Quotations about:
    personality


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It is only in romances that people undergo a sudden metamorphosis. In real life, even after the most terrible experiences, the main character remains exactly the same.

Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) American dancer, choreographer
My Life, Introduction (1927)
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Added on 23-Sep-22 | Last updated 23-Sep-22
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If by the age of forty a man is still disliked there is no hope for him.

[年四十而見惡焉、其終也已。]

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 17, verse 26 (17.26) (6th C. BC – AD 3rd C.) [tr. Lau (1979)]
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(Source (Chinese)). Alternate translations:

When a man at forty is the object of dislike, he will always continue what he is.
[tr. Legge (1861)]

When a man meets with odium at forty, he will do so to the end.
[tr. Jennings (1895)]

If a man after forty is an object of dislike to men, he will continue to be so to the end of his days.
[tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898)]

If a man reach forty and yet be disliked by his fellows, he will be so to the end.
[tr. Soothill (1910)]

Forty and disliked. He is at the end already; too late to alter.
[tr. Soothill (1910) - alternate 1]

At 40 a man's character is settled, and if he still be detested by his fellows, then here his end is reached.
[tr. Soothill (1910) - alternate 2]

If a man is hateful at forty he'll be so to the end.
[tr. Pound (1933)]

One who has reached the age of forty and is still disliked will be so till the end.
[tr. Waley (1938)]

If hateful things are seen in one at the age of forty, that is indeed how one will end up.
[tr. Dawson (1993)]

Whoever, by the age of forty, is still disliked, will remain so till the end.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

If one is still disliked at his forty years of age, one is going to the end.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998), No. 466]

The person who at age forty still evokes the dislike of others is a hopeless case.
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

If he is forty and is still hated, he will probably be so until the end.
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998), 17.24]

If you reach forty and find it all hateful, you'll be that way to the death.
[tr. Hinton (1998), 17.25]

If, having reached the age of forty, you still find yourself despised by others, you will remain despised until the end of your days.
[tr. Slingerland (2003)]

Forty and hated by others -- and he’ll be so the rest of his life.
[tr. Watson (2007)]

If a person has reached forty but is still an outcast, he will not have much hope for the rest of his life.
[tr. Li (2020)]

 
Added on 5-Sep-22 | Last updated 5-Sep-22
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A stone lies in a river; a piece of wood is jammed against it; dead leaves, drifting logs, and branches caked with mud collect; weeds settle there, and soon birds have made a nest and are feeding their young among the blossoming water plants. Then the river rises and the earth is washed away. The birds depart, the flowers wither, the branches are dislodged and drift downward; no trace is left of the floating island but a stone submerged by the water; — such is our personality.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave, Part 1 “Ecce Gubernator” (1944)
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Added on 17-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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I am quite sure I am not a great novelist because I’ve only got down onto paper really three types of people: the person who I think I am, the people who irritate me, and the people I’d like to be. When you get to the really great people like Tolstoy, you find they can get hold of all types, but most novelists, including myself, are much more constricted in their imaginations and their sympathies.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“E. M. Forster,” Modern Writers: Interviews with Remarkable Authors, BBC (21 Dec 1958)
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Added on 25-Feb-22 | Last updated 25-Feb-22
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Gross and obscure natures, however decorated, seem impure shambles; but character gives splendor to youth, and awe to wrinkled skin and gray hairs.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Beauty,” The Conduct of Life (1860)
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Added on 18-Feb-22 | Last updated 18-Feb-22
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A transition from an author’s book to his conversation is too often like an entrance into a large city after a distant prospect. Remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples, and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendor, grandeur, and magnificence; but when we have passed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #14 (5 May 1784)
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Added on 22-Dec-21 | Last updated 25-Jun-22
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Sport strips away personality, letting the white bone of character shine through. Sport gives players an opportunity to know and test themselves.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Sudden Death (1983)
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Added on 6-Aug-21 | Last updated 6-Aug-21
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At fifteen you had the radiance of early morning, at twenty you will begin to have the melancholy brilliance of the moon, and when you are my age you will give out, as I do, the genial golden warmth of 4 P.M.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) American writer [Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald]
This Side of Paradise, Book 1, ch. 3 [Darcy] (1920)
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Added on 29-Jul-21 | Last updated 29-Jul-21
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“He’s a fair man.”
I looked at him, startled.
“I said fair,” he repeated. “Not likable.”

