- 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).
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.
Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, sc. 2, l. 271 [Enobarbus] (1607)
Less than a century ago, the laborer had no rights, little or no respect, and led a life which was socially submerged and barren. He was hired and fired by economic despots whose power over him decreed his life or death. […] American industry organized misery into sweatshops and proclaimed the right of capital to act without restraints and without conscience. […] The inspiring answer to this intolerable and dehumanizing existence was economic organization through trade unions. The worker became determined not to wait for charitable impulses to grow in his employer. He constructed the means by which fairer sharing of the fruits of his toil had to be given to him or the wheels of industry, which he alone turned, would halt and wealth for no one would be available.
This revolution within industry was fought bitterly by those who blindly believed their right to uncontrolled profits was a law of the universe, and that without the maintenance of the old order, catastrophe faced the nation. But history is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it by raising the living standards of millions. Labor miraculously created a market for industry, and lifted the whole nation to undreamed-of levels of production. Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.
Speech, AFL-CIO Convention, Miami (11 Dec 1961)
A correct answer is like an affectionate kiss.
The only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.
I think our heart-strings were, like warp and woof
In some firm fabric, woven in and out;
Your golden filaments in fair design
Across my duller fibre.
If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.
Bad temper is an indication of a man’s character; every man can be judged by the things which make him mad.
The trail of the serpent reaches into all the lucrative professions and practices of man, Each has its own wrongs. Each finds a tender and very intelligent conscience a disqualification for success. Each requires of the practitioner a certain shutting of the eyes, a certain dapperness and compliance, an acceptance of customs, a sequestration from the sentiments of generosity and love, a compromise of private opinion and lofty integrity.
“Man the Reformer,” lecture, Boston (25 Jan 1841)
What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them.
Philosophical Dictionary, “Madness” (1764)
Money is said to be power, which is, in some cases, true; and the same may be said of knowledge; but superior sobriety, industry and activity, are a still more certain source of power; for without these, knowledge is of little use; and, as to the power which money gives, it is that of brute force, it is the power of the bludgeon and the bayonet, and of the bribed press, tongue and pen.
Advice to Young Men, Letter 1, #40 (1829)
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
“Hope is the thing with feathers”
Well, with one martini ah feel bigger, wiser, taller, and with two it goes to the superlative, and ah feel biggest, wisest, tallest, and with three there ain’t no holdin’ me.
As quoted in Lauren Bacall, By Myself (1978). Often paraphrased or rendered back into standard English, e.g., "When I have one martini, I feel bigger, wiser, taller. When I have a second, I feel superlative. When I have more, there's no holding me."
Ever see a bird hurt itself by flying into a glass window? The bird is not stupid; he simply did not have all the data.
To have a discussion coolly waived when you feel that justice is all on your side is even more exasperating in marriage than in philosophy.
Middlemarch, Book 3, ch. 24 (1871)
We must make it clear that in our struggle to end this thing called segregation, we are not struggling for ourselves alone. We are not struggling only to free seventeen million Negroes. The festering sore of segregation debilitates the white man as well as the Negro. We are struggling to save the soul of America.
“Keep Moving from This Mountain,” Spelman College (10 Apr 1960)
Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.
“Social Aims,” Letters and Social Aims (1875)
No furniture so charming as books.
Quoted in Lady Holland (Smith's daughter), Memoir, Vol. 1, ch. 9 (1855). See also Beecher.
“Come on, now. Home we go and a nice cuppa,” said Mr. Butler, who was convinced that tea was the cure for most female ills, from miscarriage to bankruptcy.
Though the terrain of frustration may be vast — from a stubbed toe to an untimely death — at the heart of every frustration lies a basic structure: the collision of a wish with an unyielding reality.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.
The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
I heard a saying in Egypt, that ambition
Is like the sea wave, which the more you drink
The more you thirst — yea — drink too much, as men
Have done on rafts of wreck — it drives you mad.
The Cup, Act 1, sc. 3 [Synorix] (1884)
To me, bitterness is the under-arm odor of wishful weakness. It is the graceless acknowledgment of defeat.
Let a defect, which is possibly but small, appear undisguised. A fault concealed is presumed to be great.
[Simpliciter pateat vitium fortasse pusillum:
Quod tegitur, magnum creditur esse malum]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 3, Epigram 42 [tr. Bohn (1871)]
- "Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst."
- "Simple decays men easily pass by, // But, hid, suspect some great deformity" [tr. Anon. (1695)]
- "Double we see those faults which art would mend, // Plain downright ugliness would less offend." [tr. Sedley]
- "Let a blemish, which perhaps is small, simply show. The flow which is hidden is deemed greater than it is." [tr. Ker (1919)]
No man is defeated without until he has first been defeated within.
You Learn by Living, ch. 10 (1960)
We readily inquire, “Does he know Greek or Latin?” “Can he write poetry and prose?” But what matters most is what we put last: “Has he become better and wiser?” We ought to find out not who understands most but who understands best.
[Nous nous enquerons volontiers: “Sçait-il du Gre ou du Latin? Estriil en vers ou en prose?” Mais sìl est devenu ou plus advisé, c’estoit le principal, et c’est ce qui demeure derrier. Il falloit sènquerir qui est mieux sçavant, non qui est plus sçavant.]
The Complete Essays, I:25 “On Schoolmasters [Du pédantisme]”
Few men of action have been able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time.
