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


  • Atlas, we read in ancient song,
  • Was so exceeding tall and strong,
  • He bore the skies upon his back,
  • Just as the pedler does his pack;
  • But, as the pedler overpress’d
  • Unloads upon a stall to rest,
  • Or, when he can no longer stand,
  • Desires a friend to lend a hand,
  • So Atlas, lest the ponderous spheres
  • Should sink, and fall about his ears,
  • Got Hercules to bear the pile,
  • That he might sit and rest awhile.
  • Convey a libel in a frown,
  • And wink a reputation down!
  • Ever eating, never cloying,
  • All-devouring, all-destroying,
  • Never finding full repast,
  • Till I eat the world at last.
  • Fond of those hives where folly reigns,
  • And cards and scandal are the chains,
  • Where the pert virgin slights a name,
  • And scorns to redden into shame.
  • His talk was now of tythes and dues;
  • He smok’d his pipe, and read the news;
  • Knew how to preach old sermons next,
  • Vamp’d in the preface and the text;
  • At christenings well could act his part,
  • And had the service all by heart;
  • Wish’d women might have children fast,
  • And thought whose sow had farrow’d last;
  • Against dissenters would repine,
  • And stood up firm for right divine;
  • Found his head fill’d with many a system,
  • But classic authors—he ne’er miss’d ’em.
  • I’ve often wished that I had clear,
  • For life, six hundred pounds a year,
  • A handsome house to lodge a friend,
  • A river at my garden’s end,
  • A terrace walk, and half a rood
  • Of land, set out to plant a wood.
  • Leaving the wits the spacious air,
  • With license to build castles there.
  • Love why do we one passion call,
  • When ’tis a compound of them all?
  • Where hot and cold, where sharp and sweet,
  • In all their equipages meet;
  • Where pleasures mix’d with pains appear,
  • Sorrow with joy, and hope with fear.
  • Nor do they trust their tongues alone,
  • But speak a language of their own;
  • Can read a nod, a shrug, a look,
  • Far better than a printed book;
  • Convey a libel in a frown,
  • And wink a reputation down;
  • Or, by the tossing of a fan,
  • Describe the lady and the man.
  • She sits tormenting every guest,
  • Nor gives her tongue one moment’s rest,
  • In phrases batter’d, stale, and trite,
  • Which modern ladies call polite.
  • Then, rising with Aurora’s light,
  • The muse invoked, sit down to write;
  • Blot out, correct, insert, refine,
  • Enlarge, diminish, interline;
  • Be mindful, when invention fails,
  • To scratch your head and bite your nails.
  • Those dreams, that on the silent night intrude,
  • And with false flitting shades our minds delude,
  • Jove never sends us downward from the skies;
  • Nor can they from infernal mansions rise;
  • But are all mere productions of the brain,
  • And fools consult interpreters in vain.
  • ’Tis an old maxim in the schools,
  • That flattery’s the food of fools,
  • Yet now and then you men of wit
  • Will condescend to take a bit.
  • War, that mad game the world so loves to play.
  • We are little airy creatures,
  • All of different voice and features;
  • One of us in glass is set,
  • One of us you’ll find in jet,
  • T’other you may see in tin,
  • And the fourth a box within.
  • If the fifth you should pursue,
  • It can never fly from you.
  • Whence proceeds this weight we lay
  • On what detracting people say?
  • Their utmost malice cannot make
  • Your head, or tooth, or finger ache;
  • Nor spoil your shapes, distort your face,
  • Or put one feature out of place.
  • Whoe’er excels in what we prize,
  • Appears a hero in our eyes;
  • Each girl, when pleased with what is taught,
  • Will have the teacher in her thought.
  • *****
  • A blockhead with melodious voice,
  • In boarding-schools may have his choice.
  • A carpenter’s known by his chips.

    A fig for your bill of fare; show me your bill of company.

    A little grain of the romance is no ill ingredient to preserve and exalt the dignity of human nature, without which it is apt to degenerate into everything that is sordid, vicious and low.

    A maxim in law has more weight in the world than an article of faith.

    A penny for your thought.

    A pleasant companion is as good as a coach.

    A poor spirit is poorer than a poor purse. A very few pounds a year would ease a man of the scandal of avarice.

