S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.


I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount to FOURTEEN:—O man! place not thy confidence in this present world!

The Caliph Abdalrahman: Quoted by Gibbon (in his Decline and Fall, chap. lii.), who adds:

This confession, the complaints of Solomon of the vanity of this world (read Pryor’s verbose but eloquent poem), and the happy ten days of the Emperor Seghed (Rambler, No. 204, 205), will be triumphantly quoted by the detractors of human life. Their expectations are commonly immoderate, their estimates are seldom impartial. If I may speak of myself (the only person of whom I can speak with certainty), my happy hours have far exceeded, and far exceed, the scanty numbers of the caliph of Spain; and I shall not scruple to add that many of them are due to the pleasing labour of the present composition.

Edward Gibbon: Decline and Fall, chap, lii., note.

True happiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise: it arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self; and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions; it loves shade and solitude, and naturally haunts groves and fountains, fields and meadows: in short, it feels everything it wants within itself, and receives no addition from multitudes of witnesses and spectators. On the contrary, false happiness loves to be in a crowd, and to draw the eyes of the world upon her. She does not receive any satisfaction from the applauses which she gives herself, but from the admiration which she raises in others. She flourishes in courts and palaces, theatres and assemblies, and has no existence but when she is looked upon.

Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 15.

Inquiries after happiness, and rules for attaining it, are not so necessary and useful to mankind as the arts of consolation, and supporting of one’s self under affliction. The utmost we can hope for in this world is contentment; if we aim at anything higher, we shall meet with nothing but grief and disappointment. A man should direct all his studies and endeavours at making himself easy now, and happy hereafter.

The truth of it is, if all the happiness that is dispersed through the whole race of mankind in this world were drawn together, and put into the possession of any single man, it would not make a very happy being. Though, on the contrary, if the miseries of the whole species were fixed in a single person, they would make a very miserable one.

Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 163.

One of the final causes of our delight in anything that is great may be this: The Supreme Author of our being has so formed the soul of man, that nothing but Himself can be its last, adequate, and proper happiness. Because, therefore, a great part of our happiness must arise from the contemplation of his being, that he might give our souls a just relish for such a contemplation, he has made them naturally delight in the apprehension of what is great or unlimited.

Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 413.

All men that have rambled after happiness have failed; neither learning, nor fame, nor wealth, nor pleasure, taken separately or jointly could ever give it, without acting up to the height and dignity of human nature, and getting a right set of principles for thought and practice; amongst which may be reckoned the love of justice, temperance, fortitude and benevolence.


Happiness is no other than soundness and perfection of mind.


Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun; as we see that the shadows which are at morning and evening so large, almost entirely disappear at mid-day.

Dr. Thomas Arnold.

The inward complacence we find in acting reasonably and virtuously.

Francis Atterbury.

It cannot consist with the divine attributes that the impious man’s joys should, upon the whole, exceed those of the upright.

Francis Atterbury.

They are happy whose natures sort with their vocations.

This ocean of felicity is so shoreless and bottomless that all the saints and angels cannot exhaust it.

Robert Boyle.

That wherein God himself is happy, the holy angels are happy, in whose defect the devils are unhappy, that dare I call happiness: whatsoever conduceth unto this may, with an easy metaphor, deserve that name; whatsoever else the world terms happiness is to me a story out of Pliny, an apparition, or neat delusion, wherein there is no more of happiness than the name. Bless me in this life but with peace of my conscience, command of my affections, the love of Thyself and my dearest friends, and I shall be happy enough to pity Cæsar. These are, O Lord, the humble desires of my most reasonable ambition, and all I dare call happiness on earth; wherein I set no rule or limit to thy hand or providence: dispose of me according to the wisdom of thy pleasure: thy will be done, though in my own undoing.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. II. xv.

