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


All great men are partially inspired.


Greatness knows itself.


The most useful is the greatest.

Theodore Parker.

Great men are sincere.


Greatness is its own torment.

Theodore Parker.

The world knows nothing of its greatest men.

Henry Taylor.

Great souls are harmonious.

Joseph Roux.

All great men come out of the middle classes.


Greatness appeals to the future.


Great is not great to the greater.

Sir P. Sidney.

The first step to greatness is to be honest.


Every great man is a unique.


In a great soul everything is great.


Great men should not have great faults.

La Rochefoucauld.

Are not great men the models of nations?

Owen Meredith.

Reproach is a concomitant of greatness.


The civilities of the great are never thrown away.


For he that once is good, is ever great.

Ben Jonson.

To be great is to be misunderstood.


Great men are never sufficiently shown but in struggles.


Nothing is great but the inexhaustible wealth of nature.


A great mind becomes a great fortune.


No man ever yet became great by imitation.


A great man is one who affects the mind of his generation.


A great man is made so for others.

Thomas Wilson.

None think the great unhappy but the great.


Greatness, as we daily see it, is unsociable.


The great man is the man who does a thing for the first time.

Alexander Smith.

There is but one method, and that is hard labor.

Sydney Smith.

A man in pursuit of greatness feels no little wants.


No really great man ever thought himself so.


That man is great who can use the brains of others to carry on his work.

Donn Piatt.

The greatest man is he who chooses right with the most invincible resolution.


The great are only great because we are on our knees. Let us rise up.


The tomb is the pedestal of greatness. I make a distinction between God’s great and the king’s great.


It is the prerogative of great men only to have great defects.

La Rochefoucauld.

That man is great who rises to the emergencies of the occasion, and becomes master of the situation.

Donn Piatt.

  • Oh! greatness! thou art but a flattering
  • A wat’ry bubble, lighter than the air.
  • Tracy.

    A great man is made up of qualities that meet or make great occasions.


    It is not by his faults, but by his excellences, that we must measure a great man.

    George Henry Lewes.

    To be great one must be positive, and gain strength through foes.

    Donn Piatt.

    Everything great is not always good, but all good things are great.


    What your heart thinks great is great. The soul’s emphasis is always right.


    In all the world there is nothing so remarkable as a great man, nothing so rare, nothing which so well repays study.

    Theodore Parker.

    It is to be lamented that great characters are seldom without a blot.


    Great souls attract sorrow as mountains do storms.


    No great thought, no great object, satisfies the mind at first view, nor at the last.

    Abel Stevens.

    Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.


  • Great truths are portions of the soul of man;
  • Great souls are the portions of eternity.
  • Lowell.

    No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men.


    Great men are rarely isolated mountain-peaks; they are the summits of ranges.

    T. W. Higginson.

    In order to do great things, it is necessary to live as if one was never to die.


    Greatness, once fallen out with fortune, must fall out with men too.


    We have not the love of greatness, but the love of the love of greatness.


    Nothing can make a man truly great but being truly good and partaking of God’s holiness.

    Matthew Henry.

    It is, alas! the poor prerogative of greatness, to be wretched and unpitied.


    A great man knows the value of greatness; he dares not hazard it, he will not squander it.


    What millions died that Cæsar might be great!


    Great souls are always loyally submissive, reverent to what is over them: only small mean souls are otherwise.


    The difference between Socrates and Jesus Christ? The great Conscious; the immeasurably great Unconscious.


    Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength.


  • Not that the heavens the little can make great,
  • But many a man has lived an age too late.
  • R. H. Stoddard.

    He is great who is what he is from nature, and who never reminds us of others.


  • It is the curse of greatness
  • To be its own destruction.
  • Nabb.

    When greatness descends from its lofty pedestal, it assumes human dimensions.

    Mme. Louise Colet.

    True greatness is sovereign wisdom. We are never deceived by our virtues.


    Since we cannot attain to greatness, let us revenge ourselves by railing at it.


    It is the age that forms the man, not the man that forms the age.


