Home  »  Dictionary of Quotations  »  Goldsmith

James Wood, comp. Dictionary of Quotations. 1899.


A breath can make them, as a breath has made.

A man he was to all the country dear, / And passing rich with forty pounds a year.

A traveller of taste at once perceives that the wise are polite all the world over, but that fools are only polite at home.

And e’en his failings lean’d to virtue’s side.

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew, / That one small head could carry all he knew.

As for murmurs, mother, we grumble a little now and then, to be sure. But there’s no love lost between us.

As some tall cliff, that lifts its awful form, / Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm, / Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread. / Eternal sunshine settles on its head.

As we are born to work, so others are born to watch over us while working.

Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no fibs.

Blame where you must, be candid where you can, / And be each critic the good-natured man.

But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride, / When once destroyed, can never be supplied.

But winter lingering chills the lap of May.

By sports like these are all their cares beguil’d, / The sports of children satisfy the child.

Careless their merits or their faults to scan, / His pity gave ere charity began.

Ceremonies are different in every country; but true politeness is everywhere the same.

Creation’s heir, the world, the world is mine.

Crimes generally punish themselves.

Different good, by art or nature given / To different nations, makes their blessings even.

E’en though vanquished he could argue still.

Error is always talkative.

Even though vanquished, he could argue still.

Every absurdity has a champion to defend it; for error is talkative.

Fancy restrained may be compared to a fountain, which plays highest by diminishing the aperture.

Fear guides more to their duty than gratitude.

For he that fights and runs away / May live to fight another day; / But he who is in battle slain, / Can never rise and fight again.

For just experience tells, in every soil, / That those that think must govern those that toil.

For our pleasure, the lackeyed train, the slow parading pageant, with all the gravity of grandeur, moves in review; a single coat, or a single footman, answers all the purposes of the most indolent refinement as well; and those who have twenty, may be said to keep one for their own pleasure, and the other nineteen merely for ours.

“Friend, I never gave thee any of my jewels!” “No, but you have let me look at them, and that is all the use you can make of them yourself; moreover, you have the trouble of watching them, and that is an employment I do not much desire.”

Friendships that are disproportioned ever terminate in disgust.

Frugality, and even avarice, in the lower orders of mankind are true ambition. These afford the only ladder for the poor to rise to preferment.

Generosity is the part of the soul raised above the vulgar.

Good counsel rejected returns to enrich the giver’s bosom.

Gratitude is never conferred but where there have been previous endeavours to excite it; we consider it as a debt, and our spirits wear a load till we have discharged the obligation.

Gratitude once refused can never after be recovered.

Gravity is the inseparable companion of pride.

Great folks have five hundred friends because they have no occasion for them.

Had Cæsar or Cromwell changed countries, the one might have been a sergeant and the other an exciseman.

He cast off his friends, as a huntsman his pack, / For he knew, when he pleased, he could whistle them back.

He that fights and runs away / May live to fight another day.

He who seeks only for applause from without has all his happiness in another’s keeping.

He whose actions sink him even beneath the vulgar has no right to those distinctions which should be the reward only of merit.

His failings lean’d to virtue’s side.

Honours to one in my situation are something like ruffles to a man that wants a shirt.Of himself.

Humanity is better than gold.

Hunters generally know the most vulnerable part of the beast they pursue by the care which every animal takes to defend the side which is weakest.

I am equally an enemy to a female dunce and a female pedant.

I could not but smile at a woman who makes her own misfortunes and then deplores the miseries of her situation.

I do not love a man who is zealous for nothing.

I love everything that’s old—old friends, old tunes, old manners, old books, old wine.

I would choose to have others for my acquaintance, but Englishmen for my friends.

If a man wishes to become rich, he must appear rich.

If we do not find happiness in the present moment, in what shall we find it?

If you make a law against dancing-masters imitating the fine gentleman, you should with as much reason enact, that no fine gentleman shall imitate the dancing-master.

If you would make Fortune your friend, when people say money is to be got here and money is to be got there, take no notice; mind your own business; stay where you are; and secure all you can get, without stirring.

