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


A healthy old fellow, who is not a fool, is the happiest creature living.

A man advanced in years, that thinks fit to look back upon his former life, and call that only life which was passed with satisfaction and enjoyment, excluding all parts which were not pleasant to him, will find himself very young, if not in his infancy.

A man cannot be cheerful and good-natured unless he is also honest; which is not to be said of sadness.

A man endowed with great perfections, without good-breeding, is like one who has his pockets full of gold, but always wants change for his ordinary occasions.

A man that is temperate, generous, valiant, chaste, faithful, and honest, may, at the same time, have wit, humour, mirth, good breeding, and gallantry. While he exerts these latter qualities, twenty occasions might be invented to show he is master of the other noble virtues.

A man’s appearance falls within the censure of every one that sees him; his parts and learning very few are judges of.

A true and genuine impudence is ever the effect of ignorance, without the least sense of it.

All a woman has to do in this world is contained within the duties of a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother.

All that nature has prescribed must be good; and as death is natural to us, it is absurdity to fear it. Fear loses its purpose when we are sure it cannot preserve us, and we should draw resolution to meet it from the impossibility to escape it.

Allow no man to be so free with you as to praise you to your face. Your vanity by this means will want its food. At the same time your passion for esteem will be more fully gratified; men will praise you in their actions; where you now receive one compliment, you will then receive twenty civilities.

Among all the diseases of the mind, there is not one more epidemical or more pernicious than the love of flattery.

An inquisitive man is a creature naturally very vacant of thought itself, and therefore forced to apply itself to foreign assistance.

As beauty of body, with an agreeable carriage, pleases the eye, and that pleasure consists in that we observe all the parts with a certain elegance are proportioned to each other; so does decency of behavior which appears in our lives obtain the approbation of all with whom we converse, from the order, consistency, and moderation of our words and actions.

As ceremony is the invention of wise men to keep fools at a distance, so good-breeding is an expedient to make fools and wise men equals.

As for my labors, if they can but wear one impertinence out of human life, destroy a single vice, or give a morning’s cheerfulness to an honest mind—in short, if the world can be but one virtue the better, or in any degree less vicious, or receive from them the smallest addition to their innocent diversions—I shall not think my pains, or indeed my life, to have been spent in vain.

Beauties, whether male or female, are generally the most untractable people of all others.

Beauty has been the delight and torment of the world ever since it began. The philosophers have felt its influence so sensibly that almost every one of them has left some saying or other which intimates that he knew too well the power of it.

Cheerfulness is always to be kept up if a man is out of pain; but mirth, to a prudent man, should always be accidental. It should naturally arise out of the occasion, and the occasion seldom be laid for it.

Conversation never sits easier upon us than when we now and then discharge ourselves in a symphony of laughter, which may not improperly be called the chorus of conversation.

Each successive generation plunges into the abyss of passion, without the slightest regard to the fatal effects which such conduct has produced upon their predecessors; and lament, when too late, the rashness with which they slighted the advice of experience, and stifled the voice of reason.

Equality is the life of conversation; and he is as much out who assumes to himself any part above another, as he who considers himself below the rest of the society.

Etiquette is the invention of wise men to keep fools at a distance.

Even the style of the Scriptures is more than human.

Every pert young fellow that has a moving fancy, and the least jingle of verse in his head, sets up for a writer of songs, and resolves to immortalize his bottle or his mistress.

Extinguish vanity in the mind, and you naturally retrench the little superfluities of garniture and equipage. The blossoms will fall of themselves when the root that nourishes them is destroyed.

Fire and sword are but slow engines of destruction in comparison with the babbler.

First we flatter ourselves; and then the flattery of others is sure of success. It awakens our self-love within—a party who is ever ready to revolt from our better judgment, and join the enemy without.

He is certainly as guilty of suicide who perishes by a slow, as he who is despatched by an immediate, poison.

He that can keep handsomely within rules, and support the carriage of a companion to his mistress, is much more likely to prevail than he who lets her see the whole relish of his life depends upon her. If possible, therefore, divert your mistress rather than sigh for her.

