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


And choose an author as you choose a friend.

Wentworth Dillon.

Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.

Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham.

Look, then, into thine heart and write!


All authors to their own defects are blind.


None but an author knows an author’s cares.


All writing comes by the grace of God, and all doing and having.


  • Of all those arts in which the wise excel,
  • Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.
  • John Sheffield.

    The only happy author in this world is he who is below the care of reputation.

    Washington Irving.

    I believe that a man may write himself out of reputation when nobody else can do it.

    Thomas Paine.

    Twenty to one offend more in writing too much than too little.

    Roger Ascham.

    He who proposes to be an author should first be a student.


    Authors, like coins, grow dear as they grow old.


    Young authors give their brains much exercise and little food.


    Satire lies respecting literary men during their life, and eulogy does so after their death.


    No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.

    Sam’l Johnson.

    The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.

    Sam’l Johnson.

    One hates an author that is all author; fellows in foolscap uniform turned up with ink.


    Strength is not energy; some authors have more muscles than talent.


    Let your literary compositions be kept from the public eye for nine years at least.


  • None but an author knows an author’s cares,
  • Or fancy’s fondness for the child she bears.
  • Cowper.

    Who does not more admire Cicero as an author than as a consul of Rome?


    The familiar writer is apt to be his own satirist. Out of his own mouth is he judged.


    A man may write at any time if he set himself doggedly to it.

    Sam’l Johnson.

    Sound judgment is the ground of writing well.


    In every author let us distinguish the man from his works.


    There are authors in whose hand the pen becomes a magic wand: but they are few.

    Lady Montagu.

    The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.


    Devise, wit; write, pen; for I am for whole volumes in folio.


  • Authors are partial to their wit, ’tis true,
  • But are not critics to their judgment, too?
  • Pope.

    Authors now find, as once Achilles found, the whole is mortal if a part’s unsound.


    No author ever drew a character, consistent to human nature, but what he was forced to ascribe to it many inconsistencies.


    We write from aspiration and antagonism, as well as from experience. We paint those qualities which we do not possess.


    The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.


    Those authors who appear sometimes to forget they are writers, and remember they are men, will be our favorites.


    It is commonly the personal character of a writer which gives him his public significance.


    They who, by speech or writing, present to the ear or eye of modesty any of the indecencies, are pests of society.


    A man of moderate Understanding, thinks he writes divinely: A man of good Understanding, thinks he writes reasonably.

    De La Bruyère.

    Authors must not, like Chinese soldiers, expect to win victories by turning somersets in the air.


    Never write on a subject without having first read yourself full on it; and never read on a subject till you have thought yourself hungry on it.


    Nothing is so beneficial to a young author as the advice of a man whose judgment stands constitutionally at the freezing-point.

    Douglas Jerrold.

    Every author, in some degree, portrays himself in his works even be it against his will.


    Successful writers learn at last what they should learn at first,—to be intelligently simple.

    H. W. Shaw.

    To write much, and to write rapidly, are empty boasts. The world desires to know what you have done, and not how you did it.

    George Henry Lewes.

  • In every work regard the writer’s end,
  • Since none can compass more than they intend.
  • Pope.

    A woman who writes, commits two sins: she increases the number of books, and decreases the number of women.

    Alphonse Karr.

    The writer, like a priest, must be exempted from secular labor. His work needs a frolic health; he must be at the top of his condition.


    Perhaps the greatest lesson which the lives of literary men teach us is told in a single word: Wait!


    Peaceable times are the best to live in, though not so proper to furnish materials for a writer.


    If you once understand an author’s character, the comprehension of his writings becomes easy.


    To expect an author to talk as he writes is ridiculous; or even if he did you would find fault with him as a pedant.


    A man of letters is often a man with two natures,—one a book nature, the other a human nature, often clash sadly.


    Boileau’s numbers are excellent, his expressions noble, his thoughts just, his language pure, and his sense close.


    There is no author so poor who cannot be of some service, if only for a witness of his time.

    Claude Fauchet.

    The pen is the tongue of the hand: a silent utterer of words for the eye.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    Sallust is indisputably one of the best historians among the Romans, both for the purity of his language and the elegance of his style.


    Of all unfortunate men one of the unhappiest is a middling author endowed with too lively a sensibility for criticism.


  • Let authors write for glory or reward,
  • Truth is well paid, when she is sung and heard.
  • R. Corbet.

    For no man can write anything who does not think that what he writes is, for the time, the history of the world.


    He who writes prose builds his temple to Fame in rubble; he who writes verses builds it in granite.


    The success of many works is found in the relation between the mediocrity of the authors’ ideas and that of the ideas of the public.


