Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Jean de La Bruyère

French Writer, Moralist, "The Theophrastus of France"

"[Fear] From a distance it is something; and nearby it is nothing."

"Beware so long as you live, of judging people by appearances."

"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 the 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 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."

"Every flatterer lives at the expense of his listener."

"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."

"Gentleness accomplishes more than violence."

"Habit, to which all of us are more or less slaves."

"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."

"I am a fellow citizen of all men who think. Truth; that is my country."

"If it is usual to be deeply moved by rare things, why are we so little moved by virtue?"

"If one wishes to be esteemed, one must live with estimable people."

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

"It is boorish to give with a bad grace. If the act of giving entails an effort, what matters the additional cost of a smile?"

"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 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."

"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."

"Liberality consists less in giving profusely, than in giving judiciously."

"Never judge people by their appearance."

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

"Nothing is as dangerous as an ignorant friend; a wise enemy is to be preferred."

"Nothing is so oppressive as a secret."

"Our enemy is our master."

"Patience and time do more than strength or passion."

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

"Profound ignorance makes a man dogmatic. The man who knows nothing thinks he is teaching others what he has just learned himself; the man who knows a great deal can't imagine that what he is saying is not common knowledge, and speaks indifferently."

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

"Religious contention is the devil’s harvest."

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

"The greater the obstacle, the stronger the desire."

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

"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 pleasure of others."

"The slave has but one master; the ambitious man has as many as there are people useful to his fortune."

"The strongest passion is fear."

"There is a false modesty, which is vanity; a false glory which is levity; a false grandeur, which is meanness; a false virtue, which is hypocrisy, and a false wisdom, which is prudery."

"We believe easily what we fear or what we desire."

"We hope to grow old, and yet we fear old age; that is, we are willing to live, and afraid to die."

"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 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 perceive when love begins and when it declines by our embarrassment when alone together."

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

"We seldom repent of speaking little, very often of speaking too much; a vulgar and trite maxim, which all the world knows, but which all the world does not practice."

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

"When a secret is revealed, it is the fault of the man who confided it."

"When it is our duty to do an act of justice it should be done promptly. To delay is injustice."

"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 slave has but one master; an ambitious man has as many masters as there are people who may be useful in bettering the position."