C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


  • A bitter and perplexed “What shall I do?”
  • Is worse to man than worse necessity.
  • A sadder and a wiser man,
  • He rose the morrow morn.
  • Alas! they had been friends in youth;
  • But whispering tongues can poison truth,
  • And constancy lives in realms above;
  • And life is thorny, and youth is vain;
  • And to be wroth with one we love
  • Doth work like madness in the brain.
  • And to be wroth with one we love
  • Doth work like madness in the brain.
  • As idle as a painted ship
  • Upon a painted ocean.
  • Every crime
  • Has, in the moment of its perpetration,
  • Its own avenging angel dark misgiving,
  • An ominous sinking at the inmost heart.
  • Forth from his dark and lonely hiding place,
  • (Portentous sight) the owlet atheism,
  • Sailing on obscene wings athwart the noon,
  • Drops his blue-fring’d lids, and holds them close,
  • And hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven,
  • Cries out, “Where is it?”
  • God is everywhere! the God who framed
  • Mankind to be one mighty family,
  • Himself our Father, and the world our home.
  • God! sing, ye meadow-streams, with gladsome voice!
  • Ye pine-groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds!
  • And they too have a voice, yon piles of snow,
  • And in their perilous fall shall thunder, God!
  • He prayeth best who loveth best
  • All things, both great and small.
  • How well he fell asleep!
  • Like some proud river, widening toward the sea;
  • Calmly and grandly, silently and deep,
  • Life joined eternity.
  • Lovely was the death
  • Of Him whose life was Love! Holy with power
  • He on the thought-benighted Skeptic beamed
  • Manifest Godhead.
  • O sleep! it is a gentle thing,
  • Beloved from pole to pole.
  • O, it is pleasant, with a heart at ease,
  • Just after sunset, or by moonlight skies,
  • To make the shifting clouds be what you please,
  • Or let the easily persuaded eyes
  • Own each quaint likeness issuing from the mould
  • Of a friend’s fancy.
  • O! lady, we receive but what we give,
  • And in our life alone doth nature live;
  • Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud!
  • Perhaps ’tis pretty to force together
  • Thoughts so all unlike each other;
  • To mutter and mock a broken charm,
  • To dally with wrong that does no harm.
  • Remorse is as the heart in which it grows,
  • If that be gentle, it drops balmy dews
  • Of true repentance; but if proud and gloomy,
  • It is the poison tree that, pierced to the inmost,
  • Weeps only tears of poison.
  • She listen’d with a flitting blush,
  • With downcast eyes, and modest grace,
  • For well she knew I could not choose
  • But gaze upon her face.
  • ***So often do the spirits
  • Of great events stride on before the events,
  • And in to-day already walks to-morrow.
  • The Past lives o’er again
  • In its effects, and to the guilty spirit
  • The ever-frowning Present is its image.
  • The saints will aid if men will call:
  • For the blue sky bends over all.
  • To know, to esteem, to love—and then to part
  • Makes up life’s tale to many a feeling heart!
  • Visit her, gentle Sleep! with wings of healing,
  • And may this storm be but a mountain-birth,
  • May all the stars hang bright above her dwelling,
  • Silent as though they watched the sleeping Earth!
  • Water, water, everywhere,
  • And all the boards did shrink;
  • Water, water, everywhere,
  • Nor any drop to drink.
  • A Gothic church is a petrified religion.

    A man of maxims only is like a Cyclops with one eye, and that eye placed in the back of his head.

    A maxim is a conclusion upon observation of matters of fact, and is merely speculative; a “principle” carries knowledge within itself, and is prospective.

    A mother is a mother still—the holiest thing alive.

    A nation to be great ought to be compressed in its increment by nations more civilized than itself.

    A picture is an intermediate something between a thought and a thing.

    A rogue is a roundabout fool.

    A single thought is that which it is from other thoughts as a wave of the sea takes its form and shape from the waves which precede and follow it.

    A woman in a single state may be happy and may be miserable; but most happy, most miserable,—these are epithets belonging to a wife.

    A woman’s friendship borders more closely on love than man’s. Men affect each other in the reflection of noble or friendly acts; whilst women ask fewer proofs and more signs and expressions of attachment.

