The hypocrite’s crime is that he bears false witness against himself.  What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.

Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, 1963

Go to bed early, get up early—this is wise. Some authorities say get up with the sun; some say get up with one thing, others with another. But a lark is really the best thing to get up with. It gives you a splendid reputation with everybody to know that you get up with the lark; and if you get the right kind of lark, and work at him right, you can easily train him to get up at half past nine, every time—it’s no trick at all.

Mark Twain, “Advice to Youth,” 1882

The smiler with the knife under the cloak.

Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Knight’s Tale,” ca. 1380

Deep in the heart of every public figure lies the impulse to prove that he is not the sum of his handlers. The more their words, gestures, wardrobe, travel schedules, offhand remarks, and moral values have become products of professional operatives, the more anxious they are to demonstrate that they are, in fact, self-directed human beings. … In 1933, President-elect Franklin D. Roos­evelt copied the typewritten draft of his inaugural address in longhand, the better to prove that he had, in fact, written it himself. The only thing he had to fear was an overly inquisitive historian.

Jeff GreenfieldThe People’s Choice, 1995

The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible. … He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? … It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. “Reality control,” they called it; in Newspeak, “doublethink.”

George OrwellNineteen Eighty-Four, 1949

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? … To him … your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, decep­tion, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” July 5, 1852

“If you go to South Wales you will hear that, in 1910, the Government used troops to shoot down Welsh miners who were striking for their rights. … South Wales, you will be told, will never forget Tonypandy!”

Carradine had dropped his flippant air.

“And it wasn’t a bit like that?”

“ … The point is that every single man who was there knows that the story is nonsense, and yet it has never been contradicted. It will never be overtaken now. It is a completely untrue story grown to legend while the men who knew it to be untrue looked on and said nothing.”

Josephine TeyThe Daughter of Time, 1951

My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps
To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps
You’d care to join us? In a pig’s arse, friend.
Day comes to an end.
The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed.
And so Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid—
… Too subtle, that. Too decent, too. Oh hell,
Only the young can be alone freely.
The time is shorter now for company,
And sitting by a lamp more often brings
Not peace, but other things.
Beyond the light stand failure and remorse
Whispering Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, of

Philip Larkin, “Vers de Société,” High Windows, 1974

Hypocrite lecteur,—mon semblable,—mon frère!

Charles BaudelaireLes Fleurs du mal, 1857

Diogenes threw away his cup when he saw people drinking from their hands. He lived in a barrel, rolling in it over hot sand in the summer. … He mocked the auctioneer while being sold into slavery. … Cynicism is basically a moral protest against hypocrisy and cant in politics and excess and thoughtless self-indulgence in the conduct of life. In a world like ours, which is slowly trying to rouse itself from the dogmatic slumbers of boundless self-interest, corruption, lazy cronyism and greed, it is Diogenes’ lamp that we need to light our path. Perhaps this recession will make cynics of us all.

Simon Critchley, “Cynicism We Can Believe In,” The New York Times, March 31, 2009

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open

Muriel Rukeyser, “Käthe Kollwitz,” The Speed of Darkness, 1968

Most of us are aware of and pretend to detest the barefaced instances of that hypocrisy by which men deceive others; but few of us are upon our guard or see that more fatal hypocrisy by which we deceive and over-reach our own hearts!

Laurence Sterne, “Sermon on Self-knowledge,” 1760

If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.

—Old Hollywood saying

“‘Be what you would seem to be’—or, if you’d like it put more simply—‘Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.’”

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865


Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Anne Matthews is a contributing editor of the Scholar.


Please enter a valid email address
That address is already in use
The security code entered was incorrect
Thanks for signing up