- WIST is my personal collection of quotations, curated for thought, amusement, turn of phrase, historical significance, or sometimes just (often-unintentional) irony. Please feel free to browse and borrow.
- 17,564 quotes and counting ...
Topic Cloudaction age America argument author beauty belief change character courage death education ego error evil faith fear freedom future God government happiness history humanity integrity leadership liberty life love morality perspective politics poverty power religion science society success truth tyranny virtue war wealth wisdom writing
- I've been adding topics/tags since 2014, so not all quotes have been given one. Full topic list.
- * Visual quotes (graphics, memes) only
- “Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National… (7,147)
- “The Lesson for Today,” A Witness Tree (1942) (5,847)
- Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)] (5,810)
- “The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933) (4,924)
- Nobel prize acceptance speech (10 Dec 1962) (4,874)
- “On The Conduct of Life” (1822) (3,950)
- “In Search of a Majority,” Speech,… (3,842)
- “Get a Knife, Get a Dog, but Get Rid of… (3,692)
- “A Cult of Ignorance,” Newsweek (21 Jan 1980) (3,148)
- “The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus… (3,133)
Most Quoted Authors
Author CloudAdams, John • Bacon, Francis • Bible • Bierce, Ambrose • Billings, Josh • Butcher, Jim • Chesterton, Gilbert Keith • Churchill, Winston • Einstein, Albert • Eisenhower, Dwight David • Emerson, Ralph Waldo • Franklin, Benjamin • Fuller, Thomas (1654) • Gaiman, Neil • Galbraith, John Kenneth • Gandhi, Mohandas • Goethe, Johann von • Hazlitt, William • Heinlein, Robert A. • Hoffer, Eric • Huxley, Aldous • Ingersoll, Robert Green • James, William • Jefferson, Thomas • Johnson, Lyndon • Johnson, Samuel • Kennedy, John F. • King, Martin Luther • La Rochefoucauld, Francois • Lewis, C.S. • Lincoln, Abraham • Mencken, H.L. • Orwell, George • Pratchett, Terry • Roosevelt, Eleanor • Roosevelt, Theodore • Russell, Bertrand • Seneca the Younger • Shakespeare, William • Shaw, George Bernard • Stevenson, Adlai • Stevenson, Robert Louis • Twain, Mark • Watterson, Bill • Wilde, Oscar
- Only the 45 most quoted authors are shown above. Full author list.
- 23-Sep-20 - Molly Bawn (1878) | WIST on “Of the Standard of Taste” (1739).
- 21-Sep-20 - Shenandoah (1965) | WIST on (Attributed).
- 21-Sep-20 - ***Dave Does the Blog on Leviathan, Pt. I, ch. 13 (1651).
- 17-Sep-20 - The Devil's Disciple, Act 2 (1897) | WIST on Thus Spoke Zarathustra [Also Sprach Zarathustra], Part 2, “Of the Compassionate [Von den Mitleidigen]” (1892) [tr. Hollingdale (1961)].
- 17-Sep-20 - Tristam Shandy, 1.17 (1759-67) | WIST on Religio Medici, Part 1, sec. 25 (1642) [ed. Symonds (1886)].
- 16-Sep-20 - Dave on “To Those Born Later [An die Nachgeborenen],” (1938) [tr. Horton (2008)].
Belligerence is the hallmark of insecurity — the secure nation does not need threat to maintain its position.
Speech, American Newspaper Publishers Assoc, New York City (25 Apr 1946)
The first part of the above was a common phrase of Eisenhower's.
Code is like humor. When you have to explain it, it’s bad.
Twitter (12 Nov 2013)
Youth is full of sunshine and life. Youth is happy, because it has the ability to see beauty. When this ability is lost, wretched old age begins, decay, unhappiness. […] Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.
It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.
The Federalist #4 (7 Nov 1787)
When a Man’s exhausted, wine will build his strength.
[Ἀνδρὶ δὲ κεκμηῶτι μένος μέγα οἶνος ἀέξει.]
The Iliad, Book 6, l. 261 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 310]
Then with a plenteous draught refresh thy soul,
And draw new spirits from the generous bowl.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]
For great the strength
Which gen'rous wine imparts to men who toil.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 306-07]
Wine gives a man fresh strength when he is wearied.
[tr. Butler (1898)]
When a man is spent with toil wine greatly maketh his strength to wax.
