C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.
A chord, stronger or weaker, is snapped asunder in every parting, and Time’s busy fingers are not practised in re-splicing broken ties. Meet again you may; will it be in the same way? with the same sympathies? with the same sentiments? Will the souls, hurrying on in diverse paths, unite once more, as if the interval had been a dream? Rarely, rarely.
A couplet of verse, a period of prose, may cling to the rock of ages as a shell that survives a deluge.
A fiction which is designed to inculcate an object wholly alien to the imagination sins against the first law of art; and if a writer of fiction narrow his scope to particulars so positive as polemical controversy in matters ecclesiastical, political or moral, his work may or may not be an able treatise, but it must be a very poor novel.
A fool flatters himself, a wise man flatters the fool.
A fresh mind keeps the body fresh. Take in the ideas of the day, drain off those of yesterday.
A gentleman’s taste in dress is, upon principle, the avoidance of all things extravagant. It consists in the quiet simplicity of exquisite neatness; but, as the neatness must be a neatness in fashion, employ the best tailor; pay him ready money, and, on the whole, you will find him the cheapest.
A man of genius is inexhaustible only in proportion as he is always re-nourishing his genius.
A man who cannot win fame in his own age will have a very small chance of winning it from posterity. True, there are some half-dozen exceptions to this truth among millions of myriads that attest it; but what man of common sense would invent any large amount of hope in so unpromising a lottery?
A man who has no excuse for crime is indeed defenseless!
A man’s heart must be very frivolous if the possession of fame rewards the labor to attain it. For the worst of reputation is that it is not palpable or present,—we do not feel or see or taste it. People praise us behind our backs, but we hear them not; few before our faces, and who is not suspicious of the truth of such praise?
A man’s own conscience is his sole tribunal, and he should care no more for that phantom “opinion” than he should fear meeting a ghost if he crossed the churchyard at dark.
A mind once cultivated will not lie fallow for half an hour.
A prudent consideration for Number One.
A sense of contentment makes us kindly and benevolent to others; we are not chafed and galled by cares which are tyrannical because original. We are fulfilling our proper destiny, and those around us feel the sunshine of our own hearts.
A woman is seldom merciful to the man who is timid.
A woman may live without a lover, but a lover once admitted, she never goes through life with only one. She is deserted, and cannot bear her anguish and solitude, and hence fills up the void with a second idol.
A woman too often reasons from her heart; hence two-thirds of her mistakes and her troubles.
Agreeable surprises are the perquisites of youth.
Ah, what without a heaven would be even love!—a perpetual terror of the separation that must one day come.
Alas! innocence is but a poor substitute for experience.
All that poets sing, and grief hath known, of hopes laid waste, knells in that word “alone.”
Ambition has no rest!
And whatever you lend, let it be your money, and not your name. Money you may get again, and, if not, you may contrive to do without it; name once lost you cannot get again, and, if you can contrive to do without it, you had better never have been born.
Anger ventilated often hurries towards forgiveness; anger concealed often hardens into revenge.
Arm thyself for the truth!
Art and science have their meeting-point in method.
Art does not imitate nature, but it founds itself on the study of nature,—takes from nature the selections which best accord with its own intention, and then bestows on them that which nature does not possess, viz., the mind and the soul of man.
Art employs method for the symmetrical formation of beauty, as science employs it for the logical exposition of truth; but the mechanical process is, in the last, ever kept visibly distinct, while in the first it escapes from sight amid the shows of color and the curves of grace.
Art is the effort of man to express the ideas which nature suggests to him of a power above nature, whether that power be within the recesses of his own being, or in the Great First Cause of which nature, like himself, is but the effect.
Art itself is essentially ethical; because every true work of art must have a beauty or grandeur of some kind, and beauty and grandeur cannot be comprehended by the beholder except through the moral sentiment. The eye is only a witness; it is not a judge. The mind judges what the eye reports to it; therefore, whatever elevates the moral sentiment to the contemplation of beauty and grandeur is in itself ethical.
As a general rule, people who flagrantly pretend to anything are the reverse of that which they pretend to. A man who sets up for a saint is sure to be a sinner; and a man who boasts that he is a sinner is sure to have some feeble, maudlin, snivelling bit of saintship about him which is enough to make him a humbug.
As it has been finely expressed, “Principle is a passion for truth.” And as an earlier and homelier writer hath it, “The truths we believe in are the pillars of our world.”
As the excitement of the game increases, prudence is sure to diminish.
As the films of clay are removed from our eyes, Death loses the false aspect of the spectre, and we fall at last into its arms as a wearied child upon the bosom of its mother.
Ask any school-boy up to the age of fifteen where he would spend his holidays. Not one in five hundred will say, “In the streets of London,” if you give him the option of green fields and running waters. It is, then, a fair presumption that there must be something of the child still in the character of the men or the women whom the country charms in maturer as in dawning life.
