Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Nicholas Boileau-Despréaux, sometimes Nicholas Desperaux or Nicolas Boileau

French Poet and Critic

"Honor is like an island, rugged and without shores; we can never re-enter it once we are on the outside."

"At times truth may not seem probable."

"A burlesque word is often a powerful sermon."

"All men are fools, and with every effort they differ only in the degree."

"A proud bigot, who is vain enough to think that he can deceive even God by affected zeal, and throwing the veil of holiness over vices, damns all mankind by the word of his power."

"A fool always finds one still more foolish to admire him."

"Attach yourself to those who advise you rather than praise you."

"Gold gives an appearance of beauty even to ugliness: but with poverty everything becomes frightful."

"Every age has its pleasures, its style of wit, and its own ways."

"Greatest fools are the most often satisfied."

"Can such bitterness enter into the heart of the devout?"

"Hasten slowly, and without losing heart, put your work twenty times upon the anvil."

"If your descent is from heroic sires, show in your life a remnant of their fires."

"In spite of every sage whom Greece can show, unerring wisdom never dwelt below; folly in all of every age we see, the only difference lies in the degree."

"It is the sin which we have not committed which seems the most monstrous."

"He who cannot limit himself will never know how to write."

"Nothing but truth is lovely, nothing fair."

"Nothing is really beautiful but truth, and truth alone is lovely."

"Praising an honest person who doesn't deserve it, always wounds them."

"Nature always springs to the surface and manages to show what she is. It is vain to stop or try to drive her back. She breaks through every obstacle, pushes forward, and at last makes for herself a way."

"Often the fear on one evil leads us into a worse."

"No one who cannot limit himself has ever been able to write."

"Something of calumny always sticks."

"The dreadful burden of having nothing to do."

"That which is repeated too often becomes insipid and tedious."

"The fear of one evil often leads us into a worse."

"The wisest man is generally he who thinks himself the least so [does not fancy that he is so at all]."

"To support those of your rights authorized by Heaven, destroy everything rather than yield; that is the spirit of the Church."

"Virtue alone is the unerring sign of a noble soul."

"The world is full of fools; and he who would not wish to see one, must not only shut himself up alone, but must also break his looking-glass."

"Whatever we conceive well [understand] we express clearly, and words flow with ease."

"When we envy another, we make their virtue our vice."

"Who is content with nothing possesses all things [little possesses everything]."

"Truth has not such an urgent air."

"Time flies and draws us with it. The moment in which I am speaking is already far from me."

"It is a terrible burden having nothing to do."

"A fool always finds a greater fool to admire him."

"A fop sometimes gives important advice."

"And the words to say it with arrive with ease."

"A warmed-up dinner was never worth much."

"At last came Malherbe, and he was the first in France to give poetry a proper flow."

"Bring your work back to the workshop twenty times. Polish it continuously, and polish it again."

"At last came Malherbe, and made verse run smoothly - the first in France to do so."

"Brimful of learning, see the pedant stride, bristling with horrid Greek, and puffed with pride! - A thousand authors he in vain has read, and with their maxims stuffed his empty head; and thinks that without Aristotle's rules, reason is blind, and common sense a fool!"

"But even trough you be sprung in direct line from Hercules, if you show a low-born meanness, that long succession of ancestors whom you disgrace are so many witnesses against you; and this grand display of their tarnished glory but serves to make your ignominy more evident."

"From grave to gay, from lively to severe."

"But satire, ever moral, ever new, Delights the reader and instructs him, too. She, if good sense refine her sterling page, Oft shakes some rooted folly of the age."

"Gold lends a touch of beauty even to the ugly."

"Every fool finds a greater one to admire them."

"Greatest fools are oft most satisfied."