The only happiness a brave man ever troubled himself with asking much about, was happiness enough to get his work done. Not “I can’t eat!” but, “I can’t work!”—that was the burden of all wise complaining among men. It is, after all, the one unhappiness of a man—that he cannot work,—that he cannot get his destiny as a man fulfilled. Behold, the day is passing swiftly over, our life is passing swiftly away, and the night cometh, wherein no man can work. The night once come, our happiness, our unhappiness,—it is all abolished, vanished, clean gone; a thing that has been: “not of the slightest consequence” whether we were happy as eupeptic Curtis, as the fattest pig of Epicurus, or unhappy as Job with potsherds, as musical Byron with Giaours and sensibilities of the heart; as the unmusical meat-jack with hard labour and rust. But our work!—behold, that is not abolished, that has not vanished: our work, behold, it remains, or the want of it remains—for endless times and eternities, remains; and that is now the sole question with us for evermore! Brief brawling Day, with its noisy phantasms, its poor paper-crowns tinsel-light, is gone, and divine everlasting Night, with her star diadems, with her silence and her veracities, is come!

Every human soul has the germ of some flowers within; and they would open, if they could only find sunshine and free air to expand in. I always told you, that not having enough of sunshine was what ailed the world. Make people happy, and there will not be half the quarrelling, or a tenth part of the wickedness, there is.

Lydia T. Child.

He that would live at ease should always put the best construction on business and conversation.

Jeremy Collier: On the Spleen.

How small a portion of our life it is that we really enjoy! In youth we are looking forward to things that are to come; in old age we are looking backwards to things that are gone past; in manhood, although we appear indeed to be more occupied in things that are present, yet even that is too often absorbed in vague determinations to be vastly happy on some future day, when we have time.

Charles Caleb Colton: Lacon.

Happiness is much more equally divided than some of us imagine. One man shall possess most of the materials, but little of the thing; another may possess much of the thing, but very few of the materials. In this particular view of it, happiness has been beautifully compared to the manna in the desert: he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack: therefore, to diminish envy, let us consider not what others possess, but what they enjoy; mere riches may be the gift of lucky accident or blind chance, but happiness must be the result of prudent preference and rational design; the highest happiness then can have no other foundation than the deepest wisdom; and the happiest fool is only as happy as he knows how to be.

Charles Caleb Colton: Lacon.

In the constitution both of our mind and of our body everything must go on right, and harmonize well together, to make us happy; but should one thing go wrong, that is quite enough to make us miserable; and although the joys of this world are vain and short, yet its sorrows are real and lasting: for I will show you a ton of perfect pain with greater ease than one ounce of perfect pleasure; and he knows little of himself or of the world, who does not think it sufficient happiness to be free from sorrow: therefore, give a wise man health, and he will give himself every other thing. I say, give him health; for it often happens that the most ignorant empiric can do us the greatest harm, although the most skilful physician knows not how to do us the slightest good.

Charles Caleb Colton: Lacon.

What matters it if thou art not happy on earth, provided thou art so in heaven? Heaven may have happiness as utterly unknown to us as the gift of vision would be to a man born blind. If we consider the inlets of pleasure from five senses only, we may be sure that the same Being who created us could have given us five hundred if He pleased. Mutual love, pure and exalted, founded on charms both mental and corporeal, as it constitutes the highest happiness on earth, may, for anything we know to the contrary, also form the lowest happiness of heaven. And it would appear consonant with the administration of Providence in other matters that there should be a link between heaven and earth; for in all cases a chasm seems to be purposely avoided; “prudento Deo.” Thus the material world has its links, by which it is made to shake hands, as it were, with the vegetable—the vegetable with the animal—the animal with the intellectual—and the intellectual with what we may be allowed to hope of the angelic.

Charles Caleb Colton: Lacon.

Upon the whole matter, I account a person who has a moderate mind and fortune, and lives in the conversation of two or three agreeable friends, with little commerce in the world besides, who is esteemed well enough by his few neighbours that know him, and is truly irreproachable by anybody; and so, after a healthful quiet life, before the great inconveniences of old age, goes more silently out of it than he came in (for I would not have him so much as cry in the exit): this innocent deceiver of the world, as Horace calls him, this muta persona, I take to have been more happy in his part, than the greatest actors that fill the stage with show and noise; nay, even than Augustus himself, who asked, with his last breath, whether he had not played his farce very well.

