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We may define all the essentials of politeness, but we cannot determine how and where they should be used; they depend on ordinary habits and customs, are connected with times and places, and are not the same in both sexes nor in different ranks of life; intelligence alone cannot find this out; politeness is acquired and perfected by imitation.
 
[L’on peut définir l’esprit de politesse, l’on ne peut en fixer la pratique: elle suit l’usage et les coutumes reçues; elle est attachée aux temps, aux lieux, aux personnes, et n’est point la même dans les deux sexes, ni dans les différentes conditions; l’esprit tout seul ne la fait pas deviner: il fait qu’on la suit par imitation, et que l’on s’y perfectionne.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 5 “Of Society and Conversation [De la Société et de la Conversation],” § 32 (5.32) (1688) [tr. Van Laun (1885)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

We may define Politeness, tho we can't tell where to fix it in practice. It observes received Uses and Customs, 'tis bound to times and places, and is not the same thing in the two Sexes, or in different conditions. Wit alone cannot attain it: 'tis acquired and compleated by Imitation.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

We may define Politeness, tho we can't tell where to fix it in Practice. It observes receiv'd Uses and Customs, is bound to Times and Places, and is nto the same thing in the two Sexes, or in different Conditions; Wit alone cannot attain it, 'tis acquir'd and brought to perfection by imitation.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

It is possible to define the spirit of politeness, but not to lay down rules for its practice: it depends on custom and convention; it is related to periods and places and people, and it is not the same for the two sexes nor for various social conditions; one cannot attain it through intelligence alone, yet intelligence can enable one to imitate it, and to acquire perfection in it.
[tr. Stewart (1970)]

 
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Pedantry prides herself on being wrong by rules; while common sense is contented to be right, without them.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer, aphorist
Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words, Vol. 1, § 48 (1820)
    (Source)
 
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And so when I hear so much impatient and irritable complaint, so much readiness to replace what we have by guardians for us all, those supermen, evoked somewhere from the clouds, whom none have seen and none are ready to name, I lapse into a dream, as it were. I see children playing on the grass; their voices are shrill and discordant as children’s are; they are restive and quarrelsome; they cannot agree to any common plan; their play annoys them; it goes poorly. And one says, let us make Jack the master; Jack knows all about it; Jack will tell us what each is to do and we shall all agree. But Jack is like all the rest; Helen is discontented with her part and Henry with his, and soon they fall again into their old state. No, the children must learn to play by themselves; there is no Jack the master. And in the end slowly and with infinite disappointment they do learn a little; they learn to forbear, to reckon with anther, accept a little where they wanted much, to live and let live, to yield when they must yield; perhaps, we may hope, not to take all they can. But the condition is that they shall be willing at least to listen to one another, to get the habit of pooling their wishes. Somehow or other they must do this, if the play is to go on; maybe it will not, but there is no Jack, in or out of the box, who can come to straighten the game.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“Democracy: Its Presumptions and Realities,” speech, Federal Bar Association, Washington, DC (1932-03-08)
    (Source)

Collected in The Spirit of Liberty (1953).
 
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Language doesn’t belong to grammarians, linguists, wordsmiths, writers, or editors. It belongs to the people who use it. It goes where people want it to go, and, like a balky mule, you can’t make it go where it doesn’t want to go.

Rosalie Maggio (1944-2021) American writer
Talking About People: A Guide to Fair and Accurate Language, “Writing Guidelines” (1997)
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Gustave Dore - Inferno 4.42 - The virtuous pagans (1890)
Gustave Dore – Inferno 4.42 – The virtuous pagans (1890)

Down there, to judge only by what I heard,
there were no wails but just the sounds of sighs
rising and trembling through the timeless air,
The sounds of sighs of untormented grief
burdening these groups, diverse and teeming,
made of men and women and of infants.
Then the good master said, “You do not ask
what sort of souls are these you see around you.
Now you should know before we go on farther,
they have not sinned. But their great worth alone
was not enough, for they did not know Baptism
which is the gateway to the faith you follow,
and if they came before the birth of Christ
They did not worship God the way one should;
I myself am a member of this group.
For this defect, and for no other guilt,
we here are lost. In this alone we suffer:
cut off from hope, we live on in desire.”

[Quivi, secondo che per ascoltare,
non avea pianto mai che di sospiri
che l’aura etterna facevan tremare;
ciò avvenia di duol sanza martìri,
ch’avean le turbe, ch’eran molte e grandi,
d’infanti e di femmine e di viri.
Lo buon maestro a me: “Tu non dimandi
che spiriti son questi che tu vedi?
Or vo’ che sappi, innanzi che più andi,
ch’ei non peccaro; e s’elli hanno mercedi,
non basta, perché non ebber battesmo,
ch’è porta de la fede che tu credi;
e s’e’ furon dinanzi al cristianesmo,
non adorar debitamente a Dio:
e di questi cotai son io medesmo.
Per tai difetti, non per altro rio,
semo perduti, e sol di tanto offesi
che sanza speme vivemo in disio”.]