    The age does not believe in great men, because it does not possess any.


    Great men stand like solitary towers in the city of God.


    It is not in the nature of true greatness to be exclusive and arrogant.


    The great man is to be the servant of mankind, not they of him.

    Theodore Parker.

    Great men are among the best gifts which God bestows upon a people.

    George S. Hillard.

    Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.


    A solemn and religious regard to spiritual and eternal things is an indispensable element of all true greatness.

    Daniel Webster.

    Rightly to be great is not to stir without great argument.


    The great would not think themselves demigods if the little did not worship them.


    Great men lose somewhat of their greatness by being near us; ordinary men gain much.


    Distinction is an eminence that is attained but too frequently at the expense of a fireside.


    That man lives greatly, whatever his fate or fame, who greatly dies.


  • Greatness, thou gaudy torment of our souls,
  • The wise man’s fetter, and the rage of fools.
  • Otway.

    Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.


    They that stand high have many blasts to shake them; and if they fall, they dash themselves to pieces.


    There was never yet a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous.

    Benjamin Franklin.

    Copiousness and simplicity, variety and unity, constitute real greatness of character.


    Great men are more distinguished by range and extent than by originality.


    Great men do not content us. It is their solitude, not their force, that makes them conspicuous.


  • Heaven knows, I had no such intent;
  • But that necessity so bow’d the state,
  • That I and greatness were compell’d to kiss.
  • Shakespeare.

    Greatness is not a teachable nor gainable thing, but the expression of the mind of a God-made great man.


    The use of great men is to serve the little men, to take care of the human race, and act as practical interpreters of justice and truth.

    Theodore Parker.

    Great souls are not those who have fewer passions and more virtues than the common, but those only who have greater designs.

    La Rochefoucauld.

    In life, we shall find many men that are great, and some men that are good, but very few men that are both great and good.


    Earthly greatness is a nice thing, and requires so much chariness in the managing, as the contentment of it cannot requite.


    The great are only great because we carry them on our shoulders; when we throw them off they sprawl on the ground.


    There is a better thing than the great man who is always speaking, and that is the great man who only speaks when he has a great word to say.

    William Winter.

    It is, in a great measure, by raising up and endowing great minds that God secures the advance of human affairs, and the accomplishment of His own plans on earth.

    Albert Barnes.

    A really great man is known by three signs—generosity in the design, humanity in the execution, and moderation in success.


    He who comes up to his own idea of greatness must always have had a very low standard of it in his mind.


    A great man, I take it, is a man so inspired and permeated with the ideas of God and the Christly spirit as to be too magnanimous for vengeance, and too unselfish to seek his own ends.

    David Thomas.

    The truly great rest in the knowledge of their own deserts, nor seek the conformation of the world.

    Alexander Smith.

    A solid and substantial greatness of soul looks down with neglect on the censures and applauses of the multitude.


    Like the air-invested heron, great persons should conduct themselves; and the higher they be, the less they should show.

    Sir P. Sidney.

    By a certain fate, great acts, and great eloquence have most commonly gone hand in hand, equalling and honoring each other in the same ages.


    No great intellectual thing was ever done by great effort; a great thing can only be done by a great man, and he does it without effort.


    The greatness of action includes immoral as well as moral greatness—Cortes and Napoleon, as well as Luther and Washington.


    Great names stand not alone for great deeds; they stand also for great virtues, and, doing them worship, we elevate ourselves.

    Henry Giles.

    Greatness, in any period and under any circumstances, has always been rare. It is of elemental birth, and is independent alike of its time and its circumstances.

    William Winter.

    The world cannot do without great men, but great men are very troublesome to the world.


    Avoid greatness; in a cottage there may be found more real happiness than kings or their favorites enjoy in palaces.


    Nature never sends a great man into the planet, without confiding the secret to another soul.


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


    Great warriors, like great earthquakes, are principally remembered for the mischief they have done.


    Great minds do indeed react on the society which has made them what they are; but they only pay with interest what they have received.


