André Maurois

French journalist (1885-1967)

André Maurois (born Émile Salomon Wilhelm Herzog, 26 July 18859 October 1967) was a French author and man of letters. André Maurois was a pen name which became his legal name in 1947.

1970 photograph of André Maurois


  • A mixture of admiration and pity is one of the surest recipes for affection.
    • Ariel (1923)
  • What shall we know of our death? Either the soul is immortal and we shall not die, or it perishes with the flesh and we shall not know that we are dead. Live, then, as if you were eternal, and do not believe that your life has changed merely because it seems proved that the Earth is empty. You do not live in the Earth, you live in yourself.
  • No country in the world has more reverence than France for a good literary education. Every middleclass Frenchman knows at least some of his classics by heart; he has been brought up on La Fontaine, and Corneille, and Molière. The Comédie-Française, which is the national theatre, and the French Academy, are public institutions, and a surprisingly great part of the nation takes an interest in their ceremonies. Very often in the course of the last fifty years, France was governed by professors. Whether it was a sound idea or not is another story, but it is a fact, and it shows the great importance attached by Frenchmen to classical eloquence, to the proper use of words, to simple and beautiful language.
    • "The Spirit of France", radio broadcast from London (18 June 1940), quoted in André Maurois, Tragedy in France (1940), p. 251
  • In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, at the courts of the last Kings of France, idle men and women of infinite subtlety took pleasure in analysing very minutely each other's feelings and thoughts. The result was this wonderful literature that goes from La Bruyère and Pascal to Stendhal and Marcel Proust. France became a country of very refined taste. The part played by her in modern Europe was in a way similar to that played by Greece in the ancient world; she took pleasure in a delicious simplicity. Other literatures may have had more strength, more romantic violence; none had that mysterious perfection.
    • "The Spirit of France", radio broadcast from London (18 June 1940), quoted in André Maurois, Tragedy in France (1940), p. 252
  • The people themselves, men and women, are sometimes in France, works of art... [M]any Frenchmen, in the happy days of peace, had turned life into a fine art. What could be more delightful than to dine with a few well-chosen friends, in a small Paris restaurant? The owner, who was called the Patron, was, of course, at the same time, the chef. He wasn't so much interested in your money as in your appreciation of his great talents. He wasn't a tradesman, but an artist and a friend. And the guests were often worthy of the setting. Paris conversation at its best was witty, brilliant, sometimes deep, never ponderous, sparkling with anecdotes, portraits and sketches of the great.
    • "The Spirit of France", radio broadcast from London (18 June 1940), quoted in André Maurois, Tragedy in France (1940), pp. 253-254

Les silences du colonel Bramble (The Silence of Colonel Bramble) (1918)

  • To interest a Frenchman in a boxing match you must tell him that his national honor is at stake. To interest an Englishman in a war you need only suggest that it is a kind of a boxing match. Tell us that the Hun is a barbarian, we agree politely, but tell us that he is a bad sportsman and you rouse the British Empire.
  • The true sporting spirit has always something religious about it.
  • We don't go to school to learn, but to be soaked in the prejudices of our class, without which we should be useless and unhappy.
  • It is unprecedented for the men who made a revolution to remain in power after it is over. Yet one still finds revolutionaries: that proves how badly history is taught.
  • The love of humanity is a pathological state of a sexual origin which often appears at the age of puberty in nervous and clever people. The excess of phosphorus in the system must get out somewhere. As for hatred of a tyrant, that is a more human sentiment which has full play in time of war, when force and the mob are one. Emperors must be mad fools to decide on declaring wars which substitute an armed nation for their Praetorian Guards. That idiocy accomplished, despotism of course produces revolution until terrorism leads to the inevitable reaction.
  • We are always repeating ancestral signs which are quite useless now. When a great actress wants to express hate she draws back her charming lips and shows her canine teeth, an unconscious sign of cannibalism. We shake hands with a friend to prevent him using it to strike us, and we take off our hats because our ancestors used to humbly offer their heads, to the bigwigs of those days, to be cut off.
  • British conversation is like a game of cricket or a boxing match; personal allusions are forbidden like hitting below the belt, and anyone who loses his temper is disqualified.
  • I like the War. It is only War that gives us a normal existence. What do you do in peace-time? You stay at home; you don't know what to do with your time; you argue with your parents, and your wife - if you have one. Everyone thinks you are an insufferable egotist - and so you are. The War comes; you only go home every five or six months. You are a hero, and, what women appreciate much more, you are a change. You know stories that have never been published. You've seen strange men and terrible things. Your father, instead of telling his friends that you are embittering the end of his life, introduces you to them as an oracle. These old men consult you on foreign politics. I you are married, your wife is prettier than ever; if you are not, all the girls lay siege to you.
  • If you want to be thought anything of amongst Englishmen, you must make yourself see their point of view. They don't care for melancholy people, and have a contempt for sentiment. This applies to love as well as to patriotism and religion.
  • You see us poor Englishmen searching hard for the solution of a problem when there isn't one. You may think that the Irish want certain definite reforms, and that they will be happy and contented the day they get them; but not at all. What amuses them is discussion itself, plotting in theory. They play with the idea of Home Rule; if we gave it them, the game would be finished and they would invent another, probably a more dangerous one.
  • A married man is only half a man.
  • A married man seeks to please his wife and not God.
  • If you have observed nature, you would have proved that the question of the numbers of mates is certainly not a question of arithmetic. With gnats, ten females are born to one male. Now gnats are not polygamous. Nine out of those females dies spinsters. It is only the old maids who bite us, from which one sees that celibacy engenders ferocity among insects as well as among women.
  • "I should not care to be married for my money," said Lucie. "Oh, strange creature!" said the doctor, "you would like to be loved for your face alone, that is to say, for the position in space of the albuminoids and fatty molecules placed there by the working of some Mendelian heredity, but you would dislike to be loved for your fortune, to which you have contributed by your labor and your domestic virtues.
  • He who has found a good wife has found great happiness, but a quarrelsome woman is like a roof that lets in the rain.
  • There are very few really brilliant men who have not had at least one madman among their ancestors.
  • To desire to be perpetually in the society of a pretty woman until the end of one's days, is as if, because one likes good wine, one wished always to have one's mouth full of it.
  • We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity - romantic love and gunpowder.
  • The whole reason of this War is because the Germans have no sense of humor.
  • The officer of today has seen active service, it's true but as a matter of fact it is quite sufficient in war to have good health and no more imagination than a fish. It is in peace-time that one ought to judge a soldier.
  • Telephones are like women. No one really knows anything about them. One fine day, something goes wrong; you try to find out why, no good, you swear, you shake them up a bit and all is well.
  • Whoever wants to be a hero ought to drink brandy.
  • A gentleman is never in a hurry.
  • Incoherence is not the monopoly of madness: all the main ideas of a sane man are irrational erections build up, for better or worse, to express his deepest feelings.
  • Nietzsche was a genius because he delighted in persecution. Karl Marx was a dangerous maniac. It is only when the feelings of discontent which he tries to explain coincide with those of a whole class, or a whole nation, that the impassioned theorist becomes a prophet, or a hero; while, if he confines himself to explaining that he would rather have been born an Emperor, they shut him up.
  • All primitive people thought that a lunatic was possessed by a spirit. When his incoherent words more or less accord with the moral prejudices of the time, the spirit is a good one, and the man i s a saint. In the opposite case, the spirit is evil and the man must be suppressed. It is just according to the time and place and the doctors, whether a prophetess would be worshipped as a priestess or ducked as a witch. Innumerable violent lunatics have escaped the cells, thanks to the War, and their very violence has made heroes of them. And in every Parliament there are at least five or six undisputed idiots who got elected for their madness through the admiration of their constituents.
  • Medicine is a very old joke, but it still goes on.
  • England will pay ten thousand a year to a lawyer or a banker, but when she has splendid fellows like me who conquer empires and keep them for her, she only gives them just enough to keep their polo ponies.
  • It is a fairly consistent law of humanity that men spend about half their lives at war. A Frenchman, called Lapouge, calculated that from the year 1100 to the year 1500, England had been 207 years at war and 212 years from 1500 to 1900. In France the corresponding figures would be 192 and 181 years. According to that same man Lapouge, nineteen million men are killed in war every century. Their blood would fill three million barrels of 180 liters each, and would feed a fountain of blood running 700 liters an hour from the beginning of history.

