- 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).
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)
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)
Added on 24-Oct-17 | Last updated 24-Oct-17
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