Dr. Mardy's Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations


Table of Contents

“A” Quotations

ABBREVIATIONS

(see also SHORTHAND)

  • Abbreviations are the wheels of language, the wings of Mercury. And though we might be dragged along without them, it would be with much difficulty, very heavily and tediously. John Horne Tooke, in Epea Pteroenta, or The Diversions of Purley (1786)

QUOTE NOTE: The Greek title—taken directly from Homer—means “winged words.” Horne Tooke (1736–1812), an English cleric and philologist, used the term to refer to the power of abbreviations to speed communication.

ABDOMEN

(see also BODY and DIGESTION and EATING and HEALTH and HUNGER and STOMACH)

  • The abdomen is the reason why man does not easily take himself for a god. Friedrich Nietzsche, in Beyond Good and Evil (1886)

ABILITY

(includes CAPABILITY; see also ACHIEVEMENT and COMPETENCE and EXCELLENCE and GENIUS and INGENUITY and INTELLIGENCE and SKILL and TALENT)

  • Would that my ability was equal to my inclination. Abigail Adams, in letter to John Quincy Adams (Feb. 16, 1786); quoted in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams (2009)
  • Ability without ambition is like kindling wood without the spark. Author Unknown
  • Ability hits the mark where presumption overshoots and diffidence falls short. Author Unknown (but commonly attributed to Cardinal John Henry Newman)
  • Native ability without education is like a tree which bears no fruit. Aristippus (5th c. B.C.), quoted in Edward Parsons Day, Day’s Collacon: An Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations (1884)

QUOTATION CAUTION: The original source for this quotation has never been identified, but it has been popular since it first appeared in Edward Parson Day’s influential 1884 anthology. Aristippus, a student of Socrates, was described by Diogenes Laërtius in his Lives of Eminent Philosophers (3rd c. A.D.) as “the first of the followers of Socrates to charge fees and to send money to his master.” Diogenes presents many quotations from Aristippus, but nothing close to this observation about native ability.

  • Natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study. Francis Bacon, in Essays 1625)
  • Ability, n. The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones. In the last analysis, ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Men who undertake considerable things, even in a regular way, ought to give us ground to presume ability. Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
  • Abilities wither under criticism, they blossom under encouragement. Dale Carnegie, in How to Win Friends and Influence People (1998 edition)
  • Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability. Marcus Tulles Cicero, in Pro Archia Poeta (1st. c. B.C.)
  • The wicked are always surprised to find ability in the good. Luc de Clapiers (Marquis de Vauvenargues), in Reflections and Maxims (1746)

This observation has also been translated as: “The wicked are always surprised to discover ability in the just.”

  • Duplicity is a mark of second-rate ability. Luc de Clapiers (Marquis de Vauvenargues), in Reflections and Maxims (1746)
  • The superior man is distressed by his want of ability. Confucius, in Analects (6th c. B.C.)
  • He who has acquired the ability may wait securely the occasion of making it felt and appreciated, and know that it will not loiter. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Worship,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • There is only one proof of ability—action. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880–93)
  • When a workman knows the use of his tools, he can make a door as well as a window. George Eliot, in The Mill on the Floss (1860)
  • The tragedy is that so many have ambition and so few have ability. William Feather, quoted in a 1984 issue of Forbes magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Ability will never catch up with the demand for it. Malcolm Forbes, quoted in a 1990 issue of Forbes magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • The ultimate high: A man’s abilities equaling his opinion of ’em. Malcolm Forbes, quoted in The Forbes Book of Business Quotations (1997; Ted Goodman, ed.)
  • As we advance in life, we learn the limits of our abilities. James Anthony Froude, “Education,” address at St. Andrew’s University (Fife, Scotland; March 19, 1869); reprinted in Short Studies on Great Subjects, Vol. 4 (1893)
  • There are many rare abilities in the world which Fortune never brings to light. Thomas Fuller, M.D., in Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs (1732)
  • Ability and achievement are bona fides no one dares question, no matter how unconventional the man who presents them. J. Paul Getty, in How to Be Rich (1966)

QUOTE NOTE: The American Heritage Dictionary defines bona fides (pronounced BO-nuh FEE-daze) this way: “Information that serves to guarantee a person’s good faith, standing, and reputation; authentic credentials.”

  • The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators. Edward Gibbon, in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. VI (1788)
  • Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • Ability is wont to grow old, and with it fame. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • There is something that is much more scarce, something finer far, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability. Elbert Hubbard, “The Crying Need,” in A Message to Garcia, and Thirteen Other Things (1901)
  • Ability atrophies through lack of exercise. Glenda Jackson, in Ian Woodward, Glenda Jackson: A Study in Fire and Ice (1985)

QUOTE NOTE: Jackson was likely inspired by an Eleanor Roosevelt observation, to be found below.

  • A special ability means a heavy expenditure of energy in a particular direction, with a consequent drain from some other side of life. Carl Jung, in Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933)
  • The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often acquires more reputation than actual brilliancy. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • It is a great ability to be able to conceal one’s ability. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • Ability wins us the esteem of the true men; luck that of the people. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • The desire of appearing persons of ability often prevents our being so. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • Is there any delight as great as the child’s discovering ability? Doris Lessing, in Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949 (1994)
  • Ours is a very practical age, and no matter how skillfully a man play the game of life, there is but one test of his ability—did he win? Charles Lever, the voice of the narrator, in The Martins of Cro’ Martin (1856)
  • We rate ability in men by what they finish, not by what they attempt. Norman Macdonald, in Maxims and Moral Reflections (1827)
  • Thousands of men of great native ability have been lost to the world because they have not had to wrestle with obstacles, and to struggle under difficulties sufficient to stimulate into activity their dormant powers. Orison Swett Marden, in Architects of Fate (1895)

A few pages later, Marden went on to write: “How often we see a young man develop astounding ability and energy after the death of a parent, or the loss of a fortune, or after some other calamity has knocked the props and crutches from under him.”

  • All great events hang by a hair. The man of ability takes advantage of everything and neglects nothing that can give him a chance of success. Napoleon I Napoleon Bonaparte), in letter to his Minister of Foreign Affairs (Sep. 26, 1797)
  • He is a man of splendid abilities, but utterly corrupt. He shines and stinks like rotten mackerel by moonlight. John Randolph, on Edward Livingston, quoted in W. Cabell Bruce, John Randolph of Roanoke (1923)

ERROR ALERT: Many books and web sites mistakenly report that Henry Clay was the target of this legendary metaphorical insult. John F. Kennedy even got it wrong in Profiles in Courage (1957), where he described the line as “the most memorable and malignant sentence in the history of personal abuse.” But Randolph, a Virginia congressman hailed by William Safire as a “master of American political invective,” said it about Edward Livingston, a former New York City mayor who had been elected to Congress. In 1998, Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, titled his first novel, Mackerel by Moonlight. Appropriately, it was a tale of political corruption.

  • If you have great talents, industry will improve them: if you have but moderate abilities, industry will supply their deficiency. Joshua Reynolds, in Reynolds’ Discourses (1887; Helen Zimmern, ed.)
  • Ability is not something to be saved, like money, in the hope that you can draw interest on it. The interest comes from the spending. Unused ability, like unused muscles, will atrophy. Eleanor Roosevelt, in Tomorrow is Now (1963)

Mrs. Roosevelt continued: “It is tragic to realize that the majority of human beings, even the so-called educated, call upon only the smallest fraction of their potential capacity. They leave many talents dormant. They fail to develop their mental qualities. They are almost unaware of the degree of energy upon which they might call to build a full and rewarding life.”

  • Every man loves what he is good at. Thomas Shadwell, the character Lady Cheat speaking, in The True Widow: A Comedy (1679)
  • Out of my lean and low ability/I’ll lend you something. William Shakespeare, the character Viola, speaking to Antonio, in Twelfth-Night (1601-02)
  • I believe that happiness consists in having a destiny in keeping with our abilities. Our desires are things of the moment, often harmful even to ourselves; but our abilities are permanent, and their demands never cease. Germaine de Staël, in Reflections on Suicide (1813)
  • A man must not deny his manifest abilities, for that is to evade his obligations. Robert Louis Stevenson, the Doctor speaking, in the short story “The Treasure of Franchard,” first pub. in an 1883 issue of Longman’s magazine; reprinted in The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables (1887)

The doctor continued: “I must be up and doing; I must be no skulker in life’s battle.”

  • The abilities of man must fall short on one side or other, like too scanty a blanket when you are a-bed. Sir William Temple, in Miscellanea (1705)

Temple added: “If you pull it upon your shoulders, you leave your feet bare; if you thrust it down upon your feet, your shoulders are uncovered.”

  • He is the best sailor who can steer within fewest points of the wind, and exact a motive power out of the greatest obstacles. Henry David Thoreau, in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)
  • They are able because they think they are able. Virgil, in Aeneid (1st c. B.C.)
  • Ability is active power, or power to perform; as opposed to capacity, or power to receive. Noah Webster, in An American Dictionary of the English Language (1845 ed.)
  • Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended. Alfred North Whitehead, remark in conversation (Dec. 15, 1939), in Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead (1954; Lucien Price, ed.)
  • We all have ability. The difference is how we use it. Stevie Wonder, quoted in James Haskins, The Story of Stevie Wonder (1976)
  • Ability is a poor man’s wealth. Matthew Wren, quoted in Day’s Collacon (1884)

QUOTATION CAUTION: An original source for this quotation has never been provided and, as with the Aristippus quotation earlier, its first appearance appears to have been in Day’s Collacon. Wren (1585–1667), an Anglican cleric and scholar, was the uncle of Sir Christopher Wren.

ABNORMAL

(see also AVERAGE and CONFORMITY and DEVIANT and ECCENTRIC and DIFFERENT and HEALTHY and INDIVIDUALITY & INDIVIDUALISM and NORMAL)

  • Abnormal, adj. Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)

ABROAD

(see also ADVENTURE and AIRPLANES & AIR TRAVEL and CRUISES & CRUISING and DISCOVERY and EXPLORATION and HOTELS & MOTELS and JOURNEYS and PILGRIMAGE & PILGRIMS and SIGHTSEEING and TOURISM & TOURISTS and TRIPS and VACATIONS & HOLIDAYS and VOYAGES and WANDERING & WANDERERS and WANDERLUST)

  • There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction. One has to go abroad in order to find the home one has lost. Franz Kafka, quoted in Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1951; 2nd expanded ed., 1971)

QUOTATION CAUTION: Some Kafka scholars have questioned the authenticity of this quotation. See explanation in the Kafka ACHIEVEMENT entry.

  • The great and recurrent question about Abroad is, is it worth the trouble of getting there? Rose Macaulay, the opening line of the essay “Abroad,” in Personal Pleasures (1936)
  • Being abroad for the first time brings one’s unexamined assumptions into sharp focus. Deryn P. Verity, quoted in Christina Henry de Tessan, Expat: Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad (2002)

ABSENCE

(see also PARTING and SEPARATION)

  • Absence is what the poets call death in love. Joseph Addison, in a 1711 issue of The Spectator
  • Absence is the dark-room in which lovers develop negatives. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: This observation first appeared in H. L. Mencken’s A New Dictionary of Quotations (1942). Many believe it was actually authored by Mencken, who decided to include it in his collection as an anonymous quip.

  • The heart may think it knows better: the senses know that absence blots people out. Elizabeth Bowen, the voice of the narrator, in The Death of the Heart (1938)
  • Absence, that common cure of love. Miguel de Cervantes, in Don Quixote (1605)
  • Absence from whom we love is worse than death,/And frustrates hope severer than despair. William Cowper, in “Hope” (1782)
  • Can flowers but droop in absence of the sun,/Which waked their sweets? John Dryden, in Aureng-zebe (1675)
  • When you part from your friend, you grieve not;/For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. Kahlil Gibran, in The Prophet (1923)
  • He was a man whose absence was usually preferable to his presence. P. D. James, protagonist Adam Dalgliesh’s assessment of Sir Alred, in Death in Holy Orders (2001)
  • Friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions. Samuel Johnson, in The Idler (Sep. 23, 1758)
  • Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated. Alphonse de Lamartine, in Méditations Poétiques (1820)
  • Absence lessens the minor passions and increases the great ones, as the wind douses a candle and kindles a fire. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)

QUOTE NOTE: La Rochefoucauld, the most famous of all French aphorists, usually gets credit for this sentiment, but he may have been inspired by a similar analogy in Histoire amoureuse des Gaules (1665) by Roger de Bussy-Rabutin. In a section on “Maxims of Love,” he wrote: “Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it enkindles the great.”

  • When you’re gone, all the colors fade/When you’re gone, no New Year’s Parade/You’re gone, colors seem to fade. Amos Lee, lyric from the song “Colors” (written under his birth name, Ryan Anthony Massaro), on the album Amos Lee (2005)

This is a beautiful lyric from a beautiful song, written by a gifted singer-songwriter. See Lee perform the song live in concert at: “Colors”

  • Your absence has gone through me/Like thread through a needle./Everything I do is stitched with its color. W. S. Merwin, “Separation,” in The Moving Target (1963)
  • The longest absence is less perilous to love than the terrible trials of incessant proximity. Ouida (pen name of Maria Louise Ramé), in Wisdom, Wit and Pathos (1884)
  • It is only love that has already fallen sick that is killed by absence. Diane de Poitiers, quoted in W. Gordon, A Book of Days (1910)
  • Absence and a friendly neighbor washes away love. Proverb (English)
  • The absent are like children, helpless to defend themselves. Charles Reade, the character Helen speaking, in Foul Play (1869)
  • Judicious absence is a weapon. Charles Reade, the character Mr. Coventry speaking, in Put Yourself in His Place (1870)
  • Absence becomes the greatest Presence. May Sarton, “Difficult Scene,” in The Lion and the Rose (1948)
  • How like a Winter hath my absence been/From thee. William Shakespeare, the opening words of Sonnet 97, in Sonnets (1609)

QUOTE NOTE: Shakespeare went on to write: “What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!/What old December’s bareness everywhere.” The words are from one who is clearly smitten, and it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that they were addressed to a man! In fact, the first 126 (out of the total of 154) sonnets are addressed to a beautiful and charming young nobleman—never formally identified—who Shakespeare clearly loved. Norrie Epstein says in The Friendly Shakespeare (1993): “No other straight poet has ever written such ardent poems to a man.” Was Shakespeare gay? Or bisexual (since he was, after all, married and a father)? The question has intrigued Shakespeare fans for centuries. Nowadays, most scholars would probably agree with Epstein, who concluded: “We’ll probably never know Shakespeare’s sexual preferences, though it’s likely he was bisexual.”

  • Fond as we are of our loved ones, there comes at times during their absence an unexplained peace. Anne Shaw, in But Such is Life (1931)
  • Absence is death, or worse, to them that love. Philip Sidney, in The Arcadia (c. 1581)
  • 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. Edna St. Vincent Millay, in a 1920 letter to Whitter “Hal” Bynner and Arthur Davidson Ficke; reprinted in Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1952; A. R. Macdougall, ed.)
  • Absence is one of the most useful ingredients of family life, and to do it rightly is an art like any other. Freya Stark, in The Freya Stark Story (1953)

ABSTINENCE

(includes ABSTAINING; see also ASCETICISM and CHASTITY and LUST and MODERATION and PASSION and PLEASURE and SELF-CONTROL and SELF-DENIAL and STOICISM & STOICS and TEMPTATION)

  • The way to avoid evil is not by maiming our passions, but by compelling them to yield their vigor to our moral nature. Henry Ward Beecher, in Life Thoughts (1858)

Beecher continued: “Thus they become, as in the ancient fable, the harnessed steeds which bear the chariot of the sun.”

  • Abstainer, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare. John Dryden, in “To My Honoured Kinsman, John Driden” (1699), in Fables (1700)

QUOTE NOTE: John Driden was John Dryden’s first cousin (Dryden the poet often spelled his own name with an “i” as well). While this line from the poem is casually understood to be about resisting temptation, Dryden was in fact complimenting his cousin’s decision to stay single and remain unmarried! Dryden continued: “Thus have you shunned and shun the married state,/Trusting as little as you can to Fate.” Reading the poem, one clearly senses Dryden’s dim view of marriage. A bit earlier in the poem, he describes his cousin as “Lord of yourself, uncumbered [sic] with a wife.” And just prior to the shun the bait phrase, he offers this memorable metaphor about the married state: “Two wrestlers help to pull each other down.”

  • Abstaining is favorable both to the head and the pocket. Horace Greeley, quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Edge-Tools of Speech (1886)
  • Against diseases here the strongest fence/Is the defensive virtue, abstinence. Robert Herrick, in Hesperides (1648)
  • Refrain tonight,/And that shall lend a kind of easiness/To the next abstinence; the next more easy. William Shakespeare, the title character speaking to Gertrude, in Hamlet (1601)
  • The stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires is like cutting off our feet when we want [i.e., lack] shoes. Jonathan Swift, in Thoughts on Various Subjects, 1696–1706 (1711)

ABSURDITY & THE ABSURD

(see also EXISTENCE and LUDICROUSNESS and MEANING and [Lack of] MEANING and RIDICULOUSNESS & THE RIDICULOUS)

  • Fashion: the search for a new absurdity. Natalie Clifford Barney, “Scatterings” (1910), in A Perilous Advantage: The Best of Natalie Clifford Barney (1992; Anna Livia, ed.)
  • Absurdity, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • The absurd is born of the confrontation between the human call and the unreasonable silence of the world. Albert Camus, in The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)
  • Accepting the absurdity of everything around us is one step, a necessary experience: it should not become a dead end. It arouses a revolt that can become fruitful. Albert Camus, “Three Interviews,” in Lyrical and Critical Essays (1970)
  • Life is absurd and cannot be an end, but only a beginning. This is a truth nearly all great minds have taken as their starting point. It is not this discovery that is interesting, but the consequences and rules of action drawn from it. Albert Camus, in a review of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre; quoted in Avi Sagi, Albert Camus and the Philosophy of the Absurd (2002)
  • Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified. G. K. Chesterton, “Spiritualism,” in All Things Considered (1908)
  • There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it. Marcus Tullius Cicero, in De Divinations (5th c. B.C.)
  • Absurdity is the one thing love can’t stand; it can overlook anything else— coldness, or weakness, or viciousness—but just be ridiculous and that’s the end of it! Margaret Deland, the voice of the narrator, in Philip and His Wife (1894)
  • The privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject but man only. Thomas Hobbes, in Leviathan (1651)
  • Humor helps us get through life with a modicum of grace. It offers one of the few benign ways of coping with the absurdity of it all. Diane Keaton, in Then Again (2011)
  • We live in a time which has created the art of the absurd. It is our art. Norman Mailer, “Introducing Our Argument,” in Cannibals and Christians (1966)
  • A prophet or an achiever must never mind an occasional absurdity; it is an occupational risk. Oswald Moseley, in My Life (1968)
  • We poets are (upon a poet’s word)/Of all mankind the creatures most absurd. Alexander Pope, in Imitations of Horace (1733-38)
  • People who cannot recognize a palpable absurdity are very much in the way of civilization. Agnes Repplier, in In Pursuit of Laughter (1936)
  • The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible. Bertrand Russell, in Marriage and Morals (1929)
  • I very much like your love of pleasure, and your humour and malice: it is so delightful to live in a world that is full of pictures, and incident divertissements, and amiable absurdities. Why shouldn’t things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together. George Santayana, in letter to Logan Pearsall Smith (May 24, 1918)

ABUSE

(see also BULLIES & BULLYING and AGGRESSION and CRUELTY and INSENSITIVITY and KINDNESS and MALICE and PAIN and UNKINDNESS and RECOVERY)

  • He who has provoked the lash of wit, cannot complain that he smarts from it. James Boswell, a 1769 observation, in Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
  • The human race…tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What’s left of kisses? Wounds however leave scars. Bertolt Brecht, in Short Stories, 1921-1946 (1983)
  • Abuse is the weapon of the vulgar. Samuel Goodrich, quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Edge-Tools of Speech (1886)
  • Abuse is an indirect species of homage. William Hazlitt, “Common Places,” in The Literary Examiner (Sep.–Dec., 1823)

QUOTE NOTE: See a similar remark about criticism, made a century and a half later by John Maddox.

  • The difference between coarse and refined abuse is as the difference between being bruised by a club, and wounded by a poisoned arrow. Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life of Dr. Samuel Johnson (1791)
  • Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead. Proverb (Chinese)
  • A wound from a tongue is worse than a wound from a sword: for the latter affects only the body, the former the spirit. Pythagoras, in Thomas Stanley, Pythagoras: His Life and Teachings (1970, James Wasserman’s updated version of Stanley’s 1678 classic The History of Philosophy)
  • When political ammunition runs low, inevitably the rusty artillery of abuse is wheeled into action. Wallace Stevens, in a speech in New York City (Sep. 22, 1952)

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher might have had this observation in mind when she said about the political abuse heaped on her: “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because…it means that they have not a single political argument left” (quoted in London’s Daily Telegraph, March 21, 1986)

  • Whipping and abuse are like laudanum: you have to double the dose as the sensibilities decline. Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)

(CHILD) ABUSE

(see also ABUSE and CHILDREN and CRUELTY and PAIN and UNKINDNESS and PUNISHMENT and RECOVERY and TRAUMA and VICTIMS & VICTIMHOOD)

  • A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • The hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. Carson McCullers, in The Ballad of the Sad Café (1951)

The words come from the narrator, who adds: “The heart of a hurt child can shrink so that forever afterward it is hard and pitted as the seed of a peach. Or again, the heart of such a child may fester and swell until it is misery to carry within the body, easily chafed and hurt by the most ordinary things.“

  • Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime. Herbert A. Ward (from 1970-2000, Father Ward was director of St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City, Nevada)

ABYSS

(see also DANGER and DARKNESS and DARKNESS & LIGHT and LIGHT and OBLIVION)

  • It is by going down into the abyss/that we recover the treasures of life./Where you stumble,/there lies your treasure. Joseph Campbell, in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living (1991; Robert Walter, ed., from material by Diane K. Osbon)

QUOTE NOTE: Campbell continued: “The very cave you are afraid to enter/turns out to be the source of/what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave/that was so dreaded/has become the center.”

  • Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you. Friedrich Nietzsche, in Beyond Good and Evil (1886). Note that the concluding line is a famous example of chiasmus.

QUOTE NOTE: The observation is also commonly presented this way: “Whoever fights with monsters should see to it that he does not become one himself. And when you stare for a long time into an abyss, the abyss stares back into you.”

  • We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for what’s new. Margaret J. Wheatley, “Willing to Be Disturbed,” in Turning to One Another (2002)

Wheatley continued: “Of course it’s scary to give up what we know, but the abyss is where newness lives. Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing. If we can move through the fear and enter the abyss, we are rewarded greatly.”

ACADEMIA & ACADEMICS

(see also COLLEGE and ERUDITION and INTELLECT and INTELLECTUALS and KNOWLEDGE and LEARNING and PEDANTS & PEDANTRY and PROFESSORS and SCHOLARS & SCHOLARSHIP and STUDY and UNIVERSITY)

  • If poetry is like an orgasm, an academic can be likened to someone who studies the passion-stains on the bedsheets. Irving Layton, “Obs II,” in The Whole Bloody Bird (1969)
  • Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010)

ACCENT

(see also COMMUNICATION and IMMIGRANTS and LANGUAGE and [Foreign] LANGUAGE and SPEECH & SPEAKING and TALK & TALKING)

  • The accent of a man’s native country remains in his mind and his heart, as it does in his speech. François de la Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1678)
  • Accent is the soul of language; it gives to it both feeling and truth. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in Emile: Or, On Education (1762)

ACCEPTANCE

(see also ATTACHMENT & NONATTACHMENT and CRITICISM and EVALUATION and INEVITABILITY and JUDGMENTALISM & NONJUDGMENTALISM)

  • A wise man weaves a philosophy out of each acceptance life forces upon him. Elizabeth Bibesco, in Haven: Short Stories, Pems, and Aphorisms (1951)
  • It is better to learn early of the inevitable depths, for then sorrow and death take their proper place in life, and one is not afraid. Pearl S. Buck, in My Several Worlds (1954)
  • At thirty, a man should have himself well in hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures—be what he is. And above all accept these things. Albert Camus, notebook entry (July 30, 1945), in Carnets: 1942–1951 (1963)
  • Until we can tolerate our own company, we cannot expect other people to be overjoyed by our presence. Dorothy Carnegie, in Don’t Grow Old—Grow Up! (1956)
  • During much of my life, I was anxious to be what someone else wanted me to be. Now I have given up that struggle. I am what I am. Elizabeth Coatsworth, in Personal Geography: Almost an Autobiography (1976)
  • I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK—and That’s OK. William Sloane Coffin, title of book he said he would like to write, offered in a Riverside Church sermon (July 12, 1987)
  • Accept the place the divine providence has found for you. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • There comes a time in each life like a point of fulcrum. At that time you must accept yourself. It is not any more what you will become. It is what you are and always will be. John Fowles, the character Maurice Conchis speaking, in The Magus (1965)

QUOTE NOTE: Conchis is speaking to Nichoas Urfe, the narrator and protagonist, and, at age twenty-five, many decades younger. Conchis added: “You are too young to know this. You are still becoming. Not being.”

  • My happiness goes in direct proportion to my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations. Michael J. Fox, quoted in Brian Hiatt, “Michael J. Fox: The Toughest Man on TV,” Rolling Stone magazine (Sep. 26, 2013)

QUOTE NOTE: This has become one of Fox’s most frequently quoted observations, but it is unclear from Hiatt’s article whether the observation is original to Fox or a maxim he learned during his many years in recovery from alcoholism. At the time of the article, Fox had been sober for 21 years (about which, he quipped, “My sobriety is old enough to drink”).

  • He who seeks for applause only from without, has all his happiness in another’s keeping. Oliver Goldsmith, the character Sir William speaking, in The Good-Natur’d Man (1768)
  • Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there’s all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens. Arthur Gordon, in A Touch of Wonder: A Book to Help Stay in Love with Life (1974)
  • Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me. Audre Lorde, “Eye to Eye,” in Sister Outsider (1984)

Lorde continued: “I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or a chisel to remind you of your me-ness, as I discover you in myself.”

  • Self-acceptance begets acceptance from others, which begets even deeper, more genuine self-acceptance. It can be done. But no one is going to bestow it on you. It is a gift only you can give yourself. Camryn Manheim, in Wake Up, I’m Fat! (1999)
  • I do not care so much what I am to others as I care what I am to myself. I want to be rich my myself, not by borrowing. Michel de Montaigne, “On Glory,” in Essays (1580-88)
  • Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have. Doris Mortman, in Circles (1984)
  • The best-adjusted people are the “psychologically patriotic,” who are glad to be what they are. Isabel Briggs Myers, in Gifts Differing (1980; with Peter B. Myers)
  • Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better. Flannery O’Connor, in letter to “A” (Dec. 9, 1961); reprinted in The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor (1979; Sally Fitzgerald. ed.)
  • Perhaps the most important thing we can undertake toward the reduction of fear is to make it easier for people to accept themselves, to like themselves. Bonaro Overstreet, in The World Book Complete Word Power Library, Vol. 1 (1981)
  • Unless I accept my faults I will most certainly doubt my virtues. Hugh Prather, in Notes to Myself (1983)
  • It seems to take a lifetime for us to learn that wisdom consists largely in a graceful acceptance of things that do not immediately concern us. Myrtle Reed, in Old Rose and Silver (1909)
  • The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. Carl Rogers, in On Becoming a Person (1961)

A moment later, Rogers went on to add: “We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.”

  • Friendship with oneself is all-important because without it, one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world. Eleanor Roosevelt, the concluding words of the essay “How to Take Criticism,” in Ladies' Home Journal (Nov., 1944)
  • The mistake ninety-nine percent of humanity made, as far as Fats could see, was being ashamed of what they were; lying about it, trying to be somebody else. J. K. Rowling, the narrator describing a belief of the character Stuart “Fats” Wall, in The Casual Vacancy (2012)

The narrator continued: “Honesty was Fats’ currency, his weapon and defense. It frightened people when you were honest; it shocked them. Other people Fats had discovered, were mired in embarrassment and pretense, terrified that their truths might leak out.”

  • We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be. May Sarton, a reflection of the protagonist Hilary Stevens, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing (1965)
  • It is not easy to be sure that being yourself is worth the trouble, but we do know it is our sacred duty. Florida Scott Maxwell, in The Measure of My Days (1968)
  • Acceptance is an art that must be mastered if we want to keep our friends for the span of life that remains to us, and presently step off the stage with our self-respect intact. Ethel Smyth, in As Time Went On… (1936)
  • Every acceptance of suffering is an acceptance of that which exists. The denial of every form of suffering can result in a flight from reality in which contact with reality becomes ever thinner, ever more fragmentary. Dorothee Sölle, in Suffering (1973)

Sölle continued: “It is impossible to remove oneself totally from suffering, unless one removes oneself from life itself, no longer enters into relationships, makes oneself invulnerable.”

  • The turning point is that moment of naked acceptance of the truth. Ellen Sue Stern, in The Indispensable Woman (1988)
  • What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden (1854)
  • It is not worth the while to let our imperfections disturb us always. Henry David Thoreau, in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)
  • A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. Mark Twain, the Old Man speaking, in title essay, in What is Man? And Other Essays (1917)

ACCESSORY [as in HUMAN INTERACTION]

(see also ACCOMPLICE and ENABLERS & ENABLEMENT)

  • There is at least one thing more brutal than the truth, and that is the consequence of saying less than the truth. One becomes an accessory to any facts one attempts—however much—to conceal. Ti-Grace Atkinson, “The Older Woman,” in Amazon Odyssey (1974)
  • We may be accessory to another’s sin by counsel, by command, by consent, by concealment, by provoking, by praise, by partaking, by silence, by defense. John McCaffrey, in A Catechism of Christian Doctrine for General Use (1866)

ACCESSORY [as in FASHION]

(see also DRESS and FASHION)

  • It is tempting to think of your husband-to-be as just another bridal accessory. It may be easier for him to play along with this too. After all, you don’t expect your shoes or your beaded bag to help you make decisions. Mimi Pond, A Groom of One’s Own and Other Bridal Accessories (1993)

ACCIDENT

(see also CHANCE and MISFORTUNE)

  • Accident, n. And inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws.

Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)

  • Men’s accidents are God's purposes. Sophia A. Hawthorne, quoted in a June 1, 1842 entry The American Notebooks of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1932; C. M. Simpson, ed.)
  • Accident is the name one gives to the coincidence of events, of which one does not know the causation. Franz Kafka, quoted in Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1953

According to Janouch, Kafka went on to add: “Accidents only exist in our heads, in our limited perceptions.”

ACCOMPLICE

(see also ACCESSORY and ENABLERS & ENABLEMENT)

  • Accomplice, n. One associated with another in a crime, having guilty knowledge and complicity, as an attorney who defends a criminal, knowing him guilty. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Art is the accomplice of love. Take love away and there is no longer art. Remy de Gourmont, in Le Chemin de Velours (1902); reprinted in in Decadence: And Other Essays on the Culture of Ideas (1921; tr. by W. A. Bradley)

Gourmont introduced the thought by writing: “Aesthetic emotion puts man in a state favorable to the reception of erotic emotion.”

  • The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference. Bess Myerson, quoted in Claire Safran, “Impeachment?” Redbook magazine (April 1974)
  • Changes are not only possible and predictable, but to deny them is to be an accomplice to one's own unnecessary vegetation. Gail Sheehy, in Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life (1976)
  • The writer’s first job is not to have opinions but to tell the truth…and refuse to be an accomplice of lies and misinformation. Susan Sontag, “The Conscience of Words,” in At the Same Time (2007)

Sontag continued: “Literature is the house of nuance and contrariness against the voices of simplification. The job of the writer is to make it harder to believe the mental despoilers.”

ACCOMPLISHMENT

(see also AIMS & AIMING and ACHIEVEMENT and AMBITION and ASPIRATION and GOALS and TARGET)

  • We will more easily accomplish what is proper if, like archers, we have a target in sight. Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics (4th c. B.C.)

QUOTE NOTE: Another translation of the Aristotle thought has it phrased this way: “It concerns us to know the purposes we seek in life, for then, like archers aiming at a definite mark, we shall be more likely to attain what we want.”

  • The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul. The Bible: Proverbs 13:19
  • Sweat is the cologne of accomplishment. Heywood Hale Broun, in CBS television interview (July 21, 1973)
  • Accomplishments are the ornaments of life. Willa Cather, the character Mrs. Ramsay speaking, in Lucy Gayheart (1935)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This is how the quotation is commonly presented, but it was originally part of a larger message that Mrs. Ramsay was sending to Lucy: “Nothing really matters but living. Get all you can out of it. I’m an old woman, and I know. Accomplishments are the ornaments of life, they come second.”

  • None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Greatness,” in Letters and Social Aims (1876)

QUOTE NOTE: Emerson believed that all people had a special leaning, or bias, they needed to identify, and then follow, in order to achieve greatness. He went on to explain: “Every individual man has a bias which he must obey, and…it is only as he feels and obeys this that he rightly develops and attains his legitimate power in the world. It is his magnetic needle, which points always in one direction to his proper path…. He is never happy nor strong until he finds it, keeps it.”

  • Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it. Once realized, it becomes commonplace. Robert H. Goddard, quoted in Milton Lehman, This High Man: The Live of Robert H. Goddard (1963)
  • We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, in Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1821)
  • Do not be one of those who, rather than risk failure, never attempts anything. Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation (1962)

ACCOUNTABILITY

(see also BLAME and CHARACTER and CONSEQUENCES and DUTY and RESPONSIBILITY)

  • Accountability is a key factor in management because it is the cornerstone of empowerment and personal growth. If no one is accountable for a project, no one gets to grow through the experience of it. Accountability has nothing to do with blame. It has everything to do with individual and corporate growth. Laurie Beth Jones, in Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership (1995)

A moment later, Jones added: “Holding people accountable allows them the opportunity to sign their name on a portrait of success, no matter how small that portrait might be. It gives them their next growth challenge in a defined and measurable form.”

  • Part of having a strong sense of self is to be accountable for one’s actions. No matter how much we explore motives or lack of motives, we are what we do. Janet Geringer Woititz, in Adult Children of Alcoholics (1983)

ACCURACY & INNACCURACY

(see also LIES & LYING and TRUTH and VERACITY)

  • There is an accuracy that defeats itself by the over-emphasis of details. Benjamin N. Cardozo, in Law and Literature (1930)

Cardozo continued: “I often say that one must permit oneself . . . a certain margin of misstatement. Of course, one must take heed that the margin is not exceeded, just as the physician must be cautious in administering the poisonous ingredient which magnified will kill, but in tiny quantities will cure.”

ERROR ALERT: The Cardozo observation is often mistakenly presented as if it ended on details.

  • An inaccurate use of words produces such a strange confusion in all reasoning that in the heat of debate, the combatants, unable to distinguish their friends from their foes, fall promiscuously on both. Maria Edgeworth, in letter from Caroline to Julia, in Letters of Julia and Caroline (1795)

Caroline continued: “A skillful disputant knows well how to take advantage of this confusion, and sometimes endeavors to create it.”

  • Accuracy of language is one of the bulwarks of truth. Anna Jameson, in A Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories, and Fancies (1854)

Jameson continued: “If we looked into the matter we should probably find that all the varieties and modifications of conscious and unconscious lying—as exaggeration, equivocation, evasion, misrepresentation—might be traced to the early misuse of words.”

  • In all pointed sentences, some degree of accuracy must be sacrificed to conciseness. Samuel Johnson, “The Bravery of the English Common Soldier,” in The British Magazine (Jan., 1760)
  • Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a woman. Joseph Pulitzer, quoted in Alleyne Ireland, “Joseph Pulitzer: Reminiscences of a Secretary,” in Metropolitan magazine (Dec., 1913)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is typically presented, but it was originally the concluding portion of remarks Pulitzer made to Mr. Ireland, his personal secretary. “It is not enough to refrain from printing fake news,” he said, adding that it was also insufficient to be simply on guard for mistakes and carelessness in reporting. Rather, he concluded: “You have got to do much more than that; you have got to make every one connected to the paper—your editors, your reporters, your correspondents, your re-write men, your proof-readers—believe that accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a woman.” Pulitzer’s observation, which went on to become one of his best-known quotations, was also tweaked in a memorable way by Adlai Stevenson: “Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a lady, but a newspaper can always print a retraction.”

  • A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation. Saki (pen name of H. H. Munro), the character Lady Caroline speaking, “Clovis on the Alleged Romance of Business,” in The Square Egg (1924)
  • Accuracy is twin brother to honesty, and inaccuracy to dishonesty. Charles Simmons, in Laconic Manual and Brief Remarker (1852).

ERROR ALERT: a similar observation is commonly misattributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne

ACCUSATION

(see also BLAME & BLAMING and CENSURE and CRITICISM and JUDGING OTHERS and LIBEL and SCAPEGOAT and SLANDER)

  • Even doubtful accusations leave a stain behind them. Thomas Fuller, M.D., in Gnomologia (1732)
  • Guilt hath very quick ears to an accusation. Henry Fielding, the character William Booth speaking, in Amelia (1751)

ACHIEVEMENT

(see also AIMS & AIMING and ACCOMPLISHMENT and AMBITION and ASPIRATION)

  • All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh (1903)
  • The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities. James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh (1903)
  • Every great achievement is the victory of a flaming heart. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: This observation is commonly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but nothing like it has been found in his works. It might be a paraphrase of something Emerson did say in his “Man the Reformer” lecture (Boston; Jan. 25, 1841): “Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm.”

  • Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance. Bruce Barton, in The Man and the Book Nobody Knows (rev. ed.; 1956)
  • Achievement, n. The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • An achievement is a bondage. It obliges one to a higher achievement. Albert Camus, in Notebooks: 1942-1951 (1965)
  • Life requires thorough preparation. Veneer isn’t worth anything; we must disabuse our people of the idea that there is a short cut to achievement. George Washington Carver, quoted in Raleigh H. Merritt, From Captivity to Fame: Or The Life of George Washington Carver (1929)
  • Achievement brings with it its own anticlimax. Agatha Christie, the voice of the narrator, in They Came to Baghdad (1951)
  • It is not the clear-sighted who lead the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm mental fog.
 Joseph Conrad, voice of the narrator, in Victory: An Island Tale (1915)
  • The virtue of all achievement is victory over oneself. Those who know this can never know defeat. A. J. Cronin, quoted in Lillian Eichler Watson, Light From Many Lamps (1951)
  • Death comes to all,/But great achievements build a monument/Which shall endure until the sun grows cold. Georg Fabricius, in In Praise of Georgius Agricola (c. 1550)
  • Achievement is talent plus preparation. Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers: The Story of Success (2008)
  • There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction. One has to go abroad in order to find the home one has lost. Franz Kafka, quoted in Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1951; 2nd expanded ed., 1971)

QUOTATION CAUTION: In 1920, Janouch was a 17-year-old aspiring Czech writer when he first met Kafka, a friend of his father’s, and a man twenty years his senior (Kafka and Janouch’s father both worked at Prague’s Workman’s Accident Insurance Institute). For the next several years, Kafka became something of a mentor to the young man, and Janouch attempted to faithfully record each of their interactions (Kafka died at age 40 in 1924, of complications related to tuberculosis). In 1951, a heavily-edited version of Janouch’s decades-old original manuscript was published by Kafka’s literary executor, Max Brod. In 1971, Janouch came out with his own complete version. Some of Kafka’s most popular quotations come from Conversations with Kafka, but many Kafka scholars have questioned their authenticity, arguing that Janouch took creative liberties with Kafka’s actual words.

  • The heights by great men reached and kept/Were not attained by sudden flight,/But they, while their companions slept,/Were toiling upward in the night. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Ladder of Saint Augustine,” in Birds of Passage (1845)
  • Do not be one of those who, rather than risk failure, never attempts anything. Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation (1962)
  • If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Sir Isaac Newton, in letter to Robert Hooke (Feb. 5, 1676)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the modernized version of one of intellectual history’s most famous observations (Newton’s original wording was: If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants). The metaphor beautifully captures the notion that all current thinkers build on the efforts of those who preceded them. The basic idea was not original with Newton, however. He was merely restating an observation from the twelfth-century French philosopher Bernard of Chartres: “We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants.” For more on the history of the quotation, go to: "Shoulders of Giants"

  • Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon. Daniel Pink, in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009)
  • Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best. Theodore Isaac Rubin, in Love Me, Love My Fool: Thoughts from a Psychoanalyst’s Notebook (1976)
  • No great achievement happens by luck. Howard Schultz, in Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time (1997; with Dori Jones Yang)

A bit earlier, Schultz had written: “Life is a series of near misses. But a lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It’s seeing what other people don’t see and pursuing that vision, no matter who tells you not to.”

  • Man can climb to the highest summits; but he cannot dwell there long. George Bernard Shaw, in Candida (1898)

ACQUIESCENCE

(see also COMPLIANCE and CONSENT and SUBMISSION)

  • All that the Devil asks is acquiescence. Suzanne Massie, in Robert and Suzanne Massie, Journey (1975)

ACQUISITION & ACQUISITIVENESS

(see also COMPLIANCE and CONSENT and SUBMISSION)

  • The collector walks with blinders on; he sees nothing but the prize. In fact, the acquisitive instinct is incompatible with true appreciation of beauty. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)
  • Desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it. Laurence Sterne, the title character describing his uncle Toby’s studies, in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-67)

ACTING

(see also ACTORS & ACTRESSES and ACTORS—ON THEMSELVES and ACTORS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and CINEMA and FILM and DIRECTING & DIRECTORS and PRODUCERS & PRODUCING and SHOW BUSINESS and STAGE and THEATER)

  • Acting is in everything but the words. Stella Adler, in The Art of Acting (2000)
  • Acting is a form of confession. Tallulah Bankead, in Tallulah (1952)
  • For acting, darlings, is the world’s most perilous trade. Compared with actors, steeple jacks and deep-sea divers lead snug and placid lives. Tallulah Bankhead, in a 1958 issue of Good Housekeeping (specific issue undetermined)
  • Acting is experience with something sweet behind it. Humphrey Bogart, quoted by Anthony Hopkins in Films Illustrated (December, 1980)
  • If you’re successful, acting is about as soft a job as anybody could ever wish for. But if you’re unsuccessful, it’s worse than having a skin disease. Marlon Brando, in B. Thomas, Marlon: Portrait of the Rebel as an Artist (1973)
  • Acting is the expression of a neurotic impulse. It’s a bum’s life. Marlon Brando, quoted in G. Carey, Marlon Brando: The Only Contender (1985).

Brando added: “The principal benefit acting has afforded me is the money to pay for my psychoanalysis.”

  • Acting is the least mysterious of all crafts. Whenever we want something from somebody or when we want to hide something or pretend, we’re acting. Most people do it all day long. Marlon Brando, quoted in The New York Times (July 2, 2004)
  • The main thing about acting is honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. George Burns, quoted in Playboy magazine (March, 1984)

QUOTE NOTE: Four years earlier, in The Third Time Around: An Autobiography (1980), Burns expressed the thought this way: “And remember this for the rest of your life: To be a fine actor, when you’re playing a role you’ve got to be honest. And if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Similar observations have been attributed to Groucho Marx and Samuel Goldwyn as well, but with no supporting evidence.