The Next Chapter: The War Against the Moon (1928)

  • After 1930, political theorists had begun to realize that every democracy—being a government of public opinion—is largely in the hands of those who make public opinion—that is to say, the newspaper-owners. In every country the big business men, the great financiers, were being compelled to purchase the influential newspapers and had little by little succeeded in doing so. They had been very clever in respecting the the external forms of democracy. The people continued to elect their deputies, who continued to to go through the forms of choosing ministers and presidents; but the ministers, presidents, and deputies could hold on to their positions only so long as they did what the Masters of Public Opinion told them to do; and, being well aware of this fact, they were duly submissive.

Un Art de Vivre (The Art of Living) (1939)


The Art of Loving

  • Two world wars have destroyed in a few years the material and spiritual capital accumulated by centuries of work. The nineteenth century had hoped to turn man, by virtue of education, into a reasoning being: a half-century of ferocity has proved that a cruel, primitive beast still resides in him.
  • Revolt against a tyrant is legitimate; it can succeed. Revolt against human nature is doomed to failure.
  • To feminine eyes a man's prestige, or his fame, envelops him in a luminous haze which obscures his faults. The triumphs of an aviator, an actor, a football player, an orator are often responsible for the beginning of a love affair.
  • It is a great joy to admire someone without reserve; love which is founded upon admiration of the mind as well as the body of the chosen person undoubtedly affords the keenest delight.
  • Happiness flourishes where there is happiness, and love withers quickly in an atmosphere of constraint and gloom.
  • Women apparently achieve happiness more easily with energetic and virile men, men achieve it more easily with women who are affectionate and willing to be led. Very young women declare that they want to marry men whom they can dominate, but I have never discovered a woman who was truly happy with a man she did not admire for his strength and courage, nor a normal man who was perfectly happy with an Amazon. The fact is that the element of chance in these matters rarely allows a man or a woman to choose a life companion by an act of pure volition, and it is better so; instinct, despite its mistakes, is surer here than intelligence. The question Do I have to fall in love? should not be asked; one must feel the answer to it within oneself. The birth of love, like all other births, is the work of nature.
  • Woman's great strength lies in being late or absent. Presence immediately reveals the weak points of our beloved; when she is absent she become one of the sylph-like figures of our adolescence whom we endowed with perfection.
  • Love born of anxiety resembles a thorn shaped so that efforts to pull it out of one's flesh merely cause it to penetrate more deeply therein.
  • Most of us have to conquer and ceaselessly reconquer the person whom we desire. It is therefore necessary to arouse love in that person.
  • Conquest brings no lasting happiness unless the person conquered was possessed of free will. Only then can there be doubt and anxiety and those continual victories over habit and boredom which produce the keenest pleasures of all. The comely inmates of the harem are rarely loved, for they are prisoners. Inversely, the far too accessible ladies of present-day seaside resorts almost never inspire love, because they are emancipated. Where is love's victory when there is neither veil, modesty, nor self-respect to check its progress? Excessive freedom raises up the transparent walls of an invisible seraglio to surround these easily acquired ladies. Romantic love requires women, not that they should be inaccessible, but that their lives should be lived within the rather narrow limits of religion and convention. These conditions, admirably observed in the Middle-Ages, produced the courtly love of that time. The honoured mistress of the chateau remained within its walls while the knight set out for the Crusades and thought about his lady. In those days a man scarcely ever tried to arouse love in the object of his passion. He resigned himself to loving in silence, or at least without hope. Such frustrated passions are considered by some to be naive and unreal, but to certain sensitive souls this kind of remote admiration is extremely pleasurable, because, being quite subjective, it is better protected against deception and disillusion.
  • Byron says that it is easier to die for the woman one loves than to live with her.
  • It is easy to be admired when one remains inaccessible.
  • The longer the road to love, the keener is the pleasure to be experienced by the sensitive lover.
  • It only requires a glance at the advertisements in American magazines to understand how strong and how continuous is woman's preoccupation with her conquest of man.
  • The reputation of a Don Juan gives to a man the most dangerous power. Wise virgins resist it, but foolish virgins frequently yield to the desire to take a celebrated lover from a rival - even from a friend. This emotion is a complex one, mad up of vanity, respect for another woman's taste, and the need to establish self-assurance by winning a difficult victory. Don Juan chose his first mistresses; later he was chosen. Byron said that he had been raped oftener than anyone since the Trojan War.
  • The desire for security, very marked in women, draws the weaker among them to men who, by their strength or ability, seem to offer protection and support. In time of war they count a warrior's scalps; in time of peace they hunt for genius or wealth. To the man in love the giving of gifts is a way of asserting his power. The penguin and the banker offer pebbles of varying brilliance to their respective loved ones. The finch presents twigs and leaves to its mate as the young man presents woolen threads in the form of carpets and curtains to his fiancee. The swallow and the woman begin to thing of the nest the moment they have chosen their males.
  • Novelty, the most potent of all attractions, is also the most perishable.
  • In restaurants, the duration of silence between couples is too often proportionate to the length of their life together.
  • Why, when I have won her, do I continue to woo her? Because, though she belongs to me, she is not and never will be mine.
  • Almost all of our fellow-beings deceive us, but a few of us have known the joy of meeting a woman or a man whose sincerity and frankness were genuine, who in almost every situation has behaved according to our wishes, and who in our most difficult moments has not forsaken us. Those few are familiar with that marvelous feeling: confidence. With at least one person they are able for a little while each day to lift the heavy visor of their helmets, breathe freely, and show their faces and their hearts without fear.

