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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [François de Malherbe, a French lyric poet; born at Caen, about 1555; served in the League; composed his first work, 1587; enjoyed the patronage of Henry IV.; died 1628.]
  • Improve your style, sir! You have disgusted me with the joys of heaven.

  • On his death-bed, to a priest who spoke with more earnestness than elegance. An hour before his death, he roused himself to correct his nurse’s grammar.
  • The Marquis de Favras, a French officer who was executed on a charge of conspiracy, in 1790, said to the sheriff who showed him the sentence of death, “You have made three mistakes in spelling” (Vous avez fait, monsieur, trois fautes d’autographe). Victor Hugo quotes it verbatim in “Marion Delorme,” V. 7, where Saverney corrects the mistakes, and signs his name to his own death-warrant.
  • Rameau, the French musical composer, fatigued with the long discourse with which the priest accompanied the last offices, found strength enough to ask, “What is all that you are singing to me out of tune?” (Que diable venez-vous me chanter là? Vous avez la voix fausse!) It was Rameau, who, in a visit to a belle dame, threw her lap-dog out of the window, because he barked out of tune.
  • Duclos, a witty French writer, dismissed a tiresome curé named Chapeau, with a pun on his name: “I came into the world without breeches: I can leave it without chapeau!” (Je suis venu au monde sans culotte: je m’en irai bien sans chapeau!)