- 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.
- 16,692 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) (5,489)
- Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)] (5,230)
- “Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National… (5,220)
- Nobel prize acceptance speech (10 Dec 1962) (4,780)
- “The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933) (4,189)
- “In Search of a Majority,” Speech,… (3,598)
- “Get a Knife, Get a Dog, but Get Rid of… (3,406)
- “Hallowed Ground” (1825) (2,908)
- “On The Conduct of Life” (1822) (2,806)
- “The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus… (2,638)
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.
- 23-Apr-19 - Dave on Letter to Baron von Stein, Dammartin le St. Père (7 Jan 1814).
- 14-Apr-19 - Gastone Breccia on Letter to Baron von Stein, Dammartin le St. Père (7 Jan 1814).
- 9-Apr-19 - ***Dave Does the Blog on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, ch. 2 (1876).
- 8-Apr-19 - Paraenesis votiva pro Pace Ecclesiae ad Theologos Augustanae Confessionis (1626) | WIST on Motto.
- 5-Apr-19 - Tomica on Journals IV.A.164 (1843).
- 5-Apr-19 - Tomica on Journals IV.A.164 (1843).
There is, in the institutions of this country, one principle, which, had they no other excellence, would secure to them the preference over those of all other countries. I mean — and some devout patriots will start — I mean the principle of change.
I have used a word to which is attached an obnoxious meaning. Speak of change, and the world is in alarm. And yet where do we not see change? What is there in the physical world but change? And what would there be in the moral world without change?
Independence Day speech, New Harmony, Indiana (4 Jul 1828)
Added on 26-Jan-19 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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The intoxication of anger, like that of the grape, shows us to others, but hides us from ourselves; and we injure our own cause, in the opinion of the world, when we too passionately and eagerly defend it.
Lacon, Vol. 1, #240 (1820)
It was always my hope in writing novels and stories which asked the question, “what is reality?”, to someday get an answer. This was the hope of most of my readers, too. Years passed. I wrote over thirty novels and over a hundred stories and I still couldn’t figure out what was real. One day a girl college student in Canada asked me to define reality for her, for a paper she was writing for her philosophy class. She wanted a one-sentence answer. I thought about it and finally said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” That’s all I could come up with. That was back in 1972. Since then I haven’t been able to define reality any more lucidly.
Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.
A strong man must be militant as well as moderate. He must be a realist as well as an idealist. If I am to merit the trust invested in me by some of my race, I must be both of these things. This is why nonviolence is a powerful as well as a just weapon. If you confront a man who has long been cruelly misusing you, and say, “Punish me, if you will; I do not deserve it, but I will accept it, so that the world will know I am right and you are wrong,” then you wield a powerful and a just weapon. This man, your oppressor, is automatically morally defeated, and if he has any conscience, he is ashamed. Wherever this weapon is used in a manner that stirs a community’s, or a nation’s, anguished conscience, then the pressure of public opinion becomes an ally in your just cause.
“Yo!” said the Dean.
“Yo what?” said Ridcully.
“It’s not a yo what, it’s just a yo,” said the Senior Wrangler, behind him. “It’s a general street greeting and affirmative with convivial military ingroup and masculine bonding-ritual overtones.”
“What? What? Like ‘jolly good’?” said Ridcully.
“I suppose so,” said the Senior Wrangler, reluctantly.
I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
“Mad Girl’s Love Song” (1951)
The essence of good manners consists in making it clear that one has no wish to hurt. When it is clearly necessary to hurt, it must be done in such a way as to make it evident that the necessity is felt to be regrettable.
“Good Manners and Hypocrisy,” New York American (14 Dec 1934)
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.
I’m working at trying to be a good Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy — it’s serious business. It’s not something where you think, Oh, I’ve got it done. I did it all day, hotdiggety. The truth is, all day long you try to do it, try to be it, and then in the evening if you’re honest and have a little courage you look at yourself and say, Hmm. I only blew it eighty-six times. Not bad.
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
Ultimately, the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or friendship, is conversation.
De Profundis, “Epistola: In Carcere et Vinculis” (1897)
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth, Act 5, sc. 5 (1606)
Americans’ lack of passion for history is well known. History may not quite be bunk, as Henry Ford suggested, but there’s no denying that, as a people, we sustain a passionate concentration on the present and the future. Backward is just not a natural direction for Americans to look — historical ignorance remains a national characteristic.
Oh What a Slaughter: Massacres in the American West: 1846–1890 (2005)
Democracy is not a beloved Republic really, and never will be. But it is less hateful than other contemporary forms of government, and to that extent it deserves our support. It does start from the assumption that the individual is important, and that all types are needed to make a civilization. It does not divide its citizens into the bossers and the bossed — as an efficiency-regime tends to do. The people I admire most are those who are sensitive and want to create something or discover something, and do not see life in terms of power, and such people get more of a chance under a democracy than elsewhere. They found religions, great or small, or they produce literature and art, or they do disinterested scientific research, or they may be what is called “ordinary people”, who are creative in their private lives, bring up their children decently, for instance, or help their neighbours. All these people need to express themselves; they cannot do so unless society allows them liberty to do so, and the society which allows them most liberty is a democracy.
An opinion, right or wrong, can never constitute a moral offense, nor be in itself a moral obligation. It may be mistaken; it may involve an absurdity, or a contradiction. It is a truth; or it is an error: it can never be a crime or a virtue.
People don’t alter history any more than birds alter the sky, they just make brief patterns in it.
You’re mighty fond o’ Craig; but for my part, I think he’s welly like a cock as think’s the sun’s rose o’ purpose to hear him crow.
Adam Bede, ch. 17 (1859)
Mrs. Poyser, about Mr. Craig. Sometimes paraphrased, "He was like a cock, who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow."
Life is not only full of sound and fury. It also has butterflies, flowers, art.
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
One of the things I like best about animals in the wild is that they’re always off on some errand. They have appointments to keep. It’s only we humans who wonder what we’re here for.
“In Praise of Bats,” The Moon by Whale Light (1991)
My personal disillusionment with the church began when I was thrust into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery. I was confident that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would prove strong allies in our just cause. But some became open adversaries, some cautiously shrank from the issue, and others hid behind silence. My optimism about help from the white church was shattered; and on too many occasions since, my hopes for the white church have been dashed. There are many signs that the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. Unless the early sacrificial spirit is recaptured, I am very much afraid that today’s Christian church will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and we will see the Christian church dismissed as a social club with no meaning or effectiveness for our time, as a form without substance, as salt without savor. The real tragedy, though, is not Martin Luther King’s disillusionment with the church — for I am sustained by its spiritual blessings as a minister of the gospel with a lifelong commitment: The tragedy is that in my travels, I meet young people of all races whose disenchantment with the church has soured into outright disgust.
For a conscious being, to exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
Creative Evolution, ch. 1 (1907) [tr. Mitchell (1911)]
At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique human being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is ever be put together a second time.
“Schopenhauer as Educator,” ch. 1 (1874) [tr. Collins]
My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?
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.