    Above all things I entreat you to preserve your faith in Christ. It is my wealth in poverty, my joy in sorrow, my peace amid tumult. For all the evil I have committed, my gracious pardon; and for every effort, my exceeding great reward. I have found it to be so. I can smile with pity at the infidel whose vanity makes him dream that I should barter such a blessing for the few subtleties from the school of the cold-blooded sophists.

    Advice is like snow: the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into, the mind.

    All powerful souls have kindred with each other.

    All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.

    An instinctive taste teaches men to build their churches in flat countries with spire steeples, which, as they cannot be referred to any other object, point as with silent finger to the sky and stars.

    Ancestral voices prophesying war.

    And they three passed over the white sands, between the rocks, silent as the shadows.

    Architecture exhibits the greatest extent of the difference from nature which may exist in works of art. It involves all the powers of design, and is sculpture and painting inclusively. It shows the greatness of man, and should at the same time teach him humility.

    As a man without forethought scarcely deserves the name of a man, so forethought without reflection is but a metaphorical phrase for the instinct of a beast.

    As there is much beast and some devil in man, so is there some angel and some God in him. The beast and the devil may be conquered, but in this life never destroyed.

    At one stride comes the dark.

    Call not that man wretched, who whatever else he suffers as to pain inflicted, or pleasure denied, has a child for whom he hopes and on whom he doats.

    Cant is the parrot talk of a profession.

    Centres, or centre-pieces of wood, are put by builders under an arch of stone while it is in the process of construction till the key-stone is put in. Just such is the use Satan makes of pleasures to construct evil habits upon; the pleasure lasts till the habit is fully formed; but that done the habit may stand eternal. The pleasures are sent for firewood, and the hell begins in this life.

    Chance is but the pseudonyme of God for those particular cases which He does not choose to subscribe openly with His own sign-manual.

    Christianity is within a man, even as he is gifted with reason; it is associated with your mother’s chair, and with the first remembered tones of her blessed voice.

    Common sense is an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.

    Courage multiplies the chances of success by sometimes making opportunities, and always availing itself of them; and in this sense Fortune may be said to favor fools by those who, however prudent in their opinion, are deficient in valor and enterprise.

    Death but supplies the oil for the inextinguishable lamp of life.

    Death came with friendly care, the opening bud to heaven conveyed, and bade it blossom there.

    Democracy is the healthful life-blood which circulates through the veins and arteries, which supports the system, but which ought never to appear externally, and as the mere blood itself.

    Dew-drops are the gems of morning but the tears of mournful eve!

    Earth with her thousand voices praises God.

    Either we have an immortal soul, or we have not. If we have not, we are beasts,—the first and the wisest of beasts, it may be, but still true beasts. We shall only differ in degree and not in kind,—just as the elephant differs from the slug. But by the concession of the materialists of all the schools, or almost all, we are not of the same kind as beasts, and this also we say from our own consciousness. Therefore, methinks, it must be the possession of the soul within us that makes the difference.

    Enlist the interests of stern Morality and religious Enthusiasm in the cause of Political Liberty, as in the time of the old Puritans, and it will be irresistible.

    Every human feeling is greater and larger than the exciting cause—a proof, I think, that man is designed for a higher state of existence, and this is deeply implied in music, in which there is always something more and beyond the immediate expression.

    Exclusively of the abstract sciences, the largest and worthiest portion of our knowledge consists of aphorisms; and the greatest and best of men is but an aphorism.

    Falsehood is fire in stubble; it likewise turns all the light stuff around it into its own substance for a moment, one crackling blazing moment, and then dies; and all its converts are scattered in the wind, without place or evidence of their existence, as viewless as the wind which scatters them.

    For more than a thousand years the Bible, collectively taken, has gone hand in hand with civilization, science, law; in short, with the moral and intellectual cultivation of the species, always supporting and often leading the way.

    Force yourself to reflect on what you read, paragraph by paragraph.

    Friends should be weighed, not told; who boasts to have won a multitude of friends has never had one.

    Friendship is a sheltering tree.

    Genius is the power of carrying the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood.

    Genius of the highest kind implies an unusual intensity of the modifying power.