    A secret is seldom safe in more than one breast.

    A true critic, in the perusal of a book, is like a dog at a feast, whose thoughts and stomach are wholly set upon what the guests fling away, and consequently is apt to snarl most when there are the fewest bones.

    A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.

    A wise man will find us to be rogues by our faces.

    Abstracts, abridgments, summaries, etc., have the same use with burning glasses, to collect the diffused rays of wit and learning in authors, and make them point with warmth and quickness upon the reader’s imagination.

    Although men are accused for not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps as few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.

    Although the Devil be the father of lies, he seems, like other great inventors, to have lost much of his reputation by the continual improvements that have been made upon him.

    Ambition often puts men upon doing the meanest offices; so climbing is performed in the same posture with creeping.

    An atheist has got one point beyond the devil.

    An English tongue, if refined to a certain standard, might perhaps be fixed forever.

    An idle reason lessens the weight of the good ones you gave before.

    And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of in mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.

    Arbitrary power is but the first natural step from anarchy, or the savage life.

    Argument, as usually managed, is the worst sort of conversation; as it is generally in books the worst sort of reading.

    Books, the children of the brain.

    Bread is the staff of life.

    Brisk talkers are usually slow thinkers. There is, indeed, no wild beast more to be dreaded than a communicative man having nothing to communicate. If you are civil to the voluble they will abuse your patience; if brusque, your character.

    Brutes find out where their talents lie: a bear will not attempt to fly.

    By the laws of God, of nature, of nations, and of your country you are and ought to be as free a people as your brethren in England.

    Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent.

    Common fluency of speech in many men and most women is owing to a scarcity of matter.

    Complaint is the largest tribute Heaven receives.

    Conscience signifies that knowledge which a man hath of his own thoughts and actions; and because, if a man judgeth fairly of his actions by comparing them with the law of God, his mind will approve or condemn him; this knowledge or conscience may be both an accuser and a judge.

    Convey a libel in a frown, and wink a reputation down.

    Cruel people are ever cowards in emergency.

    Every age might perhaps produce one or two geniuses, if they were not sunk under the censure and obloquy of plodding, servile, imitating pedants.

    Every creature lives in a state of war by nature.

    Every dog must have his day.

    Every man desires to live long; but, no man would be old.

    Exploding many things under the name of trifles is a very false proof either of wisdom or magnanimity, and a great check to virtuous actions with regard to fame.

    Faith, that’s as well said as if I had said it myself.

    Few are qualified to shine in company; but it is in most men’s power to be agreeable.

    Fine words! I wonder where you stole them.

    Fingers were made before forks and hands before knives.

    Fools are apt to imitate only the defects of their betters.

    God forbid that such a scoundrel as want should dare approach me!

    Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest persons uneasy is the best bred in the company.

    Great abilities, when employed as God directs, do but make the owners of them greater and more painful servants to their neighbors.

    Had Windham possessed discretion in debate, or Sheridan in conduct, they might have ruled their age.

    Hail, fellow, well met.

    Have you not observed that there is a lower kind of discretion and regularity, which seldom fails of raising men to the highest station in the court, the church, and the law?

    He that calls a man ungrateful sums up all the evil that a man can be guilty of.

    He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.

    Hereditary right should be kept sacred, not from any inalienable right in a particular family, but to avoid the consequences that usually attend the ambition of competitors.

    His understanding at the best is of the middling size.

    How is it possible to expect that mankind will take advice when they will not so much as take warning.

    How often do we contradict the right rules of reason in the whole course of our lives! Reason itself is true and just, but the reason of every particular man is weak and wavering, perpetually swayed and turned by his interests, his passions, and his vices.

    Human brutes, like other beasts, find snares and poison in the provisions of life, and are allured by their appetites to their destruction.

    I always love to begin a journey on Sundays, because I shall have the prayers of the church to preserve all that travel by land or by water.

    I am convinced that if the virtuosi could once find out a world in the moon, with a passage to it, our women would wear nothing but what directly came from thence.

    I cannot imagine why we should be at the expense to furnish wit for succeeding ages, when the former have made no sort of provision for ours.

    I forget whether advice be among the lost things which Ariosto says are to be found in the moon: that and time ought to have been there.

