Yannis Stavrou, Nocturnal, oil on canvas
Honore de Balzac, a master of ontology. A great novelist, maybe the best. A friend...Cruelty and fear shake hands together.
Some of his quotations follow:
Danger arouses interest. Where death is involved, the vilest criminal invariably stirs a little compassion.
Does not any limit imposed upon one inspire a desire to go beyond it? Does not our keenest suffering arise when our free will is crossed?
Doubt follows white-winged hope with trembling steps.
During the great storms of our lives we imitate those captains who jettison their weightiest cargo.
Emulation admires and strives to imitate great actions; envy is only moved to malice.
Emulation is not rivalry. Emulation is the child of ambition; rivalry is the unlovable daughter of envy.
Envy lurks at the bottom of the human heart, like a viper in its hole.
Evasion is unworthy of us, and is always the intimate of equivocation.
Even beauty cannot always palliate eccentricity.
Even when exercising their greatest duplicity, women are always sincere because they are yielding to some natural feeling.
Events are never absolute, their outcome depends entirely upon the individual. Misfortune is a stepping stone for a genius, a piscina for a Christian, a treasure for a man of parts, and an abyss for a weakling.
Few men are raised in our estimation by being too closely examined.
Fools gain greater advantages through their weakness than intelligent men through their strength. We watch a great man struggling against fate and we do not lift a finger to help him. But we patronize a grocer who is headed for bankruptcy.
Foppery, being the chronic condition of women, is not so much noticed as it is when it breaks out on the person of the male bird.
For businessmen, the world is a bale of banknotes in circulation; for most young men, it is a woman; for some women, it is a man; and for others it may be a salon, a coterie, a part of town or a whole city.
For certain people, misfortune is a beacon that lights up the dark and baser sides of social life.
For the journalist, anything probable is gospel truth.
Generally our confidences move downward rather than upward; in our secret affairs, we employ our inferiors much more than our bettors.
Genius is intensity.
Admiration bestowed upon any one but ourselves is always tedious.
After all, our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.
Alas, two men are often necessary to provide a woman with a perfect lover, just as in literature a writer composes a type only by employing the singularities of several similar characters.
All genuinely noble women prefer truth to falsehood. As the Russians with their Czar, they are unwilling to see their idol degraded; they want to be proud of the domination they accept.
All men can bear a familiar, definite misfortune better than the cruel alternations of a fate which, from one moment to another, brings excessive joy or sorrow.
Among fifty percent of your married couples, the husband worries very little about what his wife is doing, provided she is doing all he wishes.
An ounce of courage will go farther with women than a pound of timidity.
Any man, however blase or depraved, finds his love kindled anew when he sees himself threatened by a rival.
Are not poets men who fulfill their hopes prematurely?
Art's greatest efforts are invariably a timid counterfeit of Nature.
As a rule, only the poor are generous. Rich people can always find excellent reasons for not handing over twenty thousand francs to a relative.
As soon as man seeks to penetrate the secrets of Nature--in which nothing is secret and it is but a question of seeing--he realizes that the simple produces the supernatural.
At fifteen, neither beauty nor talent exist: a woman is all promise.
Authentic love always assumes the mystery of modesty, even in its expression, because actions speak louder than words. Unlike a feigned love, it feels no need to set a conflagration.
Bankers are lynxes. To expect any gratitude from them is equivalent to attempting to move the wolves of the Ukraine to pity in the middle of winter.
Beauty is the greatest of human powers. Any power without counterbalance or control becomes autocratic and leads to abuse and to folly. Despotism in a government is insanity; in woman, fantasy.
Behind every great fortune there is a crime.
By and large, women have a faith and a morality peculiar to themselves; they believe in the reality of everything that serves their interest and their passions.
By dint of making sacrifices, a man grows interested in the person who exacts them. Great ladies, like courtesans, know this truth by instinct.
By resorting to self-resignation, the unfortunate consummate.
Can you find a man who loves the occupation that provides him with a livelihood? Professions are like marriages; we end by feeling only their inconveniences.
Charity is not one of the virtues practiced on the stock market. The heart of a bank is but one of many viscera.
A careful observation of Nature will disclose pleasantries of superb irony. She has for instance placed toads close to flowers.
A Creole woman is like a child, she wants to possess everything immediately; like a child, she would set fire to a house in order to fry an egg. In her languor, she thinks of nothing; when passionately aroused, she thinks of any act possible or impossible.
A deist is an atheist with an eye cocked for the off-chance of some advantage.
A girl fresh from a boarding school may perhaps be a virgin but no! she is never chaste.
A grass blade believes that men build palaces for it to grow in. Grass wedges its way between the closest blocks of marble and it brings them down. This power of feeble life which can creep in anywhere is greater than that of the mighty behind their cannons.
A great love is a credit opened in favor of a power so consuming that the moment of bankruptcy must inevitably occur.
A husband can commit no greater blunder than to discuss his wife, if she is virtuous, with his mistress; unless it be to mention his mistress, if she is beautiful, to his wife.
A knowledge of mankind and of things that surround us gives us that second education which proves far move valuable than our first because it alone turns out a truly accomplished man.
A lover teaches a wife all her husband has kept from her.
A man wastes his time going to hear some of our eloquent modern preachers; they may change his opinions, but never his conduct.
A man who stops at nothing short of the law is very clever indeed!
A man's own vanity is a swindler that never lacks for a dupe.
A married woman is a slave you must know how to seat upon a throne.
A naked woman is less dangerous than one who spreads her skirt skillfully to cover and exhibit everything at once.
A rent in your clothes is a mishap, a stain on them is a vice.
A vocation is born to us all; happily most of us meet promptly our twin,--occupation.
A woman filled with faith in the one she loves is the creation of a novelist's imagination.
A woman in love has full intelligence of her power; the more virtuous she is, the more effective her coquetry.
A woman in the depths of despair proves so persuasive that she wrenches the forgiveness lurking deep in the heart of her lover. This is all the more true when that woman is young, pretty, and so decollete as to emerge from the neck of her gown in the costume of Eve.
A woman must be a genius to create a good husband.
A woman questions the man who loves exactly as a judge questions a criminal. This being so, a flash of the eye, a mere word, an inflection of the voice or a moment's hesitation suffice to expose the fact, betrayal or crime he is attempting to conceal.
A woman's greatest charm consists in a constant appeal to a man's generosity by a gracious declaration of helplessness which fills him with pride and awakens the most magnificent feelings in his heart.
A woman's sentimental monkeyshines will always deceive her lover, who invariably waxes ecstatic where her husband necessarily shrugs his shoulders.
A woman, even a prude, is not long at a loss, however dire her plight. She would seen always to have in hand the fig leaf our Mother Eve bequeathed to her.
According to man's environment, society has made as many different types of men as there are varieties in zoology. The differences between a soldier, a workman, a statesman, a tradesman, a sailor, a poet, a pauper and a priest, are more difficult to seize, but quite considerable as the differences between a wolf, a lion, an ass, a crow, a sea-calf, a sheep, and so on.