Quotations about:
    courtesy


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Politeness does not always imply goodness, equity, obligingness and gratitude; it at least provides the appearance of these, and makes a man seem outwardly what he should be inwardly.

[La politesse n’inspire pas toujours la bonté, l’équité, la complaisance, la gratitude; elle en donne du moins les apparences, et fait paraître l’homme au dehors comme il devrait être intérieurement.]

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 5 “Of Society and Conversation [De la société et de la conversation],” § 32 (5.32) (1688) [tr. Stewart (1970)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Politeness does not always inspire Generosity, Equity, Complaisance, and Gratitude: it gives a man the appearances of those Vertues, and makes him seem that without, which he ought to be within.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

Politeness does not always inspire Generosity, Justice, Complaisance and Gratitude; it gives a Man the Appearances of those Virtues, and makes him seem that without, which he ought to be within.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

Politeness does not always produce kindness of heart, justice, complacency, or gratitude, but it gives to a man at least the appearance of it, and makes him seem externally what he really should be.
[tr. Van Laun (1885)]

 
Added on 24-Jan-23 | Last updated 24-Jan-23
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Call a jack a jack. Call a spade a spade. But always call a whore a lady. Their lives are hard enough, and it never hurts to be polite.

Patrick Rothfuss
Patrick Rothfuss (b. 1973) American author
The Name of the Wind, ch. 8 (2007)
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Added on 12-Jan-23 | Last updated 12-Jan-23
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Politeness and honour have this advantage, that they remain with him who displays them to others.

[La galantería y la honra tienen esta ventaja, que se quedan: aquélla en quien la usa, ésta en quien la hace.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 118 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

Politeness and a sense of honor have this advantage: we bestow them on others without losing a thing.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

Gallantry, and honor have this advantage, they are saved through being spent, the first if practiced, the second if worn.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

 
Added on 5-Dec-22 | Last updated 5-Dec-22
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There is no outward mark of politeness that does not have a profound moral reason. The right education would be that which taught the outward mark and the moral reason together.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Elective Affinities, Part 2, ch. 5 (1809) [tr. Hollingdale (1971)]
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Alternate translation:

There is no outward sign of courtesy that does not rest on a deep moral foundation. . The proper education would be that which communicated the sign and the foundation of it at the same time.
[Niles ed. (1872)]

 
Added on 31-Oct-22 | Last updated 31-Oct-22
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But remember, that manners must adorn knowledge, and smooth its way through the world. Like a great rough diamond, it may do very well in a closet by way of curiosity, and also for its intrinsic value; but it will never be worn, nor shine, if it is not polished.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #155 (1 Jul 1748)
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I want you to know that a man is considered pleasant if his manners conform to the common practices between friends, whereas someone who is eccentric will, in all situations, appear to be a stranger, that is, alien. On the contrary, men who are affable and polite will appear to have friends and acquaintances wherever they may be.

[E sappi che colui è piacevole i cui modi sono tali nell’usanza comune, quali costumano di tenere gli amici infra di loro, là dove chi è strano pare in ciascun luogo «straniero», che tanto viene a dire come «forestiero»; sì come i domestici uomini, per lo contrario, pare che siano ovunque vadano conoscenti et amici di ciascuno.]

Giovanni della Casa
Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) Florentine poet, author, diplomat, bishop
Galateo: Or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners [Il Galateo overo de’ costumi], ch. 9 (1558) [tr. Einsenbichler/Bartlett (1986)]
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(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

And you must understand, that he is pleasaunt and courteous: whose manners bee suche in his common behaviour, as practise to keepe, and maintaine him friendeship amongst them: where hee that is solleyne and way warde, makes him selfe a straunger whersoever hee comes: a straunger, I meane, as much as a forreigne or alienborne.
[tr. Peterson (1576)]

We ought to esteem him alone an agreeable and good-natured man, who, in his daily intercourse with others, behaves in such a manner as friends usually behave to each other. For as a person of that rustic character appears, wherever he comes, like a mere stranger: so, on the contrary, a polite man, wherever he goes, seems as easy as if he were amongst his intimate friends and acquaintance.
[tr. Graves (1774)]

 
Added on 26-Sep-22 | Last updated 26-Sep-22
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Between justice and respect there is this difference, that it is the part of justice not to injure; of respect, not to offend. In this the force of propriety is extremely clear.