Abraham Cowley.

Our happiness in this world depends on the affections we are enabled to inspire.

Duchess de Praslin.

If we ascend the thrones of princes, if we enter the palaces of the great, if we walk through the mansions of courtiers and statesmen, if we pry into the abodes of poverty and indigence, if we mingle with poets or philosophers, with manufacturers, merchants, mechanics, peasants, or beggars; if we survey the busy, bustling scene of a large city, the sequestered village, or the cot which stands in the lonely desert—we shall find in every situation, and among every class, beings animated with desires of happiness, which no present enjoyment can gratify, and which no object within the limits of time can fully satiate.

Dr. Thomas Dick: Philos. of a Future State, Sect. II.

It is something to look upon enjoyment, so that it be free and wild, and in the face of nature, though it is but the enjoyment of an idiot. It is something to know that Heaven has left the capacity of gladness in such a creature’s breast; it is something to be assured that, however lightly men may crush that faculty in their fellows, the great Creator of mankind imports it even to His despised and slighted work. Who would not rather see a poor idiot happy in the sunlight than a wise man pining in a darkened jail?

Ye men of gloom and austerity, who paint the face of Infinite Benevolence with an eternal frown, read in the Everlasting Book, wide open to your view, the lesson it would teach. Its pictures are not in black and sombre hues, but bright and glowing tints; its music—save when ye drown it—is not in sighs and groans, but songs and cheerful sounds. Listen to the million voices in the summer air, and find one dismal as your own. Remember, if ye can, the sense of hope and pleasure which every glad return of day awakens in the breast of all your kind who have not changed their nature; and learn some wisdom even from the witless, when their hearts are lifted up they know not why, by all the mirth and happiness it brings.

Res non parta labore, sed relicta, was thought by a poet to be one of the requisites of a happy life.

The thought of being nothing after death is a burden insupportable to a virtuous man: we naturally aim at happiness, and cannot bear to have it confined to our present being.

Comparison, more than reality, makes men happy, and can make them wretched.

Owen Felltham.

There are two ways of being happy,—we may either diminish our wants, or augment our means—either will do—the result is the same; and it is for each man to decide for himself, and do that which happens to be the easiest. If you are idle, or sick, or poor, however hard it may be to diminish your wants, it will be harder to augment your means. If you are active and prosperous, or young, or in good health, it may be easier for you to augment your means than to diminish your wants. But if you are wise you will do both at the same time, young or old, rich or poor, sick or well; and if you are very wise you will do both in such a way as to augment the general happiness of society.

Every mind seems capable of entertaining a certain quantity of happiness which no institutions can increase, no circumstances alter, and entirely independent of fortune. Let any man compare his present fortune with the past, and he will probably find himself, upon the whole, neither better nor worse than formerly.

Gratified ambition, or irreparable calamity, may produce transient sensations of pleasure or distress. Those storms may discompose in proportion as they are strong, or the mind is pliant to their impression. But the soul, though at first lifted up by the event, is every day operated upon with diminished influence; and at length subsides into the level of its usual tranquillity. Should some unexpected turn of fortune take thee from fetters, and place thee on a throne, exultation would be natural upon the change; but the temper, like the face, would soon resume its native serenity.

Oliver Goldsmith: Citizen of the World, Letter XLIV.

Positive happiness is constitutional, and incapable of increase; misery is artificial, and generally proceeds from our folly. Philosophy can add to our happiness in no other manner but by diminishing our misery: it should not pretend to increase our present stock, but make us economists of what we are possessed of. The great source of calamity lies in regret or anticipation: he, therefore, is most wise who thinks of the present alone, regardless of the past or the future. This is impossible to the man of pleasure; it is difficult to the man of business; and is in some measure attainable by the philosopher. Happy we were all born philosophers, all born with a talent of thus dissipating our own cares by spreading them upon all mankind!

Oliver Goldsmith: Citizen of the World, Letter XLV.

