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One day together, for pastime, we read
     Of Lancelot, and how Love held him in thrall.
     We were alone, and without any dread.
Gustave Dore - Francesca and PaoloSometimes our eyes, at the word’s secret call,
     Met, and our cheeks a changing color wore.
     But it was one page only that did all.
When we read how that smile, so thirsted for,
     Was kissed by such a lover, he that may
     Never from me be separated more
All trembling kissed my mouth. The book I say
     Was a Galahalt to us, and he beside
     that wrote that book. We read no more that day.

[Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto
     di Lancialotto come amor lo strinse;
     soli eravamo e sanza alcun sospetto.
Per più fïate li occhi ci sospinse
     quella lettura, e scolorocci il viso;
     ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse.
Quando leggemmo il disïato riso
     esser basciato da cotanto amante,
     questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,
la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante.
     Galeotto fu ‘l libro e chi lo scrisse:
     quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante.]

Dante Alighieri the poet
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 1 “Inferno,” Canto 5, l. 127ff (5.127-138) [Francesca] (1320) [tr. Binyon (1943)]
    (Source)

In the Old French romance of Lancelot du Lac they were reading, Sir Gallehault (spelled variously) serves as go-between for Lancelot and Guinevere (a couple not able to express their love because of her marriage to King Arthur), and ultimately persuades the Queen to give Lancelot a first, dooming kiss. Similarly, Paolo was the intermediary to arrange the marriage of his brother, Gianciotto, and Francesca. After the marriage, reading together that racy tale of Lancelot seduced Paolo and Francesca into pursuing their carnal affair. The Italian form of Gallehault -- "Galeotto" or "Galleot" -- became Middle Ages Italian slang for a panderer or pimp, and Francesca draws on this meaning in her chat with the Pilgrim, blaming the book and its writer for her damning sins with Paolo. See also, earlier, here.

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

Together we, for pleasure, one day read
How strictly Lancelot was bound by love;
We, then alone, without suspicion were:
T'admire each other, often from the book
Our eyes were ta'en, and oft our colour chang'd;
That was the point of time which conqurer'd us,
When, reading that her captivating smile
Was by the Lover the adored kiss'd;
This, my Companion, always with me seen,
Fearful, and trembling, also kiss'd my mouth.
The Writer, Galeotto, nam;d the Book.
But from that day we never read in't more.
[tr. Rogers (1782), l. 113ff]

One day (a day I ever must deplore!)
The gentle youth, to spend a vacant hour,
To me the soft seducing story read,
Of Launcelot and fair Geneura's love,
While fascinating all the quiet grove
Fallacious Peace her snares around us spread.
Too much I found th' insidious volume charm,
And Paulo's mantling blushes rising warm;
Still as he read the guilty secret told:
Soon from the line his eyes began to stray;
Soon did my yielding looks my heart betray,
Nor needed words our wishes to unfold.
Eager to realize the story'd bless,
Trembling he snatch'd the half resented kiss,
To ill soon lesson'd by the pandar-page!
Vile pandar-page! it smooth'd the paths of shame.
[tr. Boyd (1802), st. 24-26]

     One day
For our delight we read of Lancelot,
     How him love thrall’d. Alone we were, and no
     Suspicion near us. Ofttimes by that reading
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
     Fled from our alter’d cheek. But at one point
     Alone we fell. When of that smile we read,
The wished smile, rapturously kiss’d
     By one so deep in love, then he, who ne’er
     From me shall separate, at once my lips
All trembling kiss’d. The book and writer both
     Were love’s purveyors. In its leaves that day
     We read no more.
[tr. Cary (1814)]

'Twas on a day when we for pastime read
     Of Lancelot, whom love ensnared to ruin:
     We were alone, nor knew suspicious dread.
That lesson oft, the conscious look renewing,
     Held us suspense, and turned our cheeks to white;
     But one sole moment wrought for our undoing:
When of the kiss we read, from smile so bright.
     So coveted, that such true-lover bore.
     He, from my side who ne'er may disunite,
Kissed me upon the mouth, trembling all o'er.
     The broker of our Vows, it was the lay,
     And he who wrote -- that day we read no more.
[tr. Dayman (1843)]

     One day, for pastime, wwe read of Lancelot, how love restrained him; we were alone, and without all suspicion.
     Several times that reading urged our eyes to meet, and changed the color of our faces; but one moment alone it was that overcame us.
     When we read how the fond smile was kissed by such a lover, he, who shall never be divided from me,
     kissed my mouth all trembling: the book, and he who wrote it, was a Galeotto; that day we read in it no farther.
[tr. Carlyle (1849)]

