Baltasar Gracian Quotes

Baltasar Gracían y Morales, SJ, 1601 – 1658

Born: 8 January 1601, Belmonte, Aragon, Spain (current province of Zaragoza)
Died: 6 December 1658, Tarazona, Aragon, Spain

Gracían was a Jesuit writer and philosopher whose writings brought him both fame and censure. Son of a doctor, raised by an uncle, and taught in a Jesuit school, he became a brother himself in 1633 and dedicated himself to teaching. He was famed for his preaching, although some of his speeches were frowned upon by his superiors.

Upon his appointment as Rector of the Jesuit college of Tarragona, he wrote several works on courtly behavior such as El héroe (The Hero), El político (The Politician), and El discreto (The Discreet One). His masterwork, however, is the three part Criticón, published in 1651, 1653, and 1657. It is an allegorical novel in which Critilo, a worldly man, meets Andrenio, a man ignorant of civilization, after being shipwrecked. They embark on a long journey through many countries based upon real countries of that time, spending time amongst royal courtiers, lunatics, and inventors before finally reaching the Isle of Immortality. Another of his greatest works was Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia, often translated as The Art of Worldly Wisdom, a collection of three hundred maxims with commentary. To this day, Gracían is considered one of the great authors of the Spanish Golden Age of literature, the “Siglo de Oro”. His works are still in publication in several languages.

Unfortunately for Gracían, the Criticón was not approved by his superiors, and when he refused to stop the publication of the third volume, he was exiled to Graus in 1657. He attempted to leave the Jesuit order, but was refused permission and died a year later.

Baltasar Gracian quotes:

A bad manner spoils everything, even reason and justice; a good one supplies everything, gilds a ‘No,’ sweetens truth, and adds a touch of beauty to old age itself.
    Baltasar Gracian

A beautiful woman should break her mirror early.
    Baltasar Gracian

A man of honour should never forget what he is because he sees what others are.
    Baltasar Gracian

A prudent man will think more important what fate has conceded to him, than what it has denied.
    Baltasar Gracian

A sage has one advantage: He is immortal. If this is not his century, many others will be.
    Baltasar Gracian

A single lie destroys a whole reputation of integrity.
    Baltasar Gracian

A weak spirit does more harm than a weak body.
    Baltasar Gracian

A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.
    Baltasar Gracian

Advice is sometimes transmitted more successfully through a joke than grave teaching.
    Baltasar Gracian

Always act as if others were watching.
    Baltasar Gracian – The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

Always have your mouth full of sugar to sweeten your words, so that even your ill-wishers enjoy them.
    Baltasar Gracian – The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

Always hold in reserve recourse to something better.
    Baltasar Gracian – The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

Always leave something to wish for; otherwise you will be miserable from your very happiness.
    Baltasar Gracian

Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one.
    Baltasar Gracian

At twenty a man is a peacock, at thirty a lion, at forty a camel, at fifty a serpent, at sixty a dog, at seventy an ape, and at eighty nothing.
    Baltasar Gracian

Be content to act, and leave the talking to others.
    Baltasar Gracian

Be master over yourself before you would be master over others.
    Baltasar Gracian

Beauty and folly are generally companions.
    Baltasar Gracian

Because the ignorant do not know themselves, they never know for what they are lacking. Some would be sages if they did not believe they were so already.
    Baltasar Gracian – Maxim 176 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

Better mad with the rest of the world than wise alone.
    Baltasar Gracian

Better to be cheated by the price than by the merchandise.
    Baltasar Gracian – Maxim 157 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

Complaints will always discredit you.
    Baltasar Gracian – Maxim 129 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

Do not persist in folly. Some make it a duty of failure and having started down the wrong road, think it is a badge of character to continue.
    Baltasar Gracian

Do not show your wounded finger, for everything will knock up against it.
    Baltasar Gracian

Do pleasant things yourself, unpleasant things through others.
    Baltasar Gracian

Do something well, and that is quickly enough.
    Baltasar Gracian – Maxim 57 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

Do what is easy as if it were difficult, and what is difficult as if it were easy.
    Baltasar Gracian

Don’t live by generalities, unless it be to act virtuously, and don’t ask desire to follow precise laws, for you will have to drink tomorrow from the water you scorn today.
    Baltasar Gracian – Maxim 288 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

Don’t show off every day, or you’ll stop surprising people. There must always be some novelty left over. The person who displays a little more of it each day keeps up expectations, and no one ever discovers the limits of his talent.
    Baltasar Gracian

Don’t take the wrong side of an argument just because your opponent has taken the right side.
    Baltasar Gracian

Even knowledge has to be in the fashion, and where it is not, it is wise to affect ignorance.
    Baltasar Gracian

Evil report carries further than any applause.
    Baltasar Gracian

First be master over yourself if you would be master over others.
    Baltasar Gracian

