Quotations about   pretence

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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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POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
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Added on 10-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying but they keep lying anyway, and we keep pretending to believe them.

Elena Gorokhova
Elena Gorokhova (b. 1955) Russo-American novelist, linguist, educator
A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir, ch. 13 (2010)
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On the relationship between the Soviet government and media and the Soviet people. Sometimes attributed to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Added on 27-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Many perform the foulest deeds and rehearse the fairest words.

[Πολλοὶ δρῶντες τὰ αἴσχιστα λόγους ἀρίστους ἀσκέουσιν.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 53a (Diels) [tr. Barnes (1987)]
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Diels citation "53a. (122 b N.) DEMOKRATES. 19.2. (Stob. II, 15, 33)" Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter.

Alternate translations:

  • "Many who do the basest deeds can make most learned speeches." [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
  • "Many whose actions are most disgraceful practise the best utterances." [tr. Freeman (1948)].
  • "Many who do the worst things prepare the best speeches." [@sentantiq (2020), fr. 54]
Added on 9-Mar-21 | Last updated 9-Mar-21
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Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so.

[Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship],” ch. 26 / sec. 98 (44 BC)

Common translation. Alternates:

  • "For not so many desire to be endowed with virtue itself, as to seem to be so." [tr. Edmonds (1871)]
  • "For there are not so many possessed of virtue as there are that desire to seem virtuous." [tr. Peabody (1887)]
  • "For many wish not so much to be, as to seem to be, endowed with real virtue." [tr. Falconer (1923)]
Added on 8-Mar-21 | Last updated 8-Mar-21
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The most useful of all social graces is the ability to yawn with your mouth closed.

Lawrence J Peter
Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977)
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Variant: As quoted in The Wall Street Journal (9 Aug 1984): 'At board meetings, "the one unmatched asset is the ability to yawn with your mouth closed," says Robert Mueller in a new book, 'Behind the Boardroom Door.'"
Added on 4-Sep-20 | Last updated 4-Sep-20
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But I never was happy, never could make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Speech, Society of the Army of the Tennessee Annual Meeting, Chicago (12 Nov 1879)
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Twain made quips along this line several times, though there is no evidence he said the more frequently quoted "It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech." For more discussion, see here.
Added on 25-Aug-20 | Last updated 25-Aug-20
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What are you pretending not to know?

Sig Lines
~
Added on 15-May-20 | Last updated 15-May-20
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I believe that you can reach the point where there is no longer any difference between developing the habit of pretending to believe and developing the habit of believing.

Umberto Eco (1932-2016) Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, novelist
Foucault’s Pendulum, ch. 87 (1988) [tr. W. Weaver (1989)]
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See also Hawthorne.
Added on 26-Jan-19 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Words and thoughts concerning compassionate action that are not put into practice are like beautiful flowers that are colorful but have no fragrance.

Thích Nhất Hạnh (b. 1926) Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist
Creating True Peace, ch. 1 (2003)
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Added on 7-May-18 | Last updated 7-May-18
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There’s enough sorrow in the world, isn’t there, without trying to invent it.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
A Room with a View, ch 2 (1908)
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Added on 4-Apr-18 | Last updated 4-Apr-18
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Since unhappiness excites interest, many, in order to render themselves interesting, feign unhappiness.

Joseph Roux
Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, ch. 5, #24 (1886)
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Added on 2-May-16 | Last updated 2-May-16
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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)
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Often paraphrased: "Man is a rational animal. He can think up a reason for anything he wants to believe." Sometimes attributed to Anatole France.
Added on 20-Mar-15 | Last updated 20-Mar-15
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Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #135 (2 Jul 1751)
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Added on 1-Feb-13 | Last updated 26-Jun-22
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There are two kinds of losers: (1) the good loser and (2) those who can’t act.

Lawrence J Peter
Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
Peter’s People, ch. 8 (1979)
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We may also observe that a great many people do many things that seem to be inspired more by a spirit of ostentation than by heart-felt kindness; for such people are not really generous but are rather influenced by a sort of ambition to make a show of being open-handed. Such a pose is nearer akin to hypocrisy than to generosity or moral goodness.

[Videre etiam licet plerosque non tam natura liberales quam quadam gloria ductos, ut benefici videantur, facere multa, quae proficisci ab ostentatione magis quam a voluntate videantur. Talis autem sinulatio vanitati est coniunctior quam aut liberalitati aut honestati.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 14 / sec. 44 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Alt. trans.:
  • "One may also observe in a great many people, that they take a sort of pride in being counted magnificent, and give very plentifully, not from any generous principle in their natures, but only to appear great in the eye of the world; so that all their bounty is resolved into nothing but mere outside and pretense, and is nearer of kin to vanity and folly, than it is to either liberality or honesty." [tr. Cockman (1699)]
  • "Besides we may observe, that most men, not so much from a liberal disposition, as led by some show of apparent beneficence, do acts of kindness, which seem to flow more from ostentation than from the heart. This conduct is more allied to vanity than to liberality or honour." [tr. McCartney (1798)]
  • "For it is easy to observe, that most of them are not so much by nature generous, as they are misled by a kind of pride to do a great many things in order that they may seem to be generous; which things seem to spring not so much from good will as from ostentation. Now such a simulation is more nearly allied to duplicity than to generosity or virtue." [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
  • "We can see, also, that a large number of persons, less from a liberal nature than for the reputation of generosity, do many things that evidently proceed from ostentation rather than from good will." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 29-May-11 | Last updated 26-Oct-20
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Happy the man who never puts on a face, but receives every visitor with that countenance he has on.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (28 Jul 1833)
Added on 13-Mar-09 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007) American novelist, journalist
Mother Night, Introduction (1961)
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See Hawthorne.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 28-Dec-21
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She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
“The Creative Impulse” (1931)
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The original version of the story in Harper's Bazaar (Aug 1926) does not include this phrase. (The story may also be the origin of the phrase "who-done-it" / "whodunit" for a mystery.)

Variant: "The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit."

The even-more-brief "Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit" is often misattributed to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and Voltaire; it is not found in their works.

More discussion about this quotation: Quotation Is a Serviceable Substitute for Wit – Quote Investigator.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jun-22
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O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!
My tables — meet it is I set it down
That one may smile and smile and be a villain.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 1, sc. 5, l. 113ff [Hamlet] (c. 1600)
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O, what may man within him hide,
Though angel on the outward side!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Measure for Measure, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 271ff [Duke](1604)
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