Reference > Quotations > C.N. Douglas, comp. > Forty Thousand Quotations > Primary Author Index
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
C.N. Douglas, comp.  Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical.  1917.
 
Montaigne
 
                        Be wise with speed;
A fool at forty is a fool indeed.
  1
  A liar would be brave toward God, while he is a coward toward men; for a lie faces God, and shrinks from man.  2
  A man must become wise at his own expense.  3
  A tutor should not be continually thundering instruction into the ears of his pupil, as if he were pouring it through a funnel, but, after having put the lad, like a young horse, on a trot, before him, to observe his paces, and see what he is able to perform, should, according to the extent of his capacity, induce him to taste, to distinguish, and to find out things for himself; sometimes opening the way, at other times leaving it for him to open; and by abating or increasing his own pace, accommodate his precepts to the capacity of his pupil.  4
  A well-bred man is always sociable and complaisant.  5
  A wise man loses nothing, if he but save himself.  6
  A young man ought to cross his own rules, to awake his vigor, and to keep it from growing faint and rusty. And there is no course of life so weak and sottish as that which is carried on by rule and discipline.  7
  After a tongue has once got the knack of lying, it is not to be imagined how impossible almost it is to reclaim it. Whence it comes to pass, that we see some men, who are otherwise very honest, so subject to this vice.  8
  Age imprints more wrinkles in the mind, than it does in the face, and souls are never, or very rarely seen, that in growing old do not smell sour and musty. Man moves all together, both towards his perfection and decay.  9
  All other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not honesty and good-nature.  10
  All our days travel toward death, and the last one reaches it.  11
  Ambition is not a vice of little people.  12
  Ambition is, of all other, the most contrary humor to solitude; and glory and repose are so inconsistent that they cannot possibly inhabit one and the same place; and for so much as I understand, those have only their arms and legs disengaged from the crowd, their mind and intention remain engaged behind more than ever.  13
  Ambition sufficiently plagues her proselytes, by keeping themselves always in show, like the statue of a public place.  14
  Amongst so many borrowed things am glad if I can steal one, disguising and altering it for some new service.  15
  An orator of past times declared that his calling was to make small things appear to be grand.  16
  And to bring in a new word by the head and shoulders, they leave out the old one.  17
  Arts and sciences are not cast in a mould, but are found and perfected by degrees, by often handling and polishing, as bears leisurely lick their cubs into shape.  18
  As great enmities spring from great friendships, and mortal distempers from vigorous health, so do the most surprising and the wildest frenzies from the high and lively agitations of our souls.  19
  As soon as a woman becomes ours, we are no longer theirs.  20
 
 
  Beauty is the true prerogative of women, and so peculiarly their own, that our sex, though naturally requiring another sort of feature, is never in its lustre but when puerile and beardless, confused and mixed with theirs.  21
  Books are a languid pleasure.  22
  Business in a certain sort of men is a mark of understanding, and they are honored for it. Their souls seek repose in agitation, as children do by being rocked in a cradle. They may pronounce themselves as serviceable to their friends as troublesome to themselves. No one distributes his money to others, but every one therein distributes his time and his life. There is nothing of which we are so prodigal as of those two things, of which to be thrifty would be both commendable and useful.  23
  Can anything be imagined so ridiculous that this miserable and wretched creature, who is not so much as master of himself, but subject to the injuries of all things, should call himself master and emperor of the world, of which he has not power to know the least part, much less to command the whole?  24
  Confidence in another man’s virtue is no slight evidence of a man’s own.  25
  Courtesy is a science of the highest importance. It is, like grace and beauty in the body, which charm at first sight, and lead on to further intimacy and friendship, opening a door that we may derive instruction from the example of others, and at the same time enabling us to benefit them by our example, if there be anything in our character worthy of imitation.  26
  Courtesy, like grace and beauty, that which begets liking and inclination to love one another at the first sight, and in the very beginning of our acquaintance and familiarity; and, consequently, that which first opens the door for us to better ourselves by the example of others, if there be anything in the society worth notice.  27
  Custom is a violent and treacherous school mistress. She, by little and little, slyly and unperceived, slips in the foot of her authority; but having by this gentle and humble beginning, with the benefit of time, fixed and established it, she then unmasks a furious and tyrannic countenance, against which we have no more the courage or the power so much as to lift up our eyes.  28
  Eloquence is an engine invented to manage and wield at will the fierce democracy, and, like medicine to the sick, is only employed in the paroxysms of a disordered state.  29
