- Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.
Madame Bovary (1857) pt. 1, ch. 12 (tr. F. Steegmuller)
- To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.
letter to Louise Colet, 13 August 1846
- Poetry is a subject as precise as geometry.
letter to Louise Colet, 14 August 1853
- Style is life! It is the very life-blood of thought!
letter to Louise Colet, 7 September 1853
- The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him.
letter to Mademoiselle Leroyer de Chantepie, 18 March 1857
- Books are made not like children but like pyramids…and they're just as useless! and they stay in the desert!…Jackals piss at their foot and the bourgeois climb up on them.
letter to Ernest Feydeau, November/December 1857
- Be regular and orderly in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
letter to Gertrude Tennant, 25 December 1876
- Madame Bovary, c'est moi.
Madame Bovary is myself.