by The Earl of Chesterfield

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A little learning is a dangerous thing

A joker is near akin to a buffoon

A favor may make an enemy, and an injury may make a friend

Ablest man will sometimes do weak things

Above all things, avoid speaking of yourself

Above the frivolous as below the important and the secret

Above trifles, he is never vehement and eager about them

Absolute command of your temper

Abstain from learned ostentation

Absurd term of genteel and fashionable vices

Absurd romances of the two last centuries

According as their interest prompts them to wish

Acquainted with books, and an absolute stranger to men

Advice is seldom welcome

Advise those who do not speak elegantly, not to speak

Advocate, the friend, but not the bully of virtue

Affectation of singularity or superiority

Affectation in dress

Affectation of business

All have senses to be gratified

Always made the best of the best, and never made bad worse

Always does more than he says

Always some favorite word for the time being

Always look people in the face when you speak to them

Am still unwell; I cannot help it!

American Colonies

Ancients and Moderns

Anxiety for my health and life

Applauded often, without approving

Apt to make them think themselves more necessary than they are

Argumentative, polemical conversations

Arrogant pedant

Art of pleasing is the most necessary

As willing and as apt to be pleased as anybody

Ascribing the greatest actions to the most trifling causes

Assenting, but without being servile and abject

Assertion instead of argument

Assign the deepest motives for the most trifling actions

Assurance and intrepidity

At the first impulse of passion, be silent till you can be soft

Attacked by ridicule, and, punished with contempt

Attend to the objects of your expenses, but not to the sums

Attention to the inside of books

Attention and civility please all


Author is obscure and difficult in his own language


Avoid cacophony, and, what is very near as bad, monotony

Avoid singularity

Awkward address, ungraceful attitudes and actions

Be neither transported nor depressed by the accidents of life

Be silent till you can be soft

Being in the power of every man to hurt him

Being intelligible is now no longer the fashion

Better not to seem to understand, than to reply

Better refuse a favor gracefully, than to grant it clumsily

Blindness of the understanding is as much to be pitied

Bold, but with great seeming modesty


Business must be well, not affectedly dressed

Business now is to shine, not to weigh

Business by no means forbids pleasures


Can hardly be said to see what they see

Cannot understand them, or will not desire to understand them

Cardinal Mazarin

Cardinal Richelieu

Cardinal de Retz

Cardinal Virtues, by first degrading them into weaknesses

Cautious how we draw inferences

Cease to love when you cease to be agreeable

Chameleon, be able to take every different hue

Characters, that never existed, are insipidly displayed

Cheerful in the countenance, but without laughing

Chit_chat, useful to keep off improper and too serious subjects

Choose your pleasures for yourself

Civility, which is a disposition to accommodate and oblige others

Clamorers triumph

Close, without being costive

Command of our temper, and of our countenance

Commanding with dignity, you must serve up to it with diligence

Committing acts of hostility upon the Graces

Common sense (which, in truth, very uncommon)