    There seems to be a strange affectation in authors of appearing to have done everything by chance.


    Subtract from many modern poets all that may be found in Shakespeare, and trash will remain.


    No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self-deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind.


    Modern writers are the moons of literature; they shine with reflected light,—with light borrowed from the ancients.

    Dr. Johnson.

    From the moment one sets up for an author, one must be treated as ceremoniously, that is as unfaithfully, “as a king’s favorite or a king.”


    One writer excels at a plan or a title-page; another works away at the body of the book; and a third is a dab hand at an index.


    Friend, howsoever thou earnest by this book, I will assure thee thou wert least in my thoughts when I writ it.


    To write well is to think well, to feel well, and to render well; it is to possess at once intellect, soul, and taste.


    Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure; emotion is easily propagated from the writer to the reader.


    I have got my spindle and my distaff ready—my pen and mind—never doubting for an instant that God will send me flax.

    J. G. Holland.

    There is infinite pathos in unsuccessful authorship. The book that perishes unread is the deaf mute of literature.


    The memory of other authors is kept alive by their works, but the memory of Johnson keeps many of his works alive.


    It is quite as much of a trade to make a book as to make a clock. It requires more than mere genius to be an author.

    La Bruyère.

    The authors who affect contempt for a name in the world put their names to the books which they invite the world to read.


    So idle are dull readers, and so industrious are dull authors, that puffed nonsense bids fair to blow unpuffed sense wholly out of the field.


    The author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.

    Benj. Disraeli.

    That writer does the most, who gives his reader the most knowledge, and takes from him the least time.

    C. C. Colton.

    Bacon is throughout, and especially in his essays, one of the most suggestive authors who ever wrote.


    People may be taken in once, who imagine that an author is greater in private life than other men.


    Clear writers, like clear fountains, do not seem so deep as they are; the turbid looks most profound.


    A writer who attempts to live on the manufacture of his imagination is continually coquetting with starvation.


    There are three difficulties in authorship—to write anything worth the publishing, to find honest men to publish it, and to get sensible men to read it.


    He that commeth in print because he woulde be knowen, is like the foole that commeth into the Market because he woulde be seen.


    Whoever has set his whole heart upon book-making had better be sought in his works, for it is only the lees of his cup of life which he offers, in person, to the warm lips of his fellows.


  • And so I penned
  • It down, until at last it came to be
  • For length and breadth the bigness which you see.
  • Bunyan.

    The little mind who loves itself, will write and think with the vulgar; but the great mind will be bravely eccentric, and scorn the beaten road, from universal benevolence.


    Peace be with the soul of that charitable and courteous author, who, for the common benefit of his fellow-authors, introduced the ingenious way of miscellaneous writing!


    This is the highest miracle of genius, that things which are not should be as though they were, that the imaginations of one mind should become the personal recollections of another.


    It is in vain a daring author thinks of attaining to the heights of Parnassus if he does not feel the secret influence of heaven and if his natal star has not formed him to be a poet.


    Authorship is, according to the spirit in which it is pursued, an infamy, a pastime, a day-labor, a handicraft, an art, a science, a virtue.


    Every fool describes in these bright days his wondrous journey to some foreign court, and spawns his quarto, and demands your praise.


    There are both dull correctness and piquant carelessness; it is needless to say which will command the most readers and have the most influence.


    It was among the ruins of the capitol that I first conceived the idea of a work which has amused and exercised nearly twenty years of my life.


    I have observed that vulgar readers almost always lose their veneration for the writings of the genius with whom they have had personal intercourse.

    Sir Egerton Brydges.

    Our writings are so many dishes, our readers guests, our books like beauty; that which one admires another rejects; so are we approved as men’s fancies are inclined.


    The most original modern authors are not so because they advance what is new, but simply because they know how to put what they have to say as if it had never been said before.


    Herder and Schiller both in their youth intended to study as surgeons; but Destiny said, “No, there are deeper wounds than those of the body,—heal the deeper!” and they wrote.


    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.


    Whatever be the motives which induce men to write,—whether avarice or fame,—the country becomes more wise and happy in which they most serve for instructors.


    Our favorites are few: since only what rises from the heart reaches it, being caught and carried on the tongues of men wheresoever love and letters journey.


    The book that he has made renders its author this service in return, that so long as the book survives, its author remains immortal and cannot die.

    Richard de Bury.

    And, after all, it is style alone by which posterity will judge of a great work, for an author can have nothing truly his own but his style.

    Isaac Disraeli.

  • The men, who labor and digest things most,
  • Will be much apter to despond than boast;
  • For if your author be profoundly good,
  • ’Twill cost you dear before he’s understood.
  • Wentworth Dillon.

