Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

1. Be the first to say what is self-evident, and you are immortal.

2. What delights us in visible beauty is the invisible.

3. They understand but little who understand only what can be explained.

4. An opinion may be controverted; a prejudice, never.

5. Confidence is courage; fidelity is force.

6. The men of to-day are born to criticise; of Achilles they see only the heel.

7. How happy are the pessimists! What joy is theirs when they have proved that there is no joy!

8. No one ever accomplished the ordinary who did not attempt the extraordinary.

9. Conquer, but never triumph.

10. Accident is veiled necessity.

11.To see, without envy, others acquire what we ourselves are striving for, is greatness of mind.

12. Arrogance is a plebeian vice.

13. Have patience with the quarrelsomeness of the stupid. It is not easy to comprehend that one does not comprehend.

14. Our greatest indulgence towards a man springs from our despair of him.

15. To grow old is to receive sight.

16. Grace is the outcome of inward harmony.

17. How wise must one be to be always kind!

18. The simplest and most familiar truth seems new and wonderful the instant we ourselves experience it for the first time.

19. The man of cold nature and superior intellect sneers at nothing so bitterly as at a magnanimity of which he feels himself incapable.

20. We often demand virtues from others only that we may give free play to our own faults.

21. 'The wiser yields!' -- an immortal phrase. It establishes the universal supremacy of folly.

22. Never strive, O artist, to create what you are not irresistibly impelled to create!

23. The character of the artist fosters his talent, or destroys it.

24. Iron endurance and uncomplaining renunciation are the two poles of human force.

25. Nothing is so often irrevocably neglected as an opportunity of daily occurrence.

26. We usually learn to wait only whan we have no longer anything to wait for.

27. Passion is always suffering -- even when gratified.

28. Shrinking stupidity and bashful poverty the gods hold sacred.

29. If there be a faith that can remove mountains, it is faith in one's own power.

30. The consequences of our good actions persecute us inexorably, and are often harder to bear than those of our evil actions.

31. The good humour of commonplace people is like the will-o'-the wisp: trust to its delusive brilliancy and it will surely lead you into a slough.

32. There are women who love their husbands as blindly, as enthusiastically, and as enigmatically, as nuns in their cloister.

33. A burnt child either fears the fire, or falls in love with it.

34. Pity is love in undress.

35. Matches are made in heaven, where, however, no care is taken that they turn out well.

36. Whoso believes in the freedom of the will has never loved, and never hated.

37. Most men need more love than they deserve.

38. The poet who knows one human being can portray a hundred.

39. One of the rarest pieces of luck is an opportunity for merited benificence.

40. Most imitators attempt the inimitable.

41. To have and not give is often worse than to steal.

42. The poor never estimate as a virtue the generosity of the rich.

43. The people whom we never contradict are those whom we either love most, or respect least.

44. Those who need forbearance least exercise it most.

45. His power over us is boundless who inspires at once pity and respect.

46. No one can appreciate reason who does not possess some himself.

47. When any one shows himself able where ordinary men are unable, they console themselves with the reflection that he is certainly unable where they are able.

48. Beware of the virtue which a man boasts is his.

49. If one reads the ancients only, one is sure of always remaining modern.

50. The sympathy of a fool is a flame without warmth.

51. He is a poor instructor of the young who does not distinctly remember his own youth.

52. The incurable ills are the imaginary ills.

53. Even the most modest of men rates himself more highly than he is rated by his best friend.

54. When art finds no temple open, it takes refuge in the workshop.

55. We must do the right that there may be some in the world.

56. Hatred is a prolific vice; envy, a barren vice.

57. We should always forgive; the penitent for his own sake, the impenitent for our own.

58. The motive for a good action is sometimes nothing save timely repentance.

59. There is something so beautiful in trust that even the most hardened liar must needs feel a certain respect for those who confide in him.

60. What you wish to do you are apt to think you ought to do.

61. Even virtue is an art, and even its devotees are divided into those who practise it and those who are merely amateurs.

62. Age transfigures, or petrifies.

63. Kindness which is not inexhaustible does not deserve the name.

64. The few who practise goodness are the only ones who believe in it.

65. It is unfortunate that superior talent and a superior man are so seldom united.

66. There are more truths in a good book than its author meant to put into it.

67. We excuse nothing so easily as follies committed for our sake.

68. Undeserved reproof is often a delicate form of flattery.

69. Be lord of your Will and slave of your Conscience.

70. Nature is truth. Art is the highest truth.

71. A desire fulfilled too late brings no refreshment; the thirsty soul consumes it as does hot iron a drop of water.

72. Fools usually know best that which the wise despair of ever comprehending.

73. When curiosity is felt about serious things we call it thirst for knowledge.

74. One thing we should always try to learn from our very good friends -- their keen perception of our faults.

75. Love not only has rights, but is always right.

76. Only what is too good for the present is good enough for the future.

77. Those to be feared are not those who dispute, but those who concede.

78. The mountain which brings forth a mouse has quite as severe a labour as has Vesuvius when it sends flames heaven-high.