    Great books are not in everybody’s reach; and though it is better to know them thoroughly, than to know them only here and there; yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither the time nor means to get more. Let every book-worm, when, in any fragrant scarce old tome, he discovers a sentence, a story, and illustration that does his heart good, hasten to give it.

    Guilt is a timorous thing ere perpetration; despair alone makes guilty men be bold.

    He that loves Christianity better than truth will soon love his own sect or party better than Christianity, and will end by loving himself better than all.

    Health is a great blessing—competence obtained by honorable industry is a great blessing—and a great blessing it is to have kind, faithful, and loving friends and relatives; but, that the greatest of all blessings, as it is the most ennobling of all privileges, is to be indeed a Christian.

    Heart-chilling superstition! thou canst glaze even Pity’s eye with her own frozen tear.

    Her gentle limbs did she undress, and lay down in her loveliness.

    Her very frowns are fairer far than smiles of other maidens are.

    Hope’s gentle gem, the sweet forget-me-not.

    How did the atheist get his idea of that God whom he denies?

    How strange and awful is the synthesis of life and death in the gusty winds and falling leaves of an autumnal day!

    However irregular and desultory his talk, there is method in the fragments,

    Humor is consistent with pathos, whilst wit is not.

    I believe that obstinacy, or the dread of control and discipline, arises not so much from self-willedness as from a conscious defect of voluntary power; as foolhardiness is not seldom the disguise of conscious timidity.

    I feel as if God had, by giving the Sabbath, given fifty-two springs in every year.

    I have learned what a sin is against an infinite imperishable being, such as is the soul of man.

    I have never known a trader in philanthropy who was not wrong in his head or heart somewhere or other.

    I have often thought what a melancholy world this would be without children, and what an inhuman world without the aged.

    I never knew a trader in philanthropy who was not wrong in his head or heart somewhere or other.

    I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in the best order.

    If a man is not rising upward to be an angel, depend upon it, he is sinking downward to be a devil. He cannot stop at the beast.

    If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all?

    If you wish to be assured of the truth of Christianity, try it. Believe, and if thy belief be right, that insight which gradually transmutes faith into knowledge will be the reward of thy belief.

    In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly.

    In Shakespeare one sentence begets the next naturally; the meaning is all inwoven. He goes on kindling like a meteor through the dark atmosphere.

    In what way, or by what manner of working, God changes a soul from evil to good, how He impregnates the barren rock the priceless gems and gold—is to the human mind an impenetrable mystery, in all cases alike.

    In your intercourse with sects, the sublime and abstruse doctrines of Christian belief belong to the Church; but the faith of the individual, centred in his heart, is, or may be, collateral to them. Faith is subjective.

    Intellect really exists in its products; its kingdom is here.

    Intense study of the Bible will keep any man from being vulgar in point of style.

    Is is saying less than the truth to affirm that an excellent book (and the remark holds almost equally good of a Raphael as of a Milton) is like a well-chosen and well-tended fruit tree. Its fruits are not of one season only. With the due and natural intervals, we may recur to it year after year, and it will supply the same nourishment and the same gratification, if only we ourselves return to it with the same healthful appetite.

    It is a gentle and affectionate thought, that in immeasurable height above us, at our first birth, the wreath of love was woven with sparkling stars for flowers.

    Language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests.

    Let every book worm, when in any fragrant, scarce old tome he discovers a sentence, a story, an illustration, that does his heart good, hasten to give it.

    Life is but thought.

    Memory, bosom-spring of joy.

    Men of genius are rarely much annoyed by the company of vulgar people, because they have a power of looking at such persons as objects of amusement of another race altogether.

    Men of humor are always in some degree men of genius; wits are rarely so, although a man of genius may, amongst other gifts, possess wit, as Shakespeare.

    Metaphysics,—the science which determines what can and what cannot be known of being and the laws of being.

    Method means primarily a way or path of transit. From this we are to understand that the first idea of method is a progressive transition from one step to another in any course. If in the right course, it will be the true method; if in the wrong, we cannot hope to progress.

    Milton has carefully marked in his Satan the intense selfishness, the alcohol of egotism, which would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.

