"One of the greatest Reasons why so few People understand themselves, is, that most Writers are always teaching Men what they should be, and hardly ever trouble their Heads with telling them what they really are." Bernard Mandeville, social critic (from the Introduction section of his The Fable of the Bees; or, Private Vices, Public Benefits, 1724).
"Shakespeare says, we are creatures that look before and after: the more surprising that we do not look round a little, and see what is passing under our very eyes." Thomas Carlyle, historian and social critic (Sartor Resartus, 1836).
"[N]obody shall ever persuade me to be in love with the Bait, if I know that I must swallow the Hook at the same time." Bernard Mandeville, social critic (The Virgin Unmask'd, 1709).
"To believe is like loving someone in the dark who never answers." Line from Ingmar Bergman's film "The Seventh Seal" (1957).
"Ambition must have broad spaces and mighty distances." Griffith J. Griffith, Angeleno civic benefactor.
"I have been accused of 'talking high' when others would 'think low'doubtless there is something to that." Jean-Pierre Vibert, Napoleonic soldier and rosarian.
"The supreme trick of mass insanity is that it persuades you that the only abnormal person is the one who refuses to join in the madness of others, the one who tries vainly to resist. We will never understand totalitarianism if we do not understand that people rarely have the strength to be uncommon." Eugene Ionesco, playwright.
"[F]or lack of congenial company, he lived in an unsociable isolation which fashionable people called pose and ill-breeding, the authorities a recalcitrant spirit, his neighbors madness, his family selfishness and pride." Marcel Proust, writer (Within a Budding Grove).
"They who dance are thought mad by those who hear not the music." Old saying (by 1927).
"[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone." Henrik Ibsen, playwright (An Enemy of the People, Act V).
"Life without a friend is death without a witness." Old saying (by 1640).
"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible." Bertrand Russell, modern philosopher.
"You should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth." Henrik Ibsen, playwright (An Enemy of the People, Act V).
"Nothing is more liable to misconstruction than an act of uncommon generosity; one half the world mistake the motive from want of ideas to conceive an instance of beneficence that soars so high above the level of their own sentiments; and the rest suspect it of something sinister or selfish, from the suggestions of their own sordid and vicious inclinations." Tobias Smollett, writer (The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom).
"We despise others for their inferiority, we hate them for their superiority." William Hazlitt, essayist and social critic (Notes of a Journey through France and Italy, 1826).
"He who is the offender is never the forgiver." Old saying (by 1732).
"Moods make poor advisors." Jean-Pierre Vibert, Napoleonic soldier and rosarian.
"She confessed subsequently to Cottard that she found me remarkably enthusiastic; he replied that I was too emotional, that I needed sedatives, and that I ought to take up knitting." Marcel Proust, writer (Cities of the Plain).
"Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian." Dennis Wholey, author and producer.
"Frugality is an income." Old saying (by 1542).
"If you would know the value of money, try to borrow some." Old saying (by 1640).
"Ye men of gloom and austerity, who paint the face of Infinite Benevolence with an eternal frown; read in the Everlasting Book, wide open to your view, the lesson it would teach. Its pictures are not black and sombre hues, but bright and glowing tints; its musicsave when ye drown itis not in sighs and groans, but songs and cheerful sounds. Listen to the million voices in the summer air, and find one dismal as your own. Remember, if ye can, the sense of hope and pleasure which every glad return of day awakens in the breast of all your kind who have not changed their nature; and learn some wisdom even from the witless, when their hearts are lifted up they know not why, by all the mirth and happiness it brings." Charles Dickens, novelist (Chapter XXV, Barnaby Rudge).
"But far more num'rous was the herd of such
Who think too little, and who talk too much."
John Dryden, poet (lines 533-534, Absalom and Achitophel, 1681).
"Least said, soonest mended." Old saying (by 1776).
"Much bruit, little fruit." Old saying (by 1639).
"[L]et them remember it is with wits as with razors, which are never so apt to cut those they are employed on as when they have lost their edge. Besides, those whose teeth are too rotten to bite, are[,] best of all others, qualified to revenge that defect with their breath." Jonathan Swift (from the Preface to A Tale of a Tub, 1704).
