Reference > Quotations > James Wood, comp. > Dictionary of Quotations
James Wood, comp.  Dictionary of Quotations.  1899.
La Bruyère
  A man can keep another’s secret better than his own; a woman, her own better than another’s.  1
  A man of the world must seem to be what he wishes to be.  2
  A position of eminence makes a great man greater and a little man less.  3
  A wise man neither suffers himself to be governed, nor attempts to govern others.  4
  After the spirit of discernment, the next rarest things in the world are diamonds and pearls.  5
  All mischief comes from our inability to be alone.  6
  All the wit in the world is thrown away upon the man who has none.  7
  Buffoonery is often want of wit.  8
  C’est une grande misère que de n’avoir pas assez d’esprit pour bien parler, ni assez de jugement pour se taire—It is a great misfortune not to have enough of ability to speak well, nor sense enough to hold one’s tongue.  9
  Children think not of what is past, nor what is to come, but enjoy the present time, which few of us do.  10
  Criticism is as often a trade as a science, requiring, as it does, more health than wit, more labour than capacity, more practice than genius.  11
  Cunning leads to knavery; ’tis but a step, and that a very slippery, from the one to the other. Lying only makes the difference; add that to cunning, and it is knavery.  12
  Discretion is the perfection of reason, and a guide to us in all the duties of life.  13
  Eloquence is to the sublime as a whole to its part.  14
  Eminent stations make great men greater and little men less.  15
  Entre esprit et talent il y a la proportion du tout à sa partie—Wit is to talent as a whole to a part.  16
  Entre le bon sens et le bon goût il y a la différence de la cause à son effet—Between good sense and good taste, there is the same difference as that between cause and effect.  17
  False glory is the rock of vanity.  18
  False modesty is the masterpiece of vanity.  19
  Fuyez les procés sur toutes les choses, la conscience s’y intéresse, la santé s’y altère, les biens s’y dissipent—Avoid lawsuits beyond all things; they pervert conscience, impair your health, and dissipate your property.  20
  Genius of a kind is necessary to make a fortune, and especially a large one.  21
  He who asks a favour for another has the confidence which a sense of justice inspires; while he who solicits for himself experiences all the embarrassment and shame of one appealing for mercy.  22
  If it is a happiness to be nobly descended, it is not less to have so much merit that nobody inquires whether we are so or not.  23
  If poverty is the mother of crimes, want of sense is the father of them.  24
  Il est souvent plus court et plus utile de cadrer aux autres que de faire que les autres s’adjustent à nous—It is often more easy and more convenient to conform to others than to make others conform to us.  25
  Il n’y a point au monde un si pénible métier que celui de se faire un grand nom. La vie s’achève que l’on a à peine ébauché son ouvrage—There is not a more laborious undertaking in the world than that of earning a great name; life comes to a close before one has well schemed out one’s course.  26
  Il n’y a point de chemin trop long à qui marche lentement et sans se presser, il n’y a point d’avantages trop éloignés à qui s’y prépare par la patience—No road is too long for him who advances slowly and does not hurry, and no attainment is beyond his reach who equips himself with patience to achieve it.  27
  In some men a certain mediocrity of mind helps to make them wise.  28
  It is a great misfortune not to possess talent enough to speak well, or sense enough to hold one’s tongue.  29
  It is a great step in finesse to make people under-estimate your acuteness.  30
  It is a proof of mediocrity of intellect to be addicted to relating stories.  31
  It is difficult to say whether irresolution renders a man the more unhappy or the more despicable; also whether it is productive of worse consequences to make a bad resolution, or none at all.  32
  It is no more in our power to love always than it was not to love.  33
  It is often easier, as well as more advantageous, to conform to the opinions of others than to persuade them into ours.  34
  It is profound ignorance that inspires a degenerate tone.  35
  It is prudent to be on the reserve even with your best friend, when he betrays a too eager curiosity to worm out your secret.  36
  It requires more than mere genius to be an author.  37
  Je sens qu’il y a un Dieu, et je ne sens pas qu’il n’y en ait point; cela me suffit—I feet there is a God, and I don’t feel there is none; that is enough for me.  38
  Je voudrais voir un homme sobre, modéré, chaste, équitable prononcer qu’il n’y-a point de Dieu; il parlerait du moins sans intérêt; mais cet homme ne se trouve point—I should like to see a man who is sober, moderate, chaste and just assert that there is no God; he would speak disinterestedly at least, but such a man is not to be found.  39
  Jeune, on conserve pour sa vieillesse; vieux, on épargne pour la mort—In youth men save for old age; in old age, they hoard for death.  40
  Jusqu où les hommes ne se portent-ils point par l’intérêt de la religion, dont ils sont si peu persuadés, et qu’ils pratiquent si mal?—To what excesses are not men carried in the interest of a religion of which they have little or no faith, and which they so badly practise?  41
  Knaves easily believe that others are like themselves; they can hardly be deceived, and they do not deceive others for any length of time.  42