[Est autem, quod differat in hominum ratione habenda inter iustitiam et verecundiam. Iustitiae partes sunt non violare homines, verecundiae non offendere; in quo maxime vis perspicitur decori.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 28 (1.28) / sec. 99 (44 BC) [tr. McCartney (1798)]
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Verecundia is usually translated as "modesty," but Cicero is using a more complex sense here, leading to a variety of translations. Peabody translates it as "courtesy" that is "part of or a consequence of modesty." Edmonds (at length) considers the term untranslatable here, "an inward abhorrence of moral turpitude, through which the conscience is awed, and may be said to blush."

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

But here we must observe, that there is a great deal of difference between that which justice, and that which this modesty, respect, or reverence demands, in relation to other people. It is the duty of justice, not to injure or wrong any man; of respect, or reverence, not to do anything that may offend or displease him; wherein more especially the nature of that decorum we are speaking of consists.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

But, in our estimate of human life, we are to make a difference between justice and moral susceptibility. The dictate of justice is to do no wrong; that of moral susceptibility is to give no offense to mankind, and in this the force of the graceful is most perceptible.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

But in the treatment of men there is a difference between justice and courtesy. It is the part of justice not to injure men; of courtesy, not to give them offence, and it is in this last that the influence of becomingness is most clearly seen.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

In our social relations there is a difference between justice and sympathy. Not to wrong our fellow-men is the function of justice: that of sympathy is not to wound their feelings; herein the power of decorum is most conspicuous.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

There is, too, a difference between justice and considerateness in one's relations to one's fellow-men. It is the function of justice not to do wrong to one's fellow-men; of considerateness, not to wound their feelings; and in this the essence of propriety is best seen.
[tr. Miller (1913)]

Moreover, in maintaining distinctions among men there is a degree of difference between justice and decent respect. The duty of justice is not to do violence to men. The duty of decent respect is not to insult them; this latter especially reveals the essence of decorum.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

 
Added on 18-Aug-22 | Last updated 18-Aug-22
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O,
Dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant
Can tickle where she wounds!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Cymbeline, Act 1, sc. 1, l. 97ff [Imogen] (1611)
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THE LADY: Shepherd I take thy word,
And trust thy honest offer’d courtesie,
Which oft is sooner found in lowly sheds
With smoaky rafters, then in tapstry Halls
And Courts of Princes, where it first was nam’d,
And yet is most pretended.

John Milton (1608-1674) English poet
Comus, l. 322ff (1634)
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Added on 21-Jun-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-22
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How sweet and gracious, even in common speech,
Is that fine sense which men call Courtesy!
Wholesome as air and genial as the light,
Welcome in every clime as breath of flowers,
It transmutes aliens into trusting friends,
And gives its owner passport round the globe.

James T Fields
James T. Fields (1817-1881) American publisher, editor, poet
“Courtesy”
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Added on 15-Jun-22 | Last updated 15-Jun-22
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Politeness, however, acts the lady’s-maid to our thoughts; and they are washed, dressed, curled, rouged, and perfumed, before they are presented to the public.

Letitia Elizabeth Landon
Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838) English poet and novelist [a/k/a L.E.L.]
Romance and Reality, Vol. 2, ch. 14 (1831)
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Added on 1-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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Treat your enemies with courtesy, and you’ll see how valuable it really is. It costs little but pays a nice dividend.

[Tiénese por deuda entre enemigos para que se vea su valor. Cuesta poco y vale mucho.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 118 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

Between opponents, courtesy is especially due as a proof of valour. It costs little and helps much.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

 
Added on 24-Jan-22 | Last updated 24-Jan-22
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For nothing is more blamefull to a Knight,
That court’sie doth as well as armes professe,
However strong and fortunate in fight,
Then the reproch of pride and cruelnesse:
In vain he seeketh others to suppresse,
Who hath not learned himself first to subdue:
All flesh is frayle and full of ficklenesse,
Subject to fortunes chance, still chaunging new;
What haps to-day to me to-morrow may to you.

Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-1599) English poet
The Faerie Queene, Book 6, canto 1, st. 41 (1590-96)
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Do not only look
For gentlefolk in castles: everywhere,
In humble dwellings and in haylofts, too,
The hearts of men are often kind and true.

[Che non pur per cittadi e per castella,
Ma per tuguri ancora e per fenili
Spesso si trovan gli uomini gentili.]

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) Italian poet
Orlando Furioso, Canto 14, st. 62 (1532) [tr. Reynolds (1973)]
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Alt. trans.: "For not alone dwells Hospitality / In court and city; but ofttimes we find / In loft and cottage men of gentle kind." [tr. Rose (1831)]
 
Added on 30-Mar-20 | Last updated 30-Mar-20
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They continued to mount the winding staircase. A high wind, blowing through the loopholes, went rushing up the shaft, and filled the girl’s skirts like a balloon, so that she was ashamed, until he took the hem of her dress and held it down for her. He did it perfectly simply, as he would have picked up her glove. She remembered this always.