    I have always a sacred veneration for any one I observe to be a little out of repair in his person, as supposing him either a poet or a philosopher; because the richest minerals are ever found under the most ragged and withered surfaces of the earth.

    I have known some men possessed of good qualities, which were very serviceable to others, but useless to themselves; like a sundial on the front of a house, to inform the neighbors and passengers, but not the owner within.

    I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs.

    I must complain the cards are ill-shuffled till I have a good hand.

    I never knew any man cured of inattention.

    I never saw, heard, nor read, that the clergy were beloved in any nation where Christianity was the religion of the country.

    I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.

    I used to wonder how a man of birth and spirit could endure to be wholly insignificant and obscure in a foreign country, when he might live with lustre in his own.

    I won’t quarrel with my bread and butter.

    I wonder what fool it was that first invented kissing.

    If a man makes me keep my distance, the comfort is he keeps his own at the same time.

    If a man would register all his opinions upon love, politics, religion, and learning, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions would appear at last!

    If men of wit and genius would resolve never to complain in their works of critics and detractors, the next age would not know that they ever had any.

    Imaginary evils soon become real ones by indulging our reflections on them; as he who in a melancholy fancy sees something like a face on the wall or the wainscot can, by two or three touches with a lead pencil, make it look visible, and agreeing with what he fancied.

    In all assemblies, though you wedge them ever so close, we may observe this peculiar property, that over their heads there is room enough; but how to reach it is the difficult point. To this end the philosopher’s way in all ages has been by erecting certain edifices in the air.

    In men desire begets love, and in women love begets desire.

    Indeed, Madam, your ladyship is very sparing of year tea: I protest the last I took was no more than water bewitched.

    Invention is the talent of youth, and judgment of age.

    It is a miserable thing to live in suspense; it is the life of the spider.

    It is allowed that the cause of most actions, good or bad, may be resolved into the love of ourselves; but the self-love of some men inclines them to please others, and the self-love of others is wholly employed in pleasing themselves. This makes the great distinction between virtue and vice.

    It is an uncontrolled truth that no man ever made an ill figure who understood his own talents, nor a good one who mistook them.

    It is as hard to satirize well a man of distinguished vices as to praise well a man of distinguished virtues.

    It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.

    It is in disputes as in armies; where the weaker side set up false lights, and make a great noise to make the enemy believe them more numerous and strong than they really are.

    It is in men as in soils where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.

    It is not so much the being exempt from faults as the having overcome them that is an advantage to us; it being with the follies of the mind as with weeds of a field, which, if destroyed and consumed upon the place where they grow, enrich and improve it more than if none had ever sprung there.

    It is pleasant to observe how free the present age is in laying taxes on the next. “Future ages shall talk of this; they shall be famous to all posterity;” whereas their time and thoughts will be taken up about present things, as ours are now.

    It is the first rule in oratory that a man must appear such as he would persuade others to be: and that can be accomplished only by the force of his life.

    It is the talent of human nature to run from one extreme to another.

    It is very unfair in any writer to employ ignorance and malice together, because it gives his answerer double work.

    It is with wits as with razors, which are never so apt to cut those they are employed upon as when they have lost their edge.

    It may pass for a maxim in State, that the administration cannot be placed in too few hands, nor the legislature in too many.

    Law is a bottomless pit; it is a cormorant,—a harpy that devours everything.

    Let a man be ne’er so wise, he may be caught with sober lies.

    May you live all the days of your life.

    Men always grow vicious before they become unbelievers.

    Men are contented to be laughed at for their wit, but not for their folly.

    Men of great parts are often unfortunate in the management of public business, because they are apt to go out of the common road by the quickness of their imagination.

    Men of wit, learning and virtue might strike out every offensive or unbecoming passage from plays.

    Nature has left every man a capacity of being agreeable, though not of shining in company; and there are a hundred men sufficiently qualified for both who, by a very few faults, that they might correct in half an hour, are not so much as tolerable.

    Neither is it safe to count upon the weakness of any man’s understanding, who is thoroughly possessed of the spirit of revenge to sharpen his invention.

    No man of honor, as the word is usually understood, did ever pretend that his honor obliged him to be chaste or temperate, to pay his creditors, to be useful to his country, to do good to mankind, to endeavor to be wise or learned, to regard his word, his promise, or his oath.