Folly consists not in committing Folly, but in being incapable of concealing it. All men make mistakes, but the wise conceal the blunders they have made, while fools make them public. Reputation depends more on what is hidden than on what is seen. If you can’t be good, be careful.
    Baltasar Gracian

For a thing to remain undone nothing more is needed than to think of it done.
    Baltasar Gracian

Fortunate people often have very favorable beginnings and very tragic endings. What matters isn’t being applauded when you arrive — for that is common — but being missed when you leave.
    Baltasar Gracian

Fortune pays you sometimes for the intensity of her favors by the shortness of their duration. She soon tires of carrying any one long on her shoulders.
    Baltasar Gracian

God Himself chasteneth not with a rod but with time.
    Baltasar Gracian

Good things, when short, are twice as good.
    Baltasar Gracian

Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment.
    Baltasar Gracian

He that can live alone resembles the brute beast in nothing, the sage in much, and God in everything.
    Baltasar Gracian

He that communicates his secret to another makes himself that other’s slave.
    Baltasar Gracian

He that has satisfied his thirst turns his back on the well.
    Baltasar Gracian

He who finds Fortune on his side should go briskly ahead, for she is wont to favor the bold.
    Baltasar Gracian

He who laughs at everything is as big a fool as he who weeps at everything.
    Baltasar Gracian

He who laughs at everything is as big a fool as he who weeps at everything.

Baltasar Gracian
Honorable beginnings should serve to awaken curiosity, not to heighten people’s expectations. We are much better off when reality surpasses our expectations, and something turns out better than we thought it would.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 19 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad one.

Baltasar Gracian
Hope is a great falsifier. Let good judgment keep her in check.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
I strive to be brief, and I become obscure.

Baltasar Gracian
If there is too much display today there will be nothing to show tomorrow. Always have some novelty with which to dazzle.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
If you are wise, live as you can; if you cannot, live as you would.

Baltasar Gracian
If you cannot make knowledge your servant, make it your friend.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 15 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Imagination travels faster than sight. Deceit comes in through the ears, but usually leaves through the eyes.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 282 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
It is a great deed to leave nothing for tomorrow.

Baltasar Gracian
It is a great misfortune to be of use to nobody; scarcely less to be of use to everybody.

Baltasar Gracian
It is a great piece of skill to know how to guide your luck, even while waiting for it.

Baltasar Gracian
It is better to have too much courtesy than too little, provided you are not equally courteous to all, for that would be injustice.

Baltasar Gracian
It is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterwards.

Baltasar Gracian
It is good to vary in order that you may frustrate the curious, especially those who envy you.

Baltasar Gracian

It requires as much caution to tell the truth as to conceal it.

Baltasar Gracian
Keep expectation alive. Keep stirring it up. Let much promise more, and great deeds herald greater.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Keep the extent of your abilities unknown. The wise man does not allow his knowledge and abilities to be sounded to the bottom, if he desires to be honored at all. He allows you to know them but not to comprehend them. No one must know the extent of his abilities, lest he be disappointed. No one ever has an opportunity of fathoming him entirely. For guesses and doubts about the extent of his talents arouse more veneration than accurate knowledge of them, be they ever so great.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Keep your imagination under control. You must sometimes correct it, sometimes assist it. For it is all important for our happiness and balances reason. The imagination can tyrannize, not being content with looking on, but influences and even often dominates our life. It can make is happy or burden us, depending on the folly that it leads us to. It can make us either content or discontent with ourselves. Before some people it continually holds up the penalties of action and becomes the mortifying lash of fools. The others the imagination promises happiness and adventure with blissful delusion. It can do all this unless you lord over it with the most prudent self-control.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Know or listen to those who know.

Baltasar Gracian
Knowing how to keep a friend is more important than gaining a new one.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 158 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Knowledge and courage take turns at greatness.

Baltasar Gracian
Knowledge and courage. These are the elements of greatness. Because they are immortal they bestow immortality. Each is as much as he knows, and the wise can do anything. A person without knowledge is in world without light. Wisdom and strength are the eyes and hands. Knowledge without courage is sterile.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Knowledge without courage is sterile.

Baltasar Gracian
Let him that hath no power of patience retire within himself, though even there he will have to put up with himself.

Baltasar Gracian
Let the first impulse pass, wait for the second.

Baltasar Gracian
Life is a warfare against the malice of others.

Baltasar Gracian
Like love, courage is no joking matter. If it yields once, it will have to yield again, and again. The same difficulty will have to be conquered later on, and it would have been better to get it over with.

Baltasar Gracian
Little said is soon amended. There is always time to add a word, never to withdraw one.

Baltasar Gracian
Luck can be assisted. It is not all chance with the wise.

Baltasar Gracian

Many have had their greatness made for them by their enemies.

Baltasar Gracian
Many owe their greatness to their enemies. Flattery is fiercer than hatred, for hatred corrects the faults flattery had disguised.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 84 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Mediocrity obtains more with application than superiority without it.