David Herbert "D. H." Lawrence (1885-1930) English novelist
Sons and Lovers, Part 2, ch. 7 “Lad-and-Girl Love” (1913)
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Good manners spring from just one thing — kind impulses.

Elsa Maxwell (1883-1963) American gossip columnist, author, songwriter, professional hostess
Elsa Maxwell’s Etiquette Book (1951)
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Morals are three-quarters manners.

Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) US Supreme Court Justice, jurist and teacher
Felix Frankfurter Reminiscences (1960) [ed. Harlan Phillips]
 
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Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, but a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter 1 (1796)
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Again, it is proper to the magnanimous person to ask for nothing, or hardly anything, but to help eagerly. When he meets people with good fortune or a reputation for worth, he displays his greatness, since superiority over them is difficult and impressive, and there is nothing ignoble in trying to be impressive with them. But when he meets ordinary people, he is moderate, since superiority over them is easy, and an attempt to be impressive among inferiors is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.

[μεγαλοψύχου δὲ καὶ τὸ μηδενὸς δεῖσθαι ἢ μόλις, ὑπηρετεῖν δὲ προθύμως, καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἐν ἀξιώματι καὶ εὐτυχίαις μέγαν εἶναι, πρὸς δὲ τοὺς μέσους μέτριον: τῶν μὲν γὰρ ὑπερέχειν χαλεπὸν καὶ σεμνόν, τῶν δὲ ῥᾴδιον, καὶ ἐπ᾽ ἐκείνοις μὲν σεμνύνεσθαι οὐκ ἀγεννές, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ταπεινοῖς φορτικόν, ὥσπερ εἰς τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς ἰσχυρίζεσθαι.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 4, ch. 3 (4.3.26) / 1124b.18 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Irwin (1999)]
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The core word Aristotle is using is μεγαλοψυχία (translated variously as high-mindedness, great-mindedness, pride, great-soulness, magnanimity). (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Further, it is characteristic of the Great-minded man to ask favours not at all, or very reluctantly, but to do a service very readily; and to bear himself loftily towards the great or fortunate, but towards people of middle station affably; because to be above the former is difficult and so a grand thing, but to be above the latter is easy; and to be high and mighty towards the former is not ignoble, but to do it towards those of humble station would be low and vulgar; it would be like parading strength against the weak.
[tr. Chase (1847)]

It would seem, too, that the high-minded man asks favours of no one, or, at any rate, asks them with the greatest reluctance, but that he is always eager to do good offices to others; and that towards those in high position and prosperity he bears himself with pride, but towards ordinary men with moderation; for in the former case it is difficult to show superiority, and to do so is a lordly mater; whereas in the latter case it is easy. To be haughty among the great is no proof of bad breeding, but haughtiness among the lowly is as base-born a thing as it is to make trial of great strength upon the weak.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

It is characteristic too of the high-minded man that he never, or hardly ever, asks a favor, that he is ready to do anybody a service, and that, although his bearing is stately towards person of dignity and affluence, it is unassuming toward the middle class; for while it is a difficult and dignified thing to be superior to the former, it is easy enough to be superior to the latter, and while a dignified demeanour in dealing with the former is a mark of nobility, it is a mark of vulgarity ind ealing with the latter, as it like a display of physical strength at the expense of an invalid.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 8]

It is characteristic of the high-minded man, again, never or reluctantly to ask favours, but to be ready to confer them, and to be lofty in his behaviour to those who are high in station and favoured by fortune, but affable to those of the middle ranks; for it is a difficult thing and a dignified thing to assert superiority over the former, but easy to assert it over the latter. A haughty demeanour in dealing with the great is quite consistent with good breeding, but in dealing with those of low estate is brutal, like showing off one’s strength upon a cripple.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

It is a mark of the proud man also to ask for nothing or scarcely anything, but to give help readily, and to be dignified towards people who enjoy high position and good fortune, but unassuming towards those of the middle class; for it is a difficult and lofty thing to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter, and a lofty bearing over the former is no mark of ill-breeding, but among humble people it is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

