Quotations by Butler, Samuel


Going away: I can generally bear the separation, but I don’t like the leave-taking.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
(Attributed)
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Death, like life, is an affair of being more frightened than hurt.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Erewhon (1872)
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It has been said that the love of money is the root of all evil. The want of money is so quite as truly.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Erewhon, ch. 20 (1872)

See Bible, 1 Timothy 6:10
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There is hardly any error into which men may not easily be led if they base their conduct upon reason only.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Erewhon, ch. 21 (1872)
Added on 11-Jan-13 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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The three most important things a man has are, briefly, his private parts, his money, and his religious opinions.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Further Extracts from Note-books of Samuel Butler (1934)
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The Bible may be the truth, but it is not the whole truth, nor is it nothing but the truth.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Further Extracts from the Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 1 (1934)
Added on 13-Mar-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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An honest God’s the noblest work of man.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Further Extracts from the Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 1 (1934)

See Pope.
Added on 15-Nov-10 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Reforms and discoveries are like offenses; they must needs come, but woe unto that man through whom they come.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Further Extracts from the Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 1 (1934)
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Conscience is thoroughly well-bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Further Extracts from the Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 4 (1934)
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A hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Life and Habit, ch. 8 (1877)

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Added on 10-Apr-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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All things […] are best to those who know no better.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Prose Observations, “Ignorance” [ed. de Quehen (1979)]
Added on 10-Dec-12 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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There are more Fools than Knaves in the World,
Else the Knaves would not have enough to live upon.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Prose Observations, “Sundry Thoughts”
Added on 29-Apr-11 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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All the works of Nature are Miracles, and nothing makes them appear otherwise but our Familiarity with them.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Prose Observations. “Nature” [ed. de Quehen (1979)]
Added on 20-Sep-11 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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We can see nothing face to face; our utmost seeing is but a fumbling of blind finger-ends in an overcrowded pocket.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Ramblings In Cheapside (1890)
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The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler “Dogs” (1912)
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Christ and The Church: If he were to apply for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, adultery and desertion, he would probably get one.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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To know God better is only to realize how impossible it is that we should ever know him at all. I know not which is more childish, to deny him, or define him.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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There are two great rules in life, the one general and the other particular. The first is that every one can in the end get what he wants if he only tries. This is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is more or less of an exception to the general rule.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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Life is one long process of getting tired.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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If we attend continually and promptly to the little that we can do, we shall ere long be surprised to find how little remains that we cannot do.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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There is no such source of error as the pursuit of absolute truth.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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Any fool can paint a picture but it takes a wise man to be able to sell it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
Added on 14-Apr-14 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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It must be remembered that we have only heard one side of the case. God has written all the books.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “An Apology for the Devil” (1912)

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Added on 26-Feb-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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If we are asked what is the most essential characteristic that underlies this word, the word itself will guide us to gentleness, to absence of such things as brow-beating, overbearing manners and fuss, and generally to consideration for other people.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Gentleman” (1912)
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Added on 18-Dec-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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To live is like to love — all reason is against it, and all healthy instinct for it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Life and Love” (1912)
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Added on 27-Nov-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Morality turns on whether the pleasure precedes or follows the pain. Thus it is immoral to get drunk because the headache comes after the drinking. But if the headache came first and the drunkenness afterwards, it would be moral to get drunk.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Morality” (1912)

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Added on 19-Feb-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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God’s merits are so transcendent that it is not surprising his faults should be in reasonable proportion.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Rebelliousness”(1912)

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Added on 8-Jan-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Is there any religion whose followers can be pointed to as distinctly more amiable and trustworthy than those of any other? If so, this should be enough. I find the nicest and best people generally profess no religion at all, but are ready to like the best men of all religions.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Religion” (1912)

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Added on 22-Jan-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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There are two classes [of scientists], those who want to know and do not care whether others think they know or not, and those who do not much care about knowing but care very greatly about being reputed as knowing.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Scientists” (1912)

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Added on 5-Mar-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Silence is not always tact and it is tact that is golden, not silence.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Silence and Tact” (1912)
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Everything matters more than we think it does, and, at the same time, nothing matters so much as we think it does. The merest spark may set all Europe in a blaze, but though all Europe be set in a blaze twenty times over, the world will wag itself right again.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Sparks” (1912)
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Added on 2-Apr-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Speech at the Somerville Club” (27 Feb 1895) (1912)
Added on 29-Jun-11 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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We play out our days as we play out cards, taking them as they come, not knowing what they will be, hoping for a lucky card and sometimes getting one, often getting just the wrong one.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “The World,” ii (1912)

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Added on 29-Jan-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Words are like money; there is nothing so useless, unless when in actual use.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Thought and Word,” viii (1912)

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Added on 12-Feb-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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The extremes of vice and virtue are alike detestable; absolute virtue is as sure to kill a man as absolute vice is, let alone the dullnesses of it and the pomposities of it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Vice and Virtue,” ii (1912)

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Added on 11-Dec-08 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Writing for a Hundred Years Hence” (1912)

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Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 1 “Life,” ix (1912)

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All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 1 “Life” (1912)
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Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule. Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases, though not often.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 1, “Life” (1912)
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A sense of humor keen enough to show a man his own absurdities will keep him from the commission of all sins, or nearly all, save those that are worth committing.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 1, “Life” (1912)
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Arguments are like fire-arms which a man may keep at home but should not carry about with him.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 10 (1912)
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The public buys its opinions as it buys its meat, or takes in its milk, on the principle that it is cheaper to do this than to keep a cow. So it is, but the milk is more likely to be watered.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 17 (1912)
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I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 19 [ed. Festing-Jones] (1907)
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You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 21 “Faith” (1912)

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Never learn anything until you find you have been made uncomfortable for a good long while by not knowing it; when you find that you have occasion for this or that knowledge, or foresee that you will have occasion for it shortly, the sooner you learn it the better, but till then spend your time in growing bone and muscle; these will be much more useful to you than Latin and Greek, nor will you ever be able to make them if you do not do so now, whereas Latin and Greek can be acquired at any time by those who want them.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh (1903)
Added on 25-Jan-16 | Last updated 25-Jan-16
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All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 19 (1903)

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The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 39 (1903)
Added on 23-Sep-15 | Last updated 23-Sep-15
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Half the vices that the world condemns most loudly have seeds of good in them and require moderate use rather than total abstinence.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 52 (1903)
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There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 61 (1903)

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It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another and to make only two people miserable instead of four, besides being very amusing.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Letter to Miss E. M. A. Savage (21 Nov 1884)

Referring to Thomas Carlyle.
Added on 26-Aug-11 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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