MONTAIGNE, Michel E. de Quotes
(1533-1592), French essayist
Few men are admired by their servants.
Ambition is not a vice of little people.
Whatever are the benefits of fortune, they yet require a palate fit to relish and taste them.
He who establishes his argument by noise and command, shows that his reason is weak.
The highest wisdom is continual cheerfulness; such a state, like the region above the moon, is always clear and serene.
Confidence in another man's virtue, is no slight evidence of one's own.
It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.
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.
The way of the world is to make laws, but follow customs.
It is not death, it is dying that alarms me.
He who should teach men to die, would, at the same time, teach them to live.
Know thyself and do thine own work, says Plato; and each includes the other and covers the whole duty of man.
When all is summed up, a man never speaks of himself without loss; his accusations of himself are always believed; his praises never.
Other passions have objects to flatter them, and which 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.
Lovers are angry, reconciled, entreat, thank, appoint, and finally speak all things by their eyes.
If falsehood had, like truth, but one face only, we should be upon better terms; for we should then take the contrary to what the liar says for certain truth; but the reverse of truth hath a hundred figures, and is a field indefinite without bound or limit.
It is the rule of rules, and the general law of all laws, that every person should observe the fashions of the place where he is.
Fortune, to show us her power, and abate our presumption, seeing she could not make fools wise, has made them fortunate.
He that first likened glory to a shadow, did better than he was aware of; they are both vain.—Glory, also, like the shadow, goes sometimes before the body, and sometimes in length infinitely exceeds it.
All other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not honesty and good-nature.
'Tis a cowardly and servile humor to hide and disguise a man's self under a visor, and not to dare to show himself what he is. By that our followers are trained up to treachery. Being brought up to speak what is not true, they make no conscience of a lie.
'Tis sad work to be at that pass, that the best trial of truth must be the multitude of believers, in a crowd where the number of fools so much exceeds that of the wise.
The ignorance that knows itself, and judges and condemns itself, is not an absolute ignorance; which to be, it must be ignorant of itself.
There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the law, would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.
The most profound joy has more of gravity than of gaiety in it.
To know by rote is no knowledge; it is only a retention of what is entrusted to the memory. That which a man truly knows may be disposed of without regard to the author, or reference to the book from whence he had it.
The laws keep up their credit, not because they are all just, but because they are laws. This is the mystical foundation of their authority.
There have been many laws made by men which swerve from honesty, reason, and the dictates of nature. By the law of arms he is degraded from all honor who puts up with an affront; and by the civil law, he that takes vengeance for it, incurs a capital punishment; he that seeks redress by law for an affront is disgraced; and he that seeks redress not in this way is punished by the laws.
We should not ask who is the most learned, but who is the best learned.
All other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not the science of honesty and good nature.
I observe in all my travels, this custom—ever to learn something from the information of those with whom I confer, which is the best school of all others, and to put my company upon those subjects they are best able to speak of: for it often falls out, that, on the contrary, every one will rather choose to be prating of another man's province than his own, thinking it so much new reputation acquired.
Learning is a dangerous weapon, and apt to wound its master if it be wielded by a feeble hand, or by one not well acquainted with its use.
The finest lives, in my opinion, are those who rank in the common model, and with the human race, but without miracle, without extravagance.
After a tongue has once got the knack of lying, 'tis 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.
He who has not a good memory should never take upon him the trade of lying.
Lying is a hateful and accursed vice. We have no other tie upon one another, but our word. If we did but discover the horror and consequences of it, we should pursue it with fire and sword, and more justly than other crimes.
Malice sucks up the greater part of her own venom, and poisons herself.
A well bred man is always sociable and complaisant.
The bitterness of the potion, and the abhorrence of the patient are necessary circumstances to the operation. It must be something to trouble and disturb the stomach that must purge and cure it.
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.
There is nothing so little to be expected or hoped for from this many headed monster, when incensed, as humanity and good nature; it is much more capable of alarm and fear.
The first law that ever God gave to man, was a law of obedience; it was a commandment pure and simple, wherein man had nothing to inquire after or to dispute, for as much 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 and self-will.
Obstinacy and heat in argument are surest proofs of folly. Is there anything so stubborn, obstinate, disdainful, contemplative, grave, or serious, as an ass?
Obstinacy and contention are common qualities, most appearing in, and best becoming, a mean and illiterate soul.
There never was in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs or two grains. The most universal quality is diversity.
We only toil and labor to stuff the memory, and in the mean time leave the conscience and understanding unfurnished and void. As old birds who fly abroad to forage for grain, bring it home in their beak, without tasting it themselves, to feed their young, so our pedants go picking knowledge here and there, out of several authors, and hold it at their tongues' end, only to distribute it among their pupils.
Admiration is the foundation of all philosophy; investigation the progress; and ignorance the end.
I look upon it as an equal injustice to loath natural pleasures as to be too much in love with them.
We have more poets than judges and interpreters of poetry.—It is easier to write an indifferent poem than to understand a good one.
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.
Every period of life has its peculiar prejudice; whoever saw old age that did not applaud the past, and condemn the present times?
We are never present with, but always beyond ourselves.—Fear, desire, and hope are still pushing us on toward the future.
We do not aim to correct the man we hang; we correct and warn others by him.
I have only made a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the thread that ties them together.
I quote others only the better to express myself.
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.
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.
Plenty and indigence depend upon the opinion everyone has of them; and riches, like glory or health, have no more beauty or pleasure, than their possessor is pleased to lend them.
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.
I look upon the too good opinion that man has of himself, as the nursing mother of all false opinions, both public and private.
I study myself more than any other subject; it is my metaphysic, and my physic.
A man's accusations of himself are always believed; his praises of self never.
Men throw themselves on foreign assistances to spare their own, which, after all, are the only certain and sufficient ones.
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.
In the education of children there is nothing like alluring the interest and affection; otherwise you only make so many asses laden with books.
A tutor should not be continually thundering instruction into the ears of his pupil, as if he were pouring it through a funnel, but induce him to think, to distinguish, and to find out things for himself; sometimes opening the way, at other times leaving it for him to open; and so accommodate his precepts to the capacity of his pupil.
One telling Socrates that such an one was nothing improved by his travels, "I very well believe it," said he, "for he took himself along with him."
The estimate and valor of a man consists in the heart and in the will; there his true honor lies. Valor is stability, not of arms and legs, but of courage and the soul; it does not lie in the valor of our horse, nor of our arms, but in ourselves. He that falls obstinate in his courage, if his legs fail him, fights upon his knees.
Valor hath its bound, as well as other virtues, which once transgressed, the next step is into the territories of vice, so that, by having too large a proportion of this heroic virtue, unless a man be very perfect in its limits, which, on the confines, are very hard to discern, he may, unawares, run into temerity, obstinacy, and folly.
We cannot be held to what is beyond our strength and means; for at times the accomplishment and execution may not be in our power, and indeed there is nothing really in our own power except the will: on this are necessarily based and founded all the principles that regulate the duty of man.
As fermenting in a vessel works up to the top whatever it has in the bottom, so wine, in those who have drunk beyond measure, vents the most inward secrets.
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.
People give the name of zeal to their propensity to mischief and violence, though it is not the cause, but their interest that inflames them.
I like men who are temperate and moderate in everything. An excessive zeal for that which is good, though it may not be offensive to me, at all events raises my wonder, and leaves me in a difficulty how I should call it.