We were reading one day, for our delight,
In Lancilotto, bound in love so strict.
We were alone, and neither could suspect
Suspended were our eyes, and more than once,
In reading, and the visage colorless;
One point it was lone that conquered us.
When we read first of that -- the longed-for smile
At being kissed by one who loved so well;
Galeotti was the book -- he wrote it:
That Day we read not there any farther.
[tr. Bannerman (1850)]

One day we read, to pass a pleasant time,
     How Lancelot was bound in chains of love;
     Alone we were and no suspicion knew.
often we sigh'd; and as we read our eyes
     Each other sought, the color fled our cheeks;
     But we were vanquish'd by one point alone.
When we had read how the smile long desir'd
     Was kiss'd by him who lov'd with such deep love,
     This one, from me no more to be apart,
Trembling all over, kiss'd me on the mouth.
     Galeotto was the writer and the book;
     In it we read no further on that day.
[tr. Johnston (1867)]

One day we reading were for our delight
     ⁠Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthrall.
     ⁠Alone we were and without any fear.
Full many a time our eyes together drew
     ⁠That reading, and drove the color from our faces;
     ⁠But one point only was it that o'ercame us.
Whenas we read of the much longed-for smile
     ⁠Being by such a noble lover kissed,
     ⁠This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided,
Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
     ⁠Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
     ⁠That day no farther did we read therein.
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]

We were reading one day, for delight, of Lancelot, how Love constrained him; alone were we, and without any suspicion. Many times did that reading impel our eyes, and change the hue of our visages; but one point only was it that overcame us. When we read that the wished-for smile was kissed by such a lover, this one who never from me shall be parted kissed me on the mouth all trembling. A Gallehault was the book, and he who wrote it. That day we read no further in it.
[tr. Butler (1885)]

We read one day for pleasure, in the song
     Of Launcelot, how Love him captive made;
     We were alone without one thought of wrong.
Many and many a time our eyes delayed
     The reading, and our faces paled apart;
     One point alone it was that us betrayed.
In reading of that worshipt smile o' the heart,
     Kissed by such lover on her lips' red core.
     This one, who never more from me must part,
Kissed me upon the mouth, trembling all o'er:
     For us our Galeotto was that book;
     That day we did not read it any more.
[tr. Minchin (1885)]

We were reading one day, for delight, of Lancelot, how love constrained him. We were alone and without any suspicion. Many times that reading made us lift our eyes, and took the color from our faces, but only one point was that which overcame us. When we read of the longed-for smile being kissed by such a lover, this one, who never from me shall be divided, kissed my mouth all trembling. Galahaut was the book, and he who wrote it. That day we read in it no farther.
[tr. Norton (1892)]

We read one day, to while the hour, of Lancelot, how love enthralled him: we were alone, with never a thought of harm. And oft and oft that reading brought our eyes together and drave the colour to our cheeks ; but one point, only one, it was that overcame us. When that we came to read of how the smiling lips he loved were kissed by lover such as he, he that no more shall e'er be parted from me, kissed my mouth trembling through. Our Galahad was the book and he that penned it: that day we read in it no more.
[tr. Sullivan (1893)]

One day, by way of pastime, we were reading
     Of Lancelot, how love in fetters held him:
     We were alone, and without thought of danger.
Full often did that reading bring together
     Our glances, and made colourless our visage;
     But just one point was that which overcame us:
When as we read how that the smile much longed for
     Was kissed by one so passionately loving,
     He who from me shall never be divided
Kissed me upon the mouth, all, all a-quiver: --
     A Galehalt was the book and he who wrote it: --
     Upon that day we read therein no further.
[tr. Griffith (1908)]

We read one day for pastime of Lancelot, how love constrained him. We were alone and had no misgiving. Many times that reading drew our eyes together and changed the color in our faces, but one point alone it was that mastered us; when we read that the longed-fro smile was kissed by so great a lover, he who never shall be parted from me, all trembling, kissed my mouth. A Galeotto was the book and he that wrote it; that day we read in it no farther.
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]

One day we read for pastime how in thrall
     Lord Lancelot lay to love, who loved the Queen;
     We were alone -- we thought no harm at all.
As we read on, our eyes met now and then,
     And to our cheeks the changing color started,
     But just one moment overcame us -- when
We read of the smile, desired of lips long-thwarted,
     Such smile, by such a lover kissed away,
     He that may never more from me be parted
Trembling all over, kissed my mouth. I say
     The book was Galleot, Galleot the complying
     Ribald who wrote; we read no more that day.
[tr. Sayers (1949)]

One day for dalliance we read the rhyme
     of Lancelot, how love had mastered him.
     We were alone with innocence and dim time.
Pause after pause that high old story drew
     our eyes together while we blushed and paled;
     but it was one soft passage overthrew
our caution and our hearts. For when we read
     how her fond smile was kissed by such a lover,
     he who is one with me alive and dead
breathed on my lips the tremor of his kiss.
     That book, and he who wrote it, was a pander.
     That day we read no further.
[tr. Ciardi (1954), l. 124ff]

