- 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.
- 16,667 quotes and counting ...
Topic Cloudaction age America belief books change character Christianity creation death democracy education ego evil faith fear freedom future God government happiness history honesty humanity integrity justice leadership liberty life love morality perspective politics power 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
- “The Lesson for Today,” A Witness Tree (1942) (5,445)
- Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)] (5,188)
- “Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National… (5,108)
- Nobel prize acceptance speech (10 Dec 1962) (4,764)
- “The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933) (4,126)
- “In Search of a Majority,” Speech,… (3,584)
- “Get a Knife, Get a Dog, but Get Rid of… (3,367)
- “Hallowed Ground” (1825) (2,898)
- “On The Conduct of Life” (1822) (2,715)
- “The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus… (2,612)
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.
The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.
They Call Me Coach, ch. 25, epigraph (1972)
There lies at the back of every creed something terrible and hard for which the worshipper may one day be required to suffer.
Nothing is more embarrassing in the ordinary intercourse of life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans. A stranger may be well inclined to praise many of the institutions of their country, but he begs permission to blame some of the peculiarities which he observes — a permission which is however inexorably refused.
Democracy in America, Vol. 1, “Public Spirit in the United States” (1835) [tr. Reeve (1839)]
Marriage is one long conversation, chequered by disputes.
“Talk and Talkers” (1882)
Fortune to many gives too much, enough to none.
[Fortuna multis dat nimis, satis nulli.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 12, epigram 10
- "Fortune gives too much to many, enough to none." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
- "Fortune hath overmuch bestow'd on some; / But plenary content doth give to none." [tr. Fletcher]
- "Fortune, some say, doth give too much to many; / And yet she never gave enough to any." [tr. Harrington]
- "Fortune gives one enough, but some too much." [tr. Hay]
- "Fortune to many gives too much, enough to none." [tr. Ker (1919)]
One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life, and it is therefore essential that they should not let one down. They often do. The moral of which is that I must, myself, be as reliable as possible, and this I try to be. But reliability is not a matter of contract — that is the main difference between the world of personal relationships and the world of business relationships. It is a matter for the heart, which signs no documents. In other words, reliability is impossible unless there is a natural warmth. Most men possess this warmth, though they often have bad luck and get chilled. Most of them, even when they are politicians, want to keep faith. And one can, at all events, show one’s own little light here, one’s own poor little trembling flame, with the knowledge that it is not the only light that is shining in the darkness, and not the only one which the darkness does not comprehend.
Historians have a word for Germans who joined the Nazi party, not because they hated Jews, but out of a hope for restored patriotism, or a sense of economic anxiety, or a hope to preserve their religious values, or dislike of their opponents, or raw political opportunism, or convenience, or ignorance, or greed.
That word is “Nazi.” Nobody cares about their motives any more.
They joined what they joined. They lent their support and their moral approval. And, in so doing, they bound themselves to everything that came after. Who cares any more what particular knot they used in the binding?
Blogspot (16 Jan 2017)
Frequently mis-attributed to Twitter, where Moxxon also posts under his @JuliusGoat handle. The original Julius Goat Blogspot site is no longer online.
‘Tis a hard task not to surrender morality for riches.
[Ardua res haec est opibus non tradere mores.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 11, epigram 5 [tr. in Harbottle (1897)]
- It is an arduous task to preserve morality from the corruption of riches. [tr. Bohn (1871)]
- 'Tis rare, when riches cannot taint the mind. [tr. Anon. (1695)]
- 'Tis a hard task this, not to sacrifice manners to wealth. [tr. Ker (1919)]
- It is a hard business, not to compromise morals for riches. [tr. Nisbet (2015)]
We cannot do without it, and yet we disgrace and vilify the same. It may be compared to a cage, the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair to get out.
[Il en advient ce qui se veiod aux cages: les oyseaux qui en sont dehors, desperent d’y entrer: et d’un pareil soing en sortir, ceuix qui sont au dedans.]
“Upon Some Verses of Virgil,” Essays (1580-88)
On marriage. For more discussion of others who have used this metaphor, see here.
Alt. trans.: "We cannot live without it, and yet we do nothing but decry it. It happens, as with cages, the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair of getting out." [tr. Cotton (1877)]
Alt. trans.: "Though we cannot live without it, yet we do nothing but decry it. We see the same with birdcages: the birds outside despair to get in, and those within despair to get out. [Autobiography, ch. 6 "This Discreet Business of Marriage," tr. Lowenthal (1935)]
Americans rightly think their patriotism is a sort of religion strengthened by practical service.
Democracy in America, Vol. 1, “Public Spirit of the Townships of New England” (1835)
Alt. trans.: "For in the United States it is believed, and with truth, that patriotism is a kind of devotion which is strengthened by ritual observance." [tr. Reeve (1839)]
I have accustomed myself to receive with respect the opinions of others, but always take the responsibility of deciding for myself.
Democracy means that people can say what they want to. All the people. It means that they can vote as they wish. All the people. It means that they can worship God in any way they feel right, and that includes Christians and Jews and voodoo doctors as well.
The Remarkable Andrew (1942)
Based on Trumbo's 1941 book of the same name. Parallel text.
We boast our emancipation from many superstitions; but if we have broken any idols, it is through a transfer of idolatry. What have I gained, that I no longer immolate a bull to Jove or to Neptune, or a mouse to Hecate; that I do not tremble before the Eumenides, or the Catholic Purgatory, or the Calvinistic Judgment-day, — if I quake at opinion, the public opinion as we call it; or at the threat of assault, or contumely, or bad neighbors, or poverty, or mutilation, or at the rumor of revolution, or of murder? If I quake, what matters it what I quake at?