Commonplace observations

Company is, in truth, a constant state of negotiation


Complaisance to every or anybody's opinion

Complaisance due to the custom of the place

Complaisant indulgence for people's weaknesses

Conceal all your learning carefully

Concealed what learning I had

Conjectures pass upon us for truths

Conjectures supply the defect of unattainable knowledge


Connive at knaves, and tolerate fools

Consciousness of merit makes a man of sense more modest

Consciousness and an honest pride of doing well

Consider things in the worst light, to show your skill

Content yourself with mediocrity in nothing

Conversation_stock being a joint and common property

Conversation will help you almost as much as books

Converse with his inferiors without insolence

Dance to those who pipe

Darkness visible

Decides peremptorily upon every subject

Deep learning is generally tainted with pedantry

Deepest learning, without good_breeding, is unwelcome

Defended by arms, adorned by manners, and improved by laws

Deserve a little, and you shall have but a little

Desire to please, and that is the main point

Desirous of praise from the praiseworthy

Desirous to make you their friend

Desirous of pleasing

Despairs of ever being able to pay

Dexterity enough to conceal a truth without telling a lie

Dictate to them while you seem to be directed by them

Difference in everything between system and practice

Difficulties seem to them, impossibilities

Dignity to be kept up in pleasures, as well as in business

Disagreeable to seem reserved, and very dangerous not to be so

Disagreeable things may be done so agreeably as almost to oblige

Disputes with heat

Dissimulation is only to hide our own cards

Distinction between simulation and dissimulation

Distinguish between the useful and the curious

Do as you would be done by

Do not become a virtuoso of small wares

Do what you are about

Do what you will but do something all day long

Do as you would be done by

Do not mistake the tinsel of Tasso for the gold of Virgil

Does not give it you, but he inflicts it upon you

Doing, 'de bonne grace', what you could not help doing

Doing what may deserve to be written

Doing nothing, and might just as well be asleep

Doing anything that will deserve to be written

Done under concern and embarrassment, must be ill done

Dress like the reasonable people of your own age

Dress well, and not too well

Dressed as the generality of people of fashion are

Ears to hear, but not sense enough to judge

Easy without negligence

Easy without too much familiarity

Economist of your time

Either do not think, or do not love to think

Elegance in one language will reproduce itself in all

Employ your whole time, which few people do

Endeavor to hear, and know all opinions

Endeavors to please and oblige our fellow_creatures

Enemies as if they may one day become one's friends

Enjoy all those advantages

Equally forbid insolent contempt, or low envy and jealousy


Establishing a character of integrity and good manners

Even where you are sure, seem rather doubtful

Every numerous assembly is MOB

Every virtue, has its kindred vice or weakness

Every man knows that he understands religion and politics

Every numerous assembly is a mob

Every man pretends to common sense


Everybody is good for something

Everything has a better and a worse side

Exalt the gentle in woman and man__above the merely genteel

Expresses himself with more fire than elegance

Extremely weary of this silly world

Eyes and the ears are the only roads to the heart

Eyes and ears open and mouth mostly shut

Feed him, and feed upon him at the same time

Few things which people in general know less, than how to love

Few people know how to love, or how to hate

Few dare dissent from an established opinion

Fiddle_faddle stories, that carry no information along with them

Fit to live__or not live at all

Flattering people behind their backs

Flattery of women


Flexibility of manners is necessary in the course of the world

Fools, who can never be undeceived

Fools never perceive where they are ill_timed

Forge accusations against themselves

Forgive, but not approve, the bad.

Fortune stoops to the forward and the bold

Frank without indiscretion

Frank, but without indiscretion

Frank, open, and ingenuous exterior, with a prudent interior

Frequently make friends of enemies, and enemies of friends

Friendship upon very slight acquaintance

Frivolous, idle people, whose time hangs upon their own hands

Frivolous curiosity about trifles

Frivolous and superficial pertness

Full_bottomed wigs were contrived for his humpback

Gain the heart, or you gain nothing

Gain the affections as well as the esteem

Gainer by your misfortune

General conclusions from certain particular principles

Generosity often runs into profusion

Genteel without affectation

Gentlemen, who take such a fancy to you at first sight

Gentleness of manners, with firmness of mind

Geography and history are very imperfect separately

German, who has taken into his head that he understands French

Go to the bottom of things

Good manners

Good reasons alleged are seldom the true ones

Good manners are the settled medium of social life

Good company


Graces: Without us, all labor is vain

Gratitude not being universal, nor even common

Grave without the affectation of wisdom

Great learning; which, if not accompanied with sound judgment

Great numbers of people met together, animate each other

Greatest fools are the greatest liars

Grow wiser when it is too late

Guard against those who make the most court to you

Habit and prejudice

Habitual eloquence

Half done or half known

Hardened to the wants and distresses of mankind

Hardly any body good for every thing

Haste and hurry are very different things

Have no pleasures but your own

Have a will and an opinion of your own, and adhere to it

Have I employed my time, or have I squandered it?

Have but one set of jokes to live upon

Have you learned to carve?

He that is gentil doeth gentil deeds

He will find it out of himself without your endeavors

Heart has such an influence over the understanding

Helps only, not as guides

Herd of mankind can hardly be said to think


Holiday eloquence

Home, be it ever so homely

Honest error is to be pitied, not ridiculed

Honestest man loves himself best


How troublesome an old correspondent must be to a young one

How much you have to do; and how little time to do it in

Human nature is always the same

Hurt those they love by a mistaken indulgence

I hope, I wish, I doubt, and fear alternately

I shall never know, though all the coffeehouses here do.

I shall always love you as you shall deserve.

