STERNE, Lawrence Quotes
(1713-1768), English clergyman and humorist
Beauty hath so many charms one knows not how to speak against it; and when a graceful figure is the habitation of a virtuous soul—when the beauty of the face speaks out the modesty and humility of the mind, it raises our thoughts up to the great Creator; but after all, beauty, like truth, is never so glorious as when it goes the plainest.
The best hearts are ever the bravest.
Of all the cants in this canting world, though the cant of hypocrites may be the worst, the cant of criticism is the most tormenting.
Every time a man smiles, and much more when he laughs, it adds something to his fragment of life.
Trust that man in nothing who has not a conscience in everything.
Before an affliction is digested, consolation comes too soon; and after it is digested, it comes too late; but there is a mark between these two, as fine almost as a hair, for a comforter to take aim at.
Hail! ye small sweet courtesies of life; for smooth do ye make the road of it, like grace and beauty, which beget inclinations to love at first sight; it is ye who open the door and let the stranger in.
Courtship consists in a number of quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as not to be understood.
Of all the cants in this canting world, deliver me from the cant of criticism.
Death opens the gate of fame, and shuts the gate of envy after it.—It unloosens the chain of the captive, and puts the bondsman's task in another's hands.
Great is the power of eloquence; but never is it so great as when it pleads along with nature, and the culprit is a child strayed from his duty, and returned to it again with tears.
It may be asked,—whether the inconveniences and ill-effects which the world feels from the licentiousness of this practice, are not sufficiently counterbalanced by the real influence it has upon men's lives and conduct?—for if there was no evil-speaking in the world, thousands would be encouraged to do ills, and would rush into many indecorums, like a horse into the battle, were they sure to escape the tongues of men.
The way to fame is like the way to heaven, through much tribulation.
A word—a look, which at one time would make no impression—at another time wounds the heart; and like a shaft flying with the wind, pierces deep, which, with its own natural force, would scarce have reached the object aimed at.
Only the brave know how to forgive; it is the most refined and generous pitch of virtue human nature can arrive at.
The very essence of assumed gravity is design, and consequently deceit; a taught trick to gain credit with the world for more sense and knowledge than a man is worth.
I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba, and cry it is all barren.
If the principles of contentment are not within us, the height of station and worldly grandeur will as soon add a cubit to a man's stature as to his happiness.
People who are always taking care of their health are like misers, who are hoarding up a treasure which they have never spirit enough to enjoy.
I live in a constant endeavor to fence against the infirmities of ill-health, and other evils of life, by mirth. I am persuaded that every time a man smiles—but much more so when he laughs—it adds something to this fragment of life.
What persons are by starts, they are by nature—you see them at such times off their guard.—Habit may restrain vice, and virtue may be obscured by passion, but intervals best discover man.
Freethinkers are generally those who never think at all.
An injury unanswered, in time grows weary of itself and dies away in voluntary remorse. In bad dispositions, capable of no restraint but fear, it has a different effect; the silent digestion of one wrong provokes a second.
I never drink.—I cannot do it on equal terms with others.—It costs them only one day; but it costs me three; the first in sinning, the second in suffering, and the third in repenting.
The happiness of life may be greatly increased by small courtesies in which there is no parade, whose voice is too still to tease, and which manifest themselves by tender and affectionate looks, and little kind acts of attention.
Nothing in this life, after health and virtue, is more estimable than knowledge,—nor is there anything so easily attained, or so cheaply purchased,—the labor, only sitting still, and the expense but time, which, if we do not spend, we cannot save.
The desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it.
I am persuaded that every time a man smiles, but much more when he laughs, it adds something to this fragment of life.
It is sweet to feel by what fine spun threads our affections are drawn together.
Madness is consistent, which is more than can be said of poor reason.—Whatever may be the ruling passion at the time continues so throughout the whole delirium, though it should last for life.—Our passions and principles are steady in frenzy, but begin to shift and waver as we return to reason.
There is no small degree of malicious craft in fixing upon a season to give a mark of enmity and ill-will; a word—a look, which at one time would make no impression, at another time wounds the heart, and, like a shaft flying with the wind, pierces deep, which, with its own natural force would scarce have reached the object aimed at.
Hail! ye small sweet courtesies of life, for smooth do ye make the road of it, like grace and beauty which beget inclinations to love at first sight; 'tis ye who open the door and let the stranger in.
I have so great a contempt and detestation for meanness, that I could sooner make a friend of one who had committed murder, than that of a person who could be capable, in any instance, of the former vice. Under meanness, I comprehend dishonesty; under dishonesty, ingratitude; under ingratitude, irreligion; and under this latter, every species of vice and immorality.
We may imitate the Deity in all his moral attributes, but mercy is the only one in which we can pretend to equal him.—We cannot, indeed, give like God, but surely we may forgive like him.
Algebra is the metaphysics of arithmetic.
It shocks me to think how much mischief almost every man may do, who will but resolve to do all he can.
Both music and painting add a spirit to devotion, and elevate the ardor.
Fishwomen cry noble oysters. They certainly are full as noble as any family blazoned out in Collin's peerage. If not of as ancient an house, of as old a bed at least. And to show their richness too, pearls and they are congenial.