    Philosophy may raise us above grandeur, but nothing can elevate us above the ennui which accompanies it.

    Mme. de Maintenon.

    If it is a pleasure to be envied and shot at, to be maligned standing and to be despised falling, then it is a pleasure to be great.


    The great men of the earth are but the marking-stones on the road of humanity; they are the priests of its religion.


    O, be sick, great greatness, and bid thy ceremony give thee cure! Thinkest thou the fiery fever will go out with titles blown from adulation?


    Those people who are always improving never become great. Greatness is an eminence, the ascent to which is steep and lofty, and which a man must seize on at once by natural boldness and vigor, and not by patient, wary steps.


    For as much as to understand and to be mighty are great qualities, the higher that they be, they are so much the less to be esteemed if goodness also abound not in the possessor.

    Sir P. Sidney.

    Be substantially great in thyself, and more than thou appearest unto others; and let the world be deceived in thee, as they are in the lights of heaven.

    Sir Thomas Browne.

    He only is great who has the habits of greatness; who, after performing what none in ten thousand could accomplish, passes on like Samson, and “tells neither father nor mother of it.”


    This is the part of a great man, after he has maturely weighed all circumstances, to punish the guilty, to spare the many, and in every state of fortune not to depart from an upright, virtuous conduct.


    There never was a great truth but it was reverenced; never a great institution, nor a great man, that did not, sooner or later, receive the reverence of mankind.

    Theodore Parker.

    There is something on earth greater than arbitrary power. The thunder, the lightning, and the earthquake are terrific, but the judgment of the people is more.

    Daniel Webster.

    The truly strong and sound mind is the mind that can embrace equally great things and small. I would have a man great in great things, and elegant in little things.


    Speaking generally, no man appears great to his contemporaries, for the same reason that no man is great to his servants—both know too much of him.


    There is no man so great as not to have some littleness more predominant than all his greatness. Our virtues are the dupes, and often only the plaything of our follies.


    A contemplation of God’s works, a generous concern for the good of mankind, and the unfeigned exercise of humility only, denominate men great and glorious.


  • Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
  • Like a Colossus; and we petty men
  • Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
  • To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
  • Shakespeare.

  • Great men may jest with saints: ’tis wit in them,
  • But in the less, foul profanation.
  • *****
  • That in the captain’s but a choleric word,
  • Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy.
  • Shakespeare.

    He is truly great that is great in charity. He is truly great that is little in himself, and maketh no account, of any height of honor. And he is truly learned that doeth the will of God, and forsaketh his own will.

    Thomas à Kempis.

    Great men, great events, great epochs, it has been said, grow as we recede from them; and the rate at which they grow in the estimation of men is in some sort a measure of their greatness.

    Principal Shairp.

  • Great is Youth—equally great is Old Age—great are Day and Night.
  • Great is Wealth—great is Poverty—great is Expression—great is Silence.
  • Walt Whitman.

    Man’s unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite.


  • He fought a thousand glorious wars,
  • And more than half the world was his,
  • And somewhere, now, in yonder stars,
  • Can tell, mayhap, what greatness is.
  • Thackeray.

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


    Great men are always exceptional men; and greatness itself is but comparative. Indeed, the range of most men in life is so limited that very few have the opportunity of being great.

    Samuel Smiles.

    Greatness is the aggregation of minuteness; nor can its sublimity be felt truthfully by any mind unaccustomed to the affectionate watching of what is least.


    A king or a prince becomes by accident a part of history. A poet or an artist becomes by nature and necessity a part of universal humanity.

    Mrs. Jameson.

    No man has come to true greatness who has not felt in some degree that his life belongs to his race, and that what God gives him He gives him for mankind.

    Phillips Brooks.

    Great people and champions are special gifts of God, whom He gives and preserves; they do their work, and achieve great actions, not with vain imaginations, or cold and sleepy cogitations, but by motion of God.

    Martin Luther.

    Such is the destiny of great men that their superior genius always exposes them to be the butt of the envenomed darts of calumny and envy.