I know myself (no common piece of knowledge, let me tell you)


I, who am not apt to know anything that I do not know

Idleness is only the refuge of weak minds

If free from the guilt, be free from the suspicion, too

If you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself

If I don't mind his orders he won't mind my draughts

If you will persuade, you must first please

If once we quarrel, I will never forgive

Ignorant of their natural rights, cherished their chains

Impertinent insult upon custom and fashion

Improve yourself with the old, divert yourself with the young

Inaction at your age is unpardonable


Inattentive, absent; and distrait

Inclined to be fat, but I hope you will decline it

Incontinency of friendship among young fellows

Indiscriminate familiarity

Indiscriminately loading their memories with every part alike


Indolently say that they cannot do

Infallibly to be gained by every sort of flattery

Information is, in a certain degree, mortifying

Information implies our previous ignorance; it must be sweetened

Injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult


Insinuates himself only into the esteem of fools

Insipid in his pleasures, as inefficient in everything else

Insist upon your neither piping nor fiddling yourself

Insolent civility

INTOLERATION in religious, and inhospitality in civil matters

Intrinsic, and not their imaginary value

It is a real inconvenience to anybody to be fat

It is not sufficient to deserve well; one must please well too

Jealous of being slighted

Jog on like man and wife; that is, seldom agreeing

Judge of every man's truth by his degree of understanding

Judge them all by their merits, but not by their ages

Judges from the appearances of things, and not from the reality

Keep your own temper and artfully warm other people's

Keep good company, and company above yourself

Kick him upstairs

King's popularity is a better guard than their army

Know their real value, and how much they are generally overrated

Know the true value of time

Know, yourself and others

Knowing how much you have, and how little you want

Knowing any language imperfectly

Knowledge is like power in this respect

Knowledge: either despise it, or think that they have enough

Knowledge of a scholar with the manners of a courtier

Known people pretend to vices they had not

Knows what things are little, and what not

Labor is the unavoidable fatigue of a necessary journey

Labor more to put them in conceit with themselves

Last beautiful varnish, which raises the colors

Laughing, I must particularly warn you against it

Lay down a method for everything, and stick to it inviolably

Lazy mind, and the trifling, frivolous mind

Learn to keep your own secrets

Learn, if you can, the WHY and the WHEREFORE

Leave the company, at least as soon as he is wished out of it

Led, much oftener by little things than by great ones

Less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in

Let me see more of you in your letters

Let them quietly enjoy their errors in taste

Let nobody discover that you do know your own value

Let nothing pass till you understand it

Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote

Life of ignorance is not only a very contemptible, but tiresome

Listlessness and indolence are always blameable

Little minds mistake little objects for great ones

Little failings and weaknesses

Loud laughter is the mirth of the mob

Love with him, who they think is the most in love with them

Loved without being despised, and feared without being hated

Low company, most falsely and impudently, call pleasure

Low buffoonery, or silly accidents, that always excite laughter

Luther's disappointed avarice


Made him believe that the world was made for him

Make a great difference between companions and friends

Make himself whatever he pleases, except a good poet

Make yourself necessary

Make every man I met with like me, and every woman love me

Man is dishonored by not resenting an affront

Man or woman cannot resist an engaging exterior

Man of sense may be in haste, but can never be in a hurry

Man who is only good on holydays is good for very little

Mangles what he means to carve

Manner is full as important as the matter

Manner of doing things is often more important

Manners must adorn knowledge

Many things which seem extremely probable are not true

Many are very willing, and very few able

Mastery of one's temper

May you live as long as you are fit to live, but no longer!

