Quotations about   fame

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There’s nothing noble about dying. Not even if you die for honor. Not even if you die the greatest hero the world ever saw. Not even if you’re so great your name will never be forgotten and who’s that great? The most important thing is your life, little guys. You’re worth nothing dead except for speeches. Don’t let them kid you any more. Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we’ve got to fight for liberty, or whatever their word is. There’s always a word.

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist [James Dalton Trumbo]
Johnny Got His Gun (1938)
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Added on 6-Mar-19 | Last updated 6-Mar-19
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Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Tumblr post (12 May 2017)
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Added on 6-Nov-18 | Last updated 6-Nov-18
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Talent is God-given; be humble. Fame is man-given; be thankful. Conceit is self-given; be careful.

John Wooden (1910-2010) American basketball player and coach
They Call Me Coach (1972)
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Added on 4-Sep-18 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

John Wooden (1910-2010) American basketball player and coach
They Call Me Coach, ch. 9, epigram (1972)
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Added on 31-Jul-18 | Last updated 31-Jul-18
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I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 3, sc. 2 [Boy] (1599)
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Added on 2-Apr-18 | Last updated 2-Apr-18
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If glory comes after death, I hurry not.

[Si post fata venit gloria, non propero.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, ep. 10 [tr. Rush]

Alt. trans.: "If glory comes only after death I am in no hurry for it." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
Added on 7-Mar-18 | Last updated 7-Mar-18
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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.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
“This Much I Know,” The Guardian (5 Aug 2017)
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Added on 18-Sep-17 | Last updated 18-Sep-17
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There’s nothing like studying the bestseller lists of bygone years for teaching an author humility. You’ve heard of the ones that got filmed, normally. Mostly you realize that today’s bestsellers are tomorrow’s forgotten things.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
“This Much I Know,” The Guardian (5 Aug 2017)
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Added on 28-Aug-17 | Last updated 28-Aug-17
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Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“The Poets,” Atlantic Monthly (Jul 1878)
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Added on 23-May-17 | Last updated 23-May-17
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We all live in a televised goldfish bowl.

Kingman Brewster, Jr. (1919-1988) American educator, diplomat
Lecture, St George’s Chapel, Windsor, England (5 May 1978)
Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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It is a sad fate for a man to die
Too well known to everybody else,
And still unknown to himself.

[Illi mors gravis incubate
Qui notus nimis omnibus
Ignotus moritur sibi.]

Seneca - still unknown to himself - wist_info quote

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Thyestes, ll. 401-403 [tr. Bacon]

Lines from the Chorus translated by Francis Bacon, in "Of Great Place," Essays, Part 11. Sometimes incorrectly attributed to Bacon.
Added on 20-May-16 | Last updated 20-May-16
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The main advantage of being famous is that when you bore people at dinner parties they think it is their fault.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
(Attributed)

Quoted by James Naughtie in The Spectator (1 Apr 1995).
Added on 2-Mar-16 | Last updated 2-Mar-16
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Do you wish people to think well of you? Don’t speak well of your-self.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) French scientist and philosopher
Pensées, # 4 (1670)
Added on 17-Feb-16 | Last updated 17-Feb-16
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When ye build yer triumphal arch to yer conquerin’ hero, Hinnisssey, build it out of bricks so the people will have somethin’ convanient to throw at him as he passes through.

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
“Fame”
Added on 11-Sep-15 | Last updated 11-Sep-15
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Seven cities warr’d for Homer, being dead;
Who, living, had no roof to shroud his head.

