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Quotations about Virtue & Vice
Vices and Virtues



Be father to virtue, but father-in-law to vice. ~Proverb


Our Vices and Virtues couple with one another, and get Children that resemble both their Parents. ~George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax


Seek virtue rather than riches. You may be sure to acquire the first; but cannot promise for the latter. No one can rob you of the first without your consent; you may be deprived of the latter a hundred ways. ~James Burgh, The Dignity of Human Nature: Book III. Of Virtue, 1754


Virtue is an angel, but she is a blind one, and must ask of Knowledge to show her the pathway that leads to her goal. ~Horace Mann


If angels are about our path... I cannot but think that they are sad and cover their faces with their hands, when in an unguarded moment those whom they watch over are tempted to wickedness. ~James Gillingham (1838–1924), The Seat of the Soul Discovered or the World's Great Problem Solved, with Objections to the Same Answered, second edition, 1870


Don't expect immortal virtues of mortals. Angels do not dwell on this planet. ~Minna Thomas Antrim (1861–1950), Don'ts for Girls, 1902


He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire. ~Winston Churchill


When fortune smiles on you, neighbors will imitate both your vices and your virtues. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882


Virtue, as understood by the world, is a constant struggle against the laws of nature. ~J. De Finod


We are double-edged blades, and every time we whet our virtue the return stroke straps our vice. ~Henry David Thoreau


Blushing is the color of virtue. ~Diogenes


Virtue is praised, but hated. People run away from it, for it is ice-cold and in this world you must keep your feet warm. ~Denis Diderot (1713–1784), translated by Jacques Barzun and Ralph H. Bowen, 1956


All bow to virtue — and then walk away. ~J. De Finod


Many are saved from sin by being so inept at it. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1963


It would seem that Nature has prescribed to every one from the moment of his birth certain limits for virtue and vice. ~François VI de la Rochefoucault (1613–1680)


We bow with resignation beneath the tempestuous storms of life; but a daily vexation, like a moth eating a garment, consumes our virtue. ~Anonymous, Aphorisms; or, A Glance at Human Nature, in Original Maxims, 1820


Beware of making your moral staple consist of the negative virtues. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes


Vice and virtue are to the artist materials of his art. ~Oscar Wilde


Many consent to be virtuous, only on condition that everybody will give them credit for it. ~J. De Finod


...the vices of the rich and great are called errors, and those of the poor and lowly only, crimes. ~Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington


Do not be troubled because you have not great virtues. God made a million spears of grass where He made one tree. The earth is fringed and carpeted, not with forests, but with grasses. Only have enough of little virtues and common fidelities, and you need not mourn because you are neither a hero or a saint. ~Henry Ward Beecher


We are more inclined to regret our virtues than our vices; but only the very honest will admit this. ~Holbrook Jackson


He who hates vice hates mankind. ~Publius Clodius Thrasea Paetus


Without enthusiasm, virtue functions not at all, and vice only poorly.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1963


Piety and corruption go together like hot dogs and mustard. They have to. No one can fulfill the demands of piety; as a daily demand, it is inhuman. So it inspires the opposite — just for the sheer health of the body, if not the soul. ~Norman Mailer, "Primitive Man, Art and Science, Evil and Judgment," The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing, 2003


What often prevents our abandoning ourselves to a single vice is, our having more than one. ~François VI de la Rochefoucault (1613–1680)


And then I discovered an important rule that I'm going to pass on to you: Never support two weaknesses at the same time. It's your combination sinners — your lecherous liars and your miserly drunkards — who dishonor the vices and bring them into bad repute. ~Thornton Wilder


The virtue that is not automatic requires more attention than it is worth. ~Ambrose Bierce


Idleness is the beginning of all vices. ~Proverb


In spite of strikes and lockouts the wages of sin keep about the same. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor


Many think that when they have confessed a fault there is no need of correcting it. ~Marie Dubsky, Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830–1916), translated by Mrs Annis Lee Wister, 1882


Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something. ~Henry David Thoreau, 1848


If you are Good, for Goodness' Sake be grateful
And mind your Manners! — Don't make Virtue hateful.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Courtesy," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


He that has energy enough in his constitution to root out a vice, should go a little farther, and try to plant a virtue in its place; otherwise he will have his labour to renew... ~C. C. Colton


Virtues are as dangerous as vices, in so far as they are allowed to rule over one as authorities and laws coming from the outside, and not as qualities one develops one's self. ~Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Anthony M. Ludovici, 1909


Virtue would not travel so far if vanity did not keep her company. ~François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680)


What most persons consider as virtue, after the age of forty is simply a loss of energy. ~Voltaire, unverified, quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1978


Virtue's the Paint that can make Wrinkles shine. ~Edward Young


Sin is commitable in thought, word or deed; so is virtue. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)


To many people virtue consists chiefly in repenting faults, not in avoiding them. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


Every vice is only an exaggeration of a necessary and virtuous function. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


A vice is a harm I do to myself in the pursuit of pleasure. ~Dio Lewis


But if Virtue was to be rewarded with Wealth it would not be Virtue. If Virtue was to be rewarded with Fame, it would not be Virtue of the sublimest Kind. Who would not rather be Fabricius than Caesar? Who would not rather be Aristides, than even William the 3rd? Who? ~John Adams, 1778


Have we no sins of our own to amend that we have all this time for barking and biting at the vices of our neighbours?... Any of us can achieve virtue, if by virtue we merely mean the avoidance of the vices that do not attract us. ~Robert Lynd


The widespread interest in gossip is inspired, not by a love of knowledge but by malice: no one gossips about other people's secret virtues, but only about their secret vices. ~Bertrand Russell, On Education, 1926


The excess of virtue is a vice. ~Greek proverb


Our honesty, we free spirits—let us be careful lest it become our vanity, our ornament and ostentation, our limitation, our stupidity! Every virtue inclines to stupidity, every stupidity to virtue; "stupid to the point of sanctity," they say in Russia,—let us be careful lest out of pure honesty we do not eventually become saints and bores! Is not life a hundred times too short for us—to bore ourselves? ~Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), "Our Virtues," Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, translated from German by Helen Zimmern, 1907  [There's also translation out there somewhere with the wording "too short for us to stifle ourselves." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


They who disbelieve in virtue because man has never been found perfect, might as reasonably deny a sun because it is not always day.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


      Enthusiasm for what is great lies at the basis of our nature, and never makes itself so keenly felt as in childhood. It is the flower and the poetry of virtue that fills the imagination of children and enchants them. Later the flower falls to give place to the fruit, poetry becomes prose. The fair dreams of virtue resemble those high mountains whose bold shapes attract our gaze, and to the summit of which imagination raises itself without effort. But when it comes to climbing them in reality, slowly and laboriously, we are soon discouraged. Life is not spent on the heights where grand and sublime actions are accomplished; virtue is composed of a long and uninterrupted series of small sacrifices, and requires that firm and tranquil resolution which does not run after duty, but holds itself ready for whatever God shall impose.
      The soul is soon satiated with what is untrue, and then disgust is proportioned to enthusiasm.
      Enthusiasm corresponds with the infinite; but sometimes it addresses itself really to the infinite, and sometimes it cheats its own wants, and deceives its own principles, in lending to finite objects the character and privileges of the infinite.
      ~Alexandre Vinet (1797–1847)


On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time. ~George Orwell


Choose your vices carefully. ~Terri Guillemets, "Chasing philosophy down the stairs," 1995


Some folks wear their halos much too tight. ~Author unknown


What, after all,
Is a halo? It's only one more thing to keep clean.
~Christopher Fry, The Lady's Not For Burning, 1948


Often should we be ashamed of our best actions, were the world to witness the motives which produce them. ~François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680)





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