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


Nothing endures but personal qualities.

Walt Whitman.

Character is a perfectly educated will.


The man that makes a character makes foes.


No talent, but yet a character.


Character makes its own destiny.

Mrs. Campbell Praed.

The great hope of society is individual character.


Character must be kept bright as well as clean.


Character is very much a matter of health.


Human improvement is from within outward.


Our character is our will; for what we will we are.

Archbishop Manning.

Weakness of character is the only defect which cannot be amended.

La Rochefoucauld.

No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.


Happiness is not the end of life; character is.


You must look into people as well as at them.


We are sometimes as different from ourselves as we are from others.

La Rochefoucauld.

As your enemies and your friends, so are you.


In this world a man must either be anvil or hammer.


Character lives in a man, reputation outside of him.

J. G. Holland.

Character is what nature has engraven in us; can we then efface it?


Character is the diamond that scratches every other stone.


Character is centrality, the impossibility of being overthrown.


A good name is better than precious ointment.

Eccles. vii. 1.

The most striking characters are sometimes the product of an infinity of little accidents.


The fine tints and fluent curves which constitute beauty of character.


The most careful reasoning characters are very often the most easily abashed.

Mme. de Staël.

Every one is as God made him, and often a great deal worse.


Talent is nurtured in solitude; character is formed in the stormy billows of the world.


Men and brethren, a simple trust in God is the most essential ingredient in moral sublimity of character.

Richard Fuller.

Individuality is everywhere to be guarded and honored as the root of all good.

Jean Paul Richter.

Actions, looks, words, steps from the alphabet by which you may spell characters.


Our character is but the stamp on our souls of the free choice of good or evil we have made through life.

J. C. Geikie.

Character is moral order seen through the medium of an individual nature.


Characters never change. Opinions alter,—characters are only developed.


Strong characters are brought out by change of situation, and gentle ones by permanence.


All men are like in their lower natures; it is in their higher characters that they differ.


I’m called away by particular business. But I leave my character behind me.


Every one is least known to himself, and it is very difficult for a man to know himself.


Many persons carry about their character in their hands, not a few under their feet.


You may depend upon it that he is a good man whose intimate friends are all good.


Only what we have wrought into our character during life can we take away with us.


I have learned by experience that no character can be eventually injured but by his own acts.

Rowland Hill.

Character gives splendor to youth, and awe to wrinkled skin and grey hairs.


Fine natures are like fine poems; a glance at the first two lines suffices for a guess into the beauty that waits you if you read on.


Learn now of the treachery of the Greeks, and from one example the character of the nation may be known.


The true greatness of nations is in those qualities which constitute the greatness of the individual.

Charles Sumner.

Give me the character and I will forecast the event. Character, it has in substance been said, is “victory organized.”


  • Love, hope, fear, faith,—these make humanity;
  • These are its sign, and note, and character.
  • Robert Browning.

    Every man has in himself a continent of undiscovered character. Happy is he who acts the Columbus to his own soul.

    Sir J. Stevens.

  • Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
  • Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
  • But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.
  • Longfellow.

    Character is higher than intellect.***A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think.


    Every man has three characters—that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.

    Alphonse Karr.

  • There is a kind of character in thy life,
  • That to the observer doth thy history
  • Fully unfold.
  • Shakespeare.

    There are peculiar ways in men, which discover what they are, through the most subtle feints and closest disguises.

    La Bruyère.

    In all our reasonings concerning men we must lay it down as a maxim, that the greater part are moulded by circumstances.

    Robert Hall.

    We do not judge men by what they are in themselves, but by what they are relatively to us.

    Mme. Swetchine.

    As the present character of a man, so his past, so his future. Who recollects distinctly his past adventures knows his destiny to come.


    To judge human character rightly, a man may sometimes have very small experience, provided he has a very large heart.


    It is by presence of mind in untried emergencies that the native metal of a man is tested.


    The most brilliant qualities become useless when they are not sustained by force of character.


    Circumstances form the character; but, like petrifying matters, they harden while they form.