79. Unattainable wishes are often called 'pious'. This seems to intimate that only profane desires are fulfilled.

80. Wit is an intermittent fountain; kindness is a perennial spring.

81. One can buy many things that are beyond price.

82. When two good men contend about principles, both are always right.

83. Nothing is less promising than precocity. A young thistle is more like a future tree than is a young oak.

84. When envy can no longer deny merit, it begins to ignore it.

85. The sympathy of most people consists of a mixture of good humour, curiosity and self-importance.

86. Power is duty; freedom is reponsibility.

87. Since the well-known victory over the hare by the tortoise, the descendants of the tortoise think themselves miracles of speed.

88. There are times when to be reasonable is to be cowardly.

89. To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible.

90. The modesty which loses its unconsciousness loses its life.

91. There is only one proof of ability, -- action.

92. If you pursue a well-trodden pathway for a long while, you will finally pursue it alone.

93. The understanding of some men is clear, that of others is brilliant. The former illumines its surroundings, the latter obscures them.

94. Never expect women to be sincere so long as they are educated to think that their first aim in life is -- to please.

95. In youth we learn, in age we understand.

96. He who has trusted where he ought not will surely mistrust where he ought not.

97. But little evil would be done in the world if evil never could be done in the name of good.

98. All that is due to us will be paid, although not perhaps by those to whom we have lent.

99. Those who need us give us a hold upon life.

100. There is a beautiful form of dissimulation: self-conquest -- and a beautiful form of egotism : love.

101. It often discourages the most ardent philanthropist to find so many in need of help whom it is impossible to help.

102. A weak readiness to admit that two and two make five is the caricature of resignation.

103. The believer who has never doubted will hardly convert a doubter.

104. The world would be much better off if the pains taken to analyze the subtlest moral laws were given to the practice of the simplest.

105. It is impossible to help all', says the miser, and -- helps none.

106. Whoso knows nothing should believe everything.

107. Parents are least ready to forgive in their children faults which result from their own training.

108. When a high-minded man takes pains to atone for his injustice, his kindness of heart shows in the best and purest light.

109. The cavils of envy have often helped merit to a recognition.

110. What does a fool care for a sensitive man? The object of his admiration is some other fool, who rates him highly.

111. A sense of beauty and an enthusiasm for the beautiful are one.

112. Desire is the father of hope.

113. We are not always even what we are most.

114. In fashionable society one must wear a dress-coat, a uniform, or -- a livery.

115. He who says Patience, says Courage, Endurance, Strength.

116. Consider existence as a task, and you will be able always to endure it.

117. Intelligence often goes much farther than intellect.

118. Many think they have good hearts who have only weak nerves.

119. Two very different virtues may be long at war with one another, but the time will come when they will perceive that they are sisters.

120. Upon the death of one dear to us we find a kind of consolation in the belief that the pain of our loss will never abate.

121. The strength of a man's mind is shown alike by what he believes and by what he doubts.

122. It is easy to bear the severest blame if we feel that he who blames would rather praise.

123. Old servants are petty despots, to whom we are bound by the great despot, -- custom.

124. Pity despised may turn to cruelty, as love despised may turn to hate.

125. From a desire for the superfluous art was born.

126. How much less a wise man troubles himself about the faults of others than about his own!

127. We cannot right every wrong, but we can, indeed, wrong every right.

128. Dulness will as surely be the result of prolonged abstinence as of luxurious excess.

129. The thought of the transitory nature of earthly things is a source of endless misery -- and of endless consolation.

130. Where would the power of women be were it not for the vanity of men?

131. Men who are perpetually engaged in accumulating wealth, without ever allowing themselves time to enjoy it, are like hungry folk who are always cooking without ever sitting down to dine.

132. To pursue a thought, -- how graphic the phrase! We hurry after it, clutch at it, it eludes us, and the chase begins afresh. The final victory is to the stronger. Should this prove to be the thought, it never lets us rest: it starts up perpetually, teasing, vexing, twitting our incapacity to grasp it. But if by force of intellect we succeed in mastering it, the eager contest is followed by a blissful indissoluble union for life and death, and the children springing thence take the world by storm.

