Quotations by Balzac, Honoré de


To live in the presence of great truths and eternal laws, to be led by permanent ideals – that is what keeps a man patient when the world ignores him, and calm and unspoiled when the world praises him.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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It is as absurd to say that a man can’t love one woman all the time as it is to say that a violinist needs several violins to play the same piece of music.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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After all, our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
(Attributed)

Attributed in Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1891 ed.)
Added on 2-Jul-13 | Last updated 2-Jul-13
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There are two species of timidity, — the timidity of the mind, and the timidity of the nerves; a physical timidity, and a moral timidity. The one is independent of the other. The body may fear and tremble, while the mind is calm and courageous, or vice versa. This is the key to many moral eccentricities. When the two are united in one man, that man will be a cipher all his life.

[Il y a deux timidités: la timidité d’esprit, la timidité de nerfs ; une timidité physique et une timidité morale. L’une est indépendante de l’autre. Le corps peut avoir peur et trembler pendant que l’esprit reste calme et courageux, et vice versa. Ceci donne la clef de bien des bizarreries morales. Quand les deux timidités se réunissent chez un homme, il sera nul pendant toute sa vie.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
A Bachelor’s Establishment [Un ménage de garçon], ch. 9 (1842) [tr. Wormeley]
Added on 30-Nov-10 | Last updated 30-Nov-10
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But reason always cuts a poor figure beside sentiment; the one being essentially restricted, like everything that is positive, while the other is infinite.

[Mais la raison est toujours mesquine auprès du sentiment; l’une est naturellement bornée, comme tout ce qui est positif, et l’autre est infini.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
A Woman of Thirty [La Femme de trente ans], ch. 3 “At Thirty Years” (1842) [tr. Marriage]
Added on 7-Dec-10 | Last updated 7-Dec-10
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What is Art, monsieur, but Nature concentrated?

[Qu’est-ce que l’Art, monsieur? C’est la Nature concentrée.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Illusions perdues, Vol. 1 “Un grand homme de province à Paris,” Part 1 (1839)

Lost Illusions, Vol. 1 "A Distinguished Provincial at Paris"  Full text.
Added on 31-Aug-10 | Last updated 31-Aug-10
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An unfulfilled vocation drains the color from a man’s entire existence.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
La Maison Nucingen, Vol. 3, “Scenes de la vie Parisienne” (1838)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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My further advice on your relations to women is based upon that other motto of chivalry, “Serve all, love one.”

[Mes avis sur vos relations avec les femmes sont aussi dans ce mot de chevalerie: Les servir toutes, n’en aimer qu’une.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Le lys dans la vallée, Part 2 “First Love” (1836) [tr. Wormeley]
Added on 17-Aug-10 | Last updated 17-Aug-10
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“I shall succeed!” he said to himself. So says the gambler; so says the great captain; but the three words that have been the salvation of some few, have been the ruin of many more.

[“Je réussirai!” Le mot du joueur, du grand capitaine, mot fataliste qui perd plus d’hommes qu’il n’en sauve.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Le Père Goriot, Part 1 (1835) [tr. Marriage]
Added on 19-Oct-10 | Last updated 19-Oct-10
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The secret of grand fortunes without apparent cause is a crime forgotten, for it was properly done.

[Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Le Père Goriot, Part 2 (1835) [tr. Marriage]

Often paraphrased as "Behind every great fortune there is a great crime."

Added on 26-Oct-10 | Last updated 26-Oct-10
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“I am tormented by temptations.”
“What kind? There is a cure for temptation.”
“What?”
“Yielding to it.”

[Je suis tourmenté par de mauvaises idées.
En quel genre? Ça se guérit, les idées.
Comment?
En y succombant.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Le Père Goriot, Part 2 (1835) [tr. Marriage]
Added on 9-Nov-10 | Last updated 9-Nov-10
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People exaggerate both happiness and unhappiness; we are never so fortunate nor so unfortunate as people say we are.

[On amplifie également le malheur et le boneur, nous ne sommes jamais ni si malheureux, ni si heureux qu’on le dit.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Modeste Mignon, ch. 24 (1844) [tr. Wormeley]
Added on 24-Aug-10 | Last updated 24-Aug-10
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The most virtuous women have in them something that is never chaste.

[Les femmes les plus vertueuses ont en elles quelque chose qui n’est jamais chaste.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Physiology of Marriage [Physiologie du Mariage], Part 1, Medication 4, aphorism 20 (1829) [tr. McSpadden]
Added on 14-Sep-10 | Last updated 14-Sep-10
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It is easier to be a lover than a husband, for the same reason that it is more difficult to be witty every day, than to say bright things from time to time.

[Il est plus facile d’être amant que mari, par la raison qu’il est plus difficile d’avoir de l’esprit tous les jours que de dire de jolies choses de temps en temps.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Physiology of Marriage [Physiologie du Mariage], Part 1, Meditation 5 “Of the Predestined,” Aphorism 49 (1829) [tr. McSpadden]

Full text. Sometimes quoted as Aphorism 64.

Added on 16-Nov-10 | Last updated 2-Dec-10
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The more a man judges, the less he loves.

[Plus on juge, moins on aime.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Physiology of Marriage [Physiologie du Mariage], Part 1, Meditation 8, aphorism 60 (1829) [tr. McSpadden]
Added on 21-Sep-10 | Last updated 21-Sep-10
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Marriage must continually vanquish the monster that devours everything, the monster of habit.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Physiology of Marriage (1829)

Alt. trans.: "Marriage must constantly fight against a monster which devours everything: routine."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Sep-17
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Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true.

[La puissance ne consiste pas à frapper fort ou souvent, mais à frapper juste.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Physiology of Marriage, Part 1, Meditation 5 “Of the Predestined,” aphorism 43 (1829)

Alt trans.: "Power does not consist in striking with force or with frequency, but in striking true."

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Aug-10
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Remorse is impotence, impotence which sins again. Repentance alone is powerful; it ends all.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Seraphita [Séraphîta], ch. 3 (1835) [tr. Wormeley]
Added on 23-Nov-10 | Last updated 23-Nov-10
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Between persons who are perpetually in each other’s company dislike or love increases daily; every moment brings reasons to love or hate each other more and more.

[Entre personnes sans cesse en présence, la haine et l’amour vont toujours croissant: on trouve à tout moment des raisons pour s’aimer ou se haïr mieux.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
The Vicar of Tours [Le curé de Tours], ch. 1 (1832) [tr. Wormeley]
Added on 12-Oct-10 | Last updated 12-Oct-10
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If you are to judge a man, you must know his secret thoughts, sorrows, and feelings; to know merely the outward events of a man’s life would only serve to make a chronological table — a fool’s notion of history!

[Pour juger un homme, au moins faut-il être dans le secret de sa pensée, de ses malheurs, de ses émotions; ne vouloir connaître de sa vie que les événements matériels, c’est faire de la chronologie, l’histoire des sots!]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
The Wild Ass’s Skin [La Peau de chagrin], Part 2 “A Woman without a Heart” (1831) [tr. Marriage]
Added on 5-Oct-10 | Last updated 5-Oct-10
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When law becomes despotic, morals are relaxed, and vice versa.

[Quand le despotisme est dans les lois, la liberté se trouve dans les mœurs, et vice versa.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
The Wild Ass’s Skin [Le Peau de chagrin], Part 1 “The Talisman” (1831) [tr. Marriage]
Added on 28-Sep-10 | Last updated 28-Sep-10
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