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James Wood, comp. Dictionary of Quotations. 1899.


Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man’s features; any meanness or sensuality to imbrute them.

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the herd.

Fetch a spray from the wood and place it on your mantel-shelf, and your household ornaments will seem plebeian beside its nobler fashion and bearing. It will wave superior there, as if used to a more refined and polished circle. It has a salute and response to all your enthusiasm and heroism.

Friends will be much apart. They will respect more each other’s privacy than their communion, for therein is the fulfilment of our high aims and the conclusion of our arguments…. The hours my friend devotes to me were snatched from a higher society.

Genius is only as rich as it is generous.

He is not a true man of science who does not bring some sympathy to his studies, and expect to learn something by behaviour as well as application.

He who goes alone may start to-day; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.

How can we expect a harvest of thought who have not had a seed-time of character?

I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

I should be glad were all the meadows on the earth left in a wild state, if that were the consequence of men’s beginning to redeem themselves.

I think nothing is to be hoped from you if this bit of mould under your feet is not sweeter to you than any other in this world.

If friendship is to rob me of my eyes, if it is to darken the day, I will have none of it.

If I wish for a horse-hair for my compass-sight, I must go to the stable; but the hair-bird, with her sharp eyes, goes to the road.

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

If within the sophisticated man there is not an unsophisticated one, then he is but one of the devil’s angels.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

If you seek warmth of affection from a similar motive to that from which cats and dogs and slothful persons hug the fire, you are on the downward road.

In America you can get tea, and coffee, and meat every day. But the only true America is that country where you are at liberty to pursue such a mode of life as may enable you to do without these.

In proportion as one simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.

In the winter, warmth stands for all virtue.

It is commonly the imagination which is wounded first, rather than the heart; it is so much more sensitive.

It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilisation, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of life, and what methods have been taken to obtain them.

Labour of the hands, even when pursued to the verge of drudgery, is perhaps never the worst form of idleness (for the mind); it has a constant and imperishable moral.

Love must be as much a light as a flame.

Many an irksome noise, when a long way off, is heard as music.

Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances, to the elevation of mankind.

Music is the crystallisation of sound.

No man needs to study history to find out what is best for his own culture.

Nothing is so difficult as to help a friend in matters which do not require the aid of friendship, but only a cheap and trivial service, if your friendship wants the basis of a thorough practical acquaintance.

Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.

Of a life of luxury the fruit is luxury.

Of what significance are the things you can forget?

Only he can be trusted with gifts who can present a face of bronze to expectations.

Our life should feed the springs of fame / With a perennial wave, / As ocean feeds the bubbling founts / Which find in it their grave.

Poetry implies the whole truth, philosophy expresses a particle of it.

Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.

So behave that the odour of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere.

Sobriety, severity, and self-respect is the foundation of all true sociality.

Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervish in the desert.

Some glances of real beauty may be seen in the faces of those who dwell in true meekness.

Talking with a host is next best to talking with one’s self…. He is wiser than to contradict his guest in any case; he lets him go on, he lets him travel.

The blue-bird carries the sky on his back.

The fibres of all things have their tension, and are strained like the strings of a lyre.

The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling; yet we do not treat ourselves or one another thus tenderly.

The foul slime stands for the sloth and vice of man, the decay of humanity; the fragrant flower that springs from it, for the purity and courage which are immortal.

The greatest men even want much more of the sympathy which every honest fellow can give than that which the great only can impart.

The healthy man is the compliment of the seasons, and in winter summer is in his heart. There is the south!

The host should be indeed a host, and a lord of the land, a self-appointed brother of his race; called to this place, besides, by all the winds of heaven and his good genius, as truly as the preacher is called to preach.

The Iliad and the Shakespeare are tame to him who hears the rude but homely incidents of the road from every traveller.

The imagination, give it the least license, dives deeper and soars higher than Nature does.

The keeping of bees is like the directing of sunbeams.

The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free.

The man of genius, like a dog with a bone, sits afar and retired off the road, hangs out no sign of refreshment for man and beast, but says, by all possible hints and signs, “I wish to be alone—good-bye—farewell!”

The never-absent mop in one hand, and yet no effects of it visible anywhere.

The tanager flies through the green foliage as if he would ignite the leaves.

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little stardust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.

The want of perception is a defect which all the virtues of the heart cannot supply.

The ways in which most men get their living, that is, live, are mere makeshifts, and a shirking of the real business of life; chiefly because they do not know, but partly because they do not mean better.

The works of the great poets have only been read for most part as the multitude read the stars, at most, astrologically, not astronomically.

The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance a palace on the earth; at length, middle-aged, he concludes to build a woodshed with them.

There are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

There can be no profanity where there is no fane behind.

There is never but one opportunity of a kind.

There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.

There is none so poor that he need sit on a pumpkin. That is shiftlessness.

Through want of enterprise and faith men are where they are, buying and selling, and spending their lives like serfs.

Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom, and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper, fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.

To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly idle, or worse.

To his (the host’s) imagination all things travel save his sign-post and himself.

To maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship, but a pastime, if we would live simply and wisely.

True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.

Warm your body by healthful exercise, not by cowering over a stove.

Warm your spirit by performing independently noble deeds, not by ignobly seeking the sympathy of your fellows, who are no better than yourself.

We do not teach one another the lessons of honesty and sincerity that the brutes do, or of steadiness and solitude that the rocks do. The fault is commonly mutual, for we do not habitually demand any more of each other.

We should come home from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience and character.

We underpin our houses with granite; what of our habits and our lives?

We want foolishly to think the creed a man professes a more significant fact than the man he is.

Wealth cannot purchase any great private solace or convenience. Riches are only the means of sociality.

When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times and to the latest.

Whoever can discern truth has received his commission from a higher source than the chiefest judge in the world, who can discern only law.

Why should we have any serious disgust at kitchens? Perhaps they are the honest recesses of the house. There is the hearth, after all,—and the settle, and the fagots, and the kettle, and the crickets. They are the heart, the left ventricle, the very vital part of the house.

With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.

You must get your living by loving, else your life is at least half a failure.