Dante Alighieri the poet
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 1 “Inferno,” Canto 4, l. 25ff (4.25-42) (1309) [tr. Musa (1971)]
    (Source)

In the First Circle of Hell, Dante encounters the "virtuous pagans," without sin but who cannot go to heaven because they were not baptized (such as children), or because they were born before Christ and therefore could not be saved by faith. They are not physically punished, but languish in an otherwise-pleasant Limbo, longing to be united with God. (Dante did not invent Limbo, but popularized it.)

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

Loud Lamentations were not heard from thence,
But heavy Sighs which trembled through the air:
From th' anguish these of Mind, not Body, came
Of many Infants, Women, and of Men.
You do not ask me, my kind Master said,
What are these Spirits in this place you see;
This you should know before we farther pass.
These have not sinn'd; and 'though they had reward
Deserved for their meritorious acts,
'Twould not avail, since they were ne'er baptiz'd;
For this in your Belief's the Gate of Faith.
They who have lived before Christ appear'd
Have not with proper Prayers ador'd their God.
And I myself, alas! am one of those.
For these defects, and not for any crime,
We're lost; and, without other punishment,
We live desiring, yet depriv'd of hope.
[tr. Rogers (1782), l. 35ff]

Now thro' the void and viewless shadows drear,
Short sighs, thick-coming, led the list'ning ear,
Trembling in murmurs low along the gale:
No pang is here, no tort'ring hour is known,
Their irrecoverable loss alone
Matrons, and fires, and tender babes bewail.
"And can the mournful train that here abide
Unnotic'd pass thee by?" the Poet cry'd,
"These were of the race renown'd of ancient time:
Unknown a Saviour, unador'd a God,
Their blind presumptuous course in reason's road
They still pursu'd, unconscious of a crime.
No bleeding ransom of their sins they knew
Nor from the fount regeneration drew
The sacred symbol of eternal joy!
In ceaseless languors now forlorn they dwell,
Not heirs of Heav'n, nor denizens of Hell,
And of their sad society am I!"
[tr. Boyd (1802), st. 5-7]

Here, as mine ear could note, no plaint was heard
Except of sighs, that made th’ eternal air
Tremble, not caus’d by tortures, but from grief
Felt by those multitudes, many and vast,
Of men, women, and infants. Then to me
The gentle guide: “Inquir’st thou not what spirits
Are these, which thou beholdest? Ere thou pass
Farther, I would thou know, that these of sin
Were blameless; and if aught they merited,
It profits not, since baptism was not theirs,
The portal to thy faith. If they before
The Gospel liv’d, they serv’d not God aright;
And among such am I. For these defects,
And for no other evil, we are lost;
Only so far afflicted, that we live
Desiring without hope.
[tr. Cary (1814)]

Here never aught of louder plaint or moan
Disturbed the listener's hearing; but the air
Trembled eternally with sighs alone.
The cause, a grief where torment hath no share,
Endured of crowded hostings not a few,
Men, women, infants, all assembled there.
And thus the good preceptor -- "Canst thou view
So vast a throng, nor ask of whom the spirits?
I will thou learn, ere we our path pursue.
These were not sinners; yet, whatever their merits.
Suffice not them, wanting baptismal rite.
That each partaker of thy faith inherits.
And if they rose before the Christian light.
Duly they honoured not their Maker's name;
But what these are, am I: our fates unite.
For such default, and not for deeper blame,
Heaven have we lost; yet this our only smart.
Our hope is not, our longing still the same."
[tr. Dayman (1843)]

Here was no plaint, that could be heard, except of sighs, which caused the eternal air to tremble;
And this arose from the sadness, without torment, of the crowds that were many and great, both of children, and women and men.
The good Master said to me: "Thou askest not what spirits are these thou seest? I wish thee to know, before thou goest further,
that they sinned not; and though they have merit, it suffices not: for they had not Baptism, which is the portal of the faith that thou believest;
and seeing they were before Christianity, they worshipped not God aright; and of these am I myself.
For such defects, and for no other fault, are we lost; and only in so far afflicted, that without hope we live in desire."
[tr. Carlyle (1849)]

Here was no sound, to any listener's ear,
Of loud complaint, but frequent sighs of care,
Which made to tremble the eternal air.
It happened thus, from grief of torments void,
Possessing crowds beyond our sight and ken
Of infants, and of women, and of men.
The good master said, "You do not ask me
What are these spirits which you now descry --
Wouldst thou discover, ere we yet draw nigh?
These have not sinn'd, though merit they should have --
'Tis not enough, for baptism they have none,
A portion of the faith you also own:
They lived ere Christianity began;
The God of heaven adored not as they ought.
And of these here, I'm also in the fault
For these defects; for other evil none
Are lost, -- afflicted only thus so far:
Live in desire, but want hope's brightening star."
[tr. Bannerman (1850)]