According to quotation researcher Garson O'Toole, the earliest appearance of the faking honesty sentiment was in 1962, when actress Celeste Holm attributed the following remark to an unnamed actor: “Honesty. That’s the thing in the theater today. Honesty…and just as soon as I can learn to fake that, I’ll have it made.” For more on the many iterations of the saying, see this informative 2011 Quote Investigator post.

  • Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes creation. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life (1962)
  • Acting is like prizefighting. The downtown gyms are smelly, but that’s where the champions are. Kirk Douglas, in a 1970 issue of Esquire magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Acting is make-believe. Dylan, my kid, when he was young he said, “I do that in the park everyday.” Michael Douglas, quoted in People magazine (Sep. 7, 2016)
  • Acting is the conveyance of truth through the medium of the actor's mind and person. The science of acting deals with the perfecting of that medium. Minnie Maddern Fiske, quoted in Alexander Woollcott, Mrs. Fiske (1917)

Fiske continued: “The great actors are the luminous ones.”

  • Acting is half shame, half glory. Shame at exhibiting yourself, glory when you can forget yourself. John Gielgud, in Gielgud Stories: Anecdotes, Sayings, and Impressions of Sir John Gielgud (1988; Clive Fisher, ed.)
  • Acting is the use of human experience with talent added. Ruth Gordon, in An Open Book (1980)
  • Acting a part is not always synonymous with lying; it is far more often the best way of serving the truth. Elizabeth Goudge, in The Bird in the Tree (1940)

Goudge continued: “It is more truthful to act what we should feel if the community is to be well served rather than behave as we actually do feel in our selfish private feelings.”

  • Acting is happy agony. Alec Guinness, quoted in Christopher P. Anderson, The New Book of People (1986). Also an example of oxymoronica.
  • More than in the other performing arts the lack of respect for acting seems to spring from the fact that every layman considers himself a valid critic. Uta Hagen, in Respect for Acting (1973; with Haskel Frankel)
  • The role of the Do-Gooder is not what actors call a fat part. Margaret Halsey, in The Folks at Home (1952)
  • Acting in the theater is the most direct and effective approach to emotion that has ever been devised, isn’t it? Helen Hayes, quoted in Lewis Funke and John E. Booth, Actors Talk About Acting (1961)
  • No matter how real the emotion, the habit of acting is hard to break. If you are a star, then it follows that you must twinkle mightily. There is a price for stardom and, unfortunately, one’s family shares in the payment. Helen Hayes, in On Reflection, An Autobiography (1968; with Sandford Dody)
  • Acting is the most minor of gifts and not a very high-class way to make a living. Shirley Temple could do it at the age of four. Katharine Hepburn, quoted in Nigel Rees, Cassell’s Movie Quotations (2000)
  • Acting is a way of living out one’s insanity. Isabelle Huppert, quoted in Ronald Warren Deutsch, Inspirational Hollywood (1997)
  • Acting is like making love. It’s better if your partner is good, but it’s probably possible if your partner isn’t. Jeremy Irons, remark on French TV show Cinéma, Cinémas (1991)
  • The important thing in acting is to be able to laugh and cry. If I have to cry, I think of my sex life. If I have to laugh, I think of my sex life. Glenda Jackson, quoted in a 1980 syndicated column by L.M. Boyd.
  • Acting is not about dressing up. Acting is about stripping bare. Glenda Jackson, in Sunday Telegraph (London, 1992)

Jackson continued: “The whole essence of learning lines is to forget them so you can make them sound like you thought of them that instant.”

  • Acting is a wild ride, shared in the company of other actors. Diane Keaton, in Then Again (2011)
  • Acting requires absorption, but not self-absorption and, in the actor’s mind, the question must always be “Why am I doing this?” not “How am I doing it?” Maureen Lipman, in How Was It for You? (1985)
  • Acting forces you to ask yourself, “Can my constitution take a decade of constant rejection?” And after ten years, you either make it or you don’t. And the problem is they don’t tell you in advance. Camryn Manheim, in Wake Up, I’m Fat! (1999)
  • Acting isn’t a profession, it’s a way of living. Jeanne Moreau, in Penelope Gilliatt, Three-Quarter Face (1980)
  • Acting is like letting your pants down; you’re exposed. Paul Newman, in Time magazine (Dec. 6, 1982)
  • Acting is a question of absorbing other people’s personalities and adding some of your own experience. Paul Newman, quoted in Leslie Halliwell’s Filmgoers’ Companion (1984)
  • Acting has been described as farting about in disguise. Peter O’Toole, in Scene magazine (Dec. 12, 1992)
  • What is acting but lying, and what is good acting but convincing lying? Laurence Olivier, in Confessions of an Actor: An Autobiography (1982)
  • Acting is a masochistic form of exhibitionism. It is not quite the occupation of an adult. Laurence Olivier, quoted in Time magazine (July 3, 1978)
  • I must say acting was good training for the political life which lay ahead for us. Nancy Reagan, in Nancy (1980; with Bill Libby)
  • A lot of what acting is is paying attention. Robert Redford, quoted in a 1984 issue of Newsweek magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Acting is not being emotional, but being able to express emotion. Kate Reid, in a 1988 issue of Theater Week (specific date undetermined)
  • Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing. Ralph Richardson, quoted in The New York Herald Tribune (May 19, 1946)

QUOTE NOTE: Richardson reprised this sentiment on other occasions as well. Another popular version is: “The art of acting consists in keeping people from coughing.”

  • Acting and painting have much in common. You begin with the external appearance and then strip away the layers to get to the essential core. This is reality and that is how an artist achieves truth. Edgar G. Robinson, quoted in Jim McMullan and Dick Gautier, Actors as Artists (1994)

Robinson continued: “When you are acting, you are playing a part, you are being somebody else. You are also, at the same time, being yourself.”

  • Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly. Rosalind Russell, in Life is a Banquet (1977; with Chris Chase)
  • Acting is like roller skating. Once you know how to do it, it is neither stimulating nor exciting. George Sanders, in 1961 issue of Films in Review (specific issue undetermined)
  • Acting is being susceptible to what is around you, and it’s letting it all come in. Acting is a clearing away of everything except what you want and need—and it’s wonderful in that way. And when it’s right, you’re lost in the moment. Meryl Streep, quoted in Kristen Golden and Barbara Findlen, Remarkable Women of the Twentieth Century (1998)
  • I love acting. It is so much more real than life. Oscar Wilde, the character Lord Henry Wotten speaking, in The Picture of Dorian Grey (1891)
  • Acting is the developing of one’s own personality, too, you know. That’s what the public buys in a star, shall we say, the personality thing. Shelley Winters, quoted in Lewis Funke and John E. Booth, Actors Talk About Acting (1961)
  • Acting is like painting pictures on bathroom tissues. Ten minutes later you throw them away and they are gone. Shelley Winters, in 1962 issue of the Saturday Evening Post
  • Acting is like sex. You should do it, but not talk about it. Joanne Woodward, in “You” supplement to The Mail on Sunday (London, 1987)

ACTION & ACTIONS

(see also INACTION and DEEDS and DOING and INTENTION and THOUGHT and THOUGHT & ACTION and SPEECH and WORDS & DEEDS )

  • Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul. Edward Abbey, in A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989)

ERROR ALERT: Scores of blogs and web sites mistakenly present this quotation as: “Belief without action is the ruin of the soul.”

  • As a confirmed melancholic, I can testify that the best and maybe the only antidote for melancholia is action. However, like most melancholics, I suffer also from sloth. Edward Abbey, in A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989)
  • We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them. Abigail Adams, in letter to husband John Adams (Oct. 16, 1774)
  • Action is indeed the sole medium of expression for ethics. Jane Addams, in Democracy and Social Ethics (1902)
  • Action is only coarsened thought. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, an 1850 entry in his Journal Intime
  • Thought is sad without action, and action is sad without thought. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, quoted in Cesare Lombroso, The Man of Genius (1896)
  • In the arena of human life the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action. Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics (4th c. B.C.)
  • Action is the antidote to despair. Joan Baez, in Rolling Stone (1983)
  • A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all. Georges Bernanos, “France Before the World of Tomorrow,” in The Last Essays of George Bernanos (1955)
  • Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in 1944 letter to Renate and Eberhard Bethge; reprinted in Letters and Papers from Prison (1953; Eberhard Bethge, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: This famous sentiment from Bonhoeffer has also been translated this way: “It is not the thought but readiness to take responsibility that is the mainspring of action.”

  • The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is more important than the eye. Jacob Bronowski, in The Ascent of Man (1973)

Bronowski added: “We are active; and indeed we know, as something more than a symbolic accident in the evolution of man, that it is the hand that drives the subsequent evolution of the brain. We find tools today made by man before he became man. Benjamin Franklin in 1778 called man ‘a tool-making animal’, and that is right.” (For a lovely elaboration of this thought, see the Bronowski entry under MIND).

  • A good action is never lost; it is a treasure laid up and guarded for the doer's need. Pedro Calderón de la Barca, in The Constant Prince (1629)
  • Be careful how you live your life, it is the only Gospel many people will ever read. Dom Hélder Câmara, quoted in a 1985 issue of Basta (national newsletter of the Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America; specific issue undetermined)

QUOTE NOTE: Câmara, a Brazilian Catholic priest who went on to serve as Archbishop of Olinds and Recife from 1964 to 1985, was a proponent of social justice and liberation theology. He devoted so much of his time to fighting poverty that he became known as “The Bishop of the Slums.” For more, see Hélder Câmara.

  • Every action of your life touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity. E. H. Chapin, “Advice to the Young,” in Charles W. Sanders, Sanders’ Union Fourth Reader (1873)
  • I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act. G. K. Chesterton, “On Holland,” in Generally Speaking (1928)
  • Action is the language of the body and should harmonize with the spirit within. Marcus Tullius Cicero, in De Oratore (55 B.C.)
  • He who believes is strong. he who doubts is weak. Strong convictions precede great actions. James Freeman Clarke, “Salvation by Faith,” in Common-Sense in Religion: A Series of Essays (1875)

ERROR ALERT: This observation is often mistakenly attributed to Louisa May Alcott:

QUOTE NOTE: Clarke was a prominent Unitarian minister, abolitionist, and early exponent of what went on to be called the Social Gospel. He continued: “The man strongly possessed of an idea is the master of all who are uncertain and wavering. Clear, deep living convictions rule the world.”

  • Our actions must clothe us with an immortality loathsome or glorious. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • A man’s most open actions have a secret side to them. Joseph Conrad, the character Razumov speaking, in Under Western Eyes (1911)
  • The result of a single action may spread like the circles that expand when a stone is thrown into a pond, until they touch places and people unguessed at by the person who threw the stone. Robertson Davies, “Literature and Moral Purpose” (1990), in The Merry Heart: Selections 1980-1995 (1996)
  • I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions. Dorothy Day, in The Long Loneliness (1952)
  • The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action. John Dewey, in Democracy and Education (1916)
  • Action may not always be happiness; but there is no happiness without action. Benjamin Disraeli, the General speaking, in Lothair (1870)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is often mistakenly presented as if it read may not always bring happiness.

  • There is only one proof of ability—action. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880–93)
  • The ancestor of every action is a thought. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Spiritual Laws,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • An action is the perfection and publication of thought. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Discipline,” in Nature, Addresses and Lectures (1849)
  • A man’s action is only a picture-book of his creed. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Letters and Social Aims (1876)
  • An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory. Friedrich Engels, quoted in Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975)

ERROR ALERT: There is no evidence that Engels ever said such a thing, even though the quotation appears all over the internet and in a number of respected quotation anthologies. In most cases, no source is given, but when one is provided, the Groves book is generally cited. Groves was a pioneering figure in the British Communist Party until he was expelled in 1932 for supporting Leon Trotsky over Josef Stalin. To be fair, Groves didn’t formally quote Engels, but simply asked rhetorically: “And did not wise old Frederick (sic) Engels once say: An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory?” For a thorough discussion of the erroneous Engels attribution, as well as some similar English sayings that preceded it, go to: Ounce of Action.

  • All of our actions have in their doing the seed of their undoing. Louise Erdrich, a reflection of the character Cally, in The Antelope Wife (1998)
  • Action is character. F. Scott Fitzgerald, in “Notes for The Last Tycoon” (1941)
  • Acting without thinking is like shooting without aiming. B. C. Forbes, in Forbes Epigrams: Or 1,000 Thoughts on Life (2010)
  • Action is the proper fruit of knowledge. Thomas Fuller, M.D., in Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs (1732)
  • A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle. Kahlil Gibran, in A Second Treasury of Kahlil Gibran (1962; Anthony R. Ferris, trans. & ed.)
  • Think wisely, weighing Word and Fact,/But never Think too much to Act. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)
  • In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action. Dag Hammarskjöld, in Markings (1963)
  • You must make up your mind to act decidedly and take the consequences. No good is ever done in this world by hesitation. T. H. Huxley, in letter to Anton Dohrn (Oct. 17, 1873)
  • Life is made up of constant calls to action, and we seldom have time for more than hastily contrived answers. Learned Hand, in a speech in New York City (Jan. 27, 1952)
  • Action is at bottom a swinging and flailing of the arms to regain one’s balance and keep afloat. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)

Hoffer reprised the theme in The Ordeal of Change (1964): “Action is basically a reaction against loss of balance—a flailing of the arms to to regain one’s balance. To dispose a soul to action, we must upset its equilibrium.”

  • Our acts make or mar us; we are the children of our own deeds. Victor Hugo, quoted in Henry Southgate, Things A Lady Would Like To Know (1875)

QUOTATION CAUTION: The saying, even though widely cited for more than a century, has not been found in Hugo’s works and should be used with this caveat.

  • 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. William James, “Habit,” in The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1 (1890)

James went on to add: “There is no more contemptible type of human character than that of the nerveless sentimentalist and dreamer, who spends his life in a Weltering sea of sensibility and emotion, but who never does a manly concrete deed.”

  • The smallest deed is greater than the grandest intention. Patti LaBelle, in Patti’s Pearls (2001; with Laura Randolph Lancaster)
  • Oh, words are action, good enough, if they’re the right words. D. H. Lawrence, in a letter to Rolf Gardiner (Aug. 9, 1924); reprinted in The Selected Letters of D. H. Lawrence (1997; James T. Boulton, ed.)
  • Each act is an island in time, to be judged on its own. Alan Lightman, in Einstein’s Dreams (2004)
  • I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts. John Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is often mistakenly presented as The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.

  • Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action. James Russell Lowell, in North American Review (July, 1867)
  • Action is thought made visible. Orison Swett Marden, in The Consolidated Encyclopedic Library (1903)
  • Is it really so difficult to tell a good action from a bad one? I think one usually knows right away or a moment afterward, in a horrid flash of regret. Mary McCarthy, “My Confession” (1953), in On the Contrary (1961)
  • A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty (1859)
  • Few men of action have been able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time. Malcolm Muggeridge, “Twilight of Greatness,” in The Most of Malcolm Muggeridge (1966)
  • One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit, and mean actions to fear. Friedrich Nietzsche, in Human, All Too Human (1878)
  • Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the action stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living. Anaïs Nin, a June, 1946 diary entry, in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4 (1971)
  • Dreams grow holy put in action. Adelaide Procter, “Philip and Mildred,” in The Poems of Adelaide Proctor (1869)
  • For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out. Theodore Roosevelt, in an 1898 speech in New York City

QUOTE NOTE: The notion that people, like machines, might rust out or wear out was popular by Roosevelt’s time, but the idea originated with Richard Cumberland (1631-1718), a seventeenth-century Anglican bishop. In Contending for the Faith (1786), George Horne, an Anglican cleric, quoted Cumberland as saying: “It is better to wear out than to rust out. There will be time enough for repose in the grave.”

  • Moral action is the meeting-place between the human and the divine. Leon Roth, in Jewish Thought as a Factor in Civilization (1954)
  • Some men are born committed to action: they do not have a choice, they have been thrown on a path, at the end of that path, an act awaits them, their act. Jean Paul Sartre, the character Orestes speaking, in The Flies (1943)
  • There is no reality except in action. Jean-Paul Sartre, in “Existentialism Is a Humanism” (1946 lecture); reprinted in Walter Kaufmann, Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre (1956)
  • Action is eloquence. William Shakespeare, the character Volumnia speaking, in Coriolanus (1607)

QUOTE NOTE: Volumnia, the mother of the title character, is advising Coriolanus to look humble in order to win the votes of Roman citizens. The full passage is a timeless lesson in political oratory: “In such business/Action is eloquence, and the eyes of th’ ignorant/More learned than the ears.”

  • Every act alters the soul of the doer. Oswald Spengler, in The Decline of the West (1918-22)
  • It is the mark of a good action that it appears inevitable in retrospect. Robert Louis Stevenson, “Reflections and Remarks on Human Life” (1878), reprinted in Complete Works, Vol. 26 (1924)
  • All poetry is a call to action. Amor Towles, the character Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov speaking, in A Gentleman in Moscow (2016)
  • From thinking proceeds speaking; thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous! George Washington, in letter to John Jay (Aug. 1, 1786)
  • Thought and theory must precede all action that moves to salutary purposes. Yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory. William Wordsworth, quoted in Edwin Paxton Hood, William Wordsworth: A Biography (1856)

ACTIVISM

(see also AGITATION [Social & Political] and CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE and DEMONSTRATIONS and DISSENT and MILITANCY & MILITANTS and OPPOSITION and OUTRAGE and REBELLION and PROTEST and [Protest] SONG and RESISTANCE and REVOLUTION)

  • The church…is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question” (1933), reprinted in No Rusty Swords: Letters, Lectures and Notes 1928-1936 (1965)

QUOTE NOTE: Bonhoeffer’s 1933 lecture on the need for church activism was addressed to fellow German clerics, many of whom were turning a blind eye to the anti-semitic pronouncements of the emerging Nazi party. Arguing that “The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community,” he said the church had three options. The first was to question the legitimacy of the state’s actions, the second was to provide aid to the victims, and the third was beautifully captured by his “spoke in the wheel” metaphor. That phrase became so centrally associated with Bonhoeffer that Renate Wind used it in the title of her 1992 biography: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel.

  • We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims. R. Buckminster Fuller, quoted in L. Steven Sieden, A Fuller View (2012)
  • If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircle us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake. Mohandas K. Gandhi, quoted in Young India (May 12, 1920)
  • It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion. W. R. Inge, in Outspoken Essays; First Series (1919)
  • An activist is the guy who cleans the river, not the guy who concludes it’s dirty. Ross Perot, quoted in Ken Gross, Ross Perot: The Man Behind the Myth (1992)

QUOTE NOTE: This was one of Perot’s favorite sayings, offered in slightly different ways over the years. A 1992 issue of Reader’s Digest carried the following version: “The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.”

  • Words and thoughts concerning compassionate action that are not put into practice are like beautiful flowers that are colorful but have no fragrance. Thich Nhat Hanh, in Creating True Peace (2003)
  • [Activism] pays the rent on being alive and being here on this planet. Alice Walker, in an interview with Claudia Dreifus, in The Progressive (August 1989)

QUOTE NOTE: In the interview, Dreifus asked the question “What do you get from activism?” and Walker formally began her answer by saying, “Well, it pays the rent on….” Over the years, as the quotation grew in popularity, all of the versions of the saying mistakenly had Walker actually using activism as the first word. For more on the history of the saying, see this excellent post by Garson O’Toole, aka The Quote Investigator.

ACTORS & ACTRESSES

(see also ACTING and ACTORS—ON THEMSELVES and ACTORS–DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and CINEMA & FILM and DIRECTING & DIRECTORS and STAGE and THEATER)

  • An actor’s success has the life expectancy of a small boy about to look into a gas tank with a lighted match. Fred Allen, quoted in Jon Winokur, The Portable Curmudgeon (1992)
  • For an actress to be a success, she must have the face of a Venus, the brains of a Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of a Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros. Ethel Barrymore, quoted in George Jean Nathan, The Theatre in the Fifties (1953)
  • An actor is a sculptor who carves in snow. Edwin Booth, widely ascribed, but never verified (also commonly attributed to American actor Lawrence Barrett)
  • To grasp the full significance of life is the actor's duty, to interpret it his problem, and to express it his dedication. Marlon Brando, quoted in David Shipman, Marlon Brando (1974)
  • An actor is at most a poet and at least an entertainer. Marlon Brando, quoted in G. McCann, Rebel Males: Clift, Brando, and Dean (1991)

Brando added: “You can’t be a poet by really trying hard. It’s like being charming. You can’t be charming by working at it.”

  • The movie actor, like the sacred king of primitive tribes, is a God in captivity. Alexander Chase, in Perspective (1966)
  • The real actor–like any real artist—has a direct line to the collective heart. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life: An Autobiography (1962)

Davis wasn’t nearly so kind in her assessment of the younger, sexier actresses who were beginning to make waves in Hollywood: “Some young Hollywood starlets remind me of my grandmother's old farmhouse–all painted up nice on the front side, a big swing on the backside, and nothing whatsoever in the attic.”

  • Actors are a nuisance in the earth, the very offal of society. Timothy Dwight, in An Essay on the Stage (1824)
  • Actors are often thought of as talking props. Emilio Estevez, in Film Yearbook, 1986 (1986)
  • Actors may know how to act, she said, but a lot of them don’t know how to behave. Carrie Fisher, the character Lucy speaking, in Postcards From the Edge (1987)
  • The best actors do not let the wheels show. Henry Fonda, quoted in R. A. & G. W. Nowlan, Movie Characters of Leading Performers of the Sound Era (1990)

Fonda added: “This is the hardest kind of acting, and it works only if you look as if you are not acting at all.”

  • Modesty is the artifice of actors, similar to passion in call-girls. Jackie Gleason, quoted in Jonathan Green, Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations (1994)
  • Essentially what actors do is put colors on a palette for directors to paint with. Scott Glenn, in Photoplay (1986)
  • The actor must know that since he, himself, is the instrument, he must play on it to serve the character with the same effortless dexterity with which the violinist makes music on his. Uta Hagen, in A Challenge for the Actor (1991)
  • Actor: A musician who plays on a homemade instrument—himself. Helen Hayes, quoted in a 1993 issue of Television Guide (specific issue undetermined)
  • An actor can remember his briefest notice well into senescence and long after he has forgotten his phone number and where he lives. Jean Kerr, in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1957)
  • Movie actors are just ordinary mixed-up people—with agents. Jean Kerr, the character Dirk speaking , in the play Mary, Mary (1961)
  • A struggle with shyness is in every actor more than anyone can imagine. Marilyn Monroe, quoted in Richard Meryman, “Marilyn Lets Her Hair Down About Being Famous,” Life magazine (Aug. 3, 1962)
  • In The Paradox of Acting she’d read: All actors are whores. They want only one thing: to seduce you. Joyce Carol Oates, in Blonde: A Novel (2000)

In the novel, the person reading the book is “The Blonde Actress” (think Marilyn Monroe). After reading the passage, she thinks: “If I am a whore, that explains me!”

  • The difference between being a director and being an actor is the difference between being the carpenter banging the nails into the wood, and being the piece of wood the nails are being banged into. Sean Penn, quoted in The Guardian (London; Nov. 28, 1991)
  • Insecurity, commonly regarded as a weakness in normal people, is the basic tool of the actor’s trade. Miranda Richardson, quoted in The Guardian (London; Dec. 5, 1990)
  • Actors are the jockeys of literature. Others supply the horses, the plays, and we simply make them run. Ralph Richardson, quoted in L. Shilling & L. Fuller, Dictionary of Quotations in Communication (1997)
  • The body of an actor is like a well in which experiences are stored, then tapped when needed. Simone Signoret, in J. Gruen, Close-Up (1968)
  • In the language of an actor, to know is synonymous with to feel. Konstantin Stanislavsky, in Creating a Role (1949)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is almost always presented, but it originally came in a fuller discussion of an actor’s first impressions of a script. Here’s the full passage: “Since, in the language of an actor, to know is synonymous with to feel, he should give free rein, at a first reading of a play, to his creative emotions. The more warmth of feeling and throbbing, living emotion he can put into a play at first acquaintance, the greater will be the appeal of the dry words of the text to his senses.”

  • The imagination of the actor adorns the text of the playwright with fanciful patterns and colors from his own invisible palette. Konstantin Stanislavsky, in Creating a Role (1949)
  • The actor is/A metaphysician in the dark, twanging/An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives/Sounds. Wallace Stevens, in “Of Modern Poetry,” in The Palm at the End of the Mind (1990)
  • Perhaps society should give actors the same sort of protection it gives to those who follow a religious life. Actor/priest was originally the same job. The theater is left wing magic and theology is right wing magic. Jennifer Stone, “Loners and Losers,” in Mind Over Media (1988)
  • An actor is never so great as when he reminds you of an animal—falling like a cat, lying like a dog, moving like a fox. François Truffaut, in New Yorker (Feb. 20, 1960)
  • The French philosopher Denis Diderot said that the best actor sits inside his own performance as a cool spectator of the effects he is creating in an audience. Garry Wills, in Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership (1994)

QUOTE NOTE: Wills cited Diderot’s The Paradox of Acting, written between 1773-77 and published posthumously in 1830, as the source for his observation, which should be regarded as a paraphrase rather than a direct quote. Wills added: “Such actors will sense it if an audience thinks they are playing a scene too ‘broad,’ and will rein in the effects. The actor is working at several different levels of awareness—fiery in the character’s emotions, icy in the adjustment of those emotions to the intended results in onlookers. Feigned tears must be used to elicit real tears.”

ACTORS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK

(see also ACTING and ACTORS & ACTRESSES and ACTORS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS)

  • Never go on stage without your motor running. Stella Adler, in New York Times obituary (Dec. 22, 1992)
  • It does get old to have to always be a monkey in a zoo. In the day-to-day thing to have people looking, talking, grabbing, needing something—I don't know what it’s like anymore to be anonymous. Kevin Bacon, quoted on Internet Movie Database website (www.imdb.com)
  • I am really a cat transformed into a woman. Brigitte Bardot, quoted in Tony Crawley, BéBé (1975)
  • My favorite review described me as the cinematic equivalent of junk mail. Steve Buscemi, quoted on Internet Movie Database website (www.imdb.com)
  • Stand-up is like drawing with primary colors crayons—it’s a beautiful and satisfying world—but acting is like the big box of 148. Brett Butler, comparing stand-up comedy with acting, in Mark Wyckoff, “Stand-Up Keeps Butler Sane,” Tucson Citizen (June 8, 1995)
  • Be like a duck, my mother used to tell me. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath. Michael Caine, in a publicity release for the film Deathtrap (1972)

QUOTE NOTE: It is not clear who originally authored the famous advice about ducks, but it was almost certainly not Caine’s mother. Jacob M. Braude, whose Complete Speaker’s and Toastmaster Library is legendary among platform speakers, is commonly cited as the author (“Always behave like a duck—keep calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddle like the devil beneath”), but without citation.

  • I’m the female equivalent of a counterfeit $20 bill. Half of what you see is a pretty good reproduction, the rest is a fraud. Cher, quoted in D. McClelland, Star Speak (1987)
  • Acting is the greatest answer to my loneliness that I have found. Claire Danes, quoted in Dotson Rader, “I Needed a Connection That Was Real,” in Parade magazine (Oct. 2, 2005)
  • I have always been driven by some distant music—a battle hymn no doubt—for I have been at war from the beginning. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life (1962)
  • I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work. No set goal achieved satisfies. Success only breeds a new goal. The golden apple devoured has seeds. It is endless. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life (1962)
  • My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life (1962)
  • My purpose in life does not include a hankering to charm society. James Dean, quoted in Neil Grant, James Dean: In His Own Words (1994)
  • I guess a film in which I didn’t end up in bed, in the sea, or in a hot tub, would have the same appeal as a Clint Eastwood movie in which nobody got shot. Bo Derek, in The Independent (March 25, 1995)
  • The stage might be the only place I really feel at home. I like the greasepaint, the lights, the romance of it all. Faye Dunaway, in Esquire The Meaning of Life (2004, Brendan Vaughan, ed.)

Dunaway continued: “I like going backstage. I like the ensemble: it’s the family that you’ve always wanted to have; it’s like a perfect love, a relationship that is always growing and changing and deepening.”

  • To be a character who feels a deep emotion, one must go into the memory vault and mix in a sad memory from one’s own life. Albert Finney, quoted in International Herald Tribune (Mar. 29, 1985)
  • For years people have asked if I mind being remembered as Princess Leia. I used to say no. But now I will say that it sometimes bothers me, yes. It follows me around like a little smell. Carrie Fisher, “What I’ve Learned,” in Fortune magazine (Jan. 29, 2007; originally appeared June, 2002)
  • I don’t use any particular method. I’m from the let’s pretend school of acting. Harrison Ford, in G. Shalit, Great Hollywood Wit (2003)
  • Acting in Star Wars, I felt like a raisin in a gigantic fruit salad. Mark Hamill, in Screen International (Dec., 1977)
  • I’m a whore. All actors are whores. We sell our bodies to the highest bidder. William Holden, in Nigel Rees, Cassell’s Movie Quotations (2002)
  • We in the theater are paradoxes. Our agonizing shyness is equalled only by the tremendous need for acceptance. Helen Hayes, in On Reflection: An Autobiography (1968; with Sandford Dody)
  • When people ask me about my story, I just go through the positive stuff: the tent-pole moments, the big landmark checkpoints. Shia LaBeouf, in interview on The A. V. Club (http://www.avclub.com; April 11, 2007)
  • I look at myself like a show dog. I’ve got to keep her clipped and trimmed and in good shape. Dolly Parton, in Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You (2012)
  • Norman Bates is the Hamlet of horror roles. Anthony Perkins, in Photoplay (Nov. 1986)
  • It’s hard to act in the morning. The muse isn’t even awake. Keanu Reeves, in B. Robb, Keanu Reeves (2003)
  • I can sing as well as Fred Astaire can act. Burt Reynolds, in Photoplay (April, 1976)
  • I’m not handsome in the classical sense. The eyes droop, the mouth is crooked, the teeth aren’t straight, the voice sounds like a Mafioso pallbearer, but somehow it all works. Sylvester Stallone, quoted in Jon Winokur, True Confessions (1992)
  • Working for Mr. DeMille was like playing house in the world’s most expensive department store. Gloria Swanson, on Cecil DeMille, in Swanson on Swanson (1980)
  • I dress for women and I undress for men. Mae West, in an interview with Charlotte Chandler, reported in Chandler’s book The Ultimate Seduction (1984)
  • My comedy is like emotional hang-gliding. Robin Williams, in Playboy interview (Oct., 1982)

ACTORS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS

(see also ACTING and ACTORS & ACTRESSES and ACTORS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK and INSULTS & PUT-DOWNS)

  • What Einstein was to physics, what Babe Ruth was to home runs, what Emily Post was to table manners—that’s what Edward G. Robinson was to dying like a dirty rat. Russell Baker, in There’s a Country in My Cellar (1990)
  • He moved through a movie scene like an exquisite paper knife. Heywood Broun, on John Barrymore, quoted in Leslie Halliwell, The Filmgoer’s Book of Quotes (1973)
  • This man, in words of Emerson’s, carries the holiday in his eye; he is fit to stand the gaze of millions. Stanley Cavell, on Cary Grant’s performance in the film The Awful Truth (1937), in Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (1981)

QUOTE NOTE: Cavell, an American philosopher and Harvard professor who was also a great fan of the “screwball comedies” of the 1930s, was inspired by two phrases in an essay on “Manners” that Emerson published in English Traits (1856). In describing “the creation of the gentleman” in Western society, Emerson wrote at length about the heroic properties of people who form a natural aristocracy (a “fraternity of the best,” he called them). The portion of the essay containing the phrases the holiday in his eye and fit to stand the gaze of millions may be seen at Emerson on “Manners”

  • Meryl Streep is an acting machine in the same sense that a shark is a killing machine. Cher, in Film Yearbook (1989)
  • To see him act was like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, on actor Edmund Kean, in an 1823 issue of Table-Talk
  • Joan always cries a lot. Her tear ducts must be very close to her bladder. Bette Davis, on Joan Crawford, quoted in S. Considine, Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud (1990)
  • Lana Turner is to an evening gown what Frank Lloyd Wright is to a pile of lumber. Rex Harrison, on Lana Turner, at the 1946 Academy Award ceremonies
  • There’s a lot of poetry in his face. Walter Hill, on Charles Bronson, in Photoplay (Jan., 1987)

About his own face, Bronson was quoted as saying in 1976: “I guess it looks like a rock quarry that somebody has dynamited.”

  • There is something elemental about Bette—a demon within her which threatens to break out and eat everybody, beginning with their ears. John Huston, on Bette Davis, in An Open Book (1980)
  • It’s like being bombed by water-melons. Alan Ladd, on working with Sophia Loren, quoted in Donald Zec, Sophia: An Intimate Biography (1975)
  • I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin. Oscar Levant, quoted in Max Wilk, The Wit and Wisdom of Hollywood (1972)

QUOTE NOTE: An original source for this classic oxymoronic insult has never been found, and it may simply be a variant of something Levant wrote in The Memoirs of an Amnesiac (1965): “My last picture for Warners was Romance on the High Seas. It was Doris Day’s first picture; that was before she became a virgin.”

  • A deer in the body of a woman, living resentfully in the Hollywood zoo. Clare Booth Luce, on Greta Garbo, quoted in Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Filmgoer’s Companion (1984)
  • She made voluptuousness a common American commodity as accessible as chewing gum. Lloyd Morris, on Theda Bara, in Not so Long Ago (1949)
  • She’s like a delicate fawn, crossed with a Buick. Jack Nicholson, on Jessica Lange, in Vanity Fair (Oct. 1984)
  • If they tell you that she died of sleeping pills you must know that she died of a wasting grief, of a slow bleeding at the soul. Clifford Odets, on Marilyn Monroe, in Show Magazine (Oct., 1962)
  • Working with her is like being hit over the head by a Valentine’s Day card. Christopher Plummer, on Julie Andrews, his The Sound of Music co-star, in L. Halliwell, The Filmgoer’s Book of Quotes (1973)

A less flattering observation about Andrews, anonymously authored, was also offered around the same time that Plummer made his remark: “Julie Andrews is like a nun with a switchblade.”

  • A vacuum with nipples. Otto Preminger, on Marilyn Monroe, in J. R. Colombo, Popcorn in Paradise (1980)
  • A graduate of the Mount Rushmore School of Acting. Edgar G. Robinson, on Charlton Heston, in Nigel Rees, Cassell’s Movie Quotations (2002)

QUOTE NOTE: A similar remark has been made of many actors, including Clint Eastwood. Usually these “school of acting” references are insulting, but they can sometimes be charming. In the 1950 film All About Eve, Marilyn Monroe made her screen debut as the ingénue Claudia Casswell. At a party, she is introduced by George Sanders, as critic Addison De Witt, this way: “Miss Casswell is an actress, a graduate of the Copacabana School of the Dramatic Arts.”

  • Tony Randall was the Laurence Olivier of light comic actors. Tom Shales, in Washington Post (May, 5, 2004)
  • A fellow with the inventiveness of Albert Einstein but with the attention span of Daffy Duck. Tom Shales, on Robin Williams, quoted in C. Jarman, The Book of Poisonous Quotes (1993)
  • It seems to me you lived your life/like a candle in the wind. Bernie Taupin, on Marilyn Monroe, lyric in the 1973 song “Candle in the Wind” (music by Elton John)
  • It has been said that she died in harness. That expression of a plodder overtaken by death is inadequate for so gallant, so defiantly twinkling an exit. She was a boat that went to the bottom with its orchestra playing gaily. Alexander Woollcott, on Sarah Bernhardt, “Bernhardt,” in The Portable Woollcott (1946)
  • Even her eyelashes acted. Virginia Woolf, on Ellen Terry, in The Moment (1947)

ADAGE

(see APHORISMS)

ADAM & EVE

(see also MALE-FEMALE DYNAMICS and MEN & WOMEN)

  • Imagination seems to be a glory and a misery, a blessing and a curse. Adam, to his sorrow, lacked it. Eve, to her sorrow, possessed it. Had both been blessed—or cursed—with it, there would have been much keener competition for the apple. Stella Benson, the voice of the narrator, in I Pose (1915)
  • It wasn’t sin that was born on the day Eve picked her apple: what was born that day was a splendid virtue called disobedience. Oriana Fallaci, a reflection of the unnamed narrator, in the heavily autobiographical Letter to a Child Never Born: A Novel (1975)
  • Ever since Eve gave Adam the apple, there has been a misunderstanding between the sexes about gifts. Nan Robertson, in a column on Christmas shopping (“‘Misunderstood’ Men Offer Words on Gifts; Most Bought Presents”), in The New York Times (Nov. 28, 1957).

ADAPTATION & ADAPTABILITY

(see also ADJUSTMENT and ALTERATION and CHANGE and GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT and PROGRESS)

  • Adaptability is the simple secret of survival. Jessica Hagedorn, in Dogeaters: A Novel (1990)
  • We human beings cause monstrous conditions, but precisely because we cause them we soon learn to adapt ourselves to them. Only if we become such that we can no longer adapt ourselves, only if, deep inside, we rebel against every kind of evil, will we be able to put a stop to it. Etty Hillesum, in An Interrupted Life (1983)

Hillesum went on to add: “While everything within us does not yet scream out in protest, so long will we find ways of adapting ourselves, and the horrors will continue.”

  • If one is willing to adapt, the darkness offers a place to step beyond the known edge and explore, a place of silence and sound, a place both unpopulated and populous, filled with things we may not see by day. Cathy Johnson, in The Nocturnal Naturalist: Exploring the Outdoors at Night (1989)
  • Happiness for the average person may be said to flow largely from common sense—adapting oneself to circumstances—and a sense of humor. Beatrice Lillie, in Every Other Inch a Lady (1972)
  • Unadaptability is often a virtue. Flannery O'Connor, a 1957 remark, in The Habit of Being (1979; Sally Fitzgerald, ed.)
  • Nearly all great civilizations that perished did so because they had crystallized, because they were incapable of adapting themselves to new conditions, new methods, new points of view. It is as though people would literally rather die than change. Eleanor Roosevelt, in Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
  • The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw, in Maxims for Revolutionists (1903)
  • Adapt or perish, now as ever, is Nature’s inexorable imperative. H. G. Wells, in Mind at the End of Its Tether (1945)

ADDICTS & ADDICTION

(see also ALCOHOL & ALCOHOLISM and COCAINE and DRINKING & DRUNKENNESS and DRUGS and LIQUOR and MARIJUANA and RECOVERY)

  • Of all the tyrannies which have usurped power over humanity, few have been able to enslave the mind and body as imperiously as drug addiction. Freda Adler, in Sisters in Crime (1975)
  • A junkie is someone who uses their body to tell society that something is wrong. Stella Adler

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of Adler’s most widely quoted observations (sometimes with addict replacing the word junkie), but it has never been verified. When I contacted the Stella Adler School of Acting in 2012, a spokesperson considered the quotation authentic, and surmised that Adler first offered it in one of her acting classes.

  • Every habit he’s ever had is still there in his body, lying dormant like flowers in the desert. Given the right conditions, all his old addictions would burst into full and luxuriant bloom. Margaret Atwood, describing the character Snowman, in Oryx and Crake (2004)
  • All sin tends to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is what is called damnation. W. H. Auden, in A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (1970)
  • I’m extremely skeptical of the “language of addiction.” I never saw heroin or cocaine as “my illness.” I saw them as some very bad choices that I walked knowingly into. I fucked myself—and, eventually, had to work hard to get myself un-fucked. Anthony Bourdain, in Medium Raw (2010)
  • The priority of any addict is to anesthetize the pain of living to ease the passage of day with some purchased relief. Russell Brand, in a 2011 blog post about the death of Amy Winehouse (NOTE: in his post, Brand used the British spelling: anaesthetise)
  • I’ll die young, but it’s like kissing God. Lenny Bruce, on his heroin use, quoted in Richard Neville, Play Power: Exploring the International Underground (1970)

QUOTE NOTE: No original source for this legendary quotation has ever been found, and its appearance in Neville’s book is one of the earliest (if not the earliest) print citations. Neville told master quotation researcher Bob Deis that he did not personally hear Bruce make the remark, adding “I can’t recall the first time I heard it, though I do remember the saying being quoted in the London OZ office in the late Sixties.” For more on the quote, go to: Kissing God.

  • A dope fiend is a man in total need of dope. Beyond a certain frequency, need knows absolutely no limit or control. In the words of total need: Wouldn’t you? Yes you would. You would lie, cheat, inform on your friends, steal, do anything to satisfy total need. William S. Burroughs, a reflection of narrator William Lee, in The Naked Lunch (1959)

Burroughs preceded the thought by writing: “The face of ‘evil’ is always the face of total need.”

  • Junk is the ideal product…the ultimate merchandise [ellipsis in original]. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy. William S. Burroughs, narrator William Lee speaking, in The Naked Lunch (1959)

Burroughs, who used the term junk for heroin, continued with this oft-quoted example of chiasmus: “The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product.”

  • Dope fiends are sick people who cannot act other than they do. A rabid dog cannot choose but bite. William S. Burroughs, narrator William Lee speaking, in The Naked Lunch (1959)
  • You become a narcotics addict because you do not have strong motivations in any other direction. Junk wins by default. William S. Burroughs, in Junky (1977)
  • Corporations are addicted to profit and governments to power. Helen Caldicott, in If You Love This Planet (1992)
  • To be an addict is to be something of a cognitive acrobat. You spread versions of yourself around, giving each person the truth he or she needs—you need, actually—to keep them at a remove. David Carr, “Me and My Girls,” in The New York Times Magazine (July 20, 2008)

QUOTE NOTE: The article is Carr’s brutally honest—and even emotionally riveting—account of his struggle with addiction and alcoholism, told more fully in the book The Night of the Gun (2008). After his recovery, Carr went on to become a respected and influential culture reporter and media columnist for the Times. Here are the opening paragraphs of his powerful piece:

“Where does a junkie’s time go? Mostly in 15-minute increments, like a bug-eyed Tarzan, swinging from hit to hit. For months on end in 1988, I sat inside a house in north Minneapolis, doing coke and listening to Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ and finding my own pathetic resonance in the lyrics. ‘Any place is better,’ she sang. ‘Starting from zero, got nothing to lose.’

After shooting or smoking a large dose, there would be the tweaking and a vigil at the front window, pulling up the corner of the blinds to look for the squads I was always convinced were on their way. All day. All night. A frantic kind of boring. End-stage addiction is mostly about waiting for the police, or someone, to come and bury you in your shame.” The full article may be seen at: “Me and My Girls”.

  • Sometimes people who need help look nothing like people who need help. Glennon Doyle Melton, in Carry On Warrior (2013)

Doyle Melton was thinking about herself in this observation, writing, “I was what they call a ‘highly functional addict.’”