“Character,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
The man who has not anything to boast of but his illustrious ancestors, is like a potato, the only good belonging to him is under ground.
Earliest found in The Lady's Monthly Museum (June 1807), expressed as a paraphrase.
Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”
And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.
Tumblr post (12 May 2017)
Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.
Journal (16 May 1834)
GRACCHUS: You know, this republic of ours is something like a rich widow. Most Romans love her as their mother, but Crassus dreams of marrying the old girl, to put it politely.
How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man’s city? How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading somebody else’s life?
New Seeds of Contemplation, ch. 14 “Integrity” (1962)
Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours its own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich upon the poor.
Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They grow older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth.
“Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119,” Interview with George Plimpton, The Paris Review (Fall 1990)
Angelou used the core section (credit cards, parking spaces) a number of times in different interviews.
Moral passion without entertainment is propaganda, and entertainment without moral passion is television.
Starting from Scratch (1989)
Anger repressed can poison a relationship as surely as the cruelest words.
It can truly be said: Men are the devils of the earth, and the animals are the tormented souls.
The essence of the Epistles of Paul is that Christians should rejoice at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believe. The projection of a social gospel, in my opinion, is the true witness of a Christian life. This is the meaning of the true ekklesia — the inner, spiritual church. The church once changed society. It was then a thermostat of society. But today I feel that too much of the church is merely a thermometer, which measures rather than molds popular opinion.
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
The arrogance of some Christians would close heaven to them if, to their misfortune, it existed.
A faint smile hovered around the man’s lips. It was the sort of smile that lies on sandbanks waiting for incautious swimmers.
Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.
Often cited to her famous Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home (1922), but not found in that work. Claimed as genuine by the Emily Post Institute.
Phryne was feeling most displeased with a species to which, she reminded herself, she belonged. She took an egg sandwich and a gulp of tea and strove to adjust her philosophy.
But beware you be not swallowed up in books: An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.
Letter to Joseph Benson (7 Nov 1768)
Most of us stand poised at the edge of brilliance, haunted by the knowledge of our proximity, yet still demonstrably on the wrong side of the line, our dealings with reality undermined by a range of minor yet critical psychological flaws (a little too much optimism, an unprocessed rebelliousness, a fatal impatience or sentimentality). We are like an exquisite high-speed aircraft which for lack of a tiny part is left stranded beside the runway, rendered slower than a tractor or bicycle.
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, ch. 4 (2009)
A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard — by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off.
In Charles Poore, “Mr. MacLeish and the Disenchantmentarians,” The New York Times (25 Jan 1968)
Perhaps the condition of women affords, in all countries, the best criterion by which to judge the character of men.
Views of Society and Manners in America, Letter 23, Mar. 1820 (1821)
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Other people’s appetites easily appear excessive when one doesn’t share them.
The Counterfeiters, “Edouard’s Journal: Oscar Molinier” (1925)
We open our mouths and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know. We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse: we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard.
Moon Tiger (1987)
To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.
“Experience,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
CRASSUS: One of the disadvantages of being a patrician is that occasionally you’re obliged to act like one.
Marriage is three parts love and seven parts forgiveness of sins.
The New York Idea (1907)
If a man has reported to you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make any defense to what has been told you: but reply, The man did not know the rest of my faults, for he would not have mentioned these only.
Enchiridion, 33 (c. AD 135) [tr. Long (1888)]
Alt. trans.: "If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you, but answer, 'He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would have not mentioned these alone.'" [tr. Higginson (1948)]
The surface of Americna society is, if I may use the expression, covered with a layer of democracy, from beneath which the old aristocratic colors sometimes peep.
Democracy in America, ch. 2 (1835) [tr. Reeve (1899)]
- As above, but given as "... sometimes seep."
- "American society, if I may put it this way, is like a painting that is democratic on the surface but from time to time allows the old acistocratic colors to peep through." [tr. Goldhammer (2004)]
- "The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through."
Tolerance, good temper and sympathy — they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long.
Neither fear your death’s day nor long for it.
[Summum nec metuas diem nec optes.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 10, epigram 47, l. 13 [tr. Ker (1919)]
The final element of living a happy life. Alt. trans.:
- "Neither fear, nor wish for, your last day" [Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)]
- "Nor fear nor yet desire thy last day" [Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906)]
- "And for the inevitable hour, / Nor hope it nigh, nor dread its power." [tr. Merivale]
- "Ne wish for Death, ne fear his might." [tr. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey]
- "Death neither wish, nor fear to see." [tr. Sir Richard Fanshawe]
- "Neither to fear death nor seek it." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
- "Nor dread your last day, nor long for it." [tr. Ker (1919)]
Talent is God-given; be humble. Fame is man-given; be thankful. Conceit is self-given; be careful.
They Call Me Coach (1972)
When Christianity asks the aid of government beyond mere impartial protection, it denies itself. Its laws are divine, and not human. Its essential interests lie beyond the reach and range of human governments. United with government, religion never rises above the merest superstition; united with religion, government never rises above the merest despotism; and all history shows us that the more widely and completely they are separated, the better it is for both.
Board of Education of Cincinnati v. Minor, Ohio Supreme Court (1872)
SPARTACUS: When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he’s not afraid of it. That’s why we’ll win.
If your descent is from heroic sires,
Show in your life a remnant of their fires.
That which we call sin in others, is experiment for us.
“Experience,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.
Nature, as we know her, is no saint.
Essays: Second Series, “Experience” (1844)
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Matthew 7:18–20 (KJV)
- "A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a poor tree cannot bear good fruit. And any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do." (GNT)
- "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits." (NRSV)
JOKER: The dead know only one thing: it is better to be alive.