JOHNSON, Samuel Quotes
(1709-1784), English author, lexicographer and conversationalist
Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.
Abuse is often of service.
The difference between coarse and refined abuse is the difference between being bruised by a club and wounded by a poisoned arrow.
If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone; one should keep his friendships in constant repair.
Admiration must be kept up by the novelty that at first produced it; and how much soever is given, there must always be the impression that more remains.
Adversity has ever been considered the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, then, especially, being free from flatterers.
Advice is seldom welcome. Those who need it most, like it least.
Among the numerous stratagems by which pride endeavors to recommend folly to regard, scarcely one meets with less success than affectation, which is a perpetual disguise of the real character by false appearances.
Affectation differs from hypocrisy in being the art of counterfeiting qualities which we might with innocence and safety be known to want.—Hypocrisy is the necessary burden of villainy; affectation, a part of the chosen trappings of folly.
Affectation naturally counterfeits those excellencies which are farthest from our attainment, because knowing our defects we eagerly endeavor to supply them with artificial excellence.
Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.
Age is rarely despised but when it is contemptible.
Cautious age suspects the flattering form, and only credits what experience tells.
I am a reat friend to public amusements, for they keep people from vice.
The worst evils are those that never arrive.
He is a benefactor of mankind who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences, that may be easily impressed on the memory, and so recur habitually to the mind.
The excellence of aphorisms consists not so much in the expression of some rare or abstruse sentiment, as in the comprehension of some useful truth in few words.
That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force on the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer amid the ruins of Iona.
The two most engaging powers of an author, are, to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.
The lust of gold, unfeeling and remorseless, the last corruption of degenerate man.
Bashfulness may sometimes exclude pleasure, but seldom opens any avenue to sorrow or remorse.
Those only who live with a man can write his life with any genuine exactness and discrimination, and few people who have lived with a man know what to remark about him.
History can be frmed from permanent monuments and records; but lives can only be written from personal knowledge, which is growing every day less, and in a short time is lost forever.
Tradition is but a meteor, which, if it once falls, cannot be rekindled.—Memory, once interrupted, is not to be recalled.—But written learning is a fixed luminary, which, after the cloud that had hidden it has passed away, is again bright in its proper station.—So books are faithful repositories, which may be awhile neglected or forgotten, but when opened again, will again impart instruction.
Books that you may carry to the fireside, and hold readily in your hand, are the most useful after all.
There is no book so poor that it would not be a prodigy if wholly wrought out by a single mind, without the aid of prior investigators.
Books to judicious compilers, are useful; to particular arts and professions, they are absolutely necessary; to men of real science, they are tools: but more are tools to them.
Books (says Bacon) can never teach the use of books; the student must learn by commerce with mankind to reduce his speculations to practice. No man should think so highly of himself as to suppose he can receive but little light from books, nor so meanly as to believe he can discover nothing but what is to be learned from them.
Dead counsellors are the most instructive, because they are heard with patience and reverence.
When any calamity has been suffered, the first thing to be remembered, is, how much has been escaped.
The habit of looking on the best side of every event is worth more than a thousand pounds a year.
Your levelers wish to level down as far as themselves.—But they cannot bear leveling up to themselves.—They would all have some people under them.—Why not then have some people above them?
The superiority of some men is merely local.—They are great because their associates are little.
The usual fortune of complaint is to excite contempt more than pity.
Confidence is a plant of slow growth; especially in an aged bosom.
Combinations of wickedness would overwhelm the world by the advantage which licentious principles afford, did not those who have long practiced perfidy grow faithless to each other.
The fountain of content must spring up in the mind; and he who has so little knowledge of human nature as to see happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he proposes to remove.
Assertion is not argument; to contradict the statement of an opponent is not proof that you are correct.
The lustre of diamonds is invigorated by the interposition of darker bodies; the lights of a picture are created by the shades; the highest pleasure which nature has indulged to sensitive perception is that of rest after fatigue.
Foppery is never cured.—It is the bad stamina of the mind, which, like those of the body, are never rectified.—Once a coxcomb, always a coxcomb.
Credulity is the common failing of inexperienced virtue; and he who is spontaneously suspicious may justly be charged with radical corruption.
Criticism, as it was first instituted by Aristotle, was meant as a standard of judging well.
Cunning has effect from the credulity of others. It requires no extraordinary talents to lie and deceive.
Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.—Every advance into knowledge opens new prospects and produces new incitements to further progress.
The gratification of curiosity rather frees us from uneasiness, than confers pleasure.—We are more pained by ignorance, than delighted by instruction.—Curiosity is the thirst of the soul.
The chief benefit of dancing is to learn one how to sit still.
To neglect, at any time, preparation for death, is to sleep on our post at a siege; to omit it in old age, is to sleep at an attack.
Do not accustom yourself to consider debt only as an inconvenience; you will find it a calamity.
When desperate ills demand a speedy cure, distrust is cowardice, and prudence folly.
No man is defeated without some resentment, which will be continued with obstinacy while he believes himself in the right, and asserted with bitterness, if even to his own conscience he is detected in the wrong.
No degree of knowledge attainable by man is able to set him above the want of hourly assistance.