  • I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere. Carrie Fisher, a diary entry of protagonist Suzanne Vale during her fifth day in detox, in Postcards From the Edge (1987)

Vale preceded the thought by writing: “The positive way to look at this is that from here things can only go up. But I’ve been up, and I always feel like a trespasser. A transient at the top. It’s like I’ve got a visa for happiness, but for sadness I’ve got a lifetime pass.”

  • I was into pain reduction and mind expansion, but what I’ve ended up with is pain expansion and mind reduction. Carrie Fisher, a diary entry of protagonist Suzanne Vale during her seventh day in detox, in Postcards From the Edge (1987)

Vale added: “Everything hurts now, and nothing makes sense.”

  • Saying you’re an alcoholic and an addict is like saying you’re from Los Angeles and from California. Carrie Fisher, in Wishful Drinking (2008)
  • Junkies are at the top of the crazy chain. Michael Thomas Ford, in Suicide Notes: A Novel (2010)
  • Addiction is the disease of our age. It is cunning and powerful. It proceeds from our chronic spiritual hunger and is nourished by our focus on getting and spending, and on news and gossip outside ourselves. Erica Jong, in Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir (1994)

Jong continued: “Everything we need is happening within us. The focus on reports of others is only a distraction from the needs of our own spirit. Addiction grows fat from our chronic quashing of the inner life. We believe the spiritual does not exist because we have made insufficient space for it to manifest in our lives.”

  • Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine, or idealism. Carl Jung, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963)
  • There’s an image I’ve heard people in recovery use—that getting all of one’s addictions under control is a little like putting an octopus to bed. Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994)
  • Trying to reason with an addict was like trying to blow out a lightbulb. Anne Lamott, in Imperfect Birds (2010)
  • While susceptibility varies, addiction can happen to any of us, through a subtle process where the bonds of degradation are too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. Charlie Munger, in “How to Guarantee a Life of Misery,” a commencement speech to The Harvard School for Boys (Los Angeles, California; June 13, 1986)
  • Imagine everything feeling wrong. Imagine a hole in your chest the size of God. Amy Reed, the words of a character attempting to describe addiction, in Clean (2011)

ADJECTIVES

(see PARTS OF SPEECH)

ADMIRATION

(see also APPLAUSE and APPRECIATION and AWE and PRAISE and RECOGNITION)

  • Admiration is a very short-lived passion, that immediately decays upon growing familiar with its object. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (Dec. 24, 1711)

QUOTE NOTE: In what I have always regarded as an important insight into relationships, Addison added that admiration will decay “unless it be still fed with fresh discoveries, and kept alive by a new perpetual succession of miracles rising up to its view.”

  • Between flattery and admiration there often flows a river of contempt. Minna Antrim, in Naked Truth and Veiled Allusions (1901)
  • A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment. Jane Austen, the character Mr. Darcy speaking, in Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • A fool can always find a greater fool to admire him. Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, in L’Art Poétique (1674)
  • Example has more followers than reason. We unconsciously imitate what pleases us, and insensibly approximate to the characters we most admire. Christian Nestell Bovee, in Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Vol. II (1862)
  • Some people are molded by their admirations, others by their hostilities. Elizabeth Bowen, the voice of the narrator, in The Death of the Heart (1938)
  • The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring. And that is not happiness. F. H. Bradley, in Aphorisms (1930)
  • No nobler feeling than this, of admiration for one higher than himself, dwells in the breast of man. It is to this hour, and at all hours, the vivifying influence in man's life. Thomas Carlyle, “The Hero as Divinity,” in Heroes and Hero-Worship (1840)
  • One may have staunch friends in one’s own family, but one seldom has admirers. Willa Cather, the voice of the narrator, in The Song of the Lark (1915)
  • Ignorance is the mother of admiration. George Chapman, in The Widow’s Tears (1612)
  • Admiration, like love, wears out. Luc de Clapiers (Marquis de Vauvenargues), in Reflections and Maxims (1746)
  • To cease to admire is a proof of deterioration. Charles Horton Cooley, in Human Nature and the Social Order (1902)
  • It is not enough to become admired, one must also be forgiven for it. Comtesse Diane, in Les Glanes de la Vie (1898)
  • Admiration is the daughter of ignorance. Thomas Fuller, in The Holy and Profane State (1642)

ERROR ALERT: The saying is often misattributed to Benjamin Franklin, who presented the observation without attribution in a 1736 issue of Poor Richard’s Almanack.

  • Those who are formed to win general admiration, are seldom calculated to bestow individual happiness. Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington), in Desultory Thoughts and Reflections (1839)
  • To love is to admire with the heart; to admire is to love with the mind. Théophile Gautier, quoted in Frederick W. Morton, Love in Epigram, (1899)
  • Children need admiration rather than affection. Celia Green, in Advice to Clever Children (1981)
  • Though familiarity may not breed contempt, it takes off the edge of admiration. William Hazlitt, in Characteristics (1823)

QUOTE NOTE: The meaning of this altered aphorism is clear, even if it does have a somewhat awkward phrasing. Many books and internet sites have changed the original wording to make it read: “…it takes the edge off of admiration.”

  • There’s nothing makes you admire people like seeing yourself in them. Victoria Holt, the character Ben Henniker speaking, in The Pride of the Peacock (1976)
  • You can’t ever be really free if you admire somebody too much. Tove Jansson, the character Shufkin speaking, in Tales From Moominvalley (1963)
  • By simple definition, a hero is someone we can admire without apology. Kitty Kelley, “An 80-Year Hitting Streak,” The New York Times (Feb. 25, 1995)
  • Americans respect talent only insofar as it leads to fame, and we reserve our most fervent admiration for famous people who destroy their lives as well as their talent. Florence King, in Lump It Or Leave It (1990)

King continued: “The fatal flaws of Elvis, Judy, and Marilyn register much higher on our national applause meter than their living achievements. In America, talent is merely a tool for becoming famous in life so you can become more famous in death— where all are equal.”

  • I have always been an admirer. I regard the gift of admiration to be, by all odds, the most indispensable for self-improvement. Frankly, I cannot imagine where I would now be without it. Thomas Mann, in a 1950 letter to Hans Mater, quoted in André Von Gronicka, Thomas Mann: Profile and Perspectives (1970)
  • A mixture of admiration and pity is one of the surest recipes for affection. André Maurois, in Ariel: The Live of Shelley (1923)
  • I always wish to find great virtues where there are great talents, and to love what I admire. Elizabeth Montagu in a 1774 letter, quoted in Anna Letitia Le Breton, Memoir of Mrs. Barbauld (1874)
  • Is admiration simply a refined form of envy? Hart Pomerantz, in a personal communication (June 29, 2019)
  • Fools admire, but men of sense approve. Alexander Pope, in An Essay on Criticism (1711)
  • You always admire what you really don't understand. Eleanor Roosevelt, in a 1956 appearance of NBC-TV's Meet the Press (specific date undetermined)
  • Admiration and familiarity are strangers. George Sand, quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Edge-Tools of Speech (1886)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This quotation has not been found in Sand’s works.

  • Admiration is one of the chief delights of living. Florida Scott-Maxwell, in The Measure of My Days (1968)
  • We admire people to the extent that we cannot explain what they do, and the word “admire” then means “marvel at.” B. F. Skinner, in Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1972)
  • The modern world is not given to uncritical admiration. It expects its idols to have feet of clay, and can be reasonably sure that press and camera will report their exact dimensions. Barbara Ward, “First Lady, First Person,” in a 1961 issue of The Saturday Review (specific issue undetermined)

ADOLESCENCE

(see also AGE & AGING and CHILDREN & CHILDHOOD and FAMILY and TEENAGER and PUBERTY and YOUTH and YOUTH & AGE)

  • Adolescence is society’s permission slip for combining physical maturity with psychological irresponsibility. Terri Apter, in Altered Loves: Mothers and Daughters During Adolescence (1990)

QUOTE NOTE: A bit earlier. Apter had written: “One of the main tasks of adolescence is to achieve an identity—not necessarily a knowledge of who we are, but a clarification of the range of what we might become, a set of self-references by which we can make sense of our responses, and justify our decisions and goals.”

  • Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough. Author Unknown, quoted in his syndicated “It Happened Last Night” column (June, 1955)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites attribute this quotation directly to Wilson, but in his column, he presented the quotation under the heading: “Wish I’d Said That.”

  • When they reach the age of fifteen and their beauty arrives, it’s very exciting—like coming into an inheritance. Eve Babitz, “The Sheik,” in Eve’s Hollywood (1974)

Babitz, who was talking about the adolescent daughters of Hollywood’s elite, added: “And, as with inheritances, it’s fun to be around when they first come into the money and watch how they spend it and on what.”

  • As I vaguely recalled from my own experience, adolescence was a time when you firmly believed that sex hadn’t been invented until the year you started high school, when the very idea that anything interesting might have happened during your parents’ lifetime was unthinkable. Russell Baker, “Life with Mother,” in William Zinsser, Inventing the Truth (1987)
  • Young children grow, but adolescents change—and change is confusing. It confuses the sprouting adolescent to wake up every morning in a new body. It confuses the mother and father to find a new child every day in a familiar body—a child contumelious of the things that yesterday’s child wanted, a child with a different rhythm of living, a child who talks knowingly about things that yesterday’s child never heard of. Donald Barr, in Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? Dilemmas in American Education Today (1971)

Barr continued: “By and large adolescents welcome their own confusion because it affords them a sort of argumentative freedom of action.”

QUOTE NOTE: If the word contumelious is unfamiliar to you, you have lots of company. The American Heritage Dictionary lists it as an adjective for the noun contumely, which they define as “Rudeness or contempt arising from arrogance; insolence.”

  • Adolescence goes to at least the age of 49. Alan Berman, in Adolescent Suicide (1991)
  • Young birds on their first flight. Georges Bernanos, on adolescence, in The Diary of a Country Priest (1936)

QUOTE NOTE: I found this wonderful phrase in a slightly longer passage that went this way: “What a cunning mixture of sentiment, pity, tenderness, irony surrounds adolescence, what knowing watchfulness! Young birds on their first flight are hardly so hovered around.”

  • Adolescence is just one big walking pimple. Carol Burnett, on The Phil Donahue Show (Oct. 16, 1986)
  • Adolescence is the time when even the dullest clod knows that he possesses a soul and the genius that he lives in a perpetual adolescence. Raymond B. Cattell, in An Introduction to Personality (1950)
  • You don’t have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone. John Ciardi, in Saturday Review (Fall, 1962)
  • I have always pondered a tragic law of adolescence. (On second thought, the law probably applies to all ages to some extent). That law: People fall in love at the same time—often at the same stunning moment—but they fall out of love at different times. One is left sadly juggling the pieces of a fractured heart while the other has danced away. Robert Cormier, in Introduction to Eight Plus One: Stories (1991)

Cormier opened his Introduction with these words: “The transient quality of adolescence and the emotional debris accumulated by adolescents along the way has always fascinated me. Not merely as an observer. I have carried my own emotional luggage from those adolescent years for a long long time.”

  • Adolescence is to life what baking powder is to cake. (And it’s better to have too much than too little). Marcelene Cox, in a 1946 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal (date not determined)
  • It is a jesting universe where the longing for first romance couples with acne. Gwen Davis, in How to Survive in Suburbia When Your Heart’s in the Himalayas (1976)
  • Mope—Hope—Grope. Maxine Davis, her characterization of adolescence, in The Lost Generation: A Portrait of American Youth Today (1936)
  • All the best human impulses can be traced back to adolescence. Helene Deutsch, in Confrontations With Myself: An Epilogue (1973)
  • You have a wonderful child. Then, when he’s thirteen, gremlins carry him away and leave in his place a stranger who gives you not a moment’s peace. You have to hang in there, because two or three years later, the gremlins will return your child, and he will be wonderful again. Jill Eikenberry, “On Raising Teenagers,” in Parade magazine (July 12, 1987)
  • With any child entering adolescence, one hunts for signs of health, is desperate for the smallest indication that the child’s problems will never be important enough for a television movie. Delia Ephron, in Funny Sauce (1986)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Delia Ephron’s elder sister, Nora.

  • At sixteen I was stupid, confused and indecisive. At twenty-five I was wise, self-confident, prepossessing, and assertive. At forty-five I am stupid, confused, insecure, and indecisive. Who would have supposed that maturity is only a short break in adolescence? Jules Feiffer, self-dialogue in a Feiffer cartoon; quoted in The Observer (London; Feb. 3, 1974)
  • Adolescents often behave much like members of an old-fashioned aristocracy. They maintain private rituals, which they often do not really understand themselves. They are extremely conservative in their dress and tastes, but the conventions to which they adhere are purely those of their own social group; they try to ignore the norms of the larger society if these conflict with their own. Edgar Z. Friedenberg, in The Vanishing Adolescent (1959)

Friedenberg continued: “They can be extravagantly generous and extravagantly cruel, but rarely petty or conniving. Their virtues are courage and loyalty; while even the necessity for even a moderate degree of compromise humiliates them greatly. They tend to be pugnacious and quarrelsome about what they believe to be their rights, but naive and reckless in defending them. They are shy, but not modest. If they become very anxious they are likely to behave eccentrically, to withdraw, or to attack with some brutality; they are less likely to blend themselves innocuously into the environment with an apologetic smile. They are honest on occasions when even a stupid adult would have better sense.”

  • Human life is a continuous thread which each of us spins to his own pattern, rich and complex in meaning. There are no natural knots in it. Yet knots form, nearly always in adolescence. Edgar Z. Friedenberg, in Coming of Age in America (1963)
  • Adolescence is located in the foothills of Jackass Mountain. William Fuerste, in a personal communication to Robert Byrne; quoted in Byrne’s The 2,548 Wittiest Things Ever Said (2012)
  • The conveyer belt that transported adolescents into adulthood has broken down. Dr. Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., quoted in Peg Tyre, “Bringing Up Adultolescents”, Newsweek magazine (March 25, 2002)

Tyre’s article introduced the portmanteau word adultolescent to American culture. Her piece was based on the growing number of young adults between ages 25–34 who were still living with their parents (nearly four million, according to 2000 Census data). The week before Tyre’s article appeared, an online job-search firm (MonsterTRAK.com) reported that 60 percent of college students surveyed said they planned to live at home after graduation, with more than one in five estimating that they were likely to remain in their childhood homes for more than a year. Furstenberg, a University of Pennsylvania sociologist, had been awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant to study the phenomenon.

  • Adolescence isn’t a training ground for adulthood now; it is a holding pattern for aging youth. Ellen Goodman, in At Large (1981)
  • Instinct told her that childhood’s garden had been barred and there was no return. In some measure this simple truth is known to every adolescent. Bertita Harding, the narrator describing a realization on the part of the title character, in Farewell ’Toinette: A Footnote to History (1938)
  • Adolescence is the period of life when we first become obsessed with trying to prove we are not a child—an obsession that can last a lifetime. Cullen Hightower, in Wit Kit (1983)
  • We carry adolescence around in our bodies all our lives. Garrison Keillor, in The Book of Guys (1993)

Keillor continued: “We get through the Car Crash Age alive and cruise through our early twenties as cool dudes, wily, dashing, winsome, wearing white socks and black loafers, saying incredibly witty things, shooting baskets, the breeze, the moon, and then we try to become caring men, good husbands, great fathers, good citizens, despite the fact that guys are fundamentally unfaithful.”

  • The rich loam of adolescence—a time of constant crisis and ceaseless calamity—beckons writers to till and retill youthful memories; “just like a criminal; goes back to the place of his crime,” said Isaac Beshevis Singer. Ralph Keyes, in The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear (1995)
  • Adolescence is a kind of emotional seasickness. Both are funny, but only in retrospect. Arthur Koestler, in Arrow in the Blue: An Autobiography, Vol. 1 (1952)

Koestler continued: “The youth of sixteen that I was with the plastered-down hair and the fatuous smirk, at once arrogant and sheepish, was emotionally seasick: greedy for pleasure, haunted by guilt, torn between feelings of inferiority and superiority, between the need for contemplative solitude and the frustrated urge for gregariousness and play.”

  • Children from ten to twenty don’t want to be understood. Their whole ambition is to feel strange and alien and misinterpreted so that they can live austerely in some stone tower of adolescence, their privacies unviolated. Phyllis McGinley, “New Year and No Resolutions,” in Merry Christmas, Happy New Year (1958)
  • It is too often the case to be a mere accident that men who become eminent for wide compass of understanding and penetrating comprehension, are in their adolescence unsettled and desultory. John Morley, “Edmund Burke,” in Encyclopaedia Britannica (1876)
  • Adolescence is a twentieth-century invention most parents approach with dread and look back on with the relief of survivors. Faye Moskowitz, in A Leak in the Heart: Tales From a Woman’s Life (1985)
  • O Adolescence, O Adolescence,/I wince before thine incandescence./Thy constitution young and hearty/Is too much for this aged party. Ogden Nash, “Tarkington, Thou Should’st Be Living in This Hour,” in The New Yorker magazine (Sep. 20, 1947); reprinted in Versus (1949)

QUOTE NOTE: These are the opening lines of Nash’s poetic reflection on life with his own teenage children. The title of the poem is borrowed from the first line of William Wordsworth’s 1802 poem “London, 1802,” which begins: “Milton, thou should’st be living at this hour.” Nash’s poem may also be seen as an admiring nod to Booth Tarkington’s portrayal of adolescent psychology in his bestselling 1916 novel Seventeen: A Tale of Youth and Summer Time and the Baxter Family, Especially William.

  • Adolescence is like cactus. Anaïs Nin, the character Lillian speaking, in Seduction of the Minotaur (1961; orig. pub. as Solar Barque in 1958)
  • The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise. Alden Nowlan, in “Scratchings“ (1971)
  • The ripeness of adolescence is prodigal in pleasures, skittish, and in need of a bridle. Plutarch, “The Education of Children,” in Moralia (c. 100 A.D.)
  • I remember adolescence, the years of having the impulse control of a mousetrap, of being as private as a safe-deposit box. Anna Quindlen, “Mom, Dad, and Abortion,” in The New York Times (July 1, 1990), reprinted in Thinking Out Loud (1993)
  • Adolescence is a tough time for parent and child alike. It is a time between: between childhood and maturity, between parental protection and personal responsibility, between life stage-managed by grown-ups and life privately held. Anna Quindlen, “Parental Rites,” in The New York Times (Sep. 25, 1991); reprinted in Thinking Out Loud (1993)
  • The transformation into a werewolf in particular is a metaphor for adolescence and the sexual transformation of a child. Anne Rice, in an interview in Lightspeed magazine (June, 2012)

Rice continued: “You have a basically neuter-gender person who’s on an equal footing with all other neuter-gender people, and then suddenly adolescence comes and one child turns into a woman, another child turns into a man, both experience sexuality, and sexuality really turns their world upside down.”

  • So much of adolescence is an ill-defined dying,/An intolerable waiting,/A longing for another place and time,/Another condition. Theodore Roethke, “I’m Here,” in The Collected Verse of Theodore Rothke (1961)
  • The end of adolescence is the beginning of adulthood. What hasn’t been finished then will have to be finished later. Virginia Satir, in The New Peoplemaking (1988)

Satir preceded the observation by writing: “I feel that adolescence has served its purpose when a person arrives at adulthood with a strong sense of self-esteem, the ability to relate intimately, to communicate congruently, to take responsibility, and to take risks.”

  • Adolescents are like cockroaches: They come out the minute you leave town, crawl the walls, feed indiscriminately, reproduce alarmingly unless drugged, and will certainly outlast you. Gail Sheehy, in Spirit of Survival (1986)
  • Parental trust is extremely important in the guidance of adolescent children as they get further and further away from the direct supervision of their parents and teachers. I don’t mean that trust without clear guidance is enough, but guidance without trust is worthless. Benjamin Spock, in Raising Children in a Difficult Time (1985)
  • In no order of things is adolescence a time of the simple life. Janet Erskine Stuart, quoted in Maud Monahan, Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart (1922)

Stuart went on to say about adolescents: “When we recommend the simple life to them, it is quite useless, for it is not understood.”

  • Although I was well past my teenage troubles, our music was specifically designed to lubricate the passage from adolescence to adulthood. Pete Townshend, quoted in BBC News: World Edition (Jan. 12, 2003)
  • Many of us are done with adolescence before we are done with adolescent love. Judith Viorst, in Necessary Losses (1986)
  • A normal adolescent isn’t a normal adolescent if he acts normal. Judith Viorst, in Necessary Losses (1986). Also an example of oxymoronica.

ADULTS & ADULTHOOD

(see also ADOLESCENCE and AGE & AGING and AGE & AGING—MIDDLE AGE and AGE & AGING—OLD AGE and AGE & AGING—SPECIFIC AGES & DECADES and CHILDREN & CHILDHOOD and IMMATURITY and MATURITY and YOUTH and YOUTH & AGE)

  • When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults and they enter society, one of the politer names for hell. That is why we dread children, even if we love them. They show us the state of our decay. Brian Aldiss, in The Guardian (Manchester; Dec. 31, 1971)
  • Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up. Erica Bauermeister, Sara’s father speaking, repeating the motto of a kinetic sculpture race they are competing in, in Joy for Beginners (2011)
  • What is an adult? A child blown up by age. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Woman Destroyed (1967)
  • The value of marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults. Peter De Vries, the voice of the unnamed narrator, in The Tunnel of Love (1954). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Adults are just obsolete children. Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), quoted in Thomas Fensch, Of Sneetches and Whos and the Good Dr. Seuss: Essays on the Writings and Life of Theodor Geisel (1997)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation almost always appears, but the full quotation reflected Geisel’s strong preference in favor of writing for children instead of adults: “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”

  • We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice—that is, until we have stopped saying “It got lost,” and say, “I lost it.” Sydney J. Harris, in On the Contrary (1962)
  • A boy becomes an adult three years before his parents think he does, and about two years after he thinks he does. Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, in remarks to the press (Dec. 30, 1951)

QUOTE NOTE: General Hershey, the Director of Selective Service at the time, was making remarks about the maturity of teenage boys who were approaching military draft age.

  • The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise. Alden Nowlan, in “Scratchings“ (1971)
  • To be adult is to be alone. Jean Rostand, in Pensées d’un Biologiste [Thoughts of a Biologist] (1939)
  • A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong. Thomas Szasz, “Childhood,” in The Second Sin (1973)

ADULTERY

(see INFIDELITY)

ADVANCES & ADVANCEMENT

(see also IMPROVEMENT and PROGRESS and PROMOTION)

  • A thousand things advance, nine hundred and ninety-eight retreat: this is progress. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, entry in Journal Intime (Oct. 4, 1873)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly say “nine-hundred and ninety-nine.”

  • Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. John Dewey, in The Quest for Certainty (1929)
  • Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Arthur C. Clarke, “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination,” in Profiles of the Future (1962)

QUOTE NOTE: This is commonly referred to as “Clarke’s Third Law.” For all three, as well as the story behind them, go to: Clarke’s Three Laws.

  • If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in address at the 4th Annual Republican Women’s National Conference, Washington, D.C. (March, 6, 1956)
  • The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery. Erik H. Erikson, in Childhood and Society (1950)
  • I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance. Seth Godin, in Poke the Box (2011)
  • The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human race has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced. Victor Hugo, the old revolutionary speaking, in Les Misérables (1862)
  • All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance. Edward Gibbon, in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. VI (1788)
  • It is, however, reasonable to have perfection in our eye; that we may always advance towards it, though we know it never can be reached. Samuel Johnson, in The Adventurer (Aug. 28, 1753)
  • Poets are always the advance guard of literature; the advance guard of life. It is for this reason that their recognition comes so slowly. Amy Lowell, in Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (1917)

Lowell preceded the thought by writing: “Poetry, far more than fiction, reveals the soul of humanity.”

  • Walks. The body advances, while the mind flutters around it like a bird. Jules Renard, a December 1907 journal entry, in The Journals of Jules Renard (1964; Louise Bogan & Elizabeth Roget, eds.)
  • When natural inclination develops into a passionate desire, one advances towards his goal in seven-league boots. Nikola Tesla, in My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla (1919)
  • The defining moments in our lives often don’t come with advance warning. Sally Yates, in Class Day speech at Harvard Law School (May 24, 2017)

ADVENTURE

(see also DANGER and DISCOVERY and EXCITEMENT and EXPLORATION and RISKS & RISK-TAKING and THRILLS & THRILL-SEEKING)

  • People often ask me where they might go to find adventure. Adventure is not something you must travel to find, I tell them, it’s something you take with you. Diane Ackerman, “Worlds Within Worlds,” in The New York Times (Dec. 17, 1995)
  • Adventure is just bad planning. Roald Amundsen, quoted in Adrian Raeside. Return to Antarctica (2009)
  • Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons. Sarah Ban Breathnach, in Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy (1995)
  • Never forget that Life can only be nobly inspired and rightly lived if you take it bravely, gallantly, as a splendid Adventure, in which you are setting out into an unknown country, to face many a danger, to meet many a joy, to find many a comrade, to win and lose many a battle. Annie Besant, quoted in a 1924 article in The Theosophist (specific date undetermined)
  • The adventurer is within us, and he contests for our favor with the social man we are obliged to be. These two sorts of life are incompatible; one we hanker after, the other we are obliged to. There is no other conflict so deep and bitter as this. William Bolitho, in Introduction to Twelve Against the Gods (1929)

Later in the book, Bolitho wrote on the subject: “An adventure differs from a mere feat in that it is tied to the eternally unattainable. Only one end of the rope is in the hand, the other is not visible, and neither prayers, not daring, nor reason can shake it free.”

  • One of the inescapable encumbrances of leading an interesting life is that there have to be moments when you almost lose it. Jimmy Buffett, in A Pirate Looks at Fifty (1998)
  • The great object in life is Sensation—to feel that we exist, even though in pain; it is this “craving void” which drives us to gaming, to battle, to travel, to intemperate but keenly felt pursuits of every description whose principal attraction is the agitation inseparable from their accomplishment. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), in letter to Annabella Millbanke, later Lady Byron (Sep. 6, 1813)

QUOTE NOTE: Byron borrowed the term craving void from Alexander Pope, who introduced it in the poem Eloisa to Abelard (c. 1716). In the throes of love (“Oh happy state!” according to Pope), two souls are drawn so close together that “All then is full” and “No craving void is left aching [aking in the original] in the breast.”)

  • A little tumult, now and then, is an agreeable quickener of sensation; such as a revolution, a battle, or an adventure of any lively description. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), journal entry (Nov. 22, 1813)
  • An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. G. K. Chesterton, “On Running After One’s Hat,” in All Things Considered (1908). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Adventure is the champagne of life, but I prefer my adventures and my champagne dry. G. K. Chesterton, in A Shilling for My Thoughts (1916)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites present only the first portion of the quotation, failing to accurately capture Chesterton’s full thought.

  • A task, any task, undertaken in an adventurous spirit acquires the merit of romance. Joseph Conrad, in A Personal Record (1912)

QUOTE NOTE: Conrad was specifically referring to the adventurous spirit of the English people, but his observation applies to all people.

  • We pay for security with boredom, for adventure with bother. Peter De Vries, the protagonist Chick Swallow speaking, in Comfort Me With Apples (1956)
  • An adventure is when you know where you’re going but you don’t know what you will find when you get there. Brad and Martha Lynne Dixon, in personal communication to the compiler (Dec. 2, 2018)
  • Adventure must be held in delicate fingers. It should be handled, not embraced. It should be sipped, not swallowed at a gulp. Ashley Dukes, the Nobleman speaking, in The Man with a Load of Mischief (1924)
  • Hooray for the last grand adventure! I wish I had won but it was worthwhile anyway. Amelia Earhart, in letter to her father (May 20, 1928); quoted in Melinda Blau, Whatever Happened to Amelia Earhart? (1977)

QUOTE NOTE: Earhart wrote the letter on the eve of her first transatlantic flight, leaving instructions that it be delivered only in the event of her death. She continued: “You know that I have no faith we’ll meet anywhere again, but I wish we might. Anyway, goodbye and good luck to you.” The letter was never delivered. Earhart lived nine more years, disappearing somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937 after taking off from an airport in New Guinea. She was thirty-nine years of age (two more years would elapse, though, before she was legally declared dead).

  • The thirst for adventure is the vent which Destiny offers; a war, a crusade, a gold mine, a new country, speak to the imagination and offer swing and play to the confined powers. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Boston,” in Natural History of the Intellect (1893)
  • One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure. William Feather, in The Business of Life (1949)
  • Life never gives us what we want at the moment that we consider appropriate. Adventures do occur, but not punctually. E. M. Forster, in A Passage to India (1924)
  • It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves—in finding themselves. André Gide, journal entry (Oct. 26, 1924)
  • We love because it’s the only true adventure. Nikki Giovanni, quoted in Ebony magazine (Aug. 1981)
  • Adventure is not outside a man; it is within. It is a strange thing, once the mind goes free, what may happen to any man. David Grayson, in Adventures in Solitude (1931)
  • Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science. Edwin Hubble, in “The Exploration of Space,” Harper’s Magazine (May, 1929)
  • Give me the storm and tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith! Robert C. Ingersoll, in The Gods (1872)
  • Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Helen Keller, in Let Us Have Faith (1940)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation has become indelibly associated with Keller, whose life personified the words. Here’s the full passage in which her signature line originally appeared: “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run that outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

  • Adventure is nothing but a romantic name for trouble. Louis L’Amour, in Education of a Wandering Man (1989)

L’Amour continued: “What people speak of as adventure is something nobody in his right mind would seek out, and it becomes romantic only when one is safely at home.”

  • There are two kinds of adventurers: those who go truly hoping to find adventure and those who go secretly hoping they won’t. William Least Heat Moon (pen name of William Trogdon), in Blue Highways (1982)
  • Adventure is the point where you toss your life on the scales of chance and wait for the pointer to stop. Murray Leinster (pen name of W. F. Jenkins), in First Contact (1945)
  • The Call of the Wild. Jack London, title of 1903 novel, and a popular adventure metaphor
  • Having adventures comes natural to some people. You just have a gift for them or you haven’t. L. M. Montgomery, the title character speaking, in Anne of Avonlea (1909)
  • How narrow is the line which separates an adventure from an ordeal. Harold Nicolson, in Small Talk (1937)
  • They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm. Dorothy Parker, in poem “Fair Weather,” in Sunset Gun (1928)

ERROR ALERT: Many quotation anthologies mistakenly present the final portion as: “who know the storm”

  • A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints. Wilferd A. Peterson, in The Art of Living: Thoughts on Meeting the Challenges of Life (1997)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet quotation sites mistakenly present the author’s name as Wilfred.

  • We learn what is significantly new only through adventures. However, going into the unknown is invariably frightening. M. Scott Peck, in The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace (1987)
  • Adventure is something you seek for pleasure, or even for profit, like a gold rush or invading a country; for the illusion of being more alive than ordinarily, the thing you will to occur. Katherine Anne Porter, “Adventure in Living,” in Mademoiselle magazine (Aug., 1955)
  • Take a walk on the wild side. Lou Reed, lyric from the hit song “Walk on the Wild Side,” on the Transformer album (1972)

QUOTE NOTE: The title of Reed’s song was borrowed from Nelson Algren’s 1956 novel (see the Algren entry in TITLES—OF BOOKS & PLAYS. Reed’s song went in a different direction, though, celebrating an array of counter-cultural characters who had inhabited the world of artist Andy Warhol (for more, see the Wikipedia entry on the song). See also the music video, which brings the characters to life.

  • All adventures—especially into new territory—are scary. Sally Ride, in To Space and Back (1986; with Susan Okie)
  • Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure. J. K. Rowling, Dumbledore speaking to Harry, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005)
  • But settled things were enemies to me and soon lost their newness and color. The unknown called. Agnes Smedley, a reflection of protagonist Marie Rogers, in Daughter of Earth (1929)
  • Beauty and adventure have a certain value of their own, which can be weighed only in spiritual scales. Elva S. Smith, offering a “considered conviction” of Amelia Earhart, in Adventure Calls: True Stories and Some That Might Have Been True (1953)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites attribute the observation to Amelia Earhart, but it is clear from Smith’s book that she was summarizing a belief of the legendary aviator.

  • What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life by him who interests his heart in every thing; and who, having eyes to see what time and chance are perpetually holding out to him as he journeyeth on his way, misses nothing he can fairly lay his hands on! Laurence Sterne, the voice of narrator and protagonist, the Rev. Mr. Yorick, in A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768)
  • The most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek. Robert Louis Stevenson, the concluding line to An Inland Voyage (1878)
  • Adventure is hardship aesthetically considered. Barry Targan, the narrator, quoting an unnamed former teacher, in Kingdoms (1980)
  • I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate. Vincent van Gogh, in an 1886 letter; reprinted in The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Vol. 2 (1958)
  • So life ought to be a struggle of desire towards adventures whose nobility will fertilize the soul. Rebecca West, in “The Gospel According to Granville-Barker,” in The Freewoman (March 7, 1912)
  • Without adventure civilization is in full decay. Alfred North Whitehead, in Adventures of Ideas (1933)

Whitehead preceded the thought by writing: “A race preserves its vigor so long as it harbors a real contrast between what has been and what may be; and so long as it is nerved by the vigor to adventure beyond the safeties of the past.”

  • The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, “Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.” Thornton Wilder, the character Barnaby speaking, in The Matchmaker (1955)

Barnaby went on: “And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.”

  • If we didn’t live venturously, plucking the wild goat by the beard, and trembling over precipices, we should never be depressed, I’ve no doubt, but already should be faded, fatalistic and aged. Virginia Woolf, a 1924 diary entry, quoted in Leonard Woolf, A Writer’s Diary (1954)

ADVERB

ADVERSARIES

(see also ALLIES and ANTAGONISTS and ENEMIES and FOES and FRIENDS and FRIENDS & ENEMIES and OPPOSITION)

  • He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
  • May Providence protect me from/The fool as adversary,/Whose mind to him a kingdom is/Where reason lacks dominion,/Who calls conviction prejudice/And prejudice opinion. Phyllis McGinley, “Moody Reflections,” in The New Yorker (Feb. 13, 1954). Note the chiastic reversal in the last two lines.

McGinley began the piece of verse by writing: “When blithe to argument I come,/Though armed with facts, and merry.”

  • Let us do as mighty adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends. William Shakespeare, the character Triano speaking, in The Taming of the Shrew (1592)
  • In all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane. Mark Twain, in Christian Science (1907)

ADVERSITY

(see also BURDENS and CALAMITY and CRISIS and DANGER and DIFFICULTIES and HARDSHIP and MISERY & WOE and MISFORTUNE and OBSTACLES and PROBLEMS and PROSPERITY and PROSPERITY & ADVERSITY and TEST and TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS and TROUBLE and STUMBLES & STUMBLING and STRUGGLE and SUFFERING & SORROW)

  • People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity. John Adams, in letter to Abigail Adams (July 3, 1776)
  • Do not let adversity break you. Think of it as a learning experience that will make you stronger. Gloria Allred, in More (2006)
  • Gold is tried in fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity. Apocrypha—Ecclesiasticus: 2:5

See the similar thought by Seneca the Younger below.

  • Even in adversity, nobility shines through, when a man endures repeated and severe misfortune with patience, not owing to insensibility but from generosity and greatness of soul. Aristotle, in The Nicomachean Ethics (4th c. B.C.)
  • Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes. Francis Bacon, “Of Adversity,” in Essays (1625)

QUOTE NOTE: in that same essay, Bacon offered these additional thoughts:

“Prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.”

“Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New.”

  • In any adversity gold can find friends. Amelia E. Barr, in The Maid of Maiden Lane (1900)
  • A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. The Bible, Proverbs 17:17 (KJV)
  • If thou faint in the day of adversity thy strength is small. The Bible Proverbs 24:10 (KJV)
  • Adversity has the same effect on a man that severe training does on the pugilist—it reduces him to his fighting weight. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), in Affurisms: Slips of the Pen (1865)

QUOTE NOTE: Shaw, a New York journalist, adopted the name Josh Billings in the 1860s and became famous for a cracker-barrel philosophy that was filled with aphorisms written in a phonetic dialect (he called them “affurisms”). Mark Twain was a big fan, once even comparing Billings to Ben Franklin. Almost all of the Billings quotations seen today first appeared in a phonetic form and were later changed into standard English (the original form of this saying was: “Adversity haz the same effekt on a man that severe training duz on the pugilist—it reduces him tew his fighting waight”).

  • As the flint contains the spark, unknown to itself, which the steel alone can awaken to life, so adversity often reveals to us hidden gems which prosperity or negligence would forever have hidden. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), in The Complete Works of Josh Billings (1873)

The phonetic version of this quotation was as follows: “Az the flint kontains the spark, unknown tew itself, which the steel alone kan wake into life, so adversity often reveals tew us hidden gems which prosperity or negligence would forever hav hid.”

  • If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet, in Meditations Divine and Moral (1664)

Bradstreet was the first published poet (of either gender) in the American colonies. She wrote the book for her son Simon, writing in the dedication: “You once desired me to leave something for you in writing that you might look upon when you should see me no more.” In 1630, the teenage Bradstreet, her parents, and her new husband set sail on the ship Arbella for the New World (the captain was John Winthrop). While her husband went on to become the colony’s governor, she raised eight children and privately wrote poetry.

  • Adversity is a good school. Charlotte Brontë, in an 1839 letter, in The Letters of Charlotte Brontë, Vol. 1 (1995; Margaret Smith, ed.)
  • Adversity is the first path to truth. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), in Don Juan (1823)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the first line of a quatrain that continues: “He who hath proved war, storm or woman’s rage,/Whether his winters be eighteen or eighty,’Has won the experience which is deem'd so weighty.”

  • In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus, “Return to Tipasa,” originally published in the French literary magazine Combat (August 28, 1952); reprinted in Lyrical and Critical Essays (1968)
  • Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity. Thomas Carlyle, “The Hero as Man of Letters,” in Heroes and Hero-Worship (1840)
  • He that has never known adversity is but half acquainted with others, or with himself. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)

Colton added: “Constant success shows us but one side of the world. For, as it surrounds us with friends who will tell us only our merits, so it silences those enemies from whom alone we can learn our defects.”

  • Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition, such as lifting weights, we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity. Stephen R. Covey, in First Things First (1994)
  • Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it. Robertson Davies, quoted in J. Madison Davis, Conversations with Robertson Davies (1989)
  • There is no education like adversity. Benjamin Disraeli, the character Sidney Wilton speaking, in Endymion (1880)
  • Keen adversity is the best crucible in which to try a man’s integrity. William Scott Downey, in Downey’s Proverbs (1853)
  • Between prosperity and adversity there can be little real fellowship. Amelia B. Edwards, in Half a Million of Money (1866)
  • Adversity is so rough a teacher! Fanny Fern, in Ruth Hall (1854)
  • Adversity is like a strong wind…it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be. Arthur Golden, in Memoirs of a Geisha (1997)
  • One has to protect oneself from the earnest friends who would help you in adversity. Helen Hayes, in On Reflection: An Autobiography (1968; with Sandford Dody)
  • Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity is a greater. William Hazlitt, in “On the Conversation of Cards,” in Essays (1810)
  • There should be a science of discontent. People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles. Frank Herbert, one of the “Collected Sayings of Muab’Dib,” in Dune (1965)
  • To stand alone against all adversity is the most sacred moment of existence. Frank Herbert, a saying of the Gowachin people, in The Dosadi Experiment (1977)
  • Every adversity, every defeat, every failure, every disappointment, every human frustration of whatsoever nature or cause, brings with it, in the circumstance itself, the seed of an equivalent benefit. Napoleon Hill, in You Can Work Your Own Miracles (1971)
  • It is not given to everyone to shine in adversity. Jane Aiken Hodge, in Marry in Haste (1961)
  • Show me a successful coach, a successful anything, and I’m going to show you somebody who has overcome adversity. Lou Holtz, quoted in The Augusta Chronicle (August 2, 1986)

ERROR ALERT: This is the way Coach Holtz originally expressed the thought, but almost all web sites and books present slightly altered versions of the quotation (many not mentioning coaches at all). Thanks to Barry Popik at The Big Apple website for tracking down the original quotation.

  • Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant. Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), in Epistles (1st c. B.C.)
  • Most people can bear adversity. But if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test. Robert G. Ingersoll, from an essay on Abraham Lincoln, in Allen Thorndike Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (1885)

QUOTE NOTE: Ingersoll added: “It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost absolute power, he never abused it, except upon the side of mercy.” Thanks to Dave Hill of the “Wish I Said That” website, I recently learned that Ingersoll had, in an 1877 lecture, suggested the following words as an inscription for Lincoln’s monument: “Here sleeps the only man in the history of the world, who, having been clothed with almost absolute power, never abused it, except on the side of mercy.”

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, Abraham Lincoln is mistakenly quoted as the author of the saying: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” The erroneous Lincoln quotation, which has been in wide circulation since the mid-1970s, was clearly based on Ingersoll’s observation.

  • There is in every woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. Washington Irving, in The Sketch Book (1819–20)
  • Adversity has ever been considered as the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself. Samuel Johnson, in The Rambler (June 23, 1750)

Johnson continued: “And this effect it must produce by withdrawing flatterers, whose business it is to hide our weaknesses from us.”

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, this quotation is mistakenly presented in the following way: “Adversity has ever been considered the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, then, especially, being free from flatterers.”

  • He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity. Ben Jonson, in Timber, or, Discoveries Made upon Men and Matter (1640)
  • Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity, and stumble from defeat to defeat. Ryszard Kapuscinski, “A Warsaw Diary,” in Granta magazine (No. 15; 1985)
  • Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth. Søren Kierkegaard, an 1836 journal entry
  • For all-around, everyday, all-season wear, farmers can’t be beat. They are inclined to chafe under the burden of leisure (a minor vexation on the farm), but they thrive on neglect and adversity. Patricia Penton Leimbach, in All My Meadows (1977)
  • Adversity reminds people of religion. Livy, in History of Rome (1st c. A.D.)
  • My ability to survive personal crises is really a mark of the character of my people. Individually and collectively, we react with a tenacity that allows us again and again to bounce back from adversity. Wilma Mankiller, quoted in Melissa Schwarz, Wilma Mankiller: Principal Chief of the Cherokees (1994)
  • More than anything else, what keeps a person going in the midst of adversity is having a sense of purpose. It is the fuel that powers persistence. John C. Maxwell, in Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones (2007)
  • Adversity is the midwife of genius. Napoleon Bonaparte, quoted in Jules Bertaut, Napoleon in his Own Words (1916)
  • Adversity precedes growth. Rosemarie Rossetti, in Take Back Your Life! Regaining Your Footing After Life Throws You a Curve (2003)
  • Perhaps adversity is a great teacher, but he charges a high price for his lessons, and often the profit we take from them is not worth the price they have cost us. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in The Reveries of the Solitary Walker (1782)
  • One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity. Albert Schweitzer, quoted in John C. Maxwell, The Power of Thinking Big (2001)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This is the way the quotation appears on almost all Internet sites, but it has never been found in Schweitzer’s writings or speeches. The closest thing he ever wrote on the subject is the following passage from Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography (1933): “Anyone who proposes to do good must not expect people to roll stones out of his way, but must accept his lot calmly if they even roll a few more upon it. A strength which becomes clearer and stronger through its experience of such obstacles is the only strength that can conquer them.”