  Even in the midst of compassion we feel within I know not what tart-sweet titillation of malicious pleasure in seeing others suffer; children have the same feeling.  30
  Every one is well or ill at ease, according as he finds himself! not he whom the world believes, but he who believes himself to be so, is content; and in him alone belief gives itself being and reality.  31
  Every one’s true worship was that which he found in use in the place where be chanced to be.  32
  Every period of life has its peculiar prejudices; whoever saw old age, that did not applaud the past, and condemn the present times?  33
  Examples teach us that in military affairs, and all others of a like nature, study is apt to enervate and relax the courage of man, rather than to give strength and energy to the mind.  34
  Experience teaches that a strong memory is generally joined to a weak judgment.  35
  Fear sometimes adds wings to the heels, and sometimes nails them to the ground, and fetters them from moving.  36
  Few men are admired by their servants.  37
  For me, who only desire to become wise, not more learned or eloquent, these logical or Aristotelian dispositions of parts are of no use.  38
  For there is no air that men so greedily draw in, that diffuses itself so soon, and that penetrates so deep as that of license.  39
  Fortune does us neither good not hurt; she only presents us the matter, and the seed, which our soul, more powerfully than she, turns and applies as she best pleases; being the sole cause and sovereign mistress of her own happy or unhappy condition.  40
  Fortune, to show us her power in all things, and to abate our presumption, seeing she could not make fools wise, has made them fortunate.  41
  Friendship that possesses the whole soul, and there rules and sways with an absolute sovereignty, can admit of no rival.  42
  Gentleness and repose are paramount to everything else in woman.  43
  Have you known how to compose your manners? You have done a great deal more than he who has composed books. Have you known how to take repose? You have done more than he who has taken cities and empires.  44
  He that first likened glory to a shadow did better than he was aware of. They are both of them things excellently vain. Glory also, like a shadow, goes sometimes before the body, and sometimes in length infinitely exceeds it.  45
  He that had never seen a river imagined the first he met with to be the sea; and the greatest things that have fallen within our knowledge we conclude the extremes that nature makes of the kind.  46
  He that I am reading seems always to have the most force.  47
  He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that reason is weak.  48
  He who has not a good memory should never take upon him the trade of lying.  49
  He who has once been very foolish will at no other time be very wise.  50
  He who should teach men to die, would at the same time teach them to live.  51
  How many worthy men have we seen survive their own reputation!  52
  Human wisdom makes as ill use of her talent when she exercises it in rescinding from the number and sweetness of those pleasures that are naturally our due, as she employs it favorably and well in artificially disguising and tricking out the ills of life to alleviate the sense of them.  53
  I believe it to be true that dreams are the true interpreters of our inclinations; but there is art required to sort and understand them.  54
  I care not so much what I am in the opinion of others as what I am in my own; I would be rich of myself and not by borrowing.  55
  I find no quality so easy for a man to counterfeit as devotion, though his life and manner are not conformable to it; the essence of it is abstruse and occult, but the appearances easy and showy.  56
  I find that the best virtue I have has in it some tincture of vice.  57
  I have here only made a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the thread that ties them.  58
  I look upon the too good opinion that man has of himself to be the nursing-mother of all the false opinions, both public and private.  59
  I love a friendship that flatters itself in the sharpness and vigor of its communications.  60
  I quote others only in order the better to express myself.  61
  I seek in the reading of my books only to please myself by an irreproachable diversion; or if I study it is for no other science than that which treats of the knowledge of myself, and instructs me how to die and live well.  62
  I study myself more than any other subject; it is my metaphysic, it is my physic.  63
  If I were a writer of books, I would compile a register, with the comment of the various deaths of men; and it could not but be useful, for who should teach men to die would at the same time teach them to live.  64
  If love and ambition should be in equal balance, and come to jostle with equal force, I make no doubt but that the last would win the prize.  65
  If not for that of conscience, yet at least for ambition’s sake, let us reject ambition, let us disdain that thirst of honor and renown, so low and mendicant, that it makes us beg it of all sorts of people.  66
  In my opinion it is the happy living, and not, as Antisthenes said, the happy dying, in which human happiness consists.  67
  In plain truth, it is not want, but rather abundance, that creates avarice.  68
  In the education of children there is nothing like alluring the appetites and affection; otherwise you make so many asses laden with books.  69
