Presented in chronological order, these quotes are resources and avenues to explore in order to understand the concept of secrecy.
Quotes on the Secret of the Ancient Era
” The Lord does nothing without revealing the secret to his servants the prophets.” — Amos (3:7)
“It is good to keep the king’s secret hidden, but it is honorable to reveal and publish the works of God.” — Tobit (12:6)
“If your friend entrusts you with a secret, your first duty is to keep silent.” — Menander, The Fragments (4th c. BC)
“There is more pain in keeping a secret than in holding a burning coal in your mouth.” — Socrates (470/469 BC – 399 BC)
“The self-sufficient man would therefore need friendship to learn to know himself – Aristotle, The Great Morality (book attributed to him) (384 BC – 322 BC)
“And do not likewise open up to all your friends of your outlines: of the number, very few keep a faithful heart.” — Theognis, Sayings to Cyrnos (73)
“No one knows what is in a man except the spirit of the man who is in him; no one knows what is in God except the Spirit of God – St. Paul (1 Cor 2:11) (early 1st century – 67/68)
“Life hidden” — Epicurus
“He who first put forward this maxim: Hide your life, did not want to remain unknown himself – Plutarch, Moral Works – Volume V (1st – 2nd century)
“He who does not know how to conceal does not know how to rule – Louis XI (1423–1483)
Quote on the Secret of the Modern Age
” I paint myself “ – Michel de Montaigne, To the reader, The Essays I (1580)
“It is a secret that would matter a lot to me if it were discovered; but to your prudence I can entrust it with all assurance” – Molière, Les Précieuses ridicules (1659)
« Is it not a common fault of all men to entrust to others the outlines they should keep secrets? It will therefore be a violent government if it denies citizens the freedom to express and teach their opinions” — Baruch Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise – Chapter XX (1670).
“There are no secrets that time does not reveal – Jean Racine, Britannicus (1670)
“A secret is like a crown that one must wear only oneself – William de Britaine, Human Prudence (1689)
“Secret – It is better to suffer it than to reveal it.” — Nicolas Boileau, Satire X, Women (1693)
“To tell another’s secret is treason, to tell one’s own is foolishness.” — Voltaire (1694–1778)
“The habit of secrecy is therefore a necessary quality for a minister – Antoine Pecquet, Discourse on the art of negotiation, 1737
“A secret is like a treasure; it is only half discovered when you know it is hidden – Jean-Baptiste Blanchard, The maxims of the honest man (1772).
Quotations on the Secret of the Contemporary Era.
”There is only one secret to leading the world, it is to be strong.” — Napoleon Bonaparte, The St. Helena Manuscript (1821)
“One confides only in a friend: but can one answer that he will never cease to be one? If I confide a secret to a person, because I believe him to be my friend, he will also believe himself authorized to reveal it to a third person whom he considers to be his friend; the latter will reveal it to a fourth person, and the secret will soon be known to all – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thoughts of an Upright Mind (1826).
“A man who drinks only water has a secret to hide from his fellow men – Charles Baudelaire, On Wine and Hashish (1821–1867)
“It is better to know how to keep quiet than to tell an unpleasant truth unnecessarily.” – Diane de Beausacq, la civilité non puérile, mais honnête (1863)
« All personal existence is based on secrecy, and perhaps that is part of the reason why civilized man gets so worked up about the secrecy of private life. » – Anton Chekhov, The Lady with the Little Dog (1899)
“You will come back to say goodbye, and I will give you a secret” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince (1943)
“One can only think freely if one has the ability to hide one’s thoughts completely – Gaston Bachelard, Applied Rationalism (1949)
“There is mystery and there is secrecy.” — Jankélévitch, Debussy and the mystery of the moment (1903–1985)
“What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.” — Malraux, Antimémoires (1967)
“The truth of a man is, first of all, what he hides – Malraux, Antimémoires (1967)
“Secrecy authorizes the use of unmentionable means which, in return, require secrecy – Alain Dewerpe, Spy: A Historical Anthropology of the Contemporary State Secret (1994)