The Art of Marriage

  • Clearly, the central argument of the opponents to marriage is that it is an institution whose purpose is to stabilize something that cannot be stabilized, to make something last that will not last. All are agreed that physical love is as natural an instinct as huger or thirst, but the permanence of love is not instinctive. If, as is the case with so many men, physical love must have change, then why the promise of a life's devotion?
  • Marriage makes a man more vulnerable by doubling the expanse of sail exposed to the tempests of social life.
  • The life of a couple is lived on the mental level of the more mediocre of the two beings who compose it.
  • A man and a woman who, in their young days, agree to have done with sentimental life thereby renounce the search for adventure, the intoxication of new encounters, and the amazing refreshment produced by falling in love again. Their most vital source of energy is cut off; they are doomed to premature insensibility. Their life, scarcely begun, is finished. Nothing can break the monotony of an existence made up of burdens and duties. No further hope, no surprises, no conquests. Their one love will soon be tainted by the cares of housekeeping and the children's education. They will reach old age without ever having known the joys of youth. Marriage destroys romantic love which alone could justify it.
  • Civilizations founded upon polygamy have always given way to those founded upon monogamy. Polygamy weakens men and diminishes the charm of the community in which it is practiced; and in any case it is foreign to the tastes and requirements of our modern women.
  • The truth seems to be that monogamous marriage, mitigated in certain countries by divorce and in certain other by tolerance of infidelity, persists in our Western civilization as the solution which entails the least suffering for the greatest number of people.
  • Passionate love produces distorted visions of actual people. Men who are too much in love expect such extraordinary happiness from marriage that they are frequently disappointed.
  • There are more love marriages in the United States than in any other country, but Americans are also given to quick and frequent divorces.
  • Auguste Comte defines the feminine sex as the affective or emotional sex, and the male sex as the effective or active sex. This must be understood as meaning that with women there is a much close connection between mind and body. Woman's thought are less abstract than man's.
  • Balzac says that many young husbands are so ignorant of women that they make him think of orang-outangs trying to play the violin.
  • A true woman loves a strong man because she knows his weaknesses. She protects as much as she is protected.
  • I believe that communities which lack the feminine influence are apt to fall into abstraction and the madness of systems which, being false, require violence to put into practice. We have, alas, seen too many examples of this. A masculine civilization like that of ancient Greece perishes through politics, metaphysics, and vanity. Women alone can give these doctrinary drones a sense of the real and simple values of the hive. No true civilization is possible without the collaboration of the two sexes, but there can be no real collaboration unless the differences between the sexes are accepted and a mutual respect established.
  • Marriage is not something that can be accomplished all at once; it has to be constantly reaccomplished. A couple must never indulge in idle tranquility with the remark: "The game is won; let's relax." The game is never won. The chances of life are such that anything is possible. Remember what the dangers are for both sexes in middle age. A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.
  • Nothing in our daily life will last if neglected; houses, stuffs, friendships, pleasures. Roofs fall in, love comes to an end. A tile needs re-fastening, a joint must be repaired, a misunderstanding cleared up. Otherwise bitterness is created; feelings deep down in the soul become centers of infection, and one day, during a quarrel, the abscess breaks, and each is horrified by the picture of himself or herself discovered in the other's mind.
  • A man who is trying sincerely to disentangle the web of human affairs is greatly helped by the nearness of a woman's mind, vigilant, clever, discreet, lucid, which lights up that shadowy half of his world: women's thoughts.
  • A marriage without conflicts is almost as inconceivable as a nation without crises.
  • Marriage is not at all what romantic lovers imagine it to be; it is an institution founded upon an instinct; to be successful, it requires not only physical attraction, but will-power, patience, and the always difficult acceptance of "the other"; finally, if these conditions are fulfilled, a beautiful and lasting affection can be established - a unique and, to those who have never known it, incomprehensible mingling of love, friendship, sensuality, and respect, without which there is no true marriage.

The Art of Family Life

  • If I had to preach a sermon on the family I would take for my text this phrase of Paul Valery's: "In every family there is concealed a specific interior boredom which causes its members to escape and live their own lives. There is also in every family an ancient and powerful force which manifests itself when the group is gathered in the dining-room for its evening meal, when its members feel free to be completely themselves.
  • A friend loves you for your intelligence, a mistress for your charm, but your family's love is unreasoning; you were born into it and are of its flesh and blood. Nevertheless it can irritate you more than any group of people in the world.
  • The truth is that the family, like marriage, is one of those institutions whose very importance renders them complex. Abstract ideas are the only simple ones, because they have little to do with life. The family is not the arbitrary creation of a legislator; it is a natural consequence of the division of the species into two sexes, of the human child's protracted helplessness, of maternal love which ministers to this helplessness, of paternal love which is far more artificial and recent in human history, and composed just as much of love for the mother as of that for the child.
  • The leveling influence of mediocrity and the denial of the supreme importance of the mind's development account for many revolts against family life. There are many occasions when great men are convinced that, in order to fulfill their destinies, they must escape from the warmth and indulgence of their own families.
  • One has very little influence upon one's children. Their characters are what they are and one can do nothing to change them.
  • Experience is valuable only when it has brought suffering and when the suffering has left its mark upon both body and mind. Sleepless nights and conflicts with reality make statesmen realists; how could these experiences be usefully handed on to young idealists who expect to transform the universe without effort? The counsels of Polonius are platitudes, but the moment we start giving advice we are all like Polonius. For us those platitudes are packed with meaning, memories, and visions. For our children, they are abstract and boring. We should like to make a wise woman of a girl of twenty; it is physiologically impossible. "The counsels of old age," said Vauvenargues, "are like a winter's sun which gives light but no warmth."

