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


Experience is the extract of suffering.

Arthur Helps.

Experience is retrospect knowledge.

Hosea Ballou.

The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet.


Alas, could experience be bought for gold!

Mme. Deluzy.

Experience converts us to ourselves when books fail us.

A. Bronson Alcott.

Years teach us more than books.


Believe one who has tried it.


The finest poetry was first experience.


Great men never require experience.


God sends experience to paint men’s portraits.

Henry Ward Beecher.

Experience makes us wise.


All is but lip wisdom which wants experience.

Sir P. Sidney.

Making all futures fruits of all the past.

Edwin Arnold.

Experience is our only teacher both in war and peace.


Only so much do I know, as I have lived.


Long-travelled in the ways of men.


Who heeds not experience, trust him not.

John Boyle O’Reilly.

He jests at scars, that never felt a wound.


Experience is the teacher of fools.


Experience wounded is the school where man learns piercing wisdom out of smart.

Lord Brooke.

Experience does take dreadfully high school-wages, but he teaches like no other.


  • Men may rise on stepping-stones
  • Of their dead selves to higher things.
  • Tennyson.

    Our ancestors have travelled the iron age; the golden is before us.

    Bernardin de St. Pierre.

  • Experience is by industry achieved,
  • And perfected by the swift course of time.
  • Shakespeare.

    Experience is always sowing the seed of one thing after another.


    What we gain by experience is not worth that we lose in illusion.

    J. Petit-Senn.

    What is every year of a wise man’s life but a censure or critic on the past?


    One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.


    Theories are very thin and unsubstantial: experience only is tangible.

    Hosea Ballou.

    What! wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?


    It is the nature of experience to come to us only when too late for use.

    Mme. de Rieux.

    Experience teaches slowly, and at the cost of mistakes.


    Experience is the only prophecy of wise men.


    History should be to the political economist a wellspring of experience and wisdom.


    Is there any one so wise as to learn by the experience of others?


    We gain justice, judgment, with years, or else years are in vain.

    Owen Meredith.

    To Truth’s house there is a single door, which is experience.

    Bayard Taylor.

    Experience is a jewel, and it had need be so, for it is often purchased at an infinite rate.


    To some purpose is that man wise who gains his wisdom at another’s expense.


  • Experience join’d with common sense,
  • To mortals is a providence.
  • Green.

  • Oh, who can tell, save he whose heart hath tried?
  • Byron.

  • A sadder and a wiser man,
  • He rose the morrow morn.
  • Coleridge.

  • He teaches best,
  • Who feels the hearts of all men in his breast,
  • And knows their strength or weakness through his own.
  • Bayard Taylor.

    I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.

    Patrick Henry.

    Experience is no more transferable in morals than in art.


    In almost everything, experience is more valuable than precept. Quintilian.

    Nobody will use other people’s experience, nor have any of his own till it is too late to use it.


    Each succeeding day is the scholar of that which preceded.

    Publius Syrus.

    Experience is the name men give to their follies or their sorrows.

    Alfred de Musset.

    Experience, that chill touchstone whose sad proof reduces all things from their hue.


    The ever-burning lamp of accumulated wisdom.

    G. W. Curtis.

    That experience which does not make us better makes us worse.

    J. Petit-Senn.

    I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad.


    We are often prophets to others only because we are our own historians.

    Mme. Swetchine.

    Experience is a keen knife that hurts while it extracts the cataract that blinds.

    De Finod.

    A man who does not learn to live while he is getting a living is a poorer man after his wealth is won than he was before.

    J. G. Holland.

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


    Everything is worth seeing once, and the more one sees the less one either wonders or admires.


    To have a true idea of man or of life, one must have stood himself on the brink of suicide, or on the door-sill of insanity, at least once.


    Experience is a grindstone; and it is lucky for us if we can get brightened by it, and not ground.

    H. W. Shaw.

    I scarcely exceed the middle age of man; yet between infancy and maturity I have seen ten revolutions!


    Ah! the youngest heart has the same waves within it as the oldest, but without the plummet which can measure their depths.


    I think there are stores laid up in our human nature that our understandings can make no complete inventory of.

    George Eliot.

    Would they could sell us though at diamond prices, but then no one would use the article second-hand!


    Experience is the common schoolhouse of fools and ill men. Men of wit and honesty be otherwise instructed.


    The experience of others adds to our knowledge, but not to our wisdom; that is dearer-bought.

    Hosea Ballou.

    The only faith that wears well and holds its color in all weathers is that which is woven of conviction, and set with the sharp mordant of experience.


  • To wilful men,
  • The injuries that they themselves procure
  • Must be their school-masters.
  • Shakespeare.

    Experience is a safe light to walk by, and he is not a rash man who expects to succeed in future from the same means which have secured it in times past.

    Wendell Phillips.

    Experience only can teach men not to prefer what strikes them for the present moment, to what will have much greater weight with them hereafter.

    Lord Chesterfield.

    The head learns new things, but the heart forevermore practices old experiences. Therefore our life is but a new form of the way men have lived from the beginning.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    Too high an appreciation of our own talents is the chief cause why experience preaches to us all in vain.


  • ’Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,
  • And ask them what report they bore to heaven.
  • Young.

    Conflicts bring experience; and experience brings that growth in grace which is not to be attained by any other means.