    No wise man ever wished to be younger.

    Nothing is so great an instance of ill-manners as flattery.

    Nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want.

    Old sciences are unraveled like old stockings, by beginning at the foot.

    Once kick the world, and the world and you live together at a reasonable good understanding.

    One of the best rules in conversation is, never say a thing which any of the company can reasonably wish we had rather left unsaid. Let the sage reflections of these philosophic minds be cherished.

    One principal object of good-breeding is to suit our behaviour to the three several degrees of men,—our superiors, our equals, and those below us.

    Orators inflame the people, whose anger is really but a short fit of madness.

    Our passions are like convulsion fits, which make us stronger for the time, but leave us weaker forever after.

    Patience alleviates, as impatience augments, pain; thus persons of strong will suffer less than those who give way to irritation.

    Perpetual aiming at wit is a very bad part of conversation. It is done to support a character: it generally fails; it is a sort of insult on the company, and a restraint upon the speaker.

    Perverseness is your whole defence.

    Positiveness is a good quality for preachers and orators, because whoever would obtrude his thoughts and reasons upon a multitude will convince others the more, as he appears convinced himself.

    Proper words in proper places make the true definition of a style.

    Quotations are best brought in to confirm some opinion controverted.

    Reason is a very light rider, and easily shook off.

    Rhetoric in serious discourses is like the flowers in corn; pleasing to those who come only for amusement, but prejudicial to him who would reap profit from it.

    Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own, which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world.

    Set off with numerous breaks and dashes.

    She has more goodness in her little finger than he has in his whole body.

    She looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

    She watches him as a cat would watch a mouse.

    Silks, velvets, calicoes, and the whole lexicon of female fopperies.

    Simplicity, without which no human performance can arrive at perfection.

    Small causes are sufficient to make a man uneasy, when great ones are not in the way; for want of a block, he will stumble at a straw.

    So endless and exorbitant are the desires of men that they will grasp at all, and can form no scheme of perfect happiness with less.

    Some dire misfortune to portend, no enemy can match a friend.

    Some modern zealots appear to have no better knowledge of truth, nor better manner of judging it, than by counting noses.

    Story-telling is subject to two unavoidable defects,—frequent repetition and being soon exhausted; so that, whoever values this gift in himself, has need of a good memory, and ought frequently to shift his company.

    Strange an astrologer should die without one wonder in the sky.

    Such a man, truly wise, creams off Nature, leaving the sour and the dregs for philosophy and reason to lap up.

    That incessant envy wherewith the common rate of mankind pursues all superior natures to their own.

    The affectation of some late authors to introduce and multiply cant words is the most ruinous corruption in any language.

    The artillery of words.

    The axe of intemperance has lopped off his green boughs and left him a withered trunk.

    The chameleon, who is said to feed upon nothing but air, has of all animals the nimblest tongue.

    The character in conversation which commonly passes for agreeable is made up of civility and falsehood.

    The common fluency of speech in many men, and most women, is owing to a scarcity of matter and a scarcity of words; for whosoever is a master of language, and hath a mind full of ideas, will be apt, in speaking, to hesitate upon the choice of both.

    The deal, the shuffle, and the cut.

    The example alone of a vicious prince will corrupt an age; but that of a good one will not reform it.

    The first springs of great events, like those of great rivers, are often mean and little.

    The life-blood of the nation.

    The love of flattery in most men proceeds from the mean opinion they have of themselves; in women, from the contrary.

    The malignant deity Criticism dwelt on the top of a snowy mountain in Nova Zembla; Momus found her extended in her den upon the spoils of numberless volumes half devoured. At her right sat Ignorance, her father and husband, blind with age; at her left Pride, her mother, dressing her up in the scraps of paper herself had torn. There was Opinion, her sister, light of foot, hoodwinked and headstrong, yet giddy and perpetually turning. About her played her children, Noise and Impudence, Dullness and Vanity, Positiveness, Pedantry and Ill Manners.

    The man who can make two ears of corn or two blades of grass grow on the spot where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind and render more essential service to the country than the whole race of politicians put together.

    The most accomplished way of using books at present is to serve them as some do lords, learn their titles, and then boast of their acquaintance.

