GOLDSMITH, Oliver Quotes
(1728-1774), English poet, dramatist and novelist
There is nothing so absurd or ridiculous that has not at some time been said by some philosopher. Fontenelle says he would undertake to persuade the whole republic of readers to believe that the sun was neither the cause of light or heat, if he could only get six philosophers on his side.
Absence, like death, sets a seal on the image of those we love: we cannot realize the intervening changes which time may have effected.
Paltry affectation and strained allusions are easily attained by those who choose to wear them; but they are but the badges of ignorance or stupidity when it would endeavor to please.
Age that lessens the enjoyment of life, increases our desire of living.
The hours we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasant than those crowned with fruition. In the first case we cook the dish to our own appetite; in the last it is cooked for us.
Ceremonies differ in every country; they are only artificial helps which ignorance assumes to imitate politeness, which is the result of good sense and good-nature.
Ceremony resembles that base coin which circulates through a country by royal mandate; it serves every purposs of real money at home, but is entirely useless if carried abroad.—A person who should attempt to circulate his native trash in another country would be thought either ridiculous or culpable.
To divest either politics or religion of ceremony, is the most certain method of bringing either into contempt.—The weak must have their inducements to admiration as well as the wise; and it is the business of a sensible government to impress all ranks with a sense of subordination, whether this be effected by a diamond buckle, a virtuous edict, a sumptuary law, or a glass necklace.
If the soul be happily disposed everything becomes capable of affording entertainment, and distress will almost want a name.
I have found by experience, that they who have spent all their lives in cities, contract not only an effeminacy of habit, but of thinking.
Compliments which we think are deserved, we accept only as debts, with indifference; but those which conscience informs us we do not merit, we receive with the same gratitude that we do favors given away.
An emperor in his night-cap would not meet with half the respect of an emperor with a crown.
You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.
People seldom improve when they have no model but themselves to copy after.
By expectation every day beguiled; dupe of tomorrow even from a child.
Fear guides more to duty than gratitude.—For one man who is virtuous from the love of virtue, or from the obligation he thinks he lies under to the giver of all, there are thousands who are good only from their apprehension of punishment.
To pursue trifles is the lot of humanity; and whether we bustle in a pantomime, or strut at a coronation, or shout at a bonfire, or harangue in a senate-house; whatever object we follow, it will at last conduct us to futility and disappointment. The wise bustle and laugh as they walk in the pageant, but fools bustle and are important; and this probably, is all the difference between them.
Ovid finely compares a broken fortune to a falling column; the lower it sinks, the greater weight it is obliged to sustain. When a man's circumstances are such that he has no occasion to borrow, he finds numbers willing to lend him; but should his wants be such that he sues for a trifle, it is two to one whether he will be trusted with the smallest sum.
The fortunate circumstances of our lives are generally found, at last, to be of our own producing.
Fortune is ever seen accompanying industry.
Fortune is ever seen accompanying industry, and is as often trundling in a wheelbarrow as lolling in a coach and six.
Fortune is like the market, where many times if you can stay a little the price will fall; and, again it is sometimes like Sibyl's offer, which at first offeretn the commodity at full, then consumeth part and part, and still holdeth up the price.
If frugality were established in the state, if our expenses were laid out rather in the necessaries than the superfluities of life, there might be fewer wants, and even fewer pleasures, but infinitely more happiness.
True generosity is a duty as indispensably necessary as those imposed on us by law.—It is a rule imposed by reason, which should be the sovereign law of a rational being.
True generosity does not consist in obeying every impulse of humanity, in following blind passion for our guide, and impairing our circumstances by present benefactions, so as to render us incapable of future ones.
Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
The current of tenderness widens as it proceeds; and two men imperceptibly find their hearts filled with good nature for each other, when they were at first only in pursuit of mirth and relaxation.
Whatever mitigates the woes, or increases the happiness of others, is a just criterion of goodness; and whatever injures society at large, or any individual in it, is a criterion of iniquity.
Politics resemble religion; attempting to divest either of ceremony is the most certain method of bringing either into contempt. The weak must have their inducements to admiration as well as the wise; and it is the business of a sensible government to impress all ranks with a sense of subordination, whether this be effected by a diamond, or a virtuous edict, a sumptuary law, or a glass necklace.
