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


Satire is the disease of art.


Wit larded with malice.


No sword bites so fiercely as an evil tongue.

Sir P. Sidney.

The empty vessel makes the greatest sound.


Cervantes smiled Spain’s chivalry away.


Thou shining supplement of public law!


Pointed satire runs him through and through.


Among those who are able to understand it, satire has a power of fascination that no other written thing possesses.

Stanley Lane-Poole.

To lash the vices of a guilty age.


Satirists do expose their own ill nature.

Dr. Watts.

Undeserved merit is satire.

S. S. Cox.

Fools are my theme; let satire be my song.


Let there be gall enough in thy ink; though thou write with a goose-pen, no matter.


Satire should, like a polished razor keen, wound with a touch that is scarcely felt or seen.

Mary Wortley Montagu.

In the present state of the world it is difficult not to write lampoons.


A bitter jest, when the satire comes too near the truth, leaves a sharp sting behind.


The feathered arrow of satire has oft been wet with the heart’s blood of its victims.


  • Satire or sense, alas! can it feel?
  • Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
  • Pope.

  • Satire’s my weapon, but I’m too discreet
  • To run amuck and tilt at all I meet.
  • Pope.

    Satire lies about men of letters during their lives, and eulogy after their death.


    When dunces are satiric, I take it for a panegyric.


  • In general satire, every man perceives
  • A slight attack, yet neither fears nor grieves.
  • Crabbe.

    By satire kept in awe, shrink from ridicule, though not from law.


    Men are more satirical from vanity than from malice.

    La Rochefoucauld.

    Satire among the Romans, but not among the Greeks, was a bitter invective poem.


    Satire often proceeds less from ill nature than a desire to display wit.

    Lady Blessington.

    Satire that is seasonable and just is often more effectual than law or gospel.

    H. W. Shaw.

    Satire is a kind of poetry in which human vices are reprehended.


    The laughter which it creates is impish and devilish, the very mirth of fiends, and its wit the gleam and glare of infernal light.

    E. P. Whipple.

    Satire recoils whenever charged too high; round your own fame the fatal splinters fly.


    You must not think that a satiric style allows of scandalous and brutish words; the better sort abhor scurrility.


    It is as hard to satirize well a man of distinguished vices as to praise well a man of distinguished virtues.


    He that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others’ memory.


    In my youth I thought of writing a satire on mankind! but now in my age I think I should write an apology for them.

    Horace Walpole.

    Lampoons and satires, that are written with wit and spirit, are like poisoned darts, which not only inflict a wound, but make it incurable.


    Lampoons, like squibs, may make a present blaze; but time and thunder pay respect to bays.


    Friendly satire may be compared to a fine lancet, which gently breathes a vein for health’s sake.


    Of a bitter satirist it might be said that the person or thing on which his satire fell shriveled up as if the devil had spit on it.


    A little wit and a great deal of ill-nature will furnish a man for satire; but the greatest instance of wit is to commend well.


    Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own, which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world.


    Satires and lampoons on particular people circulate more by giving copies in confidence to the friends of the parties, than by printing them.


    Simonides, a poet famous in his generation, is, I think, author of the oldest satire that is now extant, and, as some say, of the first that was ever written.


    Truth is quite beyond the reach of satire. There is so brave a simplicity in her that she can no more be made ridiculous than an oak or a pine.


  • When satire flies abroad on falsehood’s wing,
  • Short is her life, and impotent her sting;
  • But when to truth allied, the wound she gives
  • Sinks deep, and to remotest ages lives.
  • Churchill.

    A satire should expose nothing but what is corrigible, and should make a due discrimination between those that are and those that are not the proper objects of it.


    In fashionable circles general satire, which attacks the fault rather than the person, is unwelcome; while that which attacks the person and spares the fault is always acceptable.


    Satire is a composition of salt and mercury; and it depends upon the different mixture and preparation of these ingredients, that it comes out a noble medicine or a rank poison.


    Satire is at once the most agreeable and most dangerous of mental qualities. It always pleases when it is refined, but we always fear those who use it too much; yet satire should be allowed when unmixed with spite, and when the person satirized can join in the satire.

    La Rochefoucauld.

    The end of satire is the amendment of vices by correction; and he who writes honestly is no more an enemy to the offender than the physician to the patient when he prescribes harsh remedies.


  • Why should we fear? and what? The laws?
  • They all are armed in Virtue’s cause;
  • And aiming at the self-same end,
  • Satire is always Virtue’s friend.
  • Churchill.

  • Though folly, robed in purple, shines,
  • Though vice exhausts Peruvian mines,
  • Yet shall they tremble and turn pale
  • When satire wields her mighty flail.
  • Churchill.

  • Whose wound no salve can cure. Each blow doth leave
  • A lasting sear, that with a poison eats
  • Into the marrow of their fame, and lives;
  • Th’ eternal ulcer to their memories.
  • Randolph.

