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quotations about cunning

Cunning is a short blanket--if you pull it over your face, you expose your feet.

AUSTIN O'MALLEY, Keystones of Thought

Cunning is the mere ape of wisdom, and all hate its low tricks.

JOHN THORNTON, Maxims and Directions for Youth

The surest way to be cheated is to fancy ourselves more cunning than others.


Cunning is seeing a hundred yards ahead--wisdom, fifty miles in advance.

CHARLES WILLIAM DAY, The Maxims, Experiences, and Observations of Agogos

Cunning is natural to mankind. It is the sense of our weakness, and an attempt to effect by concealment what we cannot do openly and by force.

WILLIAM HAZLITT, Characteristics

It would be doing cunning too much honor to call it an inferior species of true discernment.

FULKE GREVILLE, Maxims, Characters, and Reflections

Cunning is a misplaced ambition of being perfect in others' deficiencies: it is the culture of low parts, and the proficiency of low minds.

NORMAN MACDONALD, Maxims and Moral Reflections

Cunning to wise, is as an Ape to a Man.

WILLIAM PENN, Some Fruits of Solitude

A cunning man overreaches no one half so much as himself.


Cunning grows in deceit at seeing itself discovered, and tries to deceive with truth itselft.

BALTHASAR GRACIAN, The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable.

JANE AUSTEN, Pride and Prejudice

The unrighteous man is apt to pride himself on his cunning; he says, "I am one who ought to life, and not a mere burden of the earth." But he should reflect that his ignorance makes his condition worse than if he knew. For the penalty of injustice is not death or stripes, but the fatal necessity of becoming more and more unjust. Two patterns of life are set before him; the one blessed and divine, the other godless and wretched; and he is growing more and more like the one and unlike the other. He does not see that if he continues in his cunning, the place of innocence will not receive him after death.

PLATO, "Theaetetus," Dialogues

We should do by our cunning as we do by our courage, always have it ready to defend ourselves, never to offend others.

FULKE GREVILLE, Maxims, Characters, and Reflections

A cunning mind emphatically delights in its own cunning, and is the ready prey of cunning.

ANNA JAMESON, A Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories, and Fancies

The very cunning conceal their cunning; the indifferently shrewd boast of it.

C. N. BOVEE, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought

The sure way to be cheated is to think one's self more cunning than others.

LA ROCHEFOUCAULD, attributed, Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors

It has been a sort of maxim, that the greatest art is to conceal art; but I know not how, among some people we meet with, their greatest cunning is to appear cunning.

RICHARD STEELE, The Tatler, Jun. 29, 1710

Cunning is the dwarf of wisdom.

W. R. ALGER, attributed, Day's Collacon

Life is a battle of wits, and many people have to fight it unarmed.

EVAN ESAR, 20,000 Quips & Quotes

Cunning leads to knavery. It is but a step from one to the other, and that very slippery.

BRUYERE, attributed, Day's Collacon

Cunning may acquire an estate, but it cannot gain friends.

L. MURRAY, attributed, Day's Collacon

All my own experience of life teaches me the contempt of cunning, not the fear. The phrase "profound cunning," has always seemed to me a contradiction in terms. I never knew a cunning mind which was not either shallow, or on some point diseased.

ANNA JAMESON, A Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories, and Fancies

Cunning differs from wisdom as twilight from open day. He that walks in the sunshine goes boldly forward by the nearest way; he sees that where the path is straight and even, he may proceed in security, and where it is rough and crooked he easily complies with the turns, and avoids the obstructions. But the traveller in the dusk fears more as he sees less; he knows there may be danger, and, therefore, suspects that he is never safe, tries every step before he fixes his foot, and shrinks at every noise lest violence should approach him. Wisdom comprehends at once the end and the means, estimates easiness or difficulty, and is cautious or confident in due proportion. Cunning discovers little at a time, and has no other means of certainty than multiplication of stratagems and superfluity of suspicion. The man of cunning always considers that he can never be too safe, and, therefore, always keeps himself enveloped in a mist, impenetrable, as he hopes, to the eye of rivalry or curiosity.


The very cunning conceal their cunning; the indifferently shrewd boast of it.

CHRISTIAN NESTELL BOVEE, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought

Don't think so much of your own Cunning, as to forget other Men's: A cunning Man is overmatch'd by a cunning Man and a Half.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1754

Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise.

FRANCIS BACON, "Of Cunning," Essays

Those who have the most cunning affect all their lives to condemn cunning; that they may make use of it on some great occasion, and to some great end.


The greatest cunning is to have none at all.

CARL SANDBURG, The Sandburg Range

The common practice of cunning is a sign of small genius; and it almost always happens that those who use it to cover themselves in one place, lay themselves open in another.


Read T. Augustus Forbes Leith's very short essay: On Cunning


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