  • In prosperous times I have sometimes felt my fancy and powers of language flag, but adversity is to me at least a tonic and a bracer. Sir Walter Scott, an 1826 journal entry, in J. Lockhart, Memoirs of the Life of Walter Scott (1837)
  • Gold is tried by fire, brave men by adversity. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger), “On Providence,” in Sententiae (1st. cent. B.C.)
  • Then know, that I have little wealth to lose;/A man I am cross’d with adversity. William Shakespeare, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1590)
  • Let me embrace thee, sour Adversity,/For wise men say it is the wisest course. William Shakespeare, the title character speaking, in King Henry VI (1592)
  • Adversity’s sweet milk, philosophy. William Shakespeare, Friar Laurence speaking, in Romeo and Juliet (1595)
  • Sweet are the uses of adversity/Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,/Wears yet a precious jewel in his head. William Shakespeare, Duke Senior speaking, in As You Like It (1599)

During adverse times, the Duke suggests that people are most amenable to learning—and from all kinds of sources. He continues: “And this our life, exempt from public haunt,/Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,/Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

  • The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all of our adversities. Sophocles, in Oedipus Rex (5th c. B.C.)
  • By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean. Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar,” in Following the Equator (1897)
  • Adversity is the touchstone of character: it is not in success but in misfortune that hidden powers bear fruit. Not in such poverty as this, however, which but stunts the growth, and blunts senses and morals alike. Ethel Brilliana Tweedie, in Sunny Sicily: Its Rustics and Its Ruins (1904; written under the penname Mrs. Alec-Tweedie)

QUOTE NOTE: Mrs. Tweedie was appalled by the “indescribable” poverty she found in certain sections Sicily. In cases of such severe poverty, she believed, character was not built, but crushed. See the similar observation by John Updike below.

  • Adversity in immunological doses has its uses; more than that crushes. John Updike, in Hugging the Shore (1983)
  • What molting time is to birds, so adversity or misfortune is…for us humans. Vincent van Gogh, in letter to brother Theo, quoted in Robert Wallace, The World of Van Gogh (1969)
  • No difficulty can discourage, no obstacle dismay, no trouble dishearten the man who has acquired the art of being alive. Difficulties are but dares of fate, obstacles but hurdles to try his skill, troubles but bitter tonics to give him strength; and he rises higher and looms greater after each encounter with adversity. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, in The Art of Being Alive: Success Through Thought (1914)
  • I think I love most people best when they are in adversity; for pity is one of my prevailing passions. Mary Wollstonecraft, in a 1785 letter to George Blood (1785), reprinted in The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft (2003; Janet M. Todd. ed.)

ADVERTISING

(see also ADVERTISING SLOGANS and BUSINESS and COMMERCE and CUSTOMERS and INFLUENCE and MARKETING and PERSUASION and PUBLIC RELATIONS and PUBLICITY and SALES & SELLING)

  • Time spent in the advertising business seems to create a permanent deformity like the Chinese habit of footbinding. Dean Acheson, from letter to a friend, in David S. McLellan & David C. Acheson, Among Friends: Personal Letters of Dean Acehson (1980)
  • An advertising agency is 85 percent confusion and 15 percent commission. Fred Allen, in Treadmill to Oblivion (1954)
  • Advertising isn’t a science. It’s persuasion. And persuasion is an art. William Bernbach, quoted in Stuart Berg Flexner and Anne H. Soukhanov, Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English (1997)
  • Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does. Steuart H. Britt, quoted in New York Herald Tribune (Oct., 1956)
  • Advertising is the ability to…put the very heart throbs of a business into type, paper, and ink. Leo Burnett, quoted in J. Kufrin, Leo Burnett: Star Reacher (1995)
  • Politics is not really politics any more. It is run, for the most part, by Madison Avenue advertising firms, who sell politicians to the public the way they sell bars of soap or cans of beer. Helen Caldicott, in If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Save the Earth (1992)
  • Our advertising is based to a great extent on the common desire to look, act and feel young. Dorothy Carnegie, in Don’t Grow Old—Grow Up! (1956)

Carnegie preceded the observation by writing: “Economically and socially, our national accent is on youth.”

  • It is pretty obvious that the debasement of the human mind caused by a constant flow of fraudulent advertising is no trivial thing. There is more than one way to conquer a country. Raymond Chandler, letter to Carl Brandt, his literary agent (Nov. 15, 1951), in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962)
  • Advertising nourishes the consuming power of men. Winston Churchill, quoted in David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963)
  • An ad should be an appetizer, not a buffet. Lee Clow, quoted in J. Fox, leeclowsbeard (2012)

QUOTE NOTE: Clow is the man behind Apple Computer’s most famous advertising campaigns, including the 1984 Super Bowl commercial and the “Think Different” manifesto. Fox’s book, a collection of Clow tweets, also included the following advice to advertising professionals: “Your ad begins as an interruption. Make paying attention to it feel like a reward.”

  • You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements. Norman Douglas, the Bishop speaking, in South Wind (1917)
  • Historians differ on when the consumer culture came to dominate American culture. Some say it was in the twenties, when advertising became a major industry and the middle class bought radios to hear the ads and cars to get to the stores. Barbara Ehrenreich, in Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class (1989)

Ehrenreich went on to add: “But there is no question that the consumer culture had begun to crowd out all other cultural possibilities by the years following World War II.”

  • A good ad should be like a good sermon: it must not only comfort the afflicted—it must afflict the comfortable. Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, in Macy’s, Gimbels, and Me (1967)

In this chiasticobservation, Fitz-Gibbon was clearly inspired by a famous Finley Peter Dunn observation on newspapers, to be seen here. Fits-Gibbon's memoir also contained these other observations on the subject:

“To be a success in advertising you must want to fill other people with a passion for possession.”

“Of course advertising creates wants. Of course it makes people discontented, dissatisfied. Satisfaction with things as they are would defeat the American dream.”

“Advertising prods people into wanting more and better things. Of course advertising makes people dissatisfied with what they have—makes them raise their sights. Mighty good thing it does. Nothing could be worse for the United States than 200,000,000 satisfied Americans.”

  • Advertising is a racket, like the movies and the brokerage business. You cannot be honest without admitting that its constructive contribution to humanity is exactly minus zero. F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter to daughter Frances (Aug. 24, 1940), in The Crack-Up (1945; Edmund Wilson, ed.)
  • We grew up founding our dreams on the infinite promise of American advertising. I still believe that one can learn to play the piano by mail and that mud will give you a perfect complexion. Zelda Fitzgerald, in Save Me the Waltz (1932)
  • Advertising—a judicious mixture of flattery and threats. Northrop Frye, quoted in R. Fitzhenry, The Harper Book of Quotations (1993)
  • The same people who tell us that smoking doesn’t cause cancer are now telling us that advertising cigarettes doesn’t cause smoking. Ellen Goodman, from a 1986 column in The Boston Globe (specific date undetermined)
  • In the world of advertising, there is no such thing as a lie, Maggie. Only The Expedient Exaggeration. Cary Grant, as advertising executive Roger Thornhill, speaking to his secretary, in the 1959 film North by Northwest (screenplay by Ernest Lehman)
  • Copywriters may struggle to distill their messages of enthusiasm in bright prose and snappy slogans, but the one word favored by advertisers over the years, is still the old word new. Judith Groch, in The Right to Create (1970)

Groch preceded the observation by writing: “The advertising industry is well aware of the persuasive power of such words as dynamic, up-to-date, young, growing, latest.”

  • I have discovered the most exciting, the most arduous literary form of all, the most difficult to master, the most pregnant in curious possibilities. I mean the advertisement. Aldous Huxley, “Advertisement,” in On the Margin (1923)

Huxley went on to write: “It is far easier to write ten passably effective Sonnets, good enough to take in the not too inquiring critic, than one effective advertisement that will take in a few thousand of the uncritical buying public.”

  • In my firm, we dealt in lies. Advertising is that…the skillful use of the truth to mislead, to spoil, to debase. Storm Jameson, in The Journal of Mary Hervey Russell (1945)
  • Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement. Dr. Samuel Johnson, in The Idler (Jan 20, 1759)
  • All our advertising is propaganda, of course, but it has become so much a part of our life, is so pervasive, that we just don’t know what it is propaganda for. Pauline Kael, in I Lost It at the Movies (1965)
  • The trouble with us in America isn’t that the poetry of life has turned to prose, but that it has turned into advertising copy. Louis Kronenberger, “The Spirit of the Age,” in Company Manners: A Cultural Inquiry into American Life (1954)
  • Society drives people crazy with lust and calls it advertising. John Lahr, quoted in the Guardian (Aug. 2, 1989)
  • Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it. Stephen Leacock, in The Perfect Salesman (1924)
  • Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century. Marshall McLuhan, in Culture is Our Business (1970)
  • Advertising is the greatest art form of the twentieth century. Marshall McLuhan, in Advertising Age (Sep. 3, 1976)
  • Unless your campaign has a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. David Ogilvy, in Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963)
  • Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket. George Orwell, in Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)
  • The hidden persuaders. Vance Packard, his term for advertisers, and ultimately the title of his book, The Hidden Persuaders (1957)
  • Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. Brad Pitt, as the character Tyler Durden, in the 1999 film Fight Club (screenplay by Jim Uhls, based on 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk)

Durden continued: “We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war . . . our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” To see how the passage was originally expressed in the novel, go to: Fight Club: A Novel.

  • The more we think we’re not affected by media—stereotypes, advertising—the more potential those forms of media have. Jennifer L. Pozner, in Bitch (2013)
  • No, I most certainly do not think advertising people are wonderful. I think they are horrible, and the worst menace to mankind, next to war; perhaps ahead of war. They stand for the material viewpoint, for the importance of possessions, of desire, of envy, of greed. And war comes from these things. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, quoted in Rodger L. Tarr, Max and Marjorie (1999)
  • In our factory we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope. Charles Revson, Revlon founder, quoted in N. Augustine, Augustine’s Laws (6th Edition, 1997)

QUOTE NOTE: “Selling hope” was a key ingredient in Revlon’s success, according to Revson, and he returned to the theme again and again in his interviews and talks. One of the earliest articulations of the idea occurred in a 1976 issue of New York magazine, when he was quoted as saying, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the stores we sell hope.”

  • Advertising is the foot on the accelerator, the hand on the throttle, the spur on the flank that keeps our economy surging forward. Robert W. Sarnoff, quoted in L. Shilling & L. Fuller, Dictionary of Quotations in Communication (1997)
  • Of course, there is some truth in advertising. There’s yeast in bread, but you can’t make bread with yeast alone. Truth in advertising is like leaven, which a woman hid in three measures of meal. It provides a suitable quantity of gas, with which to blow out a mass of crude misrepresentation into a form that the public can swallow. Dorothy L. Sayers, in Murder Must Advertise (1933)
  • All advertising tells lies, but there are little lies and there are big lies. Little lie: This beer tastes great. Big lie: this beer makes you great. Leslie Savan, in The Sponsored Life: Ads, TV, and American Culture (1994)
  • Advertising never sold a bad product twice. Dorothy L. Sayers, quoted in Ralph E. Hone, Dorothy L. Sayers: A Literary Biography (1979)
  • The art of advertisement—untruthfulness combined with repetition. Freya Stark, in East is West (1945)
  • Only a man seated before a television set watching a cigarette carton perform a tap dance can extract the full relish from Dr. Samuel Johnson’s pronouncement of nearly two hundred years ago: “The trade of advertising is now so near to perfection that it is not easy to propose any improvement.” E. S. Turner, in The Shocking History of Advertising (1953)
  • Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising. Mark Twain, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist Hank Morgan, in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
  • I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half. John Wanamaker, quoted in Martin Mayer, Madison Avenue, USA (1958)

QUOTE NOTE: In his 1963 book Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy credited this observation to British businessman William Lever (of Lever Brothersfame), but he provided no documentation.

  • Advertising is legalized lying. H. G. Wells, in Across the Board (1979, Vol. 16)
  • Advertisers are the interpreters of our dreams. E. B. White, in “Truth in Advertising,” The New Yorker (July 11, 1936)

White added: “Like the movies, they infect the routine futility of our lives with purposeful adventure. Their weapons are our weaknesses: fear, ambition, illness, pride, selfishness, desire, ignorance. And these weapons must be kept as bright as a sword.”

  • As advertising blather becomes the nation’s normal idiom, language becomes printed noise. George F. Will, in The Pursuit of Happiness, and Other Sobering Thoughts (1976)
  • Advertising tries to be a pyromaniac, igniting conflagrations of desires for instant gratification. George F. Will, “The Madison Legacy,” in The Washington Post (Dec. 7, 1981); reprinted in The Morning After: American Successes and Excesses, 1981–1986 (1986)

ADVERTISING SLOGANS

(see also ADVERTISING and BUSINESS and COMMERCE and CUSTOMERS and INFLUENCE and MARKETING and PERSUASION and SALES & SELLING)

  • Between love and madness lies Obsession. Obsession perfume, by Calvin Klein (first appeared 1985)
  • Fly the friendly skies. United Airlines (1966)
  • Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach. Heineken beer (1975)
  • Let your fingers do the walking. The Yellow Pages, by AT&T (1964)
  • Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. State Farm Insurance (1971)
  • Merrill Lynch is bullish on America. Merrill Lynch (1973)
  • Milk from contented cows. Carnation milk (1906)
  • Obey your thirst. Sprite (1994)
  • Put a tiger in your tank. Esso (later Exxon) gasoline (1964)
  • Say it with flowers. Society of American Florists (1917)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of advertising history’s most successful slogans, but it wasn’t the first try out of the box, according to Jonathon Green in Says Who? A Guide to the Quotations of the Century (1988). The first slogan submitted by adman Major Patrick O’Keefe was “Flowers are words that even a babe can understand.” When this was rejected as over-wordy, O’Keefe replied, “Why, you can say it with flowers in so many words.” Green writes: “Suitably abbreviated, a slogan was born.”

  • Test drive a Macintosh. Macintosh, by Apple computer (1984)
  • The antidote for civilization. Club Med (1982)
  • We answer to a higher authority. Hebrew National (1975)

ADVICE

(includes COUNSEL; see also ADVICE—EXAMPLES OF and EXPERIENCE and LEARNING and WISDOM and WRITING ADVICE)

  • A woman seldom asks advice before she has bought her wedding clothes. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (Sep. 4, 1712)
  • There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (Oct. 17, 1712)

Addison added: “We look upon the man who gives it [to] us as offering an affront to our understanding, and treating us like children or idiots.”

  • It is an easy thing for one whose foot/Is on the outside of calamity/to give advice. Aeschylus, in Prometheus Bound (5th c. B.C.)
  • Distrust interested advice. Aesop, “The Fox Without a Tale,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • Never trust the advice of a man in difficulties. Aesop, “The Fox and the Goat,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain. William R. Alger, quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1884)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is widely misattributed to Tom Stoppard. Alger was a nineteenth-century Unitarian clergyman, a lesser-known member of Emerson’s “Concord Circle,” an outspoken abolitionist, and the cousin of Horatio Alger.

  • Something occurred while they were at Hartfield, to make Emma want their advice; and, which was still more lucky, she wanted exactly the advice they gave. Jane Austen, the voice of the narrator, in Emma (1816)
  • He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other. Francis Bacon, “Of Great Place,” in Essays (1625)
  • The worst men often give the best advice. Philip James Bailey, the title character speaking, in Festus (1813)

Festus continued: “Our deeds are sometimes better than our thoughts.”

  • Asking for advice is an act of humility. Dennis W. Bakke, in Joy at Work (2005)

Bakke went on to add: “The act alone says, ‘I need you.’ The decision maker and the adviser are pushed into a closer relationship.”

  • Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom. Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov” (1936), reprinted in Illuminations (1968)
  • As time passes we all get better at blazing a trail through the thicket of advice. Margot Bennett, in Farewell Crown and Goodbye King (1953)
  • The wanting of advice is the sign that the Spirit in you has not yet spoken with the compelling voice that you ought to obey. Annie Besant, in Theosophy and Life’s Deeper Problems (1916)
  • The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. The Bible—Proverb 12:15 (RSV)
  • Advice, n. The smallest current coin. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • We hate those who will not take our advice, and despise them who do. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), in Josh Billings, His Sayings (1865)
  • Most of the advice we receive from others is not so much an evidence of their affection for us, as it is an evidence of their affection for themselves. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), in Josh Billings, His Sayings (1865)
  • Advice is like kissing; it costs nothing and is a pleasant thing to do. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), in The Complete Works of Josh Billings (1873).

On the same subject, Billings wrote:

“Advice is like castor oil, easy enough to give but dreadful uneasy to take.”

“When a man comes to me for advice, I find out the kind of advice he wants, and give it to him.”

“I never had a man come to me for advice yet, but what I soon discovered that he thought more of his own opinion than he did of mine.”

  • When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it’s a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway. Erma Bombeck, widely attributed, but not verified.
  • The best advice is often your own, that which you would give to others you care about in the same situation. Dan Brooks, in Brook’s Book (2017)
  • Who cannot give good counsel? ’Tis cheap, it costs them nothing. Robert Burton, in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621–51)
  • A woman’s advice is not worth much, but he who does not heed it is a fool. Pedro Calderón, in El Médico de su Honra (n.d.); quoted in Jacob. M. Braude, Braude’s Handbook of Stories for Toastmasters and Speakers (1975)
  • A leader must have the courage to act against an expert’s advice. James Callaghan quoted in The Harvard Business Review (November 1, 1986)
  • The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries. Truman Capote, the character Randolph speaking, in Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948)

QUOTE NOTE: This line is engraved on a memorial stone in Bridgehampton, Long Island, one of the sites where Capote’s ashes were scattered.

  • All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people. Alexis Carrell, in Reflections on Life (1935)
  • I have made three rules of writing for myself that are absolutes: Never take advice. Never show or discuss work in progress. Never answer a critic. Raymond Chandler, quoted in D. Gardiner & K. S. Walker, Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962)
  • Advice, like snow, the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, attributed in The Saturday Magazine (Sep. 22, 1832)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation has been repeated countless times for nearly two centuries (sometimes with the opening words “Advice is like snow”), but has always been suspect. Quotation researcher Garson O’Toole was recently motivated to do his own research on the observation and, as usual, he unearthed valuable new information. It now appears that the original author of the sentiment was Jeremiah Seed, an English clergyman and Oxford professor, who advanced the idea in a 1747 collection of his sermons.

  • To ask advice is in nine cases out of ten to tout for flattery. John Churton Collins, quoted in L. C. Collins, Life of John Churton Collins (1912)
  • When we feel a strong desire to thrust our advice upon others, it is usually because we suspect their weakness; but we ought rather to suspect our own. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • We ask advice, but we mean approbation. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • There is hardly a man on earth who will take advice unless he is certain it is positively bad. Edward Dahlberg, “Moby Dick: A Hamitic Dream,” in Alms for Oblivion (1964)
  • Once you’ve given advice to someone, you’re obligated. Malcolm Forbes, quoted in The Forbes Book of Business Quotations (1997; Ted Goodman, ed.)
  • I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes. Gene Fowler, in Skyline: A Reporter’s Reminiscence of The 1920s (1961)
  • Daddy said: “All children must look after their own upbringing.” Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands. Anne Frank, a July 15, 1944 entry, in Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1947; first English publication in 1952)
  • We may give advice, but we cannot give conduct. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (Feb., 1751)

QUOTE NOTE: Many of Franklin’s sayings were nothing more than simplified—and Americanized—versions of popular English proverbs. This one was inspired by: “We may give good counsel, but cannot bestow good conduct.”

  • Fools need advice most, but wise men only are the better for it. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (Jan., 1758)
  • People are always willing to follow advice when it accords with their own wishes. Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington), in The Confessions of an Elderly Lady (1838)
  • Advice is given freely because so much of it is worthless. James Geary, an aphorism from his website
  • Advice is sometimes transmitted more successfully through a joke than grave teaching. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • On Venus it is considered a loving gesture to offer advice. But on Mars it is not. Women need to remember that Martians do not offer advice unless it is directly requested. John Gray, in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (1992)
  • Never take the advice of someone who has not had your kind of trouble. Sydney J. Harris, in Strictly Personal (1953)

Harris continued: “it is sure to be based on the assumption that what sounds ‘reasonable’ will turn out to be the right solution.”

  • Shun advice/at any price—that’s what I call/good advice. Piet Hein, in Grooks II (1969; originally published under the Danish title Gruks in 1949)
  • Advice is sure of a hearing when it coincides with our previous conclusions, and therefore comes in the shape of praise or of encouragement. Arthur Helps, “Advice,” in Essays Written in the Intervals of Business (1843)

QUOTE NOTE: Helps’s essay, written nearly two centuries ago, contains other observations that are still relevant today, including these:

“In seeking for a friend to advise you, look for uprightness in him, rather than for ingenuity.”

“It is a disingenuous thing to ask for advice, when you mean assistance, and it will be a just punishment if you get that which you pretended to want.”

“When you advise a man to do something which is for your own interest as well as for his, you should put your own motive for advising him, full in view, with all the weight that belongs to it.”

“When you have to give advice, you should never forget whom you are addressing, and what is practicable for him. You should not look about for the wisest thing which can be said, but for that which your friend has the heart to undertake, and the ability to accomplish.”

  • The greatest luxury of riches is that they enable you to escape so much good advice. The rich are always advising the poor, but the poor seldom return the compliment. Arthur Helps, in Brevia: Short Essays and Aphorisms (1871)
  • Know when to speake; for many times it brings/Danger, to give the best advice to kings. Robert Herrick, “Caution in Councell,” in Hesperides (1648)
  • The advice of their elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in a speech in Boston (Jan. 8, 1897)
  • A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice. E. W. Howe, in Country Town Sayings (1911)
  • It is a little embarrassing that, after forty-five years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other. Aldous Huxley, quoted in Laura Archera Huxley, This Timeless Moment: A Personal View of Aldous Huxley (1963)

ERROR ALERT: In What About the Big Stuff? (2002) Richard Carlson presented a paraphrased version of Huxley’s famous thought as if it were a verbatim quotation: “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’”

  • Advice, as it always gives a temporary appearance of superiority, can never be very grateful, even when it is most necessary or most judicious; but, for the same reason, every one is eager to instruct his neighbors. Samuel Johnson, in a 1761 edition of The Rambler
  • Few things are so liberally bestowed, or squandered with so little effect, as good advice. Samuel Johnson, in The Rambler (June 26, 1750)
  • Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t. Erica Jong, epigraph to “A Day in the Life…” chapter, in How to Save Your Own Life (1977)
  • When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice. Joseph-Louis La Grange, in Pensées (1872)
  • If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would be this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and, when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, “I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.” Ann Landers, in Since You Ask Me (1961)
  • One gives nothing so freely as advice. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • We may give advice, but we cannot inspire conduct. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)

QUOTE NOTE: The observation has also been commonly translated this way: “We give advice, but we do not inspire conduct.”

  • Το know how to profit by good advice requires nearly as much ability as to know how to act for one's self. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • Old men delight in giving good advice as a consolation for the fact that they can no longer provide bad examples. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation is also commonly presented in these ways:

“Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example.”

“Old men are fond of giving good advice, to console themselves for being no longer in a position to give bad examples.”

  • You will always find some Eskimos ready to instruct the Congolese on how to cope with heat waves. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, in Unkempt Thoughts (1957)
  • I am melancholy when I see, or even hear of, other people behaving badly. I often long to direct them with good advice, and refrain only because I know that friendship itself will not stand the strain of very much good advice for very long. Robert Lynd, in The Peal of Bells (1924)

Lynd continued: “And so, while I am inwardly aching to preach to my errant fellow-creatures, I find myself talking to them instead about diet, diseases, cinemas, Bernard Shaw, and the day on which I backed three winning horses at Ascot.”

  • A prince who is not wise himself will never take good advice. Niccolo Machiavelli, in The Prince (1532)
  • This is the gist of what I know:/Give advice and buy a foe. Phyllis McGinley, “A Garland of Precepts,” in The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley (1954)

* Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise not to follow it. Edna St. Vincent Millay, in a letter to the poet Arthur Davison Ficke (October 15, 1920)

  • Advice almost never functions as a social lubricant; eight or nine times out of ten it makes people lose face, crushes their will, and creates a grudge. Yukio Mishima, in Mishima on Hagakure (1977)
  • All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed. Michel de Montaigne, in Essays (1580)
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. Henri J. M. Nouwen, “With Care,” in Out of Solitude (1974)

Nouwen continued: “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.”

  • I am very handy with my advice and then when anybody appears to be following it, I get frantic. Flannery O’Connor, in letter to a person identified only as “A” (Dec. 11, 1956), in Sally Fitzgerald, The Habit of Being (1979)
  • Get the advice of everybody whose advice is worth having–they are very few–and then do what you think best yourself. Charles Stewart Parnell, quoted in Conor Cruise O'Brien, Parnell (1957)
  • If you can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice, you don’t need advice. Laurence J. Peter, in Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Times (1977)
  • If you want to improve your performance in almost any part of your life, stop asking for feedback and start asking for advice. Daniel H. Pink, in “Stop Asking for Feedback” podcast (Oct. 8, 2023)

QUOTE NOTE: Pink based his recommendation on recent research that showed advice was more effective than feedback because it was more “actionable.”

  • Advice after injury is like medicine after death. Proverb (Danish)
  • Good advice is like a tight glove; it fits the circumstances, and it does not fit other circumstances. Charles Reade, the character Mr. Rolfe speaking, in A Terrible Temptation, Vol. I (1871)
  • We are so happy to advise others that occasionally we even do it in their interest. Jules Renard, journal entry, in Journal, 1887-1910 (1925). Also an example of Oxymoronica.
  • A man takes contradiction and advice much more easily than people think, only he will not bear it when violently given, even though it be well-founded. Hearts are flowers; they remain open to the softly-falling dew, but shut up in the violent downpour of rain. Johann Paul Richter (who wrote under the pen name Jean Paul), quoted in Henry Southgate, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1862)
  • I could give you no advice but this: to go into yourself and to explore the depths where your life wells forth. Rainer Maria Rilke, in letter to Franz Xaver Kappus (Feb. 17, 1903); published posthumously in Letters to a Young Poet (in 1929)

QUOTE NOTE: As it turns out, this would not be the only advice contained in the letter. Rilke went on to offer a thought that ultimately became one of his most popular creations:

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”

  • My advice was delicately poised between the cliché and the indiscretion. Robert Runcie, remark at press conference (July 13, 1981)

QUOTE NOTE: Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was referring to the advice he gave to Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer prior to their wedding.

  • To give advice to a friend, either asked or unasked, is so far from a fault that it is a duty; but if a man love to give advice, it is a sure sign that he himself wanteth it. George Savile (Lord Halifax), in Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
  • One can advise comfortably from a safe port. Johann Friedrich von Schiller, the character Rhodi speaking, in Wilhelm Tell (1804)

QUOTE NOTE: The passage is sometimes rendered in verse form: “Safe in the port,/’Tis easy to advise.”

  • The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right. Hannah Whitall Smith, in May 3, 1902 letter; reprinted in Philadelphia Quaker: The Letters of Hannah Whitall Smith (1950; Logan Pearsall Smith, ed.)
  • No enemy is worse than bad advice. Sophocles, in Electra (5th c. B.C.)
  • Whenever a man seeks your advice he generally seeks your praise. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to his son (Feb. 10, 1748)
  • Advice is seldom welcome; and those who want it the most always like it the least. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to his son (Jan. 29, 1748)

QUOTE NOTE: In this observation, Chesterfield is using the term want not in the modern sense of desiring something, but in the old-fashioned sense of needing something because it is lacking in one’s life (as in, “He was found wanting”).

  • I wish to God that you had as much pleasure in following my advice, as I have in giving it to you. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to his son (Feb. 5, 1750)
  • In matters of religion and matrimony I never give any advice; because I will not have anybody’s torments in this world or the next laid to my charge. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to A. C. Stanhope (Oct. 12, 1765)
  • No one wants advice—only corroboration. John Steinbeck, the narrator and protagonist Ethan Hawley speaking, in The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)

QUOTE NOTE: In crafting this observation, Steinbeck was likely inspired by an 1820 thought from Charles Caleb Colton, to be seen above.

  • I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career. Gloria Steinem in an LBC radio interview (April 2, 1984)
  • It’s queer how ready people always are with advice in any real or imaginary emergency, and no matter how many times experience has shown them to be wrong, they continue to set forth their opinions, as if they had received them from the Almighty! Anne Sullivan, in a letter (June 12, 1887), quoted in Helen Keller, The Story of My Life (1903)
  • How is it possible to expect that mankind will take advice, when they will not so much as take warning? Jonathan Swift, in Thoughts on Various Subjects, 1696–1706 (1711)
  • I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” in Walden (1854)
  • Advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill. J. R. R. Tolkien, the character Gildor speaking, in The Fellowship of the Rings (1954)
  • I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want, and then advise them to do it. Harry Truman, in interview with Edward R. Murrow on CBS-TV (May 27, 1955)
  • He had only one vanity; he thought he could give advice better than any other person. Mark Twain, the character Edward Richards describing a man named Goodson, in the short story “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,” in Harper’s Monthly (Dec., 1899)
  • It is very difficult to live among people you love and hold back from offering them advice. Anne Tyler, the character Jeremy Pauling speaking, in Celestial Navigation (1974)
  • The whole purpose of giving advice is to be able to say “I told you so” when it is ignored. William Flynn Wallace, in a personal communication to the compiler (Oct. 9, 2022)
  • Give not Advice without being Ask'd, and when desired, do it briefly. George Washington, a “Rule of Civility” that guided his life; quoted in Charles Moore, George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation (1926).

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation should be properly attributed to “Author Unknown,” but it is because of Washington that we are aware of its existence. Sometime before his sixteenth birthday, Virginia schoolboy George Washington completed a penmanship exercise in which he hand copied a list of 110 “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” The list was originally prepared by French Jesuits around 1595 and first published in English in 1640. The Rules, which became popular in the education of young aristocrats, found their way to America in the early 1700s, and ultimately into the hands of Washington’s schoolmaster. For more, including a view of the 110 maxims in Washington’s original teenage handwriting, see Washington’s “Rules of Civility”.

  • Advice is one of those things it is far more blessed to give than to receive. Carolyn Wells, in The Rest of My Life (1937)
  • Insistent advice may develop into interference, and interference, someone has said, is the hind hoof of the devil. Carolyn Wells, in The Rest of My Life (1937)
  • Advice…is a habit-forming drug. Carolyn Wells, in The Rest of My Life (1937)

In the book—her autobiography—Wells added: “You give a dear friend a bit of advice today, and next week you find yourself advising two or three friends, and the week after, a dozen, and the week following, crowds.”

  • I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself. Oscar Wilde, the character Lord Goring speaking, in An Ideal Husband (1895)
  • It is always a silly thing to give advice, but to give good advice is absolutely fatal. Oscar Wilde, the narrator speaking, in “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.” first published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (July, 1889); later republished in Lord Savile’s Crime and Other Stories, 2nd ed. (1901)
  • Unsolicited advice is the junk mail of life. Bern Williams

QUOTATION CAUTION: This quotation is extremely popular, but I’ve never found an original source. Nor have I been able to find any biographical information on Bern Williams, despite the frequency with which he has been quoted on web sites. It might be better to consider this an Author Unknown observation.

  • I always advise people never to give advice. P. G. Wodehouse, in Fore! The Best of Wodehouse on Golf (1983; D. R. Bensen, ed).

ADVICE—EXAMPLES OF

(see also ADVICE and ADMONITIONS and DEHORTATIONS and EXHORTATIONS)

  • Never dull your shine for somebody else. Tyra Banks, remark on broadcast of America’s Next Top Model (Oct. 17, 2007)
  • If you go through life trading on your good looks, there’ll come a time when no one wants to trade. Lynne Alpern & Esther Blumenfeld, in Oh, Lord, I Sound Just Like Mama (1986)
  • You never find yourself until you face the truth. Pearl Bailey, in The Raw Pearl (1968)
  • Never forget that life can only be nobly inspired and rightly lived if you take it bravely, gallantly, as a splendid adventure, in which you are setting out into an unknown country, to face many a danger, to meet many a joy, to find many a comrade, to win and to lose many a battle. Annie Besant, in The Theosophist (Dec. 1924)
  • If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive. Dale Carnegie, in How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)
  • Be like the fountain that overflows, not like the cistern that merely contains. Paulo Coelho, in Veronika Decides to Die (2001)
  • Make sure your goal isn’t just a means masquerading as an end. Lee Clow, quoted in J. Fox, leeclowsbeard (2012)
  • Whatever you do, kid—always serve it with a little dressing. George M. Cohan, acting advice to Spencer Tracy, in J. McCabe, George M. Cohan: The Man Who Owned Broadway (1973).
  • A man should live with his superiors as he does with his fire: not too near, lest he burn; nor too far off, lest he freeze. Diogenes (3rd c. B.C.), quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Pearls of Thought (1882)
  • It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person—“Always do what you are afraid to do.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Heroism,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • It is not my place to offer pep talks, aphorisms, or dictums. But if I had to give one piece of advice it would be this: Find something that you love that they’re fucking with and then fight for it. If everyone did that-imagine the difference. David Gessner, in My Green Manifesto: Does the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism (2011)
  • Make it your habit not to be critical about small things. Edward Everett Hale, quoted in The Christian Register (Nov. 30, 1899)
  • Never judge someone by who he’s in love with; judge him by his friends. People fall in love with the most appalling people. Cynthia Heimel, in But Enough About You (1986)
  • When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. Cynthia Heimel, “Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics,” in The Village Voice (Nov. 13, 1993)
  • It is a little embarrassing that, after forty-five years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other. Aldous Huxley, quoted in Laura Archera Huxley, This Timeless Moment: A Personal View of Aldous Huxley (1963)
  • When you go in search of honey you must expect to be stung by bees. Kenneth Kaunda, quoted in The Observer (London, Jan. 2, 1983)
  • If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would be this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and, when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, “I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.” Ann Landers, in Since You Ask Me (1961)
  • If you want to catch a trout, don’t fish in a herring barrel. Ann Landers, in a 1982 appearance on “The John Davidson Show”; reported in Reader’s Digest (specific date undetermined)

QUOTE NOTE: Was the famous advice columnist dispensing fishing advice here? No, this was simply her figurative way of telling women that going to singles bars was not an effective way to meet high-quality men.

  • Be a good animal, true to your animal instincts. D. H. Lawrence, in The White Peacock (1911)

QUOTE NOTE: In the novel, this was the motto of Annable, the woodkeeper. It’s possible that Lawrence was inspired by a similar thought expressed by English philosopher Herbert Spencer in Education (1861): “People are beginning to see that the first requisite to success in life, is to be a good animal.”

  • Think before you speak. Read before you think. Fran Lebowitz, “Tips for Teens,” in Social Studies (1981)

Lebowitz was giving advice to teenagers, but her advice applies to people of all ages. She continued: “This will give you something to think about that you didn’t make up yourself—a wise move at any age, but most especially at seventeen, when you are in the greatest danger of coming to annoying conclusions.”

  • Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann, in 1859 commencement address at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio

QUOTE NOTE: Mann, president of the college at the time, collapsed a few days after his address and died at age 63 a few weeks later, on August 2, 1859. This passage from his speech resonated so strongly with the Antioch community that, ever since, the words have been repeated to each graduating class. More than a century later, the saying was adopted as the college’s official motto and inscribed on a monument in Mann’s honor.

ERROR ALERT: Mann’s words are often mistakenly presented as some great victory.

  • If you have got a living force and you’re not using it, nature kicks you back. The blood boils just like you put it in a pot. Louise Nevelson, in Dawns + Dusks (1976)
  • Be neither too early in the fashion, nor too long out of it, nor too precisely in it…where the eye is the jury, thy apparel is the evidence. Francis Quarles, in Enchiridion (1640)
  • Don’t be a pawn in somebody’s game…. Find the attitude which gives you the maximum strength and the maximum dignity, no matter what else is going on. Anne Rice, the protagonist Rowan Mayfair speaking, in The Witching Hour (1990)
  • Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. Rainer Maria Rilke, in letter to Franz Xaver Kappus (July 16, 1903); published posthumously in Letters to a Young Poet (in 1929)

He went on to add: “And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

  • Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. Bertrand Russell, from the “How to Grow Old,” in Portraits from Memory: And Other Essays (1956)
  • We must live as we ride; be supple, avoid checking our steed without need, hold the bridle lightly, go ahead when the wind is favorable. George Sand, in 1842 letter to a friend
  • Why not be oneself? That is the whole secret of a successful appearance. If one is a greyhound, why try to look like a Pekingese? Edith Sitwell, at age seventy-five, in E. Salter, Edith Sitwell (1979)
  • It is never too late—in fiction or in life—to revise. Nancy Thayer, in Morning (1989)
  • Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows. Henry David Thoreau, journal entry ( March 12, 1853)
  • Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden (1854)
  • If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Harry S Truman, his motto

QUOTE NOTE: While the saying is often attributed directly to President Truman, he described it as an “old Missouri saying” that he first heard in the 1930s.

  • If by nature you are volcanoes, at least be only smoldering ones. Elizabeth von Arnim, in Elizabeth and her German Garden (1898)
  • My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate—that’s my philosophy. Thornton Wilder, the character Sabina speaking, in The Skin of Our Teeth (1942)
  • One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat. Woodrow Wilson, in a Jan. 29, 1916 speech (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • If you can’t add to the discussion, don’t subtract by talking. Lois Wyse, in The Six-Figure Woman (And How to Be One) (1983)
  • Think like a wise man but express yourself like the common people. William Butler Yeats, in letter to Dorothy Wellesley (Dec. 21, 1935); reprinted in Letters on Poetry from W. B. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley (1940)

AFFAIR

(see also ADULTERY & INFIDELITY and MISTRESS)

  • I liken an affair to the shattering of a Waterford crystal vase. You can glue it back together, but it will never be the same again. Dr. John Gottman, quoted in U.S. News & World Report (Jan. 1, 1994)
  • An affair wants to spill, to share its glory with the world. No act is so private it does not seek applause. John Updike, the voice of the narrator, in Couples: A Novel (1968)

AFFECTATION

(see also PRETENSE & PRETENSION)

  • Those who assume a character which does not belong to them, only make themselves ridiculous. Aesop, “The Crow and Raven,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • Cowardice and courage are never without a measure of affectation. Nor is love. Feelings are never true. They play with their mirrors. Jean Baudrillard, in Cool Memories (1987)
  • Avoid affectation. The more merit, the less affectation, which gives a vulgar flavor. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

About affectation, Gracián added: “The most eminent merits lose most by it, for they appear proud and artificial instead of being the product of nature, and the natural is always more pleasing than the artificial. One always feels sure that the man who affects a virtue has it not.”

  • Once the charmer is aware of a mannerism or characteristic that others find charming, it ceases to be a mannerism and becomes an affectation. And good lord, there is nothing less charming than affectations! Rex Harrison, quoted in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner (June 24, 1978)
  • All affectation is the vain and ridiculous attempt of poverty to appear rich. Johann Kaspar Lavatar, in Aphorisms on Man (1788)
  • Affectation hides three times as many virtues as charity does sins. Horace Mann, in Thoughts (1867)
  • I believe an artist is the last person in the world who can afford to be affected. Georgia O’Keeffe, in a 1915 letter to Anita Pollitzer, quoted in Clive Giboire, Lovingly, Georgia (1990)
  • Don’t laugh at a youth for his affectations; he is only trying on one face after another to find his own. Logan Pearsall Smith, “Age and Death,” in Afterthoughts (1931)

AFFECTION

(see also EMOTION and FEELING and FONDNESS and HEART and HUGS & HUGGING and LOVE and TOUCH)

  • Affection is like the noonday sun; it does not need the presence of another to be manifest. Isabel Allende, in Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (2004)
  • Nine times out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels. Jane Austen, the character Charlotte Lucas speaking, in Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • When I look back on the pain of sex, the love like a wild fox so ready to bite, the antagonism that sits like a twin beside love, and contrast it with affection…of two people who have lived a life together (and of whom one must die) it’s the affection I find richer. It’s that I would have again. Not all those doubtful rainbow colors. Enid Bagnold, in Autobiography (1969)
  • Jealousy is the grave of affection. Mary Baker Eddy, in Science and Health (1875)
  • O the anguish of the thought that we can never atone to our dead for the stinted affection we gave them. George Eliot, a reflection of the title character, in “The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton,” in Scenes of Clerical Life (1857)
  • A difference of taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections. George Eliot, the narrator describing the somewhat strained relationship between the title character and Sir Hugo, in Daniel Deronda (1876)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites and quotation anthologies mistakenly present the observation as if it were phrased: “A difference in taste in jokes.”

  • The affections cannot keep their youth any more than men. Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry (Feb. 13, 1831)
  • And almost the hardest of all is learning to be a well of affection and not a fountain, to show them we love them, not when we feel like it, but when they do. Nan Fairbrother, in An English Year (1954)
  • How soothing is affection…this sweetener of life. Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington), in The Victims of Society (1837)
  • Children need admiration rather than affection. Celia Green, in Advice to Clever Children (1981)
  • Affection was not the flower of his spirit but its rootage. Alice Tisdale Hobart, in Oil for the Lamps of China (1933)
  • Trust in my affection for you. Tho’ I may not display it exactly in the way you like and expect it, it is not therefore less deep and sincere. Anna Jameson, in an 1833 letter to Ottilie Von Goethe, in Letters of Anna Jameson to Ottilie Von Goethe (1939; G. H. Needler, ed.)
  • Affection exaggerates its own offenses. L. E. Landon, in Romance and Reality (1831)
  • Affection is a habit. L. E. Landon, in Ethel Churchill, or, The Two Brides (1837)
  • Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in the epic poem Evangeline (1847)

The poem continued: “If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning/Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment;/That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain.”

  • When someone who’s starved of love is shown something that looks like sincere affection, is it any wonder that she jumps at it and clings to it? Sayo Masuda, in Autobiography of a Geisha (2003)
  • A mixture of admiration and pity is one of the surest recipes for affection. André Maurois, in Ariel: The Live of Shelley (1923)
  • When affection only speaks, truth is not always there. Thomas Middleton, in The Old Law (1656)
  • Few things are more wounding than the confounding moment of discovering an asymmetry of affections where mutuality had been presumed. Maria Popova, in “Brain Pickings” newsletter (Dec. 16, 2018

QUOTE NOTE: Popova’s beautiful observation was inspired by the distraught emotional state of Emily Dickinson when she discovered that her intense feelings for love interest Susan Gilbert were not being reciprocated.