    Motives are symptoms of weakness, and supplements for the deficient energy of the living principle, the law within us. Let them then be reserved for those momentous acts and duties in which the strongest and best-balanced natures must feel themselves deficient, and where humility no less than prudence prescribes deliberation.

    Motives by excess reverse their very nature, and instead of exciting, stun and stupefy the mind.

    My eyes make pictures, when they are shut.

    Never yet did there exist a full faith in the Divine Word (by whom light as well as immortality was brought into the world) which did not expand the intellect, while it purified the heart—which did not multiply the aims and objects of the understanding, while it fixed and simplified those of the desires and passions.

    Novels are to love as fairy tales to dreams.

    Often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events; and in to-day already walks to-morrow.

    Oh, the difficulty of fixing the attention of men on the world within them!

    On the Greek stage a drama, or acted story, consisted in reality of three dramas, called together a trilogy, and performed consecutively in the course of one day.

    One should never be very forward in offering spiritual consolations to those in distress. These, to be of any service, must be self-evolved in the first instance.

    One thought includes all thought, in the sense that a grain of sand includes the universe.

    Our myriad-minded Shakespeare.

    Our own heart, and not other men’s opinions, forms our true honor.

    Pedantry consists in the use of words unsuitable to the time, place, and company.

    Pity best taught by fellowship of woe.

    Plagiarists are always suspicious of being stolen from.

    Poetry has been to me its own exceeding great reward; it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me.

    Poetry is the blossom and the fragrance of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language.

    Rage is essentially vulgar.

    Religion is the most gentlemanly thing in the world. It alone will gentilize, it unmixed with cant.

    Religion is, in its essence, the most gentlemanly thing in the world. It will alone gentilize, if unmixed with cant; and I know nothing else that will, alone.

    Remorse weeps tears of blood.

    Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, etc., if they could; they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics.

    Shakespeare is of no age, nor, I may add, of any religion or party or profession. The body and substance of his works come out of the unfathomable depths of his own oceanic mind; his observation and reading supplied him with the drapery of his figures.

    Silence does not always mean wisdom.

    So lonely ’twas that God himself scarce seemed there to be.

    Stimulate the heart to love and the mind to be early accurate, and all other virtues will rise of their own accord, and all vices will be thrown out.

    Sublimity is Hebrew by birth.

    Sunny spots of greenery.

    Talent, lying in the understanding, is often inherent; genius, being the action of reason and imagination, rarely or never.

    That gracious thing, made up of tears and light.

    That only can with propriety be styled refinement which, by strengthening the intellect, purifies the manners.

    The curiosity of an honorable mind willingly rests there, where the love of truth does not urge it farther onward, and the love of its neighbor bids it stop; in other words, it willingly stops at the point where the interests of truth do not beckon it onward, and charity cries, Halt!

    The devil is not, indeed, perfectly humorous, but that is only because he is the extreme of all humor.

    The doing an evil to avoid an evil cannot be good.

    The earth with its scarred face is the symbol of the past; the air and heaven, of futurity.

    The faculty of growth.

    The fastidious taste will find offence in the occasional vulgarisms, or what we now call slang, which not a few of our writers seem to have affected.

    The first class of readers may be compared to an hour-glass, their reading being as the sand; it runs in and runs out, and leaves not a vestige behind. A second class resembles a sponge, which imbibes everything, and returns it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtier. A third class is like a jelly-bag, which allows all that is pure to pass away, and retains only the refuse and dregs. The fourth class may be compared to the slave or Golconda, who, casting aside all that is worthless, preserves only the pure gems.

    The first great requisite is absolute sincerity. Falsehood and disguise are miseries and misery-makers.

    The frost performs its secret ministry unhelped by any wind.

    The genius of the Spanish people is exquisitely subtle, without being at all acute; hence there is so much humor and so little wit in their literature.

    The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions—the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment in the disguise of a playful raillery, and the countless other infinitesimals of pleasant thought and feeling.

    The history of all the world tells us that immoral means will ever intercept good ends.

    The juggle of sophistry consists, for the most part, in using a word in one sense in all the premises, and in another sense in the conclusion.

    The mild despairing of a heart resigned.