  • Oh! rather give me commentators plain,
  • Who with no deep researches vex the brain;
  • Who from the dark and doubtful love to run,
  • And hold their glimmering tapers to the sun.
  • Crabbe.

    It is a doubt whether mankind are most indebted to those who, like Bacon and Butler, dig the gold from the mine of literature, or to those who, like Paley, purify it, stamp it, fix its real value, and give it currency and utility.


    The great and good do not die even in this world. Embalmed in books, their spirits walk abroad. The book is a living voice. It is an intellect to which one still listens.

    Sam’l Smiles.

  • True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
  • As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.
  • Pope.

    The book that a person is beginning to create or design contains within itself half a life, and God only knows what an expanse of futurity also.


  • ’Tis hard to say if greater want of skill
  • Appear in writing or in judging ill;
  • But, of the two less dang’rous is th’ offence
  • To tire our patience than mislead our sense.
  • Pope.

    His [Burke’s] imperial fancy has laid all nature under tribute, and has collected riches from every scene of the creation and every walk of art.

    Robert Hall.

  • Each change of many-colored life he drew,
  • Exhausted worlds and then imagined new;
  • Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
  • And panting Time toil’d after him in vain.
  • Samuel Johnson.

    Authors are the vanguard in the march of mind, the intellectual backwoodsmen, reclaiming from the idle wilderness new territories for the thought and activity of their happier brethren.


    Dr. Johnson has said that the chief glory of a country arises from its authors. But then that is only as they are oracles of wisdom; unless they teach virtue, they are more worthy of a halter than of the laurel.

    Jane Porter.

    It is a fine simile in one of Mr. Congreve’s prologues which compares a writer to a battering gamester that stakes all his winnings upon one cast, so that if he loses the last throw he is sure to be undone.


    This is the magnanimity of authorship, when a writer having a topic presented to him, fruitful of beauties for common minds, waives his privilege, and trusts to the judicious few for understanding the reason of his abstinence.


    If authors cannot be prevailed upon to keep close to truth and instruction, by unvaried terms, and plain, unsophisticated argument, yet it concerns readers not to be imposed on.


    That author, however, who has thought more than he has read, read more than he has written, and written more than he has published, if he does not command success, has at least deserved it.


  • But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
  • Falling, like dew, upon a thought produces
  • That which makes thousands, perhaps millions think.
  • Byron.

    Whatever an author puts between the two covers of his book is public property; whatever of himself he does not put there is his private property, as much as if he had never written a word.

    Gail Hamilton.

  • It may be glorious to write
  • Thoughts that shall glad the two or three
  • High souls, like those far stars that come in sight
  • Once in a century.
  • Lowell.

  • Whatever hath been written shall remain,
  • Nor be erased nor written o’er again:
  • The unwritten only still belong to thee:
  • Take heed, and ponder well what that shall be.
  • Longfellow.

    There are two things which I am confident I can do very well; one is an introduction to any literary work, stating what it is to contain, and how it should be executed in the most perfect manner.

    Sam’l Johnson.

    Nothing goes by luck in composition; it allows of no trick. The best you can write will be the best you are.

    Every sentence is the result of a long probation. The author’s character is read from title-page to end.


    Genius now and then produces a lucky trifle. We still read the Dove of Anacreon, and Sparrow of Catullus; and a writer naturally pleases himself with a performance which owes nothing to the subject.

    Dr. Johnson.

    For works of the mind really great there is no old age, no decrepitude. It is inconceivable that a time should come when Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, should not ring in the ears of civilized man.


    Spero Speroni explains admirably how an author who writes very clearly for himself is often obscure to his readers. “It is,” he says, “because the author proceeds from the thought to the expression, and the reader from the expression to the thought.”


    O thou who art able to write a book, which once in the two centuries or oftener there is a man gifted to do, envy not him whom they name city-builder, and inexpressibly pity him whom they name conqueror or city-burner.


    There is a natural disposition with us to judge an author’s personal character by the character of his works. We find it difficult to understand the common antithesis of a good writer and a bad man.


    Those authors into whose hands nature has placed a magic wand, with which they no sooner touch us than we forget the unhappiness in life, than the darkness leaves our soul, and we are reconciled to existence, should be placed among the benefactors of the human race.


    Consult the acutest poets and speakers, and they will confess that their quickest and most admired conceptions were such as darted into their minds like sudden flashes of lightning, they know not how nor whence.


    There is infinite pathos in unsuccessful authorship. The book that perishes unread is the deaf-mute of literature. The great asylum of Oblivion is full of such, making inaudible signs to each other in leaky garrets and unattainable dusty upper shelves.