"Wisdom makes men bashful, which is the reason that those Wise men have so little to do, unless it be with Poverty, Hunger, and Chimney-corners; that they live such neglected, unknown and hated lives." Desiderius Erasmus (The Praise of Folly, 1511).
"The best thing about this group of candidates is that only one of them can win." Will Rogers, entertainer and social critic.
"The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too." Oscar Levant, concert pianist and wit.
"If people are wretches, the next impression is that they deserve to be so; and we are prepared to lend a helping hand to make them what we say." William Hazlitt, essayist and social critic (Notes of a Journey through France and Italy, 1826).
"'Tis an error, surely, to talk of the simplicity of youth. I think no persons are more hypocritical, and have a more affected behavior to one another, than the young. They deceive themselves and each other with artifices that do not impose upon men of the world; and so we get to understand truth better, and grow simpler[,] as we grow older." William Makepeace Thackeray, novelist (The History of Henry Esmond, Chapter IX).
"They who would be young when they are old must be old when they are young." Old saying (by 1670).
"Kindness is lost that's bestowed on children and old folks." Old saying (by 1639).
"It is misery enough to have once been happy." Old saying (by 1639).
"Nothing shows the contented soul within so much as our not seeking for amusement the mortifications of others; we only envy their advantages, or sneer at their defects, when we are conscious of wanting something ourselves." William Hazlitt, essayist and social critic (Notes of a Journey through France and Italy, 1826).
"That admiration of the 'neat but not gaudy,' which is commonly reported to have influenced the devil when he painted his tail pea green." John Ruskin.
"I believe it will be found a true observation, that there never was anything so absurd or ridiculous, but has at one time or another been written by some author of reputation: A reflection it may not be improper for writers to make, as being at once some mortification to their vanity, and some comfort to their infirmity." Alexander Pope, poet and translator (Observations on the Fourth Book of the Iliad of Homer).
"Your mirror will tell you what your friends will not." Old saying (by 1640).
"Assurance many Blessings may contain,
And often times supplies the want of Brain. . ."
Daniel Defoe, novelist and political versifier (The Dyet of Poland, 1705).
"Mettle is dangerous in a blind horse." Old saying (by 1670).
"It's a particular Observation I have always made, That of all Mortals, a Critick is the silliest; for by inuring himself to examine all Things, whether they are of Consequence or not, he never looks upon any Thing but with a Design of passing Sentence upon it; by which Means, he is never a Companion, but always a Censor. This makes him earnest upon Trifles; and dispute on the most indifferent Occasions with Vehemence." Richard Steele, The Tatler, No. 29, 1709.
"It is usual with those who are slaves to common opinion to overlook or praise the same things in one, that they blame in another." Alexander Pope, poet and translator (Observations on the Fifth Book of the Iliad of Homer).
"Law, Logic, and Switzers may be hired to fight for anybody." Old saying recorded in 1593 by Thomas Nashe in Christs Teares.
"The more laws, the more offenders." Old saying (by 1732).
| "Imperial Law!
which clears what Solon said|
And will let none be happy till they're dead;
Law, that bids sovereigns safely whom they will
Rob for their pride, and for their pleasure kill;
Law, that can void great Nature's defendendo,
Indict by spleen, and prove by innuendo;
Law, that of fools and cowards can make martyrs,
And has a non-obstante to all charters[.]"
"He that would hang his dog gives out first that he is mad." Old saying (by 1530).
"Logic is the prisoner of definition; and definition is at the mercy of individual perception." Brent C. Dickerson, writer.
"The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else." George Bernard Shaw.
"He that follows truth too near the heels shall have dust thrown in his face." Old saying (by 1651).
"Old men and travellers may lie by authority." Old saying (by 1605).
"Accuse a Colonel of Injustice, he is try'd by his Board of Peers, and your Information is false, scandalous, and malicious. A Lawyer cheats you according to Law; and you may thank the Physician, if you live to complain of him. Over-reaching in Trade, is prudent Dealing; and Mechanick Cunning, is stiled Handicraft." Bernard Mandeville, social critic (A Modest Defence of Publick Stews).