There as I listen'd I could hear no sound
Of plaint or moan, but rather that of sighs
Which tremulous did stir th' eternal air;
This came not from the martyrdom of pain
But from the dole of those, many and great,
Of children, and of women, and of men.
My kindly master said -- "Thou askest not
Who be these spirits which thou seest now?
Yet here we further go, be to thee known
They sinned not; yet no merit claim'd by them
Availeth aught, because they never knew
The Grace Baptismal, portal of they creed:
And if they liv'd before the day of Grace
They could not in right spirit worship God:
And of that number I myself am one.
For this default and for no other guilt
We are lost souls; afflicted only thus,
That ever hopeless we must still desire."
[tr. Johnston (1867)]

There, in so far as I had power to hear, ⁠
⁠Were lamentations none, but only sighs,
⁠That tremulous made the everlasting air.
And this arose from sorrow without torment,
⁠Which the crowds had, that many were and great,
⁠Of infants and of women and of men. ⁠
To me the Master good: "Thou dost not ask
⁠What spirits these, which thou beholdest, are?
⁠Now will I have thee know, ere thou go farther,
That they sinned not; and if they merit had,
'T is not enough, because they had not baptism, ⁠
⁠Which is the portal of the Faith thou holdest;
And if they were before Christianity,
⁠⁠In the right manner they adored not God;
⁠⁠And among such as these am I myself.
For such defects, and not for other guilt,
⁠⁠Lost are we, and are only so far punished,
⁠⁠That without hope we live on in desire."
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]

Here, so far as listening went, lamentation was not, save of sighs which made the everlasting mist tremble. And this befel of woe without torments which the crowds had, that were many and great, both of infants and of women and of men. The good Master to me: 'Thou demandest not what spirits these are whom thou seest ? Now will I that thou know ere thou go further, that they did not sin; and if they have deserts, it suffices not; because they had not baptism, which is a part of the faith which thou believest. And if they were before Christianity, they adored not God duly; and of this sort am I myself. For such defects, not for other crime, we are lost; and we are harmed only in so far as we live without hope in longing.'
[tr. Butler (1885)]

Here, in as far as hearing is aware,
⁠Was no loud weeping, but a sound of sighs.
⁠Which ever trembled in the eternal air,
And these from sorrow without torments rise,
⁠Sorrow that holds the crowds both many and great,
⁠Men, women, children, of all age and size.
Turned my good master to me: "Dost thou wait
⁠To ask what souls are these thou seest here?
⁠I will that thou shouldst know at once their state.
These have not sinned, and if their acts were fair,
⁠'Twas not sufficient, since they baptism lacked,
⁠The gateway of the Faith which thou dost share.
And if they lived ere Christ's law was a fact.
⁠They did not in fit fashion God adore;
⁠And I myself amongst these last am wreckt.
For such deficiencies, and nothing more,
⁠Our penalty is fixed, the lost among,
⁠To yearn for ever on this hopeless shore.
[tr. Minchin (1885)]

Here, so far as could be heard, there was no plaint but that of sighs which made the eternal air to tremble: this came of the woe without torments felt by the crowds, which were many and great, of infants and of women and of men. The good Master to me, “Thou dost not ask what spirits are these that thou seest. Now I would have thee know, before thou goest farther, that they sinned not; and if they have merits it sufficeth not, because they had not baptism, which is part of the faith that thou believest; and if they were before Christianity, they did not duly worship God: and of such as these am I myself. Through such defects, and not through other guilt, are we lost, and only so far harmed that without hope we live in desire.
[tr. Norton (1892)]

Here, so far as I could tell by listening, there was no wailing, but sighs only, making the air to tremble without ceasing; and this arose from the misery, albeit uncaused by torture, which the crowds felt, and they were many and great; babes and women and men. My gentle Master said to me: "Thou dost not ask what shades are these thou seest. I now would have thee know, or ever thou goest farther, that they have not sinned; and though they have good works to their account, it sufficeth not, for they knew not baptism, which is the gateway of the faith the which thou dost believe. And as they were before Christ's coming, they failed to worship God aright ; and of their number am I myself. For shortcomings such as these, and for no other fault, are we lost: and this our only punishment, that without hope we live in yearning.
[tr. Sullivan (1893)]

Therein, so far as listening was of service,
⁠There was no lamentation, save of sighing,
⁠That made the eternal weight of air to quiver.
This came to pass from sorrow without torments.
⁠That the crowds had, which were both great and many.
⁠Of little children, and of men, and women.
To me the master kind: "Dost thou not ask me
⁠What spirits these are here, whom thou beholdest?
⁠Now I would have thee know, ere thou go further,
That they sinned not: and yet that they have merits
⁠Sufficeth not, because they had not baptism.
⁠Which is a portion of the faith thou holdest:
And, if they were before the Christian advent,
⁠They did not render unto God due worship.
⁠And I of such as these myself am also.
For such defects, and not for other forfeit,
⁠Are we among the lost, and only troubled
⁠At this, that without hope we live in longing.
[tr. Griffith (1908)]