    He is truly great that is little in himself, and that maketh no account of any height of honors.

    Thomas à Kempis.

    He whose life seems fair, if all his errors and follies were articled against him, would seem vicious and miserable.

    Jeremy Taylor.

    A good character when established should not be rested in as an end, but only employed as a means of doing still further good.


    There never has been a great and beautiful character, which has not become so by filling well the ordinary and smaller offices appointed of God.

    Horace Bushnell.

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


    Character, like porcelain ware, must be printed before it is glazed. There can be no change after it is burned in.


    Character is made up of small duties faithfully performed—of self-denials, of self-sacrifices, of kindly acts of love and duty.


    Character shows itself apart from genius as a special thing. The first point of measurement of any man is that of quality.

    T. W. Higginson.

    Let the character as it began be preserved to the last; and let it be consistent with itself.


    Everything that happens to us leaves some trace behind; everything contributes imperceptibly to make us what we are.


    Certain trifling flaws sit as disgracefully on a character of elegance as a ragged button on a court dress.


    This is that which we call character,—a reserved force which acts directly by presence, and without means.


    Never does a man portray his own character more vividly than in his manner of portraying another.


    Individual character is in the right that is in strict consistence with itself. Self-contradiction is the only wrong.


    We are not that we are, nor do we treat or esteem each other for such, but for that we are capable of being.


    When you have discovered a stain in yourself, you eagerly seek for and gladly find stains in others.


  • The man who consecrates his hours
  • By vig’rous effort and an honest aim,
  • At once he draws the stink of life and death;
  • He walks with nature, and her paths are peace.
  • Young.

    There is in every man a certain feeling that he has been what he is from all eternity, and by no means become such in time.


    Those with whom we can apparently become well acquainted in a few moments are generally the most difficult to rightly know and to understand.


    He that is good will infallibly become better, and he that is bad will as certainly become worse; for vice, virtue, and time are three things that never stand still.


    Conflict, which rouses up the best and highest powers in some characters, in others not only jars the whole being, but paralyzes the faculties.

    Mrs. Jameson.

    Many men build as cathedrals were built,—the part nearest the ground finished, but that part which soars toward heaven, the turrets and the spires, forever incomplete.


    In common discourse we denominate persons and things according to the major part of their character; he is to be called a wise man who has but few follies.


    Character is not cut in marble; it is not something solid and unalterable. It is something living and changing, and may become diseased as our bodies do.

    George Eliot.

    Whatever capacities there may be for enjoyment or for suffering in this strange being of ours, and God only knows what they are, they will be drawn out wholly in accordance with character.

    Mark Hopkins.

    Some characters are like some bodies in chemistry; very good, perhaps, in themselves, yet fly off and refuse the least conjunction with each other.

    Lord Greville.

  • Fame is what you have taken,
  • Character’s what you give;
  • When to this truth you waken,
  • Then you begin to live.
  • Bayard Taylor.

    It was observed of Elizabeth that she was weak herself, but chose wise counsellors; to which it was replied, that to choose wise counsellors was, in a prince, the highest wisdom.


    Character is the spiritual body of the person, and represents the individualization of vital experience, the conversion of unconscious things into self-conscious men.


  • Whoe’er amidst the sons
  • Of reason, valor, liberty and virtue,
  • Displays distinguished merit, is a noble
  • Of Nature’s own creating.
  • Thomson.

    A man’s character is like his shadow which sometimes follows, and sometimes precedes him, and which is occasionally longer, occasionally shorter than he is.

    From the French.

    The best rules to form a young man are to talk little, to hear much, to reflect alone upon what has passed in company, to distrust one’s own opinions, and value others that deserve it.

    Sir William Temple.

    Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave and of the character they assume.


    Man can have strength of character only as he is capable of controlling his faculties; of choosing a rational end; and, in its pursuit, of holding fast to his integrity against all the might of external nature.

    Mark Hopkins.

    In society every man is taken for what he gives himself out to be; but he must give himself out to be something. Better to be slightly disagreeable than altogether insignificant.


