Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Gustave Flaubert

French Writer, Western Novelist known for his first novel, Madame Bovary

"Deep down in her heart, she was waiting and waiting for something to happen. Like a shipwrecked mariner, she gazed out wistfully over the wide solitude of her life, if so be she might catch the white gleam of a sail away on the dim horizon. She knew not what it would be, this longed-for barque; what wind would waft it to her, or to what shores it would bear her away. She knew not if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, burdened with anguish or freighted with joy. But every morning when she awoke she hoped it would come that day. She listened to every sound, started swiftly from her bed, and could not understand why nothing happened. And then at sunset, more sad at heart than ever, she would long for the morrow to come."

"Deep down, all the while, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a sailor in distress, she kept casting desperate glances over the solitary waster of her life, seeking some white sail in the distant mists of the horizon. She had no idea by what wind it would reach her, toward what shore it would bear her, or what kind of craft it would be ? tiny boat or towering vessel, laden with heartbreaks or filled to the gunwales with rapture. But every morning when she awoke she hoped that today would be the day; she listened for every sound, gave sudden starts, was surprised when nothing happened; and then, sadder with each succeeding sunset, she longed for tomorrow."

"Did not love require, even as tropical plants, a duly prepared soil, a particular temperature? Sighs breathed beneath the moonlight, prolonged embraces, tears falling upon hands kissed in a last farewell, all the fevers of the flesh, all the languors of tender love, could not then be found apart from the balconies of noble chateaux, where time fleets by unheeded, or from boudoirs with silken hangings and luxurious carpets, from flower-stands filled with richest blooms, a bed raised upon a dais, the glitter of precious stones and the shoulder-knots of liveried flunkeys."

"Didn't love, like a plant from India, require a prepared soil, a particular temperature? Sighs in the moonlight, long embraces, tears flowing over hands yielded to a lover, all the fevers of the flesh and the languors of tenderness thus could not be separated from the balconies of great chƒteaux filled with idle amusements, a boudoir with silk blinds, a good thick carpet, full of pots of flowers, and a bed raised on a dais, nor from the sparkle of precious stones and shoulder knots on servants' livery."

"Diving into the personality of others, he forgot his own, which is the only way perhaps not suffer."

"Do not imagine you can exorcise what oppresses you in life by giving vent to it in art."

"Do you really not know, he said, that there exist souls that are ceaselessly in torment? That are driven now to dreams, now to action, driven from the purest passions to the most orgiastic pleasures? No wonder we fling ourselves into all kinds of fantasies and follies!"

"Doesn't it seem to you, asked Madame Bovary, that the mind moves more freely in the presence of that boundless expanse, that the sight of it elevates the soul and gives rise to thoughts of the infinite and the ideal?"

"Doubt... is an illness that comes from knowledge and leads to madness."

"Each dream finds at last its form;"

"Earth has its boundaries, but human stupidity is limitless."

"Egypt is a great place for contrasts: splendid things gleam in the dust."

"Emigres: Earned their livelihood by giving guitar lessons and mixing salads."

"Emma lost flesh, grew pale and haggard. With her dark, plaited hair, her large eyes, her straight nose, her bird-like and ever-silent tread, she seemed like one passing through the world without so much as touching it, bearing on her brow the shadowy promise of some glorious and heavenly destiny. She was so sad and so calm, so gentle and, at the same time, so reserved, that you felt a sort of icy charm when you were with her, the kind of shiver that comes over you in a church from the perfume of flowers and the cold of the marble. The others too came under her spell."

"Emma still had a joyless look, and, habitually, at the corners of her mouth, she had that tightness that crumples the faces of old maids and bankrupts."

"Emma too would have liked to flee from life, to be borne away in the ecstasy of love's embrace."

"England and Brittany were places one came back from. But America, the colonies, and the Antilles were lost in some unknown region on the other side of the world."

"Equality is slavery. That is why I love art."

"Evening shadows were falling; the sun?s rays, streaming horizontally through the branches, dazzled her eyes. Here and there, all around her, among the leaves and on the ground, were shimmering patches of light, as though hummingbirds had scattered their feathers in flight. Silence lay over everything; the trees seemed to be giving off something soft and sweet; she felt her heart beating again, and the blood flowing through her flesh like a river of milk. Then she heard a long, lingering, indistinct cry coming from one of the hills far beyond the forest; she listened to it in silence as it mingled like a strain of music with the last vibrations of her overwrought nerves."

"Every notary carries about inside him the debris of a poet."

"Everyone became brave from excess of terror."

"Everyone, either from modesty or egotism, hides away the best and most delicate of his soul?s possessions; to gain the esteem of others, we must only ever show our ugliest sides; this is how we keep ourselves on the common level."

"Everything depends on the value we give to things. We are the ones who make morality and virtue. The cannibal who eats his neighbor is as innocent as the child who sucks his barley-sugar."

"Everything has its compensations. The great natures which are good, are above everything generous and don?t begrudge the giving of themselves. One must laugh and weep, love, work, enjoy and suffer, in short vibrate as much as possible in all his being. That is, I think, the real human existence."

"Everything immediately surrounding her -- boring countryside, inane petty bourgeois, the mediocrity of daily life -- seemed to her the exception rather than the rule. She had been caught in it all by some accident: out beyond, there stretched as far as the eye could see the immense territory of rapture and passions. In her longing she made no difference between the pleasures of luxury and the joys of the heart, between elegant living and sensitive feeling. Didn't love, like Indian plants, require rich soils, special temperatures?"

"Emma was no asleep, she was pretending to be asleep; and, while he was dozing off at her side, she lay awake, dreaming other dreams."