We take greater pains to persuade others that we are happy, than in endeavoring to be so ourselves.
The hours we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasing than those crowded with fruition.
People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy after.
Nothing is so contemptible as that affectation of wisdom which some display by universal incredulity.
To embarrass justice by a multiplicity of laws, or hazard it by a confidence in our judges, are, I grant, the opposite rocks on which legislative wisdom has ever split; in one case the client resembles that emperor who is said to have been suffocated with the bedclothes, which were only designed to keep him warm; in the other, that town which let the enemy take possession of its walls, in order to show the world how little they depended upon aught but courage for safety.
The loud laugh, that speaks the vacant mind.
The English laws punish vice; the Chinese laws do more, they reward virtue.
Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.
Little things are great to little men.
Every absurdity has a champion to defend it, for error is always talkative.
O luxury! Thou curst of heaven's decree.
I chose my wife, as she did her wedding gown, for qualities that would wear well.
I have visited many countries, and have been in cities without number, yet never did I enter a town which could not produce ten or twelve little great men; all fancying themselves known to the rest of the world, and complimenting each other upon their extensive reputation.
A mind too vigorous and active, serves only to consume the body to which it is joined, as the richest jewels are soonest found to wear their settings.
Knowledge, wisdom, erudition, arts, and elegance, what are they, but the mere trappings of the mind, if they do not serve to increase the happiness of the possessor? A mind rightly instituted in the school of philosophy, acquires at once the stability of the oak, and the flexibility of the osier.
Misers have been described as madmen, who in the midst of abundance banish every pleasure, and make, from imaginary wants, real necessities. But very few correspond to this exaggerated picture. Instead of this, we find the sober and industrious branded by the vain and the idle with the odious appellation; men who, by frugality and labor, raise themselves above their equals, and contribute their share of industry to the common stock. Whatever the vain or the ignorant may say, well were it for society had we more of this character. In general, these close men are found at last the true benefactors of society. With an avaricious man we seldom lose in our dealings, but we too frequently do in our commerce with prodigality.
Ovid finely compares a man of broken fortune to a falling column; the lower it sinks, the greater weight it is obliged to sustain.
By struggling with misfortunes, we are sure to receive some wounds in the conflict; but a sure method to come off victorious is by running away.
Modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues.
A map does not exhibit a more distinct view of the situation and boundaries of every country, than its news does a picture of the genius and morals of its inhabitants.
Above all things, never let your son touch a novel of romance. How delusive, how destructive are those pictures of consummate bliss! They teach the youthful to sigh after beauty and happiness that never existed; to despise the little good that fortune has mixed in our cup, by expecting more than she ever gave; and in general—take the word of a man who has seen the world, and studied it more by experience than by precept—take my word for it, I say, that such books teach us very little of the world.
Filial obedience is the first and greatest requisite of a state; by this we become good subjects to our rulers, capable of behaving with just subordination to our superiors, and grateful dependants on heaven. By this we become good magistrates; for early submission is the truest lesson to those who would learn to rule. By this the whole state may be said to resemble one family, of which the monarch is the protector, father, and friend.
The patriot's boast, where'er we roam, his first, best country ever is at home
Philosophy can add to our happiness in no other manner but by diminishing our misery; it should not pretend to increase our present stock, but make us economists of what we are possessed of. Happy were we all born philosophers; all born with a talent of thus dissipating our own cares by spreading them upon all mankind.
If the soul be happily disposed, everything becomes capable of affording entertainment, and distress will almost want a name.
None has more frequent conversations with disagreeable self than the man of pleasure; his enthusiasms are but few and transient; his appetites, like angry creditors, are continually making fruitless demands for what he is unable to pay; and the greater his former pleasures, the more strong his regret, the more impatient his expectations. A life of pleasure is, therefore, the most unpleasing life.
Of all kinds of ambition, that which pursues poetical fame is the wildest.
Measures, not men, have always been my mark.
The polite of every country seem to have but one character. A gentleman of Sweden differs but little, except in trifles, from one of any other country. It is among the vulgar we are to find those distinctions which characterize a people.
Politeness is the result of good sense and good nature. A person possessed of these qualities, though he has never seen a court, is truly agreeable; and if without them, would continue a clown, though he had been all his lifetime a gentleman usher.