Baltasar Gracian
Nature often lets us down when we most need her; let us turn to art.

Baltasar Gracian
Nature scarcely ever gives us the very best; for that we must have recourse to art.

Baltasar Gracian
Never contend with a man who has nothing to lose.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Never do anything when you are in a temper, for you will do everything wrong.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Never exaggerate. Exaggeration is a species of lying.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Never have a companion that casts you in the shade.

Baltasar Gracian
Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Never risk your reputation on a single shot, for if you miss the loss is irreparable.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Never share your secrets with those greater than you.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Not believing others implies that you yourself are deceitful. The liar suffers twice: he neither believes nor is believed.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 154 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Nothing arouses ambition so much in the heart as the trumpet clang of another’s fame.

Baltasar Gracian
Oh life, you should never had begun, but since you did, you should never end.

Baltasar Gracian

One must pass through the circumference of time before arriving at the center of opportunity.

Baltasar Gracian
One should cultivate good habits of memory, for it is capable of making existence a Paradise or an Inferno.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
One who was adored by all in prosperity is abhorred by all in adversity.

Baltasar Gracian
Plan for bad fortune while your fortune is good.

Baltasar Gracian
Politeness and a sense of honor have this advantage: we bestow them on others without losing a thing.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 118 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Put yourself on view. This brings your talents to light.

Baltasar Gracian
Quit while you’re ahead. All the best gamblers do.

Baltasar Gracian
Readiness is the mother of luck.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 53 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Self-knowledge is the beginning of self-improvement.

Baltasar Gracian
Some die because they feel everything, others because they feel nothing. Some are fools because they suffer no regrets, and others because they do.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 208 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Some marry the first information they receive, and turn what comes later into their concubine. Since deceit is always first to arrive, there is no room left for truth.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 227 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Some people reverse everything: yes is no and no is yes.

Baltasar Gracian
The best skill at cards is knowing when to discard.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
The envious die not once, but as oft as the envied win applause.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
The great art of giving consists in this: The gift should cost very little and yet be greatly coveted, so that it may be the more highly appreciated.

Baltasar Gracian

The greatest fool is he who thinks he is not one and all others are.

Baltasar Gracian
The greatest wisdom often consists in ignorance.

Baltasar Gracian
The happy are an exception who enjoy innocently their simple happiness.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
The one rule for pleasing: whet the appetite, keep people hungry.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 289 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
The passions are the humors of the mind, and the least excess sickens our judgment. If the disease spreads to the mouth, your reputation will be in danger.

Baltasar Gracian
The person who does not know how to put up with others should retire into himself, if indeed he can suffer even himself.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 159 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
The things we remember best are those better forgotten.

Baltasar Gracian
The wise have a solid sense of silence and the ability to keep a storehouse of secrets. Their capacity and character are respected.

Baltasar Gracian
The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.

Baltasar Gracian
There is no wilderness like a life without friends; friendship multiplies blessings and minimizes misfortunes; it is a unique remedy against adversity, and it soothes the soul.

Baltasar Gracian
There is none who cannot teach somebody something, and there is none so excellent but he is excelled.

Baltasar Gracian
Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem. Most things are judged by their jackets.

Baltasar Gracian
Those who insist on the dignity of their office show they have not deserved it.

Baltasar Gracian
Those who want to look like hard workers give the impression that they aren’t up to their jobs.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 106 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

To be at ease is better than to be at business. Nothing really belongs to us but time, which even he has who has nothing else.

Baltasar Gracian
To hear a prince’s secrets is not a privilege but a burden. Many smash the mirror that reminds them of their ugliness. They cannot stand to see those who saw them.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 237 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
To overvalue something is a form of lying.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 41 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island … to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.

Baltasar Gracian
True knowledge lies in knowing how to live.

Baltasar Gracian
Trust the friends of today as though they will be the enemies of tomorrow.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 217 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Truth always lags last, limping along on the arm of Time.

Baltasar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Two kinds of people are good at foreseeing danger: those who have learned at their own expense, and the clever people who learn a great deal at the expense of others.

Baltasar Gracian
Use human means as if there were no divine ones, and divine means as if there were no human ones.

Baltasar Gracian
Virtue alone is for real; all else is sham. Talent and greatness depend on virtue, not on fortune. Only virtue is sufficient unto herself. She makes us love the living and remember the dead.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 300 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
We often have to put up with most from those on whom we most depend.

Baltasar Gracian
When desire dies, fear is born.

Baltasar Gracian
When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see.

Baltasar Gracian

Maxim 7 from The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit.

Baltasar Gracian
Words are feminine; deeds are masculine.

Baltasar Gracian

Work is the price which is paid for reputation.

Baltasar Gracian
Yes and No are words quickly said, but they need a great amount of thought before you utter them.

Baltasar Gracian

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