Quotations by Bagehot, Walter


The greatest pleasure in life is doing what other people say you cannot do.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
“Shakespeare — The Man,” Prospective Review (Jul 1853)

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Added on 6-May-10 | Last updated 6-May-10
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It is good to be without vices, but it is not good to be without temptations.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Biographical Studies, “Sir George Cornewall Lewis” (1907)
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You may talk of the tyranny of Nero and Tiberius; but the real tyranny is the tyranny of your next-door neighbor …. Public opinion is a permeating influence, and it exacts obedience to itself; it requires us to think other men’s thoughts, to speak other men’s words, to follow other men’s habits.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Biographical Studies, “Sir Robert Peel” (1907)
Added on 24-Jun-10 | Last updated 24-Jun-10
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Most men of business think “Anyhow this system will probably last my time. It has gone on a long time, and is likely to go on still.”

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market, ch. 1 “Introductory” (1873)

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Added on 10-Jun-10 | Last updated 10-Jun-10
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The great difficulty which history records is not that of the first step, but that of the second step. What is most evident is not the difficulty of getting a fixed law, but getting out of a fixed law; not of cementing (as upon a former occasion I phrased it) a cake of custom, but of breaking the cake of custom; not of making the first preservative habit, but of breaking through it, and reaching something better.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Physics and Politics, ch. 2 “The Use of Conflict” (1869)

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One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Physics and Politics, ch. 5 “The Age of Discussion” (1869)

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All the inducements of early society tend to foster immediate action; all its penalties fall on the man who pauses; the traditional wisdom of those times was never weary of inculcating that “delays are dangerous,” and that the sluggish man — the man “who roasteth not that which he took in hunting” — will not prosper on the earth, and indeed will very soon perish out of it. And in consequence an inability to stay quiet, an irritable desire to act directly, is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Physics and Politics, ch. 5 “The Age of Discussion” (1869)

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The whole history of civilization is strewn with creeds and institutions which were invaluable at first, and deadly afterward.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Physics and Politics, Part 2, ch. 3 (1872)
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Since Luther’s time there has been a conviction, more or less rooted, that a man may by an intellectual process think out a religion for himself, and that as the highest of all duties he ought to do so.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Physics and Politics, Part 5, ch. 1 “The Age of Discussion” (1872)
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Added on 18-Oct-13 | Last updated 22-Oct-13
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Stupidity … is nature’s favorite resource for preserving steadiness of conduct and consistency of opinion.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) British businessman, essayist, journalist
Letter to London Inquirer (1851)
Added on 20-Nov-14 | Last updated 20-Nov-14
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