At court one becomes a sort of human ant-eater, and learns to catch one’s prey by one’s tongue.
Beautiful eyes in the face of a handsome woman are like eloquence to speech.
Beside one deed of guilt, how blest is guiltless woe!
Better than fame is still the wish for fame, the constant training for a glorious strife.
Better that the light cloud should fade away into heaven with the morning breath, than travail through the weary day to gather in darkness, and in storm.
Beware of parting! The true sadness is not in the pain of the parting; it is in the when and the how you are to meet again with the face about to vanish from your view.
Birds sing in vain to the ear, flowers bloom in vain to the eye, of mortified vanity and galled ambition. He who would know repose in retirement must carry into retirement his destiny, integral and serene, as the Cæsars transported the statue of Fortune into the chamber they chose for their sleep.
Bright and illustrious illusions! Who can blame, who laugh at the boy, who not admire and commend him, for that desire of a fame outlasting the Pyramids by which he insensibly learns to live in a life beyond the present, and nourish dreams of a good unattainable, by the senses?
Business despatched is business well done; but business hurried is business ill done.
Certain I am that every author who has written a book with earnest forethought and fondly cherished designs will bear testimony to the fact that much which he meant to convey has never been guessed at in any review of his work; and many a delicate beauty of thought, on which he principally valued himself, remains, like the statue of Isis, an image of truth from which no hand lifts the veil.
Chance happens to all, but to turn chance to account is the gift of few.
Character is money; and according as the man earns or spends the money, money in turn becomes character. As money is the most evident power in the world’s uses, so the use that he makes of money is often all that the world knows about a man.
Come, Death, and snatch me from disgrace.
Common sense is only a modification of talent. Genius is an exaltation of it; the difference is, therefore, in the degree, not nature.
Could we know by what strange circumstances a man’s genius became prepared for practical success, we should discover that the most serviceable items in his education were never entered in the bills which his father paid for.
Dandies, when first-rate, are generally very agreeable men.
Days are like years in the love of the young, when no bar, no obstacle, is between their hearts,—when the sun shines, and the course runs smooth—when their love is prosperous and confessed.
Death is the only monastery; the tomb is the only cell, and the grave that adjoins the convent is the bitterest mock of its futility.
Debt is to man what the serpent is to the bird; its eye fascinates, its breath poisons, its coil crushes sinew and bone, its jaw is the pitiless grave.
Despair is free.
Despair makes victims sometimes victors.
Each man formes his duty according to his predominant characteristic; the stern require an avenging judge; the gentle, a forgiving father. Just so the pygmies declared that Jove himself was a pygmy.
Earnest men never think in vain, though their thoughts may be errors.
Earnestness is the best gift of mental power, and deficiency of heart is the cause of many men never becoming great.
Emotion, whether of ridicule, anger, or sorrow,—whether raised at a puppet show, a funeral, or a battle,—is your grandest of levellers. The man who would be always superior should be always apathetic.
Emulation, even in brutes, is sensitively “nervous.” See the tremor of the thoroughbred racer before he starts. The dray-horse does not tremble, but he does not emulate. It is not his work to run a race. Says Marcus Antoninus, “It is all one to a stone whether it be thrown upward or downward.” Yet the emulation of a man of genius is seldom with his contemporaries, that is, inwardly in his mind, although outwardly in his act it would seem so. The competitors with whom his secret ambition seems to vie are the dead.
Ere yet we yearn for what is out of our reach, we are still in the cradle. When wearied out with our yearnings, desire again falls asleep,—we are on the death-bed.
Evening is the delight of virtuous age; it seems an emblem of the tranquil close of busy life—serene, placid, and mild, with the impress of its great Creator stamped upon it; it spreads its quiet wings over the grave, and seems to promise that all shall be peace beyond it.
Ever since there has been so great a demand for type, there has been much less lead to spare for cannonballs.
Every man of sound brain whom you meet knows something worth knowing better than yourself. A man, on the whole, is a better preceptor than a book. But what scholar does not allow that the dullest book can suggest to him a new and a sound idea?
Every man who observes vigilantly and resolves steadfastly, grows unconsciously into genius.
Every street has two sides, the shady side and the sunny. When two men shake hands and part, mark which of the two takes the sunny sides; he will be the younger man of the two.
Expression is the mystery of beauty.
Faith builds in the dungeon and lazarhouse its sublimest shrines; and up, through roofs of stone, that shut out the eye of heaven, ascends the ladder where the angels glide to and fro,—prayer.
Fame confers a rank above that of gentleman and of kings. As soon as she issues her patent of nobility, it matters not a straw whether the recipient be the son of a Bourbon or of a tallow-chandler.