It is also characteristic of the great-souled man never to ask help from others, or only with reluctance, but to render aid willingly; and to be haughty towards men of position and fortune, but courteous towards those of moderate station, because it is difficult and distinguished to be superior to the great, but easy to outdo the lowly, and to adopt a high manner with the former is not ill-bred, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people: it is like putting forth one's strength against the weak.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing or hardly anything but to offer his services eagerly, and to exhibit his greatness to those with a reputation for great worth or those who are enjoying good luck, but to moderate his greatness to those in the middle. For it is a difficult and a dignified thing to show oneself superior to the former, but an easy one to do so to the latter, and, while adopting a dignified manner toward the former is not ill-bred, to do so toward humble people is vulgar, like displaying strength against the weak.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

It is the mark of a high-minded man, too, never, or hardly ever, to ask for help, but to be of help to others readily, and to be dignified with men of high position or of good fortune, but unassuming with those of middle class, for it is difficult and impressive to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter; and whereas being impressive to the former is not a mark of a lowly man, being so to the humble is crude -- it is like using physical force against the physically weak.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

Another mark of the magnanimous man is that he never, or only reluctantly, makes a request, whereas he is eager to help others. He his haughty toward those who are influential and successful, but moderate toward those who have an intermediate position in society, because in the former case to be superior is difficult and impressive, but in the latter it is easy' and to create an impression at the expense of the former is not ill-bred, but to do so among the humble is vulgar.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing, or almost nothing, but to help others readily; and to be dignified in his behavior towards people of distinction or the well-off, but unassuming toward people at the middle level. Superiority over the first group is difficult and impressive, but over the second it is easy, and attempting to impress the first group is not ill-bred, while in the case of humble people it is vulgar, like a show of strength against the weak.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

It belongs to the great-souled also to need nothing, or scarcely anything, but to be eager to be of service, and to be great in the presence of people of worth and good fortune, but measured toward those of a middling rank. For it is a difficult and august thing to be superior among the fortunate, but easy to be that way among the middling sorts; and to exalt oneself among the former is not a lowborn thing, but to do so among the latter is crude, just as is using one's strength against the weak.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Sometimes paraphrased:

It is not ill-bred to adopt a high manner with the great and the powerful, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people.

 
Added on 3-Aug-17 | Last updated 17-May-22
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Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty,” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough for Love, “Notebooks of Lazarus Long” (1973)
 
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If we use no ceremony towards others, we shall be treated without any. People are soon tired of paying trifling attentions to those who receive them with coldness, and return them with neglect.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
Characteristics in the Manner of Rochefoucault’s Maxims, #188 (1837 ed.)
 
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“Okay,” I said to Teldra. “Look. I’ll concede that, over the years, I’ve learned that there’s no point in making a bad situation worse, and that it’s less work to talk yourself out of a tough spot than to slice your way out, and that words, while potentially deadly, are less deadly than Morganti daggers. But I don’t think that is quite the same thing as being courteous.”

“I believe, Lord Taltos, that it is very much the same thing.”

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Issola (2001)
 
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Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) American author
“The Tower of the Elephant” (1933)
 
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As I have often told you, politeness and good beeding are absolutely necessary to adorn any, or all other good qualities or talents. Without them, no knowledge, no perfection whatever, is seen in its best light. The scholar, without good breeding, is a pedant; the philosopher, a cynic; the soldier, a brute; and every man disagreeable.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #128 (9 Oct 1747)
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Pride, ill nature, and want of sense, are the three great sources of ill manners.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding (1754)
 
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The most perilous moment is often when an adversary is seemingly prepared to retreat and then is jolted into new defiance by an assault on his self-esteem.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
Years of Upheaval, ch. 12 (1982)
 
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Maybe my values are outdated, but I come from an old school of thought. I think that men ought to treat women like something other than just shorter, weaker men with breasts. Try and convict me if I’m a bad person for thinking so. I enjoy treating a woman like a lady, opening doors for her, paying for shared meals, giving flowers — all that sort of thing.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Storm Front (2000)
 
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Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Thomas Jefferson Smith, “A Decalogue of Canons for Observation in Practical Life,” #2 (21 Feb 1825)
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Respectfulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes laborious bustle; carefulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes timidity; boldness, without the rules of propriety, becomes insubordination; straightforwardness, without the rules of propriety, becomes rudeness.

