Quotations about   self-indulgence

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For indeed it is possible that a man may think well, and yet not be able to express his thoughts elegantly; but for any one to publish thoughts which he can neither arrange skilfully nor illustrate so as to entertain his reader, is an unpardonable abuse of letters and retirement: they, therefore, read their books to one another, and no one ever takes them up but those who wish to have the same licence for careless writing allowed to themselves.

[Fieri autem potest, ut recte quis sentiat et id quod sentit polite eloqui non possit; sed mandare quemquam litteris cogitationes suas, qui eas nec disponere nec inlustrare possit nec delectatione aliqua allicere lectorem, hominis est intemperanter abutentis et otio et litteris. Itaque suos libros ipsi legunt cum suis, nec quisquam attingit praeter eos, qui eandem licentiam scribendi sibi permitti volunt.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 1, ch. 3 / sec. 6 (45 BC) [tr. Yonge (1853)]

Source (Latin). Alternate translations:

Now it is possible, that one may have true Conceptions, and yet not be able to express his Notions in proper Terms; but for a man to commit his thoughts to writing for the publick, who can neither put them in due method, nor illustrate them with clear Proofs, nor by any delightful Ornaments entertain his Reader, is the part of one that at no rate abuses his own time, and the benefit of Writing. Here∣upon they read their own Books among themselves, nor doth any one else meddle with them, but they that expect allowance to write after the same loose fashion.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

For indeed it may be that a man may think well, and yet not be able to express his thoughts elegant; but for any one ot publish thoughts which eh can neither methodize, nor illustrate nor entertain his reader, is an unpardonable abuse of letters and retirement: they, therefore, read their books to one another, which were never taken up by any but those who claimed the same privilege of writing.
[tr. Main (1824)]

For it may very well happen, that a man may think rightly, and yet be unable to give utterance to his sentiments with sufficient elegance. But, for any one to consign his thoughts to letters, who can neither arrange them with method, nor make them intelligible by illustration, nor attract the reader with any delight, is the part of a man who rashly abuses both his leisure and literature. And, therefore, let them read their books themselves with their friends; nor let them be touched by any, except by those who are like to need the same indulgence for the same license in writing.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

One may think correctly, yet be unable to give elegant expression to what he thinks; and in that case for a man to commit his thoughts to writing when he can neither arrange them, nor illustrate them, nor attract readers by anything that can give them delight, is the part of a man who outrageously abuses both leisure and letters. Such writers read their own books with their intimate friends, nor does any one else touch them except those who crave for themselves like liberty of writing.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

Even when they have their arguments in order, they don't express them with any flair. They waste their free time -- and do a discredit to literature -- when they commit thoughts to writing without knowing how to arrange or enliven them or give any pleasure to the reader. And so they just end up reading each other's books! No one pays attention to them except people who hope to qualify for the same writer's licence.
[tr. Habinek (1996)]

But it can happen that someone may have a good thought which he cannot express well.
[tr. @sentantiq (2016)]

It is possible for a man to hold the right views but be incapable of expressing these with any elegance; but that anyone should entrust his thoughts to writing, without the ability to arrange them or to express them with clarity, or to attract the reader by offering him some pleasure, is characteristic of a man who is making an ill-disciplined misuse of both leisure and writing. The result is these fellows read their own books to their own circle and no one touches them except those who wish to be permitted the same freedom in writing.
[tr. Davie (2017)]

Added on 19-Jul-21 | Last updated 19-Jul-21
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

Why, pray, should I speak of things which are incredible except to those who have seen them, that a host of private men have levelled mountains and built upon the seas? To such men their riches seem to me to have been but a plaything; for while they might have enjoyed them honourably, they made haste to squander them shamefully. Nay more, the passion which arose for lewdness, gluttony, and the other attendants of luxury was equally strong; men played the woman, women offered their chastity for sale; to gratify their palates they scoured land and sea; they slept before they needed sleep; they did not await the coming of hunger or thirst, of cold or of weariness, but all these things their self-indulgence anticipated.

