Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Gustave Flaubert

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

"My novel is the rock to which I cling and I know nothing of what is taking place in the world."

"My life which I dream will be so beautiful, so poetic, so vast, so filled with love will turn out to be like everybody else's - monotonous, sensible, stupid."

"My Word, said Bouvard, look at those worlds disappearing. Pecuchet replied: If our world in its turn danced about, the citizens of the stars would be no more impressed than we are now. Ideas like that are rather humbling. What is the point of it all? Perhaps there isn?t a point. Beautiful things spoil nothing. Speech is a rolling-mill that always thins out the sentiment."

"Never had he beheld such a magnificent brown skin, so entrancing a figure, such dainty transparent fingers. He stood gazing in wonder at her work-basket as if it was something extraordinary. What was her name? Where did she live and what sort of life about did she lead? What was her past? He wanted to know what furniture she had in her bedroom, the dresses she wore, the people she knew. Even his physical desire for her gave way to a deeper yearning, a boundless, aching curiosity."

"Never had life seemed so good. A little while and she would come, delicious, trembling, glancing behind her to see who might be looking, with her flowered dress, her gold lorgnon, her dainty shoes, and all the manifold refinements so new to his experience, the ineffable charm of virtue on the brink of surrender. The fane encompassed her about like some stately bower, the vaulted roof leaned down to catch, amid the shadows, the whispered avowal of her love, the painted windows shone with glory to shed a light upon her countenance, and the censers would burn that she might float like an angel amid the perfumed cloud."

"Never had her eyes been so enormous, so dark, so deep: her whole being was transfigured by some subtle emanation."

"Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers."

"Never have things of the spirit counted for so little. Never has hatred for everything great been so manifest ? disdain for beauty, execration of literature. I have always tried to live in an ivory tower, but a tide of shit is beating at its walls, threatening to undermine it."

"Never had Madame Bovary been as beautiful as now. She had that indefinable beauty that comes from happiness, enthusiasm, success -- a beauty that is nothing more of less than a harmony of temperament and circumstances. Her desires, her sorrows, her experience of sensuality, her ever-green illusions, had developed her step by step, like a flower nourished by manure and by the rain, by the wind and the sun; and she was finally blooming in the fullness of her nature."

"Nevertheless she sometimes thought that they were the finest days of her life, those 'honeymoon days' as people call them... When the sun sinks down to rest, you breathe, beside the margin of a bay, the fragrant odors of the lemon-trees; and then, by night, on the terrace, alone with each other, with fingers intertwined, you gaze at the stars and make plans for the future. It seemed to her that there were certain places on the earth which naturally brought forth happiness, as though it were a plant native to the soil, which could not thrive elsewhere."

"Nevertheless the flames did die down -- whether exhausted from lack of supplies or choked by excessive feeding. Little by little, love was quenched by absence; regret was smothered by routine; and the fiery glow that had reddened her pale sky grew gray and gradually vanished... But the storm kept raging, her passion burned itself to ashes, no help was forthcoming, no new sun rose to the horizon. Night closed in completely around her, and she was left alone in a horrible void of piercing cold."

"No matter: she wasn't happy, and never had been. Why was life so unsatisfactory? Why did everything she leaned on crumble instantly to dust? ? Besides, nothing was worth looking for: everything was a lie! Every smile concealed a yawn of boredom; every joy, a curse; every pleasure, its own surfeit; and the sweetest kisses left on one's lips but a vain longing for a fuller delight."

"Noble characters and pure affections and happy scenes are very comforting things. They're a refuge from life's disillusionments."

"No one, ever, can give the exact measure of his needs, his apprehensions, or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we bang out tunes that make bears dance, when we want to move the stars to pity."

"None of us can ever express the exact measure of our needs, or our ideas, or our sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when we long to inspire pity in the stars."

"Of all lies, art is the least untrue."

"Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in."

"Not a lawyer but carries within him the debris of a poet."

"Nothing specific stood out against the vast background of the future that she thus evoked: the days were all of them splendid, and as alike as the waves of the sea; and the whole thing hovered on the horizon, infinite, harmonious, blue and sparkling in the sun."

