Stendhal

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Love has always been the most important business in my life; I should say the only one.

Marie-Henri Beyle (January 23, 1783March 23, 1842), more widely known as Stendhal, the most famous of his many pen-names, was a 19th century French writer.

Sourced[edit]

Almost all our misfortunes in life come from the wrong notions we have about the things that happen to us. To know men thoroughly, to judge events sanely, is, therefore, a great step towards happiness.
  • Presque tous les malheurs de la vie viennent des fausses idées que nous avons sur ce qui nous arrive. Connaître à fond les hommes, juger sainement des événements, est donc un grand pas vers le bonheur.
    • Almost all our misfortunes in life come from the wrong notions we have about the things that happen to us. To know men thoroughly, to judge events sanely, is, therefore, a great step towards happiness.
    • Journal entry (10 December 1801)
  • Comme homme, j'ai le cœur 3 ou 4 fois moins sensible, parce que j'ai 3 ou 4 fois plus de raison et d'expérience du monde, ce que vous autres femmes appelez dureté de cœur.

    Comme homme, j'ai la ressource d'avoir des maîtresses. Plus j'en ai et plus le scandale est grand, plus j'acquiers de réputation et de brillant dans le monde.

    • Since I am a man, my heart is three or four times less sensitive, because I have three or four times as much power of reason and experience of the world — a thing which you women call hard-heartedness.
      As a man, I can take refuge in having mistresses. The more of them I have, and the greater the scandal, the more I acquire reputation and brilliance in society.
    • Letter to his sister Pauline (29 August 1804)
  • Je ne vois qu'une règle: être clair. Si je ne suis pas clair, tout mon monde est anéanti.
    • I see but one rule: to be clear. If I am not clear, all my world crumbles to nothing.
    • Letter to Honoré de Balzac, Civita Vecchia (30 October 1840)
  • Le même esprit ne dure que deux cents ans.
    • Wit lasts no more than two centuries.
    • Letter to Honoré de Balzac (30 October 1840)
  • Ce sera la noblesse de leur style qui, dans quarante ans, rendra illisibles nos écrivains de 1840.
    • It is the nobility of their style which will make our writers of 1840 unreadable forty years from now.
    • Marginalia note, first edition of La Chartreuse de Parme (1840)
  • L'amour a toujours été pour moi la plus grande des affaires ou plutôt la seule.
    • Love has always been the most important business in my life; I should say the only one.
    • La Vie d'Henri Brulard (1890)
    • Variant translation: Love has always been the most important business in my life, or rather the only one.
  • The only excuse for God is that He does not exist.

De L'Amour (On Love) (1822)[edit]

I call "crystallization" that action of the mind that discovers fresh perfections in its beloved at every turn of event.
In love, unlike most other passions, the recollection of what you have had and lost is always better than what you can hope for in the future.
One can acquire everything in solitude — except character.
  • I call "crystallization" that action of the mind that discovers fresh perfections in its beloved at every turn of events.
    • Ch. 1
  • The great majority of men, especially in France, both desire and possess a fashionable woman, much in the way one might own a fine horse — as a luxury befitting a young man.
    • Ch. 1
  • In love, unlike most other passions, the recollection of what you have had and lost is always better than what you can hope for in the future.
    • Ch. 1
  • La beauté n'est que la promesse du bonheur.
    • Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.
    • Ch. 17, footnote
  • A wise woman never yields by appointment. It should always be an unforeseen happiness.
    • Ch. 60
  • It is better to have a prosaic husband and to take a romantic lover.
    • Fragments, sec. 10
  • True love makes the thought of death frequent, easy, without terrors; it merely becomes the standard of comparison, the price one would pay for many things.
    • Fragments, sec. 46
  • On peut tout acquérir dans la solitude, hormis du caractère.
    • One can acquire everything in solitude — except character.
    • Fragments
  • Prudery is a kind of avarice, the worst of all.
    • Fragments
  • In matters of sentiment, the public has very crude ideas; and the most shocking fault of women is that they make the public the supreme judge of their lives.
    • Fragments

Armance (1827)[edit]