There cannot be a stronger argument that God has designed us for a state of future happiness, and for that heaven which he has revealed to us, than that he has thus naturally qualified the soul for it, and made it a being capable of receiving so much bliss. He would never have made such faculties in vain, and have endowed us with powers that were not to be exerted on such objects as are suited to them. It is very manifest, by the inward frame and constitution of our minds, that he has adapted them to an infinite variety of pleasures and gratifications which are not to be met with in this life. We should therefore at all times take care that we do not disappoint his gracious purpose and intention towards us, and make those faculties which he formed as so many qualifications for happiness and rewards to be the instruments of pain and punishment.

Henry Grove: Spectator, No. 600.

The bane of human happiness is ordinarily not so much an absolute ignorance of what is best, as an inattention to it, accompanied with a habit of not adverting to prospects the most certain, and the most awful.

Robert Hall: Discouragements and Supports of the Christian Minister.

Happiness is not to be prescribed, but enjoyed; and such is the benevolent arrangement of Divine Providence, that wherever there is a moral preparation for it, it follows of course.

Robert Hall: Funeral Sermon for Dr. Ryland.

Happiness is that estate whereby we attain, so far as possibly may be attained, the full possession of that which simply for itself is to be desired, and containeth in it after an eminent sort the contentation of our desires, the highest degree of all our perfection.

Richard Hooker.

All things subject to action the will does so far incline unto as reason judges them more available to our bliss.

Richard Hooker.

To be happy, the passion must be cheerful and gay, not gloomy and melancholy. A propensity to hope and joy is real riches; one to fear and sorrow, real poverty.

Surely happiness is reflective, like the light of heaven; and every countenance bright with smiles, and glowing with innocent enjoyment, is a mirror transmitting to others the rays of a supreme and ever-shining benevolence.

Perfect happiness, I believe, was never intended by the Deity to be the lot of one of His creatures in this world; but that He has very much put in our power the nearness of our approaches to it, is what I have steadfastly believed.

Thomas Jefferson.

Providence has fixed the limits of human enjoyment by immovable boundaries, and has set different gratifications at such a distance from each other that no art nor power can bring them together. This great law it is the business of every rational being to understand, that life may not pass away in an attempt to make contradictions consistent, to combine opposite qualities, and to unite things which the nature of their being must always keep asunder.

Dr. Samuel Johnson.

He that enlarges his curiosity after the works of nature, demonstrably multiplies the inlets to happiness; therefore we should cherish ardour in the pursuit of useful knowledge, and remember that a blighted spring makes a barren year, and that the vernal flowers, however beautiful and gay, are only intended by nature as preparatives to autumnal fruits.

Dr. Samuel Johnson.

The happy man is he who distinguishes the boundary between desire and delight, and stands firmly on the higher ground,—he who knows that pleasure is not only not possession, but is often to be lost, and always to be endangered by it.

Walter Savage Landor.

He that upon a true principle lives without any disquiet of thought may be said to be happy.

Roger L’Estrange.

Happiness, in its full extent, is the utmost pleasure we are capable of, and misery the utmost pain.

The indolency and enjoyment we have sufficing for our present happiness, we desire not to venture the change, being content; and that is enough.

That in this state of ignorance we short-sighted creatures might not mistake true felicity, we are endowed with a power to suspend any particular desire. This is standing still where we are not sufficiently assured.

The stronger ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness, which is greatest good, the more are we free from any necessary compliance with our desire set upon any particular and then appearing preferable good, till we have duly examined it.

Whatever necessity determines to the pursuit of real bliss, the same necessity establishes suspense, and scrutiny of each successive desire, whether the satisfaction of it does not interfere with our true happiness, and mislead us from it.

As to present happiness and misery, when that alone comes in consideration, and the consequences are removed, a man never chooses amiss.

Our desires carry the mind out to absent good, according to the necessity which we think there is of it to the making or increase of our happiness.

It is easy to give account how it comes to pass that though all men desire happiness, yet their wills carry them so contrarily.

A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world: he that has these two has little more to wish for, and he that wants either of them will be but little the better for anything else.