  L’esclave n’a qu’un maître; l’ambitieux en a autant qu’il y a de gens utiles à sa fortune—A slave has but one master; the ambitious man has as many as there are people who help him to his fortune.  43
  L’esprit de la conversation consiste bien moins à en montrer beaucoup qu’à en faire trouver aux autres—Wit in conversation consists much less in displaying much of it than in stimulating it in others.  44
  L’on espère de vieillir et l’on craint la vieillesse; c’est à dire l’on aime la vie et l’on fuit la mort—We hope to grow old, yet we dread old age; that is to say, we love life and shrink from death.  45
  L’on ne peut aller loin dans l’amitié, si l’on n’est pas disposé à se pardonner, les uns aux autres, les petits défauts—Friendship cannot go far if we are not disposed mutually to forgive each other’s venial faults.  46
  L’on ne vaut dans ce monde que ce que l’on veut valoir—We are valued in this world at the rate at which we desire to be valued.  47
  L’on se repent rarement de parler peu, très souvent de trop parler: maxime usée et triviale que tout le monde sait, et que tout le monde ne pratique pas—We rarely repent of having spoken too little, very often of having spoken too much: a maxim this which is old and trivial, and which every one knows, but which every one does not practise.  48
  L’orateur cherche par son discours un archevêché, l’apôtre fait des conversions; il mérite de trouver ce que l’autre cherche—The preacher aims by his eloquence at an archbishopric, the apostle makes converts; he deserves to get what the other aims at.  49
  L’une des marques de la médiocrité d’esprit est de toujours conter—One of the marks of a mediocrity of intellect is to be given to story-telling.  50
  La cour est comme un édifice bâti de marbre; je veux dire qu’elle est composée d’hommes fort durs mais fort polis—The court is like an edifice built of marble; I mean, it is composed of men very hard but very polished.  51
  La cour ne rend pas content, elle empêche qu’on ne le soit ailleurs—The court does not make a man happy, and it prevents him from being so elsewhere.  52
  La dissimulation la plus innocente n’est jamais sans inconvénient; criminel ou non, l’artifice est toujours dangereux, et presque inévitablement nuisible—Dissimulation, even the most innocent, is always embarrassing; whether with evil intent or not, artifice is always dangerous, and almost inevitably disgraceful.  53
  La faveur met l’homme au-dessus de ses égaux; et sa chute au-dessous—Favour exalts a man above his equals, and his fall or disgrace beneath them.  54
  La finesse n’est ni une trop bonne ni une très mauvaise qualité: elle flotte entre le vice et la vertu; il n’y a point de rencontre où elle ne puisse, et peut-être où elle ne doive être suppléée par la prudence—Finesse is neither a very good nor yet a very bad quality. It hovers between vice and virtue, and there are few occasions in which it cannot be, and perhaps ought not to be superseded by common prudence.  55
  La libéralité consiste moins à donner beaucoup, qu’à donner à-propos—Liberality consists less in giving a great deal than in giving seasonably.  56
  La moquerie est souvent indigence d’esprit—Derision is often poverty of wit.  57
  La plupart des hommes, pour arriver à leurs fins, sont plus capables d’un grand effort que d’une longue persévérance—To attain their ends most people are more capable of a great effort than of continued perseverance.  58
  La plus part des hommes emploient la première partie de leur vie à rendre l’autre misérable—The generality of men expend the early part of their lives in contributing to render the latter part miserable.  59
  La sage conduite roule sur deux pivots, le passé et l’avenir—Prudent conduct turns on two pivots, the past and the future, i.e., on a faithful memory and forethought.  60
  La vie des héros a enrichi l’histoire, et l’histoire a embelli les actions des héros—The lives of heroes have enriched history, and history has embellished the exploits of heroes.  61
  Le contraire des bruits qui courent des affaires, ou des personnes, est souvent la vérité—The converse of what is currently reported about things and people is often the truth.  62
  Le devoir des juges est de rendre justice, leur métier est de la différer; quelques uns savent leur devoir, et font leur métier—The duty of judges is to administer justice, but their practice is to delay it; some of them know their duty, but adhere to the practice.  63
  Le grandeur et le discernement sont des choses différentes, et l’amour pour la vertu, et pour les vertueux une troisième chose—High rank and discernment are two different things, and love for virtue and for virtuous people is a third thing.  64
  Le plaisir le plus délicat est de faire celui d’autrui—The most exquisite pleasure consists in promoting the pleasures of others.  65
  Le sage quelquefois évite le monde de peur d’être ennuyé—The wise man sometimes shuns society from fear of being bored.  66
  Les femmes sont extrêmes: elles sont meilleures ou pires que les hommes—Women indulge in extremes; they are always either better or worse than men.  67
  Les haines sont si longues et si opiniâtres, que le plus grand signe de mort dans un homme malade, c’est la réconciliation—The passion of hatred is so long-lived and obstinate a malady, that the surest prognostic of death in a sick man is his desire for reconciliation.  68
  Les hommes sont cause que les femmes ne s’aiment point—It is on account of the men that the women do not love each other.  69
  Liberality consists less in giving profusely than in giving judiciously.  70
  Liberty is not idleness; it is an unconstrained use of time. To be free is not to be doing nothing; it is to be one’s own master as to what one ought to do or not to do.  71
