Quotations about   alone

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What is the opposite of two?
A lonely me, a lonely you.

Richard Wilbur
Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) American poet, literary translator
“Some Opposites,” Opposites (1973)
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Added on 21-Jul-22 | Last updated 21-Jul-22
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Pure Valour, if there were any such thing, would consist in the doing of that without witnesses, which it were able to do, if all the world were to be spectators thereof.

[La pure valeur (s’il y en avait) serait de faire sans témoins ce qu’on est capable de faire devant le monde.]

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], ¶216 (1665-1678) [tr. Davies (1669), ¶97]
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(Source (French, 1665 ed., ¶229)). In the final edition (1678, ¶216), the original French had been modified to:

La parfaite valeur est de faire sans témoins ce qu’on seroit capable de faire devant tout le monde.

Alternate translations:

True Valour would do all that, when alone, that it could do, if all the World were by.
[tr. Stanhope (1694), ¶217]

Perfect valour consists in doing without witnesses all we should be capable of doing before the whole world.
[pub. Donaldson (1783), ¶431]

Perfect valour consists in doing, without witness, all that we should be capable of doing before the whole world.
[ed. Carville (1835), ¶367]

Perfect valor is to do unwitnessed what we should be capable of doing before all the world.
[ed. Gowens (1851), ¶225]

Perfect valour is to do without witnesses what one would do before all the world.
[tr. Bund/Friswell (1871)]

Perfect valor accomplishes without witnesses what anyone could do before the eyes of the world.
[tr. Heard (1917), ¶221]

Perfect courage consists in doing unobserved what what we could do in the eyes of the world.
[tr. Stevens (1939)]

Perfect valour is to behave, without witnesses, as one would act were all the world watching.
[tr. FitzGibbon (1957)]

Perfect courage means doing unwitnessed what we would be capable of with the world looking on.
[tr. Kronenberger (1959)]

Perfect valour consists in doing without witnesses what one would be capable of doing before the world at large.
[tr Tancock (1959)]

Perfect courage is to do without witnesses what one would do before all the world.
[tr. Whichello (2016)]

Perfect courage is to do without witnesses what one would be capable of doing with the world looking on.
[Source]

Added on 15-Jul-22 | Last updated 15-Jul-22
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A voyage without companionship, that is to say without conversation, is one of the saddest pleasures of life.

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Quoted in Margaret Goldsmith, Madame de Staël (1938)

See also here.
Added on 4-Mar-22 | Last updated 4-Mar-22
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No doubt about it, solitude is improved by being voluntary.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
One’s Company: Reflections on Living Alone (1996)
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Added on 25-Jan-22 | Last updated 25-Jan-22
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there are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it’s too late
and there’s nothing worse
than
too late.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
“Oh Yes,” You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense (1986)
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Added on 1-Dec-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Real loneliness is not necessarily limited to when you are alone.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
sifting through the madness for the Word, the line, the way, Part 2, epigram (2003)
    (Source)

The book was reprinted as New Poems, Book Two (2011).
Added on 20-Oct-21 | Last updated 20-Oct-21
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Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.

May Sarton
May Sarton (1912-1995) Belgian-American poet, novelist, memoirist [pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton]
Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing (1965)
    (Source)

Repeated in an interview with John McNally, Castaway's Choice, KCRW (1 Jul 1988).
Added on 12-Oct-21 | Last updated 12-Oct-21
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In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything, and two minus one equals nothing.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 4 (1966)
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Added on 26-Aug-21 | Last updated 10-Mar-22
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Loneliness, insomnia, and change: the fear of these is even worse than the reality.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 10 (1966)
Added on 20-May-21 | Last updated 10-Mar-22
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If a man should ascend alone into heaven and behold clearly the structure of the universe and the beauty of the stars, there would be no pleasure for him in the awe-inspiring sight, which would have filled him with delight if he had had someone to whom he could describe what he had seen.