Happiness and misery are the names of two extremes, the utmost bounds whereof we know not.

The variety and contrary choices that men make in the world argue that the same thing is not good to every man alike: this variety of pursuits shows that every one does not place his happiness in the same thing.

One reason why God hath scattered up and down several degrees of pleasure and pain in all the things that environ and affect us, and blended them together in almost all that our senses have to do with, is, that we, finding imperfection, dissatisfaction, and want of complete happiness in all the enjoyments which the creatures can afford us, might be led to seek it in the enjoyment of Him with whom “there is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

No man can judge of the happiness of another. As the new moon plays upon the waves, and seems to our eyes to favour with a peculiar beam one long track amidst the waters, leaving the rest in comparative obscurity, yet all the while she is no niggard in her lustre—for though the rays that meet not our eyes seem to us as though they were not, yet, with an equal and unfavouring loveliness, she mirrors herself on every wave—even so, perhaps, happiness falls with the same brightness and power over the whole expanse of life, though, to our limited eyes, she seems only to rest on those billows from which the ray is reflected back upon our sight.

Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

I have observed one ingredient somewhat necessary in a man’s composition towards happiness, which people of feeling would do well to acquire: a certain respect for the follies of mankind; for there are so many fools whom the opinion of the world entitles to regard, whom accident has placed in heights of which they are unworthy, that he who cannot restrain his contempt or indignation at the sight will be too often quarrelling with the disposal of things to relish that share which is allotted to himself.

Henry Mackenzie.

Every one is acquainted with the story of King Crœsus to this purpose, who being taken prisoner by Cyrus, and by him condemn’d to die, as he was going to execution cry’d out, O Solon, Solon! which being presently reported to Cyrus, and he sending to enquire what it meant, Crœsus gave him to understand that he now found the advertisement Solon had formerly given him true to his cost, which was, “That men, however fortune may smile upon them, could never be said to be happy till they had been seen to pass over the last day of their lives, by reason of the uncertainty and mutability of human things, which upon very light and trivial occasions are subject to be totally changed into a quite contrary condition.”

Michel de Montaigne: Essays, chap, xviii., Cotton’s 3d ed.

False happiness renders men stern and proud, and that happiness is never communicated. True happiness renders them kind and sensible, and that happiness is always shared.


The art in which the secret of human happiness in a great measure consists, is to set the habits in such a manner that every change may be a change for the better. The habits themselves are much the same; for whatever is made habitual becomes smooth, and easy, and nearly indifferent. The return to an old habit is likewise easy, whatever the habit be. Therefore the advantage is with those habits which allow of an indulgence in the deviation from them.

William Paley: Moral and Polil. Philos.: Human Happiness.

Throughout the whole of life, as it is diffused in nature, and as far as we are acquainted with it, looking to the average of sensations, the plurality and the preponderancy is in favour of happiness by a vast excess. In our own species, in which perhaps the assertion may be more questionable than in any other, the prepollency of good over evil, of health, for example, and ease, over pain and distress, is evinced by the very notice which calamities excite. What inquiries does the sickness of our friends produce! What conversation their misfortunes! This shows that the common course of things is in favour of happiness; that happiness is the rule, misery the exception. Were the order reversed, our attention would be called to examples of health and competency, instead of disease and want.

William Paley: Natural Theology, chap. xxvi.

False happiness is like false money: it passes for a time as well as the true, and serves some ordinary occasions; but when it is brought to the touch we find the lightness and alloy, and feel the loss.

Alexander Pope.

The happiness of life consists, like the day, not in single flashes (of light), but in one continuous mild serenity. The most beautiful period of the heart’s existence is in this calm equable light, even although it be only moonshine or twilight. Now the mind alone can obtain for us this heavenly cheerfulness and peace.

Jean Paul F. Richter.

All real and wholesome enjoyments possible to man have been just as possible to him since first he was made of the earth as they are now; and they are possible to him chiefly in peace. To watch the corn grow and the blossom set, to draw hard breath over plough-share and spade, to read, to think, to love, to hope, to pray—these are the things to make man happy: they have always had the power of doing these—they never will have the power to do more.