May you rather die before you cease to be fit to live

May not forget with ease what you have with difficulty learned

Mazarin and Lewis the Fourteenth riveted the shackles

Meditation and reflection

Mere reason and good sense is never to be talked to a mob

Merit and good_breeding will make their way everywhere


Mistimes or misplaces everything

Mitigating, engaging words do by no means weaken your argument

MOB: Understanding they have collectively none

Moderation with your enemies

Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise

Money, the cause of much mischief

More people have ears to be tickled, than understandings to judge

More one sees, the less one either wonders or admires

More you know, the modester you should be

More one works, the more willing one is to work

Mortifying inferiority in knowledge, rank, fortune

Most people enjoy the inferiority of their best friends

Most long talkers single out some one unfortunate man in company

Most ignorant are, as usual, the boldest conjecturers

Most people have ears, but few have judgment; tickle those ears

Much sooner forgive an injustice than an insult

My own health varies, as usual, but never deviates into good

Mystical nonsense

Name that we leave behind at one place often gets before us

National honor and interest have been sacrificed to private

Necessity of scrupulously preserving the appearances

Neglect them in little things, they will leave you in great

Negligence of it implies an indifference about pleasing

Neither know nor care, (when I die) for I am very weary

Neither abilities or words enough to call a coach

Neither retail nor receive scandal willingly

Never would know anything that he had not a mind to know

Never read history without having maps

Never affect the character in which you have a mind to shine

Never implicitly adopt a character upon common fame

Never seek for wit; if it presents itself, well and good

Never to speak of yourself at all

Never slattern away one minute in idleness

Never quit a subject till you are thoroughly master of it

Never maintain an argument with heat and clamor

Never seem wiser, nor more learned, than the people you are with

Never saw a froward child mended by whipping

Never to trust implicitly to the informations of others

Nipped in the bud

No great regard for human testimony

No man is distrait with the man he fears, or the woman he loves

No one feels pleasure, who does not at the same time give it

Not tumble, but slide gently to the bottom of the hill of life

Not to communicate, prematurely, one's hopes or one's fears

Not only pure, but, like Caesar's wife, unsuspected

Not make their want still worse by grieving and regretting them

Not making use of any one capital letter

Not to admire anything too much

Not one minute of the day in which you do nothing at all

Notes by which dances are now pricked down as well as tunes

Nothing in courts is exactly as it appears to be

Nothing much worth either desiring or fearing

Nothing so precious as time, and so irrecoverable when lost

Observe, without being thought an observer

Often more necessary to conceal contempt than resentment

Often necessary, not to manifest all one feels

Often necessary to seem ignorant of what one knows

Oftener led by their hearts than by their understandings

Old fellow ought to seem wise whether he really be so or not

One must often yield, in order to prevail

Only doing one thing at a time

Only because she will not, and not because she cannot

Only solid and lasting peace, between a man and his wife

Our understandings are generally the DUPES of our hearts

Our frivolous dissertations upon the weather, or upon whist

Out of livery; which makes them both impertinent and useless

Outward air of modesty to all he does

Overvalue what we do not know

Oysters, are only in season in the R months

Passes for a wit, though he hath certainly no uncommon share

Patience is the only way not to make bad worse

Patient toleration of certain airs of superiority

Pay your own reckoning, but do not treat the whole company

Pay them with compliments, but not with confidence

People never desire all till they have gotten a great deal

People lose a great deal of time by reading

People will repay, and with interest too, inattention

People angling for praise

People hate those who make them feel their own inferiority

Perfection of everything that is worth doing at all

Perseverance has surprising effects

Person to you whom I am very indifferent about, I mean myself

Pettish, pouting conduct is a great deal too young

Petty jury

Plain notions of right and wrong

Planted while young, that degree of knowledge now my refuge

Please all who are worth pleasing; offend none

Pleased to some degree by showing a desire to please

Pleased with him, by making them first pleased with themselves

Pleasing in company is the only way of being pleased in yourself

Pleasure and business with equal inattention

Pleasure is necessarily reciprocal

Pleasure is the rock which most young people split upon

Pleasures do not commonly last so long as life

Pocket all your knowledge with your watch

Polite, but without the troublesome forms and stiffness


Prefer useful to frivolous conversations

Prejudices are our mistresses

Pride remembers it forever

Pride of being the first of the company

Prudent reserve

Public speaking

Put out your time, but to good interest

Quarrel with them when they are grown up, for being spoiled

Quietly cherished error, instead of seeking for truth

Read my eyes out every day, that I may not hang myself

Read with caution and distrust

Real merit of any kind will be discovered

Real friendship is a slow grower

Reason ought to direct the whole, but seldom does

Reason, which always ought to direct mankind, seldom does

Receive them with great civility, but with great incredulity

Reciprocally profess wishes which they seldom form

Recommend (pleasure) to you, like an Epicurean

Recommends self_conversation to all authors

Refuge of people who have neither wit nor invention of their own

Refuse more gracefully than other people could grant


Represent, but do not pronounce

Reserve with your friends

Respect without timidity

Respectful without meanness, easy without too much familiarity

Return you the ball 'a la volee'

