- 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).
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).
A just man is not one who does no ill,
But he, who with the power, has not the will.
Attributed in John Booth, Epigrams, Ancient and Modern (1863)..
The absent are like children; they are helpless to defend themselves.
Foul Play, ch. 44 (1869)
Vampire super-strength is a poor fit for many of the modern world’s problems — it really doesn’t help you fill in your time-sheet any faster — but when it comes to breaking damp-weakened wooden door frames it’s superb.
The art of living easily as to money, is to pitch your scale of living one degree below your means.
Notes from Life, “Of Money” (1853)
A man’s action is only a picture-book of his creed.
Letters and Social Aims, “Poetry and Imagination” (1876)
I miss what I had in terms of the speed of memory access. If I needed a word or a fact it was already at my fingertips and now it’s like an arthritic and elderly gentleman has to sit up and go down many, many flights of stairs very slowly and go and rummage in dusty drawers. Eventually he will return four days later, normally at about 1:30 in the morning, and I will sit up and go, “Oh yes! ‘Crepuscular.’ That was the word I was looking for.”
“This Much I Know,” The Guardian (5 Aug 2017)
Take hope from the heart of man and you make him a beast of prey.
A Village Commune, ch. 20 (1881)
Whether we wake or we sleep,
Whether we carol or weep,
The Sun with his Planets in chime,
Marketh the going of Time.
“Chronomoros,” l. 33ff, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal (5 Dec 1840)
Added on 11-Sep-17 | Last updated 18-Sep-17
| 3 comments
| 3 comments
Ability is a poor man’s wealth.
Added on 11-Sep-17 | Last updated 11-Sep-17
| 2 comments
| 2 comments
If you attack Stupidity, you attack an entrenched interest with friends in government and every walk of public life, and you will make small progress against it.
The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks (1949)
Segregation is a cancer in the body politic which must be removed before our democratic health can be realized. The underlying philosophy of segregation is diametrically opposed to the underlying philosophy of democracy and Christianity and all the sophisms of the logicians cannot make them lie down together.
“Keep Moving from This Mountain,” Spelman College (10 Apr 1960)
King used many of these phrases in other speeches and sermons during this period.
The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.
“Concerning Stories Never Written” (Oct 1952)
A word of caution to neophyte Martini drinkers: When taken to excess, this perfectly civilized drink can lead directly to uncivilized behavior. … The purpose of the Martini is to enhance the evening, not to obliterate it.
“Martini Madness,” Cigar Aficionado (Spring 1996)
There are answers which, in turning away wrath, only send it to the other end of the room.
Middlemarch, Book 3, ch. 24 (1871)
An allusion to Proverbs 15:1 "A soft answer turneth away wrath."
The proper method for hastening the decay of error is not by brute force, or by regulation which is one of the classes of force, to endeavor to reduce men to intellectual uniformity, but on the contrary by teaching every man to think for himself.
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Vol. 2, bk. 8, ch. 6 “Of the Enjoyment of Liberty” (1793)
Secrets with girls, like loaded guns with boys,
Are never valued till they make a noise.
Tales of the Hall, “The Maid’s Story” (1819)
Ah, Stefan, give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a dangerous enemy indeed.
The Witching Hour, Part 2 (1990)
There may be no good reason for things to be the way they are.
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 1 “Consolations for Unpopularity,” sec. 4 (2000)
Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition.
Commencement Address, Knox College, Galesburg, IL (4 Jun 2005)
There are two reasons for drinking: one is, when you are thirsty, to cure it; the other, when you are not thirsty, to prevent it. The first is obvious, mechanical, and plebeian; the second is most refined, abstract, prospicient, and canonical. I drink by anticipation of thirst that may be. Prevention is better than cure.
Melincourt, ch. 16 (1817)
Well-married, a man is winged — ill-matched, he is shackled.
Norwood, Vol. 1, ch. 6 (1867)
Later requoted in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, ch. 17 "The Family" (1887).
Added on 6-Sep-17 | Last updated 18-Sep-17
| 4 comments
| 4 comments
Laugh if you are wise, O girl, laugh.
[Ride, si sapis, o puella, ride]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 2, #41 “To Maximina” [tr. Ker (1919)]
Quoting Ovid (unsourced).