133. Morals refine manners, as manners refine morals.

134. Nothing is more pitiable than resignation too soon displayed.

135. The poor love to bestow.

136. One must learn to accommodate one's self even to good fortune when it is new.

137. The vain weak man sees a judge in every one, the proud strong man owns no judge but himself.

138. Authors from whom others steal should not complain, but rejoice. Where there is no game there are no poachers.

139. When silly folk take pains to conceal a secret from us, we shall certainly learn what it is, strive as we may to escape the knowledge.

140. The poor man wishes to conceal his poverty, and the rich man his wealth: the former fears lest he be despised, the latter lest he be plundered.

141. Intellectual sloth, superficiality, and obstinacy are feminine failings; greed of pleasure, selfishness, and harshness are masculine failings; waywardness, vanity, and inquisitiveness are childish failings.

142. Whoso sneers or lies in the presence of children is guilty of a capital crime.

143. Vanity refuses all wholesome food, and lives entirely upon the poison of flattery, upon which it thrives luxuriantly.

144. Pain is the great teacher of mankind. Beneath its breath souls develop.

145. Man is the master of the house, but woman should alone rule the home.

146. Genuine love may exist between persons of very unequal deserts; lasting friendship only between those alike deserving. Therefore the latter is far rarer than the former.

147. A clever woman has millions of born foes, -- all stupid men.

148. The old saying: All beginning is difficult, is true only of accomplishments. In art nothing is more difficult than finishing which means a finish.

149. A blockhead, in judging of others, may possibly transport himself into their place, but never into their manner of thought and feeling.

150. There is no wrong, and scarcely any right, that has not been at some time the work of vanity.

151. Master of his passions, kind-hearted, intelligent, gracious, easy in manner, reverent towards sincerity, appreciative of a jest, -- summa summarum: -- a charming man.

152. We must accept blame from any one, but we should know something of him from whom we would have praise.

153. To listen only to reason in contracting a marriage means, in most cases, to summon all one's reasoning power to assist in the most insane transaction of which a human being is capable.

154. He who understands how to inform others gracefully and interestingly of what they knew beforehand, soonest acquires a reputation for cleverness.

155. Nothing comforts us for the arrival of certain guests save -- the hope of their departure.

156. In all ages there are some great truths abroad in the air: they constitute the intellectual atmosphere of the century.

157. What are men readiest to dub stupid? The cleverness which they cannot understand.

158. With our parents we bury our past, with our children our future.

159. One thought cannot awake without awakening others.

160. They are the most insufferable of hypocrites who baptize by the name of duties all the pleasures that are born to them.

161. Disputes between true friends and true lovers are of no consequence. The only dangerous quarrels are those between people who do not quite understand each other.

162. There are many little impertinences and indiscretions, in themselves of very slight consequence, which are terrible as symptoms of the condition of mind that they betray.

163. Generosity, to be perfect, should always be accompanied by a dash of humour.

164. A certain amount of good will is necessary for the apprehending of what is simplest, for the comprehending of what is clearest.

165. 'Plain to the common understanding' means: comprehensible by common people, and often means, besides: quite uninteresting to uncommon people.

166. To be young is delightful; to be old is convenient.

167. More honourable names have been ruined by thoughtlessness than by malice.

168. If you must choose between a falsehood and a rudeness, choose the rudeness; if the choice lies between a falsehood and cruelty, choose the falsehood.

169. Taciturn people always inspire respect. It is difficult to believe that one has no secret to keep but that of his own insignificance.

170. The sense of loneliness is painful when it comes over us in the bustle of the world, but intolerable when it overcomes us in the bosom of our family.

171. Spoilt children are the most unfortunate; in their earliest years they know what tyrants suffer.

172. 'He is a good man', people say thoughtlessly. They would be more chary of such praise if they reflected that they could bestow none higher.

173. We are valued either too highly or not highly enough. We are never taken at our real worth.

174. Would you know what your acquaintances say of you? Listen to what they say of those who are worth more than you.

175. In the course of life everything loses its charm as well as its terrors. One thing only we never cease to fear: the unknown.

176. Sterility hates all creators, most of all those who create before its very eyes.

177. The husband who finds himself confuted in argument by his wife instantly begins to outroar her. He can -- he must -- he will -- prove that, even although he sings false, the first part in the duet always is his of right.