    It appears to be among the laws of nature, that the mighty of intellect should be pursued and carped by the little, as the solitary flight of one great bird is followed by the twittering petulance of many smaller.


    The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God, and, secondly, that of their own consciences; having done this, they would then willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men.


    We observe with confidence that the truly strong mind, view it as intellect or morality, or under any other aspect, is nowise the mind acquainted with its strength; that here the sign of health is unconsciousness.


    As the stars are the glory of the sky, so great men are the glory of their country, yea, of the whole earth. The hearts of great men are the stars of earth; and doubtless when one looks down from above upon our planet, these hearts are seen to send forth a silvery light just like the stars of heaven.


  • Since, by your greatness, you
  • Are nearer heaven in place: be nearer it
  • In goodness: rich men should transcend the poor,
  • As clouds the earth; rais’d by the comfort of
  • The sun, to water dry and barren grounds.
  • Tourneur.

    Great men need to be lifted upon the shoulders of the whole world, in order to conceive their great ideas or perform their great deeds. That is, there must be an atmosphere of greatness round about them. A hero cannot be a hero unless in an heroic world.


    Worthy deeds are not often destitute of worthy relaters; as, by a certain fate, great acts and great eloquence have most commonly gone hand in hand, equalling and honoring each other in the same age.


    Some men who know that they are great are so very haughty withal and insufferable that their acquaintance discover their greatness only by the tax of humility which they are obliged to pay as the price of their friendship.


    Subtract from a great man all that he owes to opportunity and all that he owes to chance, all that he has gained by the wisdom of his friends and by the folly of his enemies, and our Brobdignag will often become a Liliputian.


    True greatness, first of ail, is a thing of the heart. It is all alive with robust and generous sympathies. It is neither behind its age, nor too far before it. It is up with its age, and ahead of it only just so far as to be able to lead its march. It cannot slumber, for activity is a necessity of its existence. It is no reservoir, but a fountain.

    Roswell D. Hitchcock.

  • That man is great, and he alone,
  • Who serves a greatness not his own,
  • For neither praise nor pelf:
  • Content to know and be unknown:
  • Whole in himself.
  • Lord Lytton.

    The great make us feel, first of all, the indifference of circumstances. They call into activity the higher perceptions, and subdue the low habits of comfort and luxury; but the higher perceptions find their objects everywhere; only the low habits need palaces and banquets.


    He who does the most good is the greatest man. Power, authority, dignity, honors, wealth and station—these are so far valuable as they put it into the hands of men to be more exemplary and more useful than they could be in an obscure and private life. But then these are means conducting to an end, and that end is goodness.

    Bishop Jortin.

    He only is great at heart who floods the world with a great affection. He only is great of mind who stirs the world with great thoughts. He only is great of will who does something to shape the world to a great career. And he is greatest who does the most of all these things and does them best.

    Roswell D. Hitchcock.

  • Nay, then, farewell!
  • I have touch’d the highest point of all my greatness;
  • And from that full meridian of my glory,
  • I haste now to my setting. I shall fall
  • Like a bright exhalation in the evening,
  • And no man see me more.
  • Shakespeare.

    The great men of earth are the shadow men, who, having lived and died, now live again and forever through their undying thoughts. Thus living, though their footfalls are heard no more, their voices are louder than the thunder, and unceasing as the flow of tides or air.


    The greatest men have not always the best heads; many indiscretions may be pardoned to a brilliant and ardent imagination. The prudence and discretion of a cold heart are not worth half so much as the follies of an ardent mind.

    Baron de Grimm.

    The reason why great men meet with so little pity or attachment in adversity would seem to be this: the friends of a great man were made by his fortunes, his enemies by himself; and revenge is a much more punctual pay-master than gratitude.


    I will not go so far as to say, with a living poet, that the world knows nothing of its greatest men; but there are forms of greatness, or at least of excellence, which “die and make no sign”; there are martyrs that miss the palm, but not the stake; heroes without the laurel, and conquerors without the triumph.