[Si quis in coelum ascendisset, naturamque mundi, et pulchritudinem siderum perspexisset, insuavem illam admirationem ei fore; quae jucudissima fuisset, si aliquem, cui narraret, habuisset.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship], ch. 23 / sec. 88 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
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Original Latin. Cicero attributes this as a paraphrase of Archytas of Tarentum (d. 394 BC), a Pythagorean philosopher and astronomer. Alternate translations:

If any one could have ascended to the sky, and surveyed the structure of the universe, and the beauty of the stars, that such admiration would be insipid to him; and yet it would be most delightful if he had someone to whom he might describe it.
[tr. Edmonds (1871)]

If one had ascended to heaven, and had obtained a full view of the nature of the universe and the beauty of the stars, yet his admiration would be without delight, if there were no one to whom he could tell what he had seen.
[tr. Peabody (1887)]

If a man could ascend to heaven and get a clear view of the natural order of the universe, and the beauty of the heavenly bodies, that wonderful spectacle would give him small pleasure, though nothing could be conceived more delightful if he had but had some one to whom to tell what he had seen.
[tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]

If a man could mount to heaven and survey the mighty universe with all the planetary orbs, his admiration of its beauties would be much diminished, unless he had someone to share in his pleasure.
[Source]

Added on 3-May-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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It’s a terrible thing to be alone — yes it is — it is — but don’t lower your mask until you have another mask prepared beneath — As terrible as you like — but a mask.

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) New Zealander writer, poet [pen name of Kathleen Mansfield Murry (née Beauchamp)]
Letter to John Middleton Murry (Jul 1917)
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Added on 16-Oct-20 | Last updated 16-Oct-20
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ANN ANDERSON: Here’s something else you must remember: husbands like to be alone once in awhile.
JENNIE ANDERSON: Why?
ANN ANDERSON: You never know why, but I can always tell when James wants to be alone. A mood comes over him. I can always see it in his eyes before it gets there. I don’t know where the mood comes from or why, but that’s when I leave him alone. It seems sometimes things get so fickle in a man that he comes to feel that everything is closing in on him — and that’s when he wants to be left alone. You understand, don’t you?
JENNIE ANDERSON: No!

James Lee Barrett (1929-1989) American author, producer, screenwriter
Shenandoah (1965)
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Added on 23-Sep-20 | Last updated 23-Sep-20
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We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.

Orson Welles (1915-1985) American writer, director, actor
In Someone to Love, film (1987) [written and directed by Henry Jaglom]

Ad libbed by Welles, in his last film appearance.
Added on 22-Jul-20 | Last updated 22-Jul-20
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In relation to his public, the artist of to-day […] walks at first with his companions, till one day he falls through a hole in the brambles, and from that moment is following the dark rapids of an underground river which may sometimes flow so near the surface that the laughing picnic parties are heard above, only to re-immerse itself in the solitude of the limestone and carry him along its winding tunnel, until it gushes out through the misty creeper-hung cave which he has always believed to exist, and sets him back in the sun.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
“Writers and Society, 1940-3” (1943), The Condemned Playground (1946)
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Added on 17-Jul-20 | Last updated 17-Jul-20
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God created man and, finding him not sufficiently alone, gave him a companion to make him feel his solitude more keenly.

Paul Valéry (1871-1945) French poet, critic, author, polymath
“Moralités” (1932), Tel Quel 1 (1941)
Added on 18-May-20 | Last updated 18-May-20
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Solitude is not lack.

Laurie Helgoe (b. 1960) American psychologist and author
Introvert Power, ch. 2 (2008)
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Sometimes misquoted "Solitude is not a lack."
Added on 8-May-20 | Last updated 8-May-20
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Who could deny that privacy is a jewel? I has always been the mark of privilege, the distinguishing feature of a truly urbane culture. Out of the cave, the tribal teepee, the pueblo, the community fortress, man emerged to build himself a house of his own with a shelter in it for himself and his diversions. Every age has seen it so. The poor might have to huddle together in cities for need’s sake, and the frontiersman cling to his neighbors for the sake of protection. But in each civilization, as it advanced, those who could afford it chose the luxury of a withdrawing-place.

Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978) American author, poet
“A Lost Privilege,” The Province of the Heart (1959)
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Added on 26-Feb-20 | Last updated 26-Feb-20
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… so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.

[… y así te espero como casa sola
y volverás a verme y habitarme.
De otro modo me duelen las ventanas.]

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) Chilean poet, diplomat, politician [b. Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto]
Sonnet 65
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Added on 6-Apr-18 | Last updated 6-Apr-18
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Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

David Whyte (b. 1955) Anglo-Irish poet
“Sweet Darkness,” House of Belonging (1996)
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Added on 20-Mar-18 | Last updated 20-Mar-18
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Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the day-time, and falling into at night.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) American poet
Letter to Whitter “Hal” Bynner and Arthur Davidson Ficke (1920)
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Added on 10-Oct-17 | Last updated 10-Oct-17
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The cots, the palaces and valleys here,
Are nought to me, their charm, alas! is fled;
Floods, rocks, and forests, solitudes so dear
One soul is wanting, and all else seems dead

[Que me font ces vallons, ces palais, ces chaumières,
Vains objets dont pour moi le charme est envolé?
Fleuves, rochers, forêts solitudes si chères,
Un seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé!]

Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) French poet and statesman
“Solitude [L’isolement],”Poetic Meditations [Méditations Poétiques] (1820) [tr. J. Churchill]
    (Source)

Alt. trans. ["Isolation"]:
"What for me do these valleys, these palaces, these cottages,
Vain objects of which for me the charm has fled?
Streams, rocks, forests, solitudes so dear,
One single being from you is missing, and everything is depopulated."

Alt. trans.:
"Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated."
Added on 22-Aug-17 | Last updated 22-Aug-17
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To ensure moral salvation, it is primarily necessary to depend on oneself, because in the moment of peril we are alone. And strength is not to be acquired instantaneously. He who knows that he will have to fight, prepares himself for boxing and dueling by strength and skill; he does not sit still with folded hands.

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) Italian educator, philosopher, educator, physician
The Advanced Montessori Method: Spontaneous Activity in Education, Vol. I (1917)
Added on 13-Jun-17 | Last updated 13-Jun-17
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The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone. How inexplicable it seems. Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. If one sets aside time for a business appointment, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone, one is considered rude, egotistical or strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it — like a secret vice!

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) American writer, pilot
Gift From the Sea (1955)
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Added on 6-Jun-17 | Last updated 6-Jun-17
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Be able to be alone. Loose not the advantage of Solitude, and the Society of thy self, nor be only content, but delight to be alone and single with Omnipresency.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Christian Morals, Part 3, sec. 9 (1716)
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Added on 30-May-17 | Last updated 4-Aug-21
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I love people. I love my family, my children … but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) American writer
Interview, New York Post (26 Apr 1959)

Often paraphrased, "Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that is where I renew my springs that never dry up."
Added on 23-May-17 | Last updated 23-May-17
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A talent forms itself in solitude,
A character amid the stream of life.

[Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille,
Sich ein Charakter in dem Strom der Welt.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Torquato Tasso, Act 1, sc. 2, ll. 304-305 [Leonora] (1790) [tr. Ryder (1993)]
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(Source (German)). Alternate translations:

  • "A talent doth in stillness form itself -- / A character on life's unquiet stream." [tr. Des Voeux (1827)]
  • "Talents are nurtured best in solitude, -- / A character on life's tempestuous sea." [tr. Swanwick (1843)]
  • "Man's talent ripens in tranquility, / His character in battling with the world." [tr. Cartwright (1861)]
  • "A talent in tranquility is formed, / A character in the turbulence of affairs." [tr. Hamburger (20th C)]
  • "Talent develops in quiet places, / Character in the full current of human life."
  • Talents are best nurtured in solitude; / Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.
  • "Genius is formed in quiet, / Character in the stream of human life."
Added on 14-Feb-17 | Last updated 15-Oct-21
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No one can be happy in eternal solitude.