Some desire is necessary to keep life in motion; he whose real wants are supplied, must admit those of fancy.
Where necessity ends, desire and curiosity begin; no sooner are we supplied with everything nature can demand, than we sit down to contrive artificial appetites.
The most illiterate man who is touched with devotion, and uses frequent exercises of it, contracts a certain greatness of mind, mingled with a noble simplicity, that raises him above others of the same condition. By this, a man in the lowest condition will not appear mean, or in the most splendid fortune insolent.
Diffidence may check resolution, and obstruct performance, but it compensates its embarrassments by more important advantages.—It conciliates the proud, and softens the severe; averts envy from excellence, and censure from miscarriage.
What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.
Before dinner, men meet with great inequality of understanding, and those who are conscious of their inferiority have the modesty not to talk: when they have drunk wine, every man feels himself happy, and loses that modesty, and grows impudent and vociferous; but he is not improved; he is only not sensible of his defects.
He who expects much will be often disappointed; yet disappointment seldom cures us of expectation, or has any other effect than that of producing a moral sentence or peevish exclamation.
No money is better spent than what is laid out for domestic satisfaction.—A man is pleased that his wife is dressed as well as other people, and the wife is pleased that she is so dressed.
In civilized society external advantages make us more respected.—A man with a good coat on his back meets with a better reception than he who has a bad one.—You may analyze this and say, what is there in it?—But that will avail you nothing, for it is a part of a general system.
The maxim, "in vino Veritas—that a man who is well warmed with wine will speak truth," may be an argument for drinking, if you suppose men in general to be liars; but, sir, I would not keep company with a fellow, who lies as long as he is sober, and whom you must make drunk before you can get a word of truth out of him.
Waste cannot be accurately told, though we are sensible how destructive it is. Economy on the one hand, by which a certain income is made to maintain a man genteelly; and waste on the other, by which, on the same income, another man lives shabbily, cannot be defined. It is a very nice thing; as one man wears his coat out much sooner than another, we cannot tell how.
Without economy none can be rich, and with it few will be poor.
Every man ought to aim at eminence, not by pulling others down, but by raising himself; and enjoy the pleasures of his own superiority, whether imaginary or real, without interrupting others in the same felicity.
Extended empire, like expanded gold exchanges solid strength for feeble splendor.
The safe and general antidote against sorrow, is employment. It is commonly observed, that among soldiers and seamen, though there is much kindness, there is little grief; they see their friend fall without that lamentation which is indulged in security and idleness, because they have no leisure to spare from the care of themselves; and whoever shall keep his thoughts equally busy, will find himself equally unaffected by irretrievable losses.
Where there is emulation, there will be vanity; where there is vanity, there will be folly.
We ought not to raise expectations which it is not in our power to satisfy.—It is more pleasing to see smoke brightening into flame, than flame sinking into smoke.
Whatever advantage or enjoyment we snatch beyond the certain portion allotted us by nature, is like money spent before it is due, which at the time of regular payment will be missed and regretted.
All envy is proportionate to desire; we are uneasy at the attainments of another, according as we think our own happiness would be advanced by the addition of that which he withhol from us; and therefore whatever depresses immoderate wishes, will, at the same time, set the heart free from the corrosion of envy, and exempt us from that vice which is, above most others, tormenting to ourselves, hateful to the world, and productive of mean artifices and sordid projects.
Envy feels not its own happiness but when it may be compared with the misery of others.
So far is it from being true that men are naturally equal, that no two people can be half an hour together but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other.
There is little peace or comfort in life if we are always anxious as to future events.—He that worries himself with the dread of possible contingencies will never be at rest.
Those who attain to any excellence commonly spend life in some one single pursuit, for excellence is not often gained upon easier terms.
I take the true definition of exercise to be, labor without weariness.
We love to expect, and when expectation is either disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting.
No money is better spent than what is laid out for domestic satisfaction. A man is pleased that his wife is dressed as well as other people, and the wife is pleased that she is so dressed.
He that is extravagant will soon become poor, and poverty will enforce dependence, and invite corruption.
The balls of sight are so formed, that one man's eyes are spectacles to another, to read his heart with.
Some men relate what they think, as what they know; some men of confused memories, and habitual inaccuracy, ascribe to one man what belongs to another; and some talk on without thought or care. A few men are sufficient to broach falsehoods, which are afterwards innocently diffused by successive relaters.
It is more from carelessness about the truth, than from intention of lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.
He that pursues fame with just claims, trusts his happiness to the winds; but he that endeavors after it by false merit, has to fear, not only the violence of the storm, but the leaks of his vessel.
To get a name can happen but to few: it is one of the few things that cannot be bought.—It is the free gift of mankind, which must be deserved before it will be granted, and is at last unwillingly bestowed.
Fear is implanted in us as a preservative from evil; but its duty, like that of other passions, is not to overbear reason, but to assist it.—It should not be suffered to tyrannize in the imagination, to raise phantoms of horror, or to beset life with supernumerary distresses.
All fear is painful, and when it conduces not to safety, is painful without use.—Every consideration, therefore, by which groundless terrors may be removed, adds something to human happiness.