    The motives of the best actions will not bear too strict an inquiry. It is allowed that the cause of most actions, good or bad, may be resolved into the love of ourselves; but the self-love of some men inclines them to please others, and the self-love of others is wholly employed in pleasing themselves. This makes the great distinction between virtue and vice.

    The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable; for the happy impute all their successes to prudence and merit.

    The reason why so few marriages are happy is because young ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages.

    The ruin of a State is generally preceded by an universal degeneracy of manners and contempt of religion.

    The scholars of Ireland seem not to have the least conception of style, but run on in a flat phraseology, often mingled with barbarous terms.

    The stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.

    The system of morality to be gathered from the ancient sages falls very short of that delivered in the gospel.

    The translators of the Bible were masters of an English style much fitter for that work than any we see in our present writings; the which is owing to the simplicity that runs through the whole.

    The two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.

    The want of belief is a defect which ought to be concealed where it cannot be overcome.

    The worthiest people are the most injured by slander, as we usually find that to be the best fruit which the birds have been pecking at.

    There are but three ways for a man to revenge himself of the censure of the world,—to despise it, to return the like, or to endeavor to live so as to avoid it; the first of these is usually pretended, the last is almost impossible, the universal practice is for the second.

    There are few, very few, that will own themselves in a mistake.

    There is no quality so contrary to any nature which one cannot affect, and put on upon occasion, in order to serve an interest.

    There is no talent so useful towards rising in the world, or which puts men more out of the power of fortune, than that quality generally possessed by the dullest sort of men, and in common speech called “discretion,”—a species of lower prudence, by the assistance of which people of the meanest intellectuals pass through the world in great tranquillity, neither giving nor taking offence. For want of a reasonable infusion of this aldermanly discretion, everything fails.

    There is no vice or folly that requires so much nicety and skill to manage as vanity; nor any which by ill management makes so contemptible a figure.

    There is no vice which mankind carries to such wild extremes as that of avarice.

    There is none so blind as they that won’t see.

    There never appear more than five or six men of genius in an age, but if they were united the world could not stand before them.

    There seems to be no part of knowledge in fewer hands than that of discerning when to have done.

    There was all the world and his wife.

    They say fingers were made before forks, and hands before knives.

    They say fish should swim thrice***first it should swim in the sea (do you mind me?), then it should swim in butter, and at last, sirrah, it should swim in good claret.

    Though Diogenes lived in a tub, there might be, for aught I know, as much pride under his rags, as in the fine-spun garments of the divine Plato.

    Though fear should lend him pinions like the wind, yet swifter fate will seize him from behind.

    Time is painted with a lock before, and bald behind, signifying thereby, that we must take time (as we say) by the forelock, for when it is once passed there is no recalling it.

    ’Tis nothing when you are used to it.

    To be vain is rather a mark of humility than pride.

    Usually speaking, the worst-bred person in company is a young traveler just returned from abroad.

    Vanity is a natural object of temptation to a woman.

    Violent zeal for truth has a hundred to one odds to be either petulancy, ambition, or pride.

    Virtue, the greatest of all monarchies.

    We have an intuitive sense of our duty.

    What planter will attempt to yoke a sapling with a falling oak?

    When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

    When any one person or body of men seize into their hands the power in the last resort, there is properly no longer a government, but what Aristotle and his followers call the abuse and corruption of one.

    When dunces are satiric, I take it for a panegyric.

    When I am in danger of bursting, I will go and whisper among the reeds.

    When I am reading a book, whether wise or silly, it seems to me to be alive and talking to me.

    When men grow virtuous in their old age, they are merely making a sacrifice to God of the devil’s leavings.

    Wisdom is a fox who, after long hunting, will at last cost you the pains to dig out; it is a cheese which, by how much the richer, had the thicker, the homlier, and the coarser coat; and whereof to a judicious palate, the maggots are best. It is a sack posset, wherein the deeper you go, you’ll find it the sweeter. Wisdom is a hen, whose cackling we must value and consider, because it is attended with an egg. But lastly, it is a nut, which, unless you choose with judgment, may cost you a tooth, and pay you with nothing but a worm.

    Would a writer know how to behave himself with relation to posterity? Let him consider in old books what he finds that he is glad to know, and what omissions he most laments.

    You must take the will for the deed.