Quotations by Chamfort, Nicolas


Many men and many women enjoy popular esteem, not because they are known, but because they are not.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Attributed in Maturin M. Ballou, Notable Thoughts About Women, #3144 (1882).
Added on 27-Apr-16 | Last updated 27-Apr-16
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The world either breaks or hardens the heart.

chamfort-breaks-or-hardens-the-heart-wist_info-quote

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
(Attributed)

Quoted in J. De Finod (ed., trans.) A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1880).
Added on 20-Dec-16 | Last updated 20-Dec-16
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One can be certain that every generally held idea, every received notion, will be an idiocy, because it has been able to appeal to a majority.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Quoted in Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety (2004).
Added on 21-Aug-17 | Last updated 21-Aug-17
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It is sometimes said of a man who lives alone that he does not like society. This is like saying of a man he does not like going for walks because he is not fond of walking at night in the forêt de Bondy.

[On dit quelquefois d’un homme qui vit seul: il n’aime pas la Société. C’est souvent comme si on disait d’un homme qu’il n’aime pas la promenade, sous le prétexte qu’il ne se promène pas volontiers le soir dans la forêt de Bondy.]

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées], #275 (1795)
    (Source)

Quoted by Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety (2004).
Added on 27-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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Calumny is like a wasp which harasses you. Raise no hand against it unless you’re sure of killing it, for otherwise it will return to the charge more furious than ever.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, #302 (1796)
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "Calumny is like the wasp which worries you, which it were best not to try to get rid of unless you are sure of slaying it; for otherwise it will return to the charge more furious than ever."
Added on 29-Feb-16 | Last updated 29-Feb-16
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Most collectors of verses and sayings proceed as though they were eating cherries and oysters, choosing the best first, and ending by eating them all.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, 1 (1796) [tr. Merwin (1984)]
Added on 19-Sep-13 | Last updated 19-Sep-13
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Enjoy and give pleasure, without doing harm to yourself or to anyone else — that, I think, is the whole of morality.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, 5 (1796) [tr. Merwin (1984)]
Added on 4-Oct-11 | Last updated 4-Oct-11
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Nature intended illusions for the wise as well as for fools, let the former should be rendered too miserable by their wisdom.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 1 (1796) [tr. Merwin (1984)]
Added on 28-Mar-11 | Last updated 28-Mar-11
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That of all days is the most completely wasted in which one did not once laugh.

[La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.]

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 1 (1796) [tr. Merwin (1984)]

Alt trans.:

  • "A day without laughter is a day wasted."
  • "The most lost of all days, is that in which we have not laughed."
  • "The most wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed."
  • "The most lost of all days is that in which one has not laughed."
  • "The most completely lost of all days is that on which one has not laughed."
  • "The most wasted day of all is that in which we have not laughed."

Often attributed to a more contemporary comedian (Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin). Also attributed to (or swiped / rediscovered by) Ben Burroughs, Grigori Alexandrov.

First seen in Mercure Français (18 Jul 1795): "Maximes détachées extraites des manuscrits de Champfort" (full text).

More history of the quotation here.

Added on 19-May-11 | Last updated 17-Jul-11
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Rank without merit earns deference without respect.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 1 (1796) [tr. Merwin (1984)]
Added on 9-Apr-14 | Last updated 9-Apr-14
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Society is made up of two great classes: those who have more dinners than appetite, and those who have more appetite than dinners.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 3 (1796) [tr. W. Merwin (1984)]
Added on 19-Feb-09 | Last updated 19-Feb-09
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The most absurd customs and the most ridiculous ceremonies are everywhere excused by an appeal to the phrase, but that’s the tradition. This is exactly what the Hottentots say when Europeans ask them why they eat grasshoppers and devour their body lice. That’s the tradition, they explain.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 3, #249 (1796)
    (Source)
Added on 14-Aug-17 | Last updated 14-Aug-17
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Education should be constructed on two bases: morality and prudence. Morality, in order to assist virtue, and prudence in order to defend you against the vices of others. In tipping the scales toward morality, you merely produce dupes and martyrs. In tipping it the other way, you produce egotistical schemers.

Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Maxims and Thoughts, ch. 5 (1796) [tr. W. Merwin (1984)]
Added on 16-Nov-09 | Last updated 16-Nov-09
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