- 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).
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)
No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one’s sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one’s character may remain entirely unaffected for the better. With mere good intentions, hell is proverbially paved.
The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1, “Habit” (1890)
The Martini is to middle- and upper-class American society what peyote is to the Yaqui Indians: a sacred rite that affirms tribal identity, encourages fanciful thought and —
let’s be honest here — delivers a whoppingly nice high.
“Martini Madness,” Cigar Aficionado (Spring 1996)
A man is a god in ruins.
“Nature,” ch. 8 (1836)
If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle.
Government was intended to suppress injustice, but it offers new occasions and temptations for the commission of it.
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, “Summary of Principles” 2.4 (1793)
We are justified in enforcing good morals, for they belong to all mankind; but we are not justified in enforcing good manners, for good manners always mean our own manners.
All Things Considered, “Limericks and Counsels of Perfection” (1908)
I’m not sure why it happened, and I’m not certain at all when it happened, but at some point, wanting a happy ending became uncool. Maybe it’s the relentless (and again, highly flawed) criticism that “such things aren’t realistic.” To which my response is, so the fuck what? It’s call fiction. If you want real, step outside.
No cook can ignore the opinion of a man who asks for three helpings. One is politeness, two is hunger, but three is a true and cherished compliment.
The Green Mill Murder, ch. 6 (1993)
Books, that paper memory of mankind.
The Art of Literature, ch. 4 “On Men of Learning” [tr. Saunders (1851)]
Not everyone is worth listening to.
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 1 “Consolation For Unpopularity” (2000)
Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the day-time, and falling into at night.
Letter to Whitter “Hal” Bynner and Arthur Davidson Ficke (1920)
The murmuring poor, who will not fast in peace.
“The Newspaper,” l. 158 (1785)
Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.
Y2K was a real end-of-civilization problem. And the people who could deal with it treated it as such, working flat-out on disaster management for the last year-long countdown. With the result that the end-of-the-world scenario didn’t happen … causing everyone not directly involved to conclude that it was a false alarm.
He that lacks time to mourn, lacks time to mend.
Eternity mourns that. ‘Tis an ill cure
For life’s worst ills, to have no time to feel them.
Where sorrow’s held intrusive and turned out,
There wisdom will not enter, nor true power,
Nor aught that dignifies humanity.
Philip Van Artevelde, Part 1, Act 1, sc. 5 (1834)
Beauties in vain their pretty Eyes may roll;
Charms strike the Sight, but Merit wins the Soul.
The Rape of the Lock, Canto 5, l. 33 (1712)
It is the trifles of life that are its bores, after all. Most men can meet ruin calmly, for instance, or laugh when they lie in a ditch with their own knee-joint and their hunter’s spine broken over the double post and rails: it is the mud that has choked up your horn just when you wanted to rally the pack; it’s the whip who carries you off to a division just when you’ve sat down to your turbot; it’s the ten seconds by which you miss the train; it’s the dust that gets in your eyes as you go down to Epsom; it’s the pretty little rose note that went by accident to your house instead of your club, and raised a storm from madame; it’s the dog that always will run wild into the birds; it’s the cook who always will season the white soup wrong — it is these that are the bores of life, and that try the temper of your philosophy.
Under Two Flags, ch. 1 (1867)
Fond as we are of our loved ones, there comes at times during their absence an unexplained peace.
Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
Wisdom is corrupted by ambition, even when the quality of the ambition is intellectual. For ambition, even of this quality, is but a form of self-love ….
Notes from Life, “Wisdom” (1847)
If a man is not rising upwards to be an angel, depend upon it, he is sinking downwards to be a devil. He cannot stop at the beast. The most savage of men are not beasts; they are worse, a great deal worse.
Table Talk (30 Aug 1833)
Where Plenty smiles — alas! she smiles for few,
And those who taste not, yet behold her store,
Are as the slaves that dig the golden ore,
The wealth around them makes them doubly poor.
The Village, Book 1, line 136 (1783)
A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.
The Voice of the Master, Part 2, ch. 8 (1960)
As the true object of education is not to render the pupil the mere copy of his preceptor, it is rather to be rejoiced in, than lamented, that various reading should lead him into new trains of thinking.
The Enquirer, Essay 15 “Of Choice in Reading” (1797)
What Man seeks, to the point of anguish, in his gods, in his art, in his science, is meaning. He cannot bear the void. He pours meaning on events like salt on his food. He denies that life bounces along at random, at the mercy of events, in sound and in fury. He wants it always to be directed, aimed toward a goal, like an arrow.
The Statue Within: An Autobiography (1987) [tr. Philip (1988)]
Man is a carnivorous production,
And must have meals, at least one meal a day;
He cannot live, like woodcocks, upon suction,
But, like the shark and tiger, must have prey.
Although his anatomical construction
Bears vegetables, in a grumbling way,
Your laboring people think beyond all question,
Beef, veal, and mutton better for digestion.
Don Juan, Canto 2, #67 (1823)
Action is character.
“Notes for The Last Tycoon” (1941)
Ever since I had dinner with Lou Reed I’ve tried to avoid meeting the people who would make me feel starstruck. It was a great dinner but by the end of it Lou Reed was no longer my hero, and I don’t have many heroes. I resolutely avoided meeting David Bowie, which became harder when I became friends with Duncan Jones, his son, and then got even harder when I moved to Woodstock and he lived around the corner. But I love the fact that the Bowie that I have is the Bowie in my head: a strange, evolving, absolutely fictional Bowie who became my hero when I was 11.
“This Much I Know,” The Guardian (5 Aug 2017)
The King in a carriage may ride,
And the Beggar may crawl at his side;
But in the general race,
They are traveling all the same pace.
“Chronomoros,” l. 57ff, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal (5 Dec 1840)
Better to love amiss than nothing to have loved.
Tales in Verse, Tale 14 “The Struggles of Conscience” (1812)
See Tennyson (1849).
Added on 12-Sep-17 | Last updated 12-Sep-17
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