Rich man never borrows

Richelieu came and shackled the nation

Rochefoucault, who, I am afraid, paints man very exactly


Rough corners which mere nature has given to the smoothest

Ruined their own son by what they called loving him

Same coolness and unconcern in any and every company

Scandal: receiver is always thought, as bad as the thief

Scarce any flattery is too gross for them to swallow

Scarcely any body who is absolutely good for nothing

Scrupled no means to obtain his ends

Secret, without being dark and mysterious


See what you see, and to hear what you hear

Seem to like and approve of everything at first

Seeming frankness with a real reserve

Seeming inattention to the person who is speaking to you

Seeming openness is prudent

Seems to have no opinion of his own

Seldom a misfortune to be childless

Self_love draws a thick veil between us and our faults


Sentiments that were never felt, pompously described

Serious without being dull

Settled here for good, as it is called


She has all the reading that a woman should have

She who conquers only catches a Tartar

She has uncommon, sense and knowledge for a woman

Shepherds and ministers are both men

Silence in love betrays more woe

Singularity is only pardonable in old age

Six, or at most seven hours sleep

Smile, where you cannot strike

Some complaisance and attention to fools is prudent

Some men pass their whole time in doing nothing

Something or other is to be got out of everybody

Something must be said, but that something must be nothing

Sooner forgive an injury than an insult

Sow jealousies among one's enemies

Spare the persons while you lash the crimes

Speaking to himself in the glass

Stamp_act has proved a most pernicious measure

Stamp_duty, which our Colonists absolutely refuse to pay

State your difficulties, whenever you have any

Steady assurance, with seeming modesty

Studied and elaborate dress of the ugliest women in the world

Style is the dress of thoughts

Success turns much more upon manner than matter

Sure guide is, he who has often gone the road which you want to

Suspicion of age, no woman, let her be ever so old, ever forgive



Take the hue of the company you are with

Take characters, as they do most things, upon trust

Take, rather than give, the tone of the company you are in

Take nothing for granted, upon the bare authority of the author

Taking up adventitious, proves their want of intrinsic merit

Talent of hating with good_breeding and loving with prudence

Talk often, but never long

Talk sillily upon a subject of other people's

Talk of natural affection is talking nonsense

Talking of either your own or other people's domestic affairs

Tell me whom you live with, and I will tell you who you are

Tell stories very seldom

The longest life is too short for knowledge

The present moments are the only ones we are sure of

The best have something bad, and something little

The worst have something good, and sometimes something great

There are many avenues to every man

They thought I informed, because I pleased them

Thin veil of Modesty drawn before Vanity

Think to atone by zeal for their want of merit and importance

Think yourself less well than you are, in order to be quite so

Thinks himself much worse than he is

Thoroughly, not superficially

Those who remarkably affect any one virtue

Those whom you can make like themselves better

Three passions that often put honesty to most severe trials

Timidity and diffidence

To be heard with success, you must be heard with pleasure

To be pleased one must please

To govern mankind, one must not overrate them

To seem to have forgotten what one remembers

To know people's real sentiments, I trust much more to my eyes

To great caution, you can join seeming frankness and openness

Too like, and too exact a picture of human nature

Trifle only with triflers; and be serious only with the serious

Trifles that concern you are not trifles to me

Trifling parts, with their little jargon

Trite jokes and loud laughter reduce him to a buffoon

Truth, but not the whole truth, must be the invariable principle

Truth leaves no room for compliments

Unaffected silence upon that subject is the only true medium

Unguarded frankness

Unintelligible to his readers, and sometimes to himself

Unopened, because one title in twenty has been omitted

Unwilling and forced; it will never please

Use palliatives when you contradict

Useful sometimes to see the things which one ought to avoid

Value of moments, when cast up, is immense

Vanity, interest, and absurdity, always display

Vanity, that source of many of our follies

Warm and young thanks, not old and cold ones

Water_drinkers can write nothing good

We love to be pleased better than to be informed

We have many of those useful prejudices in this country

We shall be feared, if we do not show that we fear

Well dressed, not finely dressed

What pleases you in others, will in general please them in you

What displeases or pleases you in others

What you feel pleases you in them

What have I done to_day?

What is impossible, and what is only difficult

Whatever pleases you most in others

Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well

Whatever one must do, one should do 'de bonne grace'

Whatever real merit you have, other people will discover

When well dressed for the day think no more of it afterward

Where one would gain people, remember that nothing is little

Who takes warning by the fate of others?

Wife, very often heard indeed, but seldom minded

Will not so much as hint at our follies

Will pay very dear for the quarrels and ambition of a few

Wish you, my dear friend, as many happy new years as you deserve

Wit may created any admirers but makes few friends

Witty without satire or commonplace

Woman like her, who has always pleased, and often been pleased

Women are the only refiners of the merit of men

Women choose their favorites more by the ear

Women are all so far Machiavelians

Words are the dress of thoughts

World is taken by the outside of things

Would not tell what she did not know

Wrapped up and absorbed in their abstruse speculations

Writing anything that may deserve to be read

Writing what may deserve to be read

Wrongs are often forgiven; but contempt never is

Yielded commonly without conviction

You must be respectable, if you will be respected

You had much better hold your tongue than them

Young people are very apt to overrate both men and things

Young fellow ought to be wiser than he should seem to be

Young men are as apt to think themselves wise enough

Your merit and your manners can alone raise you

Your character there, whatever it is, will get before you here

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These quotations were collected from the works of Lord Chesterfield by David Widger while preparing etexts for Project Gutenberg. Comments and suggestions will be most welcome.

--And many thanks for your persistence in reading all the way to the end of this page.        D.W.