"Riches are with us the parent of riches; and success, in the hands of an active man, is the pledge of further success." Thomas DeQuincey, English author.
"Success brings you nothing but success." Marvin Hamlisch, American Composer.
"Diligence is the mother of good luck." Old saying (by 1612).
"All lay the load on the willing horse." Old saying (by 1546).
"You only know what happiness is once you're married. But then it's too late." Peter Sellers, actor.
"A pram in the doorway is the enemy of Art." attributed to Anton Chekhov, Russian author.
"Love is eternal, even if it is only eternal for a month." G.K. Chesterton (writing about Dickens' David Copperfield).
"When you're a married man, Samivel, you'll understand a good many things as you don't understand now; but vether it's worth while goin' through so much, to learn so little, as the charity-boy said ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is a matter o' taste. I rayther think it isn't." Charles Dickens, English novelist (Chapter XXVII, The Pickwick Papers).
"If a man is master of his profession, he cannot be ignorant that he is so; and if he is not employed by those who pretend to encourage art, he will employ himself, and laugh in secret at the pretense of the ignorant; while he has, every night, dropped into his shoe, as soon as he puts it off, and puts out the candle, and gets into bed, a reward for the labors of the days such as the world cannot give; and patience and time await to give him all that the world give."William Blake, artist and poet.
"We are very slow to recognize in the peculiar physiognomy of a new writer the model which is labelled 'great talent' in our museum of general ideas. Simply because that physiognomy is new and strange, we can find in it no resemblance to what we are accustomed to call talent. We say rather originality, charm, delicacy, strength; and then one day we realize that it is precisely all this that adds up to talent."Marcel Proust, writer (Swann's Way).
"Content with what the bounteous Gods have giv'n,
Seek not alone t'engross the gifts of heav'n.
To some the pow'rs of bloody war belong,
To some, sweet music, and the charm of song;
To few, and wond'rous few, has Jove assign'd
A wise, extensive, all-consid'ring mind [ . . . ]"
Homer, poet (The Iliad XIII:913-922 [Alexander Pope translation])
"Banish the self-debasing principle, and scorn the disingenuity of readers. Humility has depressed many a genius into a hermit; but never yet raised one into a poet of eminence." William Shenstone (1714-1763), essayist, poet, and landscapist.
"A full cup must be carried steadily." Old saying (by 1300).
"Talk into the sardine can, and the tomato can will always find you." Eustace Haney, entrepreneur.
] "Hence the
Of life informing each organic frame,
Hence the green earth, and wild resounding waves;
Hence light and shade alternate, warmth and cold;
And clear autumnal skies and vernal showers,
And all the fair variety of things.
But not alike to every mortal eye
Is this great scene unveil'd. For since the claims
Of social life to different labours urge
The active powers of man, with wise intent
The hand of Nature on peculiar minds
Imprints a different bias, and to each
Decrees its province in the common toil.
To some she taught the fabric of the sphere,
The changeful moon, the circuit of the stars,
The golden zones of heaven: to some she gave
To weigh the moment of eternal things,
Of time, and space, and fate's unbroken chain,
And will's quick impulse: others by the hand
She led o'er vales and mountains, to explore
What healing virtue swells the tender veins
Of herbs and flowers; or what the beams of morn
Draw forth, distilling from the clifted rind
In balmy tears. But some, to higher hopes
Were destin'd; some within a finer mould
She wrought, and temper'd with a purer flame.
To these the Sire Omnipotent unfolds
The world's harmonious volume, there to read
The transcript of Himself. On every part
They trace the bright impressions of his hand:
In earth or air, the meadow's purple stores,
The moon's mild radiance, or the virgin's form
Blooming with rosy smiles, they see portray'd
That uncreated beauty, which delights
The Mind supreme. They also feel her charms,
Enamour'd; they partake the eternal joy."
Mark Akenside, poet (from Book I of The Pleasures of Imagination, 1744).
