Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Théophile Gautier, fully Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier, aka Le Bon Theo

French Poet, Novelist, Art and Literary Critic, and Dramatist

"To love is to admire with the heart; to admire is to love with the mind."

"To renounce your individuality, to see with another's eyes, to hear with another's ears, to be two and yet but one, to so melt and mingle that you no longer know you are you or another, to constantly absorb and constantly radiate, to reduce earth, sea and sky and all that in them is to a single being so wholly that nothing whatever is withheld, to be prepared at any moment for sacrifice, to double your personality in bestowing it - that is love."

"A cat will be your friend, but never your slave."

"Although it was only six o'clock, the night was already dark. The fog, made thicker by its proximity to the Seine, blurred every detail with its ragged veils, punctured at various distances by the reddish glow of lanterns and bars of light escaping from illuminated windows. The road was soaked with rain and glittered under the street-lamps, like a lake reflecting strings of lights. A bitter wind, heavy with icy particles, whipped at my face, its howling forming the high notes of a symphony whose bass was played by swollen waves crashing into the piers of the bridges below. The evening lacked none of winter's rough poetry."

"Any man who does not have his inner world to translate is not an artist."

"Art is beauty, the perpetual invention of detail, the choice of words, the exquisite care of execution."

"Ask the poetry of sentimentalism ... this is not it. Radiant words, words of light ... with a rhythm and music, that's what it is poetry."

"Books follow morals, and not morals books."

"Brevity never fatigues; therefore, brevity is always a welcome guest."

"Chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when he does not want to sign."

"Critical lice are like body lice, which desert corpses to seek the living."

"Decadent style is ingenious, complicated, learned, full of shades of meaning and research, always pushing further the limits of language... forcing itself to express in thought that which is most ineffable, and in form the vaguest and most fleeting contours; listening that it may translate them to the subtle confidences of the neuropath, to the avowals of aging and depraved passion, and to the singular hallucinations of the fixed idea verging on madness... In opposition to the classic style, it admits of shading, and these shadows teem and swarm with the larvae of superstitions, the haggard phantoms of insomnia, nocturnal terrors, remorse which starts and turns back at the slightest noise, monstrous dreams stayed only by impotence, obscure phantasies at which daylight would stand amazed, and all that the soul conceals of the dark, the unformed, and the vaguely horrible, in its deepest and furthest recesses."

"Down comes rain drop, bubble follows; On the house-top one by one Flock the synagogue of swallows, Met to vote that autumn's gone."

"Eyes so transparent that through them the soul is seen"

"Fortune loves to give bedroom slippers to people with wooden legs, and gloves to those with no hands."

"High art alone is eternal and the bust outlives the city."

"I am a man for whom the outside world exists."

"I am one of those for whom superfluity is a necessity."

"I had never been into society; for me the world was the enclosure of the college and the seminary. I had a vague knowledge that there was a something called woman, but I never dwelt upon the subject; I was absolutely innocent. I saw my infirm old mother only twice a year; that was the extent of my connection with the outside world."

"I have kept thee long in waiting, dear Romuald, and thou mayst well have thought that I had forgotten thee. But I have come from a long distance and from a place from which no one has ever before returned; there is neither moon nor sun in the country from which I come; there is naught but space and shadow; neither road nor path; no ground for the foot, no air for the wing; and yet here I am, for love is stronger than death, and it will end by vanquishing it. Ah! what gloomy faces and what terrible things I have seen in my journeying! What a world of trouble my soul, returned to this earth by the power of my will, has had in finding its body and reinstating itself therein! What mighty efforts I had to put forth before I could raise the stone with which they had covered me! See! the palms of my poor hands are all blistered from it. Kiss them to make them well, dear love!"

"I love the crazy dreams that tames cruelty."

"I have often been charged with falsehood and hypocrisy, yet there lives not the man who would more gladly than I speak truthfully and lay bare his heart; but as I have not one idea, one feeling in common with the people who surround me, as the very first word I should speak truthfully would cause a general hue and cry, I have preferred to keep silent, or, if I do speak, to utter only stupid commonplaces which everyone has agreed to believe in."

"I seemed to hear these words at a rate of infinite sweetness, because his eyes had almost the tone, and phrases that sent me his eyes echoed in my heart as if an invisible mouth had blown in my soul."

"I was born to travel and write verse."

"If thou wilt be mine, I shall make thee happier than God Himself in His paradise. The angels themselves will be jealous of thee. Tear off that funeral shroud in which thou about to wrap thyself. I am Beauty, I am Youth, I am Life. Come to me! Together we shall be Love."

"If you are worthy of its affection, a cat will be your friend but never your slave."

"Instead of founding a Monthyon prize for the reward of virtue, I would rather bestow -- like Sardanapalus, that great, misunderstood philosopher -- a large reward to him who should invent a new pleasure; for to me enjoyment seems to be the end of life and the only useful thing on this earth. God willed it to be so, for he created women, perfumes, light, lovely flowers, good wine, spirited horses, lapdogs, and Angora cats; for He did not say to his angels, 'Be virtuous,' but, 'Love,' and gave us lips more sensitive than the rest of the skin that we might kiss women, eyes looking upward that we might behold the light, a subtile sense of smell that we might breathe in the soul of the flowers, muscular limbs that we might press the flanks of stallions and fly swift as thought without railway or steam-kettle, delicate hands that we might stroke the long heads of greyhounds, the velvety fur of cats, and the polished shoulder of not very virtuous creatures, and, finally, granted to us alone the triple and glorious privilege of drinking without being thirsty, striking fire, and making love in all seasons, whereby we are very much more distinguished from brutes than by the custom of reading newspapers and framing constitutions."

