employment in the world so laborious as that of making to one’s self a great name; life ends before one has scarcely made the first rough draught of his work.

There is no road too long to the man who advances deliberately and without undue haste; there are no honors too distant to the man who prepares himself for them with patience.

There is nothing keeps longer than a middling fortune, and nothing melts away sooner than a great one. Poverty treads upon the heels of great and unexpected riches.

There is speaking well, speaking easily, speaking justly and speaking seasonably: It is offending against the last, to speak of entertainments before the indigent; of sound limbs and health before the infirm; of houses and lands before one who has not so much as a dwelling; in a word, to speak of your prosperity before the miserable; this conversation is cruel, and the comparison which naturally arises in them betwixt their condition and yours is excruciating.

There is what is called the highway to posts and honors, and there is a cross and by way, which is much the shortest.

They do well, or do their duty, who with alacrity do what they ought.

They who, without any previous knowledge of us, think amiss of us, do us no harm: they attack not us, but the phantom of their own imagination.

Time, which strengthens friendship, weakens love.

To be deprived of the person we love is a happiness in comparison to living with one we hate.

To endeavor to forget any one is the certain way to think of nothing else.

To give awkwardly is churlishness. The most difficult part is to give, then why not add a smile?

To what excesses do men rush for the sake of religion, of whose truth they are so little persuaded, and to whose precepts they pay so little regard!

Too great carelessness, equally with excess in dress, multiplies the wrinkles of old age, and makes its decay still more conspicuous.

Two persons will not be friends long if they cannot forgive each other little failings.

We all covet wealth, but not its perils.

We are come too late, by several thousand years, to say anything new in morality. The finest and most beautiful thoughts concerning manners have been carried away before our times, and nothing is left for us but to glean after the ancients, and the most ingenious of the moderns.

We are more sociable, and get on better with people by the heart than the intellect.

We hope to grow old and we dread old age; that is to say, we love life and we flee from death.

We meet with few utterly dull and stupid souls: the sublime and transcendent are still fewer; the generality of mankind stand between these two extremes: the interval is filled with multitudes of ordinary geniuses, but all very useful, and the ornaments and supports of the commonwealth.

We must strive to make ourselves really worthy of some employment. We need pay no attention to anything else; the rest is the business of others.

We never deceive for a good purpose; knavery adds malice to falsehood.

We never love heartily but once, and that is the first time we love.

We rarely repent of speaking little, but often of speaking too much.

We wish to constitute all the happiness, or, if that cannot be, the misery of the one we love.

What is certain in death, is somewhat softened by what is uncertain; it is an indefiniteness in the time, which holds a certain relation to the infinite, and what is called eternity.

When a book raises your spirit, and inspires you with noble and courageous feelings, seek for no other rule to judge the work by; it is good, and made by a good workman.

When a man puts on a character he is a stranger to, there is as much difference between what he appears and what he is in reality as there is between a visor and a face.

When a secret is revealed, it is the fault of the man who has intrusted it.

When we are young we lay up for old age; when we are old we save for death.

When we have run through all forms of government, without partiality to that we were born under, we are at a loss with which to side; they are all a compound of good and evil. It is therefore most reasonable and safe to value that of our own country above all others, and to submit to it.

When what you read elevate your mind and fills you with noble aspirations, look for no other rule by which to judge a book; it is good, and to the work of a master-hand.

Widows, like ripe fruit, drop easily from their perch.

Wise men sometimes avoid the world, that they may not be surfeited with it.

Wit is the god of moments, but genius is the god of ages.

Women are engaged to men by the favors they grant them; men are disengaged by the same favors.

Women are ever in extremes; they are either better or worse than men.

You think a man to be your dupe; if he pretends to be so, who is the greatest dupe—he or you?

Young people are dazzled by the brilliancy of antithesis, and employ it. Matter-of-fact men, and those who like precision, naturally fall into comparisons and metaphor. Sprightly natures, full of fire, and whom a boundless imagination carries beyond all rules, and even what is reasonable, cannot rest satisfied even with hyberbole. As for the sublime, it is only great geniuses and those of the very highest order that are able to rise to its height.