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, / Where wealth accumulates and men decay.

In duty prompt, at every call, / He watch’d, and wept, and felt, and prayed for all.

In eating, after nature is once satisfied, every additional morsel brings stupidity and distempers with it.

In life every situation may bring its own peculiar pleasures.

In the pursuit of intellectual pleasure lies every virtue; of sensual, every vice.

It is better to have friends in our passage through life than grateful dependants; and as love is a more willing, so it is a more lasting tribute than extorted obligation.

It is in the politic as in the human constitution; if the limbs grow too large for the body, their size, instead of improving, will diminish, the vigour of the whole.

It is not from masters, but from their equals, that youths learn a knowledge of the world.

It is the wise alone who are capable of discerning that impartial justice is the truest mercy.

It matters not whether our good-humour be construed by others into insensibility, or even idiotism; it is happiness to ourselves.

Keep to companions of your own rank.

Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.

Lawyers are always more ready to get a man into troubles than out of them.

Let any man compare his present fortune with the past, and he will probably find himself, upon the whole, neither better nor worse than formerly.

Let me keep from vice myself, and pity it in others.

Let the foibles of the great rest in peace.

Let us not make imaginary evils when we have so many real ones to encounter.

Life at the greatest and best is but a froward child, that must be humoured and coaxed a little till it falls asleep, and then all the care is over.

Life has been compared to a race, but the allusion still improves, by observing that the most swift are ever the least manageable, the most apt to stray from the course. Great abilities have always been less serviceable to the possessors than moderate ones.

Life sues the young like a new acquaintance…. To us, who are declined in years, life appears like an old friend.

Love and gratitude are seldom found in the same breast without impairing each other … we cannot command both together.

Love is an exotic of the most delicate constitution.

Love is the most easy and agreeable, and gratitude the most humiliating, affection of the mind.

Love must be taken by stratagem, not by open force.

Love, when founded in the heart, will show itself in a thousand unpremeditated sallies of fondness; but every cool deliberate exhibition of the passion only argues little understanding or great insincerity.

Lovely, far more lovely, the sturdy gloom of laborious indigence than the fawning simper of thriving adulation.

Man is placed in this world as a spectator; when he is tired with wondering at all the novelties about him, and not till then, does he desire to be made acquainted with the causes that create those wonders.

Man little knows what calamities are beyond his patience to bear till he tries them.

Man wants but little here below, / Nor wants that little long.

Man’s own heart must be ever given to gain that of another.

Measures, not men, have always been my mark.

Men complain of not finding a place of repose. They are in the wrong; they have it for seeking. What they indeed should complain of is, that the heart is an enemy to that very repose they seek.

Men of science should leave controversy to the little world below them.

Men seek within the short span of life to satisfy a thousand desires, each of which alone is insatiable.

Men should be prized, not for their exemption from fault, but the size of those virtues they are possessed of.

Men who, being always bred in affluence, see the world only on one side are surely improper judges of human nature.

Modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues.

No cheerfulness can ever be produced by effort which is itself painful.

None but a fool would measure his satisfaction by what the world thinks of it.

Nothing is truly elegant but what unites use with beauty.

Nothing so much contents us as that which confounds us.

Our attachment to every object around us increases, in general, from the length of our acquaintance with it.

Our bounty, like a drop of water, disappears when diffused too widely.

Our chief comforts often produce our greatest anxieties, and an increase of our possessions is but an inlet to new disquietudes.

Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

Our pleasures are short, and can only charm at intervals; love is a method of protracting our greatest pleasure.

Ovid finely compares a man of broken fortune to a falling column; the lower it sinks, the greater weight it is obliged to sustain.

Patiently add farthing to farthing.

People love to have all rash actions done in a hurry.

Persecution is a tribute the great must ever pay for pre-eminence.

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.

Philosophy is a good horse in a stable, but an arrant jade on a journey.

Philosophy is no more than the art of making ourselves happy; that is, of seeking pleasure in regularity, and reconciling what we owe to society with what is due to ourselves.

Pity and friendship are passions incompatible with each other.

