Quotations about:
    discretion


Note not all quotations have been tagged, so Search may find additional quotes on this topic.


Politeness is the art of choosing among one’s real thoughts.

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 Abel Stevens, Madame de Staël, Vol. 1, ch. 4 “Early Character” (1880)
    (Source)

Stated as a possible paraphrase: "It was a maxim with her that politeness is the art of choosing among one's real thoughts."
 
Added on 28-Nov-22 | Last updated 28-Nov-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by De Stael, Germaine

To me are bedroom joys revealed,
Enjoy at will, my lips are sealed.

[Dulcis conscia lectuli lucerna,
Quidquid vis facias licet, tacebo.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 14, epigram 39 (14.39) “A Bedside Lamp [Lucerna cubicularis]” [tr. Whigham (1987)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Privy to nocturnal glee;
Nought I say, of all I see.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), "The Chamber-Lamp," Book 11, ep. 17]

I am a night-lamp, privy to the pleasures of the couch; do whatever you please, I shall be silent.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859), "A Night-Lamp"]

I am a lamp, privy to the pleasures of your couch: you may do what you will, I shall be silent.
[tr. Ker (1920), "A Bedroom Lamp"]

A lamp am I, aware of your joy in bed:
Do what you will, not one word will be said.
[tr. Bovie (1970)]

I show but do not countenance what you do.
Douse me. The only record is in you.
[tr. Porter (2010), "A Bedside Light"]

 
Added on 22-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Martial

There is more valour needed not to take up the affair of honor than to conquer in it. When there is one fool ready for the occasion, one may excuse oneself from being the second.

[Estima por más valor el no empeñarse que el vencer. y ya que haya un necio ocasionado, escusa que con él no sean dos.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 47 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
    (Source)

Alternate translation: "There is more courage in avoiding danger than in conquering it. He sees that there is already one rash fool, and avoids adding another." [tr. Maurer (1992)]
 
Added on 3-Jan-22 | Last updated 4-Apr-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Gracián, Baltasar

Censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion, incapable, that is, of doing an honest or intelligent job, and thus guarantees a steady intellectual decline.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Free Enterprise in Ideas,” Freedom, Loyalty and Dissent (1954)
    (Source)

Originally published in the Saturday Review (1952), based on a speech to the Advertising Council's American Round Table, New York City (1951).
 
Added on 17-Jun-21 | Last updated 22-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Commager, Henry Steele

Be your character what it will, it will be known; and nobody will take it up on your own word. Never imagine that anything you can say yourself will varnish your defects or add lustre to your perfections! but, on the contrary, it may, and nine times in ten will, make the former more glaring, and the latter obscure.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #166 (19 Oct 1748)
    (Source)
 
Added on 25-Feb-21 | Last updated 11-Oct-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Chesterfield (Lord)

A real man of fashion and pleasures observes decency: at least, neither borrows nor affects vices; and, if he unfortunately has any, he gratifies them with choice, delicacy, and secrecy.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #119 (27 Mar 1747)
    (Source)
 
Added on 8-Jan-21 | Last updated 12-Oct-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Chesterfield (Lord)

Secrets with girls, like loaded guns with boys,
Are never valued till they make a noise.

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
Tales of the Hall, “The Maid’s Story” (1819)
    (Source)
 
Added on 7-Sep-17 | Last updated 7-Sep-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Crabbe, George

Alcohol: A liquid good for preserving almost everything except secrets.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary (1905)
 
Added on 23-Aug-17 | Last updated 23-Aug-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by ~Other

Thy friend has a friend, and thy friend’s friend has a friend; be discreet.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 28b
    (Source)

Noted as a common saying. The summary "be discreet" does not appear in the actual Talmud translations I found, but seems to be an explanation from early Christian reviews of the Talmud for when the verse is given as a stand-alone proverb.
 
Added on 20-Jul-17 | Last updated 20-Jul-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Talmud

Lesson to the Indiscreet: They who say all they think, and tell all they know, put others on their guard and prevent themselves from being told anything of consequence.

Horace Walpole (1717-1797) English novelist, letter writer
A Note Book of Horace Walpole, “1781” (1927)
 
Added on 12-Apr-17 | Last updated 12-Apr-17
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Walpole, Horace

A wise Man will keep his Suspicions muzzled, but he will keep them awake.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Caution and Suspicion,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
    (Source)
 
Added on 28-Dec-16 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Halifax, George Savile, Marquis of

The better part of valour is discretion.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry IV, Part 1, Act 4, sc. 4, l. 122ff [Falstaff] (1597)
    (Source)
 
Added on 12-Jul-16 | Last updated 27-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Shakespeare, William

Be wiser than other people, if you can; but do not tell them so.

Chesterfield - be wiser - wist_info

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #104 (29 Nov 1745)
    (Source)
 
Added on 18-Nov-15 | Last updated 12-Oct-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Chesterfield (Lord)

Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Lear, Act 1, sc. 4, l. 122ff [Fool] (1606)
    (Source)
 
Added on 26-Mar-15 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Shakespeare, William

“My dear young lady,” said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, “there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.”

“What’s that?” said Susan.

“We might all try minding our own business,” said he. And that was the end of that conversation.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
 
Added on 28-Nov-14 | Last updated 28-Nov-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , ,
More quotes by Lewis, C.S.

I will begin to speak, when I have that to say which had not better be unsaid.

Cato the Younger (95-46 BC) Roman politician, statesman, orator [Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis, Cato Minor]
In Plutarch, “Cato the Younger,” Parallel Lives [tr. Dryden (1693)]
 
Added on 11-Sep-14 | Last updated 11-Sep-14
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , ,
More quotes by Cato the Younger

Be a listener only, keep within yourself, and endeavor to establish with yourself the habit of silence especially in politics. In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them therefore as you would by an angry bull: it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Thomas Jefferson Randolph (24 Nov 1808)
    (Source)
 
Added on 24-Jan-13 | Last updated 3-Aug-22
Link to this post | 1 comment
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Jefferson, Thomas

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)]
    (Source)

(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
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
More quotes by Confucius

Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket; and do not pull it out and strike it, merely to show that you have one. If you are asked what o’clock it is, tell it; but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #142 (22 Feb 1748)
    (Source)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Oct-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Chesterfield (Lord)

Does it really matter what these affectionate people do — so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses!

Beatrice Campbell (1865-1940) English actress [Mrs. Patrick Campbell, née Beatrice Stella Tanner]
(Attributed)

Apocryphally a rebuke c. 1910 to a young actress who criticized an older actor as seeming too affectionate toward the handsome leading man in the production. Most famously given in this form in Alan Dent, Mrs. Patrick Campbell (1961).

Further discussion and variants:
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Oct-22
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , , ,
More quotes by Campbell, Beatrice

Discretion is the salt, and fancy the sugar of life; the one preserves, the other sweetens it.

Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904) American epigrammatist, writer, publisher
Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Vol. 1, “Discretion” (1862)
    (Source)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Jan-20
Link to this post | No comments
Topics: , , , ,
More quotes by Bovee, Christian Nestell