He that wants good sense is unhappy in having learning, for he has thereby only more ways of exposing himself; and he that has sense, knows that learning is not knowledge, but rather the art of using it.

I consider the soul of man as the ruin of a glorious pile of buildings; where, amidst great heaps of rubbish, you meet with noble fragments or sculpture, broken pillars and obelisks, and a magnificence in confusion.

I have very often lamented and hinted my sorrow, in several speculations, that the art of painting is made so little use of to the improvement of manners. When we consider that it places the action of the person represented in the most agreeable aspect imaginable,—that it does not only express the passion or concern as it sits upon him who is drawn, but has under those features the height of the painter’s imagination,—what strong images of virtue and humanity might we not expect would be instilled into the mind from the labors of the pencil!

I know no evil so great as the abuse of the understanding, and yet there is no one vice more common.

I look upon an able statesman out of business like a huge whale, that will endeavor to overturn the ship unless he has an empty cask to play with.

I remember to have heard a great painter say: “There are certain faces for certain painters, as well as certain subjects for certain poets.” This is as true in the choice of studies; and no one will ever relish an author thoroughly well who would not have been fit companion for that author, had they lived at the same time.

If I were to choose the people with whom I would spend my hours of conversation, they should be certainly such as labored no further than to make themselves readily and clearly apprehended, and would have patience and curiosity to understand me. To have good sense and ability to express it are the most essential and necessary qualities in companions. When thoughts rise in us fit to utter among familiar friends, there needs but very little care in clothing them.

If our past actions reproach us, they cannot be atoned for by our own severe reflections so effectually as by a contrary behavior.

If we were to form an image of dignity in a man, we should give him wisdom and valor, as being essential to the character of manhood. In the like manner, if you describe a right woman, in a laudable sense, she should have gentle softness, tender fear, and all those parts of life which distinguish her from the other sex, with some subordination to it, but such an inferiority as makes her still more lovely.

If wit is to be measured by the circumstances of time and place, there is no man has generally so little of that talent as he who is a wit by profession. What he says, instead of arising from the occasion, has an occasion invented for bringing it in.

In a word, to be a fine gentleman is to be a generous and brave man.

Inquisitive people are the funnels of conversation; they do not take in anything for their own use, but merely to pass it to another.

It has been a sort of maxim that the greatest art is to conceal art; but I know not how, among some people we meet with, their greatest cunning is to appear cunning.

It has been from age to age an affectation to love the pleasure of solitude among those who cannot possibly be supposed qualified for passing life in that manner.

It is a certain sign of an ill heart to be inclined to defamation. They who are harmless and innocent can have no gratification that way; but it ever arises from a neglect of what is laudable in a man’s self.

It is a secret known but to few, yet of no small use in the conduct of life, that when you fall into a man’s conversation, the first thing you should consider is, whether he has a greater inclination to hear you, or that you should hear him.

It is certainly a very important lesson to learn how to enjoy ordinary things, and to be able to relish your being, without the transport of some passion, or gratification of some appetite.

It is not easy to surround life with any circumstances in which youth will not be delightful; and I am afraid that, whether married or unmarried, we shall find the vesture of terrestrial existence more heavy and cumbrous the longer it is worn.

It is not only paying wages, and giving commands, that constitutes a master of a family, but prudence, equal behavior, with a readiness to protect and cherish them, is what entitles a man to that character in their very hearts and sentiments.

It is the most beautiful object the eyes of man can behold to see a man of worth and his son live in an entire, unreserved correspondence.

It is wonderful indeed to consider how many objects the eye is fitted to take in at once, and successively in an instant, and at the same time to make a judgment of their position, figure, and color. It watches against our dangers, guides our steps, and lets in all the visible objects, whose beauty and variety instruct and delight.

Knowledge of books is like that sort of lantern which hides him who carries it, and serves only to pass through secret and gloomy paths of his own; but in the possession of a man of business it is as a torch in the hand of one who is willing and able to show those who are bewildered the way which leads to their prosperity and welfare.

Laughter is the chorus of conversation.