  Is it not a noble farce wherein kings, republics, and emperors have for so many ages played their parts, and to which the vast universe serves for a theatre?  70
  Is there anything so grave and serious as an ass?  71
  It happens as with cages; the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair of getting out.  72
  It is easier to sacrifice great than little things.  73
  It is for little souls, that truckle under the weight of affairs, not to know how clearly to disengage themselves, and not to know how to lay them aside and take them up again.  74
  It is fruition, and not possession, that renders us happy.  75
  It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.  76
  It is indeed the boundary of life, beyond which we are not to pass; which the law of nature has pitched for a limit not to be exceeded.  77
  It is not without good reason said, that he who has not a good memory should never take upon him the trade of lying.  78
  It is the rule of rules, and the general law of all laws, that every person should observe those of the place where he is.  79
  Knowledge is an excellent drug; but no drug has virtue enough to preserve itself from corruption and decay, if the vessel be tainted and impure therein it is put to keep.  80
  Learning is not to be tacked to the mind, but we must fuse and blend them together, not merely giving the mind a slight tincture, but a thorough and perfect dye. And if we perceive no evident change and improvement, it would be better to leave it alone: learning is a dangerous weapon, and apt to wound its master if it be wielded by a feeble hand, and by one not well acquainted with its use.  81
  Life in itself is neither good nor evil, it is the scene of good or evil, as you make it.  82
  Lovers are angry, reconciled, entreat, thank, appoint, and finally speak all things, by their eyes.  83
  Lying is a disgraceful vice, and one that Plutarch paints in most disgraceful colors, when he says that it is “affording testimony that one first despises God, and then fears men.” It is not possible more happily to describe its horrible, disgusting, and abandoned nature; for can we imagine anything more vile than to be cowards with regard to men, and brave with regard to God.  84
  Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a flea, and yet he will be making gods by dozens.  85
  Man, in sooth, marvelous, vain, fickle, and unstable subject.  86
  Many persons, after they become learned cease to be good; all other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not the science of honesty and good nature.  87
  Men are tormented by the opinions they have of things, and not the things themselves.  88
  Men on all occasions throw themselves upon foreign assistances to spare their own, which are the only certain and sufficient ones with which they can arm themselves.  89
  Might I have had my own will, I would not have married Wisdom herself, if she would have had me.  90
  Most pleasures embrace us but to strangle.  91
  Nature has presented us with a large faculty of entertaining ourselves alone, and often calls us to it, to teach us that we owe ourselves in part to society, but chiefly and mostly to ourselves.  92
  Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know.  93
  Obstinacy and contention are common qualities, most appearing in, and best becoming, a mean and illiterate soul.  94
  Obstinacy and heat in argument are surest proofs of folly. Is there anything so stubborn, obstinate, disdainful, contemplative, grave, or serious, as an ass?  95
  Old age is a lease nature only signs as a particular favor, and it may be, to one only in the space of two or three ages; and then with a pass to boot, to carry him through all the traverses and difficulties she has strewed in the way of his long career.  96
  Other passions have objects to flatter them, and seem to content and satisfy them for a while; there is power in ambition, pleasure in luxury, and pelf in covetousness; but envy can gain nothing but vexation.  97
  Persons of mean understandings, not so inquisitive, nor so well instructed, are made good Christians, and by reverence and obedience, implicitly believe, and abide by their belief.  98
  Petty vexations may at times be petty, but still they are vexations. The smallest and most inconsiderable annoyances are the most piercing. As small letters weary the eye most, so the smallest affairs disturb us.  99
  Pleasure itself is painful at the bottom.  100
  Plenty and indigence depend upon the opinion every one has of them; and riches, no more than glory or health, have no more beauty or pleasure than their possessor is pleased to lend them.  101
  Plutarch would rather we should applaud his judgment than commend his knowledge, and would rather leave us with an appetite to read more than glutted with that we have already read.  102
  Profound joy has more of severity than gayety in it.  103
  Repentance is no other than a recanting of the will, and opposition to our fancies, which lead us which way they please.  104
  Satiety comes of too frequent repetition; and he who will not give himself leisure to be thirsty can never find the true pleasure of drinking.  105
  Since we cannot attain to greatness, let us revenge ourselves by railing at it.  106
  Such as are in immediate fear of losing their estates, of banishment, or of slavery, live in perpetual anguish, and lose all appetite and repose; such as are actually poor slaves and exiles oftentimes live as merrily as men in a better condition; and so many people who, impatient of the perpetual alarms of fear, have hanged and drowned themselves give us sufficiently to understand that it is more importunate and insupportable than death itself.  107
