- 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.
- 16,719 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 poverty power religion science society success truth 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) (5,554)
- “Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National… (5,475)
- Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)] (5,372)
- Nobel prize acceptance speech (10 Dec 1962) (4,799)
- “The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933) (4,288)
- “In Search of a Majority,” Speech,… (3,629)
- “Get a Knife, Get a Dog, but Get Rid of… (3,435)
- “Hallowed Ground” (1825) (2,927)
- “On The Conduct of Life” (1822) (2,908)
- “The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus… (2,701)
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.
- 16-Aug-19 - Dave on About WIST.
- 13-Aug-19 - Mike Hardy on About WIST.
- 17-Jul-19 - Samuel Missal on Armistice Day address, Boston (11 Nov 1948).
- 24-May-19 - Dave on Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1989).
- 16-May-19 - Mike Gaudioso on Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1989).
- 23-Apr-19 - Dave on Letter to Baron von Stein, Dammartin le St. Père (7 Jan 1814).
Being cruel to be kind is just ordinary cruelty with an excuse made for it.
Daughters and Sons, ch. 6 (1937)
Cynics are, in the end, only idealists with awkwardly high standards.
Status Anxiety, “Philosophy” 1.5 (2004)
Good manners are a combination of intelligence, education, taste, and style mixed together so that you don’t need any of those things.
Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People, ch. 1 (1984)
If the books which you read are your own, mark with a pen or pencil the most considerable things in them which you desire to remember. Then you may read that book the second time over with half the trouble, by your eye running over the paragraphs which your pencil has noted. It is but a very weak objection against this practice to say, I shall spoil my book; for I persuade myself that you did not buy it as a bookseller, to sell again for gain, but as a scholar, to improve your mind by it; and if the mind be improved, your advantage is abundant, through your book yields less money to your executors.
Logic on the Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry after Truth (1724)
“To Hell with all racialists,” she said aloud. “And to Hell with eugenics, degenerate heredity, miscegenation and frauds who pile up skulls like a conqueror as well. May they choke on their bones.”
Ruddy Gore (1995)
In the end, the American Dream is not a sprint or even a marathon, but a relay.
Speech, Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, NC (4 Sep 2012)
A man who marries a woman to educate her falls victim to the same fallacy as the woman who marries a man to reform him.
Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the books and talks that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence. Inside its cocoon of work or social obligation, the human spirit slumbers for the most part, registering the distinction between pleasure and pain, but not nearly as alert as we pretend. There are periods in the most thrilling day during which nothing happens, and though we continue to exclaim, “I do enjoy myself,” or, “I am horrified,” we are insincere. “As far as I feel anything, it is enjoyment, horror” — it’s no more than that, really, and a perfectly adjusted organism would be silent.
A Passage to India, ch. 14 (1924)
Virtue extends our days: he lives two lives who relives his past with pleasure.
[Ampliat aetatis spatium sibi vir bonus. Hoc est
Vivere bis vita posse priore frui.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 10, epigram 23
- "The good man prolongs his life; to be able to enjoy one's past life is to live twice." [Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)]
- "For he lives twice who can at once employ / The present well, and e'en the past enjoy." [Pope, Imitation of Martial]
- "A good man lengthens his term of existence; to be able to enjoy our past life is to live twice." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
- "The good man broadens for himself the span of his years: to be able to enjoy the life you have spent, is to live it twice." [tr. Nisbet (2015)]
- "A good man widens for himself his age's span; he lives twice who can find delight in life bygone." [tr. Ker (1919)]
I would not enter on my list of friends,
(Though graced with polish’d manners and fine sense,
Yet wanting sensibility) the man
Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.
“Winter Walk at Noon,” l. 560ff, The Task, Book 6 (1785)
A man who cannot get angry is like a stream that cannot overflow, that is always turbid. Sometimes indignation is as good as a thunder-storm in summer, clearing and cooling the air.
Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, “Man” (1887)
Although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to feel that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him.
“Notes on Nationalism” (1945)
I decided that perhaps I would like to think of myself as an extremist — in the light of the spirit which made Jesus an extremist for love. If it sounds as though I am comparing myself to the Savior, let me remind you that all who honor themselves with the claim of being “Christians” should compare themselves to Jesus. Thus I consider myself an extremist for that brotherhood of man which Paul so nobly expressed: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Love is the only force on earth that can be dispensed or received in an extreme manner, without any qualifications, without any harm to the giver or to the receiver.
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
It was crowded in the Curry Gardens on the corner of God Street and Blood Alley, but only with the cream of society — at least, with those people who are found floating on the top and who, therefore, it’s wisest to call the cream.
It is just that all worship should be considered as one. We look on the same stars, the sky is common, the same world surrounds us. What difference does it make by what pains each seeks the truth? We cannot attain to so great a secret by one road.
