Baltasar Gracián y Morales, S.J. (8 January 1601 – 6 December 1658), better known as Baltasar Gracián, was a Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer and philosopher. He was born in Belmonte, near Calatayud (Aragon). His writings were lauded by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Baltasar Gracián is the son of a doctor, in his childhood Gracián lived with his uncle, who was a priest. He studied at a Jesuit school in 1621 and 1623 and theology in Zaragoza. He was ordained in 1627 and took his final vows in 1635. After receiving a Jesuit education which included humanities and literature as well as philosophy and theology, he entered the Jesuit order in 1633 and became a teacher and eventually of the Jesuit college of Tarragona. Gracián is the most representative writer of the Spanish baroque literary style known as Conceptismo (Conceptism), which is characterized by the use of terse and subtle displays of exaggerated wit to illustrate ideas.
Gracian wrote a number of literary works, including political commentary, guidance and practical advice for life, and Criticón, an allegorical and pessimistic novel with philosophical overtones, published in three parts in 1651, 1653, and 1657, which contrasted an idyllic primitive life with the evils of civilization. His literary efforts were not consistent with the anonymity of Jesuit life; though he used several pen names, he was chastised and exiled for publishing Criticón without the permission of his superiors. His most famous book outside of Spain is Oráculo manual y arte de prudentia (1647), a collection of three hundred maxims, translated into German by Schopenhauer, and into English by Joseph Jacobs in 1892 as The Art of Wordly Wisdom.
Baltasar Gracian Works
- El héroe (1637, The Hero), a criticism of Niccolò Machiavelli|Machiavelli drawing a portrait of the ideal Christian leader.
- El político Don Fernando el Católico (1640, The Politician King Ferdinand the Catholic), presents his ideal image of the politician.
- Arte de ingenio (1642, revised as Agudeza y arte de ingenio in 1648), an essay on literature and aesthetics.
- El discreto (1646, The Complete Gentleman), described the qualities which make the sophisticated man of the world.
- Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia (1647), translated as The Art of Worldly Wisdom (by Joseph Jacobs, 1892), The Oracle, a Manual of the Art of Discretion (by L.B. Walton), Practical Wisdom for Perilous Times (in selections by J. Leonard Kaye), or The Science of Success and the Art of Prudence, his most famous book, some 300 aphorisms with comments.
- El Criticón (1651-1657), a novel, translated as The Critic by Sir Paul Rycaut in 1681.
The Art of Worldly Wisdom
Gracián’s style, generically called “conceptism,” is characterized by ellipsis (a rhetorical device in which the narrative skips over scenes) and the concentration of a maximum of meaning in a minimum of form, an approach referred to in Spanish as agudeza (wit). Gracian brought agudeza to its extreme in the Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia (literally The Oracle, a Manual of the Art of Discretion, commonly translated as The Art of Worldly Wisdom) (1637), which is almost entirely comprised of three hundred maxims with commentary. He constantly plays with words: each phrase becomes a puzzle, using the most diverse rhetorical devices.
- i Everything is already at its highest point (Todo está ya en su punto)
- iii Keep Matters for a Time in Suspense (Llevar sus cosas con suspencion)
- iv Knowledge and Courage (El saber y el valor)
- ix Avoid the Faults of your Nation (Desmentir los achaques de su nation)
- xi Cultivate those who can teach you (Tratar con quien se pueda aprender)
- xiii Act sometimes on Second Thoughts, sometimes on First Impulse (Obrar de intencion, ya segunda y ya primera)
- xxxvii Keep a Store of Sarcasms, and know how to use them (Conocer y saber usar de las varrillas)
- xliii Think with the Few and speak with the Many (Sentir con los menos y hablar con los mas)
- xcvii Obtain and preserve a Reputation (Conseguir y conservar la reputation)
- xxxvvv Think most about the things that matter most (Hazer concepto y mas de lo que importa mas)
Baltasar Gracian Inspirational & Motivational Quotes
- He that can live alone resembles the brute beast in nothing, the sage in much, and God in everything. – Baltasar Gracian
- The envious die not once, but as oft as the envied win applause. – Baltasar Gracian
- The wise does at once what the fool does at last. – Baltasar Gracian
- Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit. – Baltasar Gracian
- A bad manner spoils everything, even reason and justice; a good one supplies everything, gilds a No, sweetens a truth, and adds a touch of beauty to old age itself. – Baltasar Gracian
- Respect yourself if you would have others respect you. – Baltasar Gracian
- Better mad with the rest of the world than wise alone. – Baltasar Gracian
- He that communicates his secret to another makes himself that other’s slave. – Baltasar Gracian
- Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way. – Baltasar Gracian
- Advice is sometimes transmitted more successfully through a joke than grave teaching. – Baltasar Gracian
- Let him that hath no power of patience retire within himself, though even there he will have to put up with himself. – Baltasar Gracian
- Friendship multiplies the good of life and divides the evil. – Baltasar Gracian
- Never contend with a man who has nothing to lose. – Baltasar Gracian
- Luck can be assisted. It is not all chance with the wise. – Baltasar Gracian
- True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing. – Baltasar Gracian
- Know or listen to those who know. – Baltasar Gracian
- Always leave something to wish for; otherwise you will be miserable from your very happiness. – Baltasar Gracian
- True knowledge lies in knowing how to live. – Baltasar Gracian
- Never have a companion that casts you in the shade. – Baltasar Gracian
- Never do anything when you are in a temper, for you will do everything wrong. – Baltasar Gracian
- Even knowledge has to be in the fashion, and where it is not, it is wise to affect ignorance. – Baltasar Gracian