Anne Brontë (1820-1849) British novelist, poet [pseud. Acton Bell]
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, ch. 7 “The Excursion” [Helen] (1848)
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Added on 9-Feb-17 | Last updated 9-Feb-17
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Solitude is naught and society is naught. Alternate them and the good of each is seen.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1838)
Added on 17-Oct-16 | Last updated 17-Oct-16
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A man has to live with himself, and he should see to it that he always has good company.

hughes-good-company-wist_info-quote

Charles Evans Hughes, Sr. (1862-1948) American statesman, politician, Supreme Court Justice (1910-1916, 1930-1941)
Address to the YMCA, New York

Quoted in The Homiletic Review (Nov 1907)
Added on 13-Sep-16 | Last updated 13-Sep-16
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It is a great misfortune to be alone, my friends; and it must be believed that solitude can quickly destroy reason.

[Malheur à qui est seul, mes amis, et il faut croire que l’isolement a vite fait de détruire la raison.]

Verne - misfortune to be alone - wist_info quote

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
The Mysterious Island, Part 2, ch. 15 (1874) [tr. White (1876)]
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Added on 13-May-16 | Last updated 13-May-16
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A bore is a man who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company.

Giovanni Vincenzo Gravina (1664-1718) Italian man of letters and jurist
(Attributed)

Sometimes attributed to Oscar Wilde.
Added on 9-Mar-16 | Last updated 9-Mar-16
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True bravery is shown by performing without witness what one might be capable of doing before all the world!

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #216 (1665-1678)
Added on 11-Dec-15 | Last updated 11-Dec-15
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A leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing occasionally to stand alone.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
The Necessity for Choice: Prospects of American Foreign Policy, 7.4 (1961)
Added on 10-Aug-15 | Last updated 10-Aug-15
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I’m rarely bored alone; I am often bored in groups and crowds.

Laurie Helgoe (b. 1960) American psychologist and author
Introvert Power, ch. 1 (2008)
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Usually attributed to Helgoe, but cited in the book to "Don, Minnesota."
Added on 16-May-14 | Last updated 16-May-14
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Those who retire from the world on akount ov its sin and peskyness must not forgit that they hav got tew keep kompany with a person who wants just as much watching as ennyboddy else.

[Those who retire from the world on account of its sin and peskiness must not forget that they have got to keep company with a person who wants just as much watching as anybody else.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
On Ice: and Other Things, 60 (1868)
Added on 17-Mar-14 | Last updated 17-Mar-14
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Solitude vivifies; isolation kills.

Joseph Roux
Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest, 5.60 [tr. Hapgood (1886)]
Added on 10-Mar-14 | Last updated 10-Mar-14
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There is no true intimacy between souls who do not know how to respect one another’s solitude.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) French-American religious and writer [a.k.a. Fr. M. Louis]
No Man Is an Island, 9.3 (1955)
Added on 3-Mar-14 | Last updated 3-Mar-14
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Endeavor to make thy own Company pleasant to thee.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, # 99 (1725)
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Our language has wisely sensed these two sides of man’s being alone. It has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.

Paul Tillich (1886-1965) American theologian and philosopher
The Eternal Now, “Loneliness and Solitude” (1963)
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Added on 30-Dec-13 | Last updated 20-Jun-17
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Whenever you are to do a thing tho’ it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Peter Carr (19 Aug 1785)
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Added on 15-Oct-12 | Last updated 24-Jul-22
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Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
Among My Books, “Dryden” (1870)
Added on 2-Feb-09 | Last updated 13-Jun-17
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When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) French scientist and philosopher
Pensées #139 “Diversion” (1670)
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Alt. trans.: "I have often said that man's unhappiness springs from one thing alone, his incapacity to stay quietly in one room."

Alt. trans.: "All the trouble in the world is due to the fact that a man cannot sit still in a room."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jun-17
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You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.

A. A. Milne (1882-1956) English poet and playwright [Alan Alexander Milne]
Winnie-the-Pooh
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Jan-15
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The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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