Thomas Heywood (1570s-1641) English playwright, actor, author
The Hierarchie of the Blesed Angells (1635)
Added on 8-Apr-15 | Last updated 8-Apr-15
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The ambitious deceive themselves when they propose an end to their ambition; for that end, when attained, becomes a means.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], # 32 (1665-1678)
Added on 8-Apr-15 | Last updated 8-Apr-15
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The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Thomas Gray (1716-1771) English poet
“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” l. 36 (1751)
Added on 25-Mar-15 | Last updated 25-Mar-15
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He who will please the crowd and for the sake of the most ephemeral renown will either proclaim those things which nature does not display or even will publish genuine miracles of nature without regard to deeper causes is a spiritually corrupt person.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German astronomer
De fundamentis astrologiae certioribus, Foreward (1601)
Added on 21-Jan-15 | Last updated 21-Jan-15
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It took me twenty years to become an overnight success.

Eddie Cantor (1892-1964) American comedian, dancer, singer, actor, songwriter [b. Isidore Itzkowitz]
(Attributed)

Though most often attributed to Cantor, the phrase is also associated with Danny Thomas and many others. Sometimes given as "It takes twenty years to become an overnight success" (or sometimes ten years). More here.
Added on 5-Dec-14 | Last updated 5-Dec-14
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It is a salutary discipline to consider the vast number of books that are written, the fair hopes with which their authors see them published, and the fate which awaits them. What chance is there that any book will make its way among that multitude? And the successful books are but the successes of a season. Heaven knows what pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has endured and what heartache suffered, to give some chance reader a few hours’ relaxation or to while away the tedium of a journey. And if I may judge from the reviews, many of these books are well and carefully written; much thought has gone into their composition; to some even has been given the anxious labour of a lifetime. The moral I draw is that the writer should seek his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thoughts; and, indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Moon and Sixpence (1919)
Added on 19-Aug-14 | Last updated 19-Aug-14
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The best fame is a writer’s fame: it’s enough to get a table at a good restaurant, but not enough that you get interrupted when you eat.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
In The Observer (30 May 1993)
Added on 5-Aug-14 | Last updated 5-Aug-14
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Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make famous.

Joyce Carol Oates (b. 1938) American author
“Down the Road,” New Yorker (27 Mar 1985)

See Euripides.
Added on 6-Sep-11 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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When I am dead,
I hope it may be said:
‘His sins were scarlet,
But his books were read’.

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) Franco-British writer, historian [Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc]
“On His Books” (1923)
Added on 25-Jul-11 | Last updated 3-Jun-14
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Certainly fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Praise,” Essays, No. 53 (1625)
Added on 13-Aug-10 | Last updated 16-May-16
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MAL: It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of sumbitch or another.

Ben Edlund (b. 1968) American cartoonist, writer, producer
Firefly, 1×07 “Jaynestown” (18 Oct 2002)
Added on 7-May-10 | Last updated 18-Jun-15
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Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; riches take wings; the only earthly certainty is oblivion ….

Horace Greeley (1881-1872) American newspaper editor, reformer, politician
Recollections of a Busy Life, ch. 18 (1868)
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Quoted by Mark Twain in his Notebook (1869), and often attributed to him. Frequently misquoted as "Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; riches take wings; those who cheer today will curse tomorrow; only one thing endures: character." More discussion of this quotation here.
Added on 16-Apr-10 | Last updated 1-Aug-17
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Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-2004) American historian, professor, attorney, writer
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, ch. 2, “From Hero to Celebrity: The Human Pseudo-event” (1961)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Jan-16
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Good fame is like fire. When you have kindled it, you may easily preserve it; but if once you extinguish it, you will not easily kindle it again; at least, not make it burn as bright as it did.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Apothegms, # 3 (1624)

Quoting Plutarch.

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-May-16
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Virtue has never been as respectable as money.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Innocents Abroad, ch. 23 (1869)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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If you would escape moral and physical assassination, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing — court obscurity, for only in oblivion does safety lie.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
Little Journeys to the Homes of American Statemen, “William H. Seward” (1916)
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Variants show up elsewhere in Hubbard's writings and and his quote epigrams.
  • To escape criticism -- do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
  • To avoid unkind criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
  • There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.
Often misattributed to Aristotle.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Oct-19
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