    There are many persons of whom it may be said that they have no other possession in the world but their character, and yet they stand as firmly upon it as any crowned king.

    Samuel Smiles.

  • Rugged strength and radiant beauty—
  • These were one in Nature’s plan;
  • Humble toil and heavenward duty—
  • These will form the perfect man.
  • Sarah J. Hale.

    The effect of character is always to command consideration. We sport and toy and laugh with men or women who have none, but we never confide in them.


    A German writer observes: “Tho noblest characters only show themselves in their real light. All others act comedy with their fellow-men even unto the grave.”

    Lady Blessington.

    I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an “honest man.”

    George Washington.

    In our relations with the people around us, we forgive them more readily for what they do, which they can help, than for what they are, which they cannot help.

    Mrs. Jameson.

    What is the true test of character, unless it be its progressive development in the bustle and turmoil, in the action and reaction of daily life?


    These two things, contradictory as they may seem, must go together,—manly dependence and manly independence, manly reliance and manly self-reliance.


    The most accomplished persons have usually some defect, some weakness in their characters, which diminishes the lustre of their brighter qualifications.


    It is amusing to detect character in the vocabulary of each person. The adjectives habitually used, like the inscriptions on a thermometer, indicate the temperament.


  • The keen spirit
  • Seizes the prompt occasion—makes the thought
  • Start into instant action, and at once
  • Plans and performs, resolves and executes.
  • Hannah More.

    It is in the relaxation of security; it is in the expansion of prosperity; it is in the hour of dilatation of the heart, and of its softening into festivity and pleasure, that the real character of men is discerned.


    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.


    Your disposition will be suitable to that which you most frequently think on; for the soul is, as it were, tinged with the color and complexion of its own thoughts.

    Marcus Antoninus.

    A man who shows no defect is a fool or a hypocrite, whom we should mistrust. There are defects so bound to fine qualities that they announce them,—defects which it is well not to correct.


    Duke Chartres used to boast that no man could have less real value for character than himself, yet he would gladly give twenty thousand pounds for a good one, because he could immediately make double that sum by means of it.


    Where the vivacity of the intellect and the strength of the passions exceed the development of the moral faculties the character is likely to be embittered or corrupted by extremes, either of adversity or prosperity.

    Mrs. Jameson.

    A man is what he is, not what men say he is. His character no man can touch. His character is what he is before his God and his Judge; and only himself can damage that. His reputation is what men say he is. That can be damaged; but reputation is for time, character is for eternity.

    John B. Gough.

    The two most precious things this side the grave are our reputation and our life. But it is to be lamented that the most contemptible whisper may deprive us of the one, and the weakest weapon of the other.


    Should any man tell you that a mountain had changed its place, you are at liberty to doubt it if you think fit; but if any one tells you that a man has changed his character, do not believe it.


    Each man formes his duty according to his predominant characteristic; the stern require an avenging judge; the gentle, a forgiving father. Just so the pygmies declared that Jove himself was a pygmy.


    Joy and grief decide character. What exalts prosperity? what imbitters grief? what leaves us indifferent? what interests us? As the interest of man, so his God,—as his God, so he.


    As fire when thrown into water is cooled down and put out, so also a false accusation when brought against a man of the purest and holiest character boils over and is at once dissipated and vanishes.


    A man’s character is the reality of himself; his reputation, the opinion others have formed about him; character resides in him, reputation in other people; that is the substance, this is the shadow.


    The noblest contribution which any man can make for the benefit of posterity is that of a good character. The richest bequest which any man can leave to the youth of his native land is that of a shining, spotless example.


    It is a common error, of which a wise man will beware, to measure the worth of our neighbor by his conduct towards ourselves. How many rich souls might we not rejoice in the knowledge of, were it not for our pride!


    To know a people’s character, we must see it at its homes, and look chiefly to the humbler abodes where that portion of the people dwells which makes the broad basis of the national prosperity.


    There are beauties of character which, like the night-blooming cereus, are closed against the glare and turbulence of every-day life, and bloom only in shade and solitude, and beneath the quiet stars.


