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


Reading maketh a full man.


Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.


Graceful, ingenious, illuminative reading.


He that runs may read.


Read much, but not many works.

Sir W. Hamilton.

I cannot sit and think; books think for me.


A great work always leaves us in a state of musing.

Isaac Disraeli.

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.


In science, read by preference the newest works; in literature, the oldest. The classic literature is always modern.


To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.


How well he is read, to reason against reading!


No man can read with profit that which he cannot learn to read with pleasure.

Noah Porter.

  • Learn to read slow; all other graces
  • Will follow in their proper places.
  • Wm. Walker.

    He that I am reading seems always to have the most force.


    Digressions incontestably are the sunshine; they are the life, the soul of reading.


    Sentences are like sharp nails which force truth upon our memory.


    A man who attempts to read all the new productions must do as the flea does,—skip.


    If a man read little, he had need have much cunning to seem to know that he doth not.


    Force yourself to reflect on what you read, paragraph by paragraph.


    By conversing with the mighty dead we imbibe sentiment with knowledge.


    Much reading is like much eating,—wholly useless without digestion.


    If we encountered a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he read.


    Reading is a dissuasion from immorality. Reading stands in the place of company.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    When the last reader reads no more.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes.

    Reading Chaucer is like brushing through the dewy grass at sunrise.


    The man who is fond of books is usually a man of lofty thought and of elevated opinions.

    George Dawson.

    We should accustom the mind to keep the best company by introducing it only to the best books.

    Sydney Smith.

    Many readers judge of the power of a book by the shock it gives their feelings.


    Uncertain whose the narrowest span,—the clown unread, or half-read gentleman.


    Men must read for amusement as well as for knowledge.

    Henry Ward Beecher.

    Our high respect for a well-read man is praise enough of literature.


    Books afford the surest relief in the most melancholy moments.


    He is a worthy gentleman, exceedingly well read and profited in strange concealments.


    Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking makes what we read ours.

    John Locke.

    ’T is the good reader that makes the good book: a good head cannot read amiss.


  • And better had they ne’er been born,
  • Who read to doubt, or read to scorn.
  • Scott.

    No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.

    Lady M. W. Montagu.

    Banqueting with gods on the ambrosia and nectar of the mind.

    W. R. Alger.

    He that loves reading has everything within his reach. He has but to desire, and he may possess himself of every species of wisdom to judge and power to perform.

    William Godwin.

    We have not read an author till we have seen his object, whatever it may be, as he saw it.


    Reading nourisheth the wit; and when it is wearied with study, it refresheth it, yet not without study.


    Read, read, sirrah, and refine your appetite; learn to live upon instruction; frost your mind and mortify your flesh.


    We are now in want of an art to teach how books are to be read rather than to read them. Such an art is practicable.


    The love of reading enables a man to exchange the wearisome hours of life which come to every one for hours of delight.


    The delight of opening a new pursuit, or a new course of reading, imparts the vivacity and novelty of youth even to old age.

    Isaac Disraeli.

    What blockheads are those wise persons who think it necessary that a child should comprehend everything it reads!


    By reading a man does, as it were, antedate his life, and make himself contemporary with past ages.

    Jeremy Collier.

    Read and take your nourishment in at your eyes; shut up your mouth and chew the cud of understanding.


    Given the books of a man, it is not difficult, I think, to detect therein the personality of the man, and the station in life to which he was born.


    He found shelter among books, which insult not, and studies that ask no questions of a youth’s finances.


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


    If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity, and faith; and seek not at any time the fame of being learned.

    Thomas à Kempis.

    A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.

    Sam’l Johnson.

  • Studious let me sit,
  • And hold high converse with the mighty Dead.
  • Thomson.

    Let us read with method, and propose to ourselves an end to what our studies may point. The use of reading is to aid us in thinking.


    Some will read only old books, as if there were no valuable truths to be discovered in modern publications: others will only read new books, as if some valuable truths are not among the old. Some will not read a book because they know the author: others … would also read the man.


    Half the gossip of society would perish if the books that are truly worth reading were but read.


    My early and invincible love of reading,***I would not exchange for the treasures of India.


    Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.


    In a polite age almost every person becomes a reader, and receives more instruction from the press than the pulpit.


    Thou mayest as well expect to grow stronger by always eating, as wiser by always reading. Too much overcharges nature, and turns more into disease than nourishment.


    A good reader is nearly as rare as a good writer. People bring their prejudices, whether friendly or adverse. They are lamp and spectacles, lighting and magnifying the page.


    Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.

    Horace Mann.

    I should as soon think of swimming across the Charles River when I wish to go to Boston, as of reading all my books in originals, when I have them rendered for me in my mother tongue.


    The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend. When I read over a book I have perused before, it resembles the meeting with an old one.


    Every reader reads himself out of the book that he reads; nay, has he a strong mind, reads himself into the book, and amalgamates his thoughts with the author’s.


    It is manifest that all government of action is to be gotten by knowledge, and knowledge best, by gathering many knowledges, which is reading.