Fate whirls on the bark, and the rough gale sweeps from the rising tide the lazy calm of thought.
Fiction may be said to be the caricature of history.
Fine natures are like fine poems; a glance at the first two lines suffices for a guess into the beauty that waits you if you read on.
Fortune is said to be blind, but her favorites never are. Ambition has the eye of the eagle, prudence that of the lynx; the first looks through the air, the last along the ground.
Genius has no brother.
Genius in the poet, like the nomad of Arabia, ever a wanderer, still ever makes a home where the well or the palm-tree invites it to pitch the tent. Perpetually passing out of himself and his own positive circumstantial condition of being into other hearts and into other conditions, the poet obtains his knowledge of human life by transporting his own life into the lives of others.
Genius, the Pythian of the beautiful, leaves its large truths a riddle to the dull.
Give, and you may keep your friend if you lose your money; lend, and the chances are that you lose your friend if ever you get back your money.
Grief alone can teach us what is man.
Happy indeed the poet of whom, like Orpheus, nothing is known but an immortal name! Happy next, perhaps, the poet of whom, like Homer, nothing is known but the immortal works. The more the merely human part of the poet remains a mystery, the more willing is the reverence given to his divine mission.
He that fancies himself very enlightened because he sees the deficiencies of others may be very ignorant, because he has not studied his own.
He who seeks repentance for the past, should woo the angel virtue for the future.
He who sees his heir in his own child, carries his eye over hopes and possessions lying far beyond his gravestone, viewing his life, even here, as a period but closed with a comma. He who sees his heir in another man’s child sees the full stop at the end of the sentence.
He who would keep himself to himself should imitate the dumb animals, and drink water.
He who writes prose builds his temple to Fame in rubble; he who writes verses builds it in granite.
He whom God hath gifted with a love of retirement possesses, as it were, an extra sense.
Hobbies should be wives, not mistresses. It will not do to have more than one at a time. One hobby leads you out of extravagance; a team of hobbies you cannot drive till you are rich enough to find corn for them all. Few men are rich enough for that.
Honest men are the gentlemen of nature.
Hope nothing from luck; and the probability is that you will be so prepared, forewarned, and forearmed that all shallow observers will call you lucky.
How many have found solitude, not only, as Cicero calls it, the pabulum of the mind, but the nurse of their genius! How many of the world’s most sacred oracles have been uttered, like those of Dodona, from the silence of deep woods!
How many of us have been attracted to reason; first learned to think, to draw conclusions, to extract a moral from the follies of life, by some dazzling aphorism!
Husband and wife have so many interests in common that when they have jogged through the ups and downs of life a sufficient time, the leash which at first galled often grows easy and familiar.
I believe that there is much less difference between the author and his works than is currently supposed; it is usually in the physical appearance of the writer,—his manners, his mien, his exterior,—that he falls short of the ideal a reasonable man forms of him—rarely in his mind.
I have wrought great use out of evil tools.
I know not why we should delay our tokens of respect to those who deserve them, until the heart that our sympathy could have gladdened has ceased to beat. As men cannot read the epitaphs inscribed upon the marble that covers them, so the tombs that we erect to virtue often only prove our repentance that we neglected it when with us.
I was always an early riser. Happy the man who is! Every morning day comes to him with a virgin’s love, full of bloom and freshness. The youth of nature is contagious, like the gladness of a happy child.
If there is a virtue in the world at which we should always aim, it is cheerfulness.
In early youth, if we find it difficult to control our feelings, so we find it difficult to vent them in the presence of others. On the spring side of twenty, if anything affects us, we rush to lock ourselves up in our room, or get away into the street or the fields; in our earlier years we are still the savages of nature, and we do as the poor brutes do. The wounded stag leaves the herd; and if there is anything on a dog’s faithful heart, he slinks away into a corner.
In every civilized society there is found a race of men who retain the instincts of the aboriginal cannibal and live upon their fellow-men as a natural food.
In families well ordered, there is always one firm, sweet temper, which controls without seeming to dictate. The Greeks represented Persuasion as crowned.
In how large a proportion of creatures is existence composed of one ruling passion, the most agonizing of all sensations—fear.
In life it is difficult to say who do you the most mischief,—enemies with the worst intentions, or friends with the best.
In life, as in art, the beautiful moves in curves.
In life, as in whist, hope nothing from the way cards may be dealt to you. Play the cards, whatever they be, to the best of your skill.
In science, read, by preference, the newest works; in literature, the oldest. The classic literature is always modern. New books revive and redecorate old ideas; old books suggest and invigorate new ideas.
In solitude the passions feed upon the heart.
In some exquisite critical hints on “Eurythmy,” Goethe remarks, “that the best composition in pictures is that which, observing the most delicate laws of harmony, so arranges the objects that they by their position tell their own story.” And the rule thus applied to composition in painting applies no less to composition in literature.