One day, for pastime, we reqd of Lancelot, how love constrained him; we were alone, suspecting nothing. Several times that reading urged our eyes to meet and too the color from our faces, but one moment alone it was that overcame us. When we read how the longed-for smile was kissed by so great a lover, this one, who never shll be parted from me, kissed my mouth all trembling. A Gallehault was the book and he who wrote it; that day we read no farther in it.
[tr. Singleton (1970)]

One day we read, to pass the time away,
     of Lancelot, how he had fallen in love;
     we were alone, innocent of suspicion.
Time and again our eyes were brought together
     by the book we read; our faces flushed and paled.
     To the moment of one line alone we yielded:
it was when we read about those longed-for lips
     now being kissed by such a famous lover,
     that this one (who shall never leave my side)
then kissed my mouth, and trembled as he did.
     The book and its author was our galehot!
     That day we read no further.
[tr. Musa (1971)]

One day, to pass the time away, we read
     of Lancelot -- how love had overcome him.
     We were alone, and we suspected nothing.
And time and time again that reading led
     our eyes to meet, and made our faces pale,
     and yet one point alone defeated us.
When we had read how the desired smile
     was kissed by one who was so true a lover,
     this one, who never shall be parted from me,
while all his body trembled, kissed my mouth.
     A Gallehault indeed, that book and he
     who wrote it, too; that day we read no more.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1980)]

One day, when we were reading, for distraction,
     How Lancelot was overcome by love --
     We were alone, without any suspicion;
Several times, what we were reading forced
     Our eyes to meet, and then we changed color:
     But one page only was more than we could bear.
When we read how that smile, so much desired,
     Was kissed by such a lover, in the book,
     He, who will never be divided from me,
Kissed my mouth, he was trembling as he did so;
     The book, the writer played the part of Galahalt:
     That day we got no further with our reading.
[tr. Sisson (1981)]

One day, for pleasure,
We read of Lancelot, by love constrained:
Alone, suspecting nothing, at our leisure.
Sometimes at what we read our glances joined,
Looking from the book each to the other's eyes,
And then the color in our faces drained.
But one particular moment alone it was
Defeated us: the longed-for smile, it said,
Was kissed by that most noble lover: at this,
This one, who now will never leave my side,
Kissed my mouth, trembling. A Galeotto, that book!
And so was he who wrote it; that day we read
No further.
[tr. Pinsky (1994), l. 112ff]

     We were reading one day, for pleasure, of Lancelot, how Love beset him; we were alone and without any suspicion.
     Many times that reading drove our eyes together and turned our faces pale; but one point alone was the one that overpowered us.
     When we read that the yearned-for smile was kissed by so great a lover, he, who will never be separated from me,
     kissed my mouth all trembling. Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it: that day we read there no further.
[tr. Durling (1996)]

We read, one day, to our delight, of Lancelot and how love constrained him: we were alone and without suspicion. Often those words urged our eyes to meet, and coloured our cheeks, but it was a single moment that undid us. When we read how that lover kissed the beloved smile, he who will never be separated from me, kissed my mouth all trembling. That book was a Galeotto, a pandar, and he who wrote it: that day we read no more.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

One day we read together for pure joy
     how Lancelot was taken in Love's palm.
     We were alone. We knew no suspicion.
Time after time, the words we read would lift
     our eyes and drawn all color from our faces.
     A single point, however, vanquished us.
For when at last we read the longed-for smile
     of Guinevere -- at last her lover kissed --
     he, who from me will never now depart,
touched his kiss, trembling to my open mouth.
     This book was Galehault -- pander-penned, the pimp!
     That day we read no further down those lines.
[tr. Kirkpatrick (2006)]

One day, to pass the time in pleasure,
     we read of Lancelot, how love enthralled him.
     We were alone, without the least misgiving.
More than once that reading made our eyes meet
     and drained the color from our faces.
     Still, it was a single instant overcame us:
When we read how the longed-for smile
     was kissed by so renowned a lover, this man,
     who never shall be parted from me,
all trembling, kissed me on my mouth.
     A Galeotto was the book and he that wrote it.
     That day we read in it no further.
[tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]

One day we read the story of Lancelot
     And how his love attacked and held him tight.
     We were alone and unaware of our thoughts.
More than once the story forced our eyes
     To meet, and as we looked our faces turned pale,
     But just one single moment hung and decided
Us. We read how a smile we longed for stayed
     On her lips until the greatest of lovers kissed them,
     And then this man, who cannot be taken away
From me, kissed my mouth, his body trembling.
     A famous go-between had written that tale.
     That day, our time for reading suddenly ended.
[tr. Raffel (2010)]