The Art of Friendship

  • Human beings are lazy and it very often happens that one wearies of a new-born emotion for no valid reason unless there is some restraint to stimulate and stabilize it.
  • Almost all men improve on acquaintance.
  • We console ourselves with several friends for not having found one real one.
  • Not all men and women can devote themselves to those whom they respect. Some are jealous of superiority and are far more interested in revealing the faults than in imitating the virtues of a noble character. Others fear the option of a mind that is too lucid and prefer to be friends with someone less exacting.
  • Well fitted for friendship is he whom men have not disgusted with mankind, and who, believing and knowing that there are a few noble men, a few great minds, a few delightful souls scattered through the crowd, never tires of searching for them, and loves them even before he has found them.
  • We do not completely love those at whom we cannot smile. There is something inhuman in absolute perfection which overwhelms the mind and heart, which commands respect, but keeps friendship at a distance through discouragement and humiliation. We are always glad when a great man reassures us of his humanity by possessing a few peculiarities.
  • What men call friendship is only social intercourse, an exchange of favours and good offices; it comes down to a commercial dealing in which self-esteem always expects to profit.
  • Human nature is such that the spectacle of another's weakness awakens even in the best of us a feeling of power which contains, along with the sincerest pity, an almost imperceptible mingling of pleasure.
  • In the misfortunes of our best friends, we always find something not unpleasing.
  • It is often said that in prosperity we have many friends, but that we are usually neglected when things go badly. I disagree. Not only do malicious people flock about us in order to witness our ruin, but other unfortunates as well, who have been kept away by our happiness, and now feel close to us on account of our troubles. When Shelley was poor and unknown, he had more friends than the triumphant Lord Byron. It takes great nobility of soul to be able, without any taint of self-interest, to be friends with fortunate people.
  • Disinterestedness is a necessary attribute to real friendship and it is the duty of one friend to guess another's problems and render assistance before it is asked. If our friends have needs that we can satisfy, we should relieve them of the necessity of seeking our help. Apart from the satisfaction usually produced by an action, this permanent ability to give pleasure is perhaps the only advantage of wealth and power.
  • True friendship implies full confidence, which may only be completely given or completely withdrawn. If friendship has continually to be analyzed, nursed, and cured, it will cause more anguish than love itself, without having love's strength and its remedies. And if this confidence is ill-placed? Well - I would rather be betrayed by a false friend than deceive a true one.
  • Does absolute reliance carry with it a complete exchange of confidences? I believe that true friendship cannot exist otherwise.
  • "There is not one who speaks of us in our presence as he does in our absence," wrote Pascal. "All affection is based on this mutual deception, and few friendships would survive if we knew what our friends were saying of us behind our backs."
  • There is an excellent rule to follow; quarrel, not with the person who said the things (you can never be sure they were said), but with the person who has told of their being said.
  • Friendship is the positive and unalterable choice of a person whom we have singled out for qualities that we most admire.
  • A successful marriage puts an end to feminine friendships; but if marriage is a failure, the young woman must have others to confide in.
  • Dramatists have always made fun of the friendship between a husband and his wife's lover. But is it so comic? These two men undoubtedly have more to say to one another than the lover and his mistress. They get on perfectly well, and it is often the husband's presence that makes endurable the intolerable boredom of certain affairs of this sort. Cases have been known where a break occurred almost immediately following the husband's withdrawal from the scene.
  • It is often maintained that friendship between men and women can never approach the high level of friendship between men. How, it is objected, could sensuality not be present in such relationships? if it were not present, would not the least coquettish of women feel herself humiliated? It is contrary to every natural impulse for a man to associate with a woman as freely as is usual in friendship without occasionally being conscious of physical desire, and if he is conscious of it, the whole machinery of the passions is set in motion.
  • "The friendship of two young people," says Goethe somewhere, "is delightful when the girl likes to learn and the boy to teach."
  • Between a man and a woman, collaboration and admiration are more natural than competition. The woman accepts the secondary role willingly; she gives the man what he needs in the way of courage and moral support.
  • The reading of a fine book is an uninterrupted dialogue in which the book speaks and our soul replies.
  • To reason with poorly chosen words is like using a pair of scales with inaccurate weights.
  • Pascal said that if geometry stirred us emotionally as much as politics we would not be able to expound it so well.
  • There are very few men who do not reckon the cost to themselves of a system of taxes before approving it.
  • Everything that is in agreement with our personal desires seems true; everything that is not puts us in a rage.
  • There is no absurdity or contradiction to which passion may not lead a man. When love or hate takes control, reason must submit and then discover justifications for their folly.
  • Some people believe themselves to be independent of surrounding influences because their lives have made rebels of them. But rebellion is not a guarantee of independence. On the contrary, it is an acute form of prejudice. The writer who has been too much dominated in childhood will put himself forward as a free thinker in his attacks on religion and family life, but this revolt is the revolt of a slave.

The Art of Thinking

  • "Thinking is easy," said Goethe, "acting is difficult, and to put one's thought into action is the most difficult thing in the world." And Tolstoy: "It is easier to produce ten volumes of philosophical writing than to put one principle into practice."
  • Knowledge is ours only if, at the moment of need, it offers itself to the mind without syllogisms or demonstrations for which there is no time.
  • The art of thinking is also the art of believing, because no human being at the present stage of civilization could safely call all his individual and social beliefs into question again or submit them to his conscience. To change all one's opinions is a mental diversion which requires leisure for its indulgence. In order to live a life of action, man must accept most of the moral, social, and religious laws which have been recognized as necessary by his predecessors.
  • A man cannot free himself from the past more easily than he can from his own body.

