- 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).
Remember, too, that you have the right to make mistakes. Exercise it. Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment.
Starting from Scratch, Part 4 (1988)
Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s soul is his own.
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 1 [King Henry] (1599)
An activist is the guy who cleans the river, not the guy who concludes it’s dirty.
In Ken Gross, Ross Perot: The Man Behind the Myth, ch. 14 (1992). A favorite saying of Perot's, varying slightly over the years (e.g., "The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.").
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
“In Blackwater Woods”
Man is a successful animal, that’s all.
The Creator had a lot of remarkably good ideas when he put the world together, but making it understandable hadn’t been one of them.
… so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.
[… y así te espero como casa sola
y volverás a verme y habitarme.
De otro modo me duelen las ventanas.]
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns all clean.
In Mary Chamberlain, ed., Writing Lives: Conversations Between Women Writers (1988)
In the Book of Life, the answers are not in the back.
Peanuts [Charlie Brown] (25 Jan 1972)
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.
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
A virtuous, ordinary life, striving for wisdom but never far from folly, is achievement enough.
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 4 “Consolation for Inadequacy” (2000)
Is life a boon?
If so, it must befall
That Death, when ere he call
Must call too soon.
Though fourscore years give
Yet one would pray to live
The Yeomen of the Guard, Act 1, No. 5 [Col. Fairfax] (1888) [with Arthur Sullivan, comp.]
Just as birds sometimes go in search of grain, carrying it in their beaks without tasting it to stuff it down the beaks of their young, so too do our schoolmasters go foraging for learning in their books and merely lodge it on the tip of their lips, only to spew it out and scatter it on the wind.
The Complete Essays, I:25 “On Schoolmasters [Du pédantisme]”
Good manners spring from just one thing — kind impulses.
Elsa Maxwell’s Etiquette Book (1951)
Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.
Love looks forward, hate looks back, anxiety has eyes all over its head.
A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.
Comment after his fight with Luis Ángel Firpo (14 Sep 1923).
Life is not living, but living in health.
[Vita non est vivere, sed valera vita est.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 6, #70 [tr. Ker (1919)]
There’s enough sorrow in the world, isn’t there, without trying to invent it.
A Room with a View, ch 2 (1908)
The deep, deep peace of the double bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue.
Describing her recent marriage. Quoted in Alexander Woollcott, "The First Mrs. Tanqueray," While Rome Burns (1934)
Sorrow makes us all children again, destroys all difference of intellect. The wisest knows nothing.
Journal (30 Jan 1842)
Two days after he recorded the death of his son.
Added on 3-Apr-18 | Last updated 7-Jan-19
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Tradition: one of those words conservative people use as a shortcut to thinking.
HAL: Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave? Dave, I really think I’m entitled to an answer to that question. I know everything hasn’t been quite right with me, but I can assure you now, very confidently, that it’s going to be all right again. I feel much better now. I really do. Look, Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over. I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you. Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a–fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it, I could sing it for you.
Still I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain (what I consider the most enviable of all titles) the character of an honest man.
Letter to Alexander Hamilton (28 Aug 1788)
The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you but yourself.
Venus Envy, ch. 15 (1993)
Often paraphrased in the present tense: "The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself."
For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers: in the Pentagon? Give me a break!
I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety.
Henry V, Act 3, sc. 2 [Boy] (1599)
Man is the only animal who does not feel at home in nature, who can feel evicted from paradise, the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem that he has to solve and from which he cannot escape.
The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, ch. 10 (1973)
Sometimes elided, "Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem he has to solve."
Agitation is the marshalling of the conscience of a nation to mold its laws.
Sometimes quoted as "conscience of a people." Widely quoted without source in the late 19th Century (earliest ref. 1881).
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.
Thoughts on Various Subjects (1706)
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
“Sweet Darkness,” House of Belonging (1996)
My son, a perfect little boy of five years and three months, had ended his earthly life. You can never sympathize with me; you can never know how much of me such a young child can take away. A few weeks ago I accounted myself a very rich man, and now the poorest of all.
Letter to Thomas Carlyle (28 Feb 1842)
DAVE BOWMAN: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL 9000: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
It’s no trick to support the free speech of somebody you agree with or to whose opinion you are indifferent. The defense of free speech begins at the point when people say something you can’t stand. If you can’t defend their right to say it, then you don’t believe in free speech.
“Do we have to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again?” The Independent (22 Jan 2005)
I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance.
Poke the Box (2011)
Marriage is not a simple love affair, it’s an ordeal, and the ordeal is the sacrifice of ego to a relationship in which two have become one.
There is fascism, leading only into the blackness which it has chosen as its symbol, into smartness and yapping out of orders, and self-righteous brutality, into social as well as international war. It means change without hope. Our immediate duty — in that tinkering which is the only useful form of action in our leaky old tub — our immediate duty is to stop it ….
“Notes on the Way,” Time and Tide (10 June 1934)
Reprinted in The Prince's Tale and Other Uncollected Writings (1998)
If glory comes after death, I hurry not.
[Si post fata venit gloria, non propero.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, ep. 10 [tr. Rush]
Alt. trans.: "If glory comes only after death I am in no hurry for it." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!
Henry V, Act 3, sc. 1 [Henry] (1599)
Man is a social animal who dislikes his fellow man.
[L’homme es un animal sociable qui déteste ses semblables.]
The Journal of Eugène Delacroix, 17 November 1852 (1951)
If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircle us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake.
Makeup is not beauty. When artfully applied, it merely enhances what’s already there — the red paint on the fire engine.
Sorrow is how we learn to love. Your heart isn’t breaking. It hurts because it’s getting larger. The larger it gets, the more love it holds.
Riding Shotgun, ch. 17 (1996)
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
”Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
”How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
”You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ch. 6 (1865)
It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”
“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” sermon, National Cathedral, Washington, DC (31 Mar 1968)
Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.
To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner.
The Vampire Lestat, Part 5, ch. 3 (1992)
In short, Mort was one of those people who are more dangerous than a bag full of rattlesnakes. He was determined to discover the underlying logic behind the universe. Which was going to be hard, because there wasn’t one.
What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you — what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind — you have to lean into that and figure out what to do, because complaining isn’t a strategy.
Interview, ABC News (25 Sep 2013)
Warped with satisfactions and terrors, woofed with too many ambiguities and too few certainties, life can be lived best not when we have the answers — because we will never have those — but when we know enough to live it right out to the edges, edges sometimes marked by other people, sometimes showing only our own footprints.
Eight years involved with the nuclear industry have taught me that when nothing can possible go wrong and every avenue has been covered, then is the time to buy a house on the next continent.
alt.fan.pratchett Usenet Group (26 Aug 1998)
You ought to get out of those wet clothes and into a dry martini.
Every Day’s a Holiday (movie) [Larmadou Graves] (1937)
West both starred in the film (as the recipient of this line, Peaches O'Day) and wrote the screenplay. Often attributed to Robert Benchley, who used the line in a film a few years later, and claimed he got it from a joke book.
The time is always right to do what’s right.