[tr. Murray (1924)]
In a tired man, wine will bring back his strength to its bigness.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]
Wine will restore a man when he is weary as you are.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]
When someone is fatigued, wine greatly increases his power.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]
LT. JOHNSON: When are you going to take this war seriously, Anderson?
CHARLIE ANDERSON: Now let me tell you something, Johnson, before you get on my wrong side. My corn I take serious because it’s my corn, and my potatoes and my tomatoes and fences I take note of because they’re mine. But this war is not mine and I take no note of it!
Coaches and headmasters praise sport as a preparation for the great game of life, but this is absurd. Nothing could be more different from life. For one thing sports, unlike life, are played according to rules. Indeed, the rules are the sport: life may behave bizarrely and still be life, but if the runner circles the bases clockwise it’s no longer baseball.
One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.
The Demon-Haunted World, ch. 13 (1995)
The less depth a belief system has, the greater the fervency with which its adherents embrace it. The most vociferous, the most fanatical are those whose cobbled faith is founded on the shakiest grounds.
Forever Odd, ch. 33 (2005)
We are each the star of our own situation comedy, and, with luck, the screwball friend in someone else’s.
The joy of love is too short, and the sorrow thereof, and what cometh thereof, dureth over long.
Le Morte d’Arthur, Book 10, ch. 56 (1485)
Inside every sane person there’s a madman struggling to get out,” said the shopkeeper. “That’s what I’ve always thought. No one goes mad quicker than a totally sane person.”
The crucial task of age is balance, a veritable tightrope of balance; keeping just well enough, just brave enough, just gay and interested and starkly honest enough to remain a sentient human being.
The Measure of My Days (1968)
Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.
A Flower for My Mother (1958)
Quoting her mother.
For the wonderful thing about saints is that they were human. They lost their tempers, got hungry, scolded God, were egotistical or testy or impatient in their turns, made mistakes and regretted them. Still they went on doggedly blundering toward heaven.
Faith, in the Gospels, does not mean believing something: it is an inherent quality in the mind. It is a kind of courage; an attitude which favours adventure and is not afraid to run risks. Its opposite is not intellectual scepticism, but worry, cowardice, or despair. It can remove mountains — not literal mountains, but the obstacles which sloth and cowardice have put in our path.
Assessments and Anticipations, ch. 7 “Faith” (1929)
For laws are silent when arms are raised.
[Silent enim leges inter arma.]
Pro Milone, ch. 4, sec. 11 [tr. Yonge (1891)]
In context, Cicero is asserting that self-defense is a valid defense for killing, even though that principle was not written into Roman law. It has been extended in legal terms to times of war being exempt from normal laws regarding killing.
- "For laws are silent among arms."
- "In a time of war, the law falls silent."
- "Laws are silent in time of war."
- "The laws are silent in warfare."
- "For among arms, the laws fall mute."
- "The power of law is suspended during war."
There are some forms of religion that must make God weep. There are some forms of religion that are bad, just as there’s bad cooking or bad art or bad sex, you have bad religion too. Religion that has concentrated on egotism, that’s concentrated on belligerence rather than compassion.
NOW Interview with Bill Moyers, PBS (1 Mar 2002)
Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.
The Tempest, Act 3, sc. 2 [Trinculo] (1610-11)
Bacon is so good by itself that to put it in any other food is an admission of failure. You’re basically saying, “I can’t make this other food taste good, so I’ll throw in bacon.”
Quoted in Adam Boult, “Why We Love Eating Meat,” Telegraph (13 Jun 2016)
Young people, who are still uncertain of their identity, often try on a succession of masks in the hope of finding the one which suits them — the one, in fact, which is not a mask.
“One of the Family” (1965), Forewords and Afterwords (1973)
Most bankers dwell in marble halls,
Which they get to dwell in because they encourage deposits and discourage withdrawals,
And particularly because they all observe one rule which woe betides the banker who fails to heed it,
Which is you must never lend any money to anybody unless they don’t need it.
“Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else, Except Richer,” New Yorker (7 Dec 1935)
Resolutions cannot nullify the truths of the multiplication table.
“The Currency,” Speech, House of Representatives (15 May 1868)
A favorite phrase of Garfield's regarding the dangers of inflation, e.g., "I will not vote against the truths of the multiplication table" (Letter to Harmon Austin (4 Feb 1874)).
Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregoes revenge, and dares to forgive an injury.
Living Words (1860)
I give it as my firmest conviction that service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.