Many take pleasure in spreading abroad the weaknesses of an exalted character.

Men of courage, men of sense, and men of letters are frequent; but a true gentleman is what one seldom sees.

Modesty never rages, never murmurs, never pouts when it is ill-treated; it pines, it beseeches, it languishes.

Nothing can atone for the want of modesty, without which beauty is ungraceful and wit detestable.

Nothing is more silly than the pleasure some people take in “speaking their minds.” A man of this make will say a rude thing for the mere pleasure of saying it, when an opposite behavior, full as innocent, might have preserved his friend, or made his fortune.

Of all mortals a critic is the silliest; for, inuring himself to examine all things whether they are of consequence or not, never looks upon anything but with a design of passing sentence upon it; by which means he is never a companion, but always a censor.

One common calamity makes men extremely affect each other, though they differ in every other particular.

One of the old philosophers calls beauty a silent fraud, because it imposes upon us without the help of language. But I think Carneades spoke as much like a philosopher as any of them, though more like a lover, when he called it “royalty without force.”

Our self-love is ever ready to revolt from our better judgment, and join the enemy within.

Pedantry proceeds from much reading and little understanding.

People are not aware of the very great force which pleasantry in company has upon all those with whom a man of that talent converses.

Pleasure makes our youth inglorious, our age shameful.

Pleasure seizes the whole man who addicts himself to it, and will not give him leisure for any good office in life which contradicts the gayety of the present hour.

Pleasure, when it is a man’s chief purpose, disappoints itself; and the constant application to it palls the faculty of enjoying it, though it leaves the sense of our inability for that we wish, with a disrelish of everything else.

Pride, in some particular disguise or other—often a secret to be proud himself—is the most ordinary spring of action among men.

Simplicity, of all things, is the hardest to be copied.

Socrates, who is by all accounts the undoubted head of the sect of the hen-pecked, owed, and acknowledged that he owed, a great part of his virtue to the exercise his useful wife constantly gave him.

The Christian world has a Leader, the contemplation of whose life and sufferings must administer comfort in affliction, while the sense of His power and omnipotence must give them humiliation in prosperity.

The envious man is in pain upon all occasions which ought to give him pleasure. The relish of his life is inverted; and the objects which administer the highest satisfaction to those who are exempt from this passion give the quickest pangs to persons who are subject to it. All the perfections of their fellow creatures are odious. Youth, beauty, valor and wisdom are provocations of their displeasure. What a wretched and apostate state is this! to be offended with excellence, and to hate a man because we approve him!

The gifts of Nature and accomplishments of art are valuable but as they are exerted in the interests of virtue or governed by the rules of honor.

The good husband keeps his wife in the wholesome ignorance of unnecessary secrets. They will not be starved with the ignorance, who perchance may surfeit with the knowledge of weighty counsels, too heavy for the weaker sex to bear. He knows little who will tell his wife all he knows.

The great foundation of civil virtue is self-denial; and there is no one above the necessities of life but has opportunities of exercising that noble quality, and doing as much as his circumstances will bear for the ease and convenience of other men.

The greatest evils in human society are such as no law can come at; as in the case of ingratitude, where the manner of obligation very often leaves the benefactor without means of demanding justice, though that very circumstance should be the more binding to the person who has received the benefit.

The happy talent of pleasing either those above or below you seems to be wholly owing to the opinion they have of your sincerity***There need be no more said in honor of it than that it is what forces the approbation of your opponents.

The highest point of good-breeding, if any one can hit it, is to show a very nice regard to your own dignity, and with that in your heart, to express your value for the man above you.

The men of the greatest character in this kind were Horace and Juvenal. There is not, that I remember, one ill-natured expression in all their writings, not one sentence of severity, which does not apparently proceed from the contrary disposition.

The mind has a certain vegetative power, which cannot be wholly idle. If it is not laid out and cultivated into a beautiful garden, it will of itself shoot up in weeds or flowers of a wild growth.

The most indifferent thing has its force and beauty when it is spoken by a kind father, and an insignificant trifle has its weight when offered by a dutiful child.