  • Affection is a bad advisor. Proverb (German)
  • Human nature is so constructed that it gives affection most readily to those who seem least to demand it. Bertrand Russell, in The Conquest of Happiness 1930
  • Affection is a coal that must be cool’d/Else, suffered, it will set the heart of fire. William Shakespeare, in Venus and Adonis (1593)
  • Human affection…is the one great curse of mankind, the principal obstruction to its progress. Take myself, for instance; all my life affection has been showered on me, and everything that I have done I have had to do in spite of it. George Bernard Shaw, quoted in S. J. Woolf, “George Bernard Shaw,” Drawn From Life (1932)
  • One is apt to think of people’s affection as a fixed quantity, instead of a sort of moving sea with tide always going out or coming in but still fundamentally there. Freya Stark, in The Coast of Incense (1953)
  • Praise is well, compliment is well, but affection—that is the last and final and most precious reward that any man can win, whether by character or achievement. Mark Twain, “When in Doubt, Tell the Truth,” in Speeches (1923; A. B. Paine, ed.)

AFFIRMATION

(see also BELIEF and MANTRA and MOTTO and SELF-HELP and SELF-TALK)

  • Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Montaigne, or the Skeptic,” in Representative Men (1850)
  • Affirmations are like prescriptions for certain aspects of yourself you want to change. Jerry Fankhauser, in The Power of Affirmations (1979)
  • An affirmation is a strong, positive statement that something is already so. It is a way of “making firm” that which you are imagining. Shakti Gawain, in The Creating True Prosperity Workbook (1998)

Gawain preceded the thought by writing: “Affirmations are one way of supporting and strengthening our vision. To affirm means ‘to make firm,’”

  • An affirmation opens the door. It’s a beginning point on the path to change. Louise L. Hay, in I Can Do It: How to Use Affirmations to Change Your Life (2004)

Hays added: “The secret to having your affirmations work quickly and consistently is to prepare an atmosphere for them to grow in. Affirmations are like seeds planted in soil. Poor soil, poor growth. Rich soil, abundant growth.”

AFFRONT

(see also ABUSE and INDIGNITY and INJURY and OFFENSE and SLIGHT and WRONG)

  • “Revenge,” I shrieked, groping to remember the affront. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms (1984)

AFRICA

(see also ANTARCTICA and ASIA and AUSTRALIA and CONTINENTS and EUROPE and NORTH AMERICA and SOUTH AMERICA)

  • In the family of continents, Africa is the silent, the brooding sister, courted for centuries by knight-errant empires—rejecting them one by one and severally, because she is too sage and a little bored with the importunity of it all. Beryl Markham, in West With the Night (1942)

AFRICAN-AMERICANS

(see BLACKS)

AFTERLIFE/LIFE AFTER DEATH

(see also DEATH & DYING and ETERNITY and HEAVEN and HELL and IMMORTALITY and REINCARNATION)

  • A red-hot belief in eternal glory is probably the best antidote to human panic that there is. Phyllis Bottome, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist, a Viennese psychoanalyst who fled to England in the 1930s, in Survival (1943)
  • Death but supplies the oil for the inextinguishable lamp of everlasting life. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in Omniana (1812)
  • I can imagine myself on my death-bed, spent utterly with lust to touch the next world, like a boy asking for his first kiss from a woman. Aleister Crowley, in The Confessions of Aleister Crowley (1929)
  • I don’t believe in an afterlife. I am an atheist. Darwin proved for me that there is birth and death and in-between evolution and that is all there is to it. John McCarthy [English entrepreneur], quoted in Charlie Berridge, Building a Billion: the Story of John McCarthy (2011)

A moment later, McCarthy added: “I don’t believe in God or some greater being than mortal man here on earth. In the end we’re just like the leaves on the trees. They start as little green shoots, grow into dense foliage, turn golden, and then drop off and fall to the ground. They are gathered up for the bonfire or rot to provide nourishment for the next generation. All the while the tree trunk grows stronger.”

  • Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean. David Searls, quoted in S. Safransky, Sunbeams: A Book of Quotations (1990)
  • The undiscovered country from whose bourn/No traveller returns. William Shakespeare, the title character alluding to death, in Hamlet (1601)
  • I believe that when death closes our eyes we shall awaken to a light, of which our sunlight is but the shadow. Arthur Schopenhauer, quoted by William M. Salter, in Harvard Theological Review (July, 1911)
  • I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. Carl Sagan, in Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (1997)
  • The grave the last sleep? No; it is the last and final awakening. Sir Walter Scott, 1827 journal entry, in Memoirs of the Life of Sir William Scott, Vol. 5 (1901)
  • Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because dawn has come. Rabindranath Tagore, quoted in Vedanta Monthly: Message of the East (1947, Vol. 36)

AFTERNOON

(see also DAWN & DUSK and EVENING & NIGHT and MORNING)

  • The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected. Proverb (Swedish)

AGE [as in EPOCH or ERA]

(see also EPOCH and ERA and HISTORY & HISTORIANS and PAST and ZEITGEIST)

  • Every age has a keyhole to which its eye is pasted. Mary McCarthy, “My Confession,” in On the Contrary (1953; rev. ed., 1961)

AGE & AGING

(see also ADOLESCENCE and AGE & AGING—OLD AGE and AGE & AGING—SPECIFIC AGES & DECADES and CHILDHOOD and DEATH & DYING and MIDDLE AGE and OLD and YOUTH and YOUTH COMPARED TO OLD AGE)

  • The surest sign of age is loneliness. A. Bronson Alcott, in Tablets (1868)
  • To know how to grow old is the masterwork of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, an 1874 entry in his Journal Intime
  • You can only perceive real beauty in a person as they get older. Anouk Aimée, quoted in the Guardian (Aug. 24, 1988)
  • The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball—the further I am rolled, the more I gain. Susan B. Anthony, in interview with Nelly Bly, New York World (Feb. 2, 1896); reprinted in Ida Husted Harper, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, Vol. 2 (1898)
  • Age will not be defied. Francis Bacon, “Of Regiment and Health,” in Essays (1625)
  • The older one becomes the quicker the present fades into sepia and the past looms up in glorious technicolor. Beryl Bainbridge, quoted in The Observer (London, 1998; specific date undetermined)
  • It’s sad to grow old—but nice to ripen. Brigitte Bardot, quoted in T. Crawley, Bébé: The Films of Brigitte Bardot (1975)
  • The minute a man ceases to grow—no matter what his years—that minute he begins to be old. Bruce Barton, from “I Dread the End of the Year,” in More Power to You (1917)
  • What is called the serenity of age is only perhaps a euphemism for the fading power to feel the sudden shock of joy or sorrow. Arthur Bliss, in As I Remember (1970)
  • I speak the truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare; and I dare a little more, as I grow older. Catherine Drinker Bowen, in Family Portrait (1970)
  • I’ve found two gray hairs in my head the week before last, and an impertinent crow has planted a delicate impression of his foot under my right eye. Mary Elizabeth Braddon, the character Robert Audley speaking, in Lady Audley’s Secret (1862)
  • As you get older, you find that often the wheat, disentangling itself from the chaff, comes out to meet you. Gwendolyn Brooks, in Report From Part One: An Autobiography (1972)
  • A lady of a “certain age,” which means/Certainly aged. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), in Don Juan (1819-24)
  • Years steal/Fire from the mind as vigor from the limb. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812)
  • Most men grow old in a little groove of notions which they have not originated: perhaps there are fewer crooked minds than barren ones. Luc de Clapiers (Marquis de Vauvenargues), in Reflections and Maxims (1746)
  • Unexpected bonus of aging: appreciation for the miracles our bodies go about while we’re preoccupied, pretending we’re in charge. Blayney Colmore, “Notes From Zone 10” newsletter (Feb. 23, 2021)
  • With age, comfort becomes more seductive than beauty. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 8th Selection (1991)
  • Age is like love, it cannot be hid. Thomas Dekker, in Old Fortunatus (1599)
  • Age, death’s twilight. John Donne, in Satires III (c. 1594)
  • Age transfigures, or petrifies. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880-93)
  • All of one’s contemporaries and aging friends are living in a delicate balance, and one feels that one’s own consciousness is no longer as brightly lit as it once was. But then, twilight with its more subdued colors has its charms as well. Albert Einstein, in letter to Gertrud Warschauer (April 4, 1952)
  • Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture, the assumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably the deadliest. Marilyn Ferguson, in The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980)
  • Age…brings along with him/A terrible artillery. Thomas Flatman, in “The Defiance” (1686)
  • Say “no” to the fountain of youth and turn on the fountain of age. Betty Friedan, quoted in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Jan. 30, 1993)

In that same article, Friedan was also quoted as saying: “We need to break through the age mystique by continuing to grow, solving problems, making social changes. We need to see our age as an uncharted adventure.”

  • Just as darkness is sometimes defined as the absence of light, so age is defined as the absence of youth. Age is assessed not by what it is, but by what it is not. Betty Friedan, in The Fountain of Age (1993)
  • I have discovered that there is a crucial difference between society’s image of old people and ‘us’ as we know and feel ourselves to be. Betty Friedan, in The Fountain of Age (1993)
  • One day, there’s a hand that goes over the face and changes it. You look like an apple that isn’t young anymore. Greta Garbo, in Vanity Fair (Feb., 1994)
  • At twenty a man is a peacock, at thirty a lion, at forty a camel, at fifty a serpent, at sixty a dog, at seventy an ape, and at eighty nothing. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • People had much rather be thought to look ill than old: because it is possible to recover from sickness, but there is no recovering from age. William Hazlitt, “Common Places,” in The Literary Examiner (Sep.–Dec., 1823)
  • If you survive long enough, you’re revered—rather like an old building. Katharine Hepburn, in M. Freedland, Katharine Hepburn (1984)
  • Age, like distance, lends a double charm. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in Urania: A Rhymed Lesson (1846)
  • She realized that to grow old is to have taken away, one by one, all gifts of life, the food and wine, the music, and the company. Nothing unexpected is left, there is only a worn-out body mumbling over crumbs in the sure expectation of death: The gods unloose, one by one, the mortal fingers that cling to the edge of the table. Storm Jameson, the voice of the narrator, in Three Kingdoms (1926)
  • Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. James Joyce, the voice of the character Gabriel, from the short story “The Dead,” in Dubliners (1914)
  • From the middle of life onward, only he remains vitally alive who is ready to die with life. Carl Jung, in The Soul and Death (1955; orig. pub. in Europäische Revue, April, 1934); reprinted in Collected Works
  • Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old. Franz Kafka, quoted in Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1951; 2nd expanded ed., 1971)

A moment earlier, Kafka introduced the thought by saying: “Youth is full of sunshine and life. Youth is happy, because it has the ability to see beauty. When this ability is lost, wretched old age begins, decay, unhappiness.” Some Kafka scholars have questioned the authenticity of these observations. See explanation in the Kafka ACHIEVEMENT entry.

  • Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art. Garson Kanin, quoted in The New York Times Book Review (Feb. 26, 1978)
  • Getting older is almost like changing species, from cute middle-aged, white-tailed deer, to yak. We are both grass eaters, but that’s about the only similarity. Anne Lamott, the opening words of “It's Good to Remember: We Are All on Borrowed Time,” in The New York Times (October 30, 2023)

In the opening paragraph, Lamott—writing at age sixty-nine—continued: “At the Safeway sushi bar during lunchtime, I look at the teenage girls in their crop tops with their stupid flat tummies and I feel bad about what lies beneath my big, forgiving shirts but—and this is one of the blessings of aging—not for long.”

  • The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball. Doug Larson, quoted in The Pantagraph [Bloomington, Illinois] (Nov. 25, 2006)
  • It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years. Tom Lehrer, remark made when introducing his song “Alma,” on the 1965 album That Was the Year That Was
  • The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been. Madeleine L’Engle, quoted in S. H. Anderson & D. W. Dunlap, “New York Day By Day”, in The New York Times (April 25, 1985)
  • We all run on two clocks. One is the outside clock, which ticks away our decades and brings us ceaselessly to the dry season. The other is the inside clock, where you are your own timekeeper and determine your own chronology, your own internal weather, and your own rate of living. Max Lerner, “Fifty,” in The New York Post (Dec. 18, 1952); reprinted in The Unfinished Country (1959)

Lerner added: “Sometimes the inner clock runs itself out long before the outer one, and you see a dead man going through the motions of living.”

  • All one’s life as a young woman one is on show, a focus of attention, people notice you. You set yourself up to be noticed and admired. And then, not expecting it, you become middle-aged and anonymous. No one notices you. You achieve a wonderful freedom. It is a positive thing. You can move about, unnoticed and invisible. Doris Lessing, quoted in Robert Andrews, The Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1989)
  • Age to women is like Kryptonite to Superman. Kathy Lette, in A Stitch in Time: A Novel (2005)
  • Age is opportunity no less/Than youth itself, though in another dress,/And as the evening twilight fades away/The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day. Henry Wadsworth Longellow, in Morituri Salutamus (1874)
  • As the arteries grow hard, the heart grows soft. H. L. Mencken, in A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
  • Nothing makes people crosser than being considered too old for love. Nancy Mitford, a reflection of the narrator, a woman known only as Linda, in Love in a Cold Climate (1949)
  • Age imprints more wrinkles in the mind than it does on the face. Michel de Montaigne, in Essays (1580–88)
  • If I had known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself. Billy Noonan, quoted in “Billy Noonan: The Sage of Baudette,” by George L. Peterson, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune (Sep. 16, 1951)

ERROR ALERT: According to Garson O’Toole, aka The Quote Investigator, this is the earliest appearance of a saying that went on to become something close to a modern proverb. Noonan, a 70-year-old Minnesota newspaper columnist, offered the thought in a dinner held in his honor by fellow journalists. The saying is commonly attributed to Eubie Blake, Adolph Zukor, and even Mickey Mantle.

Over the centuries, others had expressed a similar sentiment, but never in the eminently quotable way that Noonan did. Perhaps the earliest came around 1770, when Sir Robert Henley, the Earl of Northington and former Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain was quoted by his grandson as saying. “If I had known that these legs were one day to carry a Chancellor, I’d have taken better care of them when I was a lad.”

  • I used to think that getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Joyce Carol Oates, in The Guardian (Aug. 18, 1989)
  • Age’s terms of peace, after the long interlude of war with life, have still to be concluded—Youth must be kept decently away—so many old wounds may have to be unbound, and old scars pointed to with pride, to prove to ourselves we have been brave and noble. Eugene O’Neill, in Strange Interlude (1928).
  • When the roses are gone, nothing is left but the thorn. Ovid, in The Art of Love (1st c. A.D.)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation has appeared in a number of anthologies on the topic of aging, but it was originally offered in a poem on the fading of beauty. For the fuller quotation, see the Ovid entry in BEAUTY.

  • Thank God for the head. Inside the head is the only place you got to be young when the usual place gets used up. Grace Paley, the title character speaking, “Zagrowsky Tells,” in Later the Same Day (1985)
  • Years are only garments, and you either wear them with style all your life, or else you go dowdy to the grave. Dorothy Parker, in “The Middle or Blue Period,” (1944)) in The Portable Dorothy Parker (1988)
  • The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it. Johann Paul Richter (who wrote under the pen name Jean Paul), quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, in Treasury of Thought (1894, 15th ed.)
  • Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed. Anthony Powell, in Temporary Kings (1973)
  • I’m told that after the age of 60, one loses half an inch of height every five years. This doesn’t appear to be a problem for Biden, but it presents a challenge for me, considering that at my zenith, I didn’t quite make it to five feet. If I live as long as my father did, I may vanish. Robert Reich, “A Holiday Question: How Old is Old?” a Substack post (Dec. 25, 2023)
  • I wonder if one of the penalties of growing older is that you become more and more conscious that nothing in life is very permanent. Eleanor Roosevelt, in My Days (1938)
  • Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. Eleanor Roosevelt, widely quoted, but not sourced
  • There are people whose watch stops at a certain hour and who remain permanently at that age. Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, quoted in John W. Gardner & Francesca Gardner Reese, Quotations of Wit and Wisdom (1975)
  • A man’s age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in Wartime Writings 1939- 1944 (1986)

Saint-Exupéry preceded the observation by writing: “A man’s age is something impressive, it sums up his life: maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves.”

  • It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older one climbs with surprising strides. George Sand, an 1868 journal entry
  • The country of the aged is a land few people think very hard and seriously about before the time of life when they sense they’re arriving there. Maggie Scarf, in Unfinished Business (1980)
  • In a wider sense, it can also be said that the first forty years of our life furnish the text, whereas the following thirty supply the commentary. Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Different Periods of Life,” in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation has also been translated in the following way: “The first forty years of our life give the text, the next thirty furnish the commentary upon it, which enables us rightly to understand the true meaning and connection of the text with its moral and its beauties.”

  • The crucial task of age is balance, a veritable tightrope of balance; keeping just well enough, just brave enough, just gay and interested and starkly honest enough to remain a sentient human being. Florida Scott-Maxwell, in The Measure of My Days (1968)
  • The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists the circulation of their blood. Logan Pearsall Smith, in All Trivia (1933)
  • Old and young, we are all on our last cruise. Robert Louis Stevenson, in Virginibus Puerisque (1881)
  • And what would it be to grow old? For, after a certain distance, every step we take in life we find the ice growing thinner below our feet, and all around us and behind us we see our contemporaries going through. Robert Louis Stevenson, in Virginibus Puerisque (1881)
  • Self-parody is the first portent of age. Larry McMurtry, the narrator and protagonist Danny Deck reflecting on life, in Some Can Whistle (1989)
  • The art of being officially old seems to lie in cooperative submission. Anne Truitt, in Prospect: The Journey of an Artist (1996)
  • When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not; but I am getting old, and soon I shall remember only the latter. Mark Twain, quoted in A. E. Paine, Mark Twain, A Biography: The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Vol. 3 (1912)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the most famous version of an oxymoronic sentiment that Twain expressed on a number of occasions. The very first came in a March 1907 article in The North American Review (titled “Memories of a Southern Farm: A Chapter From Mark Twain’s Autobiography”), where Twain wrote: “When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying, now, and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that happened.” For more, see this excellent 2013 post by Garson O’Toole, aka The Quote Investigator.

  • It’s true, some wine improves with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place. Abigail Van Buren, in “Dear Abby” syndicated column (April 6, 1978)

Van Buren preceded the observation by writing: “Wisdom does not automatically come with old age. Nothing does—except wrinkles.”

  • In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways. Edith Wharton, “A First Word,” in A Backward Glance: An Autobiography (1934)
  • I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism. Virginia Woolf, diary entry (Oct. 2, 1932), written at age fifty; in A Writer’s Diary (1953; Leonard Woolf, ed.)
  • He hated the sight of his beard…. He hated also the outcropping of gray that had insidiously appeared in his mustache, on the left side of his chin, and in his sideburns. These gray bristles were, he knew, the advance scouts of a relentless, wintry invasion. And there would be no stopping the march of the hours, the days, the years. Irvin D. Yalom, in When Nietzsche Wept (1992)

QUOTE NOTE: In this passage, Yalom was describing the reaction of the fictional Dr. Josef Breuer when examining his graying beard in a mirror.

AGE & AGING—MIDDLE AGE

(see also AGE & AGING and AGE & AGING—OLD AGE and AGE & AGING—SPECIFIC AGES & DECADES and ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE and DEATH & DYING and SENILITY and YOUTH and YOUTH COMPARED TO OLD AGE)

  • Years ago we discovered the exact point, the dead center of middle age. It occurs when you are too young to take up golf and too old to rush up to the net. Franklin P. Adams, in Nods and Becks (1944)
  • The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and infinite in wealth and depth of tone—but never hustled. Henry Brooks Adams, in The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
  • Middle age/Is a time of life/That a man first notices/ In his wife. Richard Armour, in Light Armour: Playful Poems on Practically Everything (1954)
  • A person taking stock in middle age is like an artist or composer looking at an unfinished work; but whereas the composer and the painter can erase some of their past efforts, we cannot. We are stuck with what we have lived through. Harry S. Broudy, “Education for Leisure,” in Paradox and Promise: Essays on American Life and Education (1961)

Broudy continued: “The trick is to finish it with a sense of design and a flourish rather than to patch up the holes or merely to add new patches to it.”

  • Middle age is Janus-faced. As we look back on our accomplishments and our failures to achieve the things we wanted, we look ahead to the time we have left to us. Stanley H. Cath, quoted in The New York Times (April 18, 1983)
  • Forty is ten years older than thirty-nine. Frank Irving Cobb, in a circa 1912 note to Joseph Pulitzer; quoted in Louis M. Starr, “Joseph Pulitzer and His Most ‘Indegaddamnpendent’ Editor,” American Heritage (June 1968)
  • The power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged. God has kept that good wine until now. G. K. Chesterton, “The Boyhood of Dickens,” in Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906)

Chesterton continued: “It is from the backs of the elderly gentlemen that the wings of the butterfly should burst.”

  • The really frightening thing about middle age is the knowledge that you'll grow out of it. Doris Day, quoted in A. E. Hotchner, Doris Day: Her Own Story (1975)
  • At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide. F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” in Saturday Evening Post (May, 1920); reprinted in Flappers and Philosophers (1920)
  • Whoever, in middle age, attempts to realize the wishes and hopes of his early youth, invariably deceives himself. Each ten years of a man’s life has its own fortunes, its own hopes, its own desires. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the character Edward speaking, in Elective Affinities (1809)

Edward continued: “Woe to him who, either by circumstances or by his own infatuation, is induced to grasp at anything before him or behind him.”

  • Mere middle age snuffs out more talent than even wars or sudden deaths do. Richard Hughes, the voice of the narrator, in The Fox in the Attic (1961)
  • I think middle age is the best time, if we can escape the fatty degeneration of the conscience which often sets in at about fifty. W. R. Inge, quoted in The Observer (London; June 8, 1930)
  • At fifty, the madwoman in the attic breaks loose, stomps down the stairs, and sets fire to the house. She won’t be imprisoned anymore. Erica Jong, in Fear of Fifty (1994)
  • The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning. Carl Jung, in The Stages of Life (1930)
  • From the middle of life onward, only he remains vitally alive who is ready to die with life. Carl Jung, in The Soul and Death (1955; orig. pub. in Europäische Revue, April, 1934); reprinted in Collected Works
  • Middle age is when you get in the car and immediately change the radio station. Patricia Penton Leimbach, in All My Meadows (1977)
  • All one’s life as a young woman one is on show, a focus of attention, people notice you. You set yourself up to be noticed and admired. And then, not expecting it, you become middle-aged and anonymous. No one notices you. You achieve a wonderful freedom. It is a positive thing. You can move about, unnoticed and invisible. Doris Lessing, a reflection of protagonist Anna Wulf, in The Golden Notebook (1962)
  • He was then in his fifty-fourth year, when even in the case of poets, reason and passion begin to discuss a peace treaty and usually conclude it not very long afterwards. G. C. Lichtenberg, in Aphorisms: Notebook B (written between 1768–1771)
  • Perhaps middle age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)

Lindbergh continued: “Perhaps one can shed at this stage in life as one sheds in beach-living; one’s pride, one’s false ambitions, one’s mask, one’s armor. Was that armor not put on to protect one from the competitive world? If one ceases to compete, does one need it? Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, be completely oneself. And what a liberation that would be!”

  • For is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second flowering, second growth, even a kind of second adolescence? Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)

Lindbergh continued: “It is true that society in general does not help one accept this interpretation of the second half of life. And therefore this period of expanding is often tragically misunderstood.”

  • It’s middle-age which is cursed by the desperate need to cling to some finger-hold halfway up the mountain, to conform, not to cause trouble, to behave well, and it is perhaps mercifully, the period which becomes blurred in the memory, the time when you did nothing more difficult than survive. John Mortimer, in Murderers and Other Friends: Another Part of Life (1995)
  • I have discovered that middle-age is not a question of years. It is that moment in life when one realizes that one has exchanged, by a series of subtle shifts and substitutes, the vague and vaporous dreams of youth, for the definite and tangible realization. Kathleen Thompson Norris, in Noon—An Autobiographical Sketch (1925)

Norris continued: “It may be a very beautiful and successful realization; it may be indeed real furs for dream furs, real travel for dream travel—but it is never the dream, it never can be the dream.”

  • In middle age we are apt to reach the horrifying conclusion that all sorrow, all pain, all passionate regret and loss and bitter disillusionment are self-made. Kathleen Thompson Norris, in Hands Full of Living: Talks with American Women (1931)
  • My mother had demonstrated that the best way to defeat the numbing ambivalence of middle age is to surprise yourself—by pulling off some cartwheel of thought or action never even imagined at a younger age. Gail Sheehy, in Spirit of Survival (1986)
  • The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them. Henry David Thoreau, a journal entry (July 14, 1852)

AGE & AGING—OLD AGE

(see also AGE & AGING and AGE & AGING—MIDDLE AGE and AGE & AGING—SPECIFIC AGES & DECADES and ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE and DEATH & DYING and SENILITY and YOUTH and YOUTH COMPARED TO OLD AGE)

  • I am not well; I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed tenement, battered by the winds and broken in upon by the storms; and, from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair. John Adams, on his ninety-year-old body, to Daniel Webster on June 17, 1826. Adams died a few weeks later, on July 4, 1826.
  • To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent—that is to triumph over old age. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, “Leaves From a Notebook,” in Ponkapog Papers (1903)
  • Of late I appear/To have reached that stage/When people look old/Who are only my age. Richard Armour, in Going Like Sixty: A Lighthearted Look at the Later Years (1974)
  • Old men tend to forget what thought was like in their youth; they forget the quickness of the mental jump, the daring of the youthful intuition, the agility of the fresh insight. Isaac Asimov, in Pebble in the Sky (1950)

QUOTE NOTE: The words are from the novel's narrator, who added: “They become accustomed to the more plodding varieties of reason, and because this is more than made up by the accumulation of experience, old men think themselves wiser than the young.”

  • Old Age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young. Fred Astaire, in a 1979 issue of American Opinion magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Old age ain’t no place for sissies. Author Unknown, but often attributed to Bette Davis, who had a pillow engraved with the saying

QUOTE NOTE: In a 2019 Quote Investigator post, Garson O'Toole wrote: “The adage was popularized by Ruth S. Hain starting in 1968 via an anecdote published in the Reader’s Digest. The creator was anonymous. Bette Davis owned a pillow displaying the adage which also aided its propagation.”

  • Old age is the verdict of life. Amelia E. Barr, in All the Days of My Life (1913)
  • To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am. Bernard Baruch, quoted in Newsweek magazine (Aug. 29, 1955)
  • A man in old age is like a sword in a shop window. Henry Ward Beecher, in Life Thoughts (1858)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is normally presented, but the observation takes on a fuller meaning when one sees how Beecher completed the thought: “Men that look upon the perfect blade do not imagine the process by which it was completed. Man is a sword. Daily life is the workshop, and God is the artificer, and those cares which beat upon the anvil, and file his edge, and eat in, acid-like, the inscription upon his hilt—these are the very things that fashion the man.”

  • I have begun in old age to understand…that we seldom if ever realize how generous we are to ourselves, and just how stingy with others. Saul Bellow, “Ralph Ellison in Tivoli” (1998), in There is Simply Too Much to Think About: Collected Nonfiction (2015)

Bellow continued: “One of the booby traps of freedom—which is bordered on all sides by isolation—is that we think so well of ourselves. I now see that I have helped myself to the best cuts at life’s banquet.”

  • It is as natural for old age to be frail, as for the stalk to bend under the ripened ear, or for the autumnal leaf to change its hue. To this law all who went before you have submitted; and all who shall come after you must yield. After they have flourished for a season, they shall fade, like you, when the period of decline arrives, and bow under the pressure of years. Hugh Blair, “On Duties and Consolations of the Aged,” in Sermons, Vol. I (1822)

Blair preceded the thought by writing: “Throughout the whole vegetable, sensible, and rational world, whatever makes progress towards maturity, as soon as it has passed that point, begins to verge towards decay.”

  • With full-span lives having become the norm, people may need to learn how to be aged as they once had to learn how to be adult. Ronald Blythe, in The View in Winter: Reflections on Old Age (1979)
  • Old men only lie in wait for people to ask them to talk. Then they rattle on like a rusty elevator wheezing up a shaft. Ray Bradbury, in R is for Rocket (1962)
  • What’s old age for if not dispensing bullshit and calling it wisdom? Steven Brust, in Good Guys (2018)
  • You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoes and wonder what else you could do while you’re down there. George Burns, quoted in Robert Byrne, The Fourth and By Far the Most Recent 637 Best Things Ever Said (1990)
  • Just because you’re an old guy, you don’t have to sit around drooling in the corner. George H. W. Bush, said just after a parachute jump on his eighty-fifth birthday; quoted in George H. W. Bush, 41: A Portrait of My Father (2014)

The elder Bush continued: “Get out and do something. Get out and enjoy life.”

  • The man who works and is not bored is never old. Pablo Casals, quoted in Julian Lloyd Webber, Song of the Birds: Sayings, Stories, and Impressions of Pablo Casals (1985)
  • Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative. Maurice Chevalier, quoted in The New York Times (Oct. 9, 1960)

QUOTE NOTE: This has become something of a signature line for the debonair French actor, who likely offered slightly varying versions of the remark on different occasions. Michael Freedland’s biography Maurice Chevalier (1981) reports the actor saying, “Considering the alternative, it’s not too bad at all” when asked how he felt about how he felt on his seventy-second birthday.

  • Avarice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road the nearer we approach to our journey’s end? Marcus Tullius Cicero, in “On Old Age” (44 B.C.)

ERROR ALERT: In one of the most egregious errors on the internet, the vast majority of quotation sites—and, sadly, even many respected published books of quotations—mistakenly begin the observation: “Advice in old age….” (italics mine)

  • As a white candle/In a holy place,/So is the beauty/Of an aged face. Joseph Campbell, from 1913 poem “The Old Woman,” in H. Monroe, The New Poetry (1917)
  • One keeps forgetting old age up to the very brink of the grave. Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), “My Mother and Illness,” in My Mother’s House (1922)
  • It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life’s parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Coming of Age (1970)
  • Old age is particularly difficult to assume because we have always regarded it as something alien, a foreign species: “Can I have become a different being while I still remain myself?” Simone de Beauvoir, in The Coming of Age (1970)
  • Old age was growing inside me. It kept catching my eye from the depths of the mirror. I was paralyzed sometimes as I saw it make its way for me so steadily when nothing inside me was ready for it. Simone de Beauvoir, in Force of Circumstances (1963)
  • Old age is a shipwreck. Charles de Gaulle, quoted in Don Cook, Charles de Gaulle: A Biography (1983)

QUOTATION CAUTION: The words do come from De Gaulle, but he was not describing his own aging process, as is suggested in many quotation anthologies. Rather, they appeared as part of a fuller observation de Gaulle made about the aging French military leader, Marshal Pétain: “The old man is losing his sense of proportion. Nothing and nobody will stop the marshal on the road to senile ambition. Old age is a shipwreck.”

  • I don't know how you feel about old age, but in my case I didn't even see it coming. It hit me in the rear. Phyllis Diller, from her stand-up routine
  • In all the world there are no people so piteous and forlorn as those who are forced to eat the bitter bread of dependence in their old age, and find how steep are the stairs of another man’s house. Dorothy Dix, in Dorothy Dix—Her Book: Every-Day Help for Every-Day People (1926)
  • Age, death’s twilight. John Donne, in Satires III (c. 1594)
  • No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace,/As I have seen in one autumnal face.
 
John Donne, “The Autumnal,” in Elegies (1600)
  • Old age is an insult. It’s like being smacked. Lawrence Durrell, quoted in Sunday Times (London, Nov. 20, 1988)
  • Old age and sickness bring out the essential characteristics of a man. Felix Frankfurter, in Felix Frankfurter Reminisces (1960)
  • I have discovered that there is a crucial difference between society’s image of old people and ‘us’ as we know and feel ourselves to be. Betty Friedan, in The Fountain of Age (1993)
  • One day, there’s a hand that goes over the face and changes it. You look like an apple that isn’t young anymore. Greta Garbo, in Vanity Fair (Feb., 1994)
  • We must not take the faults of our youth into our old age; for old age brings with it its own defects. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a remark in conversation (Aug. 16, 1824 ), quoted in Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe (1836)
  • At twenty a man is a peacock, at thirty a lion, at forty a camel, at fifty a serpent, at sixty a dog, at seventy an ape, and at eighty nothing. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • Old age is somewhat like dieting. Every day there is less of us to be deserved. Doris Grumbach, in Fifty Days of Solitude (1994)
  • Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator. Jane Harrison, in Reminiscences of A Student’s Life (1925)
  • People had much rather be thought to look ill than old: because it is possible to recover from sickness, but there is no recovering from age. William Hazlitt, “Common Places,” in The Literary Examiner (Sep.–Dec., 1823)
  • If you survive long enough, you’re revered—rather like an old building. Katharine Hepburn, in M. Freedland, Katharine Hepburn (1984)
  • Old age equalizes—we are aware that what is happening to us has happened to untold numbers from the beginning of time. When we are young we act as if we were the first young people in the world. Eric Hoffer, in Reflections on the Human Condition (1973)
  • When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age. Victor Hugo, the narrator describing the character Marius Pontmercy, in Les Misérables (1862)
  • Love, the last defense against old age. Aldous Huxley, “Old Age,” in Texts and Pretexts: An Anthology of Poetry with Commentaries (1933)

Huxley continued: “The last, and for those whose good fortune it is to have some one person to care for, or who have learned the infinitely difficult art of loving all their neighbors, the best.”

  • She realized that to grow old is to have taken away, one by one, all gifts of life, the food and wine, the music, and the company. Nothing unexpected is left, there is only a worn-out body mumbling over crumbs in the sure expectation of death: The gods unloose, one by one, the mortal fingers that cling to the edge of the table. Storm Jameson, the voice of the narrator, in Three Kingdoms (1926)
  • From the middle of life onward, only he remains vitally alive who is ready to die with life. Carl Jung, in The Soul and Death (1955; orig. pub. in Europäische Revue, April, 1934); reprinted in Collected Works
  • Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old. Franz Kafka, quoted in Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1951; 2nd expanded ed., 1971)

QUOTE NOTE: A moment earlier, Kafka introduced the thought by saying: “Youth is full of sunshine and life. Youth is happy, because it has the ability to see beauty. When this ability is lost, wretched old age begins, decay, unhappiness.” Some Kafka scholars have questioned the authenticity of these observations. See explanation in the Kafka ACHIEVEMENT entry.

  • Old age is not a disease—it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses. Maggie Kuhn, quoted in D. Hessel, Maggie Kuhn on Aging (1977)
  • Old age on a good day is a dance we don’t know the steps to: we falter. Anne Lamott, “Dear Old Friend,” in Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (2007)

Lamott added: “We may not be going in the direction we’d anticipated, or have any clue at all about which way to turn next.”

  • Old age is a tyrant who forbids, upon pain of death, all of the pleasures of youth. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • The reality of old age starts to sink in when you no longer have to ask for the senior citizen’s discount. Doug Larson, in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (Feb. 28, 1985)
  • The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been. Madeleine L’Engle, quoted in S. H. Anderson & D. W. Dunlap, “New York Day By Day”, in The New York Times (April 25, 1985)
  • In old age our bodies are worn-out instruments, on which the soul tries in vain to play the melodies of youth. But because the instrument has lost its strings, or is out of tune, it does not follow that the musician has lost his skill. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • Old age is far more than white hair, wrinkles, the feeling that it is too late and the game finished, that the stage belongs to rising generations. The true evil is not the weakening of the body, but the indifference of the soul. André Maurois, in The Art of Living (1940)
  • The secret of a good old age is simply an honorable pact with solitude. Gabriel García Márquez, the narrator describing the life of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, in One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
  • Old age has ts pleasures, which though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth. W. Somerset Maugham, in The Summing Up (1938)

Maugham preceded the thought by writing: “The complete life, the perfect pattern, includes old age as well as youth and maturity. The beauty of the morning and the radiance of noon are good, but it would be a very silly person who drew the curtains and turned on the light in order to shut out the tranquility of the evening.“

  • When I was young I was amazed at Plutarch’s statement that the elder Cato began at the age of eighty to learn Greek. I am amazed no longer. Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long. W. Somerset Maugham, in The Partial View (1954)

Maugham continued: “In old age the taste improves and it is possible to enjoy art and literature without the personal bias that in youth warps the judgment.”

  • Old age is never fun. It presents in an acute form the human predicament: everyone must become neglected, forgotten, or replaced. Robert McCrum, in “Gore Vidal: A Lion in Winter,” The Guardian (June 16, 2007)
  • Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do. Golda Meir, quoted by Oriana Fallaci, L’Europeo (1973)

Meir continued: “You can’t stop the plane, you can’t stop the storm, you can’t stop time. So one might as well accept it calmly, wisely.”

  • One must make the most of old age. We can laugh at it, we can be lachrymose about it, we can certainly deplore it, but we must seek the best in it. Jan Morris, “On Getting Old: An Agnostic Sermon,” in Allegorizings (2021)

In the essay, Morris also offered these other observations on the subject:

“There are a few advantages in getting old, and to some degree they compensate for the disadvantages. Make the most of them! With luck, never again will you have to stand in a crowded train: somebody is sure to offer you their seat with a sweet smile.”

“One of the prizes of old age is its release from competition.”

“Old age is the right to be absolutely ourselves. Laugh, cry, satirize it my friends, when your time comes—but make the most of it too!”

  • If I had known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself. Billy Noonan, quoted in “Billy Noonan: The Sage of Baudette,” by George L. Peterson, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune (Sep. 16, 1951)

ERROR ALERT: According to Garson O’Toole, aka The Quote Investigator, this is the earliest appearance of a saying that went on to become something close to a modern proverb. Noonan, a 70-year-old Minnesota newspaper columnist, offered the thought in a dinner held in his honor by fellow journalists. The saying is commonly attributed to Eubie Blake, Adolph Zukor, and even Mickey Mantle.

Over the centuries, others had expressed a similar sentiment, but never in the eminently quotable way that Noonan did. Perhaps the earliest came around 1770, when Sir Robert Henley, the Earl of Northington and former Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain was quoted by his grandson as saying. “If I had known that these legs were one day to carry a Chancellor, I’d have taken better care of them when I was a lad.”

  • I used to think that getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Joyce Carol Oates, in The Guardian (Aug. 18, 1989)
  • The last act is bloody, however delightful the rest of the play may be. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670)
  • It is easier to counterfeit old age than youth. Elizabeth Peters, in The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog (1992)
  • What’s an old man to do,/But reshape/The landscape of desire. Louis Phillips, “What’s An Old Man To Do,” in Sunlight Falling to the Lake (2020)
  • Old men, for the most part, are like old chronicles that give you dull but true accounts of times past, and are worth knowing only on that score. Alexander Pope, in Thoughts on Various Subjects (1727)
  • Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed. Anthony Powell, in Temporary Kings (1973)
  • When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground. Proverb (African)
  • For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of harvest. Proverb (Yiddish)
  • The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it. Johann Paul Richter (who wrote under the pen name Jean Paul), quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, in Treasury of Thought (1894, 15th ed.)
  • Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. Eleanor Roosevelt, widely quoted, but not sourced
  • Old age isn’t a battle. Old age is a massacre. Philip Roth, in Everyman (2006).
  • It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older one climbs with surprising strides. George Sand, an 1868 journal entry
  • For inside all the weakness of old age, the spirit, God knows, is as mercurial as it ever was. May Sarton, in Kinds of Love (1974)
  • Old age is not an illness, it is a timeless ascent. As power diminishes, we grow toward the light. May Sarton, in “The Family of Woman,” in Ms magazine (1982)
  • I suppose real old age begins when one looks backward rather than forward. May Sarton, in At Seventy (1984)
  • Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force. Dorothy L. Sayers, the character Sir Impey speaking, in Clouds of Witness (1956)
  • The country of the aged is a land few people think very hard and seriously about before the time of life when they sense they’re arriving there. Maggie Scarf, in Unfinished Business (1980)
  • The closing years of life are like the end of a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped. Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Different Periods of Life,” in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation, and a bit more, has also been translated in the following way: “Towards the end of life, much the same happens as at the end of a masked ball when the masks are removed. We now see hothouse really were with whom we had come in contact during the course of our life. Characters have revealed themselves, deeds have borne fruit, achievements have been justly appreciated, and all illusions have crumbled away.”

  • In a wider sense, it can also be said that the first forty years of our life furnish the text, whereas the following thirty supply the commentary. Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Different Periods of Life,” in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation has also been translated in the following way: “The first forty years of our life give the text, the next thirty furnish the commentary upon it, which enables us rightly to understand the true meaning and connection of the text with its moral and its beauties.”

  • Old age is an incurable disease. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger), in Letters to Lucilius (c. 65 A.D.)
  • Old age is rather like another country. You will enjoy it more if you have prepared yourself before you go. B. F. Skinner, in Enjoy Old Age: A Program of Self-Management (1983; with M. E. Vaughan)
  • There are people who, like houses, are beautiful in dilapidation. Logan Pearsall Smith, “Age and Death,” in Afterthoughts (1931)
  • The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists the circulation of their blood. Logan Pearsall Smith, in All Trivia (1933)
  • One evil in old age is, that as your time is come, you think that every little illness is the beginning of the end. When a man expects to be arrested, every knock at the door is an alarm. Sydney Smith, in letter to Sir Wilmot Horton (Feb. 8, 1836); quoted in Lady Holland (Saba Smith), A Memoir of The Reverend Sydney Smith: by His Daughter (1855)
  • And what would it be to grow old? For, after a certain distance, every step we take in life we find the ice growing thinner below our feet, and all around us and behind us we see our contemporaries going through. Robert Louis Stevenson, in Virginibus Puerisque (1881)
  • Old age is an illness in itself. Terence, in Phormio (2nd c. B.C.)
  • Do not go gentle into that good night./Old age should burn and rave at close of day;/Rage, rage, against the dying of the light. Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” in In Country Sleep (1952)

This is the most famous portion of one of Thomas's most famous poems. You can hear the author reciting the entire poem on: YouTube

  • Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man. Leon Trotsky, diary entry (May 8, 1935), in Diary in Exile—1935 (1958)
  • The art of being officially old seems to lie in cooperative submission. Anne Truitt, in Prospect: The Journey of an Artist (1996)
  • Lord save us all from old age and broken health and a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms. Mark Twain, in letter to Joe T. Goodman (April, 1891); reprinted in The Letters of Mark Twain, Vol. 4: 1886–1900 (A. B. Paine, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: Twain was writing to console an old friend who had become ill. He preceded the thought by writing: “It is dreadful to think of you in ill health—I can’t realize it; you are always to me the same that you were in those days when matchless health and glowing spirits and delight in life were commonplaces with us.”