Reading together one day for delight
Or Lancelot, caught up in Love's sweet snare,
We were alone, with no thought of what might
Occur to us, although we stopped to stare
Sometimes at what we read, and even paled.
But then the moment came we turned a page
And all our powers of resistance failed:
When we read of that great knight in a rage
To kiss the smile he so desired. Paolo,
This one so quiet now, made my mouth still --
Which, loosened by those words, had trembled so --
With his mouth. And right then we lost the will --
For Love can will will's loss, as well you know --
To read on. But let that man take a bow
Who wrote the book we called our Galahad,
The reason nothing can divide us now.
[tr. James (2013), l. 149ff]

 
Added on 31-Dec-22 | Last updated 31-Dec-22
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More quotes by Dante Alighieri

The rich know anger helps the cost of living:
Hating’s more economical than giving.

[Genus, Aucte, lucri divites habent iram:
Odisse, quam donare, vilius constat.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 12, epigram 13 (12.13) [tr. Michie (1972)]
    (Source)

"To Auctus." Closely parallel to 3.37, to the point where some translations are cross-applied in error. The general interpretation, from Ker, is that "picking quarrels with clients saves you giving them presents."

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Anger's a kind of gain that rich men know:
It costs them less to hate than to bestow.
[tr. Fletcher (1656)]

Rich men, my friend, by anger know to thrive.
'Tis cheaper much to quarrel, than to give.
[tr. Hay (1755)]

From ire can gainmongers elicit ore.
Fell hate is frugal: love might lavish more.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), 12.68]

Ask you, last night, why Gripus ill behaved?
A well-timed quarrel is a dinner saved.
[tr. Halhead (1793)]

The rich, Auctus, make a species of gain out of anger.
It is cheaper to get into a passion than to give.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Rich men, Auctus, regard anger as a kind of profit;
to hate is cheaper than to give!
[tr. Ker (1919)]

The rich feign wrath -- a profitable plan;
'Tis cheaper far to hate than help a man.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

Rich men, Auctus, think of anger as a sort of moneymaking:
hating comes cheaper than giving.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

The rich pick fights and cause unpleasance:
Hate is cheaper than giving presents.
[tr. Ericsson (1995)]

The rich believe it pays to get irate --
to give is costlier, Auctus, than to hate.
[tr. McLean (2014)]
 
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More quotes by Martial

Acts and their consequences are the things by which our fellows judge us. Anything else, and all that you get is a cheap feeling of moral superiority by thinking how you would have done something nicer if it had been you. So as for the rest, leave it to heaven. I’m not qualified.

Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) American writer
The Hand of Oberon, ch. 13 (1976)
    (Source)
 
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More quotes by Zelazny, Roger

“But humans do it” is maybe the worst excuse for any behavior I’ve ever heard.

Jeph Jacques
Jeffrey Paul "Jeph" Jacques (b. 1980) American cartoonist
Questionable Content #4679 “I Learned It from You” (Dec 2021)
    (Source)
 
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When you get right down to it, one of the most important tasks of a manager is to eliminate his people’s excuse for failure.

Robert Townsend
Robert Townsend (1920-1998) American business executive and author
Further Up the Organization (1984)
 
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People at the top do not want to share their power. They’ve always got some marvellous reason: I’m following my religion; I’m following the laws of economics. Even Stalin: I’m representing the vanguard of the working class, so please don’t cause trouble. That is the battle that every generation has, and yet we mustn’t be pessimistic about it.

Tony Benn
Tony Benn (1925-2014) British politician, writer, diarist
“Hope Is the Key,” Interview, Share International (Jan 2003)
    (Source)
 
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People may see hypocrisy and cynicism all around them, but in my experience, almost without exception, they believe their own views and actions — even when contradictory, even when private motivations differ from public explanations — are righteous and principled.

John F Harris
John F. Harris (b. c. 1963) American political journalist, editor
“‘He Is Our O.J.'” Politico (9 Jan 2020)
    (Source)
 
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I don’t have much truck with the “religion is the cause of most of our wars” school of thought because that is manifestly done by mad, manipulative and power-hungry men who cloak their ambition in God.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
“I create gods all the time — now I think one might exist,” Daily Mail (21 Jun 2008)
    (Source)
 
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It is always tempting when you have political discontent in your own country to say it is the fault of some other country and not of your own government.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
How Wars Begin (1979)
    (Source)
 
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When I talk about the death penalty to people, there are a zillion pragmatic arguments to make that the death penalty is more expensive, that you could make mistakes with the death penalty. I try to never use them, because I believe that as soon as I use them, I have dropped what matters to me. Because those arguments are disingenuous. To say, “What if we put an innocent person to death?” I am then telling you that if you can promise me we won’t put any innocent people to death that I’m somehow OK with that, and I’m fucking not. Killing people is wrong. Government shouldn’t fucking do it. End of story.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
Interview by Kahterine Mangu-Ward, Reason (Jan 2017)
    (Source)
 
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We may then lay down this rule of friendship — neither ask nor consent to do what is wrong. For the plea “for friendship’s sake” is a discreditable one, and not to be admitted for a moment. This rule holds good for all wrong-doing, but more especially in such as involves disloyalty to the republic.

[Haec igitur lex in amicitia sanciatur, ut neque rogemus res turpes nec faciamus rogati. Turpis enim excusatio est et minime accipienda cum in ceteris peccatis, tum si quis contra rem publicam se amici causa fecisse fateatur.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship], ch. 12 / sec. 40 (44 BC) [tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Alternate translations:

Let this law therefore be established in friendship, viz., that we should neither ask things that are improper, nor grant them when asked; for it is a disgraceful apology, and by no means to be admitted, as well in the case of other offenses, as when any one avows he has acted against the state for the sake of a friend.
[tr. Edmonds (1871)]

As to friendship, then, let this law be enacted, that we neither ask of a friend what is wrong, nor do what is wrong at a friend’s request. The plea that it was for a friend’s sake is a base apology, -- one that should never be admitted with regard to other forms of guilt, and certainly not as to crimes against the State.
[tr. Peabody (1887)]

Therefore let this law be established in friendship: neither ask dishonourable things, nor do them, if asked. And dishonourable it certainly is, and not to be allowed, for anyone to plead in defence of sins in general and especially of those against the State, that he committed them for the sake of a friend.
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

Therefore, let this law be established for friendship: that we should neither ask for foul things nor fulfill requests for them. For this is a foul excuse and ought not be accepted for any crime, but especially not if someone is shown to have placed themselves against the Republic for the sake of a friend.
[Source]

 
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

My word, how mortals take the gods to task!
All their afflictions come from us, we hear.
And what of their own failings? Greed and folly
double the suffering in the lot of man.

[ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται.
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ’ ἔμμεναι· οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε’ ἔχουσιν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 1, l. 32ff (1.32) [Zeus] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

O how falsely men
Accuse us Gods as authors of their ill!
When, by the bane their own bad lives instill,
They suffer all the mis’ries of their states,
Past our inflictions, and beyond their fates.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

Ha! how dare mortals tax the Gods, and say,
Their harms do all proceed from our decree,
And by our setting; when by their crimes they
Against our wills make their own destiny?
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 37ff]

Perverse mankind! whose wills, created free,
Charge all their woes on absolute degree;
All to the dooming gods their guilt translate,
And follies are miscall'd the crimes of fate.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Alas! how prone are human-kind to blame
The Pow’rs of Heav’n! From us, they say, proceed
The ills which they endure, yet more than Fate
Herself inflicts, by their own crimes incur.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 41ff]

Mortals, ye Powers, upbraid us with their voice,
And brand us for the fount of all their ill,
Who, of their own acts, not of fate but choice,
Heap to themselves much toil and sorrow still.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 6]

Why! what reproach,
Ye gods! do mortals cast on deities!
To us all their calamities they trace,
While they, themselves, through their own senseless acts,
Feel pangs their destiny had ne'er decreed.
[tr. Musgrave (1869)]

Oh heavens! how mortals now to blame the gods!
From us they say spring ills! but they themselves
By their own folly bring unfated woes.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For of us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves, through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

Lo, how men blame the gods! From us, they say, spring troubles. But through their own perversity and more than is their due they meet with sorrow.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all nothing but their own folly.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Oh my, how mortals hold us gods responsible! For they say that their misfortunes come from us. But they get their sufferings, beyond what is fated, by way of their own acts of recklessness.
[tr. Butler (1898), rev. Kim/McCray/Nagy/Power (2018)]

Look you now, how ready mortals are to blame the gods. It is from us, they say, that evils come, but they even of themselves, through their own blind folly, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

It vexes me to see how mean are these creatures of a day towards us Gods, when they charge against us the evils (far beyond our worst dooming) which their own exceeding wantonness has heaped upon themselves.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own wickedness that brings them sufferings worse than any which Destiny allots them.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame upon us
gods, for they say evils come from us, but it is they, rather,
who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves -- in their depravity -- design
grief greater than the griefs that fate assigns.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

Ah how shameless -- the way these mortals blame the gods.
From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes,
but they themselves, with their own reckless ways,
compound their pains beyond their proper share.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

Mortals! They are always blaming the gods
For their troubles, when their own witlessness
Causes them more than they were destined for!
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 37ff]