A poor man resembles a fiddler, whose music, though liked, is not much praised, because he lives by it; while a gentleman performer, though the most wretched scraper alive, throws the audience into rapture.
Want of prudence is too frequently the want of virtue; nor is there on earth a more powerful advocate for vice than poverty.
To be poor, and seem to be poor, is a certain way never to rise.
Praise in the beginning is agreeable enough, and we receive it as a favor; but when it comes in great quantities, we regard it only as a debt, which nothing but our merit could extort.
When I see a young profligate squandering his fortune in bagnios, or at the gaming table, I cannot help looking on him as hastening his own death, and in a manner digging his own grave.
Want of prudence is too frequently the want of virtue; nor is there on earth a more powerful advocate for vice than poverty.
The bounds of a man's knowledge are easily concealed if he has but prudence.
The work of eradicating crimes is not by making punishment familiar, but formidable.
One should not quarrel with a dog without a reason sufficient to vindicate one through all the courts of morality.
Quality and title have such allurements that hundreds are ready to give up all their own importance, to cringe, to flatter, to look little, and to pall every pleasure in constraint, merely to be among the great, though without the least hopes of improving by their understanding or sharing their generosity: they might be happy among their equals, but those are despised for company where they are despised in turn.
The first time I read an excellent work, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend; and when I read over a book I have perused before, it resembles the meeting with an old one.
Religion does what philosophy could never do.—It shows the equal dealings of heaven to the happy and the unhappy, and levels all human enjoyments to nearly the same standard.—It offers to both rich and poor the same happiness hereafter, and equal hopes to aspire after it.
Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we may fall.
People seldom improve, when they have no other model but themselves to copy after.
Mortifications are often more painful than real calamities.
It has been said that he who retires to solitude is either a beast or an angel; the censure is too severe, and the praise unmerited: the discontented being, who retires from society, is generally some good-natured man, who has begun his life without experience, and knew not how to gain it in his intercourse with mankind.
It is usually said by grammarians, that the use of language is to express our wants and desires; but men who know the world hold that he who best knows how to keep his necessities private, is the most likely person to have them redressed; and that the true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.
Winter, lingering, chills the lap of May.
A boy will learn more true wisdom in a public school in a year than by a private education in five.—It is not from masters, but from their equals that youth learn a knowledge of the world.
There is an unspeakable pleasure attending the life of a voluntary student.
The unaffected of every country nearly resemble each other, and a page of Confucius and Tillotson have scarce any material difference, paltry affectation, strained allusions, and disgusting finery are easily attained by those who choose to wear them; they are but too frequently the badges of ignorance or of stupidity whenever it would endeavor to please.
Tenderness, without a capacity of relieving, only makes the man who feels it more wretched than the object which sues for assistance.
The wise sometimes condescend to accept of titles; but none but a fool would imagine them of any real importance. We ought to depend upon intrinsic merit, and not on the slender helps of a title.
The Chinese have a saying, that an unlucky word dropped.from the tongue, cannot be brought back again by a coach and six horses.
Some are found to travel with no other intent than that of understanding and collecting pictures, studying seals, and describing statues; on they travel from this cabinet of curiosities to that gallery of pictures; waste the prime of life in wonder; skilful in pictures; ignorant in men; yet impossible to be reclaimed, because their follies take shelter under the names of delicacy and taste.
Those who place their affections at first on trifles for amusement, will find these become at last their most serious concerns.
Villainy, when detected, never gives up, but boldly adds impudence to imposture.
That virtue which requires to be ever guarded is scarce worth the sentinel.
The weak soul, within itself unblest, leans for all pleasure on another's breast.
What real good does an addition to a fortune, already sufficient, procure? Not any. Could the great man, by having his fortune increased, increase also his appetites, then precedence might be attended with real enjoyment.
I chose my wife, as she did her wedding-gown, for qualities that would wear well.
The wisdom of the ignorant somewhat resembles the instinct of animals; it is diffused only in a very narrow sphere, but within the circle it acts with vigor, uniformity, and success.
Women famed for their valor, their skill in politics, or their learning, leave the duties of their own sex, in order to invade the privileges of ours. I can no more pardon a fair one for endeavoring to wield the club of Hercules, than I could a man for endeavoring to twirl her distaff.