[Aequum est quidquid omnes colunt, unum putari. Eadem spectamus astra, commune coelum est, idem nos munus involvit. Quid interest qua quisque prudentia verum requirat? Uno itinere no potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum.]
“The Memorial of Symmachus, Prefect of the City” [tr. Romestin, Romestin, Duckworth (1896)]
Petition on behalf of non-Christian Senators to Emperor Valentinian to restore the Altar of Victory to the Roman Senate.
Alt. trans.: "We gaze up at the same stars; the sky covers us all; the same universe encompasses us. Does it matter what practical system we adopt in our search for the Truth? The heart of so great a mystery cannot be reached by following one road only."
Life never gives us what we want at the moment that we consider appropriate. Adventures do occur, but not punctually.
A Passage to India, ch. 3 (1924)
Anxiety is the unwillingness to play even when you know the odds are for you. Courage is the willingness to play even when you know the odds are against you.
You grant your favours, Caelia, to Parthians, to Germans, to Dacians;
and despise not the homage of Cilicians and Cappadocians.
To you journeys the Egyptian gallant from the city of Alexandria,
and the swarthy Indian from the waters of the Eastern Ocean;
nor do you shun the embraces of circumcised Jews;
nor does the Alan, on his Sarmatic steed, pass by you.
How comes it that, though a Roman girl,
no attention on the part of a Roman citizen is agreeable to you?
[Das Parthis, das Germanis, das, Caelia, Dacis,
nec Cilicum spernis Cappadocumque toros;
et tibi de Pharia Memphiticus urbe fututor
navigat, a rubris et niger Indus aquis;
nec recutitorum fugis inguina Iudaeorum,
nec te Sarmatico transit Alanus equo.
qua ratione facis cum sis Romans puella,
quod Romana tibi mentula nulla placet?]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 7, epigram 30 [tr. Bohn (1871)]
Alt. translations.:For Parthians, Germans thou thy nets wilt spread;[tr. Fletcher]
Wilt Cappadocian or Cilician wed;
From Memphis comes a whipster unto thee,
And a black Indian from the Red Sea;
Nor dost thou fly the circumcised Jew;
Nor can the Muscovite once pass by you;
Why being a Roman lass dost do thus? tell
Is't cause no Roman knack can please so well?You grant your favours to Parthians, you grant them to Germans, you grant them, Caelia, to Dacians, and you do not spurn the couch of Cilicians and Cappadocians; and for you from his Egyptian city comes sailing the gallant of Memphis, and the black Indian from the Red Sea; nor do you shun the lecheries of circumcised Jews, and the Alan on his Sarmatian steed does not pass you by. What is your reason that, although you are a Roman girl, no Roman lewdness has attraction for you?[tr. Ker (1919)]Caelia, you love a Teuton swain,[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]
An Asiatic stirs your pity,
For you swart Indians cross the main,
Copts flock to you from Pharos' city.
A Jew, a Scythian cavalier,
Can please you -- but I can't discover
Why you, a Roman, are austere
To none except a Roman lover.Barbarian hordes en masse you fuck,[tr. Wills (2008)]
Odd types into your bed you tuck.
You take on blacks and Asian forces,
And Jews, and soldiers, and their horses.
Yet you, voracious Roman chick,
Have never known a Roman dick.
For more detailed commentary on the explicitly sexual nature of the epigram, see Vioque, Epigrammaton Liber VII.
For the whole thing about matrimony is this: We fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character. Behind the pretty wallpaper and the brightly painted plaster lurk the yards of tangled wire and twisted pipes, ready to run a short or spring a leak on us without a word of warning.
Mrs. Wallop (1970)
Often misquoted as "The difficulty with marriage is that ..."
Maxims are to the intellect what laws are to actions; they do not enlighten, but they guide and direct; and although themselves blind, are protective. They are like the clue in the labyrinth, or the compass in the night.
Added on 31-Jul-18 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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The government’s ability to enforce generally applicable prohibitions of socially harmful conduct, like its ability to carry out other aspects of public policy, “cannot depend on measuring the effects of a governmental action on a religious objector’s spiritual development.” To make an individual’s obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the State’s interest is “compelling” — permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, “to become a law unto himself” — contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense.
Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, majority opinion (1990)
Opinion holding that the state could prohibit religious-based peyote use.
Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
They Call Me Coach, ch. 9, epigram (1972)
Never strike a king unless you are sure you shall kill him.
Journal (Sep. 1843)
In addition to the noted source, see also here. However, according to the reliable Ralph Keyes, the quotation is spurious. Keyes also suggests an inspiration from the 17th Century English proverb, "Whosoever draws his sword against the prince must throw the scabbard away."
A variant, "When you strike at a king you must kill him," is attributed to Emerson by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in Max Lerner, The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes (1943).
RIPPER: I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
On Tyranny, ch. 10 (2017)
Spiritual strength and passion, when accompanied by bad manners, only provoke loathing.