Strange to behold, what blame these mortals can bring against godhead! For their ills, they assert, are from us, when they themselves by their mad recklessness have pain far past what is fated.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own transgressions which bring them suffering that was not their destiny.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

This is not good! See how mortals find fault with us gods!
They say it is from us that all evil things come, yet it is by their
own recklessness that they suffer hardship beyond their destiny.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

This is absurd,
that mortals blame the gods! They say we cause
their suffering, but they themselves increase it
by folly.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

My oh my, the way mortals will fasten blame on the gods!
From us, they say, evils come, yet they themselves
through their own blind recklessness have ills beyond
their fated lot.
[tr. Green (2018)]

It’s disgraceful how humans blame the gods.
They say their tribulations come from us,
when they themselves, through their own foolishness,
bring hardships which are not decreed by Fate.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 41ff]

 
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Caution in handling generally accepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 1, ch. 1 “Antisemitism as an Outrage to Common Sense” (1951)
    (Source)
 
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Every man always has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is right not to sacrifice himself.

Alexander Solzhenitsen (1918-2008) Russian novelist, emigre [Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn]
The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, Part 1, ch. 1 (1973) [tr. Whitney]
    (Source)
 
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Oh, but I hate it more
when a traitor, caught red-handed,
tries to glorify his crimes.

[μισῶ γε μέντοι χὤταν ἐν κακοῖσί τις
ἁλοὺς ἔπειτα τοῦτο καλλύνειν θέλῃ.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 495ff [Creon] (441 BC) [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 552ff]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Howbeit, to me it is no less abhorrent,
When, caught in criminality, the culprit
Seeks with fine words to beautify his deed.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

More hateful still the miscreant who seeks
When caught, to make a virtue of a crime.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

But not less hateful
Seems it to me, when one that hath been caught
In wickedness would give it a brave show.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

But, truly, I detest it, too, when one who has been caught in treachery then seeks to make the crime a glory.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

I cannot bear to see the guilty stand
Convicted of their crimes, and yet pretend
To gloss them o'er with specious names of virtue.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

But verily this, too, is hateful, -- when one who hath been caught in wickedness then seeks to make the crime a glory.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

But now much worse than this
Is brazen boasting of barefaced anarchy.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 390ff]

The criminal who being caught still tries.
To make a fair excuse , is damned indeed.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 414ff]

I hate it too when someone caught in crime
then wants to make it seem a lovely thing.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

But this is worst of all: to be convicted
And then to glorify the name as virtue.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

But how I hate it when she's caught in the act, And the criminal still glories in her crime. [tr. Woodruff (2001)]

I hate it when someone, caught in ugliness, afterwards wants to make it look pretty. [tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

And there’s nothing I hate more than when someone is caught committing a crime and tries to hide it by embellishing it with sweet words.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

How I despise
a person caught committing evil acts
who then desires to glorify the crime.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 562ff]

I, for my part, hate anyone caught in the act who tries to beautify his crimes thereupon.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]

I hate it when someone is caught in the midst of their evil deeds and tries to gloss over them.
[tr. @sentantiq (2020)]

 
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Several excuses are always less convincing than one.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Point CounterPoint, ch. 1 (1928)
    (Source)
 
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Blaming mother is just a negative way of clinging to her still.

Nancy Friday (1933-2017) American author and feminist
My Mother/My Self, ch. 2 (1977)
    (Source)
 
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The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God’s name, it was bad theology. Compassion was the litmus test for the prophets of Israel, for the rabbis of the Talmud, for Jesus, for Paul, and for Muhammad, not to mention Confucius, Lao-tsu, the Buddha, or the sages of the Upanishads.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness (2004)
    (Source)
 
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“My thoughts are not your thoughts. For as high as the heavens are the above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts, my ways above your ways.” It should be written over every preacher’s pulpit. […] Because so often we think that God’s ways are our ways. God’s thoughts are our thoughts. And we created God in our own image and likeness saying, “God approves of this. God forbids that. God desires the other.” […] This is where some of the worst atrocities of religion have come from. Because people have used this to give a sacred seal of a divine approval to some of their worst hatreds, loathings, and fears.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
NOW Interview with Bill Moyers, PBS (1 Mar 2002)
    (Source)

Quoting Isaiah 55:8.
 
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Tell him I was too fucking busy — or vice versa.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
(Attributed)

In Hard Times, Vol. 6 (1967), the anecdote is that a messenger pounded on her door for several minutes, having been sent by a New Yorker editor for some promised writing. She finally opened a second-floor window, called down to find out what was the matter, and provided this retort.

In Oscar Levant, The Unimportance of Being Oscar (1968), it's phrased "Too fucking busy, and vice versa."
 