He that is much flattered soon learns to flatter himself.—We are commonly taught our duty by fear or shame, but how can they act upon a man who hears nothing but his own praises?
To be flattered is grateful, even when we know that our praises are not believed by those who pronounce them; for they prove at least our power, and show that our favor is valued, since it is purchased by the meanness of falsehood.
Foppery is never cured; it is of the bad stamina of the mind, which, like those of the body, are never rectified.—Once a coxcomb, always a coxcomb.
Of him that hopes to be forgiven it is required that he forgive.—On this great duty eternity is suspended; and to him that refuses to practice it the throne of mercy is inaccessible, and the Saviour of the world has been born in vain.
If a man does not make new acquaintances as he passes through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair.
Frugality may be termed the daughter of prudence, the sister of temperance, and the parent of liberty. He that is extravagant will quickly become poor, and poverty will enforce dependence and invite corruption.
He seldom lives frugally who lives by chance. Hope is always liberal, and they that trust her promises make little scruple of revelling today on the profits of tomorrow.
Gayety is to good humor, as animal perfumes to vegetable fragrance: the one overpowers weak spirits, the other recreates and revives them.
Genius is but a mind of large general powers accidentally determined in a particular direction.
The lust of gold, unfeeling and remorseless; the last corruption of degenerate man.
It is observed of gold, in an old epigram, that to have it is to be in fear, and to want it is to be in sorrow.
To purchase heaven has gold the power? can gold remove the mortal hour? in life can love be bought with gold? are friendship's pleasures to be sold? no—all that's worth a wish—a thought, fair virtue gives unbribed, unbought. Cease then on trash thy hopes to bind, let nobler views engage thy mind.
As I know more of mankind I expect less of them, and am ready to call a man a good man upon easier terms than I was formerly.
The superiority of some men is merely local. They are great because their associates are little.
Nothing can be truly great which is not right.
While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates.—You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.
Guilt once harbored in the conscious breast, intimidates the brave, degrades the great.
The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.
Long customs are not easily broken; he that attempts to change the course of his own life very often labors in vain.
That all who are happy are equally happy is not true. A peasant and a philosopher may be equally satisfied, but not equally happy.
To preserve health is a moral and religious duty, for health is the basis of all social virtues.—We can no longer be useful when not well.
Health is certainly more valuable than money, because it is by health that money is procured; but thousands and millions are of small avail to alleviate the tortures of the gout, to repair the broken organs of sense, or resuscitate the powers of digestion. Poverty is, indeed, an evil from which we naturally fly; but let us not run from one enemy to another, nor take shelter in the arms of sickness.
Health is so necessary to all the duties, as well as pleasures of life, that the crime of squandering it is equal to the folly.
The heroes of literary history have been no less remarkable for what they have suffered, than for what they have achieved.
There is no part of history so generally useful as that which relates to the progress of the human mind, the gradual improvement of reason, the successive advances of science, the vicissitudes of learning and ignorance, the extinction and resuscitation of arts, and the revolutions of the intellectual world.—If accounts of battles and invasions are peculiarly the business of princes, the useful and elegant arts are not to be neglected, and those who have kingdoms to govern have understandings to cultivate.
The present state of things is the consequence of the past; and it is natural to inquire as to the sources of the good we enjoy or the evils we suffer. If we act oniy for ourselves, to neglect the study of history is not prudent; if intrusted with the care of others, it is not just.
We must consider how very little history there is; I mean real, authentic history.—That certain kings reigned, and certain battles were fought, we can depend on as true; but all the coloring, all the philosophy of history is conjecture.
To be happy at home is the ultimate aim of all ambition; the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.
It is indeed at home that every man must be known by those who would make a just estimate either of his virtue or felicity; for smiles and embroidery are alike occasional, and the mind is often dressed for show in painted honor and fictitious benevolence.
If he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.
It is worth a thousand pounds a year to have the habit of looking on the bright side of things.
Hope is always liberal, and they that trust her promises make little scruple of reveling today on the profits of tomorrow.
It is necessary to hope, though hope should be always deluded; for hope itself is happiness, and its frustrations, however frequent, are yet less dreadful than its extinction.
Whatever enlarges hope will also exalt courage.
Hope is the chief blessing of man; and that hope only is rational of which we are sensible that it cannot deceive us.
Where there is no hope, there can be no endeavor.
Christianity is the highest perfection of humanity.
No man is a hypocrite in his pleasures.
Hypocrisy is the necessary burden of villainy; affectation, part of the chosen trappings of folly; the one completes a villain, the other only finishes a fop. Contempt is the proper punishment of affectation, and detestation the just consequence of hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is the necessary burden of villainy.
Among those whom I never could persuade to rank themselves with idlers, and who speak with indignation of my morning sleeps and nocturnal rambles, one passes the day in catching spiders, that he may count their eyes with a microscope; another exhibits the dust of of a marigold separated from the flower with a dexterity worthy of Leuwenhoeck himself. Some turn the wheel of electricity; some suspend rings to a loadstone, and find that what they did yesterday, they can do again today.— Some register the changes of the wind, and die fully convinced that the wind is changeable.—There are men yet more profound, who have heard that two colorless liquors may produce a color by union, and that two cold bodies will grow hot if they are mingled: they mingle them, and produce the effect expected, say it is strange, and mingle them again.
