- 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.
- 17,193 quotes and counting ...
Topic Cloudaction age America argument belief change character courage death democracy education ego evil faith fear freedom future God government happiness history humanity integrity justice leadership liberty life love morality perspective politics poverty power reality 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… (6,349)
- “The Lesson for Today,” A Witness Tree (1942) (5,776)
- Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)] (5,632)
- Nobel prize acceptance speech (10 Dec 1962) (4,861)
- “The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933) (4,767)
- “On The Conduct of Life” (1822) (3,881)
- “In Search of a Majority,” Speech,… (3,789)
- “Get a Knife, Get a Dog, but Get Rid of… (3,643)
- “The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus… (3,050)
- “Hallowed Ground” (1825) (3,028)
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.
- 20-May-20 - Introduction to the Art of Thinking, ch. 1, "Friendship" (1761) | WIST on John 15:13 (KJV).
- 18-May-20 - Chamblee54 on Clouds, ll. 998-999 (423 BC) [tr. Athenian Soc. (1912)].
- 18-May-20 - Chamblee54 on Mills E. Godwin, Governor of Virginia (Dec 1966).
- 11-May-20 - Chamblee54 on “Indian Summer,” Enough Rope (1926).
- 1-May-20 - Quoted in The Observer (17 Mar 1985) | WIST on Robert J. Hanlon, “Hanlon’s Razor,” Murphy’s Law, Book Two (ed. A. Bloch) (1980).
- 1-May-20 - Grow, Grow – Traditional Iconoclast on Midrash Rabba, Bereshit 10:6.
Any experience deeply felt makes some men better and some men worse. When it has ended, they share nothing but the recollection of a commitment in which each was tested and to some degree found wanting. They were not alike when they began, and they were not alike when they finished. […] The consequences of the journey change the voyager so much more than the embarking or the arrival.
Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties, “A Prelude” (1955)
An easygoing vice, I hold,
Is better than an angry virtue.
[J’aime mieux un vice commode,
Qu’une fatigante vertu.]
Amphitryon, Act 1, sc. 4, l. 681-2 [Mercury] (1666) [tr. Wilbur (2010)]
It takes a lot of things to prove you are smart, but only one thing to prove you are ignorant.
So Human (1924)
The man that lays his hand on woman,
Save in the way of kindness, is a wretch
Whom ’twere gross flattery to name a coward.
The Honey Moon, Act 2, sc. 1 [Duke] (1805)
An honest politician is one who when he is bought will stay bought.
Cameron was infamous for his corruption, but this is not found in his writing or reliable accounts, and similar phrases can be found in the era. More discussion here.
Thare would be a grate supply ov wit and humor in this world, if we would only giv others the same credit for being witty that we claim for ourselfs.
[There would be a great supply of wit and humor in this world, if we would only give others the same credit for being witty that we claim for ourselves.]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
American capitalism is predatory, and American politics are corrupt: The same thing is true in England and the same in France; but in all these three countries the dominating fact is that whenever the people get ready to change the government, they can change it.
Letter to John Reed (22 Oct 1918)
We have no small hope in our elections, but it is still uncertain. There is some suspicion of a dictatorship. We have peace in public but it is the calm of an old and tired state, not one giving consent.
[Erat non nulla spes comitiorum sed incerta, erat aliqua suspicio dictaturae, ne ea quidem certa, summum otium forense sed senescentis magis civitatis quam acquiescentis]
Letters to Quintus #19 (2.15) (Jun, AD 54) [tr. Bailey (1999)]
- "There was some expectation of the comitia, but a doubtful one: there was some suspicion of a dictatorship, but not even that was certain. There is a perfect cessation of all business in the courts of law, but more as if the state was growing indolent from age than from real tranquility." [Letter 14, tr. Watson (1855)]
- "There is some hope of elections, but doubtful; some suspicion of a Dictatorship, but that too not definite; peace reigns in the Forum, but it's the peace of a senile community rather than a contented one." [Letter 19 (II.15), tr. @sentantiq (2020)]
BAIT, n. A preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The best kind is beauty.
Self-pity? I see no moral objections to it, the smell drives people away, but that’s a practical objection, and occasionally an advantage.
Commonplace Book (1985) [ed. Gardner]
DEMOSTHENES: A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue.
Love is the word used to label the sexual excitement of the young, the habituation of the middle-aged, and the mutual dependence of the old.
It is the wit,
The policy of sin, to hate those men
We have abus’d.
The Just Italian, Act 3, sc. 1 [Sciolto] (1630)
Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.
Pride and Prejudice, ch. 10 [Darcy] (1813)
There is nobody, in the commonwealth of learning, who does not profess himself a lover of truth, — and there is not a rational creature, that would not take it amiss, to be thought otherwise of. And yet, for all this, one may truly say, there are very few lovers of truth, for truth-sake, even amongst those who persuade themselves that they are so. How a man may know, whether he be so, in earnest, is worth inquiry; and I think, there is this one unerring mark of it, viz. the not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built on will warrant. Whoever goes beyond this measure of assent, it is plain, receives not truth in the love of it, loves not truth for truth-sake, but for some other by-end.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book 4 “Of Knowledge and Opinion,” ch. 19 “Of Enthusiasm,” sec. 1 “Love of truth necessary” (1689)
In the pathway of the sun,
In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,
He shall ride the silver seas,
He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbor’s knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.
They will call him brave.
I was promised on a time
To have reason for my rhyme;
From that time unto this season,
I received nor rhyme nor reason.
“Lines on His Promised Pension”
In politics you have no friends, only allies.
The true art of government consists in not governing too much.
“A Sermon Preached Before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts,” St. Mary-Le-Bow, London (19 Feb 1773)
Shipley believed that a lighter hand in the American colonies would make them want to remain with Britain, to the benefit of all parties.
And I have no desire to get ugly,
But I cannot help mentioning that the door of a bigoted mind opens outwards so that the only result of the pressure of facts upon it is to close it more snugly.
“Seeing Eye to Eye is Believing,” Good Intentions (1942)
The bearers of the myth of every decade seem to carry in their hands the ax and the spade to execute and inter the myth of the previous one.
Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties, Prelude (1955)
The presence of people we like gives a marvelous relish to our pleasures.
[C’est un merveilleux assaisonnement aux plaisirs qu’on goûte que la présence des gens qu’on aime.]
If I had my life to live over, I would try to make more mistakes next time. I would relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of very few things I would take seriously. I would be crazier. I would be less hygienic. I would take more chances. I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would burn up more gasoline. I would eat more ice cream and less bran. I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
“Pick More Daisies,” College Humor magazine (1935)
Also attributed to Nadine Stair, and a Brother Jerome, among others. This essay has gone through a variety of revisions, both by Herold and by a variety of plagiarists. The earliest reference I could find was that cited here, as quoted in The Journal of Health and Physical Education (May 1935) [linked above]. The usual citation is to a revised version of the essay by Herold in "If I Had My Life Over -- I'd Pick More Daisies," Reader's Digest (Oct 1953) (and reprinted in Reader's Digest's How to Live with Life (1965). Benjamin Rossen, "Who Would Pick More Daisies; A study of Plagiarism and Foolery on the Internet" (2000) wrote extensively on the variations and misappropriations of the poem (though he did not know of the 1935 version).
Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.
So Henny-penny, Cocky-locky, Ducky-daddles, Goosey-poosey, Turkey-lurkey, and Foxy-woxy all went to tell the king the sky was a-falling.
English Fairy Tales, “Henny-Penny” (1890)
Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought.
The most that experience seems tew do for us, is tew sho us, what kussid phools every boddy but we, hav made of themselfs.
[The most that experience seems to do for us is to show us what cussed fools everybody but we have made of themselves.]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
Every time I fill a vacant office I make a hundred malcontents and one ingrate.
Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them, and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavour to warp and spoil it to their turn.
First Frame of Government for Pennsylvania, Preface (1682)
Now the thing about having a baby — and I can’t be the first person to have noticed this — is that thereafter you have it.
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1957)
A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible, world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything is possible and that nothing was true. The mixture in itself was remarkable enough, because it spelled the end of the illusion that gullibility was a weakness of unsuspecting primitive souls and cynicism the vice of superior and refined minds.