Irony is to the high-bred what billingsgate is to the vulgar; and when one gentleman thinks another gentleman an ass, he does not say it point-blank, he implies it in the politest terms he can invent.
It is a very high mind to which gratitude is not a painful sensation. If you wish to please, you will find it wiser to receive, solicit even, favors, than accord them; for the vanity of the obligor is always flattered, that of the obligee rarely.
It is astonishing how little one feels poverty when one loves.
It is astonishing how well men wear when they think of no one but themselves.
“It is destiny!”—phrase of the weak human heart; dark apology for every error. The strong and the virtuous admit no destiny. On earth, guides conscience; in heaven, watches God. And destiny is but the phantom we invoke to silence the one, to dethrone the other.
It is in contemplating man at a distance that we become benevolent.
It is noticeable how intuitively in age we go back with strange fondness to all that is fresh in the earliest dawn of youth. If we never cared for little children before, we delight to see them roll in the grass over which we hobble on crutches. The grandsire turns wearily from his middle-aged, care-worn son, to listen with infant laugh to the prattle of an infant grandchild. It is the old who plant young trees; it is the old who are most saddened by the autumn, and feel most delight in the returning spring.
It is often the easiest move that completes the game. Fortune is like the lady whom a lover carried off from all his rivals by putting an additional lace upon his liveries.
It is only in some corner of the brain which we leave empty that Vice can obtain a lodging. When she knocks at your door be able to say: “No room for your ladyship; pass on.”
It is the glorious doom of literature that the evil perishes and the good remains.
It is the most beautiful truth in morals that we have no such thing as a distinct or divided interest from our race. In their welfare is ours, and by choosing the broadest paths to effect their happiness we choose the surest and the shortest to our own.
It may, indeed, be said that sympathy exists in all minds, as Faraday has discovered that magnetism exists in all metals; but a certain temperature is required to develop the hidden property, whether in the metal or the mind.
It seems to me as if not only the form, but the soul of man was made to “walk erect, and look upon the stars.”
Jewelry and profuse ornaments are unmistakable evidences of vulgarity.
Julius Cæsar owed two millions when he risked the experiment of being general in Gaul. If Julius Cæsar had not lived to cross the Rubicon, and pay off his debts, what would his creditors have called Julius Cæsar?
Keep unscathed the good name; keep out of peril the honor without which even your battered old soldier who is hobbling into his grave on half-pay and a wooden leg would not change with Achilles.
Law dies; books never.
Leave glory to great folks. Ah, castles in the air cost a vast deal to keep up!
Let us fill urns with rose-leaves in our May, and hive the thrifty sweetness for December!
Let youth cherish sleep, the happiest of earthly boons, while yet it is at its command; for there cometh the day to all when “neither the voice of the lute nor the birds” shall bring back the sweet slumbers that fell on their young eyes as unbidden as the dews.
Life is short—while we speak it flies; enjoy, then, the present, and forget the future; such is the moral of ancient poetry, a graceful and a wise moral,—indulged beneath a southern sky, and all deserving the phrase applied to it,—“the philosophy of the garden.”
Love is on the verge of hate each time it stoops for pardon.
Love is rarely a hypocrite; but hate—how detect and how guard against it! It lurks where you least expect it; it is created by causes that you can the least foresee; and civilization multiplies its varieties, whilst it favors its disguise.
Love is the business of the idle, but the idleness of the busy.
Love sacrifices all things to bless the thing it loves.
Lovers have an ineffable instinct which detects the presence of rivals.
Man is arrogant in proportion to his ignorance. Man’s natural tendency is to egotism. Man, in his infancy of knowledge, thinks that all creation was formed for him.
Man must be disappointed with the lesser things of life before he can comprehend the full value of the greater.
Men of strong affections are jealous of their own genius. They fear lest they should be loved for a quality, and not for themselves.
Men who make money rarely saunter; men who save money rarely swagger.
Money never can be well managed if sought solely through the greed of money for its own sake. In all meanness there is a defect of intellect as well as of heart. And even the cleverness of avarice is but the cunning of imbecility.
More bounteous run rivers when the ice that locked their flow melts into their waters. And when fine natures relent, their kindness is swelled by the thaw.
Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies. It wanders perturbedly through the halls and galleries of the memory, and is often heard again, distinct and living as when it first displaced the wavelets of the air.
My lips pressed themselves involuntarily to hers—a long, long kiss, burning intense—concentrating emotion, heart, soul, all the rays of life’s light, into a single focus.
Nature never gives to a living thing capacities not particularly meant for its benefit and use. If Nature gives to us capacities to believe that we have a Creator whom we never saw, of whom we have no direct proof, who is kind and good and tender beyond all that we know of kindness and goodness and tenderness on earth, it is because the endowment of capacities to conceive a Being must be for our benefit and use; it would not be for our benefit and use if it were a lie.