  • Pourquoi ne pas en finir? se dit-il enfin; pourquoi cette obstination à lutter contre le destin qui m'accable? J'ai beau faire les plans de conduite les plus raisonnables en apparence, ma vie n'est qu'une suite de malheurs et de sensations amères. Ce mois-ci ne vaut pas mieux que le mois passé; cette année-ci ne vaut pas mieux que l'autre année; d'où vient cette obstination à vivre? Manquerais-je de fermeté? Qu'est-ce que la mort? se dit-il en ouvrant la caisse de ses pistolets et les considérant. Bien peu de chose en vérité; il faut être fou pour s'en passer.
    • "Why not make an end of it all?" he asked himself. "Why this obstinate resistance to the fate that is crushing me? It is all very well my forming what are apparently the most reasonable forms of conduct, my life is a succession of griefs and bitter feelings. This month is no better than the last; this year is no better than last year. Why this obstinate determination to go on living? Can I be wanting in firmness? What is death?" he asked himself, opening his case of pistols and examining them. "A very small matter, when all is said; only a fool would be concerned about it."
    • Ch. 2
  • Cette manie des mères de ce siècle, d'être constamment à la chasse au mari.
    • This mania of the mothers of the period, to be constantly in pursuit of a son-in-law.
    • Ch. 5
  • Ce qui est fort beau est nécessairement toujours vrai.
    • What is really beautiful must always be true.
    • Ch. 6
  • Je ne suis plus si content de cette bonne compagnie par excellence, que j'ai tant aimée. Il me semble que sous des mots adroits elle proscrit toute énergie, toute originalité. Si l'on n'est copie, elle vous accuse de mauvaises manières. Et puis la bonne compagnie usurpe. Elle avait autrefois le privilège de juger de ce qui est bien; mais depuis qu'elle se croit attaquée, elle condamne, non plus ce qui est grossier et désagréable sans compensation, mais ce qu'elle croit nuisible à ses intérêts.
    • I no longer find such pleasure in that preeminently good society, of which I was once so fond. It seems to me that beneath a cloak of clever talk it proscribes all energy, all originality. If you are not a copy, people accuse you of being ill-mannered. And besides, good society usurps its privileges. It had in the past the privilege of judging what was proper, but now that it supposes itself to be attacked, it condemns not what is irredemably coarse and disagreeable, but what it thinks harmful to its interest.
    • Ch. 10
  • Depuis que la machine à vapeur est la reine du monde, un titre est une absurdité, mais enfin, je suis affublé de cette absurdité. Elle m'écrasera si je ne la soutiens. Ce titre attire l'attention sur moi.
    • Now that the steam engine rules the world, a title is an absurdity, still I am all dressed up in this title. It will crush me if I do not support it. The title attracts attention to myself.
    • Ch. 14

Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black) (1830)[edit]