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 2 “The Totalitarian Movement” (1951)
Natural inclinations are present in things from God, who moves all things. So it is impossible for the natural inclinations of a species to be toward evil in itself. But there is in all perfect animals a natural inclination toward carnal union. Therefore it is impossible for carnal union to be evil in itself.
Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 3, ch. 126, argument 3 [tr. Dominican (1923)]
Alt. trans.: "Natural inclinations are put into things by God, who is the prime mover of all. Therefore it is impossible for the natural inclination of any species to be directed to an object in itself evil. But in all full-grown animals there is a natural inclination to sexual union, which union therefore cannot be in itself evil."
An artist’s job is to make order out of chaos. You collect details, look for a pattern, and organize. You make sense out of senseless facts. You puzzle together bits of everything. You shuffle and reorganize. Collage. Montage. Assemble.
There’s some devil in us that drives us to and fro on everlasting idiocies. There’s time for everything except the things worth doing. Think of something you really care about. Then add hour to hour and calculate the fraction of your life that you’ve actually spent in doing it. And then calculate the time you’ve spent on things like shaving, riding to and fro on buses, waiting in railway, junctions, swapping dirty stories, and reading the newspapers.
Coming up for Air, ch. 5 (1939)
Bragging is not merely designed to impress. Bragging is designed to produce envy and assert superiority. It is, therefore, an act of hostility. Bragging is also a transparent ploy. It reveals your lack of self-confidence. “I am not enough,” you feel. So you resort to showering me with your “achievements,” in order to mask your perceived deficiencies.
Doing the Right Thing: Cultivating Your Moral Intelligence, Sec. 1, ch. 7 “Self-Control” (1998)
I think I am very cold and reserved to people, but I cannot ever realise to myself that anyone loves me. I believe that is partly the reason, or I dare realise it.
Letter to Rev. J. Keble (27 Aug 1837)
Think not the faith by which the just shall live
Is a dead creed, a map correct of heaven,
Far less a feeling fond and fugitive,
A thoughtless gift, withdrawn as soon as given.
It is an affirmation and an act
That bids eternal truth be present fact.
“The Just Shall Live By Faith”
Man proposes, and God disposes.
[Ordina l’uomo e Dio dispone.]
Orlando Furioso, Canto 46, st. 35 (1532)
Of course I talk to myself. I like a good speaker, and I appreciate an intelligent audience.
Heterosexuality isn’t normal. It’s just common.
A God comprehended is no God.
[Ein begriffener Gott is kein Gott.]
The earliest reference I can find is in an epigraph in Rudolph Otto, The Idea of the Holy [Das Heilige] (1917) [tr. Harvey (1924)]. This is where most citations point to.
Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds.
Letter to John Adams (1 Aug 1816)
A critic is someone who enters the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded.
Generally attributed to Kempton (though sometimes as being about editorial writers rather than critics) without specific citation. More on this quote here.
There’s one thing about baldness; it’s neat.
There Ought to be a Law (1926)
If everyone were clothed with integrity,
If every heart were just, frank, kindly,
The other virtues would be well-nigh useless,
Since their chief purpose is to make us bear with patience
The injustice of our fellows.
Si de probité tout était revêtu,
Si tous les cœurs était francs, justes et dociles,
La plupart des vertus nous seraient inutiles,
Puisqu’on en met l’usage à pouvoir sans ennui
Supporter dans nos droits l’injustice d’autrui.
Le Misanthrope, Act 5, sc. 1, l. 1564 (1666) [tr. Wormeley (1894)]
Alt. trans. [Page (1913)]If everything were clothed in probity,
If all men's hearts were open, just, gentle,
Most of our virtues would be wholly useless,
Since we employ them now, in cheerfully
Enduring wrong, with right on our side.
The difficulty is not so much to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for.
The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions.
Leading with the Heart, ch. 1 “Getting Organized” (2000) [with Donald Phillips]
There are two sides to every argument, unless a person is personally involved, in which case there is only one.
Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is.Saul Bellow (1915-2005) Canadian-American writer