Nature’s loving proxy, the watchful mother.
Necessity is the only real sovereign in the world, the only despot for whom there is no law.
Never be argued out of your soul, never be argued out of your honor, and never be argued into believing that soul and honor do not run a terrible risk if you limp into life with the load of a debt on your shoulders.
Never get a reputation for a small perfection if you are trying for fame in a loftier area. The world can only judge by generals, and it sees that those who pay considerable attention to minutiæ seldom have their minds occupied with great things.
No author ever drew a character consistent to human nature but what he was forced to ascribe it to many inconsistencies.
No reproach is like that we clothe in a smile, and present with a bow.
No task is more difficult than systematic hypocrisy.
Nobody loves heartily unless people take pains to prevent it.
Not in the knowledge of things without, but in the perfection of the soul within, lies the empire of man aspiring to be more than man.
Nothing but real love—(how rare it is; has one human heart in a million ever known it?)—nothing but real love can repay us for the loss of freedom—the cares and fears of poverty—the cold pity of the world that we both despise and respect.
Nothing can constitute good-breeding that has not good-nature for its foundation.
Nothing conveys a more inaccurate idea of a whole truth than a part of a truth so prominently brought forth as to throw the other parts into shadow. This is the art of caricature; and by the happy use of that art you might caricature the Apollo Belvidere.
Nothing so good as a university education, nor worse than a university without its education.
O woman! in ordinary cases so mere a mortal, how, in the great and rare events of life, dost thou swell into the angel!
O woman! woman! thou shouldest have few sins of thine own to answer for! Thou art the author of such a book of follies in a man that it would need the tears of all the angels to blot the record out.
O, how much greater is the soul of one man than the vicissitudes of the whole globe! Child of heaven, and heir of immortality, how from some star hereafter wilt thou look back on the ant-hill and its commotions, from Clovis to Robespierre, from Noah to the Final Fire!
Of all the agonies in life, that which is most poignant and harrowing; that which for the time annihilates reason, and leaves our whole organization one lacerated, mangled heart, is the conviction that we have been deceived where we placed all the trust of love.
Of all the conditions to which the heart is subject suspense is one that most gnaws and cankers into the frame. One little month of that suspense, when it involves death, we are told by an eye witness in “Wakefield on the Punishment of Death,” is sufficient to plough fixed lines and furrows in a convict of five and twenty,—sufficient to dash the brown hair with grey, and to bleach the grey to white.
Of all the signs of a corrupt heart and a feeble head, the tendency of incredulity is the surest. Real philosophy seeks rather to solve than to deny.
Of all the virtues necessary to the completion of the perfect man, there is none to be more delicately implied and less ostentatiously vaunted than that of exquisite feeling, or universal benevolence.
One of those terrible moments when the wheel of passion stands suddenly still.
One vice worn out makes us wiser than fifty tutors.
Only when the sap is dried up, only when age comes on, does the sun shine in vain for man and for the tree.
Oratory, like the drama, abhors lengthiness; like the drama, it must keep doing. It avoids, as frigid, prolonged metaphysical soliloquy. Beauties themselves, if they delay or distract the effect which should be produced on the audience, become blemishes.
Our ideas, like orange-plants, spread out in proportion to the size of the box which imprisons the roots.
Our very wretchedness grows dear to us when suffering for one we love.
Ours is a religion jealous in its demands, but how infinitely prodigal in its gifts! It troubles you for an hour, it repays you by immortality.
Out of the ashes of misanthropy benevolence rises again; we find many virtues where we had imagined all was vice, many acts of disinterested friendship where we had fancied all was calculation and fraud—and so gradually from the two extremes we pass to the proper medium; and, feeling that no human being is wholly good or wholly base, we learn that true knowledge of mankind which induces us to expect little and forgive much. The world cures alike the optimist and the misanthrope.
People who are very vain are usually equally susceptible; and they who feel one thing acutely, will so feel another.
Personal liberty is the paramount essential to human dignity and human happiness.
Philosophers have done wisely when they have told us to cultivate our reason rather than our feelings, for reason reconciles us to the daily things of existence; our feelings teach us to yearn after the far, the difficult, the unseen.
Philosophy, while it soothes the reason, damps the ambition.
Poets alone are sure of immortality; they are the truest diviners of nature.
Political freedom is, or ought to be, the best guaranty for the safety and continuance of spiritual, mental, and civil freedom. It is the combination of numbers to secure the liberty to each one.
Poverty is relative, and, therefore, not ignoble.
Power is so characteristically calm that calmness in itself has the aspect of power, and forbearance implies strength. The orator who is known to have at his command all the weapons of invective is most formidable when most courteous.
Punctuality is the stern virtue of men of business, and the graceful courtesy of princes.
