A great biography should, like the close of a great drama, leave behind it a feeling of serenity. We collect into a small bunch the flowers, the few flowers, which brought sweetness into a life, and present it as an offering to an accomplished destiny. It is the dying refrain of a completed song, the final verse of a finished poem.
Woman's great strength lies in being late or absent. Presence immediately reveals the weak points of our beloved; when she is absent she become one of the sylph-like figures of our adolescence whom we endowed with perfection.
Often we allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget. We lose many irreplaceable hours brooding over grievances that, in a year's time, will be forgotten by us and by everybody. No, let us devote our life to worthwhile actions and feelings, to great thoughts, real affections and enduring undertakings.
A friend loves you for your intelligence, a mistress for your charm, but your family's love is unreasoning; you were born into it and are of its flesh and blood. Nevertheless it can irritate you more than any group of people in the world.
Marriage is not something that can be accomplished all at once; it has to be constantly reaccomplished. A couple must never indulge in idle tranquility with the remark: "The game is won; let's relax." The game is never won. The chances of life are such that anything is possible. Remember what the dangers are for both sexes in middle age. A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.
Almost all great writers have as their motif, more or less disguised, the passage from childhood to maturity, the clash between the thrill of expectation and the disillusioning knowledge of truth. 'Lost Illusion' is the undisclosed title of every novel.
Old age diminishes our strength; it takes away our pleasures one after the other; it withers the soul as well as the body; it renders adventure and friendship difficult; and finally it is shadowed by thoughts of death.
The reputation of a Don Juan gives to a man the most dangerous power. Wise virgins resist it, but foolish virgins frequently yield to the desire to take a celebrated lover from a rival - even from a friend. This emotion is a complex one, mad up of vanity, respect for another woman's taste, and the need to establish self-assurance by winning a difficult victory. Don Juan chose his first mistresses; later he was chosen.
The need to express oneself in writing springs from a mal-adjustment to life, or from an inner conflict which the adolescent (or the grown man) cannot resolve in action. Those to whom action comes as easily as breathing rarely feel the need to break loose from the real, to rise above, and describe it... I do not mean that it is enough to be maladjusted to become a great writer, but writing is, for some, a method of resolving a conflict, provided they have the necessary talent.
Stupidity is a factor to be reckoned with in human affairs. The true leader always expects to encounter it, and prepares to endure it patiently so long as it is normal stupidity. He knows that his ideas will be distorted, his orders carelessly executed; and that there will be jealousy among his assistants. He takes these inevitable phenomena into account, and instead of attempting to find men without faults, who are non-existent, he tries to make use of the best men at his disposal - as they are, and not as they ought to be.
It is often said that in prosperity we have many friends, but that we are usually neglected when things go badly. I disagree. Not only do malicious people flock about us in order to witness our ruin, but other unfortunates as well, who have been kept away by our happiness, and now feel close to us on account of our troubles.
Among the idle rich, boredom is one of the most common causes of unhappiness. People who have difficulty in earning their living may suffer greatly, but they are not bored. Wealthy men and women become bored when they depend upon the theater for their enjoyment instead of making their own lives interesting.
An old man, having retired from active life, regains the gaity and irresponsibility of childhood. He is ready to play, he cannot run with his son, but he can totter with his grandson. Our first and last steps have the same rhythm.