"Everyone rushes wherever his instincts impel him, the populace swarms like insects over a corpse, poets pass by without having the time to sculpt their thoughts, hardly have they scribbled their ideas down on sheets of paper than the sheets are blown away; everything glitters and everything resounds in this masquerade, beneath its ephemeral royalties and its cardboard scepters, gold flows, wine cascades, cold debauchery lifts her skirts and jigs around?horror! horror! and then there hangs over it all a veil that each one grabs part of to hide himself the best he can. Derision! Horror ? horror!"

"Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry."

"Everything, even herself, was now unbearable to her. She wished that, taking wing like a bird, she could fly somewhere, far away to regions of purity, and there grow young again."

"Everyone, he thought, must have adored her; all men assuredly must have coveted her. She seemed but the more beautiful to him for this; he was seized with a lasting, furious desire for her, that inflamed his despair, and that was boundless, because it was now unrealizable."

"Everywhere was silence; a sweetness seemed to exhale from the trees. She could feel her heart as it began to beat anew, she could feel the blood suffusing her whole body like a stream of milk. And then, far, far away, beyond the wood on the hills across the valley, she heard a cry, vague and prolonged, a voice that lingered on the air, and she listened to it in silence, mingling like music with the last vibrations of her throbbing nerves."

"Exaggerated speeches hiding mediocre affections must be discounted; as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the precise measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked kettle (caldron), upon which we beat out tunes fit to make bears dance when our aim is to move the stars to pity."

"Farming -- a vocation accursed of heaven, since one never saw a millionaire involved in it."

"Financial demands, of all the rough winds that blow upon our love, (are) quite the coldest and the most biting."

"First he anointed her eyes, once so covetous of all earthly luxuries; then her nostrils, so gluttonous of caressing breezes and amorous scents; then her mouth, so prompt to lie, so defiant in pride, so loud in lust; then her hands that had thrilled to voluptuous contacts; and finally the soles of her feet, once so swift when she had hastened to slake her desires, and now never to walk again."

"Flies on the table crawled up the glasses that had not been cleared away and buzzed as they fell drowning in the dregs of the cider. The daylight which shone down the chimney imparted a velvety look to the soot in the fireplace and gave a bluish tinge to the cold ashes. Between the window and the hearth sat Emma at her needlework. She had no scarf about her neck, and tiny drops of perspiration were visible on her shoulders."

"For a long time now my heart has had its shutters closed, its steps deserted, formerly a tumultuous hotel, but now empty and echoing like a great empty tomb."

"For some men, the stronger their desire, the more difficult it is for them to act. They are hampered by mistrust of themselves, daunted by the fear of giving offence; besides, deep feelings of affection are like respectable women; they are afraid of being found out and they go through life with downcast eyes."

"For two nights F‚licit‚ never left the dead girl. She said the same prayers over and over again, sprinkled holy water on the sheets, then sat down again to watch. At the end of her first vigil, she noticed that the child's face had gone yellow, the lips were turning blue, the nose looked sharper, and the eyes were sunken. She kissed them several times, and would not have been particularly surprised if Virginie had opened them again: to minds like hers the supernatural is a simple matter. She laid her out, wrapped her in a shroud, put her in her coffin, placed a wreath on her, and spread out her hair. It was fair and amazingly long for her age. F‚licit‚ cut off a big lock, half of which she slipped into her bosom, resolving never to part with it."

"From time to time, I open a newspaper. Things seem to be proceeding at a dizzying rate. We are dancing not on the edge of a volcano, but on the wooden seat of a latrine, and it seems to me more than a touch rotten. Soon society will go plummeting down and drown in nineteen centuries of shit. There?ll be quite a lot of shouting. (1850)"

"God is in the details."

"God is only a word dreamed up to explain the world."

"For her, life was as cold as an attic with a window looking to the north, and ennui, like a spider, was silently spinning its shadowy web in every cranny of her heart."

"For every bourgeois, in the heat of youth, if only for a day, for a minute, has believed himself capable of immense passions, of heroic enterprises. The most mediocre libertine has dreamed of oriental princesses; every rotary carries about inside him the debris of a poet."

"For him the universe did not extend beyond the circumference of her petticoat."

"For now he was in one of those crises when the soul yields a blurred glimpse of all that it enfolds, like an ocean, tempest-torn, uncovering everything from the seaweed in the shallows to the sands of the abyss."

"Gradually, growing calmer, she came to see that she had been unjust to him. But casting aspersions on those we love always does something to loosen our ties. We shouldn't maltreat our idols: the gilt comes off on our hands."

"For the last three years he had been engaged in completing this masterpiece. He had been careful to keep the bowl of it constantly thrust into a kind of sheath of chamois, to smoke it as slowly as possible, without ever letting it lie on any cold stone substance, and to hang it up every evening over the head of his bed. And now he shook out the fragments of it into his hand, the nails of which were covered with blood, and with his chin sunk on his chest, his pupils fixed and dilated, he contemplated this wreck of the thing that had yielded him such delight with a glance of unutterable sadness."

"Happiness is a monstrosity! Punished are those who seek it."

"Had they nothing more to say to each other? Their eyes, certainly, were full of more meaningful talk; and as they made themselves utter banalities they sensed the same languor invading them both: it was like a murmur of the soul, deep and continuous, more clearly audible than the sound of their words. Surprised by a sweetness that was new to them, it didn't occur to them to tell each other how they felt or to wonder why. Future joys are like tropic shores: out into the immensity that lies before them they waft their native softness, a fragrant breeze that drugs the traveler into drowsiness and makes him careless of what awaits him on the horizon beyond his view."