To be idle and to be poor have always been reproaches; and therefore every man endeavors with his utmost care to hide his poverty from others, and his idleness from himself.
Ignorance is a mere privation, by which nothing can be produced; it is a vacuity in which the soul sits motionless and torpid for want of attraction.
Ignorance, when voluntary, is criminal, and a man may be properly charged with that evil which he neglected or refused to learn how to prevent.
Many have no happier moments than those that they pass in solitude, abandoned to their own imagination, which sometimes puts sceptres in their hands or miters on their heads, shifts the scene of pleasure with endless variety, bids all the forms of beauty sparkle before them, and gluts them with every change of visionary luxury.
No man will be found in whose mind airy notions do not sometimes tyrannize, and force him to hope or fear beyond the limits of sober probability.
Whatever makes the past or future predominate over the present, exalts us in the scale of thinking beings.
How gloomy would be the mansions of the dead to him who did, not know that he should never die; that what now acts, shall continue its agency, and what now thinks, shall think on forever.
In all evils which admit a remedy, impatience should be avoided, because it wastes that time and attention in complaints which, if properly applied, might remove the cause.
Peevishness may be considered the canker of life, that destroys its vigor, and checks its improvement; that creeps on with hourly depredations, and taints and vitiates what it cannot consume.
A man has no more right to say an uncivil thing than to act one; no more right to say a rude thing to another than to knock him down.
It was perhaps ordained by Providence, to hinder us from tyrannizing over one another, that no individual should be of so much importance as to cause, by his retirement or death, any chasm in the world.
The purpose of an injury is to vex and trouble me.—Now, nothing can do that to him that is truly valiant.
Against the head which innocence secures, insidious malice aims her darts in vain; turned backward by the powerful breath of heaven.
There is nothing yet contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.
In ancient days the most celebrated precept was, "know thyself"; in modern times it has been supplanted by the more fashionable maxim, "Know thy neighbor and everything about him."
All power of fancy over reason is a degree of insanity.
Fate never wounds more deeply the generous heart, than when a blockhead's insult points the dart.
Whatever be the motive of an insult it is always best to overlook it; for folly scarcely can deserve resentment, and malice is punished by neglect.
Judgment is forced upon us by experience.
To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.
The seeds of knowledge may be planted in solitude, but must be cultivated in public.
There is nothing so minute, or inconsiderable, that I would not rather know it than not.
Knowledge is more than equivalent to force. The master of mechanics laughs at strength.
When a king asked Euclid, whether he could not explain his art to him in a more compendious manner, he was answered, that there was no royal way to geometry. Other things may be seized by might, or purchased with money; but knowledge is to be gained only by study, and study to be prosecuted only in retirement.
Knowledge always desires increase; it is like fire, which must first be kindled by some external agent, but which will afterward propagate itself.
Excellence in any department can be attained only by the labor of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price.
Language is the dress of thought.
The common people do not accurately adapt their thoughts to objects; nor, secondly, do they accurately adapt their words to their thoughts; they do not mean to lie; but, taking no pains to be exact, they give you very false accounts. A great part of their language is proverbial; if anything rocks at all, they say it rocks like a cradle; and in this way they go on.
Poetry cannot be translated; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve the languages; for we would not be at the trouble to leam a language if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation. But as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language.
Language is only the instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas.
There is no tracing the connection of ancient nations but by language; therefore I am always sorry when any language is lost, for languages are the pedigree of nations.
The plaintiff and defendant in an action at law, are like two men ducking their heads in a bucket, and daring each other to remain longest under water.
To embarrass justice by a multiplicity of laws, or to hazard it by confidence in judges, are the opposite rocks on which all civil institutions have been wrecked, and between which legislative wisdom has never yet found an open passage.
Penal laws—by which every man's danger becomes every man's safety, and by which, though all are restrained, yet all are benefited.
Learning once made popular is no longer learning; it has the appearance of something which we have bestowed upon ourselves, as the dew appears to rise from the field which it refreshes.
The chief art of learning, as Locke has observed, is to attempt but little at a time. The widest excursions of the mind are made by short flights frequently repeated; the most lofty fabrics of science are formed by the continued accumulation of single propositions.
You cannot give an instance of any man who is permitted to lay out his own time, contriving not to have tedious hours.
Your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves, but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves.
The certainty that life cannot be long and the probability that it will be shorter than nature allows, ought to waken every man to the active prosecution of whatever he is desirous to perform. It is true that no diligence can ensure success; death may intercept the swiftest career; but he who is cut off in the execution of an honest undertaking, has at least the honor of falling in his rank, and has fought the battle though he missed the victory.
He that embarks in the voyage of life will always wish to advance rather by the impulse of the wind than the strokes of the oar; and many founder in their passage, while they lie waiting for the gale.
Life, like every other blessing, derives its value from its use alone. Not for itself, but for a nobler end the eternal gave it; and that end is virtue.
There is nothing too little for so little a creature as man.—It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.