"For great and lofty geniuses produce nothing that is mean and little; the innate smartness of their parts will not endure the vigor and activity of their spirits to grow lazy; but they are tossed to and again, as with the waves, by the rolling motions of their own inordinate desire, till at length they arrive at a stable and settled constitution of manners. Therefore, as a person that is unskilful in husbandry would by no means make choice of a piece of ground quite overrun with brakes and weeds, abounding with wild beasts, running streams, and mud; while, to him who hath learnt to understand the nature of the earth, these are certain symptoms of the softness and fertility of the soil; thus great geniuses many times produce many absurd and vile enormities, of which we not enduring the rugged and uneasy vexation, are presently for pruning and lopping off the lawless transgressors. But the more prudent judge, who discerns the abounding goodness and generosity covertly residing in those transcendent geniuses, waits the co-operating age and season for reason and virtue to exert themselves, and gathers the ripe fruit when Nature has matured it." Plutarch ("Concerning Such Whom God Is Slow to Punish").
"He meditates revenge who least complains [...]" John Dryden, poet (line 446, Absalom and Achitophel, 1681).
"To forget a wrong is the best revenge." Old saying (by 1639).
"Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own, which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it. But, if it should happen otherwise, the danger is not great; and I have learned from long experience never to apprehend mischief from those understandings I have been able to provoke: for anger and fury, though they add strength to the sinews of the body, yet are found to relax those of the mind, and to render all its efforts feeble and impotent. There is a brain that will endure but one scumming; let the owner gather it with discretion, and manage his little stock with husbandry; but, of all things, let him beware of bringing it under the lash of his betters, because that will make it all bubble up into impertinence, and he will find no new supply. Wit without knowledge being a sort of cream, which gathers in a night to the top, and by a skilful hand may soon be whipped into froth; but once scummed away, what appears underneath will be fit for nothing but to be thrown to the hogs." Jonathan Swift (from the preface to The Battle of the Books, etc.).
"Forbearance is no acquittance." Old saying (by 1546).
"The grand ambition of one sort of scholars is to increase the number of various lections [i.e., "variant readings"]; which they have done to such a degree of obscure diligence, that (as Sir H. Savil observ'd) we now begin to value the first Editions of books as most correct, because they have been the least corrected. The prevailing passion of others is to discover new meanings in an author, whom they will cause to appear mysterious purely for the vanity of being thought to unravel him. These account it a disgrace to be of the opinion of those that preceded them; and it is generally the fate of such people who will never say what was said before, to say what will never be said after them . . . This Disposition of finding out different significations in one thing, may be the effect of either too much, or too little wit; For Men of a right understanding generally see at once all that an Author can reasonably mean, but others are apt to fancy two meanings for want of knowing one." Alexander Pope, poet and translator (Observations on the First Book of the Iliad of Homer).
"Thus [is it with] men, [that,] extending their enquiries beyond their capacities, and letting their thoughts wander into those depths where they can find no sure footing, it is no wonder that they raise questions and multiply disputes, which, never coming to any clear resolution, are proper only to continue and increase their doubts, and to confirm them at last in perfect scepticism." John Locke, philosopher (from Locke's introduction to his Essay on Human Understanding).
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen, philosophers, and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do." Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist and social critic (Self-Reliance).
"When a true Genius appears in the World, you may know him by this infallible sign: That the Dunces are all in Confederacy against him."Jonathan Swift, novelist, political writer, and social critic.
"Of the same batch [i.e., followers of Folly] are they that hunt after immortality of Fame by setting out Books. Of whom, though all of 'em are endebted to me [Folly], yet in the first place are they that nothing but daub Paper with their empty Toyes. For they that write learnedly to the understanding of a few Scholars, and refuse not to stand the test of a Persius or Lælius, seem to me rather to be pitied than happy, as persons that are ever tormenting themselves: Adding, Changing, Putting in, Blotting out, Revising, Reprinting, showing't to friends, and nine years in correcting, yet never fully satisfied; at so great a rate do they purchase this vain reward, to wit, Praise, and that too of a very few, with so many watchings, so much sweat, so much vexation and loss of sleep, the most precious of all things. Add to this the waste of health, spoil of complexion, weakness of eyes or rather blindness, poverty, envie, abstinence from pleasure, over-hasty Old age, untimely death, and the like; so highly does this Wise man value the approbation of one or two blear-ey'd fellows."Desiderius Erasmus (The Praise of Folly, 1511).