    O. W. Holmes.

    Indeed, unless a man can link his written thoughts with the everlasting wants of men, so that they shall draw from them as from wells, there is no more immortality to the thoughts and feelings of the soul than to the muscles and the bones.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

  • He that writes
  • Or makes a feast, more certainly invites
  • His judges than his friends; there’s not a guest
  • But will find something wanting or ill-drest.
  • Sir R. Howard.

  • An author! ’Tis a venerable name!
  • How few deserve it, and what numbers claim!
  • Unblest with sense above their peers refin’d,
  • Who shall stand up, dictators to mankind?
  • Nay, who dare shine, if not in virtue’s cause?
  • That sole proprietor of just applause.
  • Young.

    There is nothing more dreadful to an author than neglect; compared with which, reproach, hatred, and opposition are names of happiness; yet this worst, this meanest fate, every one who dares to write has reason to fear.


    That an author’s work is the mirror of his mind is a position that has led to very false conclusions. If Satan himself were to write a book it would be in praise of virtue, because the good would purchase it for use, and the bad for ostentation.


    For all the practical purposes of life, truth might as well be in a prison as in the folio of a schoolman; and those who release her from her cobwebbed shelf and teach her to live with men have the merit of liberating, if not of discovering, her.


    Authors may be divided into falling stars, planets, and fixed stars: the first have a momentary effect; the second have a much longer duration; but the third are unchangeable, possess their own light, and work for all time.


    For popular purposes, at least, the aim of literary artists should be similar to that of Rubens in his landscapes, of which, without neglecting the minor traits or finishing, he was chiefly solicitous to present the leading effect, or what we may call the inspiration.

    W. B. Clulow.

  • Dear authors! suit your topics to your strength,
  • And ponder well your subject, and its length;
  • Nor lift your load, before you’re quite aware
  • What weight your shoulders will, or will not, bear.
  • Byron.

    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 motives and purposes of authors are not always so pure and high, as, in the enthusiasm of youth, we sometimes imagine. To many the trumpet of fame is nothing but a tin horn to call them home, like laborers from the field, at dinner-time, and they think themselves lucky to get the dinner.


    The triumphs of the warrior are bounded by the narrow theatre of his own age; but those of a Scott or a Shakespeare will be renewed with greater and greater lustre in ages yet unborn, when the victorious chieftain shall be forgotten, or shall live only in the song of the minstrel and the page of the chronicler.


    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.


    The wickedness of a loose or profane author, in his writings, is more atrocious than that of the giddy libertine or drunken ravisher; not only because it extends its effects wider (as a pestilence that taints the air is more destructive than poison infused in a draught), but because it is committed with cool deliberation.


    It is commonly the personal character of a writer which gives him his public significance. It is not imparted by his genius. Napoleon said of Corneille, “Were he living I would make him a king;” but he did not read him. He read Racine, yet he said nothing of the kind of Racine.


  • How many great ones may remember’d be,
  • Which in their days most famously did flourish,
  • Of whom no word we hear, nor sign now see,
  • But as things wip’d out with a sponge do perish,
  • Because the living cared not to cherish
  • No gentle wits, through pride or covetize,
  • Which might their names forever memorize!
  • Spenser.

    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.


    Every author, indeed, who really influences the mind, who plants in it thoughts and sentiments which take root and grow, communicates his character. Error and immorality—two words for one thing, for error is the immorality of the intellect, and immorality the error of the heart—these escape from him if they are in him, and pass into the recipient mind through subtle avenues invisible to consciousness.


    Nature I believe in. True art aims to represent men and women, not as my little self would have them, but as they appear. My heroes and heroines I want not extreme types, all good or all bad; but human, mortal—partly good, partly bad. Realism I need. Pure mental abstractions have no significance for me.


    The wonderful fortune of some writers deludes and leads to misery a great number of young people. It cannot be too often repeated that it is dangerous to enter upon a career of letters without some other means of living. An illustrious author has said in these times, “Literature must not be leant on as upon a crutch; it is little more than a stick.”

    J. Petit-Senn.

    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.


    Living authors, therefore, are usually bad companions. If they have not gained character, they seek to do so by methods often ridiculous, always disgusting; and if they have established a character, they are silent for fear of losing by their tongue what they have acquired by their pen—for many authors converse much more foolishly than Goldsmith, who have never written half so well.


    Professed authors who overestimate their vocation are too full of themselves to be agreeable companions. The demands of their egotism are inveterate. They seem to be incapable of that abandon which is the requisite condition of social pleasure; and bent upon winning a tribute of admiration, or some hint, which they can turn to the account of pen-craft, there is seldom in their company any of the delightful unconsciousness which harmonizes a circle.


    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.