“The Making of A Pioneer Suffragette,” in The American Scrap Book (1928)
I have regarded you, not as a novelist, but as an historian; for it is my considered opinion, unshaken at 85, that records of fact are not history. They are only annals, which cannot become historical until the artist-poet-philosopher rescues them from the unintelligible chaos of their actual occurrence and arranges them in works of art.
When people ask me what has happened in my long lifetime I do not refer them to the newspaper files and to the authorities, but to your novels. They object that the people in your books never existed; that their deeds were never done and their sayings never uttered. I assure them that they were, except that Upton Sinclair individualized and expressed them better than they could have done, and arranged their experiences, which as they actually occurred were as unintelligible as pied type, in significant and intelligible order.
But since it is no more in a Man’s Power to think than to look like another, methinks all that should be expected from me is to keep my Mind open to Conviction, to hear patiently and examine attentively whatever is offered me for that end; and if after all I continue in the same Errors, I believe your usual Charity will induce you rather to pity and excuse than blame me.
Letter to Josiah and Abiah Franklin (13 Apr 1738)
If the hive be disturbed by rash and stupid hands, instead of honey, it will yield us bees.
“Prudence,” Essays: First Series, Essay 7 (1841)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
That men should pray and fight for their own freedom, and yet keep others in slavery, is certainly acting a very inconsistent, as well as unjust and, perhaps, impious part, but the history of mankind is filled with instances of human improprieties.
Letter to Rev. Doctor Price (27 Sep 1785)
He sent me off to Troy …
And I hear his urgings ringing in my ears:
“Always be the best, my boy, the bravest,
and hold your head up high above the others.
Never disgrace the generation of your fathers.
They were the bravest champions born in Corinth,
In Lycia far and wide.
The Iliad, Book 6, ll. 245-51 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990)]
This is the first appearance of the Greek "Αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν καὶ ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων" ["Always strive for excellence and prevail over others"] in the Illiad, Glaucus telling of his father's command to him. Peleus urges Achilles with the same words in Book 11. The two passages are sometimes confused.
By his decree I sought the Trojan town,
By his instructions learn to win renown;
To stand the first in worth as in command,
To add new honours to my native land;
Before my eyes my mighty sires to place,
And emulate the glories of our race."
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]
To Troy he sent me, and enjoin'd me oft
To aim at highest honours, and surpass
My comrades all; nor on my father's name
Discredit bring, who held the foremost place
In Ephyre, and Lycia's wide domain.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 245-249]
When he sent me to Troy he urged me again and again to fight ever among the foremost and outvie my peers, so as not to shame the blood of my fathers who were the noblest in Ephyra and in all Lycia.
[tr. Butler (1898)]
He sent me to Troy and straitly charged me ever to be bravest and pre-eminent above all, and not bring shame upon the race of my fathers, that were far the noblest in Ephyre and in wide Lycia.
[tr. Murray (1924)]
He sent me here to Troy, commanding me to act always with valour, always to be the most noble, never to shame the line of my progenitors, great men first in Ephyra, then in Lycia.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]
ANN ANDERSON: Here’s something else you must remember: husbands like to be alone once in awhile.
JENNIE ANDERSON: Why?
ANN ANDERSON: You never know why, but I can always tell when James wants to be alone. A mood comes over him. I can always see it in his eyes before it gets there. I don’t know where the mood comes from or why, but that’s when I leave him alone. It seems sometimes things get so fickle in a man that he comes to feel that everything is closing in on him — and that’s when he wants to be left alone. You understand, don’t you?
JENNIE ANDERSON: No!
One must not always think so much about what one should do, but rather what one should be. Our works do not ennoble us; but we must ennoble our works.
The first impression is readily received. We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things; and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to efface them.
[Der erste Eindruck findet uns willig, und der Mensch ist gemacht, daß man ihn das Abenteuerlichste überreden kann; das haftet aber auch gleich so fest, und wehe dem, der es wieder auskratzen und austilgen will!]
The Sorrows of Young Werther, Book 1, “August 15” (1774) [tr. Boylan]
- "... woe to him who would endeavor to erase them!" [tr. Lange, Ryan]
- "The first impression finds us receptive, and man is so made that he can be persuaded by the most outlandish things; but it strikes root so immediately that woe to him who tries to scratch it out and eradicate it!" [tr. Pike (2004)]
- Original German.
Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it.
Always Sir Arthur lost so much blood that it was a marvel he stood on his feet, but he was so full of knighthood that knightly he endured the pain.
