Category Archives: Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Read In Order To Live

Gustave Flaubert? Edward Bulwer-Lytton? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent French literary figure Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, placed great value on reading. The following statement is often attributed to him:

Read in order to live.

Would you please determine whether these words are apocryphal?

Quote Investigator: In 1867 Gustave Flaubert wrote a letter containing advice to Mademoiselle Leroyer de Chantepie. An English translation appeared in 1895. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

You ask me what books to read. Read Montaigne; read him slowly, steadily. He will calm you. And do not listen to people who talk of his egotism. You will like him, you will see. But do not read, as the children read, to amuse yourself, nor as ambitious people read, to get instruction. No! read to live!

Make an intellectual atmosphere for your soul, which shall be composed of the emanation of all the great minds. Study Shakespeare and Goethe thoroughly. Read translations of the Greek and Roman authors,—Homer, Petronius, Plautus, Apuleius, etc.

The phrasing above differs slightly from the version specified by the questioner; however, some other translations provide an exact match.

Below are additional selected citations.

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  1. 1895, Gustave Flaubert As Seen in His Works and Correspondence by John Charles Tarver, Letter from Gustave Flaubert to Mademoiselle Leroyer de Chantepie, Date: June 16, 1867, Start Page 232, Quote Page 233 and 234, Archibald Constable and Company, Westminster, U.K. (HathiTrust Full View) link