178. A capacity for calm deliberation: -- the beginning of all wisdom, the source of all excellence.

179. Exceptions do not always prove the rule; they may be even the first germs of a new rule.

180. Many would be free if they could but arrive at the consciousness of their freedom.

181. Courage of the weak, gentleness of the strong -- both worthy of adoration!

182. We ask the poet: 'What subject have you chosen?' instead of: 'What subject has chosen you?'

183. A wife loses the sense of her own value in her love for a distinguished husband; a husband truly appreciates himself first when he loves a noble wife.

184. The weakling is always ready to repudiate even his virtues, if he thinks they give offence.

185. The philosopher draws his conclusions; for the poet they must be born.

186. Many a truth is the result of an error.

187. A literary thief who takes great pains with his stealing may all his life long be thought honest and original.

188. In choosing between two duties, decide for the hardest.

189. One true friend adds more to our happiness than a thousand enemies add to our unhappiness.

190. Great men create what is great; good men, what is lasting.

191. An interesting book is food that makes us hungry.

192. The understanding and the heart are upon excellent terms. The one often takes the place of the other so perfectly that it is hard to decide which is at work.

193. Manuscripts either moulder in your drawer, or mature there.

194. Whoso appears before the public should expect no consideration and demand none.

195. A man of lofty ideas is an uncomfortable neighbour.

196. Even more than for the happiness of our youth do we long in old age for the desires of our youth to return.

197. To conquer is better than to sue.

198. It is the tittle of truth which many a lie contains that makes it formidable.

199. With regard to our bad qualities there can be only perpetual warfare or disgraceful peace.

200. Whatever thou really possessest has been bestowed on thee.

201. Happy they who love only what they may and hate only what they should.

202. They who sin least do the greatest penance.

2o3. It is well to exchange thoughts with the grandly-endowed; it is well to live with the delicately-endowed.

204. A merited victory comes almost always too late.

205. Respect the commonplace! It is the garnered wisdom of centuries.

206. The lazy and the industrious can never live happily together; the lazy despise the industrious too much.

207. If you would not cease to love mankind you must not cease to do them good.

208. The noble 'I will!' has no worse enemy than the cowardly, self-deceiving 'Yes, if I choose!'

209. Everything depends upon surroundings. The sun in the clear sky has a far more humble opinion of itself than has a tallow candle burning in a cellar.

210. Let the artist hasten to efface all trace of the pains his work has cost. If his pains are evident, he has taken too little.

211. The mastery of the moment is the mastery of life.

212. We may seduce fancy, but must not seek to do it violence.

213. Not the mortal, but the incurable, diseases are the worst.

214. No man stands so high that he can afford to be only just towards others.

215. When the time comes in which one could, the time has passed in which one can.

216. Association with an egotist is ruinous, because self-defence forces us to fall gradually into his fault.

217. 'It will pass away', weak parents say of some fault of their children. Oh, no, it will not pass away, it will develope.

218. The right of the strongest is the strongest wrong.

219. The greatest enemy of the law of right is the law of prerogative.

220. Between what you can and what you do lies a sea, and in its depths lies buried the wrecked will.

221. A proud man demands of himself extraordinary ability; an arrogant man ascribes it to himself.

222. Admiration for virtue is a talent for virtue.

223. Many think that when they have confessed a fault there is no need of correcting it.

224. They are most to be pitied who possess a sense of duty, but not force sufficient to obey it.

225. In meeting again after a separation, acquaintances ask after our outward life, friends after our inner life.

226. Obstinacy, -- lack of cultivation. Jealousy, -- avarice.

227. Those who are elated with a little fame do not deserve much.

228. To say what one thinks may be the greatest folly, and may be the greatest art.

229. People who talk much of themselves produce, however clever they may be, the impression of immaturity.

230. There are more naive men than naive women.

231. The wise man is seldom prudent.

232. We ought to speak not of the art of being happy, but of the art of feeling happy.

233. True prophets sometimes, false prophets always, have fanatical adherents.

234. As far as earth can be heaven, it is so in a happy marriage.

235. Humility is invulnerability.

236. A good joke should seem unintentional. It does not proclaim itself, but in a flash the acuteness of the hearer detects the witty thought under the mask of a simple phrase. A good joke travels incognito.

237. Some virtues can be attained by feigning them for a long while. Others are all the more impossible of attainment the more we try to feign them. Among the first belongs courage; among the last, modesty.

238. Well-bred people talk in society neither of the weather nor of religion.

239. That government is most degraded which is obliged to listen silently while notorious roguery preaches morality to it.