  • Curst be the verse, how well soe’er it flow,
  • That tends to make one worthy man my foe,
  • Give virtue scandal, innocence a fear,
  • Or from the soft-ey’d virgin steal a tear.
  • Pope.

    Wycherley in his writings is the sharpest satirist of his time, but in his nature he has all the softness of the tenderest dispositions. In his writings he is severe, bold, undertaking; in his nature, gentle, modest, inoffensive.


    Her caustic manner of speaking of friends as well as foes caused Madame du Deffand to be compared to the physician who said: “My friend fell sick—I attended him; he died—I dissected him.”

    J. A. Bent.

    Should a writer single out and point his raillery at particular persons, or satirize the miserable, he might be sure of pleasing a great part of his readers, but must be a very ill man if he could please himself.


  • Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
  • And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
  • Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
  • Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
  • Alike reserv’d to blame, or to commend,
  • A tim’rous foe, and a suspicious friend.
  • Pope.

  • Enough of satire; in less harden’d times
  • Great was her force, and mighty were her rhymes.
  • I’ve read of men, beyond man’s daring brave,
  • Who yet have trembled at the strokes she gave;
  • Whose souls have felt more terrible alarms
  • From her one line, than from a world in arms.
  • Churchill.

  • Most satirists are indeed a public scourge;
  • Their mildest physic is a farrier’s purge;
  • Their acrid temper turns, as soon as stirr’d,
  • The milk of their good purpose all to curd,
  • Their zeal begotten, as their works rehearse,
  • By lean despair upon an empty purse.
  • Cowper.

    For a young and presumptuous poet a disposition to write satires is one of the most dangerous he can encourage. It tempts him to personalities, which are not always forgiven after he has repented and become ashamed of them.


    It is certain that satirical poems were common at Rome from a very early period. The rustics, who lived at a distance from the seat of government, and took little part in the strife of factions, gave vent to their petty local animosities in coarse Fescennine verse.


    The men of the greatest character in this kind were Horace and Juvenal. There is not, that I remember, one ill-natured expression in all their writings, not one sentence of severity, which does not apparently proceed from the contrary disposition.


    Satire is, indeed, the only sort of composition in which the Latin poets whose works have come down to us were not mere imitators of foreign models; and it is therefore the sort of composition in which they have never been excelled.


    Among the writers of antiquity there are none who instruct us more openly in the manners of their respective times in which they lived than those who have employed themselves in satire, under whatever dress it may appear.


    Of satires I think as Epictetus did, “If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.” By dint of time and experience I have learned to be a good post-horse; I go through my appointed daily stage, and I care not for the curs who bark at me along the road.

    Frederick the Great.

    As men neither fear nor respect what has been made contemptible, all honor to him who makes oppression laughable as well as detestable. Armies cannot protect it then; and walls which have remained impenetrable to cannon have fallen before a roar of laughter or a hiss of contempt.


  • When scandal has new-minted an old lie,
  • Or tax’d invention for a fresh supply,
  • ’Tis call’d a satire, and the world appears
  • Gathering around it with erected ears;
  • A thousand names are toss’d into the crowd,
  • Some whisper’d softly, and some twang’d aloud,
  • Just as the sapience of an author’s brain,
  • Suggests it safe or dangerous to be plain.
  • Cowper.

  • The tongues of mocking wenches are as keen
  • As is the razor’s edge invisible,
  • Cutting a smaller hair than may be seen
  • Above the sense of sense; so sensible
  • Seemeth their conference; their conceits have wings
  • Fleeter than arrow, bullets, wind, thought, swifter things.
  • Shakespeare.

    But the most annoying of all public reformers is the personal satirist. Though he may be considered by some few as a useful member of society, yet he is only ranked with the hangman, whom we tolerate because he executes the judgment we abhor to do ourselves, and avoid with a natural detestation of his office. The pen of the one and the cord of the other are inseparable in our minds.

    Jane Porter.

  • Satire, whilst envy and ill-humor sway
  • The mind of man, must always make her way;
  • Nor to a bosom, with discretion fraught,
  • Is all her malice worth a single thought.
  • The wise have not the will, nor fools the power,
  • To stop her headstrong course; within the hour
  • Left to herself, she dies; opposing strife
  • Gives her fresh vigor, and prolongs her life.
  • Churchill.

    Satirical writers and speakers are not half so clever as they think themselves, nor as they are thought to be. They do winnow the corn, it is true, but it is to feed upon the chaff. I am sorry to add that they who are always speaking ill of others are also very apt to be doing ill to them. It requires some talent and some generosity to find out talent and generosity in others, though nothing but self-conceit and malice are needed to discover or to imagine faults. It is much easier for an ill-natured man than for a good-natured man to be smart and witty.

    Rev. Dr. Sharpe.