Quotations by Chateaubriand, Francois-Rene


As soon as a true thought has entered our mind, it gives a light which makes us see a crowd of other objects which we have never perceived before.

[Aussitôt qu’une pensée vraie est entrée dans notre esprit, elle jette une lumière qui nous fait voir une foule d’autres objets que nous n’apercevions pas auparavant.]

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
“Pensées, Réflexions et Maximes,” Complete Works of Chateaubriand [Oeuvres Illustrées de Chateaubriand], Vol. 3, sec. 7 (1852)
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One is not superior merely because one sees the world as odious.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Every institution goes through three stages — utility, privilege, and abuse.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
(Attributed)
Added on 15-Apr-14 | Last updated 15-Apr-14
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Perfect works are rare, because they must be produced at the happy moment when taste and genius unite; and this rare conjuncture, like that of certain planets, appears to occur only after the revolution of several cycles, and only lasts for an instant.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
(Attributed)
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Quoted in James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893).
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Achilles exists only through Homer. Take away the art of writing from this world, and you will probably take away its glory.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Les Natchez (1826)
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Aristocracy has three successive ages, — the age of superiorities, the age of privileges, and the age of vanities; having passed out of the first, it degenerates in the second, and dies away in the third.

[L’aristocratie a trois âges successifs: l’âge des supériorités, l’âge des privilèges, l’âge des vanités; sortie du premier, elle dégènère dans le second et s’éteint dans le dernier.]

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 1, ch. 1 “The Vallé-aux-loups” (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]

    Alt. trans.:
  • Aristocracy has three successive ages. First superiorities, then privileges and finally vanities. Having passed from the first, it degenerates in the second and dies in the third.
  • Aristocracy has three successive ages. First superiority, then privileges and finally vanities. Having passed from the first, it degenerates in the second and dies in the third.
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Memory is often the attribute of stupidity; it generally belongs to heavy spirits whom it makes even heavier by the baggage it loads them down with.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 2, ch. 1 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]
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How small man is on this little atom where he dies! But how great his intelligence! He knows when the face of the stars must be masked in darkness, when the comets will return after thousands of years, he who lasts only an instant! A microscopic insect lost in a fold of the heavenly robe, the orbs cannot hide from him a single one of their movements in the depth of space. What destinies will those stars, new to us, light? Is their revelation bound up with some new phase of humanity? You will know, race to be born; I know not, and I am departing.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 42, ch. 18 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]
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As I write these last words, my window, which looks west over the gardens of the Foreign Mission, is open: it is six in the morning; I can see the pale and swollen moon; it is sinking over the spire of the Invalides, scarcely touched by the first golden glow from the East; one might say that the old world was ending, and the new beginning. I behold the light of a dawn whose sunrise I shall never see. It only remains for me to sit down at the edge of my grave; then I shall descend boldly, crucifix in hand, into eternity.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 42, ch. 18 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]
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I remember Castelnau: like me Ambassador to England, who wrote like me a narrative of his life in London. On the last page of Book VII, he says to his son: “I will deal with this event in Book VIII,” and Book VIII of Castelnau’s Memoirs does not exist: that warns me to take advantage of being alive.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 6, ch. 8 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]
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Washington acted as the representative of the needs, the ideas, the enlightened men, the opinions of his age; he supported, not thwarted, the stirrings of intellect; he desired only what he had to desire, the very thing to which he had been called: from which derives the coherence and longevity of his work. That man who struck few blows because he kept things in proportion has merged his existence with that of his country: his glory is the heritage of civilisation; his fame has risen like one of those public sanctuaries where a fecund and inexhaustible spring flows.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 6, ch. 8 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]

On George Washington.
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One does not learn how to die by killing others.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 8, ch. 4 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]
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The original writer is not he who refrains from imitating others, but he who can be imitated by none.

[L’écrivain original n’est pas celui qui n’imite personne, mais celui que personne ne peut imiter.]

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
The Genius of Christianity [Le génie du Christianisme], Part 2, Book 1, ch. 3 (1802)
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Alternate translations:
  • "The original style is not the style which never borrows of any one, but that which no other person is capable of reproducing." [tr. White (1856)]
  • "An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate."
Added on 22-Apr-14 | Last updated 22-Apr-14
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