Here, so far as I could tell by listening, was no lamentation more than sighs which kept the air forever trembling; these came from grief without torments that was borne by the crowds, which were vast, of men and women and little children. The good Master said to me: "Does thou not ask what spirits are these thou seest? I would have the know, then, before thou goest farther, that they did not sin; but though they have merits it is not enough, for they had not baptism, which is the gateway of the faith thou holdest; and if they were here before Christianity they did not worship God aright, and of these I am one. For such defects, and not for any guilt, we are lost, and only so far afflicted that without hope we live in desire."
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]

Here was no sound that the ear could catch of rue,
⁠Save only of sighs, that still as they complain
⁠Make the eternal air tremble anew.
And this rose form the sorrow, unracked by pain,
⁠That was in the great multitude below
⁠Of children and of women and of men.
The good Master to me: "Wouldst thou not know
⁠'What spirits are these thou seest and hearest grieve?
⁠I'd have thee learn before thou farther go,
These sinned not: but the merit that they achieve
⁠Helps not, since baptism was not theirs, the gate
⁠Of that faith, which was given thee to believe.
And if ere Christ they came, untimely in date,
⁠They worshipped not with right experience;
⁠And I myself am numbered in their state.
For such defect, and for no other offence,
⁠We are lost, and only in so far amerced
⁠That without hope we languish in suspense."
[tr. Binyon (1943)]

We heard no loud complaint, no crying there,
⁠No sound of grief except the sound of sighing
⁠Quivering for ever through the eternal air;
Grief, not for torment, but for loss undying,
⁠By women, men, and children sighed for so,
⁠Sorrowers thick-thronged, their sorrows multiplying.
Then my good guide: "Thou dost not ask me who
⁠These spirits are,” said he, “whom thou perceivest?
⁠Ere going further, I would have thee know
They sinned not; yet their merit lacked its chiefest
⁠Fulfilment, lacking baptism, which is
⁠The gateway to the faith which thou believest;
Or, living before Christendom, their knees
⁠Paid not aright those tributes that belong
⁠To God; and I myself am one of these.
For such defects alone -- no other wrong --
⁠We are lost; yet only by this grief offended:
⁠That, without hope, we ever live, and long.
[tr. Sayers (1949)]

No tortured wailing rose to greet us here
⁠but sounds of sighing rose from every side,
⁠sending a tremor through the timeless air,
a grief breathed out of untormented sadness,
⁠the passive state of those who dwelled apart,
⁠men, women, children -- a dim and endless congress.
And the Master said to me: "You do not question
⁠what souls these are that suffer here before you?
⁠I wish you to know before you travel on
that these were sinless. And still their merits fail,
⁠for they lacked Baptism's grace, which is the door
⁠of the true faith you were born to. Their birth fell
before the age of the Christian mysteries,
⁠and so they did not worship God's Trinity
⁠in fullest duty. I am one of these.
For such defects are we lost, though spared the fire
⁠and suffering Hell in one affliction only:
⁠that without hope we live on in desire."
[tr. Ciardi (1954)]

Here there was no plaint, that could be heard, except of sighs, which caused the eternal air to tremble; and this arose from the sadness, without torments, of the crowds that were many and great, both of children and of women and men. The good master said to me, “Do you not ask what spirits are these that you see ? Now, before you go farther, I will have you know that they did not sin; but if they have merit, that does not suffice, for they did not have baptism, which is the portal of the faith you hold; and if they were before Christianity, they did not worship God aright, and I myself am one of these. Because of these shortcomings, and for no other fault, we are lost, and only so far afflicted that without hope we live in longing.”
[tr. Singleton (1970)]

Here, for as much as hearing could discover,
⁠there was no outcry louder than the sighs
⁠that caused the everlasting air to tremble.
The sighs arose from sorrow without torments,
⁠out of the crowds -- the many multitudes --
⁠of infants and of women and of men.
The kindly master said: “Do you not ask
⁠who are these spirits whom you see before you?
⁠I'd have you know, before you go ahead,
they did not sin; and yet, though they have merits,
⁠that’s not enough, because they lacked baptism,
⁠the portal of the faith that you embrace.
And if they lived before Christianity,
⁠they did not worship God in fitting ways;
⁠and of such spirits I myself am one.
For these defects, and for no other evil,
⁠we now are lost and punished just with this:
⁠we have no hope and yet we live in longing.”
[tr. Mandelbaum (1980)]

