- 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).
Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.
“Papyrus to Paperbacks: The World That Books Made,” Washington Post (30 Dec 1979)
What do you suppose makes all men look back to the time of childhood with so much regret (if their childhood has been, in any moderate degree, healthy or peaceful)? That rich charm, which the least possession had for us, was in consequence of the poorness of our treasures. That miraculous aspect of the nature around us, was because we had seen little, and knew less. Each increased possession loads us with a new weariness; every piece of new knowledge diminishes the faculty of admiration; and Death is at last appointed to take us from a scene in which, if we were to stay longer, no gift could satisfy us, and no miracle surprise.
The Eagle’s Nest, Lecture 5 “The Power of Contentment in Science and Art,” Sec. 82 (22 Feb 1872)
This cold wilderness was utterly unfamiliar, but it did not feel hostile, just indifferent to her fate. If she fell off this path and was broken into a hundred pieces nothing up here would be one whit interested.
The Green Mill Murder, ch. 13 (1993)
It is striking how much more seriously we are likely to be taken after we have been dead a few centuries.
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 4 “Consolation for Inadequacy” (2000)
Morals are three-quarters manners.
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
Comment (31 Dec 2001)
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace, there’s nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.
Henry V, Act 3, sc. 1 [Henry] (1599)
The only queer people are those who don’t love anybody.
Man is a talking animal and he will always let himself be swayed by the power of the word.
Les Belles Images (1966)
We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.
The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
One was never married, and that’s his hell; another is, and that’s his plague.
The Anatomy of Melancholy, 184.108.40.206 (1621-51)
Anxiety is the handmaiden of contemporary ambition.
Status Anxiety (2004)
If you want that good feeling that comes from doing things for other folks then you have to pay for it in abuse and misunderstanding.
Moses, Man of the Mountain [Moses] (1939)
Divide the work and thus you’ll shorten it.
[Divisum sic breve fiet opus.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 4, Epigram 82
As quoted in Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906); mislabeled as Epigram 83.Alt. trans.:
- "If it be too much to read two volumes, let them roll up one of them; and the task, thus divided, will seem shorter." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
- "If two be too much, double one parcel down; / So half, perhaps, better the pleasure will crown." [tr. Elphinston]
- "If it is too much to read two, let one book be rolled up: divided the work will thus become brief. [Si nimis est legisse duos, tibi charta plicetur / Altera: divisum sic breve fiet opus.]" [tr. Ker (1919), Ep. 210]
You confuse what’s important with what’s impressive.
Maurice (w. 1914, pub. 1971)
Man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing nativities and deaths with equal luster, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery, in the infamy of his nature.
Urn-Burial: Or, Hydriotaphia, ch. 5 (1658)
There are three possible ways in which the church can act toward the state: in the first place, as has been said, it can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character as state, i.e., it can throw the state back on its responsibilities. Secondly, it can aid the victims of state action. The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. “Do good to all men.” In both these course of action, the church serves the free state in its free way, and at times when laws are changed the church may in no way withdraw itself from these two tasks.
The third possibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself. Such action would be direct political action, and is only possible and required when the church sees the state fail in its function of creating law and order, i.e., when it sees the state unrestrainedly bring about too much or too little law and order.
“The Church and the Jewish Question” (1933)
On the need for Christian clergy to actively oppose the Nazi regime's persecution of Jews.
I have changed my definition of tragedy. I now think tragedy is not foul deeds done to a person (usually noble in some manner) but rather that tragedy is irresolvable conflict. Both sides/ideas are right.
Starting from Scratch, Part 3 “The Work,” “Plot” (1989)
Every man has a certain sphere of discretion, which he has a right to expect shall not be infringed by his neighbors. This right flows from the very nature of man. First, all men are fallible: no man can be justified in setting up his judgment as a standard for others. We have no infallible judge of controversies; each man in his own apprehension is right in his decisions; and we can find no satisfactory mode of adjusting their jarring pretensions. If every one be desirous of imposing his sense upon others, it will at last come to be a controversy, not of reason, but of force.
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Book 2, ch. 5 (1793)
When one is too old for love, one finds great comfort in good dinners.
Moses, Man of the Mountain, ch. 6 [Mentu] (1939)
There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.
“Salt,” Counsels by the Way (1921 ed.)
If poor you are, poor you will always be,
For wealth’s now given to none but to the rich.
[Semper eris pauper, si pauper es, Aemiliane;
Dantur opes nulli nunc, nisi divitibus.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, #81
In Thomas Harbottle, ed., The Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1897). Alt. trans.:
- If you are poor now, Æmilianus, you will always be poor. / Riches are now given to none but the rich. [tr. Bohn (1871)]
- If thou are poor, Æmilian, / Thou shalt be ever so, / For no man now his presents can / But on the rich bestow. [tr. Fletcher]
- You want, Æmilianus, so you may; / Riches are given rich men, and none but they. [tr. Wright]
- Poor once and poor for ever, Nat, I fear; / None but the rich get place and pension here. [tr. N. B. Halhed]
- You will always be poor, if you are poor, Aemilianus. Wealth is given today t none savethe rich. [tr. Ker (1919)]
The only real argument for marriage is that it remains the best method for getting acquainted.