Rank is a great beautifier.
Rarest of all things on earth is the union in which both, by their contrasts, make harmonious their blending; each supplying the defects of the helpmate, and completing by fusion, one strong human soul.
Reading without purpose is sauntering, not exercise. More is got from one book on which the thought settles for a definite end in knowledge, than from libraries skimmed over by a wandering eye. A cottage flower gives honey to the bee, a king’s garden none to the butterfly.
Remedy your deficiencies, and your merits will take care of themselves. Every man has in him good and evil. His good is his valiant army, his evil is his corrupt commissariat; reform the commissariat and the army will do its duty.
Remember Talleyrand’s advice, “If you are in doubt whether to write a letter or not, don’t!” The advice applies to many doubts in life besides that of letter-writing.
Remorse is the echo of a lost virtue.
Revenge is a common passion; it is the sin of the uninstructed. The savage deems it noble; but Christ’s religion, which is the sublime civilizer, emphatically condemns it. Why? Because religion ever seeks to ennoble man; and nothing so debases him as revenge.
Say what we will, you may be sure that ambition is an error; its wear and tear of heart are never recompensed—it steals away the freshness of life,—it deadens its vivid and social enjoyments,—it shuts our souls to our own youth,—and we are old ere we remember that we have made a fever and a labor of our raciest years.
Self-confidence is not hope; it is the self-judgment of your own internal forces in their relation to the world without, which results from the failure of many hopes and the non-realization of many fears.
Shame is like the weaver’s thread; if it breaks in the net, it is wholly imperfect.
Society is a long series of uprising ridges, which from the first to the last offer no valley of repose. Whenever you take your stand, you are looked down upon by those above you, and reviled and pelted by those below you. Every creature you see is a farthing Sisyphus, pushing his little stone up some Liliputian mole-hill. This is our world.
Some have the temperament and tastes of genius, without its creative power. They feel acutely, but express tamely.
Sooner mayest thou trust thy pocket to a pickpocket than give loyal friendship to the man who boasts of eyes to which the heart never mounts in dew! Only when man weeps he should be alone, not because tears are weak, but they should be secret. Tears are akin to prayer,—Pharisees parade prayers, imposters parade tears.
Strike from mankind the principle of faith, and men would have no more history that a flock of sheep.
Strive, while improving your one talent, to enrich your whole capital as a man. It is in this way that you escape from the wretched narrow-mindedness which is the characteristic of every one who cultivates his specialty alone.
Tell me not of the pain of falsehood to the slandered! There is nothing so agonizing to the fine skin of vanity as the application of a rough truth.
Tell me, sweet eyes, from what divinest star did ye drink in your liquid melancholy?
That man will never be a perfect gentleman who lives only with gentlemen. To be a man of the world we must view that world in every grade and in every perspective.
The affections are immortal! they are the sympathies which unite the ceaseless generations.
The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.
The bliss that can be told is but half-bliss.
The circle of life is cut up into segments. All lines are equal if they are drawn from the centre and touch the circumference.
The classic literature is always modern.
The cleverness of avarice is but the cunning of imbecility.
The curse of the great is ennui.
The desire of excellence is the necessary attribute of those who excel. We work little for a thing unless we wish for it. But we cannot of ourselves estimate the degree of our success in what we strive for; that task is left to others. With the desire for excellence comes, therefore, the desire for approbation. And this distinguishes intellectual excellence from moral excellence; for the latter has no necessity of human tribunal; it is more inclined to shrink from the public than to invite the public to be its judge.
The distinguishing trait of people accustomed to good society is a calm, imperturbable quiet which pervades all their actions and habits, from the greatest to the least. They eat in quiet, move in quiet, live in quiet, and lose their wife, or even their money, in quiet; while low persons cannot take up either a spoon or an affront without making such an amazing noise about it.
The faults of a brilliant writer are never dangerous on the long run; a thousand people read his work who would read no other; inquiry is directed to each of his doctrines; it is soon discovered what is sound and what is false; the sound become maxims, and the false beacons.
The fine tints and fluent curves which constitute beauty of character.
The first essential to success in the art you practice is respect for the art itself.
The food of hope is meditative action.
The frenzy of nations is the statesmanship of fate.
The friendship between great men is rarely intimate or permanent. It is a Boswell that most appreciates a Johnson. Genius has no brother, no co-mate; the love it inspires is that of a pupil or a son.
The grave is, I suspect, the sole commonwealth which attains that dead flat of social equality that life in its every principle so heartily abhors.
The great secrets of being courted are, to shun others, and seem delighted with yourself.
The haughty woman who can stand alone, and requires no leaning-place in our hearts, loses the spell of her sex.
The heart of a girl is like a convent: the holier the cloister, the more charitable the door.