There, in so far as listening could tell me,
⁠The only lamentations were the sighs,
⁠Yet they made the eternal air tremble.
They came from the sadness, without any torment,
⁠Felt by the crowds -- there were many of them, and huge --
⁠Of infants and of men and of men.
The master said: "Are you not going to ask
⁠What sprits these are which you see in this place?
⁠I think you should know before you go on;
They have committed no sin, and if they have merits,
⁠That is not enough, because they are not baptized,
⁠Which all must be, to enter the faith which is yours.
And if they lived before the Christian era,
⁠They did not adore God as he should be adored:
⁠And I am one of those in that position.
For these deficiencies, and no other fault,
⁠We are lost; there is no other penalty
⁠Than to live here without hope, but with desire."
[tr. Sisson (1981)]

⁠Here we encountered
No laments that we could hear -- except for sighs
That trembled the timeless air: they emanated
From the shadowy sadnesses, not agonies,
Of multitudes of children and women and men.
He said, "And don't you ask, what spirits are these?
Before you go on, I tell you: they did not sin:
If they have merit, it can't suffice without
Baptism, portal to the faith you maintain.
Some lived before the Christian faith, so that
They did not worship God aright -- and I
Am one of these. Through this, no other fault,
We are lost, afflicted only this one way:
That having no hope, we live in longing."
[tr. Pinsky (1994), l. 19ff]

⁠Here, as far as could be heard, there was no weeping except of sighs which caused the eternal air to tremble;
⁠these resulted from grief without torture, felt by the crowds, which were many and large, of infants and of women and of men.
⁠My good master to me: “You do not ask what spirits are these you see? Now I wish you to know, before you walk further,
⁠that they did not sin; and if they have merits, it is not enough, because they did not receive baptism, which is the gateway to the faith that you believe.
⁠And if they lived before Christianity, they did not adore God as was needful: and of this kind am I myself.
⁠Because of such defects, not for any other wickedness, we are lost, and only so far harmed that without hope we live in desire.”
[tr. Durling (1996)]

Here there was no sound to be heard, except the sighing, that made the eternal air tremble, and it came from the sorrow of the vast and varied crowds of children, of women, and of men, free of torment. The good Master said to me: ‘You do not demand to know who these spirits are that you see. I want you to learn, before you go further, that they had no sin, yet, though they have worth, it is not sufficient, because they were not baptised, and baptism is the gateway to the faith that you believe in. Since they lived before Christianity, they did not worship God correctly, and I myself am one of them. For this defect, and for no other fault, we are lost, and we are only tormented, in that without hope we live in desire.’
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Here, there was no pandemonium of tortured groans;
only interminable sighs, which trembled the air
with a murderous hum; and this arose
from all the sadnesses, albeit painless,
of the multitude of men and women,
and children of every size.
Then he to me: "Why don't you ask me who these spirits are?
Before you go much further
on, I'd like it to be understood that they are
innocent of sin; however,
lacking Baptism, they could not claim
its saving grace, and thus are doomed forever;
living, as they did, before Christ came
they did not pay the Lord his due respect;
and I myself am classed as one of them.
For these faults, not for any other defect,
are we lost; our only pain
is hopeless, unfulfilled desire. These are the facts.
[tr. Carson (2002)]

Here, there was no pandemonium of tortured groans; only interminable sighs, which trembled the air with a murmurous hum; and this arose from all the sadnesses, albeit painless, of the multitude of men and women, and children of every size. Then he to me: "Why don't you ask me who these spirits are? Before you go much further on, I'd like it to be understood that they are innocent of sin; however, lacking Baptism, they could not claim its saving grace, and thus are doomed forever; living, as they did, before Christ came, they did not pay the Lord his due respect; and I myself am classed as one of them. For these faults, not for any other defect, are we lost; our only pain is hopeless, unfulfilled desire. These are the facts.
[tr. Carson (2002)]

Here in the dark (where only hearing told)
⁠there were no tears, no weeping, only sighs
⁠that caused a trembling in the eternal air --
sighs drawn from sorrowing, although no pain.
⁠This weighs on all of them, those multitudes
⁠of speechless children, women and full-grown men.
'You do not ask,' my teacher in his goodness said,
⁠'who all these spirits are that you see here?
⁠Do not, I mean, go further till you know:
these never sinned. And some attained to merit.
⁠But merit falls far short. None was baptized.
⁠None passed the gate, in your belief, to faith.
They lived before the Christian age began.
⁠They paid no reverence, as was due to God.
⁠And in this number I myself am one.
For such deficiencies, no other crime,
⁠we all are lost yet only suffer harm
⁠through living in desire, but hopelessly.'
[tr. Kirkpatrick (2006)]

Here, as far as I could tell by listening,
⁠was no lamentation other than the sighs
⁠that kept the air forever trembling.
These came from grief without torment
⁠borne by vast crowds
⁠of men, and women, and little children.
My master began: 'You do not ask about
⁠the souls you see? I want you to know,
⁠before you venture farther,
they did not sin. Though they have merit,
⁠that is not enough, for they were unbaptized,
⁠denied the gateway to the faith that you profess.
And if they lived before the Christians lived,
⁠they did not worship God aright.
⁠And among these I am one.
For such defects, and for no other fault,
⁠we are lost, and afflicted but in this,
⁠that without hope we live in longing.'
[tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]