    A man is known to his dog by the smell, to his tailor by the coat, to his friend by the smile; each of these know him, but how little or how much depends on the dignity of the intelligence. That which is truly and indeed characteristic of the man is known only to God.


    Although genius always commands admiration, character most secures respect. The former is more the product of the brain, the latter of heart-power; and in the long run it is the heart that rules in life.

    Samuel Smiles.

    Grit is the grain of character. It may generally be described as heroism materialized,—spirit and will thrust into heart, brain, and backbone, so as to form part of the physical substance of the man.


  • He that has light within his own clear breast,
  • May sit i’ th’ centre, and enjoy bright day:
  • But he that hides a dark soul, and foul thoughts,
  • Benighted walks under the mid-day sun;
  • Himself is his own dungeon.
  • Milton.

    Character halts without aid of the imagination, which our classes in Shakespeare and Browning, music and drawing, recognise not only as amusement and by-play of the mind, but a co-ordinate power. Its work is unhappily styled fiction; for to idealize is to realize.


    The highest of characters, in my estimation, is his who is as ready to pardon the moral errors of mankind as if he were every day guilty of some himself; and at the same time as cautious of committing a fault as if he never forgave one.

    Pliny the Younger.

    The only equitable manner in my opinion, of judging the character of a man is to examine if there are personal calculations in his conduct; if there are not, we may blame his manner of judging, but we are not the less bound to esteem him.

    Madame de Staël.

  • He’s truly valiant that can wisely suffer
  • The worst that man can breathe;
  • And make his wrongs his outsides,
  • To wear them like his raiment, carelessly;
  • And ne’er prefer his injuries to his heart,
  • To bring it into danger.
  • Shakespeare.

    Never get a reputation for a small perfection if you are trying for fame in a loftier area. The world can only judge by generals, and it sees that those who pay considerable attention to minutiæ seldom have their minds occupied with great things.


    A good character is, in all cases, the fruit of personal exertion. It is not inherited from parents, it is not created by external advantages, it is no necessary appendage of birth, wealth, talents or station; but it is the result of one’s own endeavors.


    As nature made every man with a nose and eyes of his own, she gave him a character of his own, too; and yet we, O foolish race! must try our very best to ape some one or two of our neighbors, whose ideas fit us no more than their breeches!


    Remedy your deficiencies, and your merits will take care of themselves. Every man has in him good and evil. His good is his valiant army, his evil is his corrupt commissariat; reform the commissariat and the army will do its duty.


    The amiable and the severe, Mr. Burke’s sublime and beautiful, by different proportions, are mixed in every character. Accordingly, as either is predominant, men imprint the passions of love or fear. The best punch depends on a proper mixture of sugar and lemons.


    It is not what a man gets, but what a man is that he should think of. He should first think of his character and then of his condition. He that has character need have no fears about his condition. Character will draw after it condition. Circumstances obey principles.


    Many men are mere warehouses full of merchandise—the head, the heart, are stuffed with goods.***There are apartments in their souls which were once tenanted by taste, and love, and joy, and worship, but they are all deserted now, and the rooms are filled with earthy and material things.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    Character is the product of daily, hourly actions, and words and thoughts; daily forgivenesses, unselfishness, kindnesses, sympathies, charities, sacrifices for the good of others, struggles against temptation, submissiveness under trial. Oh, it is these, like the blending colors in a picture or the blending notes of music which constitute the man.

    J. R. Macduff.

    Brains and character rule the world. The most distinguished Frenchman of the last century said: “Men succeed less by their talents than their character.” There were scores of men a hundred years ago who had more intellect than Washington. He outlives and overrides them all by the influence of his character.

    Wendell Phillips.

    The craft with which the world is made runs also into the mind and character of men. No man is quite sane; each has a vein of folly in his composition, a slight determination of blood to the head, to make sure of holding him hard to some one point which Nature has taken to heart.


    It is an error common to many to take the character of mankind from the worst and basest amongst them; whereas, as an excellent writer has observed, nothing should be esteemed as characteristical of a species but what is to be found amongst the best and the most perfect individuals of that species.