Popular glory is a perfect coquette; her lovers must toil, feel every inquietude, indulge every caprice, and perhaps at last be jilted into the bargain.

Positive happiness is constitutional and incapable of increase; misery is artificial, and generally proceeds from our folly.

Poverty ever comes at the call.

Princes and lords may flourish or may fade; / A breath can make them, as a breath has made.

Prudence and greatness are ever persuading us to contrary pursuits. The one instructs us to be content with our station, and to find happiness in bounding every wish: the other impels us to superiority, and calls nothing happiness but rapture.

Remembrance wakes with all her busy train, / Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain.

Resolutions are well kept when they jump with inclination.

Ridicule has ever been the most powerful enemy of enthusiasm, and properly the only antagonist that can be opposed to it with success.

Romance and novel paint beauty in colours more charming than Nature, and describe a happiness that man never tastes. How delusive, how destructive are those pictures of consummate bliss!

Ruin is most fatal when it begins from the bottom.

Scandal ever improves by opposition.

See this last and this hammer (said the poor cobbler); that last and this hammer are the two best friends I have in this world; nobody else will be my friend, because I want a friend.

Serenity, health, and affluence attend the desire of rising by labour.

She who makes her husband and her children happy, who reclaims the one from vice, and trains up the other to virtue, is a much greater character than ladies described in romance, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind with shafts from their quiver or their eyes.

Simple gratitude, untinctured with love, is all the return an ingenuous mind can bestow for former benefits. Love for love is all the reward we expect or desire.

Sinks to the grave with unperceived decay, / While resignation gently slopes the way.

Sir, a well-placed dash makes half the wit of our writers of modern humour.

Some are so intent upon acquiring the superfluities of life that they sacrifice its necessaries in this foolish pursuit.

Some faults are so nearly allied to excellence that we can scarce weed out the vice without eradicating the virtue.

Still they gazed, and still the wonder grew / That one small head could carry all he knew.

Suppressing love is but opposing the natural dictates of the heart.

Sure those who have neither strength nor weapons to fight at least should be civil.

Surely the best way is to meet the enemy in the field, and not wait till he plunders us in our very bed-chamber.

Take a farthing from a thousand pounds, it will be a thousand pounds no longer.

Taking, therefore, my opinion of the English from the virtues and vices practised among the vulgar, they at once present to a stranger all their faults, and keep their virtues up only for the inquiring of a philosopher.

Tenderness is a virtue.

That friendship, which is exerted in too wide a sphere, becomes totally useless.

That single effort by which we stop short in the down-hill path to perdition is of itself a greater exertion of virtue than a hundred acts of justice.

That virtue which requires to be ever guarded is scarcely worth the sentinel.

The ambitious are ever followed by adulation, for such alone receive most pleasure from flattery.

The best way to make the audience laugh is by first laughing yourself.

The best way to please one half of the world is not to mind what the other half says.

The bounds of a man’s knowledge are easily concealed if he has but prudence.

The company of fools may at first make us smile, but at last never fails of rendering us melancholy.

The distant sounds of music, that catch new sweetness as they vibrate through the long-drawn valley, are not more pleasing to the ear than the tidings of a far-distant friend.

The dog, to gain his private ends, / Went mad, and bit the man.

The door must either be shut or it must be open. I must either be natural or unnatural.

The earth must supply man with the necessaries of life before he has leisure or inclination to pursue more refined enjoyments.

“The English,” says Bishop Sprat, “have too much bravery to be derided, and too much virtue and honour to mock others.”

The exacting a grateful acknowledgment is demanding a debt by which the creditor is not advantaged and the debtor pays with reluctance.

The folly of others is ever most ridiculous to those who are themselves most foolish.

The great source of calamity lies in regret or anticipation; he therefore is most wise who thinks of the present alone, regardless of the past or the future.

The greatest object in the universe, says a certain philosopher, is a good man struggling with adversity; yet there is a still greater, which is the good man that comes to relieve it.

The heart of every man lies open to the shafts of reproof if the archer can but take a proper aim.

The hours that we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasing than those crowned with fruition.