240. Widely as the possession of like faults separates us, the possession of like weaknesses unites us as closely.

241. Hobbies protect us from passions. One hobby becomes a passion.

242. What a difference there is between how we do it and how it should be done!

243. The line which genius dashes off at one stroke, talent may, in lucky hours, construct by minute dots.

244. A nothing may suffice to shake our confidence in ourselves, but only a miracle can again confirm it.

245. To have experienced much does not mean that experience is gained.

246. In every exalted joy there mingles a sensation of gratitude.

247. Those people in whom heart and understanding balance each other develope late.

248. A book cannot easily be too bad for the general public, but may easily be too good.

249. Where there are two things so opposite and yet so nearly related, so unlike and yet often so hard to be distinguished from each other, as humility and pride?

250. It is not what life brings us, but the manner in which we receive it, that shapes our destiny.

251. There would be no social life, every family tie would be loosened, were our thoughts written upon our foreheads.

252. 'If my heart does not speak, my reason also is silent', says the woman. 'Be silent, heart, that my reason may speak', says the man.

253. Love all mankind, but let the sufferer be your child.

254. The tedium of many a book is its salvation: the critic, after raising his javelin, falls asleep before he hurls it.

255. In rheumatism and in true love we believe only when attacked by them.

256. Physicians are hated either from conviction or from economy.

257. The ambrosia of earlier ages is the daily bread of later ages.

258. A really good and amiable man may have as many friends as he chooses, but not always those whom he chooses.

259. None pride themselves upon inborn virtues.

260. A whole book, -- a whole life.

261. The world of men and of things can be estimated only when they are old.

262. The benevolent do not fear malevolence.

263. We should take far too little pains if we never took needless pains.

264. Not only does every Ulysses find his Homer, but every Mahomet his Khadijah.

265. Every man of the world would rather consort with a well-bred rogue than with an ill-bred saint.

266. When we remember the joys of the past, or hope for those of the future, we always picture them as analloyed.

267. Not every great man is a grand human being.

268. The love lavished upon us, which we cannot regard as a joy and a blessing, we regard as a burden.

269. We learn nothing so late, and forget nothing so soon, as to admit that we are wrong.

270. Deeds speak, but even they fail to convince the doubter.

271. All poets and all honest poetasters write with their hearts' blood; the quality of the fluid makes all the difference.

272. If we wish to enjoy an analloyed pleasure, it must fall to the lot of one whom we love.

273. Genius points the way; talent pursues it.

274. Those whom we spoil most are not always those whom we love most.

275. One must forgive a large self-consciousness to a great poet. We cannot deny a certain Godlikeness to one who creates men from his brain.

276. Consider once before you give, twice before you receive, and a thousand times before you ask.

277. The scale which we apply to things is the scale of our own minds.

278. The artist should care, not to have his work receive recognition, but to have it deserve it.

279. A single word sometimes betrays to us the depths of a soul, the power of a mind.

280. So soon as a fashion is universal, it is out of date.

281. Nature may well be lavish; even what is thrown aside as apparently useless falls at last into her lap.

282. The smallest fault that a man commits for our sake, lends him more value in our eyes than the greatest virtues that he practises without regard to us.

283. It is bad when a married pair bore each other, but far worse when only one of them bores the other.

284. The greatest power is exercised over a man by a woman who, while rejecting him, contrives to convince him that she returns his love.

285. Bear in mind every service that you can render; forget every service that you have rendered.

286. He who prefers the material delights of life to its intellectual pleasures is like the possessor of a palace who takes up his abode in the kitchen and leaves the drawing-rooms empty.

287. In the course of life our vices grow threadbare, like our virtues.

288. The world belongs to those who long for it, and is despised by those to whom it should belong.

289. 'If I did not have to preach, I should not chastise myself', said a priest who loved the truth.

290. An artist, -- a priest.

291. There is never a moment when a blockhead does not deem a wise man capable of uttering nonsense or of committing folly.

292. Indifference: -- spiritual death -- is sometimes a sign of exhaustion, most frequently a sign of intellectual impotence, and always -- good style.

293. Of what value is fame, when one cannot enjoy posthumous fame?

294. For nothing are we so grateful as for gratitude.

295. Many a man without talent can say of the work of a man with talent: -- 'If I could do that, I would do it better.'

296. Dilettanti have done no lasting service in even second-rate art, but have done well in the first of all sciences, philosophy: witness Montaigne, La Rochefoucauld, Vauvenargues.

297. Although we have no faith in the flattery, the flatterer after all attracts us. We cannot but feel some gratitude towards one who takes the trouble to lie to please us.

298. From pity for others springs ardent, courageous benevolence; from pity for ourselves, feeble, cowardly sentimentality.

299. The smaller the grain of sand, the more certain is it to consider itself the axis of the world.

300. Only the cleverest of men make use of their acuteness in judging not only of others but of themselves.