"Of all the icy blasts that blow on love, a request for money is the most chilling and havoc wreaking."

"Of all possible debauches, traveling is the greatest that I know; that's the one they invented when they got tired of all the others."

"Oh, if I had been loved at the age of seventeen, what an idiot I would be today. Happiness is like smallpox: if you catch it too soon, it can completely ruin your constitution."

"Often, when they spoke of Paris, she would murmur: "Ah! How happy we'd be, living there!" "Aren't we happy here?" the young would softly ask, passing his hand over her hair."

"Oh! You think that because I pass my life trying to make harmonious phrases, in avoiding assonances, that I too have not my little judgments on the things of this world? Alas! Yes! and moreover I shall burst, enraged at not expressing them."

"One becomes a critic when one cannot be an artist, just as a man becomes a stool pigeon when he cannot be a soldier."

"One arrives at style only with atrocious effort, with fanatical and devoted stubbornness."

"On days when it was too hot, they did not leave their room. The dazzling brilliance from outside plastered bars of light between the slats of the blinds. Not a sound in the village. Down below, on the sidewalk, no one. This spreading silence increased the tranquility of things. In the distance, the caulkers? hammers tamped the hulls, and a heavy breeze brought the smell of tar."

"On certain occasions art can shake very ordinary spirits, and whole worlds can be revealed by its clumsiest interpreters."

"On the Place she met Lestivoudois on his way back, for, in order not to shorten his day's labour, he preferred interrupting his work, then beginning it again, so that he rang the Angelus to suit his own convenience. Besides, the ringing over a little earlier warned the lads of catechism hour."

"One must always hope when one is desperate, and doubt when one hopes."

"One event sometimes had infinite ramifications and could change the whole settings of a person's life."

"One day, I shall explode like an artillery shell and all my bits will be found on the writing table."

"One can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels."

"One mustn't always believe that feeling is everything. In the arts, it is nothing without form."

"One mustn't ask apple trees for oranges, France for sun, women for love, life for happiness."

"One mustn't look at the abyss, because there is at the bottom an inexpressible charm which attracts us."

"One ought to know everything, to write. All of us scribblers are monstrously ignorant. If only we weren?t lacking in stamina, what a rich field of ideas and similes we could tap! Books that have been the source of entire literatures, like Homer and Rabelais, contain the sum of all the knowledge of their times. They knew everything, those fellows, and we know nothing."

"One never tires of what is well written, style is life! It is the very blood of thought!"

"One thinks of nothing,? he continued; ?the hours slip by. Motionless we traverse countries we fancy we see, and your thought, blinding with the fiction, playing with the details, follows the outline of the adventures. It mingles with the characters, and it seems as if it were yourself palpitating beneath their costumes."

"One would have said, judging from the gravity of his countenance, that he was turning over in his mind the affairs of the whole world. Nothing, however, came from it; and nobody, even amongst his own friends, knew him to have any occupation, although he gave himself out as being up to his eyes in business."

"One's duty is to feel what is great, cherish the beautiful, and not accept all the conventions of society with the ignominy that it imposes upon us."

"Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times."

"Only three things are infinite. The sky in its stars, the sea in its drops of water, and the heart in its tears."

"Our duty is to feel what is great and love what is beautiful -- not to accept all the social conventions and the infamies they impose on us."

"Poor little thing! She's gasping for love like a carp on a kitchen table gasping for water."

"Pellerin used to read every available book on aesthetics, in the hope of discovering the true theory of Beauty, for he was convinced that once he had found it he would be able to paint masterpieces."

"Pellerin read every work on ‘sthetics, in order to find out the true theory of the Beautiful, convinced that, when he had discovered it, he would produce masterpieces. He surrounded himself with every imaginable auxiliary?drawings, plaster-casts, models, engravings; and he kept searching about, eating his heart out."

"Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory."

"People believe a little too easily that the function of the sun is to help the cabbages along."

"Poetry is as exact a science as geometry"