Quotations about   madness

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Man is a reasoning animal. Therefore, man’s highest good is attained if he has fulfilled the good for which nature designed him at birth. And what is it which this reason demands of him? The easiest thing in the world — to live in accordance with his nature. But this has turned into a hard task by the general madness of mankind; we push one
another into vice.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Letters to Lucilius, Letter 41 (c. 65 AD)
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Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
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I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) American poet and author
“Mad Girl’s Love Song” (1951)
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Added on 3-Jan-19 | Last updated 3-Jan-19
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“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
​”Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
​”How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
​”You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) English writer and mathematician [pseud. of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ch. 6 (1865)
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Added on 23-Feb-18 | Last updated 23-Feb-18
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Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
(Misattributed)

Frequently cited as a fragment, but not actually in his known writings. Similar phrases, attributed to old sayings, predate Euripides. For more see here.

See also Oates and Beard.
Added on 14-Nov-17 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Philosophical Dictionary, “Madness” (1764)
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Added on 7-Nov-17 | Last updated 7-Nov-17
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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.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) English poet
The Cup, Act 1, sc. 3 [Synorix] (1884)
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Added on 1-Nov-17 | Last updated 1-Nov-17
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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.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Canadian author, editor, publisher
Samuel Marchbanks’ Almanack (1967)
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Added on 24-Oct-17 | Last updated 24-Oct-17
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Books have led some to learning and others to madness, when they swallow more than they can digest.

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) Italian scholar and poet [a.k.a. Petrarch]
Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul [De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae] [tr. Elton (1893)]

Alt. trans.: "Books have brought some men to knowledge, and some to madness. whilst they drew out of them more than they could digest." [tr. Dobson (1791)]

Alt. trans.: "Books have led some to knowledge and some to madness, who drew from them more than they could hold." [tr. Rawski (1991)]
Added on 24-Aug-17 | Last updated 24-Aug-17
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I think it’s reasonable to say that vampire hunters either have an extremely short life expectancy, or constitute one of the most deadly threats you are ever likely to encounter. They are invariably howling-at-the-moon stark raving bonkers, and not in a good way.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Rhesus Chart (2014)
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Added on 6-Jun-17 | Last updated 6-Jun-17
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“In my experience, the worst madmen don’t seem odd at all,” Grimm said. “They appear to be quite calm and rational, in fact. Until the screaming starts.”

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
The Aeronaut’s Windlass (2015)
Added on 23-Feb-17 | Last updated 23-Feb-17
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Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool. It seems as if heaven had sent its insane angels into our world as to an asylum, and here they will break out into their native music and utter at intervals the words they have heard in heaven; and then the mad fit returns, and they mope and wallow like dogs.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“History,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 16-Jan-17 | Last updated 16-Jan-17
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“Is the Master out of his mind?” she asked me.

I nodded.

“And he’s taking you with him?”

I nodded again.

“Where?” she asked.

I pointed towards the centre of the earth.

“Into the cellar?” exclaimed the old servant.

“No,” I said, “farther down than that.”

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864)
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Added on 5-Aug-16 | Last updated 5-Aug-16
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Was I to believe him in earnest in his intention to penetrate to the centre of this massive globe? Had I been listening to the mad speculations of a lunatic, or to the scientific conclusions of a lofty genius? Where did truth stop? Where did error begin?

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Journey to the Center of the Earth, ch. 7 “A Woman’s Courage” (1864) [tr. Malleson]
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Added on 1-Jul-16 | Last updated 1-Jul-16
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Perseverance must have some practical end, or it does not avail the man possessing it. A person without a practical end in view becomes a crank or an idiot. Such persons fill our asylums.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
Interview, in Orison Swett Marden, How They Succeeded, ch. 2 (1901)
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Added on 7-Apr-16 | Last updated 7-Apr-16
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External objects produce decided effects upon the brain. A man shut up between four walls soon loses the power to associate words and ideas together. How many prisoners in solitary confinement become idiots, if not mad, for want of exercise for the thinking faculty!

[Les objets extérieurs ont une action réelle sur le cerveau. Qui s’enferme entre quatre murs finit par perdre la faculté d’associer les idées et les mots. Que de prisonniers cellulaires devenus imbéciles, sinon fous, par le défaut d’exercice des facultés pensantes.]