  The fairest lives, in my opinion, are those which regularly accommodate themselves to the common and human model, without miracle, without extravagance.  108
  The first distinction among men, and the first consideration that gave one precedence over another, was doubtless the advantage of beauty.  109
  The first law that ever God gave to man was a law of pure obedience; it was a commandment naked and simple, wherein man had nothing to inquire after, or to dispute, forasmuch as to obey is the proper office of a rational soul, acknowledging a heavenly superior and benefactor. From obedience and submission spring all other virtues, as all sin does from self-opinion.  110
  The good opinion of the vulgar is injurious.  111
  The height and value of true virtue consists in the facility, utility, and pleasure of its exercise; so far from difficulty, that boys, as well as men, and the innocent as well as the subtle, may make it their own; and it is by order and good conduct, and not by force, that it is to be acquired.  112
  The lack of wealth is easily repaired; but the poverty of the soul is irreparable.  113
  The land of marriage has this peculiarity: that strangers are desirous of inhabiting it, while its natural inhabitants would willingly be banished from thence.  114
  The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom.  115
  The most manifest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness; her state is like that of things in the regions above the moon, always clear and serene.  116
  The most regular and most perfect soul in the world has but too much to do to keep itself upright from being overthrown by its own weakness.  117
  The most universal quality is diversity.  118
  The premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty; he who has learnt to die has forgot to serve.  119
  The publick weal requires that a man should betray, and lye, and massacre.  120
  The reason why borrowed books are so seldom returned to their owners is that it is much easier to retain the books than what is in them.  121
  The receipts of cookery are swelled to a volume, but a good stomach excels them all; to which nothing contributes more than industry and temperance.  122
  The recognition of virtue is not less valuable from the lips of the man who hates it, since truth forces him to acknowledge it; and though he may be unwilling to take it into his inmost soul, he at least decks himself out in its trappings.  123
  The secret counsels of princes are a troublesome burden to such as have only to execute them.  124
  The shortest way to arrive at glory should be to do that for conscience which we do for glory. And the virtue of Alexander appears to me with much less vigor in his theater than that of Socrates in his mean and obscure employment. I can easily conceive Socrates in the place of Alexander, but Alexander in that of Socrates I cannot.  125
  The thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear, and with good reason; that passion alone, in the trouble of it, exceeding all other.  126
  The virtue of the soul does not consist in flying high, but walking orderly; its grandeur does not exercise itself in grandeur, but in mediocrity.  127
  The vulgar and common esteem is seldom happy in hitting right; and I am much mistaken if, amongst the writings of my time, the worst are not those which have most gained the popular applause.  128
  The want of goods is easily repaired, but the poverty of the soul is irreparable.  129
  The way of the world is to make laws, but follow customs.  130
  There are as many and innumerable degrees of wit, as there are cubits between this and heaven.  131
  There is no man so good, that so squares all his thoughts and actions to the laws, that he is not faulty enough to deserve hanging ten times in his life. Nay, and such a one, too, as it were great pity to make away, and very unjust to punish. And such a one there may be, as has no way offended the laws, who nevertheless would not deserve the character of a virtuous man, and that philosophy would justly condemn to be whipped; so unequal and perplexed is this relation.  132
  There is no passion that so much transports men from their right judgments as anger. No one would demur upon punishing a judge with death who should condemn a criminal upon the account of his own choler; why then should fathers and pedants be any more allowed to whip and chastise children in their anger? It is then no longer correction but revenge. Chastisement is instead of physic to children; and should we suffer a physician who should be animated against and enraged at his patient?  133
  There is no virtue which does not rejoice a well-descended nature; there is a kind of I know not what congratulation in well-doing, that gives us an inward satisfaction, and a certain generous boldness that accompanies a good conscience.  134
  There is not one of us that would not be worse than kings, if so continually corrupted as they are with a sort of vermin called flatterers.  135
  There is nothing of evil in life for him who rightly comprehends that death is no evil; to know how to die delivers us from all subjection and constraint.  136
  There is nothing which so poisons princes as flattery, nor anything whereby wicked men more easily obtain credit and favor with them.  137
  There never was in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs, or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity.  138
