"Never yield to that temptation, which, to most young men, is very strong, of exposing other people's weaknesses and infirmities, for the sake either of diverting the company, or of showing your own superiority. You may get the laugh on your side by it for the present; but you will make enemies by it for ever; and even those who laugh with you then, will, upon reflection, fear, and consequently hate you."
"If a marriage is going to work well, it must be on a solid footing, namely money, and of that commodity it is the girl with the smallest dowry who, to my knowledge, consumes the most, to infuriate her husband. All the same, it is only fair that the marriage should pay for past pleasures, since it will scarcely procure any in the future."
"A foreign minister, I will maintain it, can never be a good man of business if he is not an agreeable man of pleasure too. Half his business is done by the help of his pleasures: his views are carried on, and perhaps best, and most unsuspectedly, at balls, suppers, assemblies, and parties of pleasure; by intrigues with women, and connections insensibly formed with men, at those unguarded hours of amusement."
"Vanity, or to call it by a gentler name, the desire of admiration and applause, is, perhaps, the most universal principle of human actions.... Where that desire is wanting, we are apt to be indifferent, listless, indolent, and inert.... I will own to you, under the secrecy of confession, that my vanity has very often made me take great pains to make many a woman in love with me, if I could, for whose person I would not have given a pinch of snuff."
"The only sure way of avoiding these evils [vanity and boasting] is never to speak of yourself at all. But when, historically, you are obliged to mention yourself, take care not to drop one single word that can directly or indirectly be construed as fishing for applause."
"I am provoked at the contempt which most historians show for humanity in general; one would think by them, that the whole human species consisted but of about a hundred and fifty people, called and dignified (commonly very undeservedly too) by the titles of Emperors, Kings, Popes, Generals, and Ministers."
"A learned parson, rusting in his cell at Oxford or Cambridge, will reason admirably well on the nature of man; will profoundly analyse the head, the heart, the reason, the will, the passions, the sentiments, and all those subdivisions of we know not what; and yet, unfortunately, he knows nothing of man.... He views man as he does colours in Sir Isaac Newton's prism, where only the capital ones are seen; but an experienced dyer knows all their various shades and gradations, together with the result of their several mixtures."
"He had a gentleman-like frankness in his behaviour, and as a great point of honour as a minister can have, especially a minister at the head of the treasury, where numberless sturdy and insatiable beggars of condition apply, who cannot all be gratified, nor all with safety be refused."
"Anne of Austria (with great submission to a Crowned Head do I say it) was a B----. She had spirit and courage without parts, devotion without common morality, and lewdness without tenderness either to justify or to dignify it. Her two sons were no more Lewis the Thirteen's than they were mine."
"You must be respectful and assenting, but without being servile and abject. You must be frank, but without indiscretion, and close, without being costive. You must keep up dignity of character, without the least pride of birth, or rank. You must be gay, within all the bounds of decency and respect; and grave, without the affectation of wisdom, which does not become the age of twenty. You must be essentially secret, without being dark and mysterious. You must be firm, and even bold, but with great seeming modesty."
"I am not of the opinion generally entertained in this country [England], that man lives by Greek and Latin alone; that is, by knowing a great many words of two dead languages, which nobody living knows perfectly, and which are of no use in the common intercourse of life. Useful knowledge, in my opinion, consists of modern languages, history, and geography; some Latin may be thrown into the bargain, in compliance with custom, and for closet amusement."
"I often wish for the end of the wretched remnant of my life; and that wish is a rational one; but then the innate principle of self-preservation, wisely implanted in our natures, for obvious purposes, opposes that wish, and makes us endeavour to spin out our thread as long as we can, however decayed and rotten it may be."
"Good manners, to those one does not love, are no more a breach of truth, than "your humble servant," at the bottom of a challengeis; they are universally agreed upon, and understand to be things of course. They are necessary guards of the decency and peace of society."
"Truth, but not the whole truth, must be the invariable principle of every man who hath either religion, honour, or prudence. Thosewho violate it, may be cunning, but they are not able. Lies and perfidy are the refuge of fools and cowards."
"I have been too long acquainted with human nature to have great regard for human testimony; and a very great degree of probability, supported by various concurrent circumstances, conspiring in one point, will have much greater weight with me, than human testimony upon oath, or even upon honour; both of which I have frequently seen considerably warped by private views."