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Journey to the Center of the Earth, ch. 26 (1864) [tr. Malleson (1877)]
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Added on 26-Feb-16 | Last updated 26-Feb-16
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JAYNE: I just don’t get it. How’s a man get so wrong? Cuttin’ on his own face, rapin’ and murdering. Hell, I’ll kill a man in a fair fight. Or if I think he’s gonna start a fair fight. Or if he bothers me. Or if there’s a woman. Or if I’m gettin’ paid. Mostly only when I’m gettin’ paid. But these Reavers — last ten years they show up like the bogeyman from stories. Eating people alive? Where’s that get fun?

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Serenity (2005)
Added on 16-Apr-15 | Last updated 16-Apr-15
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You and I know that there is a correlation between the creative and the screwball. So we must suffer the screwball gladly.

Kingman Brewster, Jr. (1919-1988) American educator, diplomat
“The Enduring American Press” symposium, Harvard (30 Oct 1964)
Added on 12-Jan-15 | Last updated 12-Jan-15
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Stupidity often saves a man from going mad.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, ch. 2 (1858)
Added on 18-Dec-14 | Last updated 18-Dec-14
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Sometimes I wrestle with my inner demons. Sometimes we just cuddle.

Sig Lines
~
Added on 17-Sep-14 | Last updated 17-Sep-14
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If a madman were to come into this room with a stick in his hand, no doubt we should pity the state of his mind; but our primary consideration would be to take care of ourselves. We should knock him down first, and pity him afterwards.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (3 Apr 1776)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Added on 25-Apr-14 | Last updated 25-Apr-14
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That truth is that monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
The Shining, Introduction to 2001 ed. (1977)
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Courage (in a soldier) is maintained by a certain anger; anger is a little blind and likes to strike out. And from this follows a thousand abuses, a thousand evils and misfortunes that are impossible to predict in an army during war.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 22-Jul-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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The madman thinks the rest of the world crazy.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 386 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 25-Aug-11 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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Whether we believe the Greek poet, “it is sometimes even pleasant to be mad”, or Plato, “he who is master of himself has knocked in vain at the doors of poetry”; or Aristotle, “no great genius was without a mixture of insanity”; the mind cannot express anything lofty and above the ordinary unless inspired. When it despises the common and the customary, and with sacred inspiration rises higher, then at length it sings something grander than that which can come from mortal lips. It cannot attain anything sublime and lofty so long as it is sane: it must depart from the customary, swing itself aloft, take the bit in its teeth, carry away its rider and bear him to a height whither he would have feared to ascend alone.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Tranquility of Mind [De Tranquillitate Animi],” 17.10 [tr. W. Langsdorf (1900)]
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See Aristotle.
Added on 10-Aug-09 | Last updated 12-Nov-15
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A man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.

William Blake (1757-1827) English poet, mystic, artist
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “A Memorable Fancy” (1790)
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Whom Fortune wishes to destroy she first makes mad.

[Stultum facit fortuna, quem vult perdere.]

 

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 911

From an ancient Greek proverb (5th century BC or earlier)

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An angry man is again angry with himself when he returns to reason.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings]
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Everyone is more or less mad on one point.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“On the Strength of a Likeness”
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When one remembers that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook [ed. Paine (1935)]
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See also this.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Anger is momentary madness, so control your passion or it will control you.

[Ira furor brevis est: animum rege: qui nisi paret imperat.]

Horace (65-8 BC) Roman poet and satirist [Quintus Horacius Flaccus]
Epistles, Book 1, Epistle 2, l. 62 (c. 20 BC and 14 BC)

Alt. trans.: "Anger is a short madness." "Anger is a short-lived madness." "Anger is a brief lunacy."
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There is no great genius without a touch of madness.

[Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Problemata, 30.1

Attributed to Aristotle by Seneca the Younger, "On Tranquillity of Mind" (17.10).Variants:
  • "No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness."
  • "No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness." [tr. Basore (1932)]
  • "There is no great genius without a mixture of madness."
  • "There was never a genius without a tincture of madness."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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