  Life is a kind of sleep; old men sleep longest, nor begin to wake until they are to die.  72
  Men blush less for their crimes than for their weaknesses and vanities.  73
  Men make the best friends.  74
  Men rate the virtues of the heart at almost nothing, while they idolise endowments of body and intellect.  75
  Modesty is to merit what the shadows are to the figures on a picture; it imparts to it force and relief.  76
  Né pour la digestion—Born merely to consume good things.  77
  Never risk a joke, even the least offensive in its nature and the most common, with a person who is not well-bred, and possessed of sense to comprehend it.  78
  On ne vaut dans ce monde que ce qu’on veut valoir—A man’s worth in this world is estimated according to the value he puts upon himself.  79
  One should never risk a joke, even of the mildest and most unexceptionable character, except among people of culture and wit.  80
  Out of difficulties grow miracles.  81
  Plus on approche des grands hommes, plus on trouve qu’ils sont hommes—The nearer one approaches to great persons, the more one sees that they are but men.  82
  Politeness makes a man appear outwardly as he should be within.  83
  Poverty treads upon the heels of great and unexpected riches.  84
  Quand le peuple est en mouvement, on ne comprend pas par où le calme peut en y rentrer; et quand il est paisible, on ne voit pas par où le calme peut en sortir—When the people are in agitation, we do not understand now tranquility is to return; and when they are at peace, we do not see how tranquility can depart.  85
  Quand une lecture vous élève l’esprit et qu’elle vous inspire des sentiments nobles et courageux, il est bon, et fait de main d’ouvrier—When a work has an elevating effect on the mind, and inspires you with noble and courageous thoughts, it is good and is from the hand of a master.  86
  Qui a vécu un seul jour a vécu un siècle—He who has lived a single day has lived an age.  87
  Qui a vu la cour, a vu du monde, ce qu’il y a de plus, beau, le plus spécieux, et le plus orné; qui méprise la cour après l’avoir vu méprise le monde—He who has seen the court has seen all this most beautiful, most specious, and best decorated in the world; and he who despises the court after having seen it despises the world.  88
  Qui est plus esclave qu’un courtisan assidu si ce n’est un courtisan plus assidu?—Who is more of a slave than an assiduous courtier, unless it be another courtier who is more assiduous still?  89
  Quotations from profane authors, cold allusions, false pathetic, antitheses and hyperboles, are out of doors.  90
  Si la vie est misérable, elle est pénible à supporter; si elle est heureuse, il est horrible de la perdre. L’un revient à l’autre—If our life is unhappy, it is painful to bear, and if it is happy, it is horrible to lose it. Thus, the one is pretty equal to the other.  91
  Sudden love is the latest cured.  92
  The court does not render a man contented, but it prevents his being so elsewhere.  93
  The court is like a palace of marble; it is composed of people very hard and very polished.  94
  The highest reach of a news-writer is an empty reasoning on policy, and vain conjectures on the public management.  95
  The pleasure we feel in criticising robs us of that of being deeply moved by very beautiful things.  96
  The prodigal robs his heir, the miser robs himself.  97
  The surest test of a man’s critical power is his judgment of contemporaries.  98
  The wise man often shuns society for fear of being bored.  99
  There are certain things in which mediocrity is not to be endured, such as poetry, music, painting, public speaking.  100
  There are few circumstances in which it is not best either to hide all or to tell all.  101
  There are in the history of a man only three epochs, his birth, his life, and his death; he is not conscious of being born; he submits to die; and he forgets to live.  102
  There are only two ways of rising in the world, either by one’s own industry or by the weakness of others.  103
  There is no road too long to the man who advances deliberately and without undue haste; there are no honours too distant to the man who prepares himself for them with patience.  104
  There is nothing of which men are so fond and so careless as life.  105
  Those who make the worst use of their time most complain of its shortness.  106
  To be free is not to do nothing, but to be the sole arbiter of what we do and what we leave undone.  107
  To what excesses men go for a religion of whose truth they are so little persuaded, and to whose precepts they pay so little regard.  108
  Tout notre mal vient de ne pouvoir être seul—All our unhappiness comes from our inability to be alone.  109
  Under a despotic government there is no such thing as patriotic feeling, and its place is supplied in other ways, by private interest, public fame, and devotion to one’s chief.  110
  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 more ingenious of the moderns.  111
  We should never risk pleasantry except with well-bred people, and people with brains.  112
  When a secret is revealed, it is the fault of the man who has intrusted it.  113
  With virtue, capacity, and good conduct, one still can be insupportable. The manners, which are neglected as small things, are often those which decide men for or against you. A slight attention to them would have prevented their ill judgments.  114
  Women are ever in extremes; they are either better or worse than men.  115
  Women exceed the generality of men in love.  116

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