Le Morte d’Arthur, Book 4, ch. 9 (1485)
If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn’t as cynical as real life.
Men may be divided almost any way we please, but I have found the most useful distinction to be made between those who devote their lives to conjugating the verb “to be” and those who spend their lives conjugating the verb “to have.”
But although foreign and internal threats of Fascism must be taken seriously, there is no greater mistake and no graver danger than not to see that in our own society we are faced with the same phenomenon that is fertile soil for the rise of Fascism anywhere: the insignificance and powerlessness of the individual.
Escape from Freedom, ch. 7, sec. 1 (1941)
Our blunders mostly come from letting our wishes interpret our duties, or hide from us plain indications of unwelcome tasks.
The Secret of Power: And Other Sermons, Sermon 15 “Moses and Hobab” (1902)
Protestant theology has restricted the meaning of Faith too much — explaining it as subjective assurance or trust. It has sometimes been assumed that this attitude of throwing oneself into the arms of Divine grace may dispense us from the duty of forming rational convictions, and of directing our lives in accordance with them. Faith and fact come to be divorced. Either they are supposed to be directed to different objects, or we are told that the same proposition may be true for faith and false for science — in which case we are on a quicksand, and are driven to play fast and loose with veracity.
Assessments and Anticipations, ch. 7 “Faith” (1929)
Almost no one dances sober, unless he is insane.
[Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit, neque in solitudine neque in convivio moderato atque honesto.]
Pro Murena, ch. 6, sec. 13 (63 BC)
More completely, "For no man, one may almost say, ever dances when sober, unless perhaps he be a madman, nor in solitude, nor in a moderate and sober party." [tr. Yonge].
Often shortened to "Nemo saltat sobrius" ("Nobody dances sober"). Also attributed to H. P. Lovecraft.
In context, Cicero is disputing accusations that L. Murena was dancing because there are no reports that Murena was drinking and carousing beforehand.
Respect only has meaning as respect for those with whom I do not agree.
MARY: I’m an experienced woman; I’ve been around. Well, all right, I might not’ve been around, but I’ve been — nearby.
Society in its full sense […] is never an entity separable from the individuals who compose it. No individual can arrive even at the threshold of his potentialities without a culture in which he participates. Conversely, no civilization has in it any element which in the last analysis is not the contribution of an individual.
Patterns of Culture, ch. 8 “The Individual and Culture” (1934)
Sometimes quoted as "The community is never an entity ...."
One is reminded of the dialectical definition, by the wry Polish intellectual, of capitalism and communism. Capitalism, it is said, is a system wherein man exploits man. And communism — is vice versa.
The End of Ideology, Introduction (1961 ed.)
Usually quoted with just the last two sentences, and misattributed directly to Bell.
Senator Smoot is an institute
Not to be bribed with pelf;
He guards our homes from erotic tomes
By reading them all himself.
“Invocation,” New Yorker (Jan 1930)
Nash's poem was about US Senator Reed Smoot (R-Utah) (1862-1941), who had announced an effort in his tariff bill to ban the importation of pornography, leading to headlines of "Smoot Smites Smut." The bill went on to become the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, passed in June 1930.
The lesson of History is rarely learned by the actors themselves.
Letter to Professor Demmon (16 Dec 1871)
Christ saw much in this world to weep over, and much to pray over: but he saw nothing in it to look upon with contempt.
Living Words (1860)
KING : Am I the strongest or am I not?
BECKET: You are, today. But one must never drive one’s enemy to despair. It makes him strong. Gentleness is better politics. It saps virility. A good occupational force must never crush, it must corrupt.
Becket, Act 2 (1959) [tr. Hill (1961)
The lines remain intact in Edward Anhalt's 1964 screenplay.
Any power must be the enemy of mankind which enslaves the individual by terror and force, whether it arises under a Fascist or Communist flag. All that is valuable in human society depends on the opportunity for development accorded to the individual.
Press statement, England (15 Sep 1933)
When a just cause reaches its flood-tide … whatever stands in the way must fall before its overwhelming power.
“Is Woman Suffrage Progressing?” speech, Sixth Convention of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, Stockholm (13 Jun 1911)
LONDO: Big concerns grow from small concerns. You plant them, water them with tears, fertilize them with unconcern. If you ignore them, they grow.
Now and then it occurs to one to reflect upon what slender threads of accident depend the most important circumstances of his life; to look back and shudder, realizing how close to the edge of nothingness his being has come.
100%: the Story of a Patriot, Sec. 1 (1920)