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Kindred, ch. 4, sec. 6 (1979)
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Added on 20-May-21 | Last updated 20-May-21
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Physics is, hopefully, simple. Physicists are not.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics, ch. 10 (1991) [with Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley]
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Added on 9-Mar-21 | Last updated 9-Mar-21
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About six months ago, he stopped recognizing me. Now I no longer recognize him.

Edmund Morris (1940-2019) South African-American writer and biographer
In Newsweek (23 Jan 1996)


On Ronald Reagan and Alzheimer's Disease, quoted while working on the authorized biography, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan (1999).
 
Added on 7-Aug-20 | Last updated 7-Aug-20
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The way you wear your hat,
The way you sip your tea,
The mem’ry of all that —
No, no! They can’t take that away from me!

Ira Gershwin (1896-1983) American lyricist [b. Israel Gershowitz]
“They Can’t Take That Away from Me”, Shall We Dance (1937)
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Added on 28-Apr-20 | Last updated 28-Apr-20
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It isn’t easy for an author to remain a pleasant human being: both success and failure are usually of a crippling kind.

Graham Greene (1904-1991) English novelist [Henry Graham Greene]
“The Poker-Face,” The Spectator (15 Oct 1943)
    (Source)


Reprinted in The Lost Childhood and Other Essays (1951).
 
Added on 4-Mar-20 | Last updated 4-Mar-20
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I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.

Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) Belgian-English actress
“Hepburn Heart,” Interview with Dominick Dunne, Vanity Fair (May 1991)
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Added on 31-Jan-20 | Last updated 31-Jan-20
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You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
(Spurious)


Frequently attributed to Plato, starting in the 1950s, but not found in his works. Earliest citation is as a Portuguese proverb, in A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs, tr. Henry G. Bohn (1857): "Mais descobre huma hora de jogo, que hum anno de conversação." For more see here.
 
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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For the whole thing about matrimony is this: We fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character. Behind the pretty wallpaper and the brightly painted plaster lurk the yards of tangled wire and twisted pipes, ready to run a short or spring a leak on us without a word of warning.

Peter De Vries (1910-1993) American editor, novelist, satirist
Mrs. Wallop (1970)
    (Source)


Often misquoted as "The difficulty with marriage is that ..."
 
Added on 1-Aug-18 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant.

In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held — so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place — who knows?

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
“How It Feels to Be Colored Me”, The World Tomorrow (May 1928)
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Added on 16-Aug-17 | Last updated 16-Aug-17
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“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you re-read.

François Mauriac (1885-1970) French author, critic, journalist
(Attributed)
 
Added on 20-Jul-17 | Last updated 20-Jul-17
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Every man has three characters — that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.

Alphonse Karr
Alphonse Karr (1808-1890) French journalist and novelist
A Tour Round My Garden [Voyage autour de mon jardin] (1851)
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Added on 25-Apr-17 | Last updated 2-May-17
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As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it — whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.

Harper Lee (1926-2016) American writer [Nellie Harper Lee]
To Kill a Mockingbird, ch. 23 (1960)
 
Added on 7-Apr-17 | Last updated 7-Apr-17
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An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. And this is one of the big problems of life, that so many people never quite get to the point of rising above self. And so they end up the tragic victims of self-centeredness. They end up the victims of distorted and disrupted personality.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Conquering Self-Centeredness,” sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama (11 Aug 1957)
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Added on 31-Mar-17 | Last updated 31-Mar-17
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To look up and not down,
To look forward and not back,
To look out and not in — and
To lend a hand.

Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) American clergyman and author
“Ten Times One is Ten” (1870)
 
Added on 1-Mar-17 | Last updated 1-Mar-17
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We should not be too hasty in bestowing either our praise or censure on mankind, since we shall often find such a mixture of good and evil in the same character, that it may require a very accurate judgment and a very elaborate inquiry to determine on which side the balance turns.

Henry Fielding (1707-1754) English novelist, dramatist, satirist
The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, the Great, Vol. 5 (1743)
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Added on 31-Jan-17 | Last updated 31-Jan-17
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People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Worship,” The Conduct of Life, ch. 6 (1860)
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Added on 30-Jan-17 | Last updated 24-Feb-22
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Character is higher than intellect.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“The American Scholar,” sec. 3, speech, Phi Beta Kappa Society, Cambridge (31 Aug 1837)
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Added on 3-Jan-17 | Last updated 14-Mar-22
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What you get by reaching your goals is not nearly so important as what you become by reaching them.

ziglar-what-you-become-by-reaching-them-wist_info-quote

Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar (1926-2012) American author, salesperson, motivational speaker
Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles (1974)


Ziglar used multiple variations of this phrase. Also attributed to Goethe and Thoreau. For more discussion see here.
 
