To make haste slowly

Diligent, and intelligent. Diligence quickly accomplishes what the intelligence has well thought out. Haste is the passion of fools, and as they know not the difficulties, they work without heed: wiser men, on the other hand, are likely to fail from over-caution; for of reflection is bred delay: and so their hesitation in acting loses them the fruits of their good judgment. Promptitude is the mother of fortune. He does much who leaves nothing for tomorrow. A magnificent motto: to make haste slowly.

Gracian’s Manual, § 53.


  1. I wonder if Gracian is not quoting someone else, though. I’d heard it before, too, with something else instead of “festina” which I can’t remember now. Gracian intended his Manual to be the Catholic alternative to Machiavelli’s Prince. I sadly think he’s fallen out of the general consciousness, though, and Machiavelli is regnant. As a child, I remember talk of Gracian’s Manual as one of the books that every young man read to learn how to be a better man. It had an Old World feel to it. I’ve found two beautiful little copies (as the clerk said, perfect for travelling with) which were unappreciated gifts, the pages uncut. Well, they’ve found a home and use now.

  2. George Washington’s diary as a young man was full of quotes from Gracian’s Manual. I keep meaning to read it myself.

  3. I definitely recommend it, Maureen! It’s a surprising little book. There’s no mawkish sentimentality in its moral advice, but a fierceness that is completely lacking today. Some of it is relatively shocking. This is a handbook in the tradition of the upbringning of knights and ancient lords, reflecting a Christianity that is so wholly internalized as not to need constant and explicit mention, intincted with the nobility of a lost world and the requirement to make your boys into men, lest they ruin themselves and then all around them. In it we feel the impress not of the pastel Jesus of the fluffly white lambs on holy cards, but of the Jesus who soundly and properly beats with his staff the wolf who would steal one of His lambs! As repugnantly opportunistic, rudderless, and unanchored as was the impressionable Machiavelli, Gracian impresses in contrast in his solid stance in a firm and age-old tradition of morality, in which honor was still a virtue, with its etymologic sense intact of “belonging to a man.”

    Tolle lege, tolle lege….

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