John Ruskin.

What avails all the pomp and parade of life which appear abroad, if, when we shift the gaudy flattering scene, the man is unhappy where happiness must begin—at home! Whatever ingredients of bliss Providence may have poured into his cup, domestic misfortunes will render the whole composition distasteful. Fortune and happiness are two very distinct ideas, however some who have a false idea of life and a wrongness of thinking may confound them.

Jeremiah Seed.

The true felicity of life is to be free from perturbations; to understand our duties towards God and man; to enjoy the present without any serious dependence upon the future. Not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears, but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is abundantly sufficient; for he that is so, wants nothing. The great blessings of mankind are within us, and within our reach; but we shut our eyes, and, like people in the dark, we fall foul upon the very thing we search for, without finding it. “Tranquillity is a certain equality of mind, which no condition of fortune can either exalt or depress.” Nothing can make it less, for it is the state of human perfection; it raises us as high as we can go, and makes every man his own supporter; whereas he that is borne up by anything else, may fall. He that judges aright, and perseveres in it, enjoys a perpetual calm; he takes a true prospect of things; he observes an order, measure, a decorum, in all his actions; he has a benevolence in his nature; he squares his life according to reason, and draws to himself love and admiration. Without a certain and an unchangeable judgment all the rest is but fluctuation; but “he that always wills, and wills the same thing, is undoubtedly in the right.” Liberty and serenity of mind must necessarily ensue upon the mastering of those things which either allure or affright us, when instead of those flashing pleasures (which, even at the best, are most vain and hurtful together) we shall find ourselves possessed of joys transporting and everlasting.


If the chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being beloved, as I believe it does, those sudden changes of fortune seldom contribute much to happiness.

Adam Smith: Theory of Moral Sentiment.

When my concernment takes up no more room than myself, then, so long as I know where to breathe, I know also where to be happy.

Robert South.

In the soul, when the supreme faculties move regularly, the inferior passions and faculties following, there arises a serenity infinitely beyond the highest quintessence and elixir of worldly delight.

Robert South.

Nothing can make a man happy but that which shall last as long as he lasts: for an immortal soul shall persist in being, not only when profit, pleasure, and honour, but when time itself, shall cease.

Robert South.

So endless and exorbitant are the desires of men, that they will grasp at all, and can form no scheme of perfect happiness with less.

Jonathan Swift.

No rules can make amiability; our minds and apprehensions make that; and so is our felicity.

Jeremy Taylor.

To be happy, is not only to be freed from the pains and diseases of the body, but from anxiety and vexation of spirit; not only to enjoy the pleasures of sense, but peace of conscience and tranquillity of mind.

John Tillotson.

A certain kind of temper is necessary to the pleasure and quiet of our minds, consequently to our happiness; and that is, holiness and goodness.

John Tillotson.

Religion directs us rather to secure inward peace than outward ease.

John Tillotson.

Every moment we feel our dependence upon God, and find that we can neither be happy without him, nor think ourselves so.

John Tillotson.

Thus hath God not only riveted the notion of himself into our natures, but likewise made the belief of his being necessary to the peace of our minds and happiness of society.

John Tillotson.

What inexpressible comfort does overflow the pious soul from a conscience of its own innocency!

John Tillotson.

Till this be cured by religion, it is as impossible for a man to be happy, that is, pleased and contented within himself, as it is for a sick man to be at ease.

John Tillotson.

Every one hath a natural dread of everything that can endanger his happiness.

John Tillotson.

Those who are persuaded that they shall continue forever, cannot choose but aspire after a happiness commensurate to their duration.

John Tillotson.

To persevere in any evil course makes you unhappy in this life.

William Wake.

Since happiness is necessarily the supreme object of our desires, and duty the supreme rule of our actions, there can be no harmony in our being except our happiness coincides with our duty.

William Whewell.

The state or condition by which the nature of anything is advanced to the utmost perfection of which it is capable, according to its rank or kind, is called the chief end or happiness of such a thing.

Bishop John Wilkins.