Quotations about:
    bad luck


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The number of times the toast falls butter side down increases in direct proportion to the value of the rug or the price of the butter.

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Marcelene Cox (1900-1998) American writer, columnist, aphorist
“Ask Any Woman” column, Ladies’ Home Journal (Sep 1951)
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A variant on the Butter-Side-Down Law.
 
Added on 17-Jan-23 | Last updated 17-Jan-23
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Such is the life of man, nor wholly blest,
Nor wholly wretched; on her votaries Fortune
now smiles, then frowns. Since our prosperity
Is thus unstable, is not an exemption
From grief the greatest pleasure life can yield?

[τοιόσδε ϑνητῶν τῶν ταλαιπώρων βίος’
οὔτ᾽ εὐτυχεῖ τὸ πάμπαν οὔτε δυστυχεῖ,
εὐδαιμονεῖ δὲ καύϑις οὐκ εὐδαιμονεῖ.
τί δῆτ᾽ ἐν ὄλβω μὴ σαφεῖ βεβηκότες
οὐ ξῶμεν ὡς ἥδιστα μὴ λυπούμενοι;]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Antiope [Αντιοπη], frag. 196 (TGF, Kannicht) (c. 410 BC) (Amphion?) [tr. Wodhall (1809)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translation:

Such is the life of wretched mortals;
a man is neither wholly fortunate nor unfortunate;
why then, on entering prosperity which may be insecure,
do we not live as pleasantly as possible, without distress?
[Source]

Such it is, the life of miserable mortals:
neither wholly fortunate nor unfortunate.
He is prosperous and then he is not prosperous.
Why then, when we stand in uncertain happiness,
do we not live as pleasurably as possible, without distress.
[tr. Will (2015)]

 
Added on 13-Sep-22 | Last updated 4-Oct-22
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To ruminate upon evils, to make critical notes upon injuries, and be too acute in their apprehensions, is to add unto our own Tortures, to feather the Arrows of our Enemies, to lash our selves with the Scorpions of our Foes, and to resolve to sleep no more.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Christian Morals, Part 3, sec. 12 (1716)
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Added on 27-Oct-21 | Last updated 27-Oct-21
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For whoever reflects on the nature of things, the various turns of life, and the weakness of human nature, grieves, indeed, at that reflection; but while so grieving he is, above all other times, behaving as a wise man: for he gains these two things by it; one, that while he is considering the state of human nature he is performing the especial duties of philosophy, and is provided with a triple medicine against adversity: in the first place, because he has long reflected that such things might befall him, and this reflection by itself contributes much towards lessening and weakening all misfortunes; and, secondly, because he is persuaded that we should bear all the accidents which can happen to a man, with the feelings and spirit of a man; and lastly, because he considers that what is blameable is the only evil; but it is not your fault that something has happened to you which it was impossible for man to avoid.

[Neque enim qui rerum naturam, qui vitae varietatem, qui imbecillitatem generis humani cogitat, maeret, cum haec cogitat, sed tum vel maxime sapientiae fungitur munere. Utrumque enim consequitur, ut et considerandis rebus humanis proprio philosophiae fruatur officio et adversis casibus triplici consolatione sanetur: primum quod posse accidere diu cogitavit, quae cogitatio una maxime molestias omnes extenuat et diluit; deinde quod humana humane ferenda intelligit; postremo quod videt malum nullum esse nisi culpam, culpam autem nullam esse, cum id, quod ab homine non potuerit praestari, evenerit.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 3, ch. 16 (3.16) / sec. 34 (45 BC) [tr. Yonge (1853)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

For he that considers the order of Nature, and the Vicissitudes of Life, and the Frailty of Mankind is not melancholly when he considers these things, but is then most principally imploy'd in the exercise of Wisdom, for he reaps a double advantage; both that in the consideration of man's circumstances, he enjoyeth the proper Office of Philosophy; and in case of Adversity, he is supported by a threefold Consolation. First, that he hath long consider'd that such accidents might come; which consideration alone doth most weaken and allay all Afflictions. Then he cometh to learn, that all Tryals common to men, should be born, as such, patiently. Lastly, that he perceiveth there is no Evil, but where is blame; but there is no blame, when that falls out, the Prevention of which, was not in man to warrant.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

For whoever reflects on the nature of things, the various turns of life, the weakness of human nature, grieves indeed at that reflection; but that grief becomes him as a wise man, for he gains these two points by it; when he is considering the state of human nature he is enjoying all the advantage of philosophy, and is provided with a triple medicine against adversity. The first is, that he has long reflected that such things might befall him, which reflection alone contributes much towards lessening all misfortunes: the next is, that he is persuaded, that we should submit to the condition of human nature: the last is, that he discovers what is blameable to be the only evil. But it is not your fault that something lights on you, which it was impossible for man to avoid.
[tr. Main (1824)]