You cannot spend money in luxury without doing good to the poor. Nay, you do more good to them by spending it in luxury than by giving; you make them exert industry, whereas, by giving it, you keep them idle.
Where necessity ends, curiosity begins; and no sooner are we supplied with everything that nature can demand, than we sit down to contrive artificial appetites.
A man, whose great qualities want the ornament of exterior attractions, is like a naked mountain with mines of gold, which will be frequented only till the treasure is exhausted.
Good breeding consists in having no particular mark of any profession, but a general elegance of manners.
Were a man not to marry a second time, it might be concluded that his first wife had given him a disgust to marriage; but by taking a second wife, he pays the highest compliment to the first, by showing that she made him so happy as a married man, that he wishes to be so a second time.
A good wife is like the ivy which beautifies the building to which it clings, twining its tendrils more lovingly as time converts the ancient edifice into a ruin.
I believe marriages would in general be as happy, and often more so, if they were all made by the Lord Chancellor, upon a due consideration of the characters and circumstances, without the parties having any choice in the matter.
When we see the avaricious and crafty taking companions to their tables, and their beds, without any inquiry but after farms and money; or the giddy and thoughtless uniting themselves for life to those whom they have only seen by the light of tapers; when parents make articles for children without inquiring after their consent; when some marry for heirs to disappoint their brothers; and others throw themselves into the arms of those whom they do not love, because they have found themselves rejected where they were more solicitous to please; when some marry because their servants cheat them; some because they squander their own money; some because their houses are pestered with companv; some because they will live like other people; and some because they are sick of themselves, we are not so much inclined to wonder that marriage is sometimes unhappy, as that it appears so little loaded with calamity, and cannot but conclude that society has something in itself eminently agreeable to human nature, when we find its pleasures so great, that even the ill choice of a companion can hardly overbalance them.—Those, therefore, that rail against matrimony, should be informed, that they are neither to wonder, or repine, that a contract begun on such principles has ended in disappointment.
Marriage is the strictest tie of perpetual friendship, and there can be no friendship without confidence, and no confidence without integrity, and he must expect to be wretched, who pays to beauty, riches, or politeness that regard which only virtue and piety can claim.
If a man's wits be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away ever so little, he must begin again.
We consider ourselves as defective in memory, either because we remember less than we desire, or less than we suppose others to remember.
The true art of memory is the art of attention.
The two offices of memory are collection and distribution.
A truly strong and sound mind is the mind that can equally embrace great things and small.—I would have a man great in great things, and elegant in little things.
The end which at present calls forth our efforts will be found, when it is once gained, to be only one of the means to some remoter end. The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.
As the mind must govern the hands, so in every society the man of intelligence must direct the man of labor.
Old Times have bequeathed us a precept, to be merry and wise, but who has been able to observe it?
Merriment is always the effect of a sudden impression. The jest which is expected is already destroyed.
Nothing is more hopeless than a scheme of merriment.
Misery is caused for the most part, not by a heavy crush of disaster, but by the corrosion of less visible evils, which canker enjoyment, and undermine security. The visit of an invader is necessarily rare, but domestic animosities allow no cessation.
If misery be the effect of virtue, it ought to be reverenced; if of ill-fortune, to be pitied; and if of vice, not to be insulted, because it is, perhaps, itself a punishment adequate to the crime by which it was produced; and the humanity of that man can deserve no panegyric who is capable of reproaching a criminal in the hands of the executioner.
We should pass on from crime to crime, heedless and remorseless, if misery did not stand in our way, and our own pains admonish us of our folly.
Depend upon it, that if a man talks of his misfortunes there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him: for where there is nothing but pure misery, there never is any mention of it.
Get together a hundred or two men, however sensible they may be, and you are very likely to have a mob.
Men are seldom more innocently employed than when they are honestly making money.
Money and time are the heaviest burdens of life, and the unhappiest of all mortals are those who have more of either than they know how to use.
The Christian religion is the only one that puts morality on its proper, and the right basis, viz: the fear and love of God.
The morality of an action depends upon the motive from which we act. If I fling half a crown to a beggar with intention to break his head, and he picks it up and buys victuals with it, the physical effect is good; but with respect to me, the action is very wrong.
When we see our enemies and friends gliding away before us, let us not forget that we are subject to the general law of mortality, and shall soon be where our doom will be fixed forever.
The two great movers of the human mind are the desire of good, and the fear of evil.
The morality of an action depends upon the motive from which we act.
A man finds in the productions of nature an inexhaustible stock of material on which he can employ himself, without any temptations to envy or malevolence, and has always a certain prospect of discovering new reasons for adoring the sovereign author of the universe.
It is observed in the golden verses of Pythagoras, that power is never far from necessity. The vigor of the human mind quickly appears when there is no longer any place for doubt and hesitation, when diffidence is absorbed in the sense of danger, or overwhelmed by some resistless passion.
He that thinks he can afford to be negligent, is not far from being poor.
These papers of the day have uses more adequate to the purposes of common life than more pompous and durable volumes.
Rash oaths, whether kept or broken, frequently lead to guilt.
Objects imperfectly discerned take forms from the hope or fear of the beholder.
