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It is because gold is rare that gilding has been invented, which, without having its solidity, has all its brilliance. — Thus, to replace the kindness we lack, we have devised politeness, which has all its appearance.

[C’est parce que l’or est rare que l’on a inventé la dorure, qui, sans en avoir la solidité, en a tout le brillant. Ainsi, pour remplacer la bonté qui nous manque, nous avons imaginé la politesse, qui en a toutes les apparences.]

Pierre-Marc-Gaston de Lévis
Pierre-Marc-Gaston de Lévis (1764-1830) French noble, politician, author, aphorist
Maximes et Essais sur Différents Sujets, “Pensées Détachées,” # 180 (1808)

(Source (French)). Frequently misattributed to his more famous father, Francis de Gaston, first Duke de Lévis.

The full aphorism also includes a final clause, "et au défaut de vertu, nous avons l'honneur, qui en a l'éclat" ("and, in default of virtue, we have honor, which has its luster").

The French was incorporated in standard French grammar books for many years.

The English translation shows up in several cases without any attribution and in varied contexts (1, 2, 3).

Added on 13-Mar-23 | Last updated 13-Mar-23
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Judge nothing by the appearance. The more beautiful the serpent, the more fatal its sting.

No picture available
William Scott Downey (fl. 19th C) American baptist missionary, aphorist
Proverbs, ch. 6, #8 (1853)
Added on 11-Feb-20 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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You confuse what’s important with what’s impressive.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
Maurice (w. 1914, pub. 1971)
Added on 8-Jan-18 | Last updated 8-Jan-18
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We know so little about each other. We lie mostly submerged, like ice floes, with our visible social selves projecting only cool and white.

McEwan - cool and white - wist_info quote

Ian McEwan (b. 1948) English novelist and screenwriter
Amsterdam (1998)
Added on 26-Jul-16 | Last updated 26-Jul-16
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I don’t mind hidden depths but I insist that there be a surface.

James Nicoll (b. 1961) Canadian reviewer, editor
LiveJournal post (17 Aug 2005)
Added on 22-Feb-16 | Last updated 22-Feb-16
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It’s a good thing when a man is different from your image of him. It shows he isn’t a type. If he were, it would be the end of him as a man. But if you can’t place him in a category, it means that at least a part of him is what a human being ought to be. He has risen above himself, he has a grain of immortality.
Boris Pasternak - grain of immortality - wist_info

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator
Doctor Zhivago, 9.14 (1957) [tr. Hayward and Harari (1958)]
Added on 20-Oct-15 | Last updated 21-Oct-15
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Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden (b. 1956) American editor, writer, essayist
Making Light, “Commonplaces”
Added on 25-Sep-14 | Last updated 25-Sep-14
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I have never seen anyone who loves virtue as much as he loves beautiful women.

9.18 吾未見好德、如好色者也。

15.13 吾未見好德如好色者也。

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], 9.18 and 15.13 (6th C. BC) [ed. Lao-Tse; tr. Huang (1997)]

The phrase is repeated in both locations in the Analects. Alt. trans.:
  • "I have not seen one who loves virtue as he loves beauty." [as 9.17 and 15.12, tr. Legge (1930)]
  • "I have never seen anyone who loved virtue as much as sex." [tr. Leys (1997)]
  • "I have never met a person who loved virtue as much as he loved physical beauty." [tr. Chin (2014)]
  • "I have yet to meet a man as fond of high moral conduct as he is of outward appearances." [tr. Ware (1950)]
Added on 18-Apr-14 | Last updated 5-Jul-20
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Appearances are deceptive.

Aesop (620?-560? BC) Legendary Greek storyteller
Fables [Aesopica], “The Wolf in Sheep Clothing” (6th C BC) [tr. Jacobs (1894)]

Alternately, "Appearances often are deceiving." Versified by Gaius Julius Phaedrus, Fables bk. 4, as "Things are not always what they seem."

Note that there are two fables by this name. In this one, a wolf prospers by wearing a sheepskin he finds and drawing other sheep away to be eaten. In other versions, the wolf sneaks into the sheepfold wearing the skin, and then is killed and eaten by the farmer who wants sheep for dinner.
Added on 14-Mar-14 | Last updated 16-Sep-21
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