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The great appeal of fatalism, indeed, is as a refuge from the terror of responsibility.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Decline of Greatness,” Saturday Evening Post (1 Nov 1958)
    (Source)

The same phrase is used in the successor essay, "On Heroic Leadership," sec. 2. (1960)
 
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Men of faith know that throughout history the crimes committed in liberty’s name have been exceeded only by those committed in God’s name.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Mills E. Godwin, Governor of Virginia (Dec 1966)

On KKK cross-burnings. Quoted in various papers of the time.
 
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In my defense, I was left unsupervised.

Sig Lines
 
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If someone tells you he is going to make a “realistic decision,” you immediately understand that he has resolved to do something bad.

Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) American author, critic, political activist
“American Realist Playwrights,” On the Contrary (1961)
    (Source)
 
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Historians have a word for Germans who joined the Nazi party, not because they hated Jews, but out of a hope for restored patriotism, or a sense of economic anxiety, or a hope to preserve their religious values, or dislike of their opponents, or raw political opportunism, or convenience, or ignorance, or greed.

That word is “Nazi.” Nobody cares about their motives any more.

They joined what they joined. They lent their support and their moral approval. And, in so doing, they bound themselves to everything that came after. Who cares any more what particular knot they used in the binding?

Andrew R. Moxon (contemp.) American writer, critic [a.k.a. Julius Goat]
Blogspot (16 Jan 2017)
    (Source)

Frequently mis-attributed to Twitter, where Moxxon also posts under his @JuliusGoat handle. The original Julius Goat Blogspot site is no longer online.
 
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Being cruel to be kind is just ordinary cruelty with an excuse made for it.

Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884-1969) English novelist
Daughters and Sons, ch. 6 (1937)
    (Source)
 
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The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) American-British poet, critic, playwright [Thomas Stearns Eliot]
Murder in the Cathedral, Act 1 [Thomas] (1935)
    (Source)
 
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When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart — every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“On Forgiveness”
 
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A thief believes everybody steals.

Edgar Watson "Ed" Howe (1853-1937) American journalist and author [E. W. Howe]
Country Town Sayings (1911)
 
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It’s okay if you don’t want to feed the hungry, or heal the sick, or house the homeless. Just don’t say you’re doing it for their own good. Don’t say you’d like to help people, but your hands are tied, because if you did it would cause a “culture of dependency,” or “go against the Bible,” or, worst of all, “rob them of their freedom” to be sick and hungry. Just admit you’re selfish, and based on how little your beliefs mirror the actual teachings of Jesus you might as well be worshiping Despicable Me.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Real Time with Bill Maher (8 Nov 2013)
 
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There are two kinds of Friends in our Society, and two kinds of people in the world: there are therefore people, and there are however people. Therefore people say, “There are children going to bed hungry in our community, Therefore …” and they proceed to devise and define the ways in which they can meet the need in their community. However people make the same beginning statement, “There are children going to bed hungry in our community,” but they follow that statement with, “However …” and they explain why nothing can be done about it.

Henry Joel Cadbury (1883-1974) American biblical scholar, Quaker historian, writer, activist
(Attributed)

Quoted in Synthesis (8 May 1994).
 
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MICHAEL: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.

SAM: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.

MICHAEL: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

Lawrence Kasdan (b. 1949) American screenwriter, director, producer
The Big Chill (1983) [with Barbara Benedek]
 
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We lie to ourselves, in order that we may still have the excuse of ignorance, the alibi of stupidity and incomprehension, possessing which we can continue with a good conscience to commit and tolerate the most monstrous crimes.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
“Words and Behavior,” The Olive Tree and Other Essays (1936)
 
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The more lies are told, the more important it becomes for the liars to justify themselves by deep moral commitments to high-sounding objectives that mask the pursuit of money and power.

Bertram M. Gross (1912-1997) American social scientist, academic, bureaucrat
Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America, ch. 9 (1980)
 
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There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life. Moreover, when we have an alibi for not writing a book, painting a picture, and so on, we have an alibi for not writing the greatest book and not painting the greatest picture. Small wonder that the effort expended and the punishment endured in obtaining a good alibi often exceed the effort and grief requisite for the attainment of a most marked achievement.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 181 (1955)
    (Source)
 
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If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.

Wilson Mizner (1876-1933) American screenwriter and wit
In Alva Johnson, The Legendary Mizners, ch. 4 (1953)
 
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How convenient does it prove to be a rational animal, that knows how to find or invent a plausible pretext for whatever it has an inclination so to do.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
The Life of Benjamin Franklin (1791)
    (Source)

Often paraphrased: "Man is a rational animal. He can think up a reason for anything he wants to believe." Sometimes attributed to Anatole France.
 