Added on 30-Dec-16 | Last updated 30-Dec-16
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Observe a man’s actions; scrutinize his motives; take note of the things that give him pleasure. How, then, can he hide from you what he really is?

confucius-what-he-really-is-wist_info-quote

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 [Lun Yü], 2.10 (6th C. BC) [ed. Lao-Tse] [tr. Giles (1907)]
    (Source)


Alt. trans.:
  • "See what a man does. Mark his motives. Examine in what things he rests. How can a man conceal his character?" [tr. Legge (1930)]
  • "Observe [shi] what a man does. Look into [guan] what he has done [you]. Consider [cha] where he feels at home. How then can he hide his character?" [tr. Chin (2014)]
  • "See what a man does; contemplate the path he has traversed; examine what he is at ease with. How, then, can he conceal himself?" [tr. Huang (1997)]
 
Added on 29-Nov-16 | Last updated 5-Jul-20
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We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.

Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Let’s Pretend” (1952)
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Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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You must look into people as well as at them.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (4 Oct 1746)
 
Added on 11-Oct-16 | Last updated 11-Oct-16
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We are what we worry about, maybe that’s the lesson of the whole thing.

brust-we-are-what-we-worry-about-wist_info-quote

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Iorich (2010)
 
Added on 9-Oct-16 | Last updated 9-Oct-16
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He’s a good person, you know. In spite of many things, including his own opinion, he’s a good person. Maybe a bit conceited, overbearing, and arrogant, but then, people without a trace of these diseases aren’t usually worth one’s time.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Orca [Kiera] (1996)
 
Added on 1-Jul-16 | Last updated 1-Jul-16
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One sure window into a person’s soul is his reading list.

Tabor - reading list - wist_info quote

Mary B. W. Tabor (b. 1964) American journalist [Mary Britt Wellford Tabor]
“Book Notes,” New York Times (14 Jun 1995)
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Added on 18-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
(Attributed)


Never specifically cited, and attributed with variations in the language. Also attributed as a Chinese or Buddhist proverb.
 
Added on 26-Oct-15 | Last updated 26-Oct-15
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To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American poet, writer, painter [Gibran Khalil Gibran]
(Attributed)
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Watch how a man takes praise, and there you have the measure of him.

Thomas Burke (1886-1945) British author
In T.P.’s Weekly (8 Jun 1928)
 
Added on 13-May-15 | Last updated 13-May-15
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Beauty loses its relish; the Graces, never: After the longest acquaintance, they are no less agreeable than at first.

Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782) Scottish jurist, agriculturalist, philosopher, writer
Introduction to the Art of Thinking, ch. 4 (1761)
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Added on 12-Feb-15 | Last updated 15-May-20
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Good nature will always supply the absence of beauty; but beauty cannot supply the absence of good nature.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
The Spectator #306 (6 Feb 1712)
 
Added on 10-Dec-14 | Last updated 10-Dec-14
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Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know — so shall the world perceive —
That I have turn’d away my former self.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry IV, Part 2, Act 5, sc. 5, l. 60ff [Hal] (c. 1598)
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A speaker is but a prater, a rhyme is but a ballad, a
good leg will fall, a straight back will stoop, a black
beard will turn white, a curled pate will grow bald,
a fair face will wither, a full eye will wax hollow, but
a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon, or
rather the sun and not the moon, for it shines bright
and never changes but keeps his course truly. If
thou would have such a one, take me.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 5, sc. 2, l. 164ff [Henry] (1599)
    (Source)


Quoted by Walter Mondale as a eulogy for Hubert Humphrey.
 
Added on 23-Mar-11 | Last updated 27-Jun-22
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‘A good heart will help you to a bonny face, my lad,’ I continued, ‘if you were a regular black; and a bad one will turn the bonniest into something worse than ugly.’

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) British novelist, poet [pseud. Ellis Bell]
Wuthering Heights, ch. 7 [Nelly to Heathcliff] (1847)


Full text.

 
Added on 25-Jun-08 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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Men’s maxims reveal their characters.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747) French moralist, essayist, soldier
Reflections and Maxims [Réflexions et maximes], #107 (1746) [tr Stevens (1940)]


Alt. trans.: "The maxims of men reveal their hearts."
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 31-Jul-18
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Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“Song of Myself,” sec. 51, ll. 1324-26, Leaves of Grass, Book 3 (1855)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Jun-22
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