    G. A. Sala.

    He that makes himself famous by his eloquence, justice or arms illustrates his extraction, let it be never so mean; and gives inestimable reputation to his parents. We should never have heard of Sophroniscus, but for his son, Socrates; nor of Ariosto and Gryllus, if it had not been for Xenophon and Plato.


    He alone is worthy of the appellation who either does great things, or teaches how they may be done, or describes them with a suitable majesty when they have been done; but those only are great things which tend to render life more happy, which increase the innocent enjoyments and comforts of existence, or which pave the way to a state of future bliss more permanent and more pure.


    The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution, who resists the sorest temptations from within and without, who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully, who is calmest in storms and most fearless under menace and frowns, whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is most unfaltering. I believe this greatness to be most common among the multitude, whose names are never heard.


    Persons in great stations have seldom their true character drawn till several years after their death. Their personal friendships and enmities must cease, and the parties they were engaged in be at an end, before their faults or their virtues can have justice done them. When writers have the least opportunities of knowing the truth, they are in the best disposition to tell it.


    Those who have read history with discrimination know the fallacy of those panegyrics and invectives which represent individuals as effecting great moral and intellectual revolutions, subverting established systems, and imprinting a new character on their age. The difference between one man and another is by no means so great as the superstitious crowd suppose.


    Few footprints of the great remain in the sand before the ever-flowing tide. Long ago it washed out Homer’s. Curiosity follows him in vain; Greece and Asia perplex us with a rival Stratford-upon-Avon. The rank of Aristophanes is only conjectured from his gift to two poor players in Athena. The age made no sign when Shakespeare, its noblest son, passed away.


  • He who ascends to mountain-tops shall find
  • Their loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds of snow;
  • He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
  • Must look down on the hate of those below.
  • Tho’ high above the sun of glory glow,
  • And far beneath the earth and ocean spread,
  • Round him are icy rocks, and loudly blow
  • Contending tempests on his naked head.
  • Byron.

    I do not hesitate to say that the road to eminence and power, from an obscure condition, ought not to be made too easy, nor a thing too much of course. If rare merit be the rarest of all things, it ought to pass through some sort of probation. The temple of honor ought to be seated on an eminence. If it be open through virtue, let it be remembered, too, that virtue is never tried but by some difficulty and some struggle.


    A great man is a gift, in some measure a revelation of God. A great man, living for high ends, is the divinest thing that can be seen on earth. The value and interest of history are derived chiefly from the lives and services of the eminent men whom it commemorates. Indeed, without these, there would be no such thing as history, and the progress of a nation would be little worth recording, as the march of a trading caravan across a desert.

    George S. Hillard.

    If the title of a great man ought to be reserved for him who cannot be charged with an indiscretion or a vice, who spent his life in establishing the independence, the glory and durable prosperity of his country; who succeeded in all that he undertook, and whose successes were never won at the expense of honor, justice, integrity, or by the sacrifice of a single principle—this title will not be dented to Washington.


  • The mightier man, the mightier is the thing
  • That makes him honor’d, or begets him Hate:
  • For greatest Scandal waits on greatest state.
  • The Moon, being clouded presently is miss’d,
  • But little Stars may hide them when they list.
  • The crow may clothe his coal-black wings in mire,
  • And unperceived fly with the filth away;
  • But if the like the snow-white swan desire,
  • The stain upon his silver down will stay.
  • Poor grooms are sightless night, Kings glorious day.
  • Gnats are unnoted whereso’er they fly,
  • But eagles gazed upon with every eye.
  • Shakespeare.

    Great men are not the mere products of the times in which they live, the epitome of their age, the creations of those formative currents of thought that are traversing the masses. Great men are the gifts of kind heaven to our poor world; instruments by which the Highest One works out His designs; light-radiators to give guidance and blessing to the travellers of time. Though far above us, they are felt to be our brothers; and their elevation shows us what vast possibilities are wrapped up in our common humanity. They beckon us up the gleaming heights to whose summits they have climbed. Their deeds are the woof of this world’s history.

    Moses Harvey.