And here there was no weeping; the only signs
⁠Of sorrow I heard were sighs that caused a gentle
⁠Trembling, stirring eternal air, yet rising
Not from tortured pain or punishment
⁠But only because there were so many, men
⁠And women and children. My Master asked this question
Of me: "Don't you mean to inquire, again,
⁠Who and what are the spirits you see in here?
⁠I want you to know, before you take another step,
These are not sinners; no matter what they deserve ⁠It can't be enough, for none have been baptized -- ⁠The gateway to Heaven in your faith's clearest terms. All those born before the coming of Christ
⁠Cannot be Christians, worshipping god as He
⁠Requires, and one of many such men am I.
These imperfections, and nothing more, no crimes,
⁠Bar us from Paradise, not punished, not hurt.
⁠We have no hope, we live for our great desire.
[tr. Raffel (2010)]

⁠To the extent
That I could hear at all, all cries were sighs.
The air without end shook to the lament
Not just of men and women: with surprise
I saw young children too. Why were they sent?
I thought, and once again my Master saw
Into my mind, and said: “You do not ask
Who these ones are, why here, and by what law?
I'll tell you, before we resume our task,
Of pain without a sin. But though they be
Ever so virtuous, no unbaptized
Souls are exempted from this penalty,
And if they lived before His Son, they prized
God insufficiently. And I was one
Of those. For such defects, and for no crime
More grave, we're lost: for something left undone
We're doomed to live without hope for all time.”
[tr. James (2013), l. 31ff]

 
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DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper way to eat potato chips?

GENTLE READER: With a knife and fork. A fruit knife and an oyster fork, to be specific. Good heavens, what is the world coming to? Miss Manners does not mind explaining the finer points of gracious living, but she feels that anyone without the sense to pick up a potato chip and stuff it in their face should probably not be running around loose on the streets.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1979-01-06)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 3 "Basic Civilization," "Table Manners" (1983).
 
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Teacup formality is a part of etiquette, but an infinitesimal part. How about fast-food informality? That is as much a part of etiquette as the teacup. It is all of our behavior and not simply the formal occasion behavior. And, in fact, the more informal the circumstances, usually the more you need etiquette.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
    (Source)
 
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Pedantry prides herself on being wrong by rules; while common sense is contented to be right without them.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer, aphorist
Lacon, #48 (1825)
    (Source)
 
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The other part of it is [the belief that] if we just totally opened our souls to one another, we would love one another and get along. This trivializes the fact that people have deep and legitimately-held differences. People think, mistakenly, that etiquette means you have to suppress your differences. On the contrary, etiquette is what enables you to deal with them; it gives you a set of rules. On the floor of the Congress, you don’t say, “You’re a jerk and a crook”; you say, “I’m afraid the distinguished gentleman is mistaken about so and so.” Those are the things that enable you to settle your differences, to bring them out in the open. Everything else just starts battles.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
In “Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
    (Source)
 
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Life, after we’d had a few millennia to observe it, turned out to be dreadfully unfair, so we invented sports.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
(Attributed)
 
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All religions are ultimately cargo cults. Adherents perform required rituals, follow specific rules, and expect to be supernaturally gifted with desired rewards — long life, honor, wisdom, children, good health, wealth, victory over opponents, immortality after death, any desired rewards.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) American writer
Parable of the Talents, ch. 19, epigram (1998)
    (Source)
 
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The most intelligent of the Nazis, the legal theorist Carl Schmitt, explained in clear language the essence of fascist governance. The way to destroy all rules, he explained, was to focus on the idea of the exception. A Nazi leader outmaneuvers his opponents by manufacturing a general conviction that the present moment is exceptional, and then transforming that state of exception into a permanent emergency. Citizens then trade real freedom for fake safety.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, ch. 17 (2017)
    (Source)
 
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In a predatory economy, the rules imagined by the law and economics crowd don’t apply. There’s no market discipline. Predators compete not by following the rules but by breaking them. They take the business-school view of law: Rules are not designed to guide behavior but laid down to define the limits of unpunished conduct. Once one gets close to the line, stepping over it is easy. A predatory economy is criminogenic: It fosters and rewards criminal behavior.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
“The Predator State,” Mother Jones (May/Jun 2006)
    (Source)
 
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Coaches and headmasters praise sport as a preparation for the great game of life, but this is absurd. Nothing could be more different from life. For one thing sports, unlike life, are played according to rules. Indeed, the rules are the sport: life may behave bizarrely and still be life, but if the runner circles the bases clockwise it’s no longer baseball.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Endangered Pleasures (1995)
 
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The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions.

Mike Krzyzewski (b. 1947) American college basketball coach ["Coach K"]
Leading with the Heart, ch. 1 “Getting Organized” (2000) [with Donald Phillips]
    (Source)
 
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Good authors, too, who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.
Anything goes!