The higher the rank the less pretence, because there is less to pretend to.
The imagination acquires by custom a certain involuntary, unconscious power of observation and comparison, correcting its own mistakes, and arriving at precision of judgment, just as the outward eye is disciplined to compare, adjust, estimate, measure, the objects reflected on the back of its retina. The imagination is but the faculty of glassing images; and it is with exceeding difficulty, and by the imperative will of the reasoning faculty resolved to mislead it, that it glasses images which have no prototype in truth and nature.
The law is a gun, which if it misses a pigeon always kills a crow; if it does not strike the guilty, it hits some one else. As every crime creates a law, so in turn every law creates a crime.
The learned compute that seven hundred and seven millions of millions of vibrations have penetrated the eye before the eye can distinguish the tints of a violet.
The man who has acquired the habit of study, though for only one hour every day in the year, and keeps to the one thing studied till it is mastered, will be startled to see the way he has made at the end of a twelvemonth.
The mate for beauty should be a man and not a money chest.
The mind profits by the wreck of every passion, and we may measure our road to wisdom by the sorrow we have undergone.
The moment a woman marries, some terrible revolution happens in her system; all her good qualities vanish, presto, like eggs out of a conjuror’s box. ’Tis true that they appear on the other side of the box, but for the husband they are gone forever.
The more a man desirous to pass at a value above his worth can contrast, by dignified silence, the garrulity of trivial minds, the more the world will give him credit for the wealth which he does not possess.
The most delicate beauty in the mind of women is, and ever must be, an independence of artificial stimulants for content. It is not so with men. The links that bind men to capitals belong to the golden chain of civilization,—the chain which fastens all our destinies to the throne of Jove. And hence the larger proportion of men in whom genius is pre-eminent have preferred to live in cities, though some of them have bequeathed to us the loveliest pictures of the rural scenes in which they declined to dwell.
The night is past,—joy cometh with the morrow.
The object of ambition, unlike that of love, never being wholly possessed, ambition is the more durable passion of the two.
The past but lives in words; a thousand ages were blank if books had not evoked their ghosts, and kept the pale, unbodied shades to warn us from fleshless lips.
The poet in prose or verse—the creator—can only stamp his images forcibly on the page in proportion as he has forcibly felt, ardently nursed, and long brooded over them.
The public man needs but one patron, namely, the lucky moment.
The same refinement which brings us new pleasures exposes us to new pains.
The secret of fashion is to surprise and never to disappoint.
The sunshine of the mind.
The surest way of making a dupe is to let your victim suppose you are his.
The veil which covers the face of futurity is woven by the hand of mercy.
The vices and the virtues are written in a language the world cannot construe; it reads them in a vile translation, and the translators are Failure and Success.
There are certain events which to each man’s life are as comets to the earth, seemingly strange and erratic portents; distinct from the ordinary lights which guide our course and mark our seasons, yet true to their own laws, potent in their own influences.
There is a world of science necessary in choosing books. I have known some people in great sorrow fly to a novel, or the last light book in fashion. One might as well take a rose-draught for the plague! Light reading does not do when the heart is really heavy. I am told that Goethe, when he lost his son, took to study a science that was new to him. Ah! Goethe was a physician who knew what he was about.
There is an ill-breeding to which, whatever our rank and nature, we are almost equally sensitive,—the ill-breeding that comes from want of consideration for others.
There is in the heart of woman such a deep well of love that no age can freeze it.
There is no man so friendless but what he can find a friend sincere enough to tell him disagreeable truths.
There is no man so great as not to have some littleness more predominant than all his greatness. Our virtues are the dupes, and often only the plaything of our follies.
There is no past so long as books shall live.
There is no policy like politeness; and a good manner is the best thing in the world, either to get a good name, or to supply the want of it.
There is no society, however free and democratic, where wealth will not create an aristocracy.
There is no tongue that flatters like a lover’s; and yet, in the exaggeration of his feelings, flattery seems to him commonplace. Strange and prodigal exuberance, which soon exhausts itself by flowing!
There is not so agonizing a feeling in the whole catalogue of human suffering as the first conviction that the heart of the being whom we most tenderly love is estranged from us.
There is scarcely a good critic of books born in our age, and yet every fool thinks himself justified in criticising persons.
There is so little to redeem the dry mass of follies and errors from which the materials of this life are composed that anything to love or to reverence becomes, as it were, the Sabbath for the mind.
Thirsting for the golden fountain of the fable, from how many streams have we turned away, weary and in disgust!
Those critics who, in modern times, have the most thoughtfully analyzed the laws of æsthetic beauty concur in maintaining that the real truthfulness of all works of imagination—sculpture, painting, written fiction—is so purely in the imagination, that the artist never seeks to represent the positive truth, but the idealized image of a truth.