The most unhappy circumstance of all is, when each party is always laying up fuel for dissension, and gathering together a magazine of provocations to exasperate each other with when they are out of humor.

The painter is, as to the execution of his work, a mechanic; but as to his conception, his spirit, and design, he is hardly below even the poet in liberal art.

The seat of wit, when one speaks as a man of the town and the world, is the playhouse.

The way to cheerfulness is to keep our bodies in exercise and our minds at ease.

The way to fame is like the way to heaven, through much tribulation.

The world is so unjust that a female heart which has been once touched is thought forever blemished.

The world will never be in any manner of order or tranquillity until men are firmly convinced that conscience, honor and credit are all in one interest; and that without the concurrence of the former the latter are but impositions upon ourselves and others.

There are women who do not let their husbands see their faces until they are married. Not to keep you in suspense, I mean that part of the sex who paint.

There can hardly, I believe, be imagined a more desirable pleasure than that of praise unmixed with any possibility of flattery.

There is an oblique way of reproof which takes off from the sharpness of it.

There is another accidental advantage in marriage, which has also fallen to my share; I mean the having a multitude of children.

There is but one thing necessary to keep the possession of true glory, which is to hear the opposers of it with patience, and preserve the virtue which it was acquired.

There is no end of affection taken in at the eyes only.

There is no one passion which all mankind so naturally give in to as pride, nor any other passion which appears in such different disguises. It is to be found in all habits and all complexions. Is it not a question whether it does more harm or good in the world, and if there be not such a thing as what we may call a virtuous and laudable pride?

There is nothing more necessary to establish reputation than to suspend the enjoyment of it. He that cannot bear the sense of merit with silence must of necessity destroy it; for fame being the genial mistress of mankind, whoever gives it to himself insults all to whom he relates any circumstance to his own advantage.

There is nothing that wears out a fine lace like the vigils of the card table, and those cutting passions which naturally attend them. Hollow eyes, haggard looks and pale complexions are the natural indications.

There is something so moving in the very image of weeping beauty.

These men (chronic fault-finders) should consider that it is their envy which deforms everything, and that the ugliness is not in the object, but in the eye.

This great author (Horace), who had the nicest taste of conversation, and was himself a most agreeable companion, had so strong an antipathy to a great talker, that he was afraid, some time or other, it would be mortal to him.

To contemn all the wealth and power in the world, where they stand in competition with a man’s honor, is rather good sense than greatness of mind.

To give pain is the tyranny,—to make happy the true empire of beauty.

To love her (Lady Elizabeth Hastings) was a liberal education.

To men addicted to delights, business is an interruption; to such as are cold to delights, business is an entertainment. For which reason it was said to one who commended a dull man for his application: “No thanks to him; if he had no business, he would have nothing to do.”

Vanity makes men ridiculous, pride odious, and ambition terrible.

We see a world of pains taken and the best years of life spent in collecting a set of thoughts in a college for the conduct of life, and after all the man so qualified shall hesitate in his speech to a good suit of clothes, and want common sense before an agreeable woman. Hence it is that wisdom, valour, justice and learning cannot keep a man in countenance that is possessed with these excellencies, if he wants that inferior art of life and behaviour called good-breeding.

Were men so enlightened and studious of their own good as to act by the dictates of their reason and reflection, and not the opinion of others, conscience would be the steady ruler of human life, and the words truth, law, reason, equity, and religion could be but synonymous terms for that only guide which makes us pass our days in our own favor and approbation.

What we call in men wisdom is in women prudence. It is a partiality to call one greater than the other.

When a man has no design but to speak plain truth, he may say a great deal in a very narrow compass.

When a woman is deliberating with herself whom she shall choose of many near each other in other pretensions, certainly he of the best understanding is to be preferred.

Whenever you commend, add your reasons for doing so; it is this which distinguishes the approbation of a man of sense from the flattery of sycophants and admiration of fools.

Wisdom, valor, justice and learning cannot keep a man in countenance that is possessed of these excellences, if he wants that inferior art of life and behavior called good breeding.