  • I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: That we can’t reach old age by another man’s road. Mark Twain, in a Dec. 5, 1905 speech at Delmonico’s restaurant, at a party to celebrate Twain’s 70th birthday
  • In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways. Edith Wharton, “A First Word,” in A Backward Glance: An Autobiography (1934)
  • Old age is a special problem for me because I’ve never been able to shed the mental image I have of myself—a lad of about nineteen. E. B. White, a remark on his seventieth birthday, in “E. B. White: Notes and Comment by Author” (interview with Israel Shenker), The New York Times (July 11, 1969)
  • The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young. Oscar Wilde, the character Harry speaking, in The Picture of Dorian Grey (1891)
  • Never lose sight of the fact that old age needs so little but needs that little so much. Margaret A. Willour, quoted in a 1982 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific issue undetermined)

QUOTE NOTE: I consider this one of the most powerful things ever said on the subject of old age. While researching the quotation’s authenticity, I learned that it did indeed come from Willour (pronounced Will-HOUR), although I was unable to locate a precise original source. Born in Troy, Pennsylvania in 1892, Willhour served as a combat nurse during WWI. After the war, she worked as a Pennsylvania public heath nurse for 18 years before becoming one of the first—if not the first—female agents for New York Life. In 1985, at age ninety-two (and three years before her death), she was honored by New York Life for fifty years of service with the company. According to a family member I interviewed, she made the foregoing “needs so little” remark in the last decade of her life.

  • An aged man is but a paltry thing,/A tattered coat upon a stick. William Butler Yeats, in “Sailing to Byzantium” (1926), in The Tower (1928)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This is how the couplet appears in almost every quotation anthology I’ve seen. Presented this way, it is a depressing sentiment, but the full stanza in Yeats’s famous poem indicates that he added an extremely important unless caveat: “An aged man is but a paltry thing,/A tattered coat upon a stick, unless/Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing/For every tatter in its mortal dress.”

AGE & AGING—SPECIFIC AGES & DECADES

(see also AGE & AGING and AGE & AGING—OLD AGE and DEATH & DYING and MIDDLE AGE and YOUTH and YOUTH COMPARED TO OLD AGE)

  • When you’re forty, half of you belongs to the past—and when you are seventy, nearly all of you. Jean Anouilh, the Duchess speaking, in Time Remembered (1939)
  • Sex after ninety is like trying to shoot pool with a rope. George Burns, a signature line

QUOTE NOTE: Burns offered numerous versions of this line in his later years, but it looks like he may have borrowed the quip from Jack Benny. In B. S. I Love You: Sixty Funny Years with the Famous and the Infamous (1989), Milton Berle wrote: “Jack Benny’s line about Burns and sex was a big winner too: ‘George Burns having sex is like shooting pool with a rope’”).

  • Forty is ten years older than thirty-nine. Frank Irving Cobb, in a circa 1912 note to Joseph Pulitzer; quoted in Louis M. Starr, “Joseph Pulitzer and His Most ‘Indegaddamnpendent’ Editor,” American Heritage (June 1968)
  • Being seventy-five means you sometimes get up in the morning and feel like a bent hairpin. Hume Cronyn, in 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace (April 12, 1987)
  • I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere. Carrie Fisher, diary entry of protagonist Suzanne Vale during her fifth day in detox, in Postcards From the Edge (1987)

Vale preceded the thought by writing: “The positive way to look at this is that from here things can only go up. But I’ve been up, and I always feel like a trespasser. A transient at the top. It’s like I’ve got a visa for happiness, but for sadness I’ve got a lifetime pass.”

  • At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide. F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” in Saturday Evening Post (May, 1920); reprinted in Flappers and Philosophers (1920)
  • Thirty—the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair. F. Scott Fitzgerald, a reflection of the narrator, Nick Carraway, in The Great Gatsby (1925)
  • To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., quoted by Richard Henry Dana in remarks at 1906 meeting of the Cambridge Historical Society (April 27, 1906)

QUOTE NOTE: I’ve read that Holmes offered the observation at a party celebrating the seventieth birthday of Julia Ward Howe in 1889, but have been unable to confirm this.

  • When I was as you are now, towering in [the] confidence of twenty-one, little did I suspect that I should be at forty-nine, what I now am. Samuel Johnson, in letter to Bennet Langton (Jan. 9, 1759), quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites, and many published volumes of quotations, mistakenly present this observation as if it read, “Towering is the confidence of twenty-one.”

  • At fifty, the madwoman in the attic breaks loose, stomps down the stairs, and sets fire to the house. She won’t be imprisoned anymore. Erica Jong, in Fear of Fifty (1994)
  • There’s a point, around the age of twenty…when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities. Ursula K. Le Guin, the character Bedap speaking, in The Dispossessed (1974)

QUOTE NOTE: In the novel, Bedap makes this remark to the character Shevek, who replies: “Or at least accept them with resignation.” The Dispossessed is one of LeGuin’s most acclaimed works, one of a small number of sci-fi novels to win the Hugo, Lotus, and Nebula Awards for Best Novel.

  • He was then in his fifty-fourth year, when even in the case of poets, reason and passion begin to discuss a peace treaty and usually conclude it not very long afterwards. G. C. Lichtenberg, in Aphorisms: Notebook B (written between 1768–1771)
  • By the age of fifty you have made yourself what you are, and if it is good, it is better than your youth. If it is bad, it is not because you are older but because you have not grown. Marya Mannes, in More in Anger: Some Opinions, Uncensored and Unteleprompted (1958)

Mannes preceded the thought by writing: “There is no “trick” in being young: it happens to you. But the process of maturing is an art to be learned, an effort to be sustained.”

  • As you get older, you have to watch it [free will] dwindle. At twenty your choices are almost unlimited. At fifty you’re a prisoner of past decisions. At seventy you have no free will left at all. Helen McCloy (pen name of Helen Clarkson), the character Alcott speaking, Mr. Splitfoot (1968)
  • Being over seventy is like being engaged in a war. All our friends are going or gone and we survive amongst the dead and dying as on a battlefield. Muriel Spark, in Memento Mori (1959)
  • I'll never make the mistake of being 70 again. Casey Stengel, in 1960 remarks to the press after being fired as manager of the New York Yankees
  • With sixty staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and definite hardening of the paragraphs. James Thurber, cartoon caption, New York Post (June 30, 1955)
  • Let her who is forty call herself forty; but if she can be young in spirit at forty, let her show that she is so. Anthony Trollope, a reflection of the narrator, in The Small House at Allington (1864)
  • To be seventy years old is like climbing the Alps. You reach a snow-crowned summit, and see behind you the deep valley stretching miles and miles away, and before you other summits higher and whiter, which you may have strength to climb, or may not. Then you sit down and meditate and wonder which it will be. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in an 1877 letter
  • Approaching eighty I sometimes see myself from a little distance, as a man I know, but not intimately. John Updike, a reflection of the unnamed narrator, in the short story “The Full Glass,” in My Fathers Tears and Other Stories (published posthumously in 2009)

AGGRESSION & AGGRESSIVENESS

(see also ABUSE and ANGER and BELLIGERENCE and BULLYING and COMBATIVENESS and CRUELTY and HATRED and HOSTILITY and PUGNACITY and RAGE and VIOLENCE)

(see also ABUSE and ANGER and BELLIGERENCE and COMBATIVENESS and CRUELTY and HOSTILITY and PUGNACITY and VIOLENCE)

  • The truth is often a terrible weapon of aggression. It is possible to lie, and even to murder, with the truth. Alfred Adler, in The Problems of Neurosis (1929)
  • In my experience of fights and fighting, it is invariably the aggressor who keeps getting everything wrong. Martin Amis, “Gore Vidal” (1977), in The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America (1986)
  • There’s an aggressive element to wit. Rita Mae Brown, in Starting From Scratch (1988)
  • In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It's an aggressive, even a hostile act. Joan Didion, “Why I Write,” in Janet Sternburg, The Writer on Her Work, Vol. 1 (1980)

Didion continued: “You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions—with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating—but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.”

  • Aggression is part of the masculine design; we are hardwired for it. John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secrets of a Man’s Soul (2001)

Comparing boys and girls, Eldredge added: “Little girls do not invent games where large numbers of people die, where blood is a prerequisite for having fun. Hockey, for example was not a feminine creation. Nor was boxing. A boy wants to attack something—and so does a man, even if it’s only a little white ball on a tee.”

  • Writing is an aggressive act because you aren’t leaving well enough alone. Some people will love you for it and others will feel threatened by your nerve. Whenever you write you reject being a passive receiver or a victim. When you finish a piece, you’re refusing to be silenced or ignored. Writing is brave. Bonni Goldberg, in Room to Write (1996)
  • The crucial disadvantage of aggression, competitiveness, and skepticism as national characteristics is that these qualities cannot be turned off at five o’clock. Margaret Halsey, in The Folks at Home (1952)
  • Success only feeds the appetite of aggression. Lyndon Johnson, in a press conference (July 28, 1965)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is usually presented, but when LBJ was defending his decision to keep troops in Vietnam, his fuller remark indicates he was talking about totalitarian aggression: “We learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression.” President Jimmy Carter returned to the theme in a 1980 speech: “Aggression unopposed becomes a contagious disease.”

  • A society that presumes a norm of violence and celebrates aggression, whether in the subway, on the football field, or in the conduct of its business, cannot help making celebrities of the people who would destroy it. Lewis H. Lapham, “Citizen Goetz,” in Harper’s magazine (March, 1985)
  • Rape is not aggressive sexuality, it is sexualized aggression. Audre Lorde, in 1980 speech (“Age, Race, Class, and Sex”); reprinted in Sister Outsider (1984)
  • No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched. George Jean Nathan, “Undeveloped Notes,” in The Smart Set magazine (Aug. 1922)
  • Aggression in normal daily interactions is like activating a smoke alarm when there is no smoke. Gwen Randall-Young, in Growing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution (2004)

She added: “Actually, it is worse. The ringing alarm would be annoying, but it would do no harm. Aggression at best is annoying, and at worst, itself, becomes life threatening.”

  • So much attention is paid to the aggressive sins, such as violence and cruelty and greed with all their tragic effects, that too little attention is paid to the passive sins, such as apathy and laziness, which in the long run can have a more devastating and destructive effect upon society than the others. Eleanor Roosevelt, in You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life (1960)
  • Evasion can be a form of aggression. Carol Shields, in The Stone Diaries (1994)
  • The most destructive element in the human mind is fear. Fear creates aggressiveness; aggressiveness engenders hostility; hostility engenders fear—a disastrous circle. Dorothy Thompson, in The Courage to Be Happy (1957)

AGITATION [Internal]

(see ANXIETY and DISTRESS)

  • I feel so agitated all the time, like a hamster in search of a wheel. Carrie Fisher, a reflection of protagonist Suzanne Vale, in Postcards From the Edge (1987)

AGITATION [Social & Political]

(see also ACTIVISM and CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE and DEMONSTRATIONS and DISSENT and MILITANCY & MILITANTS and OPPOSITION and OUTRAGE and REBELLION and PROTEST and [Protest] SONG and RESISTANCE and REVOLUTION)

  • Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. Frederick Douglass, in an 1857 speech
  • Agitation is the marshalling of the conscience of a people to mold its laws. Robert Peel, quoted in The Missionary Review (1894, Vol. 17)
  • Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. Oscar Wilde, in The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)

Wilde added: “That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilization. Slavery was put down in America…through the grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators in Boston and elsewhere who…set the torch alight, who began the whole thing.”

AGNOSTICISM & AGNOSTICS

(see also ATHEISM & ATHEISTS and BELIEF and CHRISTIANITY and DOUBT and FAITH and HERESY & HERETICS and RELIGION and SKEPTICISM & SKEPTICS and THEOLOGY)

  • Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? Douglas Adams, a reflection of the character Ford Prefect, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
  • I say that I am an agnostic. People think that's pusillanimous and covering your bets. But it's not based on any belief or yearning for an afterlife but on the fact that we actually know so little about the cosmos. It is a tribute to the complexity and, at our present stage of development, the unknowability of the universe. Martin Amis, in “The New Amis” in The Telegraph (London; May 13, 2000)
  • Agnostics: atheists without balls. Stephen Colbert, in I am America (And So Can You!) (2007)
  • I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure—that is all that agnosticism means. Clarence Darrow, in speech at the trial of biology teacher John T. Scopes for teaching evolution, popularly known as the “Monkey Trial” (Dayton, Tennessee; July 13, 1925)
  • An agnostic is a doubter. The word is generally applied to those who doubt the verity of accepted religious creeds of faiths. Clarence Darrow, in Why I Am an Agnostic (1929)
  • I think I'm a love agnostic—not sure, one way or another, if it really exists. Joan M. Drury, in Silent Words (1996)
  • One should not have the arrogance to declare that God does not exist. Umberto Eco, quoted in “Belief or Nonbelief?: A Confrontation By Umberto Eco and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini,” The Los Angeles Times (March 18, 2000)
  • My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment. Albert Einstein, in letter to Morton Berkowitz (Oct. 25, 1950)

QUOTE NOTE: Einstein sometimes described himself as an agnostic, and at other times as something closer to a pantheist. Never, however, did he express a belief in a personal God. In 1929, Herbert S. Goldstein a rabbi at the Institutional Synagogue in New York sent a cable to Einstein in which he famously asked: “Do you believe in God? Stop. Prepaid reply fifty words.” Einstein needed only twenty-nine words to reply, and his answer has become part of his legacy: “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

  • [I call myself] an atheist. Agnostic for me would be trying to weasel out and sound a little nicer than I am about this. Richard Feynman, his response when asked whether he called himself an atheist or an agnostic; quoted in Denis Brian, The Voice of Genius: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries (1995)
  • Agnosticism is a perfectly respectable and tenable philosophical position; it is not dogmatic and makes no pronouncements about the ultimate truths of the universe. It remains open to evidence and persuasion; lacking faith, it nevertheless does not deride faith. Sydney J. Harris, “Atheists, Like Fundamentalists, are Dogmatic,” in Pieces of Eight (1982)

Harris was contrasting agnosticism with atheism. He continued: “Atheism, on the other hand, is as unyielding and dogmatic about religious belief as true believers are about heathens. It tries to use reason to demolish a structure that is not built upon reason; because, though rational argument may take us to the edge of belief, we require a ‘leap of faith’ to jump the chasm.”

  • It is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what agnosticism asserts; and, in my opinion, it is all that is essential to agnosticism. T. H. Huxley, “Agnosticism” (1889), in The Nineteenth Century (Feb., 1889)
  • Tolerance is thin gruel compared to the rapture of absolute truths. It’s not surprising that religious people are often better protected by atheists and agnostics than each other. Wendy Kaminer, “Absolutisms on Parade,” in Free Inquiry (2001)
  • I could become like that dyslexic agnostic in the old joke— the one who lies in bed and tries to figure out if his dog exists. Anne Lamott, in Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year (1993)
  • In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist. H. P. Lovecraft, in letter to Robert E. Howard (Aug. 16, 1932)

Lovecraft preceded the thought by writing: “All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don't regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine.”

AGONY

(see also PAIN and SUFFERING)

  • The fiercest agonies have shortest reign;/And after dreams of horror, comes again/The welcome morning with its rays of peace. William Cullen Bryant, “Mutation: A Sonnet” (1824), in The Complete Poems of William Cullen Bryant (1836)

This was the continuation of a lovely piece of metaphorical verse on the fleeting nature of deep pain. It began this way: “They talk of short-lived pleasure—be it so—/Pain dies as quickly: stern, hard-featured pain/Expires, and lets her weary prisoner go.”

  • There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you. Zora Neale Hurston, in Dust Tracks on the Road (1942)

ERROR ALERT: Even though this is one of Hurston’s most famous quotations, it is often mistakenly attributed to Maya Angelou, even by people who should know better. In America I AM Legends (2009), a beautiful coffee table book published to accompany Tavis Smiley’s national traveling exhibition celebrating the African-American experience, Angelou is quoted as saying: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

  • A poem like that cannot be written by technique alone. It is carved out of agony, just as a statue is carved out of marble. Louise Bogan, on a poem by Rilke, in a 1935 letter to Theodore Roethke
  • And ‘tis a strange truth that only in the agony of parting we look into the depths of love. George Eliot, in Felix Holt, the Radical (1866)
  • On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points. Virginia Woolf, the character Bernard speaking, in The Waves (1931)

QUOTE NOTE: The underlying meaning is that valuable lessons are contained in life’s most painful moments if we pay sufficient attention to what is happening. Regarding the educational value of the darker moments in our lives, Merle Shain wrote in Some Men Are More Perfect Than Others (1980): “One often learns more from ten days of agony than from ten years of contentment.”

AGREEMENT

(see also ACCORD and COMPROMISE and DISAGREEMENT and DISSENT and OPPOSITION and QUARRELS and TREATIES)

  • It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree. For if, by ill luck, people understood each other, they would never agree. Charles Baudelaire, in Intimate Journals (1887)
  • Agreement is made more precious by disagreement. Publilius Syrus, in Sententiae (1st c. B.C.)
  • There is nothing more likely to start disagreement among people or countries than an agreement. E. B. White, “My Day,” in One Man’s Meat (1942)

AIDS

(see also DEATH & DYING and HOMOSEXUALITY and ILLNESS and VIRUS)

  • and I swear sometimes/when I put my head to his chest/I can hear the virus humming/like a refrigerator. Mark Doty, in the poem “Faith,” in Atlantis: Poems (1995)

QUOTE NOTE: This passage is taken from a powerful poem Doty wrote about the struggle and eventual death of his partner, Wally Roberts, from AIDS in 1994, five years after he was diagnosed. The full poem may be seen at “Faith”.

  • An illness in stages, a very long flight of steps that led assuredly to death, but whose every step represented a unique apprenticeship. It was a disease that gave death time to live and its victims time to die, and in the end to discover life. Hervé Guibert, on AIDS, in To the Friend who did not Save My Life (1991)

AIMS & AIMING

(see also ACHIEVEMENT & ACCOMPLISHMENT and ASPIRATION and GOALS and MISSION and OBJECTIVES and PURPOSE and TARGET)

  • It concerns us to know the purposes we seek in life, for then, like archers aiming at a definite mark, we shall be more likely to attain what we want. Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics (4th c. B.C.)

QUOTE NOTE: Another translation of the Aristotle thought has it phrased this way: “We will more easily accomplish what is proper if, like archers, we have a target in sight.”

  • An ignorance of means may minister/To greatness, but an ignorance of aims/Makes it impossible to be great at all. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in “Casa Guidi Windows” (1851)
  • We scorn great aims when we feel incapable of their achievement. Luc de Clapiers (Marquis de Vauvenargues), in Reflections and Maxims (1746)
  • Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination. Karl von Clausewitz, in On War (1832–34)

QUOTE NOTE: Clausewitz introduced this saying by describing it as “a maxim which should take first place among all causes of victory in the modern art of war.”

  • We aim above the mark to hit the mark. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature,” in Essays: Second Series (1844)
  • Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim. Graham Greene, the voice of the narrator, in The Heart of the Matter (1948)
  • Always aim for achievement and forget about success. Helen Hayes, quoting her mother, in a 1958 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific date undetermined)
  • Be winged arrows, aiming at fulfillment and goal, even though you will tire without having reached the mark. Paul Klee, quoted in Leo Bronstein, Kabbalah and Art (1980)
  • The aims of life are the best defense against death. Primo Levi, in The Drowned and the Saved (1988)
  • Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity (1952)
  • If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it;/Every arrow that flies feels the attraction of earth. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in “Elegiac Verse” (1881)
  • Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success. Annie Oakley, quoted in Brenda Haugen, Annie Oakley: American Sharpshooter (2006)
  • Know your aim, and live for that one thing. We have only one life. The secret of success is concentration; wherever there has been a great life, or a great work, that [concentration] has gone before. Taste everything a little, look at everything a little; but live for one thing. Olive Schreiner, the character Lyndal speaking to her friend Waldo, in The Story of an African Farm (1883; orig. published under the pen name Ralph Iron)
  • An aim in life is the only fortune worth the finding; and it is not to be found in foreign lands, but in the heart itself. Robert Louis Stevenson, in The Amateur Emigrant (1895; written 1879-80)
  • When the soul is without a definite aim, she gets lost; for, as they say, if you are everywhere you are nowhere. Michel de Montaigne, “Of Friendship,” in Essays (1580-88)

QUOTE NOTE: The familiar saying alluded to is an epigram from the Roman writer Martial. Montaigne’s full quotation has also been translated in this way: “The soul that has no established aim loses itself, for, as it is said, ‘He who lives everywhere, lives nowhere.’”

  • Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon. Daniel Pink, in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009)
  • Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim. George Santayana, in Introduction to The Life of Reason (1905-06)
  • Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger), Letter LXXI, in Letters to Lucilius (c. 65 A.D.)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation has also been commonly presented this way: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”

  • In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden (1854)
  • All my life I've always wanted to be somebody. But I see now I should have been more specific. Jane Wagner, in words written for Lily Tomlin, from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (1985)
  • Aim at being loved without being admired. Ludwig Wittgenstein, in Culture and Value (1980; G. H. von Wright and Heikki Nyman, eds.)
  • A noble aim,/Faithfully kept, is as a noble deed,/In whose pure sight all virtue doth succeed. William Wordsworth, in “Brave Schill! By Death Delivered, Take Thy Flight” (written 1809; pub. 1815)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites and quotation anthologies provide the mistaken phrasing is a noble deed.

AIRPLANES

(see also AIRPORTS & AIR TRAVEL and AVIATION and FLYING & FLIGHT)

  • A plane is a bad place for an all-out sleep, but a good place to begin rest and recovery from the trip to the faraway places you’ve been, a decompression chamber between Here and There. Shana Alexander, in The Feminine Eye (1967)
  • The airplane is just a bunch of sticks and wires and cloth, a tool for learning about the sky and about what kind of person I am, when I fly. An airplane stands for freedom, for joy, for the power to understand, and to demonstrate that understanding. Richard Bach, in Nothing by Chance (1969)
  • Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death. Alexander Chase, in Perspectives (1966)
  • The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together. Bill Gates, quoted in Phyllis R. Moses, Orville, Wilbur & Me: Magic at Kitty Hawk (2003)
  • I feel about airplanes the way I feel about diets. It seems to me that they are wonderful things for other people to go on. Jean Kerr, in The Snake Has All the Lines (1958)
  • The Devil himself had probably re-designed Hell in the light of information he had gained from observing airport layouts. Anthony Price, in The Memory Trap (1989)
  • The engine is the heart of an aeroplane, but the pilot is its soul. Walter Alexander Raleigh, in The War in the Air (1922)

Alexander, a professor of English Literature at Oxford University, became the official historian of the Royal Air Force. The War in the Air became the definitive work on the role of the airplane and the nature of air warfare in WWI.

ALABAMA

ALARM

  • If you look at life one way, there is always cause for alarm. Elizabeth Bowen, in The Death of the Heart (1938)
  • Nervous alarms should always be communicated, that they may be dissipated. Charlotte Brontë, in Shirley (1849)
  • A little alarm now and then keeps life from stagnation. Fanny Burney, the character Mrs. Arlbery speaking, in Camilla, or A Picture of Youth (1796)
  • Vanity often produces unreasonable alarm. Ann Radcliffe, in A Sicilian Romance (1790)
  • People who “view with alarm” never build anything. Eleanor Roosevelt, in Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
  • Growth is exciting; growth is dynamic and alarming. Vita Sackville-West, in Twelve Days in Persia (1928)

ALASKA

ALCOHOL & ALCOHOLISM

(includes DIPSOMANIA & DIPSOMANIACS; see also ADDICTS & ADDICTION and BARS, PUBS, & TAVERNS and BEER & ALE and COCKTAILS and DRINKING & DRINKS and DRUGS & RECOVERY and DRUNKENNESS & DRUNKS and LIQUOR—DISTILLED BEVERAGES and WINE)

  • Alcohol may also persuade us that we have found the truth about life, a comforting experience rarely available in the sober hour. Through the lens of alcohol, the world seems nicer. Joan Acocella, “A Few Too Many,“ in The New Yorker (2008)
  • He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger. Bill Anderson & Jon Randall, lyric from the song “Whiskey Lullaby” (c. 1999)

QUOTE NOTE: Whiskey Lullaby is an extremely sad song about an American G.I. who returns home from war to find his wife in bed with another man. Devastated by the betrayal, he drinks to end the pain, ultimately killing himself. The song, which first appeared on Brad Paisley’s 2004 album Mud On the Tires, became a surprise hit after Paisley and Allison Krauss released it as a single. To see the music video, which is in many ways a five-minute morality play, go to: “Whiskey Lullaby” (note the simile in the very first line of the song: “She put him out like the burnin’ end of a midnight cigarette.” In 2004, Billboard magazine also did a background story on the song.

  • Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler/and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise. The Bible—Proverbs 20:1
  • Alcohol is the prince of liquids and carries the palate to its highest pitch of exaltation. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, in The Physiology of Taste (1825)
  • Frankly, I was horrified by life, at what a man had to do simply in order to eat, sleep, and keep himself clothed. So I stayed in bed and drank. When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat. Charles Bukowski, in Factotum (1975)
  • Our national drug is alcohol. We tend to regard the use of any other drug with special horror. William S. Burroughs, in Naked Lunch (1959)
  • Alcohol is an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind. Rita Mae Brown, in Starting From Scratch (1988)
  • Alcohol is perfectly consistent in its effects upon man. Drunkenness is merely an exaggeration. A foolish man drunk becomes maudlin; a bloody man, vicious; a coarse man, vulgar. Willa Cather, the voice of the narrator, from “On the Divide,” in The Troll Garden: Short Stories (1983)
  • Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you just take the girl’s clothes off. Raymond Chandler, in The Long Goodbye (1954)
  • I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me. Winston Churchill, quoted in Quentin Reynolds, By Quentin Reynolds (1964). Also a famous example of chiasmus.
  • In my lowest moments, the only reason I didn't commit suicide was that I knew I wouldn't be able to drink any more if I was dead. Eric Clapton, in Clapton: The Autobiography (2007)
  • Office civilization could not be feasible without the hard take-offs and landings effected by coffee and alcohol. Alain de Botton, in The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (2009)
  • No other human being, no woman, no poem or music, book or painting can replace alcohol in its power to give man the illusion of real creation. Marguerite Duras, “Alcohol,” in Practicalities (1987)
  • Alcohol removes inhibitions, like that scared little mouse who got drunk and shook his whiskers and shouted: “Now bring on the damn cat!” Eleanor Early, quoted in Carol Turkington, The Quotable Woman, (2000)

QUOTE NOTE: I have been unable to find the original observation, but Turkington says the quotation appeared in news summaries in January, 1950. Early was a popular American travel writer in the first half of the twentieth-century.

  • Alcohol is a pervasive fact of life, but an extraordinary fact—pleasurable and destructive, anathematized and adulated, and deeply ambiguous…the genie in the bottle. Griffith Edwards, in Alcohol: The World’s Favorite Drug (2002)
  • Civilization begins with distillation. William Faulkner, quoted by Tom Dardis, in The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer (1989)
  • Happiness is a fragile thing, and alcohol, as I know from the house I grew up in, is dangerous to it. Marian Engel, “Share and Share Alike,” in The Tattooed Woman (1985)
  • I was into pain reduction and mind expansion, but what I've ended up with is pain expansion and mind reduction. Carrie Fisher, on her alcohol and drug use, in Postcards From the Edge (1987). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Saying you’re an alcoholic and an addict is like saying you’re from Los Angeles and from California. Carrie Fisher, in Wishful Drinking (2008)
  • When I spoke of having a drink, it was a euphemism for having a whole flock of them. Margaret Halsey, in No Laughing Matter (1977)

In her book, Halsey also wrote: “Employed as I had been employing it, liquor is a fixative of old patterns.”

  • The agonies of alcoholism have been familiar to me since early childhood. Childhood is rather brief under those conditions. Helen Hayes, in Loving Life (1987; with Marion Glasserow Gladney)
  • Lady Booze is a very cruel mistress. John Hurt, quoted in Film Yearbook (1986)
  • They [the reasons for drinking] counted for nothing in the face of the one fact: you drank and it was killing you. Why? Because alcohol was something you couldn’t handle, it had you licked. Why? Because you had reached the point where one drink was too many and a hundred not enough. Charles R. Jackson, a reflection of protagonist Don Birnam, in The Lost Weekend (1944)

QUOTE NOTE: The sentiment was carried into Billy Wilder's classic 1945 film adaptation, starring Ray Milland, but the wording was slightly changed. In the film, a bartender says to Birnam: “One’s too many and a hundred’s not enough.”

  • The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)

James added: “Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the YES function in man.”

  • I often think of alcohol as a genie in a bottle. It promises everything but eventually imprisons you in the bottle itself. Erica Jong, in Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life (2006)

Jong was thinking about the “drinking we do in search of ecstasy” that is so common among writers, artists, and other creative types. She began the thought by writing: “The door into the unconscious has to be pried open somehow, and we always think alcohol will facilitate that. For a while it does and then it may well slam shut.”

  • Even though you get the monkey off your back, the circus never really leaves town. Anne Lamott, quoting a friend who’d recently gotten sober, in Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (2007)
  • A word to those of you who are trying to drown your sorrow. Please be aware that sorrow knows how to swim. Ann Landers, in The Ann Landers Encyclopedia: A to Z (1981)
  • Almost anything can be preserved in alcohol, except health, happiness, and money. Mary Wilson Little, in A Paragrapher’s Reveries (1904)
  • Alcohol is a very patient drug. It will wait for the alcoholic to pick it up ONE MORE TIME. It will wait forever. Mercedes McCambridge, in The Quality of Mercy: An Autobiography (1981)
  • Alcohol is a good preservative for everything but brains. Mary Pettibone Poole, in A Glass Eye at the Keyhole (1938)
  • Alcohol is a make-you-stupid drug. Beverly Potter & Sebastian Orfali, in Brain Boosters: Foods & Drugs That Make You Smarter (1993)

The authors added: “Because alcohol is encouraged by our culture, we get the idea that it isn’t dangerous. However, alcohol is the most potent and most toxic of the legal psychoactive drugs. It is ‘harder’ than heroin, cocaine, LSD, and many other illegal drugs.

  • Alcoholism isn’t a spectator sport. Eventually the whole family gets to play. Joyce Rebeta-Burditt, in The Cracker Factory (1977)

QUOTE NOTE: I regard this as the single best observation ever offered on the subject of alcoholism. It comes from an autobiographical novel about a smart-talking Cleveland woman with a major drinking problem. The novel was adapted into an ABC-TV “Movie of the Week” in 1979, with Natalie Wood in the starring role. The complete film is available for viewing (in segments) on YouTube.

  • The fun, joy, and humor dry up in a relationship when one of the partners is swimming in gin. To my way of thinking, it is selfishness personified to see life through the bottom of a liquor bottle. Ginger Rogers, in Ginger: My Story (1991)
  • The true alcoholic takes the first drink for the person, or situation, or insult, that upsets him. He takes the rest of the drinks for himself. Lillian Roth, in I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1954; with Mike Connolly and Gerold Frank)

In her memoir, Roth also wrote about alcohol:“Your medicine is your poison is your medicine is your poison and there is no end but madness.”

  • I’m the child of an alcoholic. I know about promises. Sandra Scoppettone, in I’ll Be Leaving You Always (1993)
  • O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! William Shakespeare, Cassio speaking about alcohol, in Othello (1602–04)
  • Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life. George Bernard Shaw, quoted in J. Bryan, III, Hodgepodge: A Commonplace Book (1986)

QUOTATION CAUTION: I’ve been unable to locate this widely-quoted observation in any of Shaw’s work, but am not yet ready to declare it apocryphal.

  • “Alcohol flings back, almost illimitably, the boundaries of humor so that we can find uproarious things which our poor sober friends miss altogether. Jean Stafford, in Boston Adventure (1944)

Stafford continued: “It is necessary, if the joke is really good and really should be shared, to repeat it time and again until finally it penetrates those solemn skulls.”

  • I lived on rum, I tell you. It’s been meat and drink, and man and wife, to me. Robert Louis Stevenson, in Treasure Island (1883).

The words come from the Captain, who pleads with Jim to provide him with rum, against the advice of the ship’s doctor. He continued: “If I’m not to have my rum now I’m a poor old hulk on a lee shore, my blood’ll be on you, Jim, and that doctor swab.”

  • There is this malign curse laid on dipsomaniacs. That they must absolutely have a drink: in order to feel strong enough to stop drinking. Caitlin Thomas, in Not Quite Posthumous Letter to My Daughter (1963)
  • Alcohol: A liquid good for preserving almost everything except secrets. Charles Wayland Towne, in The Foolish Dictionary (1905)
  • The reward for total abstinence from alcohol seems, illogically enough, to be the capacity for becoming intoxicated without it. Rebecca West, in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)
  • As an alcoholic, you will violate your standards quicker than you can lower them. You will do shit that even the Devil would go “Dude!” Robin Williams, in stand-up routine for his 2010 “Weapons of Self Destruction” tour

ALIMONY

(see also DIVORCE and MARRIAGE)

  • Alimony: Like pumping gas in another man’s car. Joey Adams, in Joey Adams’ Encyclopedia of Humor (1968)
  • Paying alimony is like buying oats for a dead horse. Arthur “Bugs” Baer, quoted by Evan Esar, in Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (1949)
  • Billing minus cooing. Mary C. Dorsey, on alimony, quoted in Dorothy Sarnoff, Speech Can Change Your Life (1971)
  • Alimony is the curse of the writing classes. Norman Mailer, quoted by Caroline Phillips, in “A Legend in His Own Mind,” Evening Standard (London, Oct. 25, 1991)
  • She cried and the judge wiped her tears with my checkbook. Tommy Manville, quoted by Robert Byrne, in The Other 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1984)

QUOTE NOTE: The original source for this popular quotation has not been identified, but the observation itself has been making the rounds for so many decades that it appears to be authentic. Manville, heir to the Johns-Manville asbestos fortune, was one of Manhattan’s most colorful celebrities in the mid-1900s. He was married thirteen times to eleven women. His eleven divorces earned him an place in the Guinness Book of World Records. About his penchant for marriage, he once joked: “When I meet a beautiful girl, the first thing I say is ‘Will you marry me?’ The second thing I say is, ‘How do you do?’”

  • Alimony: The ransom that the happy pay to the devil. H. L. Mencken, in A Book of Burlesques (1920)
  • I am driven by a wonderful muse called alimony. Dick Schaap

QUOTATION CAUTION: I have been unable to find an original source for this quotation, but in Dick Schaap as Told to Dick Schaap (2001), the popular sportswriter did offer this related observation: “I did…become a workaholic, an addiction that has driven me during my lifetime to great productivity and considerable alimony.”

  • The wages of sin is alimony. Carolyn Wells, “Maxioms,” in Folly for the Wise (1904)
  • Judges, as a class, display, in the matter of arranging alimony, that reckless generosity that is found only in men who are giving away somebody else’s cash. P. G. Wodehouse, “Fashionable Weddings and Smart Divorces,” in Louder and Funnier (1963)

ALLERGIES

(includes ALLERGIC REACTIONS; see also HYPERSENSITIVITY)

  • Mother, Mother,/Tell me please,/Did God who gave us flowers and trees,/Also provide the allergies? E. Y. Harburg, “A Nose is a Nose is a Nose,” in Rhymes for the Irreverent (1965)
  • For people allergic to wool, one's heart can only bleed. Elizabeth Zimmerman, in Knitting Without Tears (1973)

[Being] ALONE

(see also LONELINESS and RELATIONSHIPS and SOLITARINESS and SOLITUDE)

  • You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket. You will never have an idle hour. John Adams, in 1781 letter to son John Quincy Adams

QUOTE NOTE: Adams, a great lover of poetry, was advising his son to always travel with a volume of poetry. In the letter, pocket was originally spelled poket.

  • Live your life so that when you’re all alone you’re in good company. Author Unknown
  • It would do the world good if every man in it would compel himself occasionally to be absolutely alone. Most of the world’s progress has come out of such loneliness. Bruce Barton, in a 1962 issue of Forbes magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • She never is alone that is accompanied with noble thoughts. Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, the character Malroda speaking, in Love's Cure 1647)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites begin the quotation with the male pronoun He.

  • Alone, adj. In Bad Company. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Though in a wilderness, a man is never alone. Thomas Browne, in Religio Medici (1643)
  • Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude, and the society of thyself. Sir Thomas Browne, in Christian Morals (1716)
  • All that poets sing, and grief hath known,/Of hopes laid waste, knells in that word—ALONE! Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, in The New Timon: A Romance of London (1846)
  • What is the worst of woes that wait on age?/What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?/To view each loved one blotted from life’s page,/And be alone on earth, as I am now. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage II (1812)
  • I love people. I love my family, my children…but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up. Pearl S. Buck, quoted in The New York Post (April 26, 1959)

ERROR ALERT: This is the way the quotation originally appeared, but nearly all internet quotation sites present the following slightly edited version: “Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that is where I renew my springs that never dry up.”

  • Never less idle than when wholly idle, nor less alone than when wholly alone. Marcus Tullius Cicero, in De Officiis (1st c. B.C.)
  • We live, as we dream—alone. Joseph Conrad, a reflection of narrator Charles Marlow, in Heart of Darkness (1899)
  • When I am alone, God knocks on the door and says, “We need to talk.” M. A. “Fred” Dietze, in personal communication to the compiler (Oct. 8, 2016)
  • When you close your doors, and make darkness within, remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not alone; nay, God is within, and your genius is within. Epictetus, in Discourses (2nd. c. A.D.)
  • I was never less alone than when by myself. Edward Gibbon, in The Autobiographies of Edward Gibbon (1896)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is typically presented, but it was originally part of a larger observation in which Gibbon reflected on his love of reading and the importance of a well-stocked library: “At home I occupied a pleasant and spacious apartment; the library on the same floor was soon considered as my peculiar domain, and I might say with truth that I was never less alone than when by myself.”

  • Anything we fully do is an alone journey. Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (1986)
  • No matter how a man alone ain't got no bloody chance. Ernest Hemingway, in To Have and Have Not (1937)
  • To stand alone against all adversity is the most sacred moment of existence. Frank Herbert, a saying of the Gowachin people, in The Dosadi Experiment (1977)
  • By all means use sometimes to be alone. George Herbert, in The Temple (1633)
  • By all means use sometimes to be alone./Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear. George Herbert, “Church Porch,” in The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633)

The poem continued: “Dare to look in the chest; for ’tis thine own:/And tumble up and down what thou find’st there.”

  • If I’m ever to reach any understanding of myself and the things around me, I must learn to stand alone. That's why I can’t stay here with you any longer. Henrik Ibsen, in A Doll’s House (1879)
  • The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. Henrik Ibsen, the character Dr. Stockmann speaking, in An Enemy of the People (1882)
  • If you don’t like being alone, it may be because you don’t like the company. Ronald Johnson, in a personal communication to the compiler (March 29, 2018)
  • Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)
  • The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone. How inexplicable it seems. Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)

Lindbergh continued: “If one sets aside time for a business appointment, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone, one is considered rude, egotistical or strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it—like a secret vice!”

  • The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being, His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “To you On Your First Birthday,” in To My Daughters With Love (1967)

Lindbergh continued: “His mind shrinks away if hears only the the echoes of his own thoughts and fins no other inspiration.”

  • To ensure moral salvation, it is primarily necessary to depend on oneself, because in the moment of peril we are alone. Maria Montessori, in The Advanced Montessori Method: Spontaneous Activity in Education, Vol. I (1917)

Montessori continued: “And strength is not to be acquired instantaneously. He who knows that he will have to fight, prepares himself for boxing and dueling by strength and skill; he does not sit still with folded hands.”

  • I have often said that man’s unhappiness springs from one thing alone, his incapacity to stay quietly in one room. Blaise Pascal, “Diversion,” in Pensées (1670)

QUOTE NOTE: This is a translation done for Oxford University Press by Honor Levi. Pervious translations have been all over the map with regard to this observation, with some saying “all man's miseries” and one even saying “all human evil” derive from man’s inability to sit quietly alone in a room.

  • All men, at some moment in their lives, feel themselves to be alone. And they are. To live is to be separated from what we were in order to approach what we are going to be in the mysterious future. Octavio Paz, in The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950)

Paz continued: “Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone, and the only one who seeks out another.”

  • How we need another soul to cling to, another body to keep us warm. To rest and trust; to give your soul in confidence: I need this, I need someone to pour myself into. Sylvia Plath, a journal entry (circa 1950–53), in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (2000)
  • Never less alone than when alone. Samuel Rogers, in Human Life (1819)
  • When it comes to the important things one is always alone. May Sarton, in Journal of a Solitude (1973)
  • Man cannot will unless he has first understood that he can count on nothing but himself: that he is alone, left alone on earth in the middle of his infinite responsibilities, with neither help nor succor, with no other goal but the one he will set for himself, with no other destiny but the one he will forge on this earth. Jean-Paul Sartre, in “A More Precise Characterization of Existentialism” (1944)
  • You don’t live in a world all alone. Your brothers are here too. Albert Schweitzer, remark on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952
  • They are never alone that are accompanied with noble thoughts. Sir Philip Sidney, in Arcadia (1580)

QUOTE NOTE: The 17th century playwrights Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher were clearly inspired by this Sidney observation when they had a character in their 1647 play Love’s Cure offer a very similar thought: “He never is alone that is accompanied with noble thoughts.”

  • The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off. Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” in Walden (1854)
  • A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Henry David Thoreau, “Solitude,” in Walden (1854)
  • Our language has wisely sensed these two sides of man’s being alone. It has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone. Paul Tillich, “Loneliness and Solitude.” in The Eternal Now (1963)

Tillich added: “Although, in daily life, we do not always distinguish these words, we should do so consistently and thus deepen our understanding of the human predicament.” The full context of the quotation may be found online at The Eternal Now

ERROR ALERT: The beginning of the Tillich quotation is almost always wrongly presented as if it began the two sides, not these two sides.

  • God created man and, finding him not sufficiently alone, gave him a companion to make him feel his solitude more keenly. Paul Valéry, “Moralités,” in Tel Quel (1941)
  • No matter how lonely you get or how many birth announcements you receive, the trick is not to get frightened. There's nothing wrong with being alone. Wendy Wasserstein, in Isn’t It Romantic (1983)
  • We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. Orson Welles, in the role of an unnamed character reflecting on loneliness, in the film Someone to Love (1987; written and directed by Henry Jaglom)
  • I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone. Robin Williams, in the role of Lance Clayton, in the 2009 film World’s Greatest Dad (screenplay by Bobcat Goldtwait )
  • Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? Thomas Wolfe, in Look Homeward, Angel (1929)

ALTERNATIVES

(see also CHOICE and PREFERENCES and FREEDOM and OPTIONS and WILL and [FREE] WILL)

  • When a decision has been made and the die is cast, then murder the alternatives. Mrs. Emory S. Adams, Jr., quoted in Dorothy Sarnoff, Speech Can Change Your Life (1970)
  • Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives. Maya Angelou, in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)
  • Alternatives, and particularly desirable alternatives, grow only on imaginary trees. Saul Bellow, a diary entry of the protagonist, a man named Joseph, in Dangling Man (1944)
  • If decisions were a choice between alternatives, decisions would come easy. Decision is the selection and formulation of alternatives. Kenneth Burke, in Towards a Better Life: Being a Series of Epistles or Declamations (1932)
  • The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously. Henry Kissinger, quoted in Time magazine (Jan. 2, 1978)

ALTRUISM

(see also BENEVOLENCE and CHARITY and COMPASSION and EMPATHY and GENEROSITY and GIFTS & GIVING and HUMANITARIANISM and SELF-SACRIFICE and SERVICE and PHILANTHROPY and UNSELFISHNESS)

  • Compassion can be defined, therefore, as an attitude of principled, consistent altruism. Karen Armstrong, “Empathy,” in Twelve Steps To a Compassionate Life (2010)

A moment earlier, Armstrong wrote: “‘Compassion’ derives from the Latin patiri and the Greek pathein, meaning ‘to suffer, undergo, or experience. So ‘compassion’ means ‘to endure [something] with another person,’ to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes, to feel her pain as though it were our own, and to enter generously into his point of view. That is why compassion is aptly summed up in the Golden Rule, which asks us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstances, to inflict that pain on anybody else.”

