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Quotes of the day: Nicolas Chamfort
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Published Sunday, April 05, 2015 @ 7:03 PM EDT
Apr 05 2015

Sébastien-Roch Nicolas, also known as Chamfort (April 6, 1741 – April 13, 1794), was a French writer, best known for his witty epigrams and aphorisms. He was secretary to Louis XVI's sister, and of the Jacobin club. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)

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A good number of works owe their success to the mediocrity of their authors' ideas, which match the mediocrity of those of the general public.

A man is not necessarily intelligent because he has plenty of ideas, any more than he is a good general because he has plenty of soldiers.

A philosopher told me that, having examined the civil and political order of societies, he now studied nothing except the savages in the books of explorers, and children in everyday life.

A witty woman once told me something which may well be the genuine secret of her sex: that in choosing a lover each one of her kind takes more account of how other women regard him than of how she regards him herself.

After a certain age, any new friends we make in our attempt to replace the ones we've lost are like glass eyes, false teeth and wooden legs.

An economist is a surgeon with an excellent scalpel and a rough- edged lancet, who operates beautifully on the dead and tortures the living.

And so I leave this world, where the heart must either break or turn to lead. (Suicide note)

Anyone who relies too heavily on reason to achieve happiness, who analyses it, who, so to speak, quibbles over his enjoyment and can accept only refined pleasures, ends up not having any at all. He's like a man who wants to get rid of all the lumps in his mattress and eventually ends up sleeping on bare boards.

Anyone whose needs are small seems threatening to the rich, because he's always ready to escape their control.

Both the court and the general public give a conventional value to men and things, and then are surprised to find themselves deceived by it. This is as if arithmeticians should give a variable an arbitrary value to the figures in a sum, and then, after restoring their true and regular value in the addition, be astonished at the incorrectness of their answer.

Chance is a nickname for Providence.

Economists are surgeons... who operate beautifully on the dead and torment the living.

Every day I add to the list of things I refuse to discuss. The wiser the man, the longer the list.

Few people are prepared to use their reason without fear or favor, or bold enough to apply it relentlessly to every moral, political and social issue: to kings and ministers, to men in high places... And if we don't, we're doomed to remain mediocre.

Good taste, tact, and propriety have more in common than men of letters affect to believe. Tact is good taste applied to bearing and conduct, and propriety is good taste applied to conversation.

Having lots of ideas doesn't mean you're clever, any more than having lots of soldiers means you're a good general.

High society is a poor play, a bad, boring opera, made slightly better by its staging, costumes and scenery.

I believe that illusions are necessary to man, yet live without illusion; I believe that the passions are more profitable than reason, and yet no longer know what passion is.

I once read that there's nothing worse for everyone concerned than a reign that's lasted too long. I've also heard that God is eternal.

I only study the things I like; I apply my mind only to matters that interest me. They'll be useful- or useless- to me or to others in due course, I'll be given- or not given- the opportunity of benefiting from what I've learned. In any case, I'll have enjoyed the inestimable advantage of doing things I like doing and following my own inclinations.

I've destroyed my passions, rather like a violent man who, finding he can't control his horse, kills it.

In great affairs men show themselves as they wish to be seen; in small things they show themselves as they are.

In the world you have three sorts of friends: your friends who love you, your friends who do not care about you and your friends who hate you.

It is safe to wager that every public idea and every accepted convention is sheer foolishness, because it has suited the majority.

Love is like epidemic diseases. The more one fears it, the more likely one is to contract it.

Love, a pleasant folly; ambition, a serious stupidity.

Middle-class women who entertain the hope or fancy of being something in the world, lose Nature's happiness and miss Society's. They are the most unfortunate creatures I have known.

Money is the greatest concern for small characters, but is nothing but the smallest for great characters.

Most social institutions seem to be designed to keep man in a state of intellectual and emotional mediocrity that makes him more fit to govern or be governed.

My whole life is woven of threads which are in blatant contrast to my principles.

Nature didn't tell me 'Don't be poor'; and certainly didn't say: 'Get rich'; but she did shout: 'Always be independent!'

People are always annoyed by men of letters who retreat from the world; they expect them to continue to show interest in society even though they gain little benefit from it. They would like to force them be present when lots are being drawn in a lottery for which they have no tickets.

Petty souls are more susceptible to ambition than great ones, just as straw or thatched cottages burn more easily than palaces.

Poets, orators, even philosophes, say the same things about fame we were told as boys to encourage us to win prizes. What they tell children to make them prefer being praised to eating jam tarts is the same idea constantly drummed into us to encourage us to sacrifice our real interests in the hope of being praised by our contemporaries or by posterity.

Poverty puts crime at a discount.

Public opinion reigns in society because stupidity reigns amongst the stupid.

Running a house should be left to innkeepers.

Society is not, as is commonly supposed, the development of nature, but rather her dismantling and entire recasting. It is a second building made from the ruins of the first.

Stubbornness equals character roughly as lust equals love.

The art of the parenthesis is one of the great secrets of eloquence in Society.

The most completely wasted of all days is that in which we have not laughed.

The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed.

The only thing that stops God from sending another flood is that the first one was useless.

The only thing that stops God sending a second Flood is that the first one was useless.

The public is governed as it reasons; its own prerogative is foolish speech and that of its governors is foolish action.

The things you know best are: first, those you know intuitively; second, those you've learned from experience; third, those you've learned not from but through books and the ideas they've inspired in you; and finally, those you've learned in books and from your teachers.

There are girls who manage to sell themselves, whom no one would take as gifts.

There are more fools than wise men, and even in a wise man there is more folly than wisdom.

There are well-dressed foolish ideas just as there are well-dressed fools.

There is a kind of harmful modesty which... sometimes affects men of superior character to their detriment by keeping them in a state of mediocrity. I am reminded of the remark that a certain gentleman of acknowledged eminence once made at luncheon to some persons of the Court, 'How bitterly I regret the time I wasted merely to learn how superior I am to all of you!'

Unfortunately for mankind- and perhaps fortunately for tyrants- the poor and downtrodden lack the instinct or pride of the elephant, who refuses to breed in captivity.


Categories: Nicolas Chamfort, Quotes of the day


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