"It is a difficult matter to gain the affection of a cat. He is a philosophical, methodical animal, tenacious of his own habits, fond of order and neatness, and disinclined to extravagant sentiment. He will be your friend, if he finds you worthy of friendship, but not your slave."

"It is gentle manners which prove so irresistible in women."

"It may well be that the pictures of Courbet, Manet, Monet and their like contain beauties which escape the notice of such old romantic heads as ours, already streaked with silver threads."

"Literature has nothing to do with usefulness; the most useful place in any house is the toilet."

"Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect."

"Nothing is truly beautiful unless it cannot be used for anything; everything that is useful is ugly because it is the expression of some need, and those of man are ignoble and disgusting, like his poor and infirm nature."

"Once a cat has given its love, what absolute confidence, what fidelity of affection! It will make itself the companion of your hours of work, of loneliness, or of sadness. It will lie the whole evening on your knee, purring and happy in your society, and leaving the company of creatures of its own society to be with you."

"One evening he was in his room, his brow pressing hard against the pane, looking, without seeing them, at the chestnut trees in the park, which had lost much of their russet-colored foliage. A heavy mist obscured the distance, and the night was falling grey rather than black, stepping cautiously with its velvet feet upon the tops of the trees. A great swan plunged and replunged amorously its neck and shoulders into the smoking water of the river, and its whiteness made it show in the darkness like a great star of snow. It was the single living being that somewhat enlivened the lonely landscape."

"Some centuries ago they had Raphael and Michael Angelo; now we have Mr. Paul Delaroche, and all because we are progressing. You brag of your Opera houses; ten Opera houses the size of yours could dance a saraband in a Roman amphitheatre. Even Mr. Martin, with his lame tiger and his poor gouty lion, as drowsy as a subscriber to the Gazette, cuts a pretty small figure by the side of a gladiator from antiquity. What are your benefit performances, lasting till two in the morning, compared with those games which lasted a hundred days, with those performances in which real ships fought real battles on a real sea; when thousands of men earnestly carved each other -- turn pale, O heroic Franconi! -- when, the sea having withdrawn, the desert appeared, with its raging tigers and lions, fearful supernumeraries that played but once; when the leading part was played by some robust Dacian or Pannonian athlete, whom it would often have been might difficult to recall at the close of the performance, whose leading lady was some splendid and hungry lioness of Numidia starved for three days? Do you not consider the clown elephant superior to Mlle. Georges? Do you believe Taglioni dances better than did Arbuscula, and Perrot better than Bathyllus? Admirable as is Bocage, I am convinced Roscius could have given him points. Galeria Coppiola played young girls' parts, when over one hundred years old; it is true that the oldest of our leading ladies is scarcely more than sixty, and that Mlle. Mars has not even progressed in that direction. The ancients had three or four thousand gods in whom they believed, and we have but one, in whom we scarcely believe. That is a strange sort of progress. Is not Jupiter worth a good deal more than Don Juan, and is he not a much greater seducer? By my faith, I know not what we have invented, or even wherein we have improved."

"Sooner barbarity than boredom."

"The arts teach and moralize by their beauty alone, not by translating a philosophical or social formula. For the truly artistic person, painting has itself as its purpose, which is quite enough."

"The cat is a dilettante in fur."

"The critic serves up his erudition in strong doses; he pours out all the knowledge he got up the day before in some library or other, and treats in heathenish fashion people at whose feet he ought to sit, and the most ignorant of whom could give points to much wiser men than he. Authors bear this sort of thing with a magnanimity and a patience that are really incomprehensible. For, after all, who are those critics, who with their trenchant tone, their dicta, might be supposed sons of the gods? They are simply fellows who were at college with us, and who have turned their studies to less account, since they have not produced anything, and can do no more than soil and spoil the works of others, like true stymphalid vampires."

"The famous courtesan Clarimonde died recently, as the result of an orgy which lasted eight days and eight nights. It was something infernally magnificent. They revived the abominations of the feasts of Belshazzar and Cleopatra. Great God! what an age this is in which we live! The guests were served by swarthy slaves speaking an unknown tongue, who to my mind had every appearance of veritable demons; the livery of the meanest among them might have served as a gala-costume for an emperor. There have always been current some very strange stories concerning this Clarimonde, and all her lovers have come to a miserable or a violent end. It has been said that she was a ghoul, a female vampire; but I believe that she was Beelzebub in person."

"The public, which has been wrong before and is wrong now, can accept only demons and angels on the stage"

"The word poet literally means maker: anything which is not well made doesn't exist."

"The years I have squandered in puerile excitement, in going hither and thither, in seeking to force nature and time, I ought to have spent in solitude and meditation, in endeavoring to make myself worthy of being loved."

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."

"This apparent hurly-burly and disorder turn out, after all, to reproduce real life with its fantastic ways more accurately than the most carefully studied out drama of manners. Every man is in himself all humanity, and if he writes what occurs to him he succeeds better than if he copies, with the help of a magnifying glass, objects placed outside of him."

"Those horses must have been Spanish jennets, born of mares mated with a zephyr; for they went as swiftly as the wind, and the moon, which had risen at our departure to give us light, rolled through the sky like a wheel detached from its carriage."

"To be beautiful, handsome, means that you possess a power which makes all smile upon and welcome you; that everybody is impressed in your favor and inclined to be of your opinion; that you have only to pass through a street or to show yourself at a balcony to make friends and to win mistresses from among those who look upon you. What a splendid, what a magnificent gift is that which spares you the need to be amiable in order to be loved, which relieves you of the need of being clever and ready to serve, which you must be if ugly, and enables you to dispense with the innumerable moral qualities which you must possess in order to make up for the lack of personal beauty."

"To extract beauty from one's own milieu is one of the most difficult tasks of art."

"What I write is not for little girls."