[Nam quid ea memorem, quae nisi eis qui videre nemini credibilia sunt, a privatis compluribus subvorsos montis, maria constrata esse? Quibus mihi videntur ludibrio fuisse divitiae; quippe quas honeste habere licebat, abuti per turpitudinem properabant. Sed lubido stupri, ganeae ceterique cultus non minor incesserat; viri muliebria pati, mulieres pudicitiam in propatulo habere; vescendi causa terra marique omnia exquirere, dormire prius quam somni cupido esset, non famem aut sitim neque frigus neque lassitudinem opperiri sed omnia luxu antecapere.]

Sallust (c. 86-35 BC) Roman historian and politician [Gaius Sallustius Crispus]
Bellum Catilinae [The War of Cateline; The Conspiracy of Catiline], ch. 13, sent. 1-3 [tr. Rolfe (1931)]

Original Latin. Alt. trans.:

  • "Need I mention, what to all but eye-witnesses would seem incredible? whole mountains levelled to the valley by the expense and labour of individuals, and even the seas covered with magnificent structures! To such men riches seem to be a burden: what they might enjoy with credit and advantage to themselves, they seem in eager haste to squander away in idle ostentation. To these vices that conspired against the commonwealth, many others may be added, such as prostitution, convivial debauchery, and all kinds of licentious pleasure. The men unsexed themselves, and the women made their persons venal. For the pleasures of the table, sea and land were ransacked; the regular returns of thirst and hunger were anticipated; the hour of sleep was left to a price and accident; cold was a sensation not to be endured by delicate habits; luxury was the business of life, and by that every thing was governed." [tr. Murphy (1807)]

  • "It is needless to recount other things, which none but those who saw them will believe; as the levelling of mountains by private citizens, and even covering the sea itself with fine edifices. These men appear to me to have sported with their riches, since they lavished them in the most shameful manner, instead of enjoying them with honour. Nor were they less addicted to all manner of extravagant gratifications: men and women laid aside all regard to chastity. To procure dainties for their tables, sea and land were ransacked. They indulged in sleep before nature craved it; the returns of hunger and thirst were anticipated with luxury: and cold and fatigue were never so much as felt." [tr. Rose (1831)]

  • "For why should I relate those things which are credible to no one except to those who have seen them -- that mountains have been levelled, seas built over by many private persons, whose riches appear to me to have been a jest, since those which they might have used honourably, they hastened to abuse disgracefully? But no less a desire of wantoning, gluttony, and other fashion had come on, women exhibited their shame in the open air, for the sake of feasting they ransacked every place by sea and land, and slept before there was any desire of sleep, they waited not for hunger nor thirst, nor cold nor fatigue, but anticipated all these things through their luxury." [Source (1841)]

  • "For why should I mention those displays of extravagance, which can be believed by none but those who have seen them; as that mountains have been leveled, and seas covered with edifices, by many private citizens; men whom I consider to have made a sport of their wealth, since they were impatient to squander disreputably what they might have enjoyed with honor. But the love of irregular gratification, open debauchery, and all kinds of luxury, had spread abroad with no less force. Men forgot their sex; women threw off all the restraints of modesty. To gratify appetite, they sought for every kind of production by land and by sea; they slept before there was any inclination for sleep; they no longer waited to feel hunger, thirst, cold, or fatigue, but anticipated them all by luxurious indulgence." [tr. Watson (1867)]

  • "Why should I tell of things which no one who has not seen them could believe, of how often private individuals have levelled mountains and built over seas? Such men seem to me to have trifled with their riches in the haste with which they have ignobly abused what they might honourably have enjoyed. But the passion for defilement, gluttony, and all other kinds of indulgence, had kept pace with that for wealth. Each sex alike trampled on their modesty. Sea and land were ransacked to supply the table. Men went to trest before the felt a desire for sleep; they did not wait for hunger or thirst, cold, or weariness, but anticipated them all by luxurious expedients." [tr. Pollard (1882)]

  • "Why should I recall that numerous private individuals undermined mountains and paved over the seas -- things that are credible to no one except those who have seen them? To such men, it seems to me, their riches were a plaything: when they could have held them with honour, they hurried to misuse them disgracefully. But the lust which had arisen for illicit sex, gluttony and other refinements was no less: men took the passive role of women, women made their chastity openly available; everywhere, by land and by sea, was ransacked for the sake of feeding; they slept before there could be any desire for slumber: they did not wait for hunger or thirst nor for cold nor tiredness, but in their luxuriousness anticipated them all." [tr. Woodman (2007)]

Added on 8-Dec-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-20
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