Though every one who possesses merit is not necessarily a great man, yet every great man must possess it in a very superior degree, whether he be a poet, a philosopher, a statesman, a general; for every great man exhibits the talent of organization or construction, whether it be in a poem, a philosophical system, a policy, or a strategy. And without method there is no organization nor construction.
Though no participator in the joys of more vehement sport, I have a pleasure that I cannot reconcile to my abstract notions of the tenderness due to dumb creatures, in the tranquil cruelty of angling. I can only palliate the wanton destructiveness of my amusement by trying to assure myself that my pleasure does not spring from the success of the treachery I practise toward a poor little fish, but rather from that innocent revelry in the luxuriance of summer life which only anglers enjoy to the utmost.
Thought is valuable in proportion as it is generative.
Thy best type, desire of the sad heart,—the heaven-ascending spire.
Time is money.
Time, O my friend, is money! Time wasted can never conduce to money well managed.
To a gentleman every woman is a lady in right of her sex.
To how many is the death of the beloved the parent of faith!
To judge human character rightly, a man may sometimes have very small experience, provided he has a very large heart.
To mourn deeply for the death of another loosens from myself the petty desire for, and the animal adherence to life. We have gained the end of the philosopher, and view without shrinking the coffin and the pall.
Toil to some is happiness, and rest to others. This man can only breathe in crowds, and that man only in solitudes.
Trees the most lovingly shelter and shade us when, like the willow, the higher soar their summits the lowlier droop their boughs.
Truth makes on the ocean of nature no one track of light—every one looking on finds its own.
Vanity calculates but poorly on the vanity of others; what a virtue we should distil from frailty, what a world of pain we should save our brethren, if we would suffer our own weakness to be the measure of theirs.
Vanity, indeed, is the very antidote to conceit; for while the former makes us all nerve to the opinion of others, the latter is perfectly satisfied with its opinion of itself.
We are born for a higher destiny than earth; there is a realm where the rainbow never fades, where the stars will be spread before us like islands that slumber on the ocean, and where the beings that pass before us like shadows will stay in our presence forever.
We cannot of ourselves estimate the degree of our success in what we strive for.
We lose the peace of years when we hunt after the rapture of moments.
We may observe in humorous authors that the faults they chiefly ridicule have often a likeness in themselves. Cervantes had much of the knight-errant in him; Sir George Etherege was unconsciously the Fopling Flutter of his own satire; Goldsmith was the same hero to chambermaids, and coward to ladies that he has immortalized in his charming comedy; and the antiquarian frivolities of Jonathan Oldbuck had their resemblance in Jonathan Oldbuck’s creator.
We must remember how apt man is to extremes—rushing from credulity and weakness to suspicion and distrust.
We should provide for our age, in order that our age may have no urgent wants of this world to absorb it from the meditation of the nest. It is awful to see the lean hands of dotage making a coffer of the grave!
We tell our triumphs to the crowd, but our own hearts are the sole confidants of our sorrows.
What a mistake to suppose that the passions are strongest in youth! The passions are not stronger, but the control over them is weaker! They are more easily excited, they are more violent and apparent; but they have less energy, less durability, less intense and concentrated power than in maturer life.
What a rare gift, by the by, is that of manners! how difficult to define, how much more difficult to impart! Better for a man to possess them than wealth, beauty, or talent; they will more than supply all.
What is human is immortal!
What is past is past. There is a future left to all men, who have the virtue to repent and the energy to atone.
What men want is not talent, it is purpose; not the power to achieve, but the will to labor.
What, after all, is heaven, but a transition from dim guesses and blind struggling with a mysterious and adverse fate to the fullness of all wisdom from ignorance, in a word, to knowledge, but knowledge of what order?
What’s money without happiness?
Whatever the number of a man’s friends, there will be times in his life when he has one too few.
When one is in a good sound rage, it is astonishing how calm one can be.
When some one sorrow, that is yet reparable, gets hold of your mind like a monomania,—when you think, because Heaven has denied you this or that, on which you had set your heart, that all your life must be a blank,—oh, then diet yourself well on biography,—the biography of good and great men. See how little a space one sorrow really makes in life. See scarce a page, perhaps, given to some grief similar to your own, and how triumphantly the life sails on beyond it.
When the world frowns, we can face it; but let it smile, and we are undone.
Who that has loved knows not the tender tale which flowers reveal, when lips are coy to tell?
Will our souls, hurrying on in diverse paths, unite once more, as if the interval had been a dream?
Women love energy and grand results.
Wrap thyself in the decent veil that the arts or the graces weave for thee, O human nature! It is only the statue of marble whose nakedness the eye can behold without shame and offence!
You see men of the most delicate frames engaged in active and professional pursuits who really have no time for illness. Let them become idle—let them take care of themselves, let them think of their health—and they die! The rust rots the steel which use preserves.