For neither does he who contemplates the nature of things, the mutations of life, the fragility of man, grieve when he thinks of these matters, but then most especially exercises the office of wisdom. For, by the study of human affairs, he at once pursues the proper aim of philosophy, and provides himself with a triple consolation for adverse events: -- first, that he has long deemed them possible to arrive; which one consideration has the greatest efficacy for the extenuation and mitigation of all misfortune: and, next, he perceives that human accidents are to be borne like a man: and, finally, because he sees there is no evil but fault, and that there is no fault where that has happened which man could not have prevented.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

Indeed, he who thinks of the nature of things, of the varying fortune of life, of the weakness of the human race, does not sorrow when these things are on his mind, but he then most truly performs the office of wisdom; for from such thought there are two consequences, -- the one, that he discharges the peculiar function of philosophy; the other, that in adversity he has the curative aid of a threefold consolation: first, because, as he has long thought what may happen, this sole thought is of the greatest power in attenuating and diluting every trouble; next, because he understands that human fortunes are to be borne in a way befitting human nature; -- lastly, because he sees that there is no evil but guilt, while there is no guilt in the happening of what man could not have prevented.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

For the person who reflects on the nature of things, on the variety of life, and the precarity of human existence is not sad in considering these things but is carrying out the duty of wisdom in the fullest way. For they pursue both in enjoying the particular harvest of philosophy by considering what happens in human life and in suffering adverse outcomes by cleansing with a three-part solace. First, by previously accepting the possibility of misfortune—which is the most way of weakening and managing any annoyance and second, by learning that human events must be endured humanely; and third, by recognizing that there is nothing evil except for blame and there is no blame when the event is something against which no human can endure.
[tr. @sentantiq (2021)]

 
Added on 18-Oct-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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And bad luck reveals those who are not real friends, but just happen to be so because of utility.

[ἡ δ᾽ ἀτυχία δηλοῖ τοὺς μὴ ὄντως [20] ὄντας φίλους, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ χρήσιμον τυχόντας.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Eudemian Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Εὐδήμεια], Book 7, ch. 2 / 1238a.19-20 [tr. Reeve (2021)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Misfortune shows those who are not really friends, but friends only for some accidental utility.
[tr. Solomon (1915)]

Misfortune shows those who are not friends really but only because of some casual utility.
[tr. Rackham (1981)]

But misfortune shows those who are friends not really but because of chance utility.
[tr. Simpson (2013)]

 
Added on 4-Dec-20 | Last updated 19-Jul-22
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Life is thick sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.

[La vie est hérissée d’épines, & je ne sçais d’autre remède, que de passer vite à travers ces broussailles. C’est donner de la consistance aux maux, que de trop s’y arrêter.]

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
(Attributed)
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(Source (French)). Quoted in Louis Mayeul Chaudon, ed., Historical and Critical Memoirs of the Life and Writings of M. de Voltaire [Mémoires Pour Servir à L’Histoire de M. de Voltaire], Part 2, "Anecdotes Sur Voltaire (1785, tr. 1786). The English translation is also quoted in The Lady's Magazine, "Anecdotes of Voltaire" (Jul 1786). Voltaire used a similar metaphor in a 1769 letter ("La vie est hérissée de ces épines").

More discussion: Life Is Thick Sown with Thorns, and I Know No Other Remedy Than To Pass Quickly Through Them – Quote Investigator.
 
Added on 17-Oct-17 | Last updated 2-Nov-22
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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.

Ouida (1839-1908) English novelist [pseud. of Maria Louise Ramé]
Under Two Flags, ch. 1 (1867)
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Added on 3-Oct-17 | Last updated 3-Oct-17
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“The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on” — and only then do you find out if it goosed you in passing.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Farnham’s Freehold, ch. 21 (1964)
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Added on 7-Aug-17 | Last updated 7-Aug-17
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Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“The Rainy Day,” st. 3 (1842)
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Added on 19-Apr-17 | Last updated 19-Apr-17
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“Well?” said Greycat. “Does fortune smile upon us?”
“She smiles,” said Dunaan. “And she frowns.”
“How, at the same time?”
“Yes.”
“Fortune has a very flexible countenance.”
“That is well known.”

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Five Hundred Years After (1994)
 
Added on 24-Feb-17 | Last updated 24-Feb-17
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Convinced that character is all and circumstances nothing, [the Puritan] sees in the poverty of those who fall by the way, not a misfortune to be pitied and relieved, but a moral failing to be condemned, and in riches, not an object of suspicion but the blessing which rewards the triumph of energy and will.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 4 (1926)
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Added on 15-Dec-16 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)
 
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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One Month in the School of Affliction will teach thee more than the great Precepts of Aristotle in seven years; for thou canst never judge rightly of human Affairs, unless thou hast first felt the Blows, and found out the Deceits of Fortune.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, #2749 (1731 ed.)
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Added on 18-Mar-13 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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There are many scapegoats for our blunders, but the most popular one is Providence.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook 4 Jul 1898 [ed. Paine (1935)]
 
Added on 28-Jan-09 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances — it was somebody’s name, or he happened to be there at the time, or it was so then, and another day would have been otherwise. Strong men believe in cause and effect.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Worship,” The Conduct of Life, ch. 6 (1860)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 22-Feb-22
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