"It is no easy task, that of a writer, even in so humble a class as myself, takes upon him; he is scouted and ridiculed if he fails; and if he succeeds, the enmity and cavils and malice with which he is assailed, are just in proportion to his success. The coldness and jealousy of his friends not unfrequently keep pace with the rancour of his enemies. They do not like you a bit the better for fulfilling the good opinion they always entertained of you. They would wish you to be always promising a great deal, and doing nothing, that they may answer for the performance. That shows their sagacity and does not hurt their vanity. An author wastes his time in painful study and obscure researches, to gain a little breath of popularity, and meets with nothing but vexation and disappointment in ninety-nine instances out of a hundred; or when he thinks to grasp the luckless prize, finds it not worth the troublethe perfume of a minute, fleeting as a shadow, hollow as a sound; 'as often got without merit as lost without deserving.' He thinks that the attainment of acknowledged excellence will secure him the expression of those feelings in others, which the image and hope of it had excited in his own breast, but instead of that, he meets with nothing (or scarcely nothing) but squint-eyed suspicion, idiot wonder, and grinning scorn. It seems hardly worth while to have taken all the pains he has been at for this! In youth we borrow patience from our future years: the spring of hope gives us courage to act and suffer. A cloud is upon our onward path, and we fancy that all is sunshine beyond it. The prospect seems endless, because we do not know the end of it. We think that life is long, because art is so, and that, because we have much to do, it is well worth doing: or that no exertions can be too great, no sacrifices too painful, to overcome the difficulties we have to encounter. Life is a continued struggle to be what we are not, and to do what we cannot. But as we approach the goal, we draw in the reins; the impulse is less, as we have not so far to go: as we see objects nearer, we become less sanguine in the pursuit: it is not the despair of not attaining, so much as knowing that there is nothing worth obtaining, and the fear of having nothing left even to wish for, that damps our ardour and relaxes our efforts; and if this mechanical habit did not increase the facility, would, I believe, take away all inclination or power to do any thing. We stagger on the few remaining paces to the end of our journey; make perhaps one final effort; and are glad when our task is done!" William Hazlitt, essayist (final lines from Lectures on the Literature of the Age of Elizabeth, 1820).
"And it is, after all, as good a way as any of solving the problem of existence to get near enough to the things and people that have appeared to us beautiful and mysterious from a distance to be able to satisfy ourselves that they have neither mystery nor beauty. It is one of the systems of mental hygiene among which we are at liberty to choose our own, a system which is perhaps not to be recommended too strongly, but gives us a certain tranquillity with which to spend what remains of life, and alsosince it enables us to regret nothing, by assuring us that we have attained to the best, and that the best was nothing out of the ordinarywith which to resign ourselves to death." Marcel Proust, novelist (Within a Budding Grove).
"There is no chance and no anarchy in the universe. All is system and gradation. Every god is there sitting in his sphere. The young mortal enters the hall of the firmament; there is he alone with them alone, they pouring on him benedictions and gifts, and beckoning him up to their thrones. On the instant, and incessantly, fall snowstorms of illusions. He fancies himself in a vast crowd which sways this way and that and whose movement and doings he must obey: he fancies himself poor, orphaned, insignificant. The mad crowd drives hither and thither, now furiously commanding this thing to be done, now that. What is he that he should resist their will, and think or act for himself? Every moment new changes and new showers of deceptions to baffle and distract him. And when, by and by, for an instant, the air clears and the cloud lifts a little, there are the gods still sitting around him on their thronesthey alone with him alone." Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist (final lines from the essay Illusions of 1860).
"Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding." Dr. Samuel Johnson, litterateur and social critic.
"'Tis a vulgar Error to imagine Men live upon their own Wits, when generally it is upon others' follies, a Fund that carries by much the best Interest, and is by far upon the most certain Security of any."Bernard Mandeville, social critic (A Modest Defence of Publick Stews).
"Shut Nature out the door, she'll come in the window." Old saying (by 1692).
"No man comes to heaven with dry eyes." Old saying (by 1630).
"In vain do the gods themselves fight
Schiller, poet and playwright (The Maid of Orleans).
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