The Art of Working

  • To work is to transform or move things or creatures in ways that will render them more useful or more beautiful; it is also to study the laws governing these transformations, formulate them or apply them.
  • A man's power and intelligence are limited. He who wants to do everything will never do anything. Only too well do we know those people of uncertain ability who say: "I could be a great musician."..."Business would be easy for me."..."I could surely make success in politics." We may be certain that they will always be amateur musicians, failures in business, and beaten politicians. Napoleon held that the art of war consisted of making oneself strongest at a certain point; in life we must choose a point of attack and concentrate our forces there. The choice of a career must not be left to chance.
  • Agreeable men are those who are interested in everything; men who accomplish things, who finish their tasks, are those who, during a given period of time, interest themselves in one thing only. In America these men are said to possess "single-track minds"' their tenacity and their obsession are sometimes boring, but they succeed, by repeated attacks, in demolishing the obstacles that hinder their progress.
  • He who allows himself to be devoured will be devoured, and he will die before he has done his work. The man who has an ardent passion for work asks of others only what will help him. He shirks no work that ca be of use and that he ca do well, but he flies from conversations, meetings, talkfests, studios full of phrase-makers. Goethe even advises such a man to ignore daily events if he cannot do anything about them. If we spend an hour every morning informing ourselves about distant wars and another hour lamenting their possible consequences, when we are neither ministers, generals, nor journalists, nor anything, we render no service to our country and we waste the most irrecoverable of our possessions: our own short life.
  • A man who works under orders with other men must be without vanity. If he has too strong a will of his own and if his ideas are in conflict with those of his chief, the execution of orders will always be uncertain because of his efforts to interpret them in his own way. Faith in the chief must keep the gang together. Obviously deference must not turn into servility. A chief of staff or a departmental head should be able, if it seems to him (rightly or wrongly) that his superior is making a serious mistake, to tell him so courageously. But this sort of collaboration is really effective only if such frankness has true admiration and devotion behind it. If the lieutenant does not admit that his chief is more experienced and has better judgment than he himself, he will serve him badly. Criticism of the chief by a subordinate must be accidental and not habitual. What must an assistant do if he is sure he is right and if his chief refuses to accept his criticisms? He must obey the order after offering his objections. No collective work is possible without discipline. If the matter is so serious that it can have a permanent effect upon the future of a country, an army, or a commercial enterprise, the critic may hand in his resignation. But this must be done only as a last resort; as long as a man thinks he can be useful he must remain at his post.
  • A great man's manias must be respected, because the time required to combat them is too precious to waste. A departmental head and his chief reach a state of symbiosis; the clever official knows that words must never be spoken in the chief's presence because they stir up painful complexes or rouse his anger. He knows how to present a proposition so that the chief will be interested and give a favorable opinion. He is clearly aware of the latter's mistakes and weaknesses, respects him no less for them, but he does his best to make up for deficiencies.
  • An efficient woman secretary is the perfect assistant. Her role is not confined to taking dictation and "tapping out" letters; she must also file letters and replies, memorize addresses, and turn herself into a walking index. She must possess all the virtues of a departmental head, as well as those of a woman. Being a woman, she has intuition; she can keep intact the self-esteem of her superiors, and she spreads and agreeable atmosphere about the office. At the same time she must not make her femininity obvious, for if one of her superiors should become too conscious of it, the work would suffer. A difficult balance, but one that can be maintained.
  • A father is rarely a good teacher; either he thinks he knows things and finds his knowledge to be very slight, or he knows but explains badly, or he is too severe and impatient because teaching bores him, or he is dangerously indulgent because he loves his children too much. It is from professional teachers who have made a success of the art that we must learn its rules. There can be no teaching without discipline. A pupil must first learn to work. Training of the will must precede that of the mind, and this is why home teaching is never very successful. Excuses are too easily accepted: the child has a headache; he has slept badly; there is a party somewhere. A school makes no compromise and that is its virtue. I am inclined to prefer the boarding-school system. It has some serious drawbacks; it sometimes produces immorality and it is always rather severe, but it makes men. The system forces boys to find their own places in a group; in a family they find these places ready-made and it is too easy for them. If absolutely necessary, and if the parents are judicious, day schools are satisfactory up to the age of fifteen or sixteen. For boys between the ages of seventeen and twenty, freedom in a large city is fatal.
  • To amuse is not to teach. The object of teaching is to erect a framework of knowledge in a child's mind and gradually to bring the child as near as may be to the average level of intelligence. Later in life the facts taught by experience and new discoveries will add themselves to this framework. It is wrong to attempt to upset this natural order and to appeal to a child's mind by diverting it with the spectacle of modern life. Teaching by means of pictures, radio, and the cinema is in itself ineffective; these methods must not be used unless they involve (and this is possible) some effort or special enthusiasm. That which is learned without difficulty is soon forgotten, and for the same reason, oral instruction which does not require the pupil's personal participation is almost always rather useless. Eloquence slides in and out of young minds. To listen is not to work. (Naturally this does not apply to the teaching of modern languages.)
  • It is better to teach a few things perfectly than many things indifferently, and an overloaded curriculum is useless. The object of instruction is not to produce technicians, but good active minds.
  • "Teaching," wrote Alain, "must be determinedly slow in pace." This phrase is full of meaning for some modern educators with a dangerous tendency towards neglecting the ancient culture of the race, a necessary foundation for all education, and towards stressing recent doctrines and happenings. Information is not culture, and young men need culture much more than they need information.
  • Reading, like all work, has its rules. A perfect knowledge of a few writers and a few subjects is more valuable than a superficial one of a great many. The fine points of a piece of writing are seldom apparent at first reading. In youth, one should search among books as one searches the world for friends, and once these friends are found, chosen, and adopted, one must go into retirement with them. Intimacy with Montaigne, Saint Simon, Retz, Balzac, or Proust would be enough to enrich one's whole life.
  • Must an artist live in the world or out of it? I believe this to be an unanswerable question. Total retirement, natural to the Saint, is injurious to most artists. They work marvelously so long as there are materials at hand. Goethe has further advice: "Solitude is a wonderful thing when one is at peace with oneself and when there is a definite task to be accomplished."
  • The art of resting is a part of the art of working. A man who is tired and greatly in need of rest cannot do any good work. We are all familiar with those terrible mornings after sleepless nights when our brains refuse to function. It would be useless then to attempt to apply the principles of the art of working. Those principles presuppose mind and body to be in good condition. The human organism cannot live without alternating work and rest.
  • It is often difficult to fill an active healthy man's leisure. He is bored when not working; he paces the floor like a caged animal and sinks naturally into vices which are merely the means of getting numberless vivid sensations from his body with which to fill his empty hours. Modern civilization, with its inventions and machines, has increased the number of these hours, and we must learn how to use them.
  • It is restful to leave one's home; not because traveling does not entail varied and difficult daily actions, but because it removes our responsibilities. Except in the case of official persons, the traveler now lives for himself alone, and is no longer accountable to a community or a family clan. A foreign country is merely a spectacle; in it we no longer have the continual awareness of responsibility. All of us, from time to time, need a plunge into freedom and novelty, after which routine and discipline will seem delightful by contrast. Periods of rest, however, must be brief, but it is amazing to discover how a few days of travel can restore our mental freshness.
  • The man who truly loves his work returns to it after the briefest rest with a curious kind of voluptuousness. When he is completely absorbed in his job, the end of work seems like the end of life.
  • To disgust men with their work is a serious blunder on the part of human society; what could be more natural than their liking for what they do? Work keeps off boredom, vice, and poverty. It is the remedy for all imagined evils. "The souls' joy lies in doing," said Shelly. Active work saves man from himself; indolence make shim a prey to useless regrets, dangerous reveries, enviousness, and hate. Also the first rule of the art of governing is, at all costs, to keep a nation at work. A bored nation is impossible to govern, but a nation occupied by work which it believes to be useful and accomplishes on its own initiative is already a happy one.

The Art of Leadership

  • Men can usefully undertake and properly accomplish a common task only when one of them continually directs the activities of all towards the same end. This is self-evident when actions which must follow a rhythm are involved. It would be useless for a gang of men laying rails or a rowing-crew to exert themselves if a foreman or coxswain did not control their movements. Every non-directed collective action turns rapidly into confusion and disorder. All who have fought in a battle know how necessary it is that someone should be in command; and what is true of the army is true of the dockyard, the factory, the newspaper office, the whole country. Whenever men are required to act together, there must be a chief.
  • In ancient and respected monarchies the transmission of power is accomplished peacefully, and the hereditary leader enjoys, in the estimation of his subject, an added natural prestige of incalculable value. The high position occupied by the king of England is due to such prestige. Napoleon, who wished to found a dynasty, fully realized this; he knew that the king thought conquered, would still be king, but that a self-created emperor needed the support of continuous victories.
  • Paul Valéry has no hesitation in saying that the greatest evils today are elections and diplomas.
  • There is little to be said of seniority. It is evident that when men grow older they acquire experience, unless they are completely idle, stupid, or too obstinate to learn anything. But there are many types of old men, and no one has ever maintained that, in order to pick out the best of the, it is enough to look at their birth certificates. Therefore appointments have to be made.
  • Nothing is so discouraging to subordinates as a chief who hesitates. "Firmness," said Napoleon, "prevails in all things."
  • Stupidity is a factor to be reckoned with in human affairs. The true leader always expects to encounter it, and prepares to endure it patiently so long as it is normal stupidity. He knows that his ideas will be distorted, his orders carelessly executed; and that there will be jealousy among his assistants. He takes these inevitable phenomena into account, and instead of attempting to find men without faults, who are non-existent, he tries to make use of the best men at his disposal - as they are, and not as they ought to be.
  • Tell only what is necessary to the person one must tell, and only when it must be told.
  • "Nothing," wrote General de Gaulle, "strengthens authority so much as silence." Speech dilutes thought; it allows one's courage to leak away - in short, it dissipates the concentration that is required.
  • Character is of the first importance, but intelligence is nevertheless essential. Ii is desirable for a leader to have a broad education. History and poetry increase his knowledge of human passions. Culture offers the man of action opportunities now and then to capture his serenity; it puts at his disposal models of order and clarity. It is, in a sense, a work of art to reconstruct a country or to lead an army, and the man who has acquired a sense of beauty from his studies will be the more successful for it.
  • A leader's intelligence must have simplicity and clarity; action is difficult when the mind is full of complex theories and schemes. An over-organized industry wastes just as much money as one without organization - the transmission uses up all the motor's power. (For this reason small enterprises directed by one man have the better of larger trusts because their costs are less and the quality of their product higher.) A leader must have a few very simple ideas, acquired from experience and confirmed by putting them into practice. This structure created by experience will contain much exact knowledge for use in connection with a given action.
  • A leader should have a quick intelligence. Time is a factor in all action. An imperfect scheme put into action at the proper time is better than a perfect one accomplished too late. Sometimes time is so important that it becomes the principal consideration.
  • An order must first of all be clear. A meditation may be vague, a scheme always has something of the vision in it, but an order must be precise. All order can be misunderstood; an obscure one will never be understood. "To do a thing well," said Napoleon, "one must do to oneself." This is not always true, but the prudent leader will admit that few people understand and that almost everyone forgets. It is therefore not enough to give an order; one must see to its execution and, when giving it, anticipate anything that may nullify its effectiveness. The stupidity of human beings and the malevolence of chance are limitless. The unexpected always happens. The leader who endeavors to frustrate the onset of ill luck and who strengthens the weak points in his schemes against stupidity is more apt to impose his will than one who does not take these measures.
  • It was said of President Wilson that he had faith in humanity but distrusted all men. The true leader distrusts humanity but has faith in a few men.
  • As the experienced chauffeur can tell by listening to his motor that one of its cylinders is not firing properly, so the born leader knows when his subordinates are not serving him, seeks the cause, and finds it.
  • An exacting leader can always command more affection that one who is indifferent. The best way to impose severity is to have about one only those whose qualities one values. Any man ca easily endure criticism if his character and intelligence are clearly not called into question. To say quickly and forcefully what one feels strongly is the wise course. A sever reproach, if rapidly spoken, is less painful than hostile and sulky dissatisfaction. Subordinates must realize that if an order is not carried out they will suffer, but also that they will be exonerated if its execution leads to disaster. A true leader will always take full responsibility for his actions.
  • As far as possible the duty of a leader is to foresee dissatisfaction and to remedy injustice before complaints are made. To accomplish this he must maintain close contact with the men he controls. Let him go into the trenches if he is a general; let him arrive at the factory with his workmen now and then if he is the manager. He must have some imagination; an understanding of other men's lives is necessary to him, so that he may be able to protect those under him from unnecessary suffering. The secret of gaining their affection is to feel affection for them and to be able to do their jobs as well as they do them themselves. Men endure taking orders, and even like it, if the orders are given intelligently.
  • The head of a free nation's government must direct towards obscure and shifting objectives the actions of a group of people who are not compelled to obey him by anything except the fear of anarchy, which fear does not exist in times f social peace. He can do nothing without being criticized by opponents whose desire to put someone in his place makes them the more pitiless. His lieutenants are not respectful assistants; they are his equals and his eventual successors.
  • A great statesman, like a good housekeeper, knows that cleaning has to be done every morning.
  • The degree of our worthiness to become a free people shall be determined by our ability to respect a lawful leader, to agree to the existence of an opposition, to listen to its arguments, and especially to put the nation's good above all party prejudices and private interest. Liberty is not one of man's inalienable rights' it is a desirable but difficult acquisition, and must be contended for constantly.

