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John Bartlett (1820–1905). Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919.

Jonathan Swift 1667-1745 John Bartlett

    I ’ve often wish’d that I had clear,
For life, six hundred pounds a year;
A handsome house to lodge a friend;
A river at my garden’s end;
A terrace walk, and half a rood
Of land set out to plant a wood.
          Imitation of Horace. Book ii. Sat. 6.
    So geographers, in Afric maps,
With savage pictures fill their gaps,
And o’er unhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns. 1
          Poetry, a Rhapsody.
    Where Young must torture his invention
To flatter knaves, or lose his pension.
          Poetry, a Rhapsody.
    Hobbes clearly proves that every creature
Lives in a state of war by nature.
          Poetry, a Rhapsody.
    So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em;
And so proceed ad infinitum. 2
          Poetry, a Rhapsody.
    Libertas et natale solum:
Fine words! I wonder where you stole ’em.
          Verses occasioned by Whitshed’s Motto on his Coach.
    A college joke to cure the dumps.
          Cassinus and Peter.
    ’T is an old maxim in the schools,
That flattery ’s the food of fools;
Yet now and then your men of wit
Will condescend to take a bit.
          Cadenus and Vanessa.
    Hail fellow, well met. 3
          My Lady’s Lamentation.
    Big-endians and small-endians. 4
          Gulliver’s Travels. Part i. Chap. iv. Voyage to Lilliput.
    And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.
          Gulliver’s Travels. Part ii. Chap. vii. Voyage to Brobdingnag.
    He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers.
          Gulliver’s Travels. Part iii. Chap. v. Voyage to Laputa.
    It is a maxim, that those to whom everybody allows the second place have an undoubted title to the first.
          Tale of a Tub. Dedication.
    Seamen have a custom, when they meet a whale, to fling him out an empty tub by way of amusement, to divert him from laying violent hands upon the ship. 5
          Tale of a Tub. Preface.
    Bread is the staff of life. 6
          Tale of a Tub. Preface.
    Books, the children of the brain.
          Tale of a Tub. Sect. i.
    As boys do sparrows, with flinging salt upon their tails. 7
          Tale of a Tub. Sect. vii.
    He made it a part of his religion never to say grace to his meat.
          Tale of a Tub. Sect. xi.
    How we apples swim! 8
          Brother Protestants.
    The two noblest things, which are sweetness and light.
          Battle of the Books.
    The reason why so few marriages are happy is because young ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages.
          Thoughts on Various Subjects.
    Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent.
          Thoughts on Various Subjects.
    A nice man is a man of nasty ideas.
          Thoughts on Various Subjects.
    If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.
          Letter to Miss Vanbromrigh, Aug. 12, 1720.
    Not die here in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole.
          Letter to Bolingbroke, March 21, 1729.
    A penny for your thoughts. 9
          Introduction to Polite Conversation.
    Do you think I was born in a wood to be afraid of an owl?
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    The sight of you is good for sore eyes.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    ’T is as cheap sitting as standing.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    I hate nobody: I am in charity with the world.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    I won’t quarrel with my bread and butter.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    She ’s no chicken; she ’s on the wrong side of thirty, if she be a day.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    She looks as if butter wou’dn’t melt in her mouth. 10
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    If it had been a bear it would have bit you.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    She wears her clothes as if they were thrown on with a pitchfork.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    I mean you lie—under a mistake. 11
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    Lord M. What religion is he of?
Lord Sp. Why, he is an Anythingarian.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue i.
    He was a bold man that first eat an oyster.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    That is as well said as if I had said it myself.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    You must take the will for the deed. 12
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    Fingers were made before forks, and hands before knives.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    She has more goodness in her little finger than he has in his whole body.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    Lord! I wonder what fool it was that first invented kissing.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    They say a carpenter ’s known by his chips.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman. 13
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    I ’ll give you leave to call me anything, if you don’t call me “spade.”
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    May you live all the days of your life.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    I have fed like a farmer: I shall grow as fat as a porpoise.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    I always like to begin a journey on Sundays, because I shall have the prayers of the Church to preserve all that travel by land or by water.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    I thought you and he were hand-in-glove.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue ii.
    ’T is happy for him that his father was before him.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue iii.
    There is none so blind as they that won’t see. 14
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue iii.
    She watches him as a cat would watch a mouse.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue iii.
    She pays him in his own coin.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue iii.
    There was all the world and his wife.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue iii.
    Sharp ’s the word with her.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue iii.
    There ’s two words to that bargain.
          Polite Conversation. Dialogue iii.
    I shall be like that tree,—I shall die at the top.
          Scott’s Life of Swift. 15
Note 1.
As geographers, Sosius, crowd into the edges of their maps parts of the world which they do not know about, adding notes in the margin to the effect that beyond this lies nothing but sandy deserts full of wild beasts, and unapproachable bogs.—Plutarch: Theseus. [back]
Note 2.
Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
De Morgan: A Budget of Paradoxes, p. 377. [back]
Note 3.
Rowland: Knave of Hearts (1612). Ray: Proverbs. Tom Brown: Amusement, viii. [back]
Note 4.
As the political parties of Whig and Tory are pointed out by the high and low heels of the Lilliputians (Framecksan and Hamecksan), those of Papist and Protestant are designated under the Big-endians and Small-endians. [back]
Note 5.
In Sebastian Munster’s “Cosmography” there is a cut of a ship to which a whale was coming too close for her safety, and of the sailors throwing a tub to the whale, evidently to play with. This practice is also mentioned in an old prose translation of the “Ship of Fools.”—Sir James Mackintosh: Appendix to the Life of Sir Thomas More. [back]
Note 6.
See Mathew Henry, Quotation 10. [back]
Note 7.
Till they be bobbed on the tails after the manner of sparrows.—Francis Rabelais: book ii. chap. xiv. [back]
Note 8.
Ray: Proverbs. Mallet: Tyburn. [back]
Note 9.
See Heywood, Quotation 92. [back]
Note 10.
See Heywood, Quotation 55. [back]
Note 11.
You lie—under a mistake.—Percy Bysshe Shelley: Magico Prodigioso, scene 1 (a translation of Calderon). [back]
Note 12.
The will for deed I doe accept.—Du Bartas: Divine Weeks and Works, third day, week ii. part 2.

The will for the deed.—Colley Cibber: The Rival Fools, act iii. [back]
Note 13.
Use three physicians
Still: first, Dr. Quiet;
Next, Dr. Merryman,
And Dr. Dyet.
Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum (edition 1607) [back]
Note 14.
See Mathew Henry, Quotation 15. [back]
Note 15.
When the poem of “Cadenus and Vanessa” was the general topic of conversation, some one said, “Surely that Vanessa must be an extraordinary woman that could inspire the Dean to write so finely upon her.” Mrs. Johnson smiled, and answered that “she thought that point not quite so clear; for it was well known the Dean could write finely upon a broomstick.”—Samuel Johnson: Life of Swift. [back]