  • If tempted by something that feels “altruistic,” examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it! Robert A. Heinlein, an entry in “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” in Time Enough for Love (1973)

Long preceded this observation by writing: “Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil.”

  • Altruism’s true name is always Anonymous. David Marusek, in Mind Over Ship (2009)

QUOTE NOTE: After the character Merrill Meewee is told that he is about to be honored by the Mandela Prize Foundation for his work in alleviating human suffering, he immediately replies, “I’m not worthy.” When his assertion is challenged by a friend who cites his humanitarian efforts, he thinks, “That wasn’t what he had meant.” His thought process continues this way: “He was having difficulty putting his thoughts into words. What he had meant was that the person who works for recognition devalues the work he does, that awards are first and foremost political instruments, that altruism’s name is always Anonymous.”

  • Every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive. Has any act of selfishness ever equaled the carnage perpetrated by disciples of altruism? Ayn Rand, the character Howard Roark speaking, in The Fountainhead (1943)
  • Man can be the most affectionate and altruistic of creatures, yet he’s potentially more vicious than any other. He is the only one who can be persuaded to hate millions of his own kind whom he has never seen and to kill as many as he can lay his hands on in the name of his tribe or his God. Benjamin Spock, in Decent and Indecent: Our Personal and Political Behavior (1970)
  • Altruism has always been one of biology’s deep mysteries. Why should any animal, off on its own…choose to give up its life in aid of someone else? Lewis Thomas, “Altruism,” in Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (1983)

After offering a number of examples—like birds getting killed while attempting to divert predators from a nest—Thomas answered his own question: “Animals have genes for altruism, and those genes have been selected in the evolution of many creatures because of the advantage they confer for the continuing survival of the species.”

  • Altruism is a brief phase through which some adolescents must pass. It is rather like acne. Happily, as with acne, only a few are permanently scarred. Gore Vidal, “Growing Up With Gore Vidal,” in Point to Point Navigation (2007)

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

(see also AGE & AGING—OLD AGE and DEMENTIA and DISEASE and SENILITY)

  • I seem to lose words like another person loses blood. Everyday, every day there’s something gone. It leaks everywhere. J. Bernlef, the narrator and protagonist Maarten Klein reflecting on the early stages of his Alzheimer’s disease, in Out of Mind (1989)

QUOTE NOTE: See the New York Times review of Bernlef’s novel at “The Narrator Has Alzheimer’s”.

  • If curing heart disease and cancer means we get to stick around and die of Alzheimer’s, we’ll look back on them as our friends. Dr. Roderick Bronson, quoted in Richard I. Kirkland, Jr., “Why We Will Live Longer. . .and What it Will Mean,” Fortune magazine (Feb. 21, 1994)
  • It’s like a tornado that cuts a very narrow path, destroying buildings in a strip 100 yards wide but leaving everything else standing. Dr. Antonio Damasio, quoted in Lawrence K. Altman, “Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Damaged Areas of Brain,” in The New York Times (Sep. 7, 1984)
  • She floated away on the riptide of dementia, ultimately a speck on the horizon, waving for as long as she could to her deeply confused children onshore. Anne Lamott, on her mother’s worsening Alzheimer’s Disease, in Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (2007)
  • About six months ago, he stopped recognizing me. Now I no longer recognize him. Edmund Morris, on Ronald Reagan’s developing Alzheimer’s disease, quoted in Newsweek magazine (Jan. 23, 1996)

QUOTE NOTE: Morris made the remark while working on the authorized biography of Reagan, published three years later as Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan (1999)

  • I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. Ronald Reagan, in handwritten letter to “My fellow Americans” about his Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, five years after leaving the office of the Presidency, The Washington Post (Nov. 6, 1994)
  • She was losing her mind in handfuls. Marion Roach, on her mother’s developing Alzheimer’s disease, in Another Name for Madness (1985)

AMAZING

  • Note to writers: “Amazing” is very tired. “Amazing” needs a long vacation. Therefore, please don’t write about your amazing party, your amazing girlfriend’s amazing dress, or your amazing vacation. Something more pungent & specific, please. Stephen King, in a Tweet (Oct. 29, 2018)

AMBASSADORS

(see also DIPLOMACY & DIPLOMATS and GOVERNMENT and INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS and NEGOTIATION and POLITICS and TACT and TREATIES)

  • An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the commonwealth. Sir Henry Wotton, a remark that Wotton described in 1612 as a “merry definition of an ambassador,” in Reliquiae Wottonianae (1651)

AMBIGUITY

(includes AMBIGUOUSNESS; see also DOUBT and UNCERTAINTY and MEANING and VAGUENESS)

  • Ambiguity leads to anxiety. Author Unknown, a psychological maxim from the 1960s.
  • Everything is ambiguous. It’s exciting, in a way, if you can tolerate ambiguity. I can’t, but I’m taking a course where it’s taught, in the hope of acquiring the skill. It’s called Modern Living, and you get no credit. Sheila Ballantyne, a reflection of the title character, in Norma Jean the Termite Queen (1975)
  • Leaders seem to have a high tolerance for ambiguity. Recognizing that the brain does not work in a completely linear fashion, leaders demonstrate a comfort with the chaos of exploding ideas, many of them seemingly unrelated to the stimulus that caused them. Marlene Caroselli, in The Language of Leadership (1990)
  • Ambiguity is the mother of Teflon. Robin Lakoff, in Talking Power: The Politics of Language (1990)

QUOTE NOTE: Lakoff preceded the observation by writing: “Reagan's genius as a communicator lies in his use of ambiguity.”

  • It is not easy to live faithfully in a world full of ambiguities. We have to learn to make wise choices without needing to be entirely sure. Henri Nouwen, in Bread for the Journey (1997)
  • The goal is to live a full, productive life even with all that ambiguity. No matter what happens, whether the cancer never flares up again or whether you die, the important thing is that the days that you have had you will have Lived. Gilda Radner, in It’s Always Something (1989)
  • My life…is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity. Gilda Radner, on her cancer, in It’s Always Something (1989)

Radner introduced the thought by writing: “I wanted a perfect ending…. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end.”

  • The character of human life, like the character of the human condition, like the character of all life, is “ambiguity”; the inseparable mixture of good and evil, the true and false, the creative and destructive forces—both individual and social. Paul Tillich, in Time magazine (May 17, 1963)

AMBITION

(see also ACHIEVEMENT & ACCOMPLISHMENT and ASPIRATION)

  • How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition. Abigail Adams, in letter to John Adams (July 16, 1775)
  • Ambition often over shoots the mark. Abigail Adams, in an 1801 letter; in The Quotable Abigail Adams (2009; John P. Kaminski, ed.)
  • Ambition is the subtlest beast of the intellectual and moral field. It is wonderfully adroit in concealing itself from its owner. John Adams, in letter to John Quincy Adams (Jan. 3, 1794)
  • Ambition is a dream with a V-8 engine. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: This orphan quotation is widely attributed to Elvis Presley, but there is no evidence he ever said anything like it. In an obvious effort to give the quotation an even greater semblance of credibility, some of the Elvis citations even have him adding a concluding line: “Ain’t nowhere else in the world where you can go from driving a truck to a Cadillac overnight.”

  • Ability without ambition is like kindling wood without the spark. Author Unknown
  • A man without ambition is dead. A man with ambition but no love is dead. A man with ambition and love for his blessings here on earth is ever so alive. Pearl Bailey, in Talking to Myself (1971)
  • Ambition—it is the last infirmity of noble minds. J. M. Barrie, in The Twelve-Pound Look (1910)

QUOTE NOTE: This was Sir Harry’s reply to Kate, his former fiancée, who had just said to him: “One’s religion is whatever he is most interested in, and yours is—Success.” Both lines ultimately became extremely popular quotations on their own, but few realize they were paired together in the same play.

  • Ambition is a passion, at once strong and insidious, and is very apt to cheat a man out of his happiness and his true respectability of character. Edward Bates, in a July 1859 letter, quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005)
  • Ambition is the way in which a vulgar man aspires. Henry Ward Beecher, in Life Thoughts (1858)

This was the conclusion to a line of thinking that began this way: “A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man by one which is lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other, ambition.”

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, variations of this Beecher observation are mistakenly attributed to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

  • Ambition, n. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Ambition is like hunger; it obeys no law but its appetite. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), quoted by F. Wilstach, in A Dictionary of Similes (1917)
  • My ambition is handicapped by my laziness. Charles Bukowski, the character Manny speaking, in Factotum (1975)
  • Well it is known that ambition can creep as well as soar. Edmund Burke, in Letters on a Regicide Peace (1797)
  • Like dogs in a wheel, birds in a cage, or squirrels in a chain, they still climb and climb, with great labor, and incessant anxiety, but never reach the top. Robert Burton, on ambitious men, in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621–51)

ERROR ALERT: In almost all quotation collections, this quotation is wrongly worded as Ambitious men still climb and climb. It is clear that Burton was referring to ambitious men, though. Just prior to this quotation, he wrote: “The mind, in short, of an ambitious man is never satisfied; his soul is harassed with unceasing anxieties, and his heart harrowed up by increasing disquietude.”

  • The greatest evil which fortune can inflict on men is to endow them with small talents and great ambition. Luc de Clapiers (Marquis de Vauvenargues), in Reflections and Maxims (1746)
  • All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind. Joseph Conrad, “A Familiar Preface,” in A Personal Record (1912)
  • A man without ambition is like a bird without wings. He can never soar in the heights above, but must walk like a weakling, unnoticed, with the crowds below. Walter H. Cottingham, “The Greatest Game in the World,” in System: The Magazine of Business (Dec., 1908)

Cottingham continued: “He never feels the thrill of enthusiasm which pulsates through the veins of the ambitious man as he presses forward in the exciting struggle to reach his aim.”

QUOTE NOTE: For more on the Cottingham quotation and a peek at how the concept of a bird without wings has shown up in metaphorical observations about other subjects, see this 2015 post by Garson O’Toole, the Quote Investigator.

  • Ambition is a Dead Sea fruit, and the greatest peril to the soul is that one is likely to get precisely what he is seeking. Edward Dahlberg, in Alms for Oblivion (1964)
  • Ambition is like love, impatient both of delays and rivals. Sir John Denham, in The Sophy (1641)
  • Ambition is exhausting. It makes you friends with people for the wrong reasons, just like drugs. Carrie Fisher, “What I’ve Learned,” in Fortune magazine (Jan. 29, 2007; originally appeared June, 2002)
  • Ambition has its disappointments to sour us, but never the good fortune to satisfy us. Benjamin Franklin, “On True Happiness,” in Pennsylvania Gazette (Nov. 20, 1735)

Franklin added: “Its appetite grows keener by indulgence and all we can gratify it with at present serves but the more to inflame its insatiable desires.”

  • Ambition and love are the wings of great actions. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in Iphigenia and Tauris (prose version, 1779; verse version in 1786)
  • If your ambition comes at the price of such an unbalanced life, that there’s nothing else that gives you comfort but success, it’s not worth it. Doris Kearns Goodwin, referring to the unbalanced life of Lyndon B. Johnson, in interview at meeting of the Academy of Achievement, Sun Valley, Idaho, (June 28, 1996) [quotation at 4'42'' of the interview]
  • Nothing arouses ambition so much in the heart as the trumpet-clang of another’s fame. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • The acorn of ambition often grows into an oak from which men hang. H. Rider Haggard, the character Senor d’Aguilar speaking, in Fair Margaret (1907)

Senor d’Aguilar preceded the observation by saying: “I have abandoned worldly ambitions—most of them. They are troublesome, and for some people, if they be born too high and yet not altogether rightly, very dangerous.”

  • Great ambition, unchecked by principle or the love of glory, is an unruly tyrant. Alexander Hamilton, in letter to James A. Bayard (Jan. 16, 1801)
  • Where ambition can be so happy as to cover its enterprises, even to the person himself, under the appearance of principle, it is the most incurable and inflexible of all human passions. David Hume, “William the Conqueror,” in The History of England (1754–61)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly present the observation in the following way: “Where ambition can cover its enterprises, even to the person himself, under the appearance of principle, it is the most incurable and inflexible of passions.”

  • Ambition, if it were to be savored, let alone achieved, had to be rooted in possibility. P. D. James, the voice of the narrator, in A Taste for Death (1986)
  • Ambition is only vanity ennobled. Jerome K. Jerome, “On Vanity and Vanities,” in The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1889)
  • Ambition makes more trusty slaves than need. Ben Jonson, the title character speaking, in Sejanus His Fall (1603)
  • The highly ambitious person, in spite of all his successes, always remains dissatisfied, in the same way as a greedy baby is never satisfied. Melanie Klein, in “Our Adult World and Its Roots in Infancy” (1959); reprinted in Envy and Gratitude & Other Works 1946-1963 (1975)
  • When I started to write these plays, I wanted to attempt something of ambition and size even if that meant I might be accused of straying too close to ambition’s ugly twin, pretentiousness. Tony Kushner, “Afterword,” in Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika (1992)
  • A slave has but one master; an ambitious man has as many masters as there are people who may be useful in bettering his position. Jean de La Bruyère, in Characters (1688)
  • It is the common failing of an ambitious mind to over-rate itself. Caroline Lamb, the voice of the narrator, in Glenaryon (1816)
  • Ambition is but Avarice on stilts and masked. Walter Savage Landor, Lorde Brooke speaking, in “Lord Brooke and Sir Philip Sidney,” Imaginary Conversations, Third Series (1828)
  • We often pass from love to ambition, but we hardly ever return from ambition to love. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true of not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed. Abraham Lincoln, in a speech in his first run for public office, at age twenty-three (Sangamon County, Illinois; March 9, 1832; quoted in Francis Grant Blair, The One Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Abraham Lincoln (1908)

QUOTE NOTE: In offering this thought, Lincoln was almost certainly inspired by a similar observation on the subject of ambition, first offered by George Washington in 1788 (see the Washington entry below)

  • Most people would succeed in small things, if they were not troubled with great ambitions. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • Ambition hath one heel nailed in hell, though she stretch her finger to touch the heavens. John Lyly, the character Martius speaking, in Midas: A Comedy (1592)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites present the quotation with the mistaken phrase nailed in well, and many of these sites wrongly attribute the quotation to the Chinese sage Lao-Tzu.

  • They fight for the sake of ambition, which is so powerful a passion in the human breast that, no matter the rank to which a man may rise, he never abandons it. Niccolò Machiavelli, in Discourses on Livy (1513–1517)
  • Ambition is so vigilant, and…is so prompt in seizing its advantages, that it cannot be too closely watched or too vigorously checked. James Madison, in letter to Thomas Jefferson (Dec 25, 1797)
  • Ambition is not a vice of little people. Michel de Montaigne, “Of Managing One’s Will,” in Essays (1580–88)
  • If ambition doesn’t hurt you, you haven’t got it. Kathleen Norris, in Hands Full of Living: Talks with American Women (1931)
  • Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. Barack Obama, in June 4, 2005 commencement address at Knox College (Galesburg, IL)

Then-Senator Obama continued: “It’s asks too little of yourself…because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”

  • Ambition is a lust that’s never quench’d,/Grows more inflam’d and madder by enjoyment. Thomas Otway, in The History and Fall of Caius Marius (1680)
  • The tallest trees are most in the power of the winds, and ambitious men of the blasts of fortune. William Penn, in Fruits of Solitude (1682)
  • The same ambition can destroy or save,/And makes a patriot as it makes a knave. Alexander Pope, in An Essay on Man (1733)
  • Ambition is putting a ladder against the sky. Proverb (American)
  • Though ambition in itself is a vice, yet it is often the parent of virtues. Quintilian, in Institutio Oratoria (c. 95 A.D.)
  • Ambition, old as mankind, the immemorial weakness of the strong. Vita Sackville-West, in No Signposts in the Sea (1961)
  • The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition. Carl Sagan, in Cosmos (1980)
  • An ambition is a little creeper that creeps and creeps in your heart night and day, singing a little song, “Come and find me, come and find me.” Carl Sandburg, “Three Boys with Jugs of Molasses and Secret Ambitions,” in Rootabaga Stories (1922)
  • Ambition breaks through the ties of blood, and forgets the obligations of gratitude. Sir Walter Scott, in Tales of a Grandfather: Being Stories Taken from Scottish History (1828)
  • Ambition, if it feeds at all, does so on the ambition of others. Susan Sontag, in The Benefactor (1963)
  • Ambition often puts men upon doing the meanest offices; so climbing is performed in the same position with creeping. Jonathan Swift, in Thoughts on Various Subjects, 1696–1706 (1711)
  • Where there are large powers with little ambition (which will happen sometimes, though seldom) nature may be said to have fallen short of her purposes. Sir Henry Taylor, in The Statesman (1836)
  • 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, in The Cup (1884)
  • Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. Mark Twain, quoted in Gay MacLaren, Morally We Roll Along (1938)

QUOTE NOTE: McLaren’s book represented the first appearance of this saying in print, and it is clear that she was recalling something Twain had said to her decades earlier, when she was a child. The saying—in a number of variant forms—has become very popular, especially in inspirational and self-help books. For more, see the 2013 post by Garson O’Toole, the Quote Investigator.

  • There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher. Henry van Dyke, “Salt,” in Counsels by the Way (1921 rev. ed.)

Van Dyke added: “There is a nobler character than that which is merely incorruptible. It is the character which acts as an antidote and preventive of corruption.”

  • All my life I've always wanted to be somebody. But I see now I should have been more specific. Jane Wagner, in words written for Lily Tomlin, from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (1985)
  • It is said that every man has his portion of ambition. I may have mine, I suppose, as well as the rest, but if I know my own heart, my ambition would not lead me into public life. My only ambition is to do my duty in this world as I am capable of performing it and to merit the good opinion of all men. George Washington, in letter to Benjamin Lincoln (Oct. 26, 1788)

QUOTE NOTE: This thought inspired Abraham Lincoln to make a similar remark (see his entry above)

  • Ambition will, and should, always outstrip achievement. Fay Weldon, Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen (1984)
  • Ambition is peculiarly the passion of great minds. It is the aspiration after a sphere of those who feel within them the capability of filling one. Lady Jane Wilde, “Charles Kean as King Richard,” in Notes on Men, Women, and Books (1891)

Lady Jane continued: “The ambition of such is not the vulgar passion for the possession of an object, be it a fortune or a crown, but a passionate desire for the power which accompanies such possession, enabling the hand to execute what the soul conceives.”

  • Ambition is the last refuge of the failure. Oscar Wilde, in “Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young,” first published in The Chameleon (Dec., 1894) an Oxford student magazine

QUOTE NOTE: For more last refuge observations on a host of topics (and the original observation that stimulated them all) go to REFUGE METAPHORS.

  • Ambition is the death of thought. Ludwig Wittgenstein, a 1948 notebook entry, in Culture and Value (1980; G. H. von Wright and Heikki Nyman, eds.)

AMBIVALENCE

(see also [Inner] CONFLICT)

  • Ambivalence is a wonderful tune to dance to. It has a rhythm all its own. Erica Jong, in Fear of Flying (1973)
  • Ambivalence: a collision between thought and feeling. David Seabury, in The Art of Selfishness (1964)
  • That mother of all ambivalencies: “whatever.” Cat Thompson, “The Power of Language,” in Experience Life (2002)

AMERICA & AMERICANS

(see also UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) (see also CANADA & CANADIANS and ENGLAND & THE ENGLISH and other nations & their citizens, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia)

  • American society is a sort of flat, fresh-water pond which absorbs silently, without reaction, anything which is thrown into it. Henry Brooks Adams, in a 1911 letter
  • I am a Californian, and we have twice the individuality and originality of any people in the United States. We always get quite huffy when we are spoken of as merely Americans. Gertrude Atherton, in Transplanted (1919)
  • A long while ago an eager group of reformers wrote to me asking if I could suggest anything that would improve the morals of the American people. I replied that the trouble with the American people in general was not lack of morals but lack of brains. Gertrude Atherton, in The Adventures of a Novelist (1932)
  • In America…to move on and make a fresh start somewhere else is still the normal reaction to dissatisfaction and failure. W. H. Auden, in the Introduction to Faber Book of Modern American Verse (1956)
  • America, thou half brother of the world;/With something good and bad of every land. Philip James Bailey, in Festus (1839)
  • Americans like fat books and thin women. Russell Baker, quoted in James Charlton, The Writer’s Quotation Book (1980)
  • America is an adorable woman chewing tobacco. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi

QUOTE NOTE: Bartholdi, designer of the Statue of Liberty, is said to have made this remark during an 1871 American trip organized to raise funds for the construction of his famous gift to the people of the United States. Bartholdi loved America, but was disgusted by the tobacco-chewing habits of many of its citizens. Another European who was fond of Americans but detested tobacco chewing—and the spitting associated with it—was Oscar Wilde, who said: “America is one long expectoration.”

  • I have fallen in love with American names,/The sharp, gaunt names that never get fat,/The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,/The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,/Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat. Stephen Vincent Benét, in “American Names” (1927)
  • Being an American means reckoning with a history fraught with violence and injustice. Ignoring that reality in favor of mythology is not only wrong but also dangerous. Ken Burns, in a Washington Post Op-Ed column (Nov. 22, 2021)

Burns continued: “The dark chapters of American history have just as much to teach us, if not more, than the glorious ones, and often the two are intertwined.”

  • What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual for his own and the common good; the development of the individual through liberty, and the attainment of the common good through democracy and social justice. Louis Brandeis, in “True Americanism, ” a speech at Fanueil Hall, Boston (July 4, 1915)
  • If there is a single image to crystallize the American dream, it would be house ownership. William F. Buckley, “It’s Really Quite Simple,” his syndicated column (Jan. 19, 2008)
  • America is like an unfaithful lover who promised us more than we got. Charlotte Bunch, in Passionate Politics (1987)
  • In the end, the American dream is not a sprint or even a marathon, but a relay. Julian Castro, in Democratic National Convention address (Sep. 4, 2012)

QUOTE NOTE: Castro, the 37-year-old Mayor of San Antonio, was the first Hispanic to deliver the keynote speech at a Democratic national convention. Here, he found a way to breathe new life into a popular metaphor.

  • There is a rowdy strain in American life, living close to the surface but running very deep. Like an ape behind a mask, it can display itself suddenly with terrifying effect. Bruce Catton, in This Hallowed Ground (1956)
  • Most Americans…have a sort of permanent intoxication from within, a sort of invisible champagne. G. K. Chesterton, quoted in The New York Times (June 28, 1931)
  • The Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted. Winston Churchill, a circa 1944 remark, quoted in Richard Langworth, Churchill by Himself (2008)

ERROR ALERT: This extremely popular observation, which has appeared in a variety of slightly different phrasings, has never been found in any of Churchill’s speeches, writings, or conversations. In an editor’s note on the quotation in Churchill by Himself, Richard Langworth had this to say about the observation: “Unattributed and included tentatively. Certainly he would never have said it publicly; he was much too careful about slips like that. It cannot be found in any memoirs of his colleagues. I have let it stand as a likely remark, for he certainly had those sentiments from time to time in World War II.”

  • Americans think of themselves collectively as a human rescue squad on twenty-four hour call to any spot on the globe where dispute and conflict may result. Eldridge Cleaver, in Soul on Ice (1968)
  • America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn’t standing still. e. e. cummings, “Why I Like America,” in Vanity Fair magazine (May, 1927)
  • The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through. Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America (1835)

Also in his classic work, de Tocqueville wrote: “Americans rightly think their patriotism is a sort of religion strengthened by practical service.”

  • I’ve come to think of Europe as a hardcover book, America as the paperback version. Don DeLillo, in The Names (1982)
  • Laughter is America’s most important export. Walt Disney, quoted in Christopher Finch, Walt Disney’s America (1978)
  • Americans are rather like bad Bulgarian wine: they don't travel well. Bernard Falk, quoted in The Observer (London; April 27, 1986)
  • America—rather, the United States—seems to me to be the Jew among the nations. It is resourceful, adaptable, maligned, envied, feared, imposed upon. It is warmhearted, overfriendly; quick-witted, lavish, colorful; given to extravagant speech and gestures. Edna Ferber, in A Peculiar Treasure: An Autobiography (1939)

Ferber continued: “Its people are travelers and wanderers by nature, moving, shifting, restless; swarming in Fords, in ocean liners; craving entertainment; volatile. The schnuckle among the nations of the world.”

  • Only remember—west of the Mississippi it's a little more look, see, act. A little less rationalize, comment, talk. F. Scott Fitzgerald, in 1934 letter to Andrew Turnbull
  • America is rather like life. You can usually find in it what you look for. E. M. Forster, “Impressions of America,” in The Listener (London, Sep. 4, 1947)
  • Americans are like a rich father who wishes he knew how to give his son the hardships that made him rich. Robert Frost

ERROR ALERT: This is how the quotation is typically presented, but Frost never said it exactly this way. It’s a modification of a remark he made in a Meet the Press appearance on March 22, 1959. Responding to a question from Newsweek’s Ernest Lindley about whether American civilization had improved or deteriorated in his lifetime, he said: “We’re like a rich father who wishes he knew how to give his son the hardships that made the father such a man. We are in that sort of position.”

  • What America does best is to understand itself. What it does worst is to understand others. Carlos Fuentes, quoted in Time magazine (June 16, 1986)
  • Every American carries in his bloodstream the heritage of the malcontent and the dreamer. Dorothy Fuldheim, “Jane Fonda and the Duke of Windsor,” in A Thousand Friends (1974)
  • I think that’s still what the American Dream means: that with perseverance, with hard work, you can become something, that the classes won’t prevent you from becoming, that there’s a movement up that ladder with hard work. Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Lessons of Presidential Leadership,” Academy of Achievement Interview, www.achievement.org (June 28, 1996)
  • The most amazing feature of American life is its boundless publicity. Carl Jung, in The Complications of American Psychology (1930)

Jung added: “Everybody has to meet everybody, and they even seem to enjoy this enormity.”

  • Americans are fascinated by their own love of shopping. This does not make them unique. It’s just that they have more to buy than most other people on the planet. And it's also an affirmation of faith in their country, its prosperity and limitless bounty. They have shops the way that lesser countries have statues. Simon Hoggart, in America: A User’s Guide (1990)
  • What the American public wants is a tragedy with a happy ending. William Dean Howells, quoted in Edith Wharton, French Ways and Their Meaning (1919)

QUOTE NOTE: Howells was talking about the American taste in theater and drama, but Wharton believed it captured Americans as a whole. She wrote: “What Mr. Howells said of the American theater is true of the whole American attitude toward life. ‘A tragedy with a happy ending’ is exactly what the child wants before he goes to sleep: the reassurance that ‘all’s well with the world’ as he lies in his cozy nursery. It is a good thing that the child should receive this reassurance; but as long as he needs it he remains a child, and the world he lives in is a nursery-world. Things are not always and everywhere well with the world, and each man has to find it out as he grows up.”

  • Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—/Let it be that great strong land of love/Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme/That any man be crushed by one above. Langston Hughes, in the poem “Let America Be America Again” (1935)

QUOTE NOTE: Hughes, age thirty-three when he wrote “Let America Be America Again,” believed deeply in an American Dream that had not been fully extended to him and other members of his race. The entire poem is a powerful piece of verse that concludes on a hopeful note, however, with Hughes writing: “O, yes,/I say it plain,/America never was America to me,/And yet I swear this oath—/America will be!” To read the entire poem, go here.

  • Someone we didn’t know asked how it was that everything goes so well with the Americans, though they swear at every second word. Franz Kafka, diary entry (July 12, 1912), in The Diaries of Franz Kafka, 1910–1923 (1948; Max Brod, ed.)
  • I distrust the rash optimism in this country that cries, “Hurrah, we’re all right! This is the greatest nation on earth,” when there are grievances that call loudly for redress. Helen Keller, in Optimism (1903)
  • The trouble with us in America isn’t that the poetry of life has turned to prose, but that it has turned into advertising copy. Louis Kronenberger, “The Spirit of the Age,” in Company Manners: A Cultural Inquiry into American Life (1954)
  • America exhausts the springs of one’s soul—I suppose that’s what it exists for. It lives to see all real spontaneity expire. D. H. Lawrence, in letter to J. Middleton Murry (September 24, 1923)

Lawrence added: “But anyhow it doesn’t grind on an old nerve as Europe seems to.”

  • If you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture you would be pretty much left with “Let's Make a Deal.” Fran Lebowitz, “The Impact of AIDS on the Artistic Community,” The New York Times (Sep. 13, 1987)
  • America is a hurricane, and the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug White Protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind. Norman Mailer, in Advertisements for Myself (1959)
  • I don’t see America as a mainland, but as a sea, a big ocean. Jacques Maritain, in Reflections on America (1958)

Maritain added: “Sometimes a storm arises, a formidable current develops, and it seems it will engulf everything. Wait a moment, another current will appear and bring the first one to naught.”

  • The immense popularity of American movies abroad demonstrates that Europe is the unfinished negative of which America is the proof. Mary McCarthy, “America the Beautiful,” in Commentary magazine (Sep., 1947)

In the article, McCarthy also wrote: “The American character looks always as if it had just had a rather bad haircut, which gives it, in our eyes at any rate, a greater humanity than the European, which even among its beggars has an all too professional air.”

  • Backward is just not a natural direction for Americans to look—historical ignorance remains a national characteristic. Larry McMurtry, in Oh What a Slaughter: Massacres in the American West: 1846–1890 (2005)

McMurtry preceded the observation by writing: “Americans’ lack of passion for history is well known. History may not quite be bunk, as Henry Ford suggested, but there’s no denying that, as a people, we sustain a passionate concentration on the present and the future.”

  • American society is very like a fish society…the only thing which determines order of dominance is length of time in the fish-bowl. Margaret Mead, in And Keep Your Powder Dry (1942)

Mead added: “The oldest resident picks on the newest resident, and if the newest resident is removed to a new bowl, he as oldest resident will pick on the newcomers.”

  • America is not a melting pot. It is a sizzling cauldron. Barbara Mikulski, in a Washington, DC speech (June, 1970)
  • It is the American vice, the democratic disease which expresses its tyranny by reducing everything unique to the level of the herd. Henry Miller, “Raimu,” in The Wisdom of the Heart (1941)
  • Americans relate all effort, all work, and all of life itself to the dollar. Their talk is of nothing but dollars. Nancy Mitford, “The English Aristocracy,” in Noblesse Oblige (1956; Hamish Hamilton, ed.)
  • I’ve always thought that the American eagle needed a left wing and a right wing. Bill Moyers, in 2005 speech at National Conference for Media Reform (St. Louis)

Moyers added: “The right wing would see to it that economic interests had their legitimate concerns addressed. The left wing would see to it that ordinary people were included in the bargain. Both would keep the great bird on course. But with two right wings or two left wings, it’s no longer an eagle and it’s going to crash.”

  • I believe there’s an intrinsic irreverence in the American psyche, and when something comes along that offers even an echo of that irreverence, people respond to it. Martin Mull, “20 Questions with Martin Mull,” in Playboy magazine (April, 1984)
  • America is the world’s policeman, all right—a big, dumb, mick flatfoot in the middle of the one thing cops dread most, a “domestic disturbance.” P. J. O’Rourke, “Jordan,” in Rolling Stone (Aug., 1990); reprinted in Give War a Chance (1992)
  • America stands unique in the world: the only country not founded on race but on a way, an ideal. Ronald Reagan, quoting himself in a White House bill signing ceremony (August 10, 1988)

QUOTE NOTE: in signing a bill providing restitution for the WWII Internment of Japanese-American civilians, President recalled some remarks he had made as a young actor—and, at the time, also a U. S. Army captain—at a December 1945 ceremony that posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to a Japanese-American soldier who died in combat. Then-Captain Reagan continued: “Not in spite of but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. That is the American way.” For Reagan’s complete remarks at the 1988 signing ceremony, go: here.

  • America is an enormous frosted cupcake in the middle of millions of starving people. Gloria Steinem

ERROR ALERT: Despite the enormous popularity of this quotation, you will not find these exact words in any of Steinem’s speeches or writings. It’s a paraphrase of something she wrote in Moving Beyond Words (1995), when Steinem described how her view about America’s place in the world shifted after she returned from a 1958 trip to India: “I was seeing my own overdeveloped country through the eyes of the underdeveloped world for the first time. In search of imagery for this revelation, I remember saying to all who would listen, ‘Imagine a giant frosted cupcake in the midst of hungry millions.’”

  • Americans tend to believe they can do anything with or without any training or experience. Gladys Taber, in Still Cove Journal (1981)
  • Discussion in America means dissent. James Thurber, “The Duchess and the Bugs,” in Lanterns and Lances (1961)
  • America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair. Arnold J. Toynbee, quoted in BBC news broadcast (July 14, 1954)
  • I very seldom, during my whole stay in the country, heard a sentence elegantly turned, and correctly pronounced from the lips of an American. Frances Trollope, in Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832)
  • This is the only country where failure to promote yourself is widely considered arrogant. Garry Trudeau, on America, quoted in Newsweek magazine (Oct. 15, 1990)
  • America has been another name for opportunity. Frederick J. Turner, in The Significance of the Frontier in American History (1893)
  • The political and social morals of America are not only food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Mark Twain, in unpublished memoirs, quoted in Bernard DeVoto, Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)
  • America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy. John Updike, the unnamed narrator speaking, in “How to Love America and Leave It at the Same Time,” The New Yorker (Aug, 19, 1972); reprinted in Problems: And Other Stories (1979)
  • That peculiarly American religion, President-worship. Gore Vidal, “President and Mrs. Grant” (1975), in Matters of Fact and Fiction: Essays 1973-1976 (1978)
  • America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot, where all races of Europe are melting and re-forming. Israel Zangwill, in his play The Melting Pot (1908)

AMERICA & ENGLAND

(see also AMERICA & AMERICANS and ENGLAND & THE ENGLISH)

  • No one can be as calculatedly rude as the British, which amazes Americans, who do not understand studied insult and can only offer abuse as a substitute. Paul Gallico, quoted in The New York Times (Jan. 14, 1962)
  • I regard England as my wife and America as my mistress. Cedric Hardwicke, quoted in Cleveland Amory & Eal Blackwell, Celebrity Register: An Irreverent Compendium (1963)
  • The Englishman wants to be recognized as a gentleman, or as some other suitable species of human being, the American wants to be considered a “good guy.” Louis Kronenberger, in Company Manners: A Cultural Inquiry into American Life (1954)
  • We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language. Oscar Wilde, in The Canterbury Ghost (1887)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is typically presented, but it originally appeared in the narrator’s description of Mrs. Otis, the American-born wife of Hiram B. Chase, an American Minister who purchased Canterville Chase, an English property reputed to be haunted. The full passage is: “Indeed, in many respects, she was quite English, and was an excellent example of the fact that we have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.” A similar observation (“England and America are two countries separated by the same language”) was attributed without citation to George Bernard Shaw in a Reader’s Digest issue (Nov. 1942), but there is no evidence that Shaw ever wrote or said such a thing.

  • I think Americans love success—but hate the people who have it. Kathleen Winsor, in Star Money (1950)

[The] AMERICAN DREAM

(see also AMERICA & AMERICANS and DREAMS and HOPES and WISHES)

  • If there is a single image to crystallize the American dream, it would be house ownership. William F. Buckley, “It’s Really Quite Simple,” his syndicated column (Jan. 19, 2008)

ANALOGY

(see also ARGUMENT & ARGUMENTATION and FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE and METAPHOR and PERSUASION and SIMILE)

  • Analogies are figures intended to serve as fatal weapons if they succeed, and as innocent toys if they fail. Henry Brooks Adams, in Mont Saint Michel and Chartres (1904)
  • The role of analogy in scientific research is clearly an essential feature of any work in natural science, even if it is not always obvious. Niels Bohr, in letter to Harald Høffding (Sep. 22, 1922)
  • Apt analogies are among the most formidable weapons of the rhetorician. Winston Churchill, quoted in James Humes, The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill (1984)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This is the way the quotation appears in the Humes book and many other quotation anthologies, but be aware that it is an abridgment of Churchill’s original words. In “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric,” an unpublished essay on political oratory that the twenty-one-year-old Churchill wrote in 1897, the full passage is phrased this way: “The influence exercised over the human mind by apt analogies is and has always been immense. Whether they translate an established truth into simple language or whether they adventurously aspire to reveal the unknown, they are among the most formidable weapons of the rhetorician.”

  • The eye instinctively looks for analogies and amplifies them, so that a face imagined in the pattern of a wallpaper may become more vivid than a photograph. Kenneth Clark, in The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form (1951)
  • Analogy, although it is not infallible, is yet that telescope of the mind by which it is marvellously assisted in the discovery of both physical and moral truth. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • Analogies, it is true, decide nothing, but they can make one feel more at home. Sigmund Freud, in New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1933)
  • It has been said that discovery consists in seeing an analogy which nobody had seen before. Arthur Koestler, in Act of Creation (1964)

Later in the book, Koestler expanded on the theme: “The essence of discovery is that unlikely marriage of cabbages and kings—of previously unrelated frames of reference or universes of discourse—whose union will solve the previously insoluble problem.”

  • While they often operate unnoticed, analogies aren’t accidents, they’re arguments—arguments that, like icebergs, conceal most of their mass and power beneath the surface. In many arguments, whoever has the Best analogy wins. John Pollack, in Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas (2014)
  • The most seductive analogies are not always true and, like a baited hook, swallowing them can be costly. John Pollack, “Watch Your F#*k%^g Language,” in Change This blog (Sep. 24, 2014)
  • All perception of truth is the detection of an analogy; we reason from our hands to our head. Henry David Thoreau, journal entry (Sep. 5, 1851)
  • The first man who noticed the analogy between a group of seven fishes and a group of seven days made a notable advance in the history of thought. Alfred North Whitehead, in Science and the Modern World (1929)

ANALYSIS & ANALYTICAL THINKING

  • Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour springs and germinates no more. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, entry in his Journal Intime (Jan. 3, 1879)
  • The analysis of concepts is for the understanding nothing more than what the magnifying glass is for sight. Moses Mendelssohn, in “On Evidence in Metaphysical Sciences” (1763 essay)
  • When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process. Robert M. Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974)

ANATOMY

(see also BODY and BIOLOGY and DOCTORS and MEDICINE)

  • Anatomy is destiny. Sigmund Freud, in “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love” (1912); quoted in Social Science Quotations (2000; David L. Sills & Robert K. Merton, eds.).

QUOTE NOTE: In their extensive compilation of social science quotations, Sills and Merton point out that Freud’s famous—or to some, infamous—assertion was inspired by an 1808 comment that Napoleon made to Goethe: “Politics is fate.”

ANCESTORS & ANCESTRY

(see also BREEDING and FAMILY and GENEALOGY and HEREDITY and HEREDITY & ENVIRONMENT and ROOTS)

  • Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. Shirley Abbott, in Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South (1983)

Abbot began by writing: “We all grow up with the weight of history upon us.”

  • A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruits is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. The Bible: Matthew 7:18–20
  • If your descent is from heroic sires,/Show in your life a remnant of their fires. Nicolas Boileau, in Satires (1666)
  • Deep in the cavern of the infant’s breast/The father’s nature lurks, and lives anew. Horace, in Odes (1st c. B.C.)
  • We open our mouths and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know. We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse: we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard. Penelope Lively, a reflection of the protagonist Claudia Hampton, in Moon Tiger (1987)
  • We are all motivated far more than we care to admit by characteristics inherited from our ancestors which individual experiences of childhood can modify, repress, or enhance, but cannot erase. Agnes E. Meyer, in Out of These Roots (1953)
  • The man who has not anything to boast of but his illustrious ancestors, is like a potato, the only good belonging to him is under ground. Sir Thomas Overbury, quoted in The New-York Mirror and Ladies’ Literary Gazette (May 8, 1824)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the earliest citation I’ve found for this popular observation from Overbury (1581–1613), a prominent English poet and essayist. We do not know for certain how Sir Thomas exactly phrased his thought, though, as The New-York Mirror attribution appeared to be a paraphrase rather than a direct quotation. It began, “Among the admirable axioms of Sir Thomas Overbury, there is one which places the knight’s opinion of family honours in a very conspicuous point of view. He says that the man who has not anything to boast of….”

  • To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root. Proverb (Chinese)
  • The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Proverb (English)
  • Mules are always boasting that their ancestors are horses. Proverb (German)
  • Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal. Robert Louis Stevenson, “Pastoral” essay, in Memories & Portraits (1887)

QUOTE NOTE: Arboreal is defined as “living in or among trees.” Stevenson continued: “In all our veins there runs some minims [sic] of his old, wild, tree-top blood; our civilized nerves still tingle with his rude terrors and pleasures; and to that which would have moved our common ancestor, all must obediently thrill.” Stevenson got the probably arboreal phrase from Charles Darwin, who had written in On the Origin of Species (1859): “We thus learn that man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits, and an inhabitant of the Old World.”

  • On this journey we will reach into the future and commit ourselves to thinking in generations. We are a continuum. Just as we reach back to our ancestors for our fundamental values, so we, as guardians of that legacy, must reach ahead to our children and their children. And we do so with a sense of sacredness in that reaching. Paul Tsongas, in a 1991 issue of the National Journal (specific issue undetermined)

ANDROGYNY

(see also BOYS & GIRLS and GENDER and IDENTITY and MALE–FEMALE DYNAMICS and MASCULINE & FEMININE and MEN & WOMEN and SEX & SEXUALITY and SEXISM and SOCIALIZATION and TRANSSEXUALITY)

  • The truth is, a great mind must be androgynous. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in Table Talk (Sep. 1, 1832)
  • The seduction emanating from a person of uncertain or dissimulated sex is powerful. Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), the voice of the narrator, in The Pure and the Impure (1932)
  • The word [androgyny] is misbegotten—conveying something like “John Travolta and Farrah Fawcett-Majors scotch-taped together.” Mary Daly, in Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (1978)
  • When it comes to their essential faculty as writers, all writers are androgynous beings. Nadine Gordimer, in the Introduction to Selected Stories (1983)
  • Androgyny suggests a spirit of reconciliation between the sexes. Carolyn Heilbrun, in Toward a Recognition of Androgyny (1973)

QUOTE NOTE: About the term androgyny itself, Heilbrun wrote: “This ancient Greek word—from andro (male) and gyn (female)—defines a condition under which the characteristics of the sexes, and the human impulses expressed by men and women, are not rigidly assigned. Androgyny seeks to liberate the individual from the confines of the appropriate.”