The ignorant peasant without fault is greater than the philosopher with many.

The ingratitude of the world can never deprive us of the conscious happiness of having acted with humanity ourselves.

The life of man is a journey; a journey that must be travelled, however bad the roads or the accommodation.

The malicious sneer is improperly called laughter.

The man who can thank himself alone for the happiness he enjoys is truly blest.

The man who leaves home to mend himself and others is a philosopher; but he who goes from country to country, guided by the blind impulse of curiosity, is only a vagabond.

The mind becomes bankrupt under too large obligations. All additional benefits lessen every hope of future returns, and bar up every avenue that leads to tenderness.

The mind is ever ingenious in making its own distress.

The modest virgin, the prudent wife, or the careful matron, are much more serviceable in life than petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, or virago queens.

The pain which conscience gives the man who has already done wrong is soon got over. Conscience is a coward; and those faults it has not strength enough to prevent, it seldom has justice enough to accuse.

The person who in company should pretend to be wiser than others, I am apt to regard as illiterate and ill-bred.

The person who is contented to be often obliged ought not to be obliged at all.

The person whose clothes are extremely fine I am too apt to consider as not being possessed of any superiority of fortune, but resembling those Indians who were found to wear all the gold they have in the world in a bob at the nose.

The proudest boast of the most aspiring philosopher is no more than that he provides his little playfellows the greatest pastime with the greatest innocence.

The resentment of a poor man is like the efforts of a harmless insect to sting; it may get him crushed, but cannot defend him.

The rich are invited to marry by that fortune which they do not want, and the poor have no inducement but that beauty which they do not feel.

The slender vine twists around the sturdy oak, for no other reason in the world but because it has not strength sufficient to support itself.

The surest way to have redress is to be earnest in pursuit of it.

The unlettered peasant, whose views are only directed to the narrow sphere around him, beholds Nature with a finer relish, and tastes her blessings with a keener appetite, than the philosopher whose mind attempts to grasp a universal system.

The veneration we have for many things entirely proceeds from their being carefully concealed.

The wise are polite all the world over, but fools are only polite at home.

There are attractions in modest diffidence above the force of words. A silent address is the genuine eloquence of sincerity.

There are no obstructions more fatal to fortune than pride and resentment.

There are some faults so nearly allied to excellence that we can scarce weed out the vice without eradicating the virtue.

There is something irresistibly pleasing in the conversation of a fine woman; even though her tongue be silent, the eloquence of her eyes teach wisdom.

These little things are great to little men.

They who have no other trade but seeking their fortune, need never hope to find her; coquette-like, she flies from her close pursuers, and at last fixes on the plodding mechanic who stays at home and minds his business.

They who oppose a Ministry have always a better field for ridicule and reproof than they who defend it.

They who place their affections on trifles at first for amusement, will find those trifles at last become their serious concern.

They who pretend most to universal benevolence are either deceivers or dupes—men who desire to cover their private ill-nature by a pretended regard for all.

They who travel in pursuit of wisdom walk only in a circle, and, after all their labour, at last return to their pristine ignorance.

They who want a farthing, and have no friend that will lend them it, think farthings very good things.

They who want money when they come to borrow, will always want money when they should come to pay.

Those faults conscience has not strength to prevent, it seldom has justice enough to accuse.

Those that think must govern those that toil.

Those who attempt to reason us out of our follies, begin at the wrong end, since the attempt naturally presupposes us capable of reason.

Those who can sit at home and gloat over their thousands in silent satisfaction are generally found to do it in plain clothes.

Those who carry much upon their clothes are remarked for having but little in their pockets.

Though love cannot plant morals in the human breast, it cultivates them when there.

Titles and mottoes to books are like escutcheons and dignities in the hands of a king. The wise sometimes condescend to accept of them; but none but a fool would imagine them of any real importance. We ought to depend upon intrinsic merit, and not the slender helps of the title.

To aim at excellence, our reputation, our friends, and our all must be ventured; by aiming only at mediocrity, we run no risk and we do little service.

