Great Throughts Treasury

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

Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

British Diplomat, Member of Parliament and British Envoy at the Court of Saxony in Dresden

"People hate those who make them feel their own inferiority."

"A man is fit for neither business nor pleasure, who either cannot, or does not, command and direct his attention to the present object, and, in some degree, banish for that time all other objects from his thoughts."

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

"Advice is seldom welcome; and those who want it the most always like it the least. "

"Absolute power can only be supported by error, ignorance and prejudice. "

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

"Gratitude is a burden upon our imperfect nature, and we are but too willing to ease ourselves of it, or at least to lighten it as much as we can. "

"Honest error is to be pitied not ridiculed. "

"Be wiser than other people if you can; but do not tell them so. "

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

"Choose your pleasures for yourself, and do not let them be imposed upon you. Follow nature and not fashion: weigh the present enjoyment of your pleasures against the necessary consequences of them, and then let your own common sense determine your choice. "

"Common sense (which, in truth, is very uncommon) is the best sense I know of: abide by it; it will counsel you best. "

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

"I wish to God that you had as much pleasure in following my advice, as I have in giving it to you. "

"Idleness is only the refuge of weak."

"In matters of religion and matrimony I never give any advice because I will not have anybody's torments in this world or the next laid to my charge. "

"In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal and so ill-bred as audible laughter."

"In seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou hast attained it - thou art a fool. "

"In truth, whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well; and nothing can be done well without attention. "

"Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no delay, no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. "

"Do not force people to listen to you, because if people do not want to listen to you, it's better to shut up. "

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. "

"Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. "

"Many a man would rather you heard his story than grant his request. "

"Most maxim-mongers have preferred the prettiness to the justness of a thought, and the turn to the truth but I have refused myself to everything that my own experience did not justify and confirm. "

"Never seem more learned than the people you are with. Wear your learning like a pocket watch and keep it hidden. Do not pull it out to count the hours, but give the time when you are asked. "

"Pleasure is the rock which most young people split upon: they launch out with crowded sails in quest of it, but without a compass to direct their course, or reason sufficient to steer the vessel; for want of which, pain and shame, instead of pleasure, are the returns of their voyage. "

"Ridicule is the best test of truth. "

"The attitude of the manners should adorn knowledge and smooth the path in the association. "

"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. "

"Lay down a method also for your reading; let it be in a consistent and consecutive course, and not in that desultory and unmethodical manner, in which many people read scraps of different authors, upon different subjects. "

"The knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet."

"The more one works, the more willing one is to work. "

"The world can doubtless never be well known by theory: practice is absolutely necessary. "

"There is nothing that people bear more impatiently, or forgive less, than contempt; and an injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult. "

"There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time. "

"Vice, in its true light, is so deformed, that it shocks us at first sight; and would hardly ever seduce us, if it did not at first wear the mask of some virtue. "

"Vicious minds abound with anger and revenge are incapable of feeling the pleasure of forgiving their enemies. "

"Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket and do not pull it out and strike it, merely to show that you have one."

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

"Words are the dress of thoughts; which should no more be presented in rags, tatters, and dirt than your person should. "

"Gratitude is a burden upon our imperfect nature, and we are but too willing to ease ourselves of it, or at least to lighten it as much as we can."

"The herd of mankind can hardly be said to think; their notions are almost all adoptive; and, in general, I believe it is better that it should be so; as such common prejudices contribute more to order and quiet, than their own separate reasonings would do, uncultivated and unimproved as they are."

"At any age we must cherish illusions, consolatory or merely pleasant; in youth, they are omnipresent; in old age we must search for them, or even invent them. But with all that, boredom is their natural and inevitable accompaniment."

"A certain degree of ceremony is a necessary outwork of manners, as well as of religion; it keeps the forward and petulant at a proper distance, and is a very small restraint to the sensible and to the well-bred part of the world."

"The sure characteristic of a sound and strong mind is, to find, in everything, those certain bounds, quos ultra citrave nequit consistere rectum. These boundaries are marked out by a very fine line, which only good sense and attention can discover; it is much too fine for vulgar eyes. In manners, this line is good breeding; beyond it, is troublesome ceremony; short of it, is unbecoming negligence and inattention. In morals, it divides ostentatious Puritanism from criminal relaxation; in religion, superstition from impiety; and, in short, every virtue from its kindred vice or weakness."

"I have been too long acquainted with human nature to have great regard for human testimony; and a very great degree of probability, supported by various concurrent circumstances, conspiring in one point, will have much greater weight with me, than human testimony upon oath, or even upon honour; both of which I have frequently seen considerably warped by private views."

"Little minds mistake little objects for great ones, and lavish away upon the former that time and attention which only the latter deserve. To such mistakes we owe the numerous and frivolous tribe of insect-mongers, shell-mongers, and pursuers and driers of butterflies, etc. The strong mind distinguishes, not only between the useful and the useless, but likewise between the useful and the curious."

"Our self-love is mortified, when we think our opinions, and even our tastes, customs, and dresses, either arraigned or condemned; as, on the contrary, it is tickled and flattered by approbation."

"You must be respectful and assenting, but without being servile and abject. You must be frank, but without indiscretion, and close, without being costive. You must keep up dignity of character, without the least pride of birth, or rank. You must be gay, within all the bounds of decency and respect; and grave, without the affectation of wisdom, which does not become the age of twenty. You must be essentially secret, without being dark and mysterious. You must be firm, and even bold, but with great seeming modesty."