Lessons of wisdom have never such power over us as when they are wrought into the heart through the groundwork of a story which engages the passions. Is it that we are like iron, and must first be heated before we can be wrought upon? Or is the heart so in love with deceit, that where a true report will not reach it, we must cheat it with a fable in order to come at the truth?
I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba, and cry, 'tis all barren—and so it is, and so is all the world to him who will not cultivate the fruits it offers.
It is almost impossible for any one who reads much, and reflects a, good deal, to be able, on every occasion, to determine whether a thought was another's or his own.—I have several times quoted sentences out of my own writings, in aid of my own arguments, in conversation, thinking that I was supporting them by some better authority.
Plutarch has a fine expression, with regard to some woman of learning, humility and virtue,—that her ornaments were such as might be purchased without money, and would render any woman's life both glorious and happy.
Pain and pleasure, like light and darkness, succeed each other; and he only who knows how to accommodate himself to their returns, and can wisely extract the good from the evil, knows how to live.
As monarchs have a right to call in the specie of a state, and raise its value by their own impression; so are there certain prerogative geniuses, who are above plagiaries, who cannot be said to steal, but, from their improvement of a thought, rather to borrow it, and repay the commonwealth of letters with interest; and may more properly be said to adopt than to kidnap a sentiment, by leaving it heir to their own fame.
Positiveness is a most absurd foible. If you are in the right, it lessens your triumph; if in the wrong, it adds shame to your defeat.
Precedents are the band and disgrace of legislation.—They are not wanted to justify right measures, and are absolutely insufficient to excuse wrong ones. They can only be useful to heralds, dancing-masters, and gentlemen ushers.
If a man has a right to be proud of anything, it is of a good action done as it ought to be, without any base interest lurking at the bottom of it.
God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.
I once asked a hermit in Italy how he could venture to live alone, in a single cottage, on the top of a mountain, a mile from any habitation? He replied, that Providence was his next door neighbor.
The chaste mind, like a polished plane, may admit foul thoughts, without receiving their tincture.
The mind should be accustomed to make wise reflections, and draw curious conclusions as it goes along; the habit of which made Pliny the Younger affirm that he never read a book so bad but he drew some profit from it.
One may as well be asleep as to read for anything but to improve his mind and morals, and regulate his conduct.
Whatever stress some may lay upon it, a death-bed repentance is but a weak and slender plank to trust our all upon.
Rest unto our souls!—'tis all we want—the end of all our wishes and pursuits: we seek for it in titles, in riches and pleasures—climb up after it by ambition,—come down again and stoop for it by avarice,—try all extremes; nor is it till after many miserable experiments, that we are convinced, at last, we have been seeking everywhere for it but where there is a prospect of finding it; and that is, within ourselves, in a meek and lowly disposition of heart.
To judge rightly of our own worth we should retire from the world so as to see both its pleasures and pains in their proper light and dimensions—thus taking the heart from off this world and its allurements, which so dishonor the understanding as to turn the wisest of men into fools and children.
If thou art rich, then show the greatness of thy fortune; or what is better, the greatness of thy soul, in the meekness of thy conversation; condescend to men of low estate, support the distressed, and patronize the neglected. Be great.
Lessons of wisdom have never such power over us as when they are wrought into the heart through the groundwork of a story which engages the passions.
How large a portion of chastity is sent out of the world by distant hints,— nodded away and cruelly winked into suspicion, by the envy of those who are past all temptation of it themselves. How often does the reputation of a helpless creature bleed by a report which the party propagating it beholds with pity, and is sorry for it, and hopes it may not be true, but in the meantime gives it her pass, that at least it may have fair play in the world,—to be believed or not, according to the charity of those into whose hands it shall happen to fall.
The improbability of a malicious story serves to help forward the currency of it, because it increases the scandal. So that, in such instances, the world is like the one who said he believed some things because they were absurd and impossible.
Free thinkers are generally those who never think at all.
Learning is the dictionary, but sense the grammar of science.
There are some tempers wrought up by habitual selfishness to an utter insensibility of what becomes of the fortunes of their fellow-creatures, as if they were not partakers of the same nature or had no lot or connection at all with the species.
To have a respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have a deference for others governs our manners.
I fear nothing but doing wrong.
Inward sincerity will of course influence the outward deportment; where the one is wanting, there is great reason to suspect the absence of the other.
How frequently are the honesty and integrity of a man disposed of by a smile or shrug! How many good and generous actions have been sunk into oblivion by a distrustful look, or stamped with the imputation of bad motives, by a mysterious and seasonable whisper!
Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still, slavery, thou art a bitter draught.
In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself; in the world it seeks or accepts of a few treacherous supports—the feigned compassions of one, the flattery of a second, the civilities of a third, the friendship of a fourth; they all deceive, and bring the mind back to retirement, reflection, and books.
Some people 'pass through life soberly and religiously enough, without knowing why, or reasoning about it, but, from force of habit merely, go to heaven like fools.
Titles of honor are like the impressions on coin, which add no value to gold and silver, but only render brass current.
The most affluent may be stripped of all, and find his worldly comforts, like so many withered leaves, dropping from him.
A great deal of virtue, at least the outward appearance of it, is not so much from any fixed principle, as the terror of what the world will say, and the liberty it will take upon the occasions we shall give.
God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.