Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Johann Kaspar Lavater

Swiss-born German Theologian, Poet, Physiognomist

"A great passion has no partner."

"A sneer is often the sign of heartless malignity."

"All belief that does not render us more happy, more free, more loving, more active, more calm, is, I fear, an erroneous and superstitious belief."

"Calmness of will is a sign of grandeur. The vulgar, far from hiding their will, blab their wishes. A single spark of occasion discharges the child of passions into a thousand crackers of desire."

"As a man’s salutation, so is the total of his character; in nothing do we lay ourselves so open as in our manner of meeting and salutation."

"Call him wise whose actions, words, and steps are all a clear because to a clear why."

"Defeat serves to enlighten us."

"Close thine ear against him that shall open his mouth secretly against another. If thou receivest not his words, they fly back and wound the reporter. If thou dost receive them, they fly forward and wound the receiver."

"Genius always gives its best at first; prudence, at last."

"Happy the heart to whom God has given enough strength and courage to suffer for Him, to find happiness in simplicity and the happiness of others."

"He alone has energy that cannot be deprived of it."

"He alone is a man who can resist the genius of the age, the tone of fashion, with vigorous simplicity and modest courage."

"He can feel no little wants who is in pursuit of grandeur."

"Desire is the uneasiness a man finds in himself upon the absence of anything whose present enjoyment carries the idea of delight with it."

"Depend on no man, on no friend but him who can depend on himself. He only who acts conscientiously toward himself, will act so toward others."

"Each heart is a world. You find all within yourself that you find without. To know yourself you have only to set down a true statement of those that ever loved or hated you."

"He is incapable of truly good action who finds not a pleasure in contemplating the good actions of others."

"He knows not how to speak who cannot be silent; still less how to act with vigor and decision. Who hastens to the end is silent; loudness is impotence."

"He scatters enjoyment who can enjoy much."

"He surely is most in need of another's patience, who has none of his own."

"He who always seeks more light the more he finds, and finds more the more he seeks, is one of the few happy mortals who take and give in every point of time. The tide and ebb of giving and receiving is the sum of human happiness, which he alone enjoys who always wishes to acquire new knowledge, and always finds it."

"He who gives himself airs of importance exhibits the credentials of impotence."

"He who has not forgiven an enemy has never yet tasted one of the most sublime enjoyments of life."

"He who is passionate and hasty is generally honest. It is your cool, dissembling hypocrite of whom you should beware."

"He who sedulously attends, pointedly asks, calmly speaks, coolly answers, and ceases when he has no more to say, is in possession of some of the best requisites of conversation."

"He who, silent, loves to be with us, and loves us in our silence, has touched one of the keys that ravish hearts."

"How few are our real wants! How easy it is to satisfy them! Our imaginary ones are boundless and insatiable... He can feel no little wants who is in pursuit of grandeur."

"How few our real wants, and how vast our imaginary ones!"

"Humility and love are the essence of true religion; the humble formed to adore; the loving to associate with eternal love."

"If you are pleased at finding faults, you are displeased at finding perfections."

"Just so far as we are pleased at finding faults, are we displeased at finding perfection."

"Loudness is impotence."

"Malice is poisoned by her own venom."

"Obstinacy is the strength of the weak. Firmness founded upon principle, upon the truth and right, order and law, duty and generosity, is the obstinacy of sages."

"Superstition always inspires littleness, religion grandeur of mind; the superstitious raises being inferior to himself to deities."

"The enemy of art is the enemy of nature; art is nothing but the highest sagacity and exertions of human nature; and what nature will be honor who honors not the human?"

"The freer you feel yourself in the presence of another, the more free is he."

"The great rule of moral conduct is, next to God, to respect time."

"The manner of giving shows the character of the giver more than the gift itself."

"The mingled incentives which lead to action are often too subtle and lie too deep for us to analyze."

"The miser robs himself."

"The more honesty a man has, the less he affects the air of a saint."

"The most stormy ebullitions of passion, from blasphemy to murder, are less terrific than one single act of cool villainy; a still rabies is more dangerous than the paroxysms of a fever. Fear the boisterous savage of passion less than the sedately grinning villain."

"The policy of adapting one’s self to circumstances makes all ways smooth."

"The proverbial wisdom of the populace in the street, on the roads, and in the markets instructs the ear of him who studies man more fully than a thousand rules ostentatiously displayed."

"There are many kinds of smiles, each having a distinct character. Some announce goodness and sweetness, others betray sarcasm, bitterness, and pride; some soften the countenance by their languishing tenderness, others brighten by their spiritual vivacity."

"There is no mortal truly wise and restless at once; wisdom is the repose of minds."

"Thinkers are scarce as gold; but he whose thoughts embrace all his subject, and who pursues it uninterruptedly and fearless of consequences, is a diamond of enormous size."

"Those who speak always and those who never speak are equally unfit for friendship. A good proportion of the talent of listening and speaking is the base of social virtues."

"Thousands are hated, but none is ever loved without a real cause."