The prosperity of a people is proportionate to the number of hands and minds usefully employed. To the community, sedition is a fever, corruption is a gangrene, and idleness is an atrophy. Whatever body or society wastes more than it acquires, must gradually decay; and every jeing that continues to be fed, and ceases to labor, takes away something from the public stock.
You cannot give an instance of any man who is permitted to lay out his own time, contriving not to have tedious hours.
It is common to overlook what is near by keeping the eye fixed on something remote. In the same manner present opportunities are neglected and attainable good is slighted by minds busied in extensive ranges, and intent upon future advantages. Life, however short, is made shorter by waste of time.
To improve the golden moment of opportunity and catch the good that is within our reach, is the great art of life.
Order is a lovely nymph, the child of beauty and wisdom; her attendants are comfort, neatness, and activity; her abode is the valley of happiness: she is always to be found when sought for, and never appears so lovely as when contrasted with her opponent, disorder.
Those writers who lie on the watch for novelty can have little hope of greatness; for great things cannot have escaped former observation.
Of all kinds of credulity, the most obstinate is that of party-spirit; of men, who, being numbered, they know not why, in any party, resign the use of their own eyes and ears, and resolve to believe nothing that does not favor those whom they profess to follow.
Men are not blindly betrayed into corruption, but abandon themselves to their passions with their eyes open; and lose the direction of truth, because they do not attend to her voice, not because they do not understand it.
Passion, in its first violence, controls interest, as the eddy for a while runs against the stream.
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
It is reasonable to have perfection in our eye that we may always advance toward it, though we know it can never be reached.
All the performances of human art, at which we look with praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance: it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united with canals. If a man was to compare the effect of a single stroke of the pick-ax, or of one impression of the spade with the general design and last result, he would be overwhelmed by the sense of their disproportion; yet those petty operations, incessantly continued, in time surmount the greatest difficulties, and mountains are levelled, and oceans bounded, by the slender force of human beings.
Piety is the only proper and adequate relief of decaying man. He that grows old without religious hopes, as he declines into imbecility, and feels pains and sorrows crowding upon him, falls into a gulf of bottomless misery, in which every reflection must plunge him deeper and deeper.
Pity is not natural to man. Children and savages are always cruel. Pity is acquired and improved by the cultivation of reason. We may have uneasy sensations from seeing a creature in distress, without pity; but we have not pity unless we wish to relieve his. When I am on my way to dine with a friend, and, finding it late, bid the coachman make haste, when he whips his horses I may feel unpleasantly that the animals are put to pain, but I do not wish him to desist; no, sir; I wish him to drive on.
We all live in the hope of pleasing somebody; and the pleasure of pleasing ought to be greatest, and always will be greatest, when our endeavors are exerted in consequence of our duty.
The slave of pleasure soon sinks in a kind of voluptuous dotage; intoxicated with present delights, and careless of everything else, his days and nights glide away in luxury or vice, and he has no care, but to keep thought away: for thought is troublesome to him, who lives without his own approbation.
Pleasure is in general, dangerous and pernicious to virtue.—To be able, therefore, to furnish pleasure that is harmless and pure and unalloyed, is as great a power as man can possess.
Pleasure is very seldom found where it is sought. Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.
The public pleasures of far the greater part of mankind are counterfeit. Very few carry their philosophy to places of diversion, or are very careful to analyze their enjoyments. The general condition of life is so full of misery, that we are glad to catch delight without inquiring whence it comes, or by what power it is bestowed.
Politeness is fictitious benevolence. It supplies the place of it among those who see each other only in public, or but little. The want of it never fails to produce something disagreeable to one or other.
The true effect of genuine politeness seems to be rather ease than pleasure.
Attainment is followed by neglect, and possession by disgust. The malicious remark of the Greek epigrammatist on marriage may apply to every other course of life—that its two days of happiness are the first and the last.
It is the great privilege of poverty to be happy and yet unenvied, to be healthy without physic, secure without a guard, and to obtain from the bounty of nature what the great and wealthy are compelled to procure by the help of art.
Poverty, in large cities, has very different appearances. It is often concealed in splendor, and often in extravagance. It is the care of a great part of mankind to conceal their indigence from the rest. They support themselves by temporary expedients, and every day is lost in contriving for tomorrow.
The real satisfaction which praise can afford, is when what is repeated aloud agrees with the whispers of conscience, by showing us that we have not endeavored to deserve well in vain.
Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity. It becomes cheap as it becomes vulgar, and will no longer raise expectation or animate enterprise.
Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practise; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory; as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage or a journey, Without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others those attempts which he neglects himself.
The future is purchased by the present.
The liberty of the press is a blessing when we are inclined to write against others, and a calamity when we find ourselves overborne by the multitude of our assailants.
Pride is seldom delicate; it will please itself with very mean advantages.
Pride is a vice, which pride itself inclines every man to find in others, and to overlook in himself.
Prosperity's right hand is industry, and her left hand is frugality.
We frequently fall into error and folly, not because the true principles of action are not known, but because for a time they are not remembered; he may, therefore, justly be numbered among the benefactors of mankind who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences that may early be impressed on the memory, and taught by frequent recollection to occur habitually to the mind.