    The misery of human life is made up of large masses, each separated from the other by certain intervals. One year the death of a child; years after, a failure in trade; after another longer or shorter interval, a daughter may have married unhappily; in all but the singularly unfortunate, the integral parts that compose the sum-total of the unhappiness of a man’s life are easily counted and distinctly remembered.

    The more sparingly we make use of nonsense, the better.

    The owlet atheism, sailing on obscene wings across the noon, drops his blue-fringed lids, and shuts them close, and, hooting at the glorious sun in heaven, cries out, “Where is it?”

    The paternal and filial duties discipline the heart, and prepare it for the love of all mankind. The intensity of private attachment encourages, not prevents, universal benevolence.

    The pulse of reason.

    The rules of prudence, like the laws of the stone tables, are for the most part prohibitive. “Thou shalt not” is their characteristic formula.

    The sense of beauty is intuitive, and beauty itself is all that inspires pleasure without, and aloof from, and even contrarily to interest.

    The stars hang bright above, silent, as if they watched the sleeping earth.

    The water-lily, in the midst of waters, opens its leaves and expands its petals, at the first pattering of the shower, and rejoices in the rain-drops with a quicker sympathy than the packed shrubs in the sandy desert.

    The whole faculties of man must be exerted in order to call forth noble energies; and he who is not earnestly sincere lives in but half his being, self-mutilated, self-paralyzed.

    The words in prose ought to express the intended meaning; if they attract attention to themselves, it is a fault; in the very best styles, as Southey’s, you read page after page without noticing the medium.

    There are errors which no wise man will treat with rudeness while there is a probability that they may be the refraction of some great truth still below the horizon.

    There are three classes into which all the women past seventy years of age, that ever I knew, were to be divided: 1. That dear old soul; 2. That old woman; 3. That old witch.

    There is in every human countenance either a history or a prophecy, which must sadden, or at least soften, every reflecting observer.

    There is no slight danger from general ignorance; and the only choice which Providence has graciously left to a vicious government is either to fall by the people, if they are suffered to become enlightened, or with them, if they are kept enslaved and ignorant.

    There is no such thing as a worthless book, though there are some far worse than worthless; no book that is not worth preserving, if its existence may be tolerated: as there may be some men whom it may be proper to hang, but none who should be suffered to starve.

    There is nothing insignificant, nothing!

    There is one art of which man should be master,—the art of reflection.

    There is small chance of truth at the goal, where there is not childlike humility at the starting-post.

    This is the curse of every evil deed, that, propagating still, it brings forth evil.

    ’T is a month before the month of May, and the spring comes slowly up this way.

    ’Tis the merry nightingale that crowds and hurries and precipitates, with fast thick warble, his delicious notes, as he were fearful that an April night would be too short for him to utter forth his love-chant, and disburden his full soul of all its music.

    To leave no interval between the sentence and the fulfillment of it doth beseem God only, the Immutable!

    To most men, experience is like the stern lights of a ship, which illumine only the track it has passed.

    To see Kean act was like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning.

    Too soon did the doctors of the church forget that the heart—the moral nature—was the beginning and the end, and that truth, knowledge, and insight were comprehended in its expansion.

    Truth is a good dog; but beware of barking too close to the heels of an error, lest you get your brains kicked out.

    Truths of all others the most awful and interesting are too often considered as so true that they lose all the power of truth, and lie bed-ridden in the dormitory of the soul, side by side with the most despised and exploded errors.

    Up to twenty-one, I hold a father to have power over his children as to marriage; after that age, authority and influence only. Show me one couple unhappy merely on account of their limited circumstances, and I will show you ten who are wretched from other causes.

    We should manage our thoughts as shepherds do their flowers in making a garland: first, select the choicest, and then dispose them in the most proper places, that every one may reflect a part of its color and brightness on the next.

    Where virtue is, sensibility is the ornament and becoming attire of virtue. On certain occasions it may almost be said to become virtue. But sensibility and all the amiable qualities may likewise become, and too often have become, the panders of vice and the instruments of seduction.

    Wherever you find a sentence musically worded, of true rhythm and melody in the words, there is something deep and good in the meaning also.

    Ye living flowers, that skirt the eternal frost!

    You do not believe, you only believe that you believe.