[恭而無禮則勞、愼而無禮則葸、勇而無禮則亂、直而無禮則絞。]

Confucius (c. 551- c. 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, sage, politician [孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, K'ung Fu-tzu, K'ung Fu Tse), 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ, Chungni), 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū, K'ung Ch'iu)]
The Analects [論語, 论语, Lúnyǔ], Book 8, verse 2 (8.2a) (6th C. BC – AD 3rd C.) [tr. Legge (1861)]
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(Source (Chinese)). Brooks (below) believes this text was interpolated into Book 8 at the time that Book 14 was collected. Alternate translations:

Without the Proprieties, we have these results: for deferential demeanour, a worried one; for calm attentiveness, awkward bashfulness; for manly conduct, disorderliness; for straightforwardness, perversity.
[tr. Jennings (1895)]

Earnestness without judgment becomes pedantry; caution without judgment becomes timidity; courage without judgment leads to crime; uprightness without judgment makes men tyrannical.
[tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898)]

Courtesy uncontrolled by the laws of good taste becomes labored effort, caution uncontrolled becomes timidity, boldness uncontrolled becomes recklessness, and frankness uncontrolled become effrontery.
[tr. Soothill (1910)]

Respect without rules of procedure becomes laborious fuss: scrupulosity without rules of procedure, timidity (fear to show the thought); boldness without such rules breeds confusion; directness without rules of procedure becomes rude.
[tr. Pound (1933)]

Courtesy not bounded by the prescriptions of ritual becomes tiresome. Caution not bounded by the prescriptions of ritual becomes timidity, daring becomes turbulence, inflexibility becomes harshness.
[tr. Waley (1938)]

Unless a man has the spirit of the rites, in being respectful he will wear himself out, in being careful he will become timid, in having courage he will become unruly, and in being forthright he will become intolerant.
[tr. Lau (1979)]

If one is courteous but does without ritual, then one dissipates one's energies; if one is cautious but does without ritual, then one becomes timid; if one is bold but does without ritual, then one becomes reckless; if one is forthright but does without ritual, then one becomes rude.
[tr. Dawson (1993)]

Without ritual, courtesy is tiresome; without ritual, prudence is timid; without ritual, bravery is quarrelsome; without ritual, frankness is hurtful.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

Respectfulness without the rituals becomes laboriousness; discretion without the rituals becomes apprehensiveness; courage without the rituals becomes rebelliousness; straightforwardness without the rituals becomes impetuosity.
[tr. Huang (1997)]

One would be tired if one is humble but not polite; One would be week if one is cautious but not polite; One would be foolhardy if one is brave but not polite; One would be caustic if one is frank but not polite.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998), #190]

Deference unmediated by observing ritual propriety [li] is lethargy; caution unmediated by observing ritual propriety is timidity; boldness unmediated by observing ritual propriety is rowdiness; candor unmediated by observing ritual propriety is rudeness.
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

If he is respectful without propriety, he becomes wearisome. If he is careful without propriety, he becomes finicky. If he is brave without propriety, he becomes disruptive. If he is upright without propriety, he becomes censorious.
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998)]

Reverence becomes tedium without Ritual, and caution becomes timidity. Without Ritual, courage becomes recklessness, and truth becomes intolerance.
[tr. Hinton (1998)]

If you are respectful but lack ritual you will become exasperating; if you are careful but lack ritual you will become timid; if you are courageous but lack ritual you will become unruly; and if you are upright but lack ritual you will become inflexible.
[tr. Slingerland (2003)]

Courtesy without ritual becomes labored; caution without ritual becomes timidity; daring without ritual becomes riotousness; directness without ritual becomes obtrusiveness.
[tr. Watson (2007)]

Unless a man acts according to the spirit of the rites, in being respectful, he will tire himself out; in being cautious, he will become timid; in being brave, he will become unruly; in being forthright, he will become derisive.
[tr. Chin (2014)]

 
Added on 13-Mar-12 | Last updated 29-Nov-22
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The greatest favors may be done so awkwardly and so bunglingly as to offend; and disagreeable things may be done so agreeably as almost to oblige.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #249 (7 Apr 1751)
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If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Goodness, and Goodness of Nature,” Essays, No. 13 (1625)
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If we are asked what is the most essential characteristic that underlies this word, the word itself will guide us to gentleness, to absence of such things as brow-beating, overbearing manners and fuss, and generally to consideration for other people.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Gentleman” (1912)
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There is a kind of courtesy in scepticism. It would be an offence against polite conventions to press our doubts too far and question the permanence of our estates, our neighbours’ independent existence, or even the justification of a good bishop’s faith and income. Against metaphysicians, and even against bishops, sarcasm was not without its savour; but the line must be drawn somewhere by a gentleman and a man of the world.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 1 “Reason in Common Sense,” ch. 4 (1905-06)
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Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Social Aims,” lecture, Boston (4 Dec 1864), Letters and Social Aims (1875)
 
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Good manners are the settled medium of social, as specie is of commercial, life; returns are equally expected for both.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #304 (25 Dec 1758)
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