Those who, in the confidence of superior capacities or attainments, neglect the common maxims of life, should be reminded that nothing will supply the want of prudence; but that negligence and irregularity, long continued, will make knowledge useless, wit ridiculous, and genius contemptible.
There are innumerable questions to which the inquisitive mind can, in this state, receive no answer; Why do you and I exist? Why was this world created? And since it was to be created, why was it not created sooner?
Quotation, sir, is a good thing; there is a community of mind in it: classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world.
Particles of science are often very widely scattered, and writers of extensive comprehension have incidental remarks upon topics remote from the principal subject, which are often more valuable than former treatises, and which are not known because not promised in the title. He that collects these is very laudably employed, as he facilitates the progress of others, and by making that easy of attainment which is already written, may give some adventurous mind leisure for new thoughts and original designs.
He that recalls the attention of mankind to any part of learning which time has left behind it, may be truly said to advance the literature of his own age.
Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language.
Quotation is the highest compliment you can pay to an author.
One of the amusements of idleness is reading without the fatigue of close attention, and the world, therefore, swarms with writers whose wish is not to be studied but to be read.
For general improvement, a man should read whatever his immediate inclination prompts him to; though if he has a science to learn, he must regularly and resolutely advance. What we read with inclination makes a stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention, so there is but half to be employed on what we read. If a man begins to read in the middle of a book, and feels an inclination to go on, let him not quit it to go to the beginning. He may perhaps not feel again the inclination.
The foundation of knowledge must be laid by reading. General principles must be had from books, which, however, must be brought to the test of real life. In conversation you never get a system. What is said upon a subject is to be gathered from a hundred people. The parts of a truth, which a man gets thus, are at such a distance from each other that he never attains to a full view.
One ought to read just as inclination takes him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good.
What is twice read is commonly better remembered than what is transcribed.
Your giving a reason for it will not make it right.—You may have a reason why two and two should make five, but they will still make but four.
Reason is like the sun, of which the light is constant, uniform, and lasting; fancy, a meteor of bright, but transitory luster, irregular in its motion, and delusive in its direction.
It is in refinement and elegance that the civilized man differs from the savage.
Every man deeply engaged in business, if all regard to another state be not extinguished, must have the conviction, if not the resolution of one who, being asked whether he retired from the army in disgust, answered, "that he laid down his commission for no other reason, but because there ought to be some time for sober reflection between the life of a soldier and his death."
A life that will bear the inspection of men and of God is the only certificate of true religion.
It is a common error, and the greater and more mischievous for being so common, to believe that repentance best becomes and most concerns dying men. Indeed, what is necessary every hour of our life is necessary in the hour of death too, and as long as one lives he will have need of repentance, and therefore it is necessary in the hour of death too; but he who hath constantly exercised himself in it in his health and vigor, will do it with less pain in his sickness and weakness; and he who hath practiced it all his life, will do it with more ease and less perplexity in the hour of his death.
The blaze preparation cannot be blown out, but it often dies in the socket.
Resentment is a union of sorrow with malignity; a combination of a passion which all endeavor to avoid with a passion which all concur to detest.
Don't think of retiring from the world until the world will be sorry that you retire. I hate a fellow whom pride or cowardice or laziness drive into a corner, and who does nothing when he is there but sit and growl. Let him come out as I do, and bark.
Riches exclude only one inconvenience, and that is poverty.
Every man is rich or poor, according to the proportion between his desires and enjoyments. Of riches as of everything else, the hope is more than the enjoyment. While we consider them as the means to be used at some future time for the attainment of felicity, ardor after them secures us from weariness of ourselves; but no sooner do we sit down to enjoy our acquisitions than we find them insufficient to fill up the vacuities of life.
One cause, which is not always observed, of the insufficiency of riches, is that they very seldom make their owner rich.
Every man is rich or poor according to the proportion between his desires and his enjoyments.
Attainment is followed by neglect, possession by disgust, and the malicious remark of the Greek epigrammatist on marriage, may be applied to many another course of life, that its two days of happiness are the first and the last.
I know not any crime so great a man could contrive to commit, as poisoning the sources of eternal truth.
Secrets are so seldom kept, that it may be with some reason doubted, whether the quality of retention be generally bestowed, and whether a secret has not some subtile volatility by which it escapes imperceptibility, at the smallest vent, or some power of fermentation, by which it expands itself, so as to burst the heart that will not give it way.
To tell our own secrets is generally folly, but that folly is without guilt; to communicate those with which we are intrusted is always treachery, and treachery for the most part combined with folly.
Where secrecy or mystery begins, vice or roguery is not far off.
It may be no less dangerous to claim, on certain occasions, too little than too much. There is something captivating in spirit and intrepidity, to which we often yield as to a resistless power; nor can he reasonably expect the confidence of others who too apparently distrusts himself.
Slander is the revenge of a coward, and dissimulation his defence.
The love of retirement has in all ages adhered closely to those minds which have been most enlarged by knowledge, or elevated by genius. Those who enjoyed everything generally supposed to confer happiness have been forced to seek it in the shades of privacy.
Some men weave their sophistry till their own reason is entangled.
