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


Cunning is the dwarf of wisdom.

W. R. Alger.

Stratagem is the right hand of cunning.

G. W. Curtis.

Cunning has only private selfish aims.


Cleverness and cunning are incompatible.


In a great business there is nothing so fatal as cunning management.


Cunning and treachery are the offspring of incapacity.

La Rochefoucauld.

All my own experience of life teaches me the contempt of cunning, not the fear.

Mrs. Jameson.

A cunning man overreaches no one half as much as himself.


Cunning pays no regard to virtue, and is but the low mimic of reason.


Cunning is the art of concealing our own defects, and discovering other people’s weaknesses.


Knowledge without justice ought to be called cunning rather than wisdom.


When the fox hath once got in his nose, he’ll soon find means to make the body follow.


The bounds of a man’s knowledge are easily concealed, if he has but prudence.


The fox is very cunning, but he is more cunning who catches the fox.


Cunning cheats itself wholly, and other people partially.


The very cunning conceal their cunning; the indifferently shrewd boast of it.


Cunning is none of the best nor worst qualities. It floats between virtue and vice.

La Bruyère.

Cunning is the intensest rendering of vulgarity, absolute and utter.


The most sure method of subjecting yourself to be deceived is to consider yourself more cunning than others.

La Rochefoucauld.

Nobody was ever so cunning as to conceal their being so; and everybody is shy and distrustful of crafty men.


We should do by our cunning as we do by our courage—always have it ready to defend ourselves, never to offend others.


Hurry and cunning are the two apprentices of despatch and skill; but neither of them ever learn their master’s trade.


Surely the continual habit of dissimulation is but a weak and sluggish cunning, and not greatly politic.


Cunning differs from wisdom as twilight from open day.

Dr. Johnson.

Whoever appears to have much cunning has in reality very little; being deficient in the essential article, which is, to hide cunning.

Henry Home.

This is the fruit of craft; like him that shoots up high, looks for the shaft, and finds it in his forehead.


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.

La Bruyère.

It is a remarkable circumstance in reference to cunning persons that they are often deficient not only in comprehensive, far-sighted wisdom, but even in prudent, cautious circumspection.


Those who are overreached by our cunning are far from appearing to us as ridiculous as we appear to ourselves when the cunning of others has overreached us.

La Rochefoucauld.

The animals to whom nature has given the faculty we call cunning know always when to use it, and use it wisely; but when man descends to cunning he blunders and betrays.

Thomas Paine.

Cunning is only the mimic of discretion, and may pass upon weak men, in the same manner as vivacity is often mistaken for wit, and gravity for wisdom.


The greatest of all cunning is to seem blind to the snares which we know to be laid for us. Men are never so easily deceived as while they are endeavoring to deceive others.

La Rochefoucauld.

The common practice of cunning is the sign of a small genius; it almost always happens that those who use it to cover themselves in one place lay themselves open in another.

La Rochefoucauld.

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.

La Bruyère.

Taking things not as they ought to be, but as they are, I fear it must be allowed that Macchiavelli will always have more disciples than Jesus.


It has been a sort of maxim that the greatest art is to conceal art; but I know not how, among some people we meet with, their greatest cunning is to appear cunning.


We take cunning for a sinister or crooked wisdom; and certainly there is a great difference between a cunning man and a wise man, not only in point of honesty, but in point of ability.


All my own experience of life teaches me the contempt of cunning, not the fear. The phrase “profound cunning” has always seemed to me a contradiction in terms. I never knew a cunning mind which was not either shallow or on some point diseased.

Mrs. Jameson.

Cunning has only private selfish aims, and sticks at nothing which may make them succeed. Discretion has large and extended views, and, like a well-formed eye, commands a whole horizon; cunning is a kind of short-sightedness, that discovers the minutest objects which are near at hand, but is not able to discern things at a distance.


The whole power of cunning is privative; to say nothing, and to do nothing, is the utmost of its reach, Yet men, thus narrow by nature and mean by art, are sometimes able to rise by the miscarriages of bravery and the openness of integrity, and, watching failures and snatching opportunities, obtain advantages which belong to higher characters.