    Sir P. Sidney.

  • Read Homer once, and you can read no more,
  • For all books else appear so mean, so poor,
  • Verse will seem prose, but still persist to read,
  • And Homer will be all the books you need.
  • John Sheffield.

    We never read without profit if with the pen or pencil in our hand we mark such ideas as strike us by their novelty, or correct those we already possess.


    When what you read elevate your mind and fills you with noble aspirations, look for no other rule by which to judge a book; it is good, and to the work of a master-hand.

    La Bruyère.

    As a man may be eating all day, and for want of digestion is never nourished, so these endless readers may cram themselves in vain with intellectual food.

    Dr. I. Watts.

    No man reads a book of science from pure inclination. The books that we do read with pleasure are light compositions, which contain a quick succession of events.

    Dr. Johnson.

    Nothing, in truth, has such a tendency to weaken not only the powers of invention, but the intellectual powers in general, as a habit of extensive and various reading without reflection.

    Dugald Stewart.

    ’Tis the good reader that makes the good book; a good head cannot read amiss, in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear.


    The art of reading is to skip judiciously. Whole libraries may be skipped in these days, when we have the results of them in our modern culture without going over the ground again.


    If a man begins to read in the middle of a book, and feels an inclination to go on, let him not quit it to go to the beginning. He may perhaps not feel again the inclination.

    Dr. Johnson.

    It is curious how tyrannical the habit of reading is, and what shifts we make to escape thinking. There is no bore we dread being left alone with so much as our own minds.


    A discursive student is almost certain to fall into bad company. Ten minutes with a French novel or a German rationalist have sent a reader away with a fever for life.


    One of the amusements of idleness is reading without the fatigue of close attention; and the world, therefore, swarms with writers whose wish is not to be studied, but to be read.


    Milton almost requires a solemn service of music to be played before you enter upon him. But he brings his music, to which who listen had need bring docile thoughts and purged ears.


    The mind should be accustomed to make wise reflections, and draw curious conclusions as it goes along; the habitude of which made Pliny the Younger affirm that he never read a book so bad but he drew some profit from it.


    People seldom read a book which is given to them; and few are given. The way to spread a work is to sell it at a low price. No man will send to buy a thing that costs even sixpence without an intention to read it.


    Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.***Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.


    When in reading we meet with any maxim that may be of use, we should take it for our own, and make an immediate application of it, as we would of the advice of a friend whom we have purposely consulted.


    It is not the reading of many books which is necessary to make a man wise or good, but the well-reading of a few, could he be sure to have the best. And it is not possible to read over many on the same subject without a great deal of loss of precious time.

    Richard Baxter.

    Much depends upon when and where you read a book. In the five or six impatient minutes before the dinner is quite ready, who would think of taking up the Faerie Queen for a stop-gap, or a volume of Bishop Andrews’s Sermons?


  • The mind, relaxing into needful sport,
  • Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
  • Whose wit well managed, and whose classic style,
  • Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
  • Cowper.

    He hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book; he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink; his intellect is not replenished; he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts.


    I read hard, or not at all; never skimming, never turning aside to merely inviting books; and Plato, Aristotle, Butler, Thucydides, Sterne, Jonathan Edwards, have passed like the iron atoms of the blood into my mental constitution.

    F. W. Robertson.

    I love to lose myself in other men’s minds. When I am not walking, I am reading. I cannot sit and think; books think for me. I have no repugnances. Shaftesbury is not too genteel for me, nor Jonathan Wild too low.


    Some read books only with a view to find fault, while others read only to be taught; the former are like venomous spiders, extracting a poisonous quality, where the latter like the bees, sip out a sweet and profitable juice.


    I seek in the reading of my books only to please myself by an irreproachable diversion; or if I study it is for no other science than that which treats of the knowledge of myself, and instructs me how to die and live well.


    Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. As by the one, health is preserved, strengthened, and invigorated; by the other, virtue (which is the health of the mind) is kept alive, cherished, and confirmed.


    By reading a man does, as it were, antedate his life, and make himself contemporary with the ages past; and this way of running up beyond one’s nativity is better than Plato’s pre-existence.

    Jeremy Collier.

    There was, it is said, a criminal in Italy who was suffered to make his choice between Guicciardini and the galleys. He chose the history. But the war of Pisa was too much for him; he changed his mind, and went to the oars.


    Now, my young friends to whom I am addressing myself, with reference to this habit of reading, I make bold to tell you that it is your pass to the greatest, the purest, and the most perfect pleasure that God has prepared for His creatures.

    Anthony Trollope.

    There is a gentle, but perfectly irresistible coercion in a habit of reading well directed, over the whole tenor of a man’s character and conduct, which is not the less effectual because it works insensibly, and because it is really the last thing he dreams of.

    Sir John Herschel.

    If I were to pray for a taste which should stand me in stead under every variety of circumstances, and be a source of happiness and cheerfulness to me through life, and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss, and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading.