Sorrow is a kind of rust of the soul which every new idea contributes in its passage to scour away. It is the putrefaction of stagnant life, and is remedied by exercise and motion.
Social sorrow loses half its pain.
Conjecture as to things useful is good; but conjecture as to what it would be useless to know, such as whether men ever went upon all-fours, is very idle.
When a king asked Euclid whether he could not explain his art to him in a more compendious manner? he was answered, that there was no royal way to geometry. Other things may be seized by might, or purchased with money, but knowledge is to be gained only by study, and study to be prosecuted only in retirement.
Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor, but, even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.
Impatience of study is the mental disease of the present generation.
Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.
Moderation is commonly firm, and firmness is commonly successful.
Suspicion is no less an enemy to virtue than to happiness. He that is already corrupt is naturally suspicious, and he that becomes suspicious will quickly be corrupt.
A man should be careful never to tell tales of himself to his own disadvantage; people may be amused, and laugh at the time, but they will be remembered, and brought up against him upon some subsequent occasion.
To resist temptation once is not a sufficient proof of honesty. If a servant, indeed, were to resist the continued temptation of silver lying in a window, when he is sure his master does not know how much there is of it, he would give a strong proof of honesty. But this is a proof to which you have no right to put a man. You know there is a certain degree of temptation which will overcome any virtue. Now, in so far as you approach temptation to a man, you do him an injury; and, if he is overcome, you share his guilt.
That fortitude which has encountered no dangers, that prudence which has surmounted no difficulties, that integrity which has been attacked by no temptation, can at best be considered but as gold not yet brought to the test, of which, therefore, the true value cannot be assigned.
Conjecture as to things useful, is good; but conjecture as to what it would be useless to know, is very idle.
It is much easier to design than to perform. A man proposes his schemes of life in a state of abstraction and disengagement, exempt from the enticements of hope, the solicitations of affection, the importunities of appetite, or the depressions of fear, and is in the same state with him that teaches upon land the art of navigation, to whom the sea is always smooth, and the wind always prosperous.
Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.
The man who threatens the world is always ridiculous; for the world can easily go on without him, and, in a short time, will cease to miss him.
An Italian philosopher said that "time was his estate"; an estate indeed which will produce nothing without cultivation, but will always abundantly repay the labors of industry, and generally satisfy the most extensive desires, if no part of it be suffered to lie waste by negligence, to be overrun with noxious plants, or laid out for show rather than for use.
Time, with all its celerity, moves slowly on to him whose whole employment is to watch its flight.
All travel has its advantages. If the traveller visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own; and if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy his own.
As the Spanish proverb says, "He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him"—so it is in travelling; a man must carry knowledge with him, if he would bring home knowledge.
The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and, instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.
Whoever shall review his life will find that the whole tenor of his conduct has been determined by some accident of no apparent moment.
Truth, like beauty, varies in its fashions, and is best recommended by different dresses to different minds; and he that recalls the attention of mankind to any part of learning which time has left behind it, may be truly said to advance the literature of his own age.
Accustom your children to a strict attention to truth, even in the most minute particulars. If a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly cheek them; you do not know where deviations from truth will end.
He that has a home, and a family, has given hostages to the community for good citizenship, but he that has no such connecting interests, is exposed to temptation, to idleness, and in danger of becoming useless, if not a burden and a nuisance in society.
Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him chat expresses zeal for these virtues which he neglects to practise; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others those attempts which he neglects himself.
If he does really think there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, sir, when he leaves our house let us count our spoons.
Of all the enemies of idleness, want is the most formidable. Want always struggles against idleness; but want herself is often overcome, and every hour shows some who had rather live in ease than in plenty.
Waste cannot be accurately told, though we are sensible how destructive it is. Economy, on the one hand, by which a certain income is made to maintain a man genteelly; and waste, on the other, by which on the same income another man lives shabbily, cannot be defined. It is a very nice thing; as one man wears his coat out much sooner than another, we cannot tell how.
Money and time are the heaviest burdens of life, and the unhappiest of all mortals are those who have more of either than they know how to use.
Wealth is nothing in itself; it is not useful but when it departs from us; its value is found only in that which it can purchase. As to corporeal enjoyment, money can neither open new avenues of pleasure, nor block up the passages of anguish. Disease and infirmity still continue to torture and enfeeble, perhaps exasperated by luxury, or promoted by softness. With respect to the mind, it has rarely been observed that wealth contributes much to quicken the discernment or elevate the imagination, but may, by hiring flattery, or laying diligence asleep, confirm error and harden stupidity.
Combinations of wickedness would overwhelm the world, by the advantage which licentious principles afford, did not those who have long practised perfidy grow faithless to each other.
He who has provoked the shaft of wit, cannot complain that he smarts from it.
All wonder is the effect of novelty on ignorance.
Buying, possessing, accumulating, this is not worldliness.—But doing this in the love of it, with no love to God paramount—doing it so that thoughts of God and eternity are an intrusion—doing it so that one's spirit is secularized in doing it—this is worldliness.
It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.
I love the acquaintance of young people; because, in the first place, I do not like to think myself growing old. In the next place, young acquaintances must last longest, if they do last; and then young men have more virtue than old men; they have more generous sentiments in every respect.