The Will to Power, Part 1, “Critique of Religion,” Sec. 175 [tr. Ludovici] (1888)
“Classic.” A book which people praise and don’t read.
Following the Equator, ch. 25, epigraph (1897)
Detective inspector John “Call me Jack, everyone does” Robinson did not like theatres. Bit of a night out at the variety or even the Tiv was fair enough, but ever since a high-minded relative had forced him to sit through an Ibsen festival at an impressionable age, theatres had always been synonymous with what he called ‘high art’, a portmanteau term for everything self-indulgent, terminally tedious and incomprehensible in the world of culture.
Ruddy Gore, ch. 3 (1995)
To cut out every negative root would simultaneously mean choking off positive elements that might arise from it further up the stem of the plant. We should not feel embarrassed by our difficulties, only by our failure to grow anything beautiful from them.
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 6 “Consolation for Difficulties” (2000)
Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.
The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4, 1944–47, Feb. 1947 (1971)
Marriage is not a noun, it’s a verb. It’s not something you have, like a house or a car. It is not a piece of paper that proves you are husband and wife. Marriage is a behavior. It is a choice you make over and over again, reflected in the way you treat your partner every day.
Ask Barbara: The 100 Most-Asked Questions About Love, Sex, and Relationships (1997)
Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.
A Room with a View, ch. 14 (1908)
They [the hours] pass by, and are put to our account.
[Nobis pereunt et imputantur.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, #20, line 13
This phrase is often found as an inscription on sundials.
- "As it is, neither of us lives for himself, but sees his good days flee from him and vanish; days which are ever being lost to us, and set down to our account. Should any one, then, delay to live, when he knows how?" [tr. Bohn (1871)]
- "Now to himself, alas! does neither live / But see good suns of which we are to give / A strict account, set and march thick away. / Knows a man how to live, and does he stay?" [tr. Cowley]
- "To-day neither lives for himself, and he feels the good days are flitting and passing away, our days that perish and are scored to our account. Does any man, when he knows how to live, delay?" [tr. Ker (1919)]
- "Each of us feels the good days speed and depart, and they are lost and counted against us. [bonosque soles effugere atque abire sentit, qui nobis pereunt et imputantur]" [Source]
- "The hours perish to us, and are accounted also to us." [Source]
Nunc vivit sibi euter,heu, bonosque Soles effugere atque abire sentit: Qui nobis pereunt et imputantur. Quisquan vive cum sciat, moratur?
What is said by great employers of labor against agitators is unquestionably true. Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilization.
The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)
It is said that his time was easier than ours, but I doubt it — no time can be easy if one is living through it.
“Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare”
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d, —
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me,
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed,
Shall think themselves accurs’d, they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap, whiles any speaks,
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 3 [Henry] (1599)
Man is a clever animal, who behaves like an imbecile.
One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.
Words and thoughts concerning compassionate action that are not put into practice are like beautiful flowers that are colorful but have no fragrance.
Creating True Peace, ch. 1 (2003)
Yet there is still this difference between man and all other animals — he is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied.
Progress and Poverty, Book 2, ch. 3 (1879)
If you’ve lived a bad life, they send you to Hell. But if you’ve been truly wicked, they give you a tour of Heaven first.
Lead me not into temptation. I can find the way myself.
O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company,
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 3 [Henry] (1599)
Delay is itself a decision.
Decision-Making in the White House: The Olive Branch or the Arrows, ch. 3 (1963)
Full quote: "In the White House, the future rapidly becomes the past, and delay is itself a decision." Earlier in the chapter, he writes, "Some will counsel speed; others will counsel delay -- yet even delay will constitute a decision."
Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.
An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions.
The Log from the Sea of Cortez, ch. 16, March 25 (1951)
It is not a threat but a fact of history that if an oppressed people’s pent-up emotions are not nonviolently released, they will be violently released. So let the Negro march. Let him make pilgrimages to city hall. Let him go on freedom rides. And above all, make an effort to understand why he must do this. For if his frustration and despair are allowed to continue piling up, millions of Negroes will seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies. And this, inevitably, would lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have failed. Perhaps it’s the sheer zestful vitality of the place, or maybe it’s just that a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no wonder. So let’s just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colorful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound.
Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
— By Order of the Author
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, “Notice” (1884)
As it has been said:
Love and a cough
cannot be concealed.
Even a small cough.
Even a small love.
Good manners — the longer I live the more convinced I am of it — are a priceless insurance against failure and loneliness. And anyone can have them.
She passed the photograph to Dot, who liked babies. Phryne always considered that they resembled rabbits in the market when newborn, and uncommonly alcoholic drunks when a little older. Also, despite the pride of their mothers, she could never tell one baby from another, except that some were ugly and some were merely exceptionally plain.
Ruddy Gore, ch. 10 (1995)
The greatest works of art speak to us without knowing of us.
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 5 “Consolation for a Broken Heart” (2000)