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The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience. It would be easy, however, to destroy that good conscience by shouting to them: if you want the happiness of the people, let them speak out and tell what kind of happiness they want and what kind they don’t want! But, in truth, the very ones who make use of such alibis know they are lies; they leave to their intellectuals on duty the chore of believing in them and of proving that religion, patriotism, and justice need for their survival the sacrifice of freedom.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Homage to an Exile” (1955)

Published as an essay in Actuelles III, originally a speech (7 Dec 1955) at a banquet in honor of President Eduardo Santos, editor of El Tiempo, driven out of Columbia by a dictatorship". Reprinted in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (1960).
 
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Don’t excuse yourself by accusing Satan.

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) English Puritan divine, writer
(Attributed)
 
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Liberty, next to religion, has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
“The History of Freedom in Antiquity,” Speech, Bridgenorth Institute (28 Feb 1877)
    (Source)
 
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Necessity can make a doubtful action innocent, but it cannot make it commendable.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
 
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We live in an age of Wrath. It is to be found in the terrorist, the kidnapper, the hijacker, the looter, and in the clenched fist of the demonstrator. […] When we ask what is their justification, they hardly have to give an answer, because our age finds it for them. They are angry. That is apparently enough. We justify their Wrath, so we justify their violence. If someone thinks that he has cause to be angry, he may act from his Anger as destructively as he sees fit. In fact, we have come close to the point of giving to Wrath an incontestable license to terrorize our society, just as an angry man may terrorize his family, but whereas we do not excuse the husband or the father, we extend our sympathy and understanding to the terrorist.

Henry Fairlie (1924-1990) British journalist and social critic
The Seven Deadly Sins Today (1978)
 
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Necessity can make a doubtful action innocent, but it cannot make it commendable.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
 
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Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare;
At whatever time the deed took place — MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) American-British poet, critic, playwright [Thomas Stearns Eliot]
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, “Macavity: The Mystery Cat” (1939)
 
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There is a powerful craving in most of us to see ourselves as instruments in the hands of others and thus free ourselves from the responsibility for acts which are prompted by our own questionable inclinations and impulses. Both the strong and the weak grasp at this alibi. The latter hide their malevolence under the virtue of obedience: they acted dishonorably because they had to obey orders. The strong, too, claim absolution by proclaiming themselves the chosen instrument of a higher power — God, history, fate, nation or humanity.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 85 (1955)
    (Source)
 
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To find the cause of our ills in something outside ourselves, something specific that can be spotted and eliminated, is a diagnosis that cannot fail to appeal. To say that the cause of our troubles is not in us but in the Jews, and pass immediately to the extermination of the Jews, is a prescription likely to find a wide acceptance.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 126 (1955)
    (Source)
 
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So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,
The Tyrant’s plea, excus’d his devilish deeds.

John Milton (1608-1674) English poet
Paradise Lost, 4.383 (1667)
 
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A man’s worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes. So long as a man is struggling with obstacles he has an excuse for failure or shortcoming; but when fortune removes them all and gives him the power of doing as he thinks best, then comes the time of trial. There is but one right, and the possibilities of wrong are infinite.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
“Address on University Education,” opening ceremonies of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (12 Sep 1876)
    (Source)
 
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The faults of others console us in our own.

Paul Eldridge (1888-1982) American educator, novelist, poet
Maxims for a Modern Man, #2178 (1965)
    (Source)
 
Added on 30-Jun-10 | Last updated 28-Jan-22
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Don’t make excuses — make good!

Hubbard - make good - wist_info quote

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
A Thousand and One Epigrams (1911)
 
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We are all exceptional cases. We all want to appeal against something! Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself!

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall (1956) [tr. J. O’Brien]
 
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Anger is never without an Argument, but seldom with a good one.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Anger,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
    (Source)
 
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More quotes by Halifax, George Savile, Marquis of

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
Letter to Bp. Mandell Creighton (3 Apr 1887)
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Often paraphrased, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

There is an alternate, probably spurious version of this quote, for which I have been unable to find an actual citation (except where it is mis-cited to this letter to Bp. Creighton): "And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." As the word "gangster" has only been traced back to 1886, and that in the US, its use by Acton (esp. in a modern sense) seems unlikely.
 
Added on 16-Oct-07 | Last updated 30-Apr-20
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More quotes by Acton, John Dalberg (Lord)

And oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by th’ excuse,
As patches set upon a little breach
Discredit more in hiding of the fault
Than did the fault before it was so patched.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King John, Act 4, sc. 2, l. 30ff [Pembroke] (1596)
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Added on 12-May-04 | Last updated 29-Jun-22
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More quotes by Shakespeare, William

Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
In More Maxims of Mark [ed. M. Johnson (1925)]
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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More quotes by Twain, Mark