- 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.
- 16,735 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) (5,581)
- “Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National… (5,532)
- Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)] (5,394)
- Nobel prize acceptance speech (10 Dec 1962) (4,808)
- “The Triumph of Stupidity” (10 May 1933) (4,329)
- “In Search of a Majority,” Speech,… (3,642)
- “Get a Knife, Get a Dog, but Get Rid of… (3,470)
- “On The Conduct of Life” (1822) (3,134)
- “Hallowed Ground” (1825) (2,935)
- “The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus… (2,726)
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.
- 5-Sep-19 - Erewhon, ch. 20 (1872) | WIST on 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV).
- 4-Sep-19 - "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," sermon, National Cathedral, Washington, DC (31 Mar 1968) | WIST on Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963).
- 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).
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)
Added on 2-Oct-18 | Last updated 4-Oct-18
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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.
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
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.
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)
Added on 25-May-18 | Last updated 25-May-18
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