In our calling, we have to choose; we must make our fortune either in this world or in the next, there is no middle way.
There is no such thing as natural law, the expression is nothing more than a silly anachronism … There is no such thing as right, except when there is a law to forbid a certain thing under pain of punishment…
Before law existed, the only natural thing was the strength of the lion, or the need of a creature who was cold or hungry, to put it in one word, need.
  • Dans notre état, il faut opter; il s'agit de faire fortune dans ce monde ou dans l'autre, il n'y a pas de milieu.
    • In our calling, we have to choose; we must make our fortune either in this world or in the next, there is no middle way.
    • Vol. I, ch. VIII
  • Quitte-t-on sa maîtresse, on risque, hélas! d'être trompé deux ou trois fois par jour.
    • When a man leaves his mistress, he runs the risk of being betrayed two or three times daily.
    • Vol. I, ch. XII
  • Jamais il ne s'était trouvé aussi près de ces terribles instruments de l'artillerie féminine.
    • Never had he found himself so close to those terrible weapons of feminine artillery.
    • Vol. I, ch. XVI
  • Napoléon était bien l'homme envoyé de Dieu pour les jeunes Français! Qui le remplacera?
    • Napoleon was indeed the man sent by God to help the youth of France! Who is to take his place?
    • Vol. I, ch. XVII
  • Les vraies passions sont égoïstes.
    • Our true passions are selfish.
    • Vol. I, ch. XXI
  • C'est à coups de mépris public qu'un mari tue sa femme au XIXe siècle; c'est en lui fermant tous les salons.
    • It is with blows dealt by public contempt that a husband kills his wife in the nineteenth century; it is by shutting the doors of all the drawing-rooms in her face.
    • Vol. I, ch. XXI
  • Que ne sait-il choisir ses gens? La marche ordinaire du XIXe siècle est que, quand un être puissant et noble rencontre un homme de cœur, il le tue, l'exile, l'emprisonne ou l'humilie tellement, que l'autre a la sottise d'en mourir de douleur.
    • Why does he not know how to select servants? The ordinary procedure of the nineteenth century is that when a powerful and noble personage encounters a man of feeling, he kills, exiles, imprisons or so humiliates him that the other, like a fool, dies of grief.
    • Vol. I, ch. XXIII
  • Étrange effet du mariage, tel que l'a fait le XIXe siècle! L'ennui de la vie matrimoniale fait périr l'amour sûrement, quand l'amour a précédé le mariage. Et cependant, dirait un philosophe, il amène bientôt chez les gens assez riches pour ne pas travailler, l'ennui profond de toutes les jouissances tranquilles. Et ce n'est que les âmes sèches parmi les femmes qu'il ne prédispose pas à l'amour.
    • A strange effect of marriage, such as the nineteenth century has made it! The boredom of married life inevitably destroys love, when love has preceded marriage. And yet, as a philosopher has observed, it speedily brings about, among people who are rich enough not to have to work, an intense boredom with all quiet forms of enjoyment. And it is only dried up hearts, among women, that it does not predispose to love.
    • Vol. I, ch. XXIII
  • Les contemporains qui souffrent de certaines choses ne peuvent s'en souvenir qu'avec une horreur qui paralyse tout autre plaisir, même celui de lire un conte.
    • People who have been made to suffer by certain things cannot be reminded of them without a horror which paralyses every other pleasure, even that to be found in reading a story.
    • Vol. I, ch. XXVII
  • Les signes ne peuvent pas figurer, dans un rapport d'espion, aussi avantageusement que des paroles.
    • Signs cannot be represented, in a spy’s report, so damningly as words.
    • Vol. I, ch. XXVII
  • J.-J. Rousseau, répondit-il, n'est à mes yeux qu'un sot, lorsqu'il s'avise de juger le grand monde; il ne le comprenait pas, et y portait le cœur d'un laquais parvenu... Tout en prêchant la république et le renversement des dignités monarchiques, ce parvenu est ivre de bonheur, si un duc change la direction de sa promenade après dîner, pour accompagner un de ses amis.
    • "Jean Jacques Rousseau," he answered, "is nothing but a fool in my eyes when he takes it upon himself to criticise society; he did not understand it, and approached it with the heart of an upstart flunkey.... For all his preaching a Republic and the overthrow of monarchical titles, the upstart is mad with joy if a Duke alters the course of his after-dinner stroll to accompany one of his friends."
    • Vol. II, ch. VIII
  • Tel est le malheur de notre siècle, les plus étranges égarements même ne guérissent pas de l'ennui.
    • This is the curse of our age, even the strangest aberrations are no cure for boredom.
    • Vol. II, ch. XVII
  • Un roman est un miroir qui se promène sur une grande route. Tantôt il reflète à vos yeux l’azur des cieux, tantôt la fange des bourbiers de la route. Et l’homme qui porte le miroir dans sa hotte sera par vous accusé‚ d’être immoral ! Son miroir montre la fange, et vous accusez le miroir ! Accusez bien plutôt le grand chemin où est le bourbier, et plus encore l’inspecteur des routes qui laisse l’eau croupir et le bourbier se former.
    • A novel is a mirror carried along a high road. At one moment it reflects to your vision the azure skies at another the mire of the puddles at your feet. And the man who carries this mirror in his pack will be accused by you of being immoral! His mirror shews the mire, and you blame the mirror! Rather blame that high road upon which the puddle lies, still more the inspector of roads who allows the water to gather and the puddle to form.
    • Vol. II, ch. XIX
  • La politique au milieu des intérêts d'imagination, c'est un coup de pistolet au milieu d'un concert. Ce bruit est déchirant sans être énergique. Il ne s'accorde avec le son d'aucun instrument. Cette politique va offenser mortellement une moitié des lecteurs et ennuyer l'autre qui l'a trouvée bien autrement spéciale et énergique dans le journal du matin.
    • Politics in the middle of things of the imagination is like a pistol shot in the middle of a concert. The noise is loud without being forceful. It isn't in harmony with the sound of any instrument. This political discussion will mortally offend half my readers and bore the others, who have found a much more precise and vigorous account of such matters in their morning newspapers.
    • Vol. II, ch. XXII
  • Les Russes copient les moeurs françaises, mais toujours à cinquante ans de distance.
    • The Russians imitate French ways, but always at a distance of fifty years.
    • Vol. II, ch. XXIV
  • Le dîner fut médiocre et la conversation impatientante. C'est la table d'un mauvais livre, pensait Julien. Tous les plus grands sujets des pensées des hommes y sont fièrement abordés. Ecoute-t-on trois minutes, on se demande ce qui l'emporte de l'emphase du parleur ou de son abominable ignorance.
    • The dinner was indifferent and the conversation irritating. "It's like the table of contents of a dull book," thought Julien. "All the greatest subjects of human thought are proudly displayed in it. Listen to it for three minutes, and you ask yourself which is more striking, the emphasis of the speaker or his shocking ignorance."
    • Vol. II, ch. XXVII
  • Il n’y a point de droit naturel: ce mot n'est qu’une antique niaiserie... Avant la loi il n’y a de naturel que la force du lion, ou le besoin de l’être qui a faim, qui a froid, le besoin en un mot.
    • There is no such thing as "natural law": this expression is nothing but old nonsense... Prior to laws, what is natural is only the strength of the lion, or the need of the creature suffering from hunger or cold, in short, need.
    • Vol. II, ch. XLIV
    • Variant translation: There is no such thing as natural law, the expression is nothing more than a silly anachronism … There is no such thing as right, except when there is a law to forbid a certain thing under pain of punishment. Before law existed, the only natural thing was the strength of the lion, or the need of a creature who was cold or hungry, to put it in one word, need.
    • As translated by Horace B. Samuel (1916)