I also think living in the country gives you faith. All you have to do is get up and look at the mountains and look at the other animals to realize that your problems are mostly made up or exacerbated by humans. But human life isn’t necessarily life. There’s so much more out there.
Interview in OutSmart (Jan 1998)
To conceive that compulsion and punishment are the proper means of reformation, is the sentiment of a barbarian; civilisation and science are calculated to explode so ferocious an idea. It was once universally admitted and approved; it is now necessarily upon the decline. Punishment must either ultimately succeed in imposing the sentiments it is employed to inculcate, upon the mind of the sufferer, or it must forcibly alienate him against them. The last of these can never be the intention of its employer, or have a tendency to justify its application. […] Yet to alienate the mind of the sufferer, from the individual that punishes, and from the sentiments he entertains, is perhaps the most common effect of punishment.
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Vol. 2, bk. 7, ch. 5 (1793)
Better keep yourself clean and bright: you are the window through which you must see the world.
The Revolutionist’s Handbook, “Honor” (1905)
Every man is wise when attacked by a mad dog; fewer when pursued by a mad woman; only the wisest survive when attacked by a mad notion.
Samuel Marchbanks’ Almanack (1967)
O woman! lovely woman! Nature made thee
To temper man: we had been brutes without you.
Angels are painted fair, to look like you:
There’s in you all that we believe of heaven, —
Amazing brightness, purity, and truth,
Eternal joy, and everlasting love.
Venice Preserv’d, Act 1, sc. 1 (1682)
Love would put a new face on this weary old world in which we dwell as pagans and enemies too long.
“Man the Reformer,” lecture, Boston (25 Jan 1841)
Grammar, perfectly understood, enables us, not only to express our meaning fully and clearly, but so to express it as to enable us to defy the ingenuity of man to give to our words any other meaning than that which we ourselves intend them to express.
A Grammar of the English Language, Letter 2 (1818)
Normal is the average of deviance.
Venus Envy, ch. 21 (1993)
There is no more contemptible type of human character that that of the nerveless sentimentalist and dreamer, who spends his life in a weltering sea of sensibility and emotion, but who never does a manly concrete deed.
The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1, ch. 4 “Habit” (1890)
This chapter originally published in Popular Science Monthly (Feb 1887).
Depend upon it, as long as the church is living so much like the world, we cannot expect our children to be brought into the fold.
God’s Good News, “Where Art Thou?” [Gen. 3:9] (1897)
At twenty a man is a Peacock, at thirty a Lion, at forty a Camel, at fifty a Serpent, at sixty a Dog, at seventy an Ape, and at eighty nothing.
The Art of Worldly Wisdom, #276 “Know how to renew your character [Saber renovar el genio]” (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility.
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Vol. 2, bk. 6, ch. 1 (1793)
A bookstore is one of the only pieces of physical evidence we have that people are still thinking.
Even the best cooks were saucepan throwers when the soufflé collapsed.
The Green Mill Murder (1993)
We don’t exist unless there is someone who can see us existing, what we say has no meaning until someone can understand, while to be surrounded by friends is constantly to have our identity confirmed; their knowledge and care for us have the power to pull us from our numbness. In small comments, many of them teasing, they reveal they know our foibles and accept them and so, in turn, accept that we have a place in the world.
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 2 “Consolation For Not having Enough Money” (2000)
But though that first love’s impassioned blindness
Has passed away in colder light,
I still have thought of you with kindness,
And shall do, till our last goodnight.
The ever-rolling silent hours
Will bring a time we shall not know,
When our young days of gathering flowers
Will be an hundred years ago.
“Love and Age,” From Gryll Grange (1860)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.
Disputed Questions, “The Power and Meaning of Love” (1953)
Ambition is a Lust that’s never quench’d,
Grows more inflam’d and madder by Enjoyment.
The History and Fall of Caius Marius, Act 5, sc. 4 (1680)
Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up.
It’s a funny thing, the less people have to live for, the less nerve they have to risk losing — nothing.
Moses, Man of the Mountain, ch. 2 (1939)
Added on 18-Oct-17 | Last updated 10-Jan-18
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Disgraceful ’tis to treat small things as difficult;
‘Tis silly to waste time on foolish trifles.
[Turpe est difficiles habere nugas,
Et stultus labor est ineptiarum.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 2, #86
As quoted in the Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906). Alt. trans.: "It is absurd to make one's amusements difficult; and labor expended on follies is childish." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
Life is thickly sown with thorns. I know no other remedy than to pass rapidly over them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater their power to harm us.
In The Lady's Magazine, "Anecdotes of Voltaire" (Jul 1786).
Absence is one of the most useful ingredients of family life, and to do it rightly is an art like any other.
The Freya Stark Story (1953)
You can tell the character of every man when you see how he gives and receives praise.
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], Letter 52 “On choosing our teachers,” Sec. 12
There comes now and then a bolder spirit, I should rather say, a more surrendered soul, more informed and led by God, which is much in advance of the rest, quite beyond their sympathy, but predicts what shall soon be the general fullness; as when we stand by the seashore, whilst the tide is coming in, a wave comes up the beach far higher than any foregoing one, and recedes; and for a long while none comes up to that mark; but after some time the whole sea is there and beyond it.
“Lecture on the Times,” Boston (2 Dec 1841)
Good government is known from bad government by this infallible test: that under the former the labouring people are well fed and well clothed, and under the latter, they are badly fed and badly clothed.
Cobbett’s Political Register, Vol. 46 (31 May 1823)