Quotations by Swift, Jonathan


Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Letter to a Young Clergyman” (9 Jan 1720)
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I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)

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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Jan-10
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We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)

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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Jan-10
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The Stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)

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When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign: that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)

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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Jan-10
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Complaint is the largest tribute Heaven receives, and the sincerest part of our devotion.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)

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Added on 5-Mar-09 | Last updated 19-Jan-10
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The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable; for the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)

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Added on 27-Jan-10 | Last updated 27-Jan-10
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It is in disputes as in armies, where the weaker side sets up false lights, and makes a great noise, to make the enemy believe them more numerous and strong than they really are.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)

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Added on 3-Feb-10 | Last updated 3-Feb-10
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Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)

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Added on 10-Feb-10 | Last updated 10-Feb-10
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That was excellently observed, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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The latter part of a wise man’s life is taken up in curing the follies, prejudices, and false opinions he had contracted in the former.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Added on 8-Oct-15 | Last updated 8-Oct-15
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The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable; for the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit.
Jonathan Swift - fortune - wist_info

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Men are contented to be laughed at for their wit, but not for their folly.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Added on 22-Oct-15 | Last updated 22-Oct-15
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Although men are accused of not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps as few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold, which the owner knows not of.

Swift - vein of gold - wist_info

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Added on 29-Oct-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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Yet malice never was his aim;
He lashed the vice but spared the name.
No individual could resent,
Where thousands equally were meant.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift,” l. 459 (1731)
Added on 10-Sep-15 | Last updated 10-Sep-15
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She wears her clothes as if they were thrown on her with a pitchfork.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation (1738)
Added on 17-May-17 | Last updated 17-May-17
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May you live all the days of your life.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation, Dialogue 2 (1738)
Added on 2-Sep-09 | Last updated 19-Jan-10
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That is as well said as if I had said it myself.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation, Dialogue 2 (1738)
Added on 19-May-10 | Last updated 12-Apr-17
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There is none so blind as they that won’t see.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation, Dialogue 3 (1738)
Added on 25-May-10 | Last updated 25-May-10
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Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.

Swift - laws are like cobwebs - wist_info quote

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind (1707)
Added on 3-Mar-10 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London that a young healthy child well-nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Modest Proposal (1729)
Added on 13-Feb-09 | Last updated 13-Feb-09
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But nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches, as to conceive how others can be in want.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Preface to the Bishop of Sarum’s Introduction to the Third Volume of the History of the Reformation of the Church of England (8 Dec 1713)
Added on 24-Mar-10 | Last updated 24-Mar-10
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I have one word to say upon the subject of profound writers, who are grown very numerous of late; and I know very well the judicious world is resolved to list me in that number. I conceive therefore, as to the business of being profound, that it is with writers as with wells — a person with good eyes may see to the bottom of the deepest, provided any water be there: and often when there is nothing in the world at the bottom besides dryness and dirt, though it be but a yard and a-half under-ground, it shall pass, however, for wondrous deep upon no wiser reason than because it is wondrous dark.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Tale of a Tub (1704)
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Where I am not understood, it shall be concluded that something very useful and profound is couched beneath.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Tale of a Tub, Preface (1704)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Jan-10
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Reason is a very light rider, and easily shook off.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Tale of a Tub, Sec. 9 (1704)

Commonly paraphrased as above.  The full quote (emphasis mine):

It would be a mighty advantage accruing to the public from this inquiry that all these would very much excel and arrive at great perfection in their several kinds, which I think is manifest from what I have already shown, and shall enforce by this one plain instance, that even I myself, the author of these momentous truths, am a person whose imaginations are hard-mouthed and exceedingly disposed to run away with his reason, which I have observed from long experience to be a very light rider, and easily shook off; upon which account my friends will never trust me alone without a solemn promise to vent my speculations in this or the like manner, for the universal benefit of human kind, which perhaps the gentle, courteous, and candid reader, brimful of that modern charity and tenderness usually annexed to his office, will be very hardly persuaded to believe.


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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Jan-10
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Pride, ill nature, and want of sense, are the three great sources of ill manners.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding (1754)
Added on 24-Sep-15 | Last updated 24-Sep-15
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Pedantry is properly the over-rating of any kind of knowledge we pretend to.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding (1754)
Added on 17-Sep-15 | Last updated 17-Sep-15
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Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest persons uneasy is the best bred in the company.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding (1754)
Added on 14-Apr-10 | Last updated 1-Mar-19
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‘Tis an old maxim in the schools,
That flattery’s the food of fools;
Yet now and then your men of wit
Will condescend to take a bit.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Cadenus and Vanessa (1713)
Added on 31-Mar-10 | Last updated 31-Mar-10
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This evil fortune, which generally attends extraordinary men in the management of great affairs, has been imputed to divers causes, that need not be here set down, when so obvious a one occurs, if what a certain writer observes be true, that when a great genius appears in the world the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Essay on the Fates of Clergymen (1728)

Restatement of this earlier thought.

Added on 7-Apr-10 | Last updated 7-Apr-10
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Poor Nations are hungry, and rich Nations are proud, and Pride and Hunger will ever be at Variance.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Gulliver’s Travels, ch. 5 “Voyage to Houyhnhnms” (1726)
Added on 21-Apr-10 | Last updated 21-Apr-10
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And he gave it for his opinion, that whosoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Gulliver’s Travels, ch. 6 “Voyage to Brobdingnag” (1726)
Added on 12-May-10 | Last updated 4-May-15
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And surely one of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing which any of the company can reasonably wish had been left unsaid ….

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Hints Toward an Essay on Conversation (1709)
Added on 10-Mar-10 | Last updated 10-Mar-10
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I ’ve often wish’d that I had clear,
For life, six hundred pounds a year;
A handsome house to lodge a friend;
A river at my garden’s end;
A terrace walk, and half a rood
Of land set out to plant a wood.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Imitation of Horace, Book II, Sat. 6
Added on 28-Apr-10 | Last updated 28-Apr-10
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As learned commentators view
In Homer more than Homer knew.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
On Poetry (1733)
Added on 30-Apr-10 | Last updated 30-Apr-10
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The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Polite Conversation, Dialog 2 (1738)

Borrowed / popularized from William Bullein, Government of Health, folio 50 (1558): "The first was called doctor diet, the seconde doctor quiet, the thirde doctor merry-man." (1558)
Added on 14-May-10 | Last updated 5-Nov-15
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Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
The Battle of the Books, preface (1704)
Added on 24-Feb-10 | Last updated 24-Feb-10
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It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
The Conduct of the Allies (1711)
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There are few, very few, that will own themselves in a mistake, though all the World sees them to be in downright nonsense.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
The Tatler #63 (Sep 1709)
Added on 17-Mar-10 | Last updated 17-Mar-10
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Although men are accused for not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps as few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Thoughts on Various Subjects (1706)
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Added on 20-Mar-18 | Last updated 20-Mar-18
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Ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit

[Where savage indignation can lacerate his heart no more.]

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Epitaph

Inscribed on his grave, St. Patrick's, Dublin.

Added on 5-May-10 | Last updated 5-May-10
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I hate and detest that animal called man; although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Letter to Alexander Pope (29 Sep 1725)
Added on 12-Dec-11 | Last updated 12-Dec-11
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If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
Letter to Miss Vanhomrigh (12 Aug 1720)
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Added on 27-Aug-15 | Last updated 27-Aug-15
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