The Art of Growing Old

  • Old age is far more than white hair, wrinkles, the feeling that it is too late and the game finished, that the stage belongs to the rising generations. The true evil is not the weakening of the body, but the indifference of the soul. Upon crossing the shadow line, it is more the desire to act than the power to do so that is lost. Is it possible, after fifty years of experiences and disappointments, to retain the ardent curiosity of youth, the desire to know and understand, the power to love wholeheartedly, the certainty that beauty, intelligence, and kindness unite naturally, and to preserve faith in the efficacy of reason? Beyond the shadow line lies the realm of even, tempered light where the eyes, not being dazzled any more by the blinding sun of desire, can see things and people as they are. How is it possible to believe in the moral perfection of pretty women if you have loved one of them? How is it possible to believe in progress when you have discovered throughout a long and difficult life that no violent change can triumph over human nature and that it is only the most ancient customs and ceremonies that can provide people with the flimsy shelter of civilization? "What's the use?" says the old man to himself. This is perhaps the most dangerous phrase he can utter, for after having said: "What's the use of struggling?" he will say one day: "What's the use of going out?" then: "What's the use of leaving my room?" then: "What's the use of leaving my bed?" and at last comes "What's the use of living?" which opens the portals of death.
  • In every young government strength is worth more than ancestral wisdom, but no government can remain young. As it grows older there is more respect for mature men than for old men. The leader who has build his career upon a basis of youth, loses youth. Like the old wolf, he tries to hide his disgrace; he keeps himself fit and affects the fearlessness and excess of a young man; but sooner or later time will make him a senator, then a corpse.
  • "Old age is a tyrant," said La Rochefoucauld, "who forbids indulgence in the pleasures of youth under penalty of death." First of all, those of love are prohibited. Old men and old women have the utmost difficulty in inspiring love, though they be full of spirit and vigor. When affairs of this sort do exist, it must be determined how great a part is played by respect, admiration, and abnegation.
  • Balzac has often provided us with the tragic spectacle of an old man in love. Obliged now to obtain with gifts and favors what his personal charm won for him in his earlier days, the aged lover will ruin himself for every young woman clever enough to waken a crazy hope in his breast. Chateaubriand, who knew only too well what such suffering was like, left a terrible manuscript entitle Amour et Vieillesse; it is the long and grievous lament of a lover who does not know hot to grow old. "Those who have loved women a great deal will always love them; that is their punishment." And women who have loved many men are punished by hearing the younger among them say with genuine surprise: "I'm told she was once very beautiful."
  • Faults of the mind increase with old age as do those of the features. An old man is incapable of taking up new ideas because he lacks the power to assimilate them, so he clings with crabbed tenacity to the opinions of his maturity. He pompously believes himself able to deal with any problem. Contradiction infuriates him, and he regards it as lack of respect. "In my days," he says, "we never contradicted our elders." He forgets that in his day these same words were spoken to him by his grandfather. Unable to interest himself in what is happening round him and thereby keep himself up to date, he tells stories of his past over and over again; and these are so boring to his younger listeners that they end by avoiding him altogether. Solitude is the greatest evil of old age; one by one lifelong friends and relative disappear, and they cannot be replaced. The desert widens, and death would be pleasant if its rapid approach were not so curiously threatening.
  • Old age diminishes our strength; it takes away our pleasures one after the other; it withers the soul as well as the body; it renders adventure and friendship difficult; and finally it is shadowed by thoughts of death.
  • Everything that tends to make it difficult to distinguish youth from age is an act of civilization. The best-mannered age in history invented the wig - a homage rendered by hair to baldness. The effect of powder and rouge is to make young women like their grandmothers, and invalids like healthy people. Clever dressmaking establishments and beauty shops create fashions which make it possible for elderly women to keep hoping. After a certain age, the art of dressing consists of hiding one's shortcomings, and this is another form of politeness. The veil is a marvelous invention for confusing the image and giving its wearers the semblance of beauty. All adornments are veils: they conceal the ravages of time as well as may be.
  • At eighty, a man has experienced everything: love, and its ending; ambition, and its emptiness; several foolish beliefs, and their rectification. Fear of death is not very great; affections and interest concern people who have died and events of the past. In a cinema theatre when the show is continuous the spectator has the right to retain his seat as long as he wishes to do so, but actually, when the scenes he has already witnessed reappear on the screen, he leaves the theatre. Life is a continuous show. The same events take place every thirty years, and they become boring. One after another the spectators take their departure.
  • There must be no premature renunciation, physical or emotional. The heart, like the body, needs exercise. Naturally there can be no deliberate stirring up of emotion, but why, merely for reasons of age, should one deny oneself those that can be genuinely experienced? Because old men in love are ridiculous? They are ridiculous only if they forget that they are old men. There is nothing ridiculous about two old people really in love. Each still finds in the other those qualities which were admired in youth. Tender consideration, affection, and admiration have no age. In fact, it often happens that, when youth and its passions have vanished, love takes on an asceticism which is delightful. Sensual misunderstandings disappear with physical desire and jealousy with youth; impetuosity wanes with the body's strength. From the remnants of a stormy youth may be created an agreeable old age. Thus the existence of a couple resembles a river which leaps dangerously over jagged rocks near its source, but whose clear waters flow more slowly as it approaches the sea, its broad surface reflecting the poplars along its banks and the stars at night.
  • Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form.
  • "Great things are not accomplished with physical strength and agility," says Cicero, "but through consultation, authority, and the mature wisdom which old age, far from lacking, is endowed with abundantly."
  • The art of growing old is the art of being regarded by the oncoming generations as a support and not as a stumbling-block, as a confidant and not as a rival.
  • There is much to be said concerning retirement. Some men cannot survive it because they have not prepared themselves for it. For the man who has retained his curiosity, retirement in old age can be the most enjoyable period of his life; but he must be aware of the emptiness of public renown and desire the peace of obscurity; he must still have the wish to learn and understand; in his village, his garden, or his house, he must have some restricted personal occupation. The wise man, after having given all his time to his public activities, now devotes himself entirely to his personal affairs and development; and this will be easier for him if he has been able to interest himself in poetry and the beauties of nature, even during his busiest years. For myself, I cannot imagine a pleasanter old age than one spent in the not too remote country where I could reread and annotate my favorite books. "The mind," says Montaigne, "must thrive upon old age as the mistletoe upon a dead oak."
  • The dead are friends whom death is powerless to take from us. Great writers are immortal companions who can embellish our old age as they enchanted our young days. Music, too, is an extraordinarily faithful friend. To those of us who have lost our faith in human nature, it offers refuge in other pleasant worlds.
  • "A man's life is happy," says Pascal, "if he begins by being in love and ends by being ambitious." It will be still happier if, after all his ambitions have been satisfied, it ends in tranquility.

