50 Books to Read Before You Die

words to inspire before you expire

Tag: Virtue

“Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous, and magnificent, yet so vicious and base? He appeared at one time a mere scion of the evil principle and at another as all that can be conceived of noble and godlike. To be a great and virtuous man appeared the highest honour that can befall a sensitive being; to be base and vicious, as many on record have been, appeared the lowest degradation, a condition more abject than that of the blind mole or harmless worm.”

—from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The chaplain had mastered, in a moment of divine intuition, the handy technique of protective rationalization, and he was exhilarated by his discovery. It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.”

—from Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

“Henrietta had been taught by the conduct of both father and mother that every vice might be forgiven in a man and in a son, though every virtue was expected from a woman, and especially from a daughter.”

—from The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

[Virgil speaking to Dante]:

“‘My son, there’s no Creator and no creature
Who ever was without love—natural
Or mental; and you know that,’ he began.
‘The natural is always without error,
But mental love may choose an evil object
Or err through too much or too little vigor.
As long as it’s directed toward the First Good
And tends toward secondary goods with measure,
It cannot be the cause of evil pleasure;
But when it twists toward evil, or attends
To good with more or less care than it should,
Those whom He made have worked against their Maker.
From this you see that—of necessity—
Love is the seed in you of every virtue
And of all acts deserving punishment.'”

—from Canto XVII Dante’s Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri

“‘[T]hat is the secret to happiness and virtue—liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.'”

—from Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

“‘It is wonderful,’ replied Wickham, ‘for almost all [Mr. Darcy’s] actions may be traced to pride; and pride had often been his best friend. It has connected him nearer with virtue than with any other feeling. But we are none of us consistent, and in his behavior to me there were stronger impulses even than pride.’

‘Can such abominable pride as his have ever done him good?’

‘Yes. It has often led him to be liberal and generous, to give his money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor. Family pride, and filial pride—for he is very proud of what his father was—have done this. Not to appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or lose the influence of the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive.'”

—from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen