Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.
Our duty is to feel what is great and love what is beautiful—not to accept all the social conventions and the infamies they impose on us.
Why was life so unsatisfactory? Why did everything she leaned on crumble instantly to dust? But why, if somewhere there existed a strong and handsome being—a man of valor, sublime in passion and refinement, with a poet’s heart and an angel’s shape, a man like a lyre with strings of bronze, intoning elegiac epithalamiums to the heavens—why mightn’t she have the luck to meet him? Ah, fine chance! Besides, nothing was worth looking for: everything was a lie! Every smile concealed a yawn of boredom; every joy, a curse; every pleasure, its own surfeit; and the sweetest kisses left on one’s lips but a vain longing for fuller delight.
We shouldn’t maltreat our idols: the gilt comes off on our hands.[Il ne faut pas toucher aux idoles: la dorure en reste aux mains.]
There isn’t a bourgeois alive who in the ferment of his youth, if only for a day or for a minute, hasn’t thought himself capable of boundless passions and noble exploits. The sorriest little woman-chaser has dreamed of Oriental queens; in a corner of every notary’s heart lie the moldy remains of a poet.
The more flowery a person’s speech the more suspect the feelings, or lack of feelings, it concealed.
Some day sooner or later our passion would have cooled—inevitably—it’s the way with everything human.
Self-confidence depends on surroundings: the same person talks quite differently in the drawing room and in the garret, and a rich woman’s virtue is protected by her banknotes quite as effectively as by any cuirass worn under a corset.