    Sir John Herschel.

    Reading without purpose is sauntering, not exercise. More is got from one book on which the thought settles for a definite end in knowledge, than from libraries skimmed over by a wandering eye. A cottage flower gives honey to the bee, a king’s garden none to the butterfly.


    When I take up a book I have read before, I know what to expect; the satisfaction is not lessened by being anticipated. I shake hands with, and look our old tried and valued friend in the face,—compare notes and chat the hour away.


    There are three classes of readers; some enjoy without judgment; others judge without enjoyment; and some there are who judge while they enjoy, and enjoy while they judge. The latter class reproduces the work of art on which it is engaged. Its numbers are very small.


  • Many books,
  • Wise men have said, are wearisome; who reads
  • Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
  • A spirit and judgment equal or superior,
  • Uncertain and unsettled still remains—
  • Deep versed in books, and shallow in himself.
  • Milton.

    Authors have a greater right than any copyright, though it is generally unacknowledged or disregarded, They have a right to the reader’s civility. There are favorable hours for reading a book, as for writing it, and to these the author has a claim. Yet many people think that when they buy a book they buy with it the right to abuse the author.


    From numberless books the fluttering reader, idle and inconstant, bears away the bloom that only clings to the outer leaf; but genius has its nectaries, delicate glands, and secrecies of sweetness, and upon these the thoughtful mind must settle in its labor, before the choice perfume of fancy and wisdom is drawn forth.


    A man who has any relish for fine writing either discovers new beauties or receives stronger impressions from the masterly strokes of a great author every time he peruses him; besides that he naturally wears himself into the same manner of speaking and thinking.


    Learn to be good readers, which is perhaps a more difficult thing than you imagine. Learn to be discriminative in your reading; to read faithfully, and with your best attention, all kinds of things which you have a real interest in,—a real, not an imaginary,—and which you find to be really fit for what you are engaged in.


    The habit of reading is the only enjoyment I know in which there is no alloy. It lasts when all other pleasures fade. It will be there to support you when all other resources are gone. It will be present to you when the energies of your body have fallen away from you. It will last you until your death. It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live.


    If there were no readers there certainly would be no writers. Clearly, therefore, the existence of writers depends upon the existence of readers; and, of course, as the cause must be antecedent to the effect, readers existed before writers. Yet, on the other hand, if there were no writers there could be no readers, so it should appear that writers must be antecedent to readers.

    Paul Chatfield, M.D.

    The man whose bosom neither riches nor luxury nor grandeur can render happy may, with a book in his hand, forget all his torments under the friendly shade of every tree; and experience pleasures as infinite as they are varied, as pure as they are lasting, as lively as they are unfading, and as compatible with every public duty as they are contributory to private happiness.


    There is a world of science necessary in choosing books. I have known some people in great sorrow fly to a novel, or the last light book in fashion. One might as well take a rose-draught for the plague! Light reading does not do when the heart is really heavy. I am told that Goethe, when he lost his son, took to study a science that was new to him. Ah! Goethe was a physician who knew what he was about.


    By conversing with the mighty dead, we imbibe sentiment with knowledge. We become strongly attached to those who can no longer either hurt or serve us, except through the influence which they exert over the mind. We feel the presence of that power which gives immortality to human thoughts and actions, and catch the flame of enthusiasm from all nations and ages.


    Have you ever rightly considered what the mere ability to read means? That it is the key which admits us to the whole world of thought and fancy and imagination? to the company of saint and sage, of the wisest and the wittiest at their wisest and wittiest moment? That it enables us to see with the keenest eyes, hear with the finest ears, and listen to the sweetest voices of all time? More than that, it annihilates time and space for us.


    They that have read about everything are thought to understand everything too; but it is not always so. Reading furnishes the mind only with the materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours. We are of the ruminating kind, and it is not enough to cram ourselves with a great load of collection,—we must chew them over again.


    Mr. Johnson had never, by his own account, been a close student, and used to advise young people never to be without a book in their pocket, to be read at bye-times, when they had nothing else to do. “It has been by that means,” said he to a boy at our house one day, “that all my knowledge has been gained, except what I have picked up by running about the world with my wits ready to observe, and my tongue ready to talk.”

    Mrs. Piozzi.

  • His classical reading is great: he can quote
  • Horace, Juvenal, Ovid, and Martial by rote.
  • He has read Metaphysics***Spinoza and Kant;
  • And Theology too; I have heard him descant
  • Upon Basil and Jerome. Antiquities, art,
  • He is fond of. He knows the old masters by heart,
  • And his taste is refined.
  • Bulwer-Lytton.

    The first class of readers may be compared to an hour-glass, their reading being as the sand; it runs in and runs out, and leaves not a vestige behind. A second class resembles a sponge, which imbibes everything, and returns it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtier. A third class is like a jelly-bag, which allows all that is pure to pass away, and retains only the refuse and dregs. The fourth class may be compared to the slave or Golconda, who, casting aside all that is worthless, preserves only the pure gems.