Quotations by Holmes, Sr., Oliver Wendell


I only ask that Fortune send
A little more than I shall spend.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
“Contentment”

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Added on 16-Feb-12 | Last updated 16-Feb-12
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Grant us Thy truth to make us free,
And kindling hearts that burn for Thee,
Till all Thy living altars claim
One holy light, one heavenly flame.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
“Lord of All Being” (1848)
Added on 17-Aug-10 | Last updated 17-Aug-10
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There’s nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and truth.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
“The Deacon’s Masterpiece” (1858)
Added on 9-Mar-15 | Last updated 9-Mar-15
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I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity; I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
(Attributed)
Added on 7-Dec-10 | Last updated 7-Dec-10
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It is better to be seventy years young than forty years old!

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
(Attributed)

Reply to an invitation for the seventieth birthday of Julia Ward Howe (27 May 1889).
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Treat bad men exactly as if they were insane. They are in-sane, out of health, morally. Reason, which is food to sound minds, is not tolerated, still less assimilated, unless administered with the greatest caution; perhaps, not at all. Avoid collision with them, so far as you honorably can; keep your temper, if you can, — for one angry man is as good as another; restrain them from violence, promptly, completely, and with the least possible injury, just as in the case of maniacs, — and when you have got rid of them, or got them tied hand and foot so that they can do no mischief, sit down and contemplate them charitably ….

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
Elsie Venner (1859)
Added on 5-Oct-10 | Last updated 5-Oct-10
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If a man has a genuine, sincere, hearty wish to get rid of his liberty, if he is really bent upon becoming a slave, nothing can stop him. And the temptation is to some natures a very great one. Liberty is often a heavy burden on a man. It involves that necessity for perpetual choice which is the kind of labor men have always dreaded. In common life we shirk it by forming habits, which take the place of self-determination. In politics party-organization saves us the pains of much thinking before deciding how to cast our vote.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
Elsie Venner (1859)
Added on 12-Oct-10 | Last updated 12-Oct-10
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It is the peculiarity of the bore that he is the last person to find himself out.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
Over the Teacups, ch. 4 (1891)
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There never was an idea started that work up men out of their stupid indifference but its originator was spoken of as a crank.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
Over the Teacups, ch. 7 (1781)
Added on 21-Feb-12 | Last updated 21-Feb-12
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What refuge is there for the victim who is oppressed with the feeling that there are a thousand new books he ought to read, while life is only long enough for him to attempt to read a hundred?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
Over the Teacups, ch. 7 (1891)
Added on 29-Dec-16 | Last updated 29-Dec-16
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Talking is like playing the harp; there is as much in laying the hand on the strings to stop their vibrations as in twanging them to bring out their music.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858)

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The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858)

Full text.Often attributed to his son, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Apr-10
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A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were given for such cause, and death ensued, the jury would be judges both of the facts and of the pun, and might, if the latter were of an aggravated character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858)

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All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called “facts.” They are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858)

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Added on 24-Aug-10 | Last updated 24-Aug-10
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Even in common people, conceit has the virtue of making them cheerful; the man who thinks his wife, his baby, his house, his horse, his dog, and himself severally unequalled, is almost sure to be a good-humored person, though liable to be tedious at times.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858)

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Added on 31-Aug-10 | Last updated 31-Aug-10
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You can hire logic, in the shape of a lawyer, to prove anything that you want to prove.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858)

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Added on 7-Sep-10 | Last updated 7-Sep-10
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You may set it down as a truth which admits of few exceptions, that those who ask your opinion really want your praise, and will be contented with nothing less.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858)

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Added on 14-Sep-10 | Last updated 14-Sep-10
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I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, — but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table ch. 4 (1858)

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Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, ch. 11 (1858)

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Added on 21-Sep-10 | Last updated 21-Sep-10
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Nothing is so common-place as to wish to be remarkable. Fame usually comes to those who are thinking about something else, very rarely to those who say to themselves, “Go to, now, let us be a celebrated individual!”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, ch. 12 (1858)

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Added on 28-Sep-10 | Last updated 28-Sep-10
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A person is always startled when he hears himself seriously called an old man for the first time.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, ch. 7 (1858)
    (Source)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 2-May-13
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Talking is one of the fine arts — the noblest, the most important, the most difficult — and its fluent harmonies may be spoiled by the intrusion of a single harsh note.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858)
Added on 13-Feb-17 | Last updated 13-Feb-17
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Stupidity often saves a man from going mad.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, ch. 2 (1858)
Added on 18-Dec-14 | Last updated 18-Dec-14
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It is by no means certain that our individual personality is the single inhabitant of these our corporeal frames … We all do things both awake and asleep which surprise us. Perhaps we have cotenants in this house we live in.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Guardian Angel
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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A man over ninety is a great comfort to all his elderly neighbors; he is a picket-guard at the extreme outpost; and the young folks of sixty and seventy feel that the enemy must get by him before he can come near their camp.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Guardian Angel (1867)
Added on 2-May-13 | Last updated 2-May-13
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Men are idolaters and want something to look at and kiss and hug, or throw themselves down before; they always did, they always will; and if you don’t make it out of wood, you must make it out of words.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1872 )
Added on 13-Jul-09 | Last updated 13-Jul-09
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We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were early implanted in his imagination; no matter how utterly his reason may reject them, he will still feel as the famous woman did about ghosts, Je n’y crois pas, mais je les crains, — “I don’t believe in them, but I am afraid of them, nevertheless.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1872)
Added on 26-Oct-10 | Last updated 26-Oct-10
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I talk half the time to find out my own thoughts, as a school-boy turns his pockets inside out to see what is in them. One brings to light all sorts of personal property he had forgotten in his inventory.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1872)
Added on 30-Nov-10 | Last updated 30-Nov-10
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We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Poet at the Breakfast-Table (1872)
Added on 10-Apr-15 | Last updated 10-Apr-15
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Society is always trying in some way or other to grind us down to a single flat surface.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Professor at the Break-fast Table, ch. 2 (1860)
Added on 4-Nov-11 | Last updated 4-Nov-11
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Rough work, iconoclasm, but the only way to get at truth.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Professor at the Breakfast Table (1859)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Apr-10
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Nobody talks much that doesn’t say unwise things, — things he did not mean to say; as no person plays much without striking a false note sometimes.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Professor at the Breakfast Table (1859)
Added on 19-Oct-10 | Last updated 19-Oct-10
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The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a deal longer.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Professor at the Breakfast Table (1859)
Added on 9-Nov-10 | Last updated 9-Nov-10
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Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch; nay, you may kick it about all day, like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Professor at the Breakfast Table (1859)
Added on 16-Nov-10 | Last updated 16-Nov-10
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Why can’t somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Professor at the Breakfast Table (1859)
Added on 23-Nov-10 | Last updated 23-Nov-10
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A very desperate habit; one that is rarely cured. Apology is only egotism wrong side out. Nine times out of ten, the first thing a man’s companion knows of his short-comings is from his apology.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Professor at the Breakfast Table (1860)
Added on 21-Jul-14 | Last updated 21-Jul-14
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The correlative to loving our neighbors as ourselves is hating ourselves as we hate our neighbors.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Professor at the Breakfast-Table, ch. 11 (1860)

See The Bible.
Added on 22-Jan-14 | Last updated 22-Jan-14
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Humiility is the first of the virtues — for other people.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Professor at the Breakfast-Table, ch. 5 (1860)
Added on 6-Jan-11 | Last updated 7-Jan-11
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