Great Throughts Treasury

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

Lord Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

English Statesman, Man of Letters, Orator

"Almost all men are born with every passion to some extent, but there is hardly a man who has not a dominant passion to which the others are subordinate. Discover this governing passion in every individual; and when you have found the master passion of a man, remember never to trust to him where that passion is concerned."

"A man's own good breeding is the best security against other people's ill manners."

"An injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult."

"A light supper, a good night’s sleep, and a fine morning have often made a hero of the same man who, by indigestion, a restless night, and a rainy morning, would have proved a coward."

"Be your character what it will, it will be known; and nobody will take it upon your word."

"Cautiously avoid speaking of the domestic affairs either of yourself, or of other people. Yours are nothing to them but tedious gossip; and theirs are nothing to you."

"Humanity is the peculiar characteristic of great minds; little vicious minds abound with anger and revenge, and are incapable of feeling the exact pleasure of forgiving their enemies."

"Great merit or great failings will make you respected or despised; but trifles, little attentions, mere nothings, either done or neglected, will make you either liked or disliked, in the general run of the world. Examine yourself, why you like such and such people and dislike such and such others; and you will find that those different sentiments proceed from very slight causes."

"If we do not plant knowledge when young, it will give us no shade when we are old."

"Great talents, such as honor, virtue, learning, and parts, are above the generality of the world, who neither possess them themselves, nor judge of them rightly in others; but all people are judges of the lesser talents, such as civility, affability, and an obliging, agreeable address and manner, because they feel the good effects of them, as making society easy and pleasing."

"In order to judge of the inside of others, study your own; for men in general are very much alike, and though one has one prevailing passion, and another has another, yet their operations are much the same; and whatever engages or disgusts, pleases, or offends you in others, will, mutatis mutandis, engage, disgust, please, or offend others in you."

"History is only a confused heap of facts."

"If you wish particularly to gain the good graces and affection of certain people, men or women, try to discover their most striking merit, if they have one, and their dominant weakness, for every one has his own, then do justice to the one and a little more than justice to the other."

"It is often more necessary to conceal contempt than resentment; the former is never forgiven, but the latter is sometimes forgotten."

"Men are more unwilling to have their imperfections known than their crimes."

"Nothing is more dissimilar than natural and acquired politeness. The first consists in a willing abnegation of self; the second in a compelled recollection of others."

"Most people enjoy the inferiority of their best friends."

"Most arts require long study and application; but the most useful art of all, that of pleasing, requires only desire."

"Patience is a most necessary quality for business: many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request."

"Our prejudices are our mistresses; reason is at best our wife, very often heard indeed, but seldom minded."

"One should always think of what one is about; when one is learning, one should not think of play; and when one is at play, one should not think of one's learning."

"Six, or at most seven, hour’s sleep is, for a constancy, as much as you or anybody else can want; more is only laziness and dozing, and is, I am persuaded, both unwholesome and stupefying."

"The heart never grows better by age, I fear rather worse; always harder. A young liar will be an old one; and a young knave will only be a greater knave as he grows older."

"Prepare yourself for the world, as the athletes used to do for their exercises; oil your mind and your manners, to give them the necessary suppleness and flexibility; strength alone will not do."

"Real merit of any kind cannot long be concealed; it will be discovered, and nothing can depreciate it, but a man’s exhibiting it himself. It may not always be rewarded as it ought; but it will always be known."

"The manner of your speaking is full as important as the matter."

"There never were, since the creation of the world, two cases exactly parallel."

"The scholar without good breeding is a pedant; the philosopher, a cynic; the soldier, a brute; and every man disagreeable."

"True politeness is perfect ease and freedom. It simply consists in treating others just as you love to be treated yourself."

"When a man seeks your advice he generally wants your praise."

"Wise people may say what they will, but one passion is never cured by another."

"Wrongs are often forgiven, but contempt never is. Our pride remembers it forever. It implies a discovery of weaknesses, which we are much more careful to conceal than crimes."

"Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well."

"You must look into people as well as at them."

"Young men are as apt to think themselves wise enough, as drunken men are to think themselves sober enough. They look upon spirit to be a much better thing than experience; which they call coldness. They are but half mistaken; for though spirit without experience is dangerous, experience without spirit is languid and ineffective."

"A weak mind is like a microscope, which magnifies trifling things but cannot receive great ones."

"Advice is seldom welcome, and those who need it the most, like it the least."

"A difference of opinion, though in the merest trifles, alienates little minds."

"Dispatch is the soul of business; and nothing contributes more to dispatch than method."

"Every man seeks for truth, but God only knows who has found it."

"Few people do business well who do nothing else."

"Frivolous curiosity about trifles, and laborious attentions to little objects which neither require nor deserve a moment’s thought, lower a man, who from thence is thought (and not unjustly) incapable of greater matters."

"Firmness of purpose is one of the most necessary sinews of character and one of the best instruments of success. Without it, genius wastes its efforts in a maze of inconsistencies."

"I recommend you to take care of the minutes, for hours will take care of themselves."

"Idleness is the only refuge of weak minds, and the holiday of fools."

"It is not to be imagined by how many different ways vanity defeats its own purpose."

"Judgment is not upon all occasions required, but discretion always is."

"If find, by experience, that the mind and the body are more than married, for they are most intimately united; and when the one suffers, the other sympathizes."

"Good-breeding is the result of much good sense, some good-nature, and a little self-denial for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain the same indulgence from them."

"Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give lustre, and many more people see than weigh."