The Art of Happiness

  • It is not events and the things one sees and enjoys that produce happiness, but a state of mind which can endow events with its own quality, and we must hope for the duration of this state rather than the recurrence of pleasurable events. Is this state actually an interior one, and can we recognize it otherwise than the by the changes it produces in all exterior things? If we exclude sensation and memory from our thoughts, there is nothing left but a wordless emptiness. Where can pure ecstasy and pure happiness be found? As certain phosphorescent fish see the deep water, the seaweed, and the other creatures of the sea light up at their approach but never perceive the movable source of this illumination because it is in themselves, so the happy man, though he is aware of his effect upon others, has difficulty in perceiving his happiness and even greater difficulty in predicting it.
  • No great amount of experience is required to discover that the greedy search for money or success will almost always lead men into unhappiness. Why? Because that kind of life makes them depend upon things outside themselves.
  • Among the idle rich, boredom is one of the most common causes of unhappiness. People who have difficulty in earning their living may suffer greatly, but they are not bored. Wealthy men and women become bored when they depend upon the theater for their enjoyment instead of making their own lives interesting.
  • The best way to honor friends who have died is to treat our living ones with equal affection.
  • There is no happiness without forgetfulness. I have never known a real man of action to be unhappy during action. How could he be? Like a child at play, he stops thinking of himself.
  • For intelligent people, action often means escape from thought, but it is a reasonable and a wise escape.
  • Choose a community to live in whose efforts lie in the same direction as your own and where there will be interest in your activities. Instead of living in conflict with your family, who in your opinion do not understand you, and in the conflict destroying your happiness and that of others, seek out friends who think as you do. If you are religious, live among believers; if you are a revolutionary, live among your own kind. You can still try to convince the skeptical, and in this you will have the support of those who are in agreement with you.
  • It is wrongly held by many that to be happy one must have the admiration and respect of a great many people; but the esteem of one's own circle is essential. Stéphane Mallarmé, deeply beloved by a few disciples, was far happier than a celebrated man who knows that his reputation is questioned by those whom he admires. The monastery had brought peace to innumerable souls through its singleness of thought and purpose.
  • Obviously the future must be considered in the light of one's own power to influence events. The man of action cannot be a fatalist. The architect has to think of the future of the house he is building; a workman has to take measure for safeguarding his old age; a member of the Chamber has to consider the possible effects of the budget for which he is going to vote. But once decisions are made and measures taken, peace of mind must be re-established. It is absurd to try to foresee things when the means of doing it are lacking.
  • When one is already happy it is important not to lose the virtues which have produced happiness. When they are successful, many men and women forget prudence, moderation, and kindness - qualities which were instrumental in their success. They are arrogant or thoughtless; an excessive self-confidence prevents them from accomplishing difficult tasks, and they soon become unworthy of their good fortune. They are surprised when their luck changes from good to bad. The ancient practice of sacrifice to the gods in return for happiness was a wise one. Polycrates, Tyrant of Samos, threw his precious ring into the sea as a sacrifice, and there are several ways of throwing the ring of Polycrates into the sea. The simplest is to be modest.
  • He who has not spent hours, days, or years with someone he loves cannot know what happiness is, for he is unable to imagine a protracted miracle like this - one which makes out of ordinary sights and events the most enchanted existence.
  • An unsatisfied woman requires luxury, but a woman who is in love with a man will lie on a board.
  • It is true that in thus giving his love to fragile beings man becomes more vulnerable. He who passionately loves a woman, children, or his country gives hostages to fortune. He will be tortured from then on, though he be in good health, put down though he be powerful, forced to ask for mercy though he be courageous and hardened to suffering. Fortune has him in her grasp. He is forced to watch with burning anxiety the sickness of those he love tenderly - a suffering far worse than that caused by any malady of his own, because his physical powers are intact. He wants to help, but feels utterly useless. He would like to surrender himself instead of his precious hostages, and sickness - arrogant and tyrannical - chooses its victims relentlessly. In spite of himself he feels like a coward and a traitor, because he has escaped. This is the cruellest of all human torments.
  • One of the most serious obstacles to happiness is the awkwardness of modern man, with his mind full of doctrines and abstract formulas, when he attempts to re-establish contact with real emotions. Animals and unsophisticated people achieve happiness more naturally, because their desires are simpler and truer. Civilized man, a parrot enslaved by his chattering, ceaselessly inoculates himself with loves and hatreds which he does not actually fee.
  • There is no permanent equilibrium in human affairs. Faith, wisdom, and art allow one to attain it for a time; then outside influences and the souls' passions destroy it, and one must climb the rock again in he same manner. This vacillation round a fixed point is life, and the certainty that such a point exists is happiness. As the most ardent love, of one analyses its separate moments, is made up of innumerable minute conflicts settled invariably by fidelity, so happiness, if one reduces it to its important elements, is made up of struggles and anguish, and always saved by hope.