    Oft have I thought—jabber as he will, how learned soever, man knows nothing but what he has learned from experience!


    This is one of the sad conditions of life, that experience is not transmissible. No man will learn from the suffering of another; he must suffer himself.


    Taught by experience to know my own blindness, shall I speak as if I could not err, and as if others might not in some disputed points be more enlightened than myself?


    I learn several great truths; as that it is impossible to see into the ways of futurity, that punishment always attends the villain, that love is the fond soother of the human breast.


    It may serve as a comfort to us in all our calamities and afflictions that he that loses anything and gets wisdom by it is a gainer by the loss.


    Experience unveils too late the snares laid for youth; it is the white frost which discovers the spider’s web when the flies are no longer there to be caught.

    J. Petit-Senn.

    The petty cares, the minute anxieties, the infinite littles which go to make up the sum of human experience, like the invisible granules of powder, give the last and highest polish to a character.

    William Matthews.

    Every man’s experience of to-day is that he was a fool yesterday and the day before yesterday. To-morrow he will most likely be of exactly the same opinion.

    Charles Mackay.

    In all instances where our experience of the past has been extensive and uniform, our judgment concerning the future amounts to moral certainty.


  • Experience, next, to thee I owe,
  • Best guide; not following thee, I had remain’d
  • In ignorance; thou open’st wisdom’s way,
  • And giv’st access, though secret she retire.
  • Milton.

    What matters it that a soldier has a sword of dazzling finish, of the keenest edge, and finest temper, if he has never learned the art of fence.

    William Matthews.

    All reasoning is retrospect; it consists in the application of facts and principles previously known. This will show the very great importance of knowledge, especially of that kind called experience.

    J. Foster.

    Thou shalt know by experience how salt the savor is of other’s bread, and how sad a path it is to climb and descend another’s stairs.


    Learn the lesson of your own pain—learn to seek God, not in any single event of past history, but in your own soul—in the constant verifications of experience, in the life of Christian love.

    Mrs. Humphry Ward.

    There are many arts among men, the knowledge of which is acquired bit by bit by experience. For it is experience that causeth our life to move forward by the skill we acquire, while want of experience subjects us to the effects of chance.


    He hazardeth much who depends for his learning on experience. An unhappy master, he that is only made wise by many shipwrecks; a miserable merchant, that is neither rich nor wise till he has been bankrupt. By experience we find out a short way by a long wandering.

    Roger Ascham.

    Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarcely in that; for it is true, we may give advice, but we cannot give conduct. Remember this; they that will not be counseled cannot be helped. If you do not hear reason she will rap you over your knuckles.


  • What man would be wise, let him drink of the river
  • That bears on his bosom the record of time;
  • A message to him every wave can deliver
  • To teach him to creep till he knows how to climb.
  • John Boyle O’Reilly.

    Not only the individual experience slowly acquired, but the accumulated experience of the race, organized in language, condensed in instruments and axioms, and in what may be called the inherited intuitions—these form the multiple unity which is expressed in the abstract term “experience.”

    G. H. Lewes.

    Experience: in that all our knowledge is founded; and from that it ultimately derives itself. Our observation employed either about external or sensible objects or about the internal operations of our minds, perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which supplies our understandings with all the materials of thinking.

    John Locke.

    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.


    Young men are as apt to think themselves wise enough, as drunken men are to think themselves sober enough. They look upon spirit to be a much better thing than experience; which they call coldness. They are but half mistaken; for though spirit without experience is dangerous, experience without spirit is languid and ineffective.


    Just as a tested and rugged virtue of the moral hero is worth more than the lovely, tender, untried innocence of the child, so is the massive strength of a soul that has conquered truth for itself worth more than the soft peach-bloom faith of a soul that takes truth on trust.

    F. E. Abbot.

  • Behold, we live through all things,—famine, thirst,
  • Bereavement, pain; all grief and misery,
  • All woe and sorrow; life inflicts its worst
  • On soul and body,—but we cannot die,
  • Though we be sick, and tired, and faint, and worn,—
  • Lo, all things can be borne!
  • Elizabeth Akers Allen.

    If I might venture to appeal to what is so much out of fashion at Paris, I mean to experience, I should tell you that in my course I have known and, according to my measure, have co-operated with great men; and I have never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observations of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took the lead in the business.


  • I know
  • The past and thence I will essay to glean
  • A warning for the future, so that man
  • May profit by his errors, and derive
  • Experience from his folly;
  • For, when the power of imparting joy
  • Is equal to the will, the human soul
  • Requires no other heaven.
  • Shelley.

    Man little knows what calamities are beyond his patience to bear till he tries them; as in ascending the heights of ambition, which look bright from below, every step we rise shows us some new and gloomy prospect of hidden disappointment; so in our descent from the summits of pleasure, though the vale of misery below may appear, at first, dark and gloomy, yet the busy mind, still attentive to its own amusement, finds, as we descend, something to flatter and to please. Still as we approach, the darkest objects appear to brighten, and the mortal eye becomes adapted to its gloomy situation.


    No man was ever endowed with a judgment so correct and judicious, in regulating his life, but that circumstances, time and experience would teach him something new, and apprize him that of those things with which he thought himself the best acquainted he knew nothing; and that those ideas which in theory appeared the most advantageous were found, when brought into practice, to be altogether inapplicable.