To be mindful of an absent friend in the hours of mirth and feasting, when his company is least wanted, shows no slight degree of sincerity.

To be obliged to wear black, and buy it into the bargain, is more than my tranquillity of temper can bear.

To be poor, and to seem poor, is a certain method never to rise.

To bring the generality of admirers on our side, it is sufficient to attempt pleasing a very few.

To give should be our pleasure, but to receive our shame.

To know one profession only, is enough for one man to know.

To me more dear, congenial to my heart, / One native charm, than all the gloss of art.

Traditions make up the reasonings of the simple, and serve to silence every inquiry.

Truth from his lips prevail’d with double sway, / And fools who came to scoff remain’d to pray.

Unequal combinations are always disadvantageous to the weaker side.

Vain, very vain, my weary search to find / That bliss which only centres in the mind.

Want of courage upon some occasions assumes the appearance of ignorance, and betrays us when we most want to excel.

Want of prudence is too frequently the want of virtue; nor is there on earth a more powerful advocate for vice than poverty.

Warm fortunes are always sure of getting good husbands.

We never reflect on the man we love without exulting in our choice; while he who has bound us to him by benefits alone rises to our idea as a person to whom we have, in some measure, forfeited our freedom.

We ought certainly to despise malice if we cannot oppose it.

We receive but little advantage from repeated protestations of gratitude, but they cost them very much from whom we exact them in return.

We should distinguish between laughter inspired by joy, and that which arises from mockery.

We should seem ignorant that we oblige, and leave the mind at full liberty to give or refuse its affections; for constraint may indeed leave the receiver still grateful, but it will certainly produce disgust.

What is barely necessary cannot be dispensed with.

What is false taste but want of perception to discern propriety and distinguish beauty?

What is genius or courage without a heart?

What man dare do, in circumstances of danger, an Englishman will. His virtues seem to sleep in the calm, and are called out only to combat the kindred storm.

Whatever the skill of any country may be in the sciences, it is from its excellence in polite learning alone that it must expect a character from posterity.

When a man has no occasion to borrow, he finds numbers willing to lend him.

When lovely woman stoops to folly / And finds, too late, that men betray, / What charm can soothe her melancholy? / What art can wash her guilt away?

When we rise in knowledge, as the prospect widens, the objects of our regard become more obscure, and the unlettered peasant, whose views are only directed to the narrow sphere around him, beholds nature with a finer relish, and tastes her blessings with a keener appetite, than the philosopher whose mind attempts to grasp a universal system.

When you hear that your neighbour has picked up a purse of gold in the street, never run out into the same street, looking about you, in order to pick up such another.

Whenever I see a new-married couple more than ordinarily fond before faces, I consider them as attempting to impose upon the company or themselves; either hating each other heartily, or consuming that stock of love in the beginning of their course which should serve them throughout their whole journey.

Whenever the people flock to see a miracle, it is a hundred to one but that they see a miracle.

Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails, / And honour sinks where commerce long prevails.

Wherever the devil makes a purchase, he never fails to set his mark.

Wherever you see a gaming-table, be very sure Fortune is not there…. She is ever seen accompanying industry, and as often trundling a wheelbarrow as lolling in a coach and six.

Who can direct when all pretend to know?

Who values that anger which is consumed only in empty menaces?

Who, born for the universe, narrow’d his mind, / And to party gave up what was meant for mankind; / Though fraught with all learning, yet straining his throat / To persuade Tommy Townshend to lend him a vote.

Wisdom makes a slow defence against trouble, though at last a sure one.

Wit and understanding are trifles without integrity.

Wit, when neglected by the great, is generally despised by the vulgar.

With disadvantages enough to call him down to humility, a Scotchman is one of the proudest things alive.

Women are confined within the narrow limits of domestic assiduity, and when they stray beyond them they move beyond their sphere, and consequently without grace.

Women famed for their valour, their skill in politics or their learning, leave the duties of their own sex in order to invade the privileges of men’s.

Women, it has been observed, are not naturally formed for great cares themselves, but to soften ours.

Write how you will, the critic shall show the world you could have written better.