Tragedy in France (1940)

  • In this lack of diplomatic preparation and in this abandonment of Europe to German hegemony the responsibility of Great Britain was at least as great as that of France. Many powerful groups were united in restraining Great Britain from adopting a courageous and foresighted foreign policy. The bankers of the City were concerned about the money they had loaned to Germany and they persisted in the naïve hope that they could do business with a country that was shouting from the roof tops its intention to be self-sufficient. A certain number of persons of importance in England, terrified by Bolshevism, believed foolishly they had found in Nazism a barrier to the Revolution. At the same time the intellectual liberals were preaching peace at any price and unilateral disarmament, which was destined to be the death of liberalism. All these tendencies combined magnificently to play into the hands of Germany.
    • pp. 8-9
  • Today one can say that that war was lost, so far as France was concerned, at the very moment it was begun.
    It was lost because we did not have enough airplanes, or enough tanks, or enough anti-aircraft guns and because we did not have enough factories to build what we lacked. It was lost because our Ally had only a tiny army and did not possess the means of expansion which would have permitted him to take quick advantage of his immense reserves of men and riches.
    • pp. 24-25
  • "We English," Lord Tyrrell, Ambassador to France, said to me about 1930, "we English, after the war, made two mistakes: we believed the French, because they had been victorious, had become Germans, and we believed the Germans, through some mysterious transmutation, had become Englishmen."
    • pp. 126-127
  • In 1936 at the time when the German troops had reoccupied the Rhineland in defiance of the Treaty of Locarno, English public opinion, drunk with pacifism, had refused to support us.
    "Why should we?" an English politician said to me. "The Germans can do what they like in their own back garden."
    • p. 127
  • From the day of the Armistice England had wanted nothing but to return to her well-kept lawns, her country houses, her sports, her traditional way of life, and she turned a deaf ear to all talk of armaments and fighting. Her professors taught the youth of the country that war was a survival of barbarism and could easily be eliminated. They did not tell their pupils that unless force is used to sustain justice injustice will triumph.
    • p. 128
  • In attaching so much importance to the idea of the League of Nations England was moved in part by a sincere idealism but also by a false idea she had formed of a League of Nations that would overcome cannon with volleys of edifying discourse.
    • pp. 128-129
  • REMEDIES: To be strong. A nation that is not ready to die for its liberties will lose them.
    To act quickly. Ten thousand airplanes built in time are better than fifty thousand after the battle.
    To direct opinion. A leader shows the way; he does not follow.
    To preserve a united country. Political parties are passengers aboard the same ship; if they wreck it, all will perish.
    To protect public opinion against the influences of foreign governments. To defend ideas is legitimate; to accept money from abroad for defending them is a crime.
    To punish immediately and severely any illegal violence. Incitement to illegal violence is a crime.
    To protect youth against teaching calculated to weaken the unity of the country. A state that does not try to preserve itself commits suicide.
    To demand that those who govern lead upright lives. Vice of any kind gives a foothold to the enemy.
    To believe passionately in the ideas and in the way of life for which you are fighting. It is faith that creates armies and even arms. Liberty deserves to be served with more passion than tyranny.
    • pp. 179-180

A Time for Silence (1942)

  • "...It's much better to run the risk of a few kisses before marriage, for they at least leave some memories." "… or some regrets."
  • A little unsure of himself in her presence, he always addressed her in questions, a habit common to parents, sovereigns, generals, and teachers.
  • It's better to arouse pity than envy.
  • Genius consists of equal parts of natural aptitude and hard work.
  • No one judges the mistakes of love - so long as they are accompanied by sincere repentance - no one judges them with more understanding than a woman at once irreproachable and sensitive.
  • Our poor bodies have strength and resources that we learn to know only when we are in the gravest situations.
  • ...Sometimes with men, their pride can override their hearts..."
  • The best part of our misfortunes - our moral unhappiness, I mean - comes from the fact that we have words to describe them... We give them body, we even go so far as to give them a body which is not their own, for the words of common language do not always correspond to our sufferings, which may be of a new and distinct sort. … And then, too, words prolong and preserve sorrows that should long have been forgotten. Animal nature forgets....

The Art of Writing (1957)

  • A great writer has a high respect for values. His essential function is to raise life to the dignity of thought, and this he does by giving it a shape.
  • The clear and simple words of common usage are always better than those of erudition. The jargon of the philosophers not seldom conceals an absence of thought.
  • The great classic writers, it will be said, sought rather to proclaim universal truths than to leave their imprint on them.
  • Style is the outcome of constraint.
  • The aspiring author, whether genius or not, should never let a day pass without writing at least a few lines.
  • Writing should never be allowed to become a substitute for living. Style cannot breath in a void. It should not be forgotten that Dickens was at one time a reporter, Balzac a lawyer's clerk and Tchekov a county doctor. Art is different from life but cannot exist without it.
  • In the case of a novel, or any imaginative work, especially if the tone is poetic, my own preference is for ending with a touch of symbolism which shall leave the reader brooding. A fine novel, a well-written story, "proves" nothing. Certain characters have played their parts, life goes on, and the final passage may be allowed to remain with one foot in the air, as is the case with some of Chopin's conclusions. But there is no absolute rule in such matters, and there are epic novelists who like to end on a powerful crescendo, as Ravel does in Bolero, or Dvorak in the New-World Symphony. Composition has features which are common to all the arts, and the author can learn as much about his business in the concert hall as in the library.
  • The cinema may have a specific beauty of its own, but it does not permit that constant re-reading, that meditative brooding, those turning-back to passages heavily charged with meaning, which form the special pleasure of the novel-reader.
  • Almost all the great novels have as their motif, more or less disguised, the "passage from childhood to maturity", the clash between the thrill of expectation, and the disillusioning knowledge of the truth.
  • One can love a real woman after having loved her imagined counterpart. Similarly, one can adapt oneself to a society which, previously, one held in contempt.
  • The really great novel tends to be the exact negative of its author's life. "The characters crowd onto the page", writes Mauriac, "there to accomplish all those things which the personal destiny of the author has kept at bay.
  • The truth is that, from the immense spectacle of the world, each novelists retains the one adventure which enable shim to give expression to his own essential self, just as the painter sees in nature only pictures painted in his manner.
  • … Hence, Paul Morand's generalization to the effect that French writers are never younger, never more free from constraint, than when they have passed their sixtieth birthday. By that time they have broken free from the romantic agonies of youth and turned their backs on that pursuit of honors which, in a country where literature plays a social role, absorbs too much of their energies during the years of maturity.
  • The old writer, like the old actor, is a master of his craft. Youthfulness of style is no more than a matter of technique.
  • Of women he [Voltaire] has no very high opinion. To judge from his treatment of them, their minds are exclusively occupied by the prospect of making love to handsome young men with good figures, though, being both venal and timid, they are prepared to hire their bodies to old inquisitors or soldiers if, by so doing, they can save their own lives or amass riches. They are inconstant, and will gladly cut off the nose of a husband fondly mourned in order to cure a new lover.
  • So, human beings complain that the world is ill-made, do they? But ill-made for whom? For Man, who, in the immense design of the Universe is no more than an unimportant mould! The probability is that everything in this world which we think is botched or erroneous has its reasons at a totally different level of existence. The mould endures, no doubt, a small amount of suffering, but somewhere there are giants who, huge in stature as in mind, live in a state of semi-divinity. This is Voltaire's answer to the problem of evil. It is not very satisfactory because the mould need never have been created, and, in the eyes of God, it may well be that mere size is of no importance.
  • Only passions can raise a man above the level of the animal.


  • Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form.
    • Quoted in The Aging American