La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma) (1839)[edit]

The pleasures and the cares of the luckiest ambition, even of limitless power, are nothing next to the intimate happiness that tenderness and love give.
  • La guerre n'était donc plus ce noble et commun élan d'âmes amantes de la gloire qu'il s'était figuré d'après les proclamations de Napoléon!
    • War was then no longer this noble and unified outburst of souls in love with glory that he had imagined from Napoleon’s proclamations.
    • Ch. 3
  • Comme on craint peu de choquer la vanité, on arrive fort vite en Italie au ton de l'intimité, et à dire des choses personnelles.
    • Because one has little fear of shocking vanity in Italy, people adopt an intimate tone very quickly and discuss personal things.
    • Ch. 6
  • A la Scala, il est d'usage de ne faire durer qu'une vingtaine de minutes ces petites visites que l'on fait dans les loges.
    • At La Scala it is customary to take no more than twenty minutes for those little visits one pays to boxes.
    • Ch. 6
  • Le goût de la liberté, la mode et le culte du bonheur du plus grand nombre, dont le XIXe siècle s'est entiché, n'étaient à ses yeux qu'une hérésie qui passera comme les autres.
    • The taste for freedom, the fashion and cult of happiness of the majority that the nineteenth century is infatuated with, was only a heresy in his eyes that would pass like others.
    • Ch. 7
  • Les plaisirs et les soins de l'ambition la plus heureuse, même du pouvoir sans bornes, ne sont rien auprès du bonheur intime que donnent les relations de tendresse et d'amour. Je suis homme avant d'être prince, et, quand j'ai le bonheur d'aimer, ma maîtresse s'adresse à l'homme et non au prince.
    • The pleasures and the cares of the luckiest ambition, even of limitless power, are nothing next to the intimate happiness that tenderness and love give. I am a man before being a prince, and when I have the good fortune to be in love my mistress addresses a man and not a prince.
    • Ch. 7
  • Cette religion ôte le courage de penser aux choses inaccoutumées, et défend surtout l'examen personnel, comme le plus énorme des péchés; c'est un pas vers le protestantisme.
    • This religion takes away the courage of thinking of unusual things and prohibits self-examination above all as the most egregious of sins. It is one step away from protestantism.
    • Ch. 12
  • La vanité piquée peut mener loin un jeune homme riche et dès le berceau toujours environné de flatteurs.
    • Wounded pride can take a rich young man far who has been surrounded by flatterers since birth.
    • Ch. 13
  • De loin nous ne nous faisons pas d'idée de ce que c'est que l'autorité d'un despote qui connaît de vue tous ses sujets.
    • At a distance, we cannot conceive of the authority of a despot who knows all his subjects on sight.
    • Ch. 16
  • Quand je devrais acheter cette vie de délices et cette chance unique de bonheur par quelques petits dangers, où serait le mal? Et ne serait-ce pas encore un bonheur que de trouver ainsi une faible occasion de lui donner une preuve de mon amour?
    • Were I to buy this life of pleasure and this only chance at happiness with a few little dangers, where would be the harm? And wouldn’t it still be fortunate to find a weak excuse to give her proof of my love?
    • Ch. 20
  • Une femme de quarante ans n'est plus quelque chose que pour les hommes qui l'ont aimée dans sa jeunesse!
    • A forty-year-old woman is only something to men who have loved her in her youth!
    • Ch. 23

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