It Seems To Me, 1925–35 (1935)
The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.
Tremendous Trifles, “The Advantages of Having One Leg” (1909)
How easy it is to be amiable in the midst of happiness and success!
Life and Letters of Madam Swetchine, ch. 5 [8th ed., 1875] (ed. de Falloux; tr. Preston]
Our live experiences, fixed in aphorisms, stiffen into cold epigram. Our heart’s blood, as we write with it, turns to mere dull ink.
The one condition coupled with the gift of truth is its use.
“The Method of Nature,” speech, Waterville College, Maine (11 Aug 1841)
HAL9000: The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.
Marriage is not just spiritual communion and passionate embraces; marriage is also three-meals-a-day and remembering to carry out the trash.
Rage is caused by a conviction, almost comic in its optimistic origins (however tragic in its effects), that a given frustration has not been written into the contract of life.
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 3 “Consolation for Frustration” (2000)
BUNTY: It’s such fun, being reminded of things.
NICKY: And such agony, too.
How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.
Walden, ch. 1 “Reading” (1854)
Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result. For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it.
The Prince, ch. 18 (1513) [tr. Marriott (1908)]
Origin of the paraphrase "The ends justify the means," which is generally attributed to Machiavelli.
Remember, gentlemen, an order that can be misunderstood will be misunderstood.
Added on 22-Nov-17 | Last updated 6-Dec-17
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We do not judge men by what they are in themselves, but by what they are relatively to us.
The Writings of Madame Swetchine, “Airelles”, #25 (1869) [ed. Count de Falloux, tr. Preston]
The best aphorisms are pointed expressions of the results of observation, experience, and reflection. They are portable wisdom, the quintessential extracts of thought and feeling. They furnish the largest amount of intellectual stimulus and nutriment in the smallest compass. About every weak point in human nature, or vicious spot in human life, there is deposited a crystallization of warning and protective proverbs.
“The Utility and the Futility of Aphorisms,” Atlantic Monthly (Feb 1863)
Often paraphrased, "Aphorisms are portable wisdom."
Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they are most luxurious. They are conservatives, after dinner, or before taking their rest; when they are sick, or aged: in the morning, or when their intellect or their conscience have been aroused, when they hear music, or when they read poetry, they are radicals.
“New England Reformers,” lecture, Church of the Disciples, Amory Hall, Boston (3 Mar 1844)
HAL9000: I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.
Added on 22-Nov-17 | Last updated 22-Nov-17
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Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
Man is a military animal,
Glories in gunpowder, and loves parade;
Prefers them to all things.
“Festus” [Lucifer] (1839)
I ask you not to hate people who treat you badly. … This is easier to write than it is to live but there are ignorant people. Only a few are truly malicious. Hate is a poison. It can spread through your system. Forgive them if you can. Forget them if you must.
Interview in OutSmart magazine (Jan 1998)
Conscience and the press ought to be unrestrained, not because men have a right to deviate from the exact line that duty prescribes, but because society, the aggregate of individuals, has no right to assume the prerogative of an infallible judge, and to undertake authoritatively to prescribe to its members in matters of pure speculation.
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Book 2, ch. 5 (1793)
There is something about a Martini,
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow Martini;
I wish I had one at present.
There is something about a Martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not the vermouth —
I think that perhaps it’s the gin.
“A Drink with Something In It,” The Primrose Path (1935)
Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten. A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present. America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness — justice.
The ratio of damn fools to villains is high.
The Puppet Masters, ch. 26 (1951)
Added on 17-Nov-17 | Last updated 16-Feb-18
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You can buy a man’s time; you can buy a man’s physical presence at a given place; you can even buy a measured number of skilled muscular motions per hour or day. But you cannot buy enthusiasm; you cannot buy initiative; you cannot buy loyalty; you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds and souls. You have to earn those things.
“The Causes of Industrial Peace,” speech, National Association of Manufacturers (4 Dec 1947)
Sometimes titled "Philosophy of Management".
Added on 17-Nov-17 | Last updated 20-Nov-17
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Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul
When hot for certainties in this our life!
Modern Love, Sonnet 50 (1862)
Consistently wise decisions can only be made by those whose wisdom is constantly challenged.
One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.
On Love, Book 3 “Fragments” (1822)
You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.
Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.
When I go into my garden with a spade and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health, that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.
“Man the Reformer,” lecture, Boston (25 Jan 1841)