Cole Porter (1891-1964) American composer and songwriter
“Anything Goes” (1934)
 
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However, you do need rules. Driving on the left (or the right or, in parts of Europe, on the left and the right as the mood takes you) is a rule which works, since following it means you’re more likely to reach your intended rather than your final destination.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett (20 Jun 2002)
    (Source)
 
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As long as you’re dancing, you can break the rules.
Sometimes breaking the rules is just extending the rules.

Sometimes there are no rules.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) American poet
“Three Things to Remember”
    (Source)
 
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Maxims are to the intellect what laws are to actions; they do not enlighten, but they guide and direct; and although themselves blind, are protective. They are like the clue in the labyrinth, or the compass in the night.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist, philosopher, essayist, poet
Pensées, # 138 (1838)
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "Maxims are to the intelligence what laws are to action: they do not illuminate, but they guide, they control, they rescue blindly. They are the clue in the labyrinth, the ship's compass in the night."
 
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Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, but a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter 1 (1796)
    (Source)
 
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If God didn’t want women to be looked at, he would have made ’em ugly — that’s reasonable, isn’t it? God isn’t a cheat; He set up the game Himself — He wouldn’t rig it so that the marks can’t win, like a flat joint wheel in a town with the fix on. He wouldn’t send anybody to Hell for losing in a crooked game.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, ch. 27 [Patty] (1961)
    (Source)
 
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Prim did seem in some distress. Poor thing, she genuinely felt that she should do what was expected of her. What a horrible way to go through life.

Gail Carriger (b. 1976) American archaeologist, author [pen name of Tofa Borregaard]
Imprudence (2016)
    (Source)
 
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That conception is written large over the history of the nineteenth century, both in England and in America. The doctrine which it inherited was that property was held by an absolute right on an individual basis, and to this fundamental it added another, which can be traced in principle far back into history, but which grew to its full stature only after the rise of capitalist industry, that societies act both unfairly and unwisely when they limit opportunities of economic enterprise. Hence every attempt to impose obligations as a condition of the tenure of property or of the exercise of economic activity has been met by uncompromising resistance. The story of the struggle between humanitarian sentiment and the theory of property transmitted from the eighteenth century is familiar. No one has forgotten the opposition offered in the name of the rights of property to factory legislation, to housing reform, to interference with the adulteration of goods, even to the compulsory sanitation of private houses. “May I not do what I like with my own?” was the answer to the proposal to require a minimum standard of safety and sanitation from the owners of mills and houses.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
The Acquisitive Century, ch. 3 “The Acquisitive Society” (1920)
    (Source)
 
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Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.

Henry Adams (1838-1918) American journalist, historian, academic, novelist
The Education of Henry Adams, ch. 16 (1907)
 
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Imposed virtues are not virtuous — they are conformist.

No picture available
Graham Ericsson (b. 1947) American writer, aphorist
Into a New Day (2008)
 
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“It’s not fair,” Cloud said eventually. “It’s not fair you have to mourn this child.”

Jared gave a small laugh. “We’re in the wrong universe for fair,” he said, simply.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The Ghost Brigades (2006)
 
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The rules are only barriers to keep children from falling.

[Ces règles ne sont que des barrières pour empêcher les enfants de tomber.]

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Germany [De l’Allemagne], Part 4, ch. 9 (1813)
 
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One of the things that I noticed in war was how difficult it was for our soldiers, at first, to realize that there are no rules to war. Our men were raised in sports, where a referee runs a football game, or an umpire a baseball game, and so forth.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Conference of the National Women’s Advisory Committee on Civil Defense (26 Oct 1954)
 
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I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer, literary scholar, lay theologian [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Faith” (1952)
    (Source)
 
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The dictionaries should get with it; in pronunciation and ultimately in usage, when enough of us are wrong, we’re right.

Safire - wrong right - wist_info quote

William Safire (1929-2009) American author, columnist, journalist, speechwriter
Language Maven Strikes Again, “Drudgery It Ain’t” (1990)
    (Source)

Often paraphrased: "The thing about language is that, when enough of us are wrong, we're right."
 
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What you cannot enforce,
Do not command!

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Oedipus at Colonus, l. 839 [tr. Fitzgerald (1941)]
 
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The road reaches every place, the short cut only one.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays, # 1 (2001)
 
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Morals are your agreement with yourself to abide by your own rules. To thine own self be true or you spoil the game.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough For Love [Lazarus Long] (1973)
 
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She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Equal Rites (1987)
 
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The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
In “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,” The Guardian (20 Feb 2010)
    (Source)
 
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The moral dilemma that is presented to the weak in a world governed by the strong: Break the rules or perish.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Such, Such Were the Joys” (1947)
 
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Not every defeat of authority is a gain for individual freedom, nor every judicial rescue of a convict a victory for liberty.

Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954) US Supreme Court Justice (1941-54), lawyer, jurist, politician
“The Task of Maintaining Our Liberties: The Role of the Judiciary,” speech, Boston (24 Aug 1953)
    (Source)

Dinner address at the American Bar Association Diamond Jubilee dinner. Reprinted in the American Bar Association Journal (Nov 1953) [citation 39 A.B.A. J. 961 (1953)].
 
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The rule of ideas is only powerful in a world that does not change. Ideas are inherently conservative. They yield not to the attack of other ideas but to the massive onslaught of circumstance with which they cannot contend.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
The Affluent Society, ch. 2, sec. 6 (1958)
    (Source)
 
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Respectfulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes laborious bustle; carefulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes timidity; boldness, without the rules of propriety, becomes insubordination; straightforwardness, without the rules of propriety, becomes rudeness.

[恭而無禮則勞、愼而無禮則葸、勇而無禮則亂、直而無禮則絞。]

Confucius (c. 551- c. 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, sage, politician [孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, K'ung Fu-tzu, K'ung Fu Tse), 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ, Chungni), 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū, K'ung Ch'iu)]
The Analects [論語, 论语, Lúnyǔ], Book 8, verse 2 (8.2.1) (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)]

Not to follow the rites in being modest is annoyance. Not to follow them in exercising care is timidity. Not to follow them in acts of bravery is confusion. Not to follow them in our uprightness is brusqueness.
[tr. Ware (1950)]

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)]

 
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My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Letter (15 May 1925)

In C. Baker (ed.), Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961 (1981).
 
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I have bought this wonderful machine — a computer. Now I am rather an authority on gods, so I identified the machine — it seems to me to be an Old Testament god with a lot of rules and no mercy.

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) American writer, professor of literature
The Power of Myth, ch. 1 (1988)
    (Source)

From interviews between Campbell and Bill Moyers in 1985-86. Broadcast as episode 2 of the PBS television show of the same name. Often truncated: "A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy."
 
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Hampden, on the other hand, was for vigorous and decisive measures. When he drew the sword, as Clarendon has well aid, he threw away the scabbard. He had shown that he knew better than any public man of his time how to value and how to practice moderation. He knew that the essence of war is violence, and that moderation in war is imbecility.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“John Hampden,” Essays Contributed to the Edinburgh Review, Vol. 1 (1843)
    (Source)

Review of Lord Nugent, Some Memorials of John Hampden, His Party, and His Times (1831).
 
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If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb
 
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Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

The Bible (The New Testament) (AD 1st - 2nd C) Christian sacred scripture
Matthew 7:1-2 (KJV)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get."(NRSV)
  • "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (NIV)
  • "Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others." (GNT)
 
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Life cannot be captured in a few axioms. And that is just what I keep trying to do. But it won’t work, for life is full of endless nuances and cannot be captured in just a few formulae.

Etty Hillesum
Esther "Etty" Hillesum (1914-1943) Dutch Jewish law graduate, writer, diarist
Diary (1941-10-22)
    (Source)

Collected in An Interrupted Life [Het Verstoorde Leven] (1981) [tr. Pomerans (1983)].
 
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For it is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to apply it well. The greatest souls are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues; and those who proceed but very slowly can make much greater progress, if they always follow the right path, than those who hurry and stray from it.

[Car ce n’est pas assez d’avoir l’esprit bon, mais le principal est de l’appliquer bien. Les plus grandes âmes sont capables des plus grands vices aussi bien que des plus grandes vertus; et ceux qui ne marchent que fort lentement peuvent avancer beaucoup davantage, s’ils suivent toujours le droit chemin, que ne font ceux qui courent et qui s’en éloignent.]

René Descartes (1596-1650) French philosopher, mathematician
Discourse on Method [Discours de la méthode], Part 1 (1637) [tr. Cottingham, Stoothoff (1985)]
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Sometimes quoted "the main thing is to use it well." (Source (French)). Alternate translations:

For ’tis not enough to have good faculties, but the principal is, to apply them well. The greatest Souls are as capable of the greatest Vices, as of the most eminent Vertues: And those who move but very slowly, may advance much farther, if they always follow the right way; then those who run and straggle from it.
[tr. Newcombe ed. (1649)]

For to be possessed of a vigorous mind is not enough; the prime requisite is rightly to apply it. The greatest minds, as they are capable of the highest excellences, are open likewise to the greatest aberrations; and those who travel very slowly may yet make far greater progress, provided they keep always to the straight road, than those who, while they run, forsake it.
[tr. Veitch (1901)

For to be possessed of good mental powers is not sufficient; the principal matter is to apply them well. The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues, and those who proceed very slowly may, provided they always follow the straight road, really advance much faster than those who, though they run, forsake it.
[tr. Haldane, Ross (1911)]

 
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Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule. Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases, though not often.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 1, “Life” (1912)
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There are two great rules in life, the one general and the other particular. The first is that every one can in the end get what he wants if he only tries. This is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is more or less of an exception to the general rule.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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