  Those who give the first shock to a state are naturally the first to be overwhelmed in its ruin. The fruits of public commotion are seldom enjoyed by the man who was the first to set it a going; he only troubles the water for another’s net.  139
  Those who labor to make human actions harmonize, find great difficulty in piecing them together; for, in general, they contradict each other.  140
  Time steals away without any inconvenience.  141
  To divert myself from a troublesome fancy, it is but to run to my books: they presently fix me to them, and drive the other out of my thoughts, and do not mutiny to see that I have only recourse to them for want of other more real, natural, and lively conveniences: they always receive me with the same kindness.  142
  To how many blockheads of my time has a cold and taciturn demeanor procured the credit of prudence and capacity!  143
  Truth and reason are common to everyone, and are no more his who spake them first than his who speaks them after.  144
  Valor is stability, not of arms and of legs, but of courage and the soul.  145
  Vexations may be petty, but they are vexations still.  146
  Vice leaves repentance in the soul, like an ulcer in the flesh, which is always scratching and lacerating itself; for reason effaces all other griefs and sorrows, but it begets that of repentance, which is so much the more grievous, by reason it springs within, as the cold and hot of fevers are more sharp than those that only strike upon the outward skin.  147
  We are all of us richer than we think we are; but we are taught to borrow and to beg, and brought up more to make use of what is another’s than our own. Man can in nothing fix and conform himself to his mere necessity. Of pleasure, wealth and power he grasps at more than he can hold; his greediness is incapable of moderation.  148
  We are neither obstinately nor wilfully to oppose evils, nor truckle under them for want of courage, but that we are naturally to give way to them, according to their condition and our own, we ought to grant free passage to diseases; and I find they stay less with me who let them alone. And I have lost those which are reputed the most tenacious and obstinate of their own defervescence, without any help or art, and contrary to their rules. Let us a little permit nature to take her own way; she better understands her own affairs than we.  149
  We are never present with, but always beyond ourselves. Fear, desire, and hope are still pushing us on towards the future.  150
  We call comeliness a mischance in the first respect, which belongs principally to the face.  151
  We commend a horse for his strength, and sureness of foot, and not for his rich caparisons; a greyhound for his share of heels, not for his fine collar; a hawk for her wing, not for her jesses and bells. Why, in like manner, do we not value a man for what is properly his own? He has a great train, a beautiful palace, so much credit, so many thousand pounds a year, and all these are about him, but not in him.  152
  We do not correct the man we hang; we correct others by him.  153
  We have more poets than judges and interpreters of poetry. It is easier to write an indifferent poem than to understand a good one. There is, indeed, a certain low and moderate sort of poetry, that a man may well enough judge by certain rules of art; but the true, supreme, and divine poesy is equally above all rules and reason. And whoever discerns the beauty of it with the most assured and most steady sight sees no more than the quick reflection of a flash of lightning.  154
  We hold death, poverty, and grief for our principal enemies; but this death, which some repute the most dreadful of all dreadful things, who does not know that others call it the only secure harbor from the storms and tempests of life, the sovereign good of nature, the sole support of liberty, and the common and sudden remedy of all evils?  155
  We must learn to suffer what we cannot evade.  156
  We ought to love temperance for itself, and in obedience to God who has commanded it and chastity; but what I am forced to by catarrhs, or owe to the stone, is neither chastity nor temperance.  157
  We should ask not who is the most learned, but who is the best learned.  158
  We wake sleeping, and sleep waking. I do not see so clearly in my sleep; but as to my being awake, I never found it clear enough and free from clouds.  159
  Whatever is preached to us, and whatever we learn, we should still remember that it is man that gives, and man that receives; it is a mortal hand that presents it to us, it is a mortal hand that accepts it.  160
  Whatever the benefits of fortune are, they yet require a palate fit to relish and taste them; it is fruition, and not possession, that renders us happy.  161
  When all is summed up, a man never speaks of himself without loss; his accusations of himself are always believed, his praises never.  162
  When I play with my cat, who knows whether I do not make her more sport than she makes me?  163
  Who is it that does not voluntarily exchange his health, his repose, and his very life for reputation and glory? The most useless, frivolous, and false coin that passes current among us.  164
  Who is only good that others may know it, and that he may be the better esteemed when ’tis known, who will do well but upon condition that his virtue may be known to men, is one from whom much service is not to be expected.  165
  Wit is a dangerous weapon, even to the possessor, if he knows not how to use it discreetly.  166
  Women are more susceptible to pain than to pleasure.  167
 
 
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