from the sublime to the ridiculous is only a step

In this form, from a remark made by Napoleon to the Polish ambassador De Pradt (D. G. De Pradt Histoire de l’Ambassade (1815) 215), following the retreat from Moscow in 1812: Du sublime au ridicule il n’y a qu’un pas, there is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous. The idea, however, was not original to Napoleon: 1795 T. PAINE Age of Reason II. 20 The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime, makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous, makes the sublime again.

1879 M. PATTISON Milton 116 The Hague set forth in the pomp of Milton’s loftiest Latin... The sublime and the ridiculous are here blended without the step between.

1909 Times Literary Supplement 17 Dec. 492 In the case of Louis XVIII, indeed, the ridiculous was, as it is commonly said to be, only a step removed from the sublime.

1940 W. & E. MUIR tr. L. Feuchtwanger’s Paris Gazette II. xxxviii. From the sublime to the ridiculous is only a step, but there’s no road that leads back from the ridiculous to the sublime.

1983 ‘M. INNES’ Appleby & Honeybath iii. ‘At least,’ he said, ‘we can now go next door. Architecturally speaking, it’s to move from the sublime to the ridiculous’.

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