Quotations about   wit

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My quarrel with him is, that his works contain nothing worth quoting; and a book that furnishes no quotations is, me judice, no book — it is a plaything.

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) English novelist, satirist, poet, merchant
Crochet Castle, ch. 9 (1831)
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Added on 3-Aug-17 | Last updated 3-Aug-17
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A cheerful temper, joined with innocence will make beauty attractive, knowledge delightful, and wit good-natured.

Addison - cheerful temper - wist_info quote

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
The Tatler #192 (1 Jul 1710)
Added on 15-Jul-16 | Last updated 15-Jul-16
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Every age has its pleasures, its style of wit, and its own ways.

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636-1711) French poet and critic
The Art of Poetry [L’Art Poétique], Canto 3 (1674)
Added on 7-Jul-16 | Last updated 7-Jul-16
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Brevity is the soul of wit.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 2, sc. 2 [Polonius] (1600)
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In full:
"Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief ...."
Added on 20-May-16 | Last updated 20-May-16
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A fine quotation is a diamond on the finger of a man of wit, and a pebble in the hand of a fool.

Roux - fine quotation - wist_info quote

Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 1, #74 (1886)
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Added on 14-Mar-16 | Last updated 14-Mar-16
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Wit lies in recognizing the resemblance among things which differ and the difference between things which are alike.

[L’esprit consiste à connaître la ressemblance des choses diverses et la différence des choses semblables.]

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Germany [De l’Allemagne], Part 3, ch. 8 (1813)
Added on 23-Feb-16 | Last updated 23-Feb-16
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Alas, irreverence has been subsumed by mere grossness, at least in the so-called mass media. What we have now — to quote myself at my most pretentious — is a nimiety of scurrility with a concomitant exiguity of taste. For example, the freedom (hooray!) to say almost anything you want on television about society’s problems has been co-opted (alas!) by the freedom to talk instead about flatulence, orgasms, genitalia, masturbation, etc., etc., and to replace real comment with pop-culture references and so-called “adult” language. Irreverence is easy — what’s hard is wit.

Lehrer - whats hard is wit - wist_info quote

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
Rhino Records online chat (17 Jun 1997)
Added on 21-Jan-16 | Last updated 21-Jan-16
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Men are contented to be laughed at for their wit, but not for their folly.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Added on 22-Oct-15 | Last updated 22-Oct-15
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As nothing is more provoking to some tempers than raillery, a prudent person will not always be satirically witty where he can, but only where he may without offence. For he will consider the that the finest stroke of raillery is but a witticism; and that there is hardly any person so mean, whose good will is not preferable to the pleasure of a horse-laugh.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
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Added on 18-Sep-14 | Last updated 18-Sep-14
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Wit without humanity degenerates into bitterness. Learning without prudence into pedantry.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
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Added on 26-Jun-14 | Last updated 26-Jun-14
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Digression is the soul of wit. Take the philosophic asides away from Dante, Milton or Hamlet’s father’s ghost and what stays is dry bones.

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) American writer, futurist, fabulist
Fahrenheit 451, “Coda” Afterword (1979 ed.)

A play on Shakespeare's words.
Added on 28-Apr-14 | Last updated 27-May-16
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Cleverness is serviceable for everything, sufficient for nothing.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss philosopher, poet, critic
Journal (16 Feb 1868) [tr. Ward (1887)]
Added on 28-Apr-09 | Last updated 27-Oct-15
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Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 2, sc. 2 (1600)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-May-16
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One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.

William James (Will) Durant (1885-1981) American historian, teacher, philosopher
NY World-Telegram & Sun (6 Jun 1958)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Feb-17
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‘Twas the saying of an ancient Sage, “That Humour was the only Test of Gravity, and Gravity of Humour. For a Subject which would not bear Raillery is suspicious; and a Jest which would not bear a serious Examination is certainly false Wit.”

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Sensus Communis: An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour, Part 1, Sec. 5 (1709)
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Often incorrectly attributed to Aristotle. Shaftesbury, according to his footnote, is paraphrasing from Aristotle quoting Gorgias Leontinus. The Latin translation is "Seria risu, risum seriis discutere" ("In arguing one should meet serious pleading with humor, and humor with serious pleading"). Shaftesbury's second sentence is his own commentary.

In Lord Chesterfield, in a letter to his son (6 Feb 1752), rendered it, "Ridicule is the best test of truth."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
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