    We should not be too hasty in bestowing either our praise or censure on mankind, since we shall often find such a mixture of good and evil in the same character, that it may require a very accurate judgment and a very elaborate inquiry to determine on which side the balance turns.


    We must have a weak spot or two in a character before we can love it much. People that do not laugh or cry, or take more of anything than is good for them, or use anything but dictionary words, are admirable subjects for biographies. But we don’t always care most for those flat-pattern flowers that press best in the herbarium.


    Modern engineers, after having erected a viaduct, insist upon subjecting it to a severe strain by a formal trial trip before allowing it to be opened for public traffic, and it would almost seem that God, in employing moral agents for the carrying out of His purposes, secures that they shall be tested by some dreadful ordeal before He fully commits to them the work which He wishes them to perform.

    Wm. M. Taylor.

    Ordinary people regard a man of a certain force and inflexibility of character as they do a lion. They look at him with a sort of wonder—perhaps they admire; but they will, on no account, house with him. The lap dog, who wags his tail and licks the hand and cringes at the nod of every stranger, is a much more acceptable companion to them.


    Avoid connecting yourself with characters whose good and bad sides are unmixed and have not fermented together; they resemble vials of vinegar and oil; or palletts set with colors; they are either excellent at home and insufferable abroad, or intolerable within doors and excellent in public; they are unfit for friendship, merely because their stamina, their ingredients of character are too single, top much apart; let them be finely ground up with each other, and they are incomparable.


    Every man has at times in his mind the ideal of what he should be, but is not. This ideal may be high and complete, or it may be quite low and insufficient; yet in all men that really seek to improve, it is better than the actual character.***Man never falls so low that he can see nothing higher than himself.

    Theodore Parker.

  • Formed on the good old plan,
  • A true and brave and downright honest man!
  • He blew no trumpet in the market-place,
  • Nor in the church with hypocritic face
  • Supplied with cant the lack of Christian grace;
  • Loathing pretense, he did with cheerful will
  • What others talked of while their hands were still.
  • Whittier.

    Very great personages are not likely to form very just estimates either of others or of themselves; their knowledge of themselves is obscured by the flattery of others; their knowledge of others is equally clouded by circumstances peculiar to themselves. For in the presence of the great, the modest are sure to suffer from too much diffidence, and the confident from too much display.


    A great character, founded on the living rock of principle, is, in fact, not a solitary phenomenon, to be at once perceived, limited and described. It is a dispensation of Providence, designed to have not merely an immediate but a continuous, progressive and never-ending agency. It survives the man who possessed it; survives his age—perhaps his country, his language.

    Ed. Everett.

    Character is always known. Thefts never enrich; alms never impoverish; murder will speak out of stone walls. The least admixture of a lie—for example, the taint of vanity, any attempt to make a good impression, a favorable appearance—will instantly vitiate the effect. But speak the truth and all nature and all spirits help you with unexpected furtherance.


    Instead of saying that man is the creature of circumstance, it would be nearer the mark to say that man is the architect of circumstance. It is character which builds an existence out of circumstance. Our strength is measured by our plastic power. From the same materials one man builds palaces, another hovels; one warehouses, another villas; bricks and mortar are mortar and bricks until the architect can make them something else.


    Decision of character is one of the most important of human qualities, philosophically considered. Speculation, knowledge, is not the chief end of man; it is action.***“Give us the man,” shout the multitude, “who will step forward and take the responsibility.” He is instantly the idol, the lord, and the king among men. He, then, who would command among his fellows, must excel them more in energy of will than in power of intellect.


    There are some characters who appear to superficial observers to be full of contradiction, change and inconsistency, and yet they that are in the secret of what such persons are driving at, know that they are the very reverse of what they appear to be, and that they have one single object in view, to which they as pertinaciously adhere through every circumstance of change, as the hound to the hare, through all her mazes and doublings. We know that a windmill is eternally at work to accomplish one end, although it shifts with every variation of the weather-cock, and assumes ten different positions in a day.