ANECDOTE

(see also ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE and EXAMPLE and EPISODE and STORIES & STORYTELLING)

  • The plural of anecdote is not data. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: This counter-proverb or anti-proverb began to appear in the early 1980s, clearly inspired by an earlier observation from the American political scientist Raymond Wolfinger: “The plural of anecdote is data” (see the Wolfinger entry below). The original author of the tweaked saying is unknown, even though it is commonly attributed to George Stigler and to Roger Brinner, both American economists (never, however, with any definitive source information). The saying is sometimes also phrased: “The plural of anecdote is not evidence.”

  • Anecdotes are so much tastier spiced with expensive names. Louise Brooks, “The Other Face of W. C. Fields,” in Lulu in Hollywood (1982)

Brooks was describing a familiar pattern among biographers. She preceded the observation by writing: “After a person dies, his biographers feel free to give him a glittering list of intimate friends.”

  • One anecdote of a man is worth a volume of biography. William Ellery Channing, quoted in Popular Science magazine (July, 1884)

QUOTE NOTE: Despite the popularity of this observation (Clifton Fadiman even employed it in the Introduction to his 1985 Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes), an original source has never been found.

  • The literary anecdote is a genre all to itself. Guy Davenport, in The Geography of the Imagination (1981; re-issued in 2024)
  • Anecdotes/The poor man’s history. Rita Dove, “The Gorge,” in Grace Notes (1989)
  • It would seem that in youth we sow our wild oats, in old age our tame anedcotes. Clifton Fadiman, in The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes (1985)
  • A biographical incident; a minute passage of private life. Samuel Johnson, a note on anecdote, in A Dictionary of the English Language (1755)
  • The plural of anecdote is data. Raymond Wolfinger, quoted in his obituary in The Daily Californian (Feb. 11, 2015)

QUOTE NOTE: First offered in 1969-70, this saying has achieved the status a modern proverb (and also inspired an equally popular counter-proverb, seen above). It was originally offered by professor Wolfinger as a rejoinder to a smart-alecky grad student in one of his classes. Here’s how Wolfinger expressed it in a 2004 e-mail to the Yale Book of Quotations editor Fred R. Shapiro: “I said ‘The plural of anecdote is data’ some time in the 1969-70 academic year while teaching a graduate seminar at Stanford. The occasion was a student’s dismissal of a simple factual statement—by another student or me—as a mere anecdote. The quotation was my rejoinder. Since then I have missed few opportunities to quote myself.”

According to The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012), the saying appeared in print for the first time a decade later in Roger C. Noll’s “The Game of Health Care Regulation,” an article in Issues in Health Care Regulation (1980; Richard S. Gordon, ed.). The full passage went this way: “Most of the evidence is anecdotal. Nevertheless, in the words of a leading political scientist, Raymond Wolfinger, the plural of anecdote is data.” It’s extremely rare for a quotation to move from an off-the-cuff classroom rejoinder to a relatively obscure technical article and then on to popular usage, but that appears to be the case with this observation.

ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE

(includes ANECDOTAL THINKING; see also ANECDOTE and EXAMPLE and EVIDENCE)

  • Anecdotal evidence is a springboard used to jump (or push people) to misguided and inaccurate conclusions. Mark Holmboe, in letter to the editor, Rockford [Illinois] Register Star (Jan, 8, 2020)

Holmboe’s article was published under the title: “Legislation shouldn’t be based on anecdotes.”

  • Anecdotal thinking comes naturally, science requires training. Michael Shermer, in The Believing Brain

Shermer preceded the thought by writing: “The problem we face is that superstition and belief in magic are millions of years old whereas science, with its methods of controlling for intervening variables to circumvent false positives, is only a few hundred years old.”

ANGER

(see also AGGRESSION & AGGRESSIVENESS and EMOTION and FURY and HATRED and HOSTILITY and MAD and RAGE and TEMPER)

  • Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. Mitch Albom, in The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2003)

QUOTE NOTE: The words come from Ruby, one of the five people that Eddie, the story’s protagonist, meets in heaven. She continued: “We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.”

  • Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns all clean. Maya Angelou, in Writing Lives: Conversations Between Women Writers (1988; Mary Chamberlain, ed.)
  • How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it. Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations (2nd c. A.D.)
  • Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is commonly misattributed to Mark Twain.

  • No man is angry that feels not himself hurt. Francis Bacon, “Of Anger,” in Essays (1625)
  • Move not in your anger; it is like putting to sea in a tempest. Amelia E. Barr, in The Maid of Maiden Lane (1900)
  • Anger is the quintessential individual-signature emotion: I am what makes me mad. Regina Barreca, in Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful (2000)
  • Interestingly, anger and lust are also elusive states once they have passed. Regina Barreca, in Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful (2000)

Barreca continued: “Trying to recall why you were angry about something when you've calmed down is like trying to remember why you were in love with someone who no longer attracts you: the initial impulse triggering the emotion is impossible to recapture.”

  • Anger can offer a sense of indignity to replace a sense of shame, and offer a voice—raised above others—which can finally be heard. Regina Barreca, in Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful (2000)

Barreca continued: “Those voices are most effective when they are raised in unison, when they have mercy as well as anger behind them, and when, instead of roaring at the anger of old pain, they sing about the glorious possibilities of a future where anger has a smaller house than hope.”

  • Anger is a bow that will shoot sometimes where another feeling will not. Henry Ward Beecher, in Life Thoughts (1858)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation occurred in a passage that began with this famous Beecher observation: “Never forget what a man has said to you when he was angry.”

  • A man who cannot get angry is like a stream that cannot overflow, that is always turbid. Sometimes indignation is as good as a thunder-storm in summer, clearing and cooling the air. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • Hell has three gates: lust, anger, and greed. Bhagavad Gita (16)

QUOTE NOTE: Lord Krishna, speaking to Prince Arjuna, adds: “For your own sake, Arjuna, give up these three.”

  • He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. The Bible—Proverbs 16:32
  • Anger repressed can poison a relationship as surely as the cruelest words. Dr. Joyce Brothers, “When Your Husband’s Affection Cools,” in Good Housekeeping (May, 1972)
  • Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. Frederick Buechner, in Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (1973); reissued in 1993 as Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC

Buechner continued: “To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

  • Anger can give energy to the mind but only if it is harnessed and held in control. Pearl S. Buck, the voice of the narrator, in God’s Men: A Novel (1951)
  • Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you. Frederick Buechner, in Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (1973)
  • Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten. Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, in The Teachings of Buddha (The Buddhist Bible): A Compendium of Many Scriptures (1934)
  • Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, widely attributed

QUOTATION CAUTION: This quotation appears in numerous anthologies and quotation collections, but never from an authoritative source.

  • Great fury, like great whisky, requires long fermentation. Truman Capote, “Handcarved Coffins,” in Music for Chameleons (1980)
  • The intoxication of anger, like that of the grape, shows us to others, but hides us from ourselves. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)

Colton added: “We injure our own cause in the opinion of the world when we too passionately defend it.”

  • Anger as well as love casts out fear. Margaret Deland, tweaking the familiar biblical passage (I John 4:18), in Small Things (1919)
  • Anger as soon as fed is dead—/’Tis starving makes it fat. Emily Dickinson, poem no. 1509 (c. 1881)
  • Anger and jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of their objects than love. George Eliot, the voice of the narrator, in The Mill on the Floss (1860)
  • We boil at different degrees. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Eloquence,” in Society and Solitude (1870)
  • Because society would rather we always wore a pretty face, women have been trained to cut off anger. Nancy Friday, in My Mother/My Self (1977)
  • Anger is one of the sinews of the soul. Thomas Fuller, in The Holy State and the Profane State (1642)
  • If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size? Sydney J. Harris, quoted in Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes (1997)
  • Anger is momentary madness, so control your passion or it will control you. Horace, in Epistles (1st c. A.D.).

QUOTE NOTE: The first portion of the passage is also commonly translated as “Anger is a brief lunacy.”

  • Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear. Zora Neale Hurston, in Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)
  • Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, every one [sic] should be serene, slow-pulsed and calm. Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Christian Religion” (1881), in The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol. 6 (1909)
  • A man can’t eat anger for breakfast and sleep with it at night and not suffer damage to his soul. Garrison Keillor, “Could I Have Been Any More Inept?” Salon.com (Oct. 26, 1999)
  • Anger is like the blade of a butcher knife—very difficult to hold on to for long without harming yourself. Patti LaBelle, in Patti's Pearls: Lessons in Living (2001; with Laura Randolph Lancaster)
  • The Dance of Anger. Harriet Lerner. title of 1985 book
  • Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to. Harriet Lerner, in The Dance of Anger (1985)
  • Many of our problems with anger occur when we choose between having a relationship and having a self. Harriet Lerner, in The Dance of Anger (1985)
  • Anger is the fluid that love bleeds when you cut it. C. S. Lewis, in Letters to Malcolm (1964)
  • Anger is loaded with information and energy. Audre Lorde, in “The Uses of Anger,” in Sister Outsider (1984)
  • Anger is the common refuge of insignificance. People who feel their character to be slight, hope to give it weight by inflation. But the blown bladder at its fullest distention is still empty. Hannah More, “On the Comparatively Small Faults and Virtues,” in Practical Piety (1811)
  • No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched. George Jean Nathan, “Undeveloped Notes,” in The Smart Set magazine (Aug. 1922)
  • To be angry is to revenge the fault of others upon ourselves. Alexander Pope, in Thoughts on Various Subjects (1727)
  • When anger spreads through the breast, guard thy tongue from barking idly. Sappho, a 6th c. B.C. couplet, in Henry Thornton Wharton, Sappho: Memoir, Text, Selected Renderings (1885)
  • Anger is never without an argument, but seldom with a good one. George Savile (Lord Halifax), “Of Anger,” in Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
  • Anger is a passion, so it makes people feel alive and makes them feel they matter and are in charge of their lives. Merle Shain, in Hearts That We Broke Long Ago (1983)

Shain continued: “So people often need to renew their anger a long time after the cause of it has died, because it is a protection against helplessness and emptiness just like howling in the night. And it makes them feel less vulnerable for a little while.”

  • If anger isn’t released, it “turns inward” and metamorphoses into another creature altogether. Carol Tavris, in Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion (1982; rev. ed. 1989)

Tavris introduced the thought by writing: “When anger is not trampling roughshod through our nervous system, it is sitting sullenly in some unspecified internal organ. ‘She’s got a lot of anger in her,’ people will say (it nestles, presumably, somewhere in the gut), or, ‘He’s a deeply angry man’ (as opposed, presumably, to a superficially angry one).”

ANGLING

(see FISHING)

ANGUISH

(see also AGONY and DEPRESSION and GRIEF & GRIEVING and MISERY and MISFORTUNE and PAIN and SADNESS and SORROW and SUFFERING and TEARS)

  • O the anguish of the thought that we can never atone to our dead for the stinted affection we gave them. George Eliot, a reflection of the title character, in “The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton,” in Scenes of Clerical Life (1857)

ANIMAL RIGHTS

(includes ANIMAL CRUELTY; see also ANIMALS and HUMAN RIGHTS and HUNTING and RIGHTS and SPORT and VEGETARIANISM & VEGANISM and ZOOS)

  • The question is not Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but Can they suffer? Jeremy Bentham, on the proper way to view animals, in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)

A moment earlier, Bentham presciently wrote: “The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.”

  • A robin redbreast in a cage/Puts all Heaven in a rage. William Blake, in “Auguries of Innocence” (1803)
  • I would not enter on my list of friends,/(Though graced with polish'd manners and fine sense,/Yet wanting sensibility) the man/Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm. William Cowper, “Winter Walk at Noon,” in The Task (1785)

The poem continued: “An inadvertent step may crush the snail/That crawls at evening in the public path;/But he that has humanity, forewarn'd,/Will tread aside, and let the reptile live.”

  • We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form. W. R. Inge, “The Idea of Progress,” in Outspoken Essays (1922)
  • When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him Vandal. When he wantonly destroys one of the works of God we call him Sportsman. Joseph Wood Krutch, “The Vandal and the Sportsman,” in The Great Chain of Life (1956)
  • A rattlesnake loose in the living room tends to end any discussion of animal rights. Lance Morrow, “Has Your Paradigm Shifted,” in Time magazine (Nov. 11, 2001)
  • In nothing does man, with his grand notions of heaven and charity, show forth his innate, low-bred, wild animalism more clearly than in his treatment of his brother beasts. From the shepherd with his lambs to the red-handed hunter, it is the same; no recognition of rights—only murder in one form or another. John Muir, in a journal entry (July 23, 1881); later reprinted in The Cruise of the Corwin (1917)

Muir preceded the thought by writing: “These magnificent animals are killed oftentimes for their tusks alone, like buffaloes for their tongues, ostriches for their feathers, or for mere sport and exercise.”

QUOTE NOTE: Muir kept a journal while serving on the USS Corwin during an expedition exploring the massive Glacier Bay in Alaska. Observing a small boat from a nearby schooner approaching a herd of walruses on a huge ice flow, he is shocked to see three men raising their rifles. His description of the slaughter is chilling: “A puff of smoke now and then, a dull report, and a huge animal rears and falls—another, and another, as they lie on the ice without showing any alarm, waiting to be killed, like cattle lying in a barnyard! Nearer, we hear the roar, lion-like, mixed with hoarse-grunts [sic], from hundreds, like black bundles on the white ice. Then the three men pull off to their schooner, as it is now midnight and time for the other watch to go to work.”

  • Because the heart beats under a covering of hair, of fur, feathers, or wings, is it, for that reason, to be of no account? Jean Paul (pen name of Johann Paul Richter), in Levana (1807)
  • And as it was the saying of Bion, that, though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, yet the frogs do not die in sport but in earnest; so in hunting and fishing, the fault is in the men delighting in the torments and cruel deaths of beasts, and tearing them without compassion from their whelps and their young ones. Plutarch, quoting the ancient Greek philosopher Bion and then building on his observation, in Moralia (1st. c. A.D.)
  • All the arguments to prove man’s superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: that in suffering the animals are our equals. Dallas Pratt, M.D., in Painful Experiments on Animals (1976)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Peter Singer, the “Animal Liberation” pioneer. Pratt was discussing Singer’s viewpoint when he wrote this, but he was expressing his own though and not quoting Singer.

  • It can truly be said: Men are the devils of the earth, and the animals are the tormented souls. Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Religion” (1851), reprinted in Essays and Aphorisms (1970; R. J. Hollingdale, ed.)
  • We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. Albert Schweitzer, in The Philosophy of Civilization (1923)

Schweitzer continued: “It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”

  • The basis of all animal rights should be the Golden Rule: we should treat them as we would wish them to treat us, were any other species in our dominant position. Christine Stevens, quoted in Michael W. Fox, Returning to Eden: Animal Rights and Human Responsibility (1980)
  • Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals “love” them. But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more. Edwin Way Teale, “April 28,” in Circle of the Seasons (1953)

ANIMALS

(see also ANIMALS—SPECIFIC TYPES and ANIMAL METAPHORS and BIRDS and CATS and CATS & DOGS and DOGS and FISH and HORSES and INSECTS and PETS and PIGS)

  • I like handling newborn animals. Fallen into life from an unmappable world, they are the ultimate immigrants, full of wonder and confusion. Diane Ackerman, in The Moon by Whale Light (1991)
  • One of the things I like best about animals in the wild is that they’re always off on some errand. They have appointments to keep. It’s only we humans who wonder what we’re here for. Diane Ackerman, in The Moon by Whale Light (1991)
  • Sex is a sideshow in the world of the animal, for the dominant color of that world is fear. Robert Ardrey, in African Genesis (1961)
  • Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. Author Unknown

QUOTATION CAUTION: This one of the modern era’s most popular quotations, almost always attributed to Anatole France, and found in thousands of internet sites and hundreds of books. However, after years of sleuthing, I’ve found no documentary evidence to support an attribution to France.

  • The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer? Jeremy Bentham, on animals, in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)

Bentham introduced the thought by writing: “The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny.”

QUOTE NOTE: This is an early expression—perhaps the earliest—of an animal rights principle. Bentham’s observation may also have inspired a memorable memorable passage in Anna Sewell’s classic 1877 novel Black Beauty (see the Sewell entry below).

  • An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language. Martin Buber, in I and Thou (1923)
  • Whenever you observe an animal closely, you have the feeling that a person sitting inside is making fun of you. Elias Canetti, in The Human Province (1978)
  • Why does it enrage an animal to be given what it already knows? Anne Carson, “Kinds of Water,” in Grand Street (Summer, 1987); reprinted in Plainwater: Essays and Poetry (1995)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation speaks to a fascinating human phenomenon—people getting angry when they’re told something they already know. I’ve always written it off as intellectual insecurity, but Carson’s observation—and especially her use of the word enrage—suggests something more primitive or atavistic in such a reaction.

  • A kindly gesture bestowed by us on an animal arouses prodigies of understanding and gratitude. Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), in Journey for Myself: Selfish Memories (1971)
  • Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. George Eliot, “Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story,” in Scenes of Clerical Life (1857)
  • All animals are minor variations on a very particular theme. Richard Dawkins, in The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to The Dawn of Evolution (2004)

QUOTE NOTE: Dawkins was talking about the similar genetic structure of animals, and not about the way they look (their form and structure, or as he put it, their morphology).

  • Some animals, like some men, leave a trail of glory behind them. Marguerite Henry, in Brighty of the Grand Canyon (1953)

Henry added: “They give their spirit to the place where they have lived, and remain forever a part of the rocks and streams and the wind and sky.”

  • Animals often strike us as passionate machines. Eric Hoffer, in Reflections on the Human Condition (1973)
  • From the oyster to the eagle, from the swine to the tiger, all animals are to be found in men and each of them exists in some man, sometimes several at a time. Animals are nothing but the portrayal of our virtues and vices made manifest to our eyes, the visible reflections of our souls. God displays them to us to give us food for thought. Victor Hugo, the voice of the narrator, in Les Misérables (1862)

QUOTE NOTE: I’ve also seen the passage translated this way: “We could easily recognize this truth…that from the oyster to the eagle, from the pig to the tiger, all animals exist in man, and that each of them is in a man. Animals are nothing else than the figures of our virtues and our vices, straying before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls. God shows them to us in order to induce us to reflect.”

  • We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form. W. R. Inge, “The Idea of Progress,” a May27, 1920 lecture; reprinted in Outspoken Essays: Second Series (1922)
  • Which of us has not been stunned by the beauty of an animal’s skin or its flexibility in motion? Marianne Moore, “Of Beasts and Jewels,” in The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore (1996)
  • Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way. John Muir, journal entry (Aug. 30, 1880); reprinted in John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (1938; Wanda Muir Hanna, ed.)

Muir went on to add: “Those who dwell in the wilderness are sure to learn their kinship with animals and gain some sympathy with them, in spite of the blinding instructions suffered in civilization.”

  • Animals are a compromise between being alone and being with people. Lillian M. Roberts, a reflection of protagonist Andi Pauling, in Riding for a Fall (1996)
  • There is nothing like a man for bringing out the animal in an animal. Roger Rosenblatt, “Experimental Animals,” in The Man in the Water (1994)
  • There is one respect in which brutes show real wisdom when compared with us—I mean their quiet, placid enjoyment of the present moment. Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Suffering of the World,” in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)
  • It can truly be said: Men are the devils of the earth, and the animals are the tormented souls. Arthur Schopenhauer, in Essays and Aphorisms (1970)
  • We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words. Anna Sewell, an unnamed lady speaking, in Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse (1877)

QUOTE NOTE: As the subtitle indicates, the entire book is told from the perspective of the horse. The quotation above, though, comes from an unnamed lady who has observed some cruelty on the part of one of Black Beauty’s cart drivers (a man named Jakes). In attempting to educate the driver about how to treat the animal more humanely, she precedes the thought by saying, “We have no right to distress any of God’s creatures without a very good reason.” Sewell might have been inspired by a 1789 observation on animal suffering by Jeremy Bentham (see his entry above).

  • People are beginning to see that the first requisite to success in life is to be a good animal. Herbert Spencer, in Education (1861)
  • There are two things for which animals are to be envied: they know nothing of future evils, or of what people say about them. Voltaire, in a 1739 letter to a friend
  • The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men. Alice Walker, in Foreword to Marjorie Speigel, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery (1988; rev. ed. in 1997)
  • I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,/I stand and look at them long and long./They do not sweat and whine about their condition,/They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,/They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God. Walt Whitman, in ‘song of Myself” (1855 ed.)

Whitman continued: “Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,/Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,/Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.”

  • The best thing about animals is that they don’t talk much. Thornton Wilder, the character Antrobus speaking, in The Skin of Our Teeth (1942)

ANIMALS—SPECIFIC TYPES

(see also ANIMALS and ANIMAL METAPHORS and BIRDS and CATS and DOGS and FISH and HORSES and INSECTS and PETS and PIGS)

BATS.

  • Adult bats don’t weigh much. They’re mainly fur and appetite. Diane Ackerman, in The Moon by Whale Light (1991)
  • Mice with wings. Theodore Roethke, on bats, in the “The Bat” (1938); reprinted in The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (1966)

QUOTE NOTE: The full poem in which this intriguing metaphor first appeared is as follows: “By day the bat is cousin to the mouse./He likes the attic of an aging house./His fingers make a hat about his head./His pulse beat is so slow we think him dead./He loops in crazy figures half the night/Among the trees that face the corner light./But when he brushes up against a screen,/We are afraid of what our eyes have seen:/For something is amiss or out of place/When mice with wings can wear a human face.”

BUTTERFLIES.

  • What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. Richard Bach, in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977)
  • Flung wide open, they were the color of a forest on fire. Closed, they were mottled tree bark, hands folded in prayer. Trina Moyles, on Compton tortoiseshell butterflies, in Lookout: Love, Solitude, and Searching for Wildfire in the Boreal Forest (2021)

CAMELS.

  • He carries a fresh-water cistern in his stomach; which is meritorious. But the cistern ameliorates neither his gait nor his temper—which are abominable. Amelila B. Edwards, on the camel, in One Thousand Miles Up the Nile (1877)

Edwards continued: “Irreproachable as a beast of burden, he is open to many objections as a steed. It is unpleasant, in the first place, to ride an animal which not only objects to being ridden, but cherishes a strong personal antipathy to his rider.”

CATERPILLAR.

  • What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. Richard Bach, in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977)

CATTLE.

  • We would see a long line of cattle like black lace against the sunset sky. Georgia O’Keeffe, in Georgia O’Keeffe (1976)

DOLPHINS.

  • Sharks are the criminals of the sea. Dolphins are the outlaws. Tom Robbins, in Still Life with Woodpecker (1980)

ELEPHANTS.

  • Elephants suffer from too much patience. Their exhibitions of it may seem superb—such power and such restraint, combined, are noble—but a quality carried to excess defeats itself. Clarence Day, in This Simian World (1920)
  • I had seen a herd of Elephant travelling through dense Native forest, where the sunlight is strewn down between the thick creepers in small spots and patches, pacing along as if they had an appointment at the end of the world. Isak Dinesen, in Out of Africa (1937)
  • Nature’s great masterpiece, an Elephant,/The only harmless great thing. John Donne, in “The Progress of the Soul” (1601)

GIRAFFES.

  • I had time after time watched the progression across the plain of the Giraffe, in their queer, inimitable, vegetative gracefulness, as if it were not a herd of animals but a family of rare, long-stemmed, speckled gigantic flowers slowly advancing. Isak Dinesen, in Out of Africa (1937)

KAKAPO.

  • You want to hug it and tell it everything will be all right, although you know that it probably won’t be. Douglas Adams, on the kakapo, in Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, “Heartbeats in the Night,” in Last Chance to See (1990)

KANGAROOS.

  • I, like every other stupid American, assumed the kangaroos would meet us at the airport and they would want to hug us as much as we wanted to hug them. Kristen Bell, on her first impression of Australia; quoted in “US Star Disappointed no Kangaroos at Airport,” in The Sydney Morning Herald (Oct. 15, 2009)
  • Envy the kangaroo. That pouch setup is extraordinary; the baby crawls out of the womb when it is about two inches long, gets into the pouch, and proceeds to mature. I’d have a baby if it would develop in my handbag. Rita Rudner, in Naked Beneath My Clothes: Tales of a Revealing Nature (1992)

LLAMAS.

  • The Llama is a wooly sort of fleecy hairy goat,/With an indolent expression and an undulating throat/Like an unsuccessful literary man. Hilaire Belloc, “The Llama,” in More Beasts for Worse Children (1897)

PENGUINS.

  • Short, potbellied penguins, whose necks wobbled with baby fat, huddled together like Russian businessmen in fur coats. Diane Ackerman, in The Moon by Whale Light (1991)

PLATYPUSES.

  • She had always found platypuses irresistible proof that God likes a joke as much as anyone else. Kerry Greenwood, in Death by Water (2010)

PORCUPINES.

  • The self-assured porcupine, endearingly grotesque, waddles up the road in broad daylight. He looks as if he had slept in his rumpled spiky clothes, and he probably has. Bertha Damon, in A Sense of Humus (1943)
  • The Porcupine, whom one must handle glove’d/May be Respected, but is never Loved. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)

SEALS.

  • Your elephant seal has an issue with motivation: he is not a natural self-starter. Start him, however, and he goes, not like a rocket, but a sort of turbo-charged mega-caterpillar. Matthew Parris, “Another Voice” in The Spectator (London, June 17, 2000)

Parris, a British politician who had just returned from a elephant seal-watching trip, described his experiences with the animal in a metaphor-rich essay. He continued: “Have you ever seen an elephant seal running? The earth shakes as great rolls of leather-bound blubber go rippling down his 12ft [read twelve-foot] frame and he buckles and unbuckles along the beach. You too would move like this if someone tied your legs together and your hands to your sides and swaddled you in black foam-rubber.” For several other delightful elephant seal metaphors, see the entire article at: The Spectator.

SHARKS.

  • Sharks are the criminals of the sea. Dolphins are the outlaws. Tom Robbins, in Still Life with Woodpecker (1980)

SHEEP.

  • I never heard of anybody who admired the character of sheep. Even the gentlest human personalities in contact with them are annoyed by their lack of brains, courage and initiative, by their extraordinary ability to get themselves into uncomfortable or dangerous situations and then wait in inert helplessness for someone to rescue them. Dorothy Canfield Fisher, in Vermont Tradition (1935)

SKUNKS.

* We know by the odor that occasionally we are visited by skunks, which are not poetic but very beautiful. Gene Stratton-Porter, quoted in Jeannette Porter Meehan, The Lady of the Limberlost: Life and Letters of Gene Stratton-Porter (1928)

SQUIRRELS.

  • November is chill, frosted mornings with a silver sun rising behind the trees, red cardinals at the feeders, and squirrels running scallops along the tops of the gray stone walls. Jean Hersey, in The Shape of a Year (1967)
  • The squirrel came and sat on his haunches before them. When they paid no attention to him he went away, disgusted. Park squirrels are usually exhibitionists. Fannie Heaslip Lea, in Half Angel (1932)

* To me, squirrels are almost fairy people. They are marvelously round: roundly curved body, curved shell-like ears, curved haunches, tail either S-curved over the back like a mantle, or flying straight out behind the long slender body. Joan Ward-Harris, in Creature Comforts (1979)

SWANS.

  • A single white shoelace danced and undulated above the treetops…a floating ribbon Trina Moyles, on trumpeter swans, in Lookout: Love, Solitude, and Searching for Wildfire in the Boreal Forest (2021)

TORTOISES

  • Tortoises are not intrepid travelers. They spend their whole lives in one small, intimately memorized patch of desert, maybe a mile square. Claire Faye Watkins, “Sacrifice Zone: Yellow Pine,” in The Believer (Dec. 9, 2022)

WARTHOGS.

  • I know animals more gallant than the African warthog, but none more courageous. He is the peasant of the plains—the drab and dowdy digger in the earth. He is the uncomely but intrepid defender of family, home, and bourgeois convention, and he will fight anything of any size that intrudes upon his smug existence. Beryl Markham, in West With the Night (1942)

Markham went on to add: “His eyes are small and lightless and capable of but one expression—suspicion. What he does not understand, he suspects, and what he suspects, he fights.”

ANIMAL METAPHORS

(see also ANIMALS and ANIMALS–SPECIFIC TYPES and BIRDS and CATS and DOGS and FISH and INSECTS and PETS)

(see also metaphors involving: BASEBALL, BIRDS, BOXING & PRIZEFIGHTING, CANCER, DARKNESS, DISEASE, FOOTBALL, FRUIT, HEART, ICEBERGS, JOURNEYS, MONTHS, MOVIES, MUSIC, PARTS OF SPEECH, PATH, PLANTS, PUNCTUATION, RETAIL/WHOLESALE, NAUTICAL and VEGETABLES)

  • When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time. Gen. Creighton Abrams, quoted in Paul Dickson, The Official Rules (1978)
  • Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Aesop, in “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • By God, you gotta have a swine to show you where the truffles are. Edward Albee, the character George speaking, in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962)
  • We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. Maya Angelou, quoted in M. A. Monroe, The Butterfly’s Daughter (2011)
  • What tigress is there that does not purr over her young ones, and fawn upon them in tenderness? Saint Augustine, in The City of God (5th c.); cited in H. L. Mencken, A New Dictionary of Quotations (1942)
  • It is better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a mighty ocean. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: In The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), Fred Shapiro lists this as a Modern Proverb and pinpoints its first appearance in print to a Dec. 25, 1927 New York Times article.

  • What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. Richard Bach, in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977)
  • Young birds on their first flight. Georges Bernanos, on adolescence, in The Diary of a Country Priest (1936)

QUOTE NOTE: I found this wonderful phrase in a slightly longer passage that went this way: “What a cunning mixture of sentiment, pity, tenderness, irony surrounds adolescence, what knowing watchfulness! Young birds on their first flight are hardly so hovered around.”

  • If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive. Dale Carnegie, in How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)
  • Never look for birds of this year in the nests of the last. Miguel de Cervantes, in Don Quixote (1605)
  • A grimy fly can soil the entire wall and a small, dirty little act can ruin the entire proceedings. Anton Chekhov, in letter to A.N. Kanaev (March 26, 1883)
  • When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber. Winston Churchill, quoted in James. C. Humes, The Wit & Wisdom of Winston Churchill (1995)
  • High positions are like the summit of high, steep rocks: eagles and reptiles alone can reach them. Suzanne Curchod (Madame Necker), quoted in J. De Finod, A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1880)
  • A Wounded Deer—leaps highest—/I’ve heard the hunter tell. Emily Dickinson, Poem no. 165 (c. 1860)
  • Judge nothing by the appearance. The more beautiful the serpent, the more fatal its sting. William Scott Downey, in Downey’s Proverbs (1853)
  • The quickest horse that carries you to perfection is suffering. Meister Eckhart, quoted by Thomas Mann in May 18, 1939 Princeton University address, in The Princeton Alumni Weekly (May 26, 1939)
  • At twenty a man is a peacock, at thirty a lion, at forty a camel, at fifty a serpent, at sixty a dog, at seventy an ape, and at eighty nothing. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • Until the Donkey tried to clear/The Fence, he thought himself a Deer. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)
  • No Ragged Saddle can disgrace/The Thoroughbred who wins the Race. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)
  • If a grasshopper tries to fight a lawnmower, one may admire his courage but not his judgment. Robert A. Heinlein, in Farnham’s Freehold (1964)
  • In handling a stinging insect, move very slowly. Robert A. Heinlein, an entry in “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” in Time Enough for Love (1973)
  • The day hums sweetly when you have enough bees working for you. Frank Herbert, in Dune (1965)
  • Don’t live high on the hog if all you have is a chicken. Cathrine Holdeman, in a personal communication to the compiler (Nov. 15, 2017)
  • It is sensible to dismiss the old horse in good time, lest, failing at the last, he makes the spectators laugh. Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), on retiring old horses, in Epistles (1st c. B.C.)
  • Be like the bird, who/Halting in his flight/On limb too slight/Feels it give way beneath him,/Yet sings/Knowing he hath wings. Victor Hugo, quoted in Z. Sutherland et. al., The Scott, Foresman Anthology of Children’s Literature (1984)

QUOTE NOTE: Hugo’s poem, originally undated and untitled, has enjoyed great popularity, especially in America, since the late 1800s. Translated in many different ways over the years, it’s also been given many different titles, including “Wings,” “A Bird’s Faith,” and even “Simile.” In the 1890s, a song version by Laura Sedgwick Collins, titled “Be Like That Bird,” was an American hit.

  • It takes in reality only one to make a quarrel. It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion. W. R. Inge, in Outspoken Essays; First Series (1919)
  • When you go in search of honey you must expect to be stung by bees. Kenneth Kaunda, quoted in The Observer (London, Jan. 2, 1983)
  • That creature on whose back abound/Black spots upon a yellow ground/A panther is—the fairest beast/That haunteth in the spacious East:/ He underneath a fair outside/Does cruelty and treachery hide. Mary Ann Lamb, “The Beasts in the Tower,” in Poetry for Children (1809)
  • If you want to catch a trout, don’t fish in a herring barrel. Ann Landers, in a 1982 appearance on “The John Davidson Show”; reported in Reader’s Digest (specific date undetermined)

QUOTE NOTE: Was the famous advice columnist dispensing fishing advice here? No, this was simply her figurative way of telling women that going to singles bars was not an effective way to meet high-quality men.

  • What kills the skunk is the publicity it gives itself. Abraham Lincoln, in an 1859 interview, quoted in A. T. Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln (1896)

QUOTE NOTE: Lincoln was referring to slavery, but his words can be applied to anything that gives off a foul odor. He offered the metaphor in an interview with journalist David R. Locke, prefacing his words by saying: “Slavery is doomed, and that within a few years. Even Judge Douglas admits it to be an evil, and an evil can’t stand discussion. In discussing it we have taught a great many thousands of people to hate it who had never given it a thought before.”

  • There was a part of me that wanted to be liked, and despite all my years of reporting, I never quite adjusted to the role of skunk at the garden party. Andrea Mitchell, in Talking Back: …to Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels (2005)
  • Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream. Malcolm Muggeridge, quoting an unnamed source, in Radio Times (July 9, 1964); reprinted in London à la Mode (1966)
  • What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee. Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations (2nd c. A.D.)

QUOTE NOTE: This passage is also commonly translated: “What is not good for the hive is not good for the bee.”

  • Mules are always boasting that their ancestors are horses. Proverb (German)
  • The crab instructs its young, “Walk straight ahead—like me.” Proverb (Hindustani)
  • The whelp of a wolf must prove a wolf at last, notwithstanding he may be brought up by a man. Saadi, in Gulistan (1258)
  • Don’t ask who’s influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he’s digested, and I’ve been reading all my life. Giorgos (George) Seferis, quoted in “A Greek Poet’s Odyssey,” Life magazine (Jan. 17, 1964)
  • Why not be oneself? That is the whole secret of a successful appearance. If one is a greyhound, why try to look like a Pekingese? Edith Sitwell, at age seventy-five, in E. Salter, Edith Sitwell (1979)
  • The shell must break before the bird can fly. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in “The Ancient Sage” (1885)
  • It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen that lays the eggs. Margaret Thatcher, in remarks to a group of London business people, quoted in Wall Street Journal (May 12, 1987)
  • The cocks may crow, but it’s the hen that lays the egg. Margaret Thatcher, quoted in Sunday Times (London, April 9, 1989)
  • Men of all degrees should form this prudent habit: never serve a rabbit stew before you catch the rabbit. James Thurber, moral to “Ivory, Apes, and People,” in Further Fables for our Time (1956)

QUOTE NOTE: This was Thurber’s updated version of “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” first recorded by Aesop in the fable “The Milkmaid and Her Pail” (6th cent. B.C.)

  • America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair. Arnold J. Toynbee, quoted in BBC news broadcast (July 14, 1954)
  • An actor is never so great as when he reminds you of an animal—falling like a cat, lying like a dog, moving like a fox. François Truffaut, in New Yorker (Feb. 20, 1960)
  • Consider well the proportions of things. It is better to be a young June-bug than an old bird of paradise. Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s calendar,” in Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)
  • You can straighten a worm, but the crook is in him and only waiting. Mark Twain, quoted in Merle Johnson, More Maxims of Mark (1927)
  • What molting time is to birds, so adversity or misfortune is…for us humans. Vincent van Gogh, in letter to brother Theo, quoted in Robert Wallace, The World of Van Gogh (1969)
  • Hay is more acceptable to an ass than gold. Proverb (Latin)
  • A rattlesnake that doesn’t bite teaches you nothing. Jessamyn West, in The Life I Really Lived: A Novel (1979)
  • Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for. Tennessee Williams, the character Marguerite speaking, in Camino Real (1953)
  • No bird soars in a calm. Wilbur Wright, quoted in David McCullough, The Wright Brothers (2015)

ANNIVERSARY

(see also COMMEMORATION and JUBILEE and MARRIAGE and WEDDING)

  • The punctuation of anniversaries is terrible, like the closing of doors, one after another between you and what you want to hold on to. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Locked Rooms and Open Doors (1974)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation first appeared in a diary entry made by Mrs. Lindbergh on the first anniversary of her son’s kidnapping and death in 1932.

  • The holiest of holidays are those/Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;/The secret anniversaries of the heart. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Holidays,” in The Mask of Pandora and Other Writings (1875)
  • A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year. Paul Sweeney, quoted in a 1978 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific issue undetermined)
  • Are there memories that are safe from the clutches of phony anniversarists? W. J. Wetherby, in The Guardian (London, Aug. 18, 1989)

ANONYMITY

(see also ANONYMOUS and UNKNOWN)

  • In a nation of celebrity worshipers, amid followers of the cult of personality, individual modesty becomes a heroic quality. I find heroism in the acceptance of anonymity, in the studied resistance to the normal American tropism toward the limelight. Shana Alexander, in Talking Woman (1976)
  • Anonymity cannot be bought for any price, once you have lost it. Robyn Davidson, in Tracks: The Exhilarating Tale of a Willful Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback (1980)

Davidson preceded the thought by writing: “Some of us just don’t want to be famous.”

  • The anonymity of the city is one of its strengths as well as—carried too far—one of its weaknesses. Margaret Mead, in Twentieth Century Faith: Hope and Survival (1972)

ANONYMOUS

(see also ANONYMITY and UNKNOWN)

  • A work of art has an author and yet, when it is perfect, it has something which is essentially anonymous about it. Simone Weil, in Gravity and Grace (1947)
  • Anonymous: Prolific female author. Has written hundreds of thousands of books, articles, poems, essays, memos, broadsides, and treatises. Under this name many women for centuries have written, published, or produced art, either deliberately to avoid the problems and punishments awaiting the woman artist or by default because their names were lost or forgotten. Paula A. Treichler, quoted in Cheris Kramarae and Paula A. Treichler, A Feminist Dictionary (1985)

QUOTE NOTE: In this observation, Treichler was clearly inspired by a famous Virginia Woolf observation, to be seen below.

  • I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. Virginia Woolf, in A Room of One’s Own (1929

QUOTE NOTE: In a 2011 article in the Yale Alumni Magazine, Fred Shapiro wrote: “Woolf was right: Anonymous was a woman. Many of the great quotesmiths have been women who are now forgotten or whose wit and wisdom are erroneously credited to more-famous men.”

ANSWERS

(see also QUESTIONS and QUESTIONS & ANSWERS)

  • The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer, it’s that there are so many answers. Ruth Benedict, journal entry (Jan. 7, 1913), in An Anthropologist at Work (1959)
  • A soft answer turneth away wrath. The Bible—Proverbs 15:1
  • Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything. Ray Bradbury, quoted in Neil Gaiman, “A Man Who Won't Forget Ray Bradbury,” in The Guardian (London; June 6, 2012)
  • His answer trickled through my head,/Like water through a sieve. Lewis Carroll, the Knight speaking, in a song to Alice about an aged man sitting on a gate, in Through the Looking-Glass (1872)
  • Folly always knows the answer. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 4th Selection (1987)
  • The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. Bob Dylan, lyric in the song “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1962)

QUOTE NOTE: In Dylan’s folk anthem, the answers that are blowing in the wind are in response to such important questions as “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” and “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?”

  • There are answers which, in turning away wrath, only send it to the other end of the room. George Eliot, in Middlemarch (1871)

QUOTE NOTE: The novel’s narrator is describing Edward Casaubon’s state of mind as he is thinking about a disagreeable conversation he and his wife have just sidestepped. The narrator concludes with one of my favorite observations about human interaction in general, and marital communication in particular: “To have a discussion coolly waived when you feel that justice is all on your side is even more exasperating in marriage than in philosophy.” For another allusion to “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Book of Proverbs, 15:1), see the Kronenberger entry just below.

  • The answer is always simple. Getting to the answer is never simple. David Garfinkel, in a personal communication to the compiler (Nov. 10, 2019)
  • A correct answer is like an affectionate kiss. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in Proverbs in Prose (1819)
  • An answer is always a form of death. John Fowles, in The Magus (1965)
  • Life is made up of constant calls to action, and we seldom have time for more than hastily contrived answers. Learned Hand, in a speech in New York City (Jan. 27, 1952)
  • I’m for mystery, not interpretive answers. Ken Kesey in Paris Review interview (Spring 1994)

In the interview, Kesey also said: “The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.”

  • The answer is never the answer Ken Kesey in Paris Review interview (Spring 1994)
  • If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you’ll always be seeking. I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. Ken Kesey in Paris Review interview (Spring 1994)
  • Most people today don’t want honest answers insofar as honest means unpleasant or disturbing. They want a soft answer that turneth away anxiety. They want answers that are, in effect, escapes. Louis Kronenberger, in “Unbrave New World,” in The Cart and the Horse (1964)
  • Have you ever considered that too many answers are the same as no answer at all? George R. R. Martin, the character Tyrion Lannister speaking, in A Clash of Kings (1999)
  • You should know that there are some things for which there are no answers, no matter how beautiful the words may be. Patricia MacLachlan, the character Byrd speaking, in Baby (1993)
  • Warped with satisfactions and terrors, woofed with too many ambiguities and too few certainties, life can be lived best not when we have the answers—because we will never have those—but when we know enough to live it right out to the edges, edges sometimes marked by other people, sometimes showing only our own footprints. Rosalie Maggio, in Introduction to Quotations by Women on Life (1997)
  • Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul/When hot for certainties in this our life! George Meredith, in “Modern Love” (1862)
  • They are useless. They can only give you answers. Pablo Picasso, on computers, quoted in William Fifield, In Search of Genius (1982)

ERROR ALERT: This is the way the quotation appeared in Fifield’s book, but almost all internet sites present it this way: “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.”

  • “Questions don’t have to make sense, Vincent,” said Miss Susan. “But answers do.” Terry Pratchett, in Thief of Time (2001)
  • The shortest answer is doing. Proverb (English), originally in George Herbert’s Outlandish Proverbs (1640)
  • To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner. Anne Rice, the character Marius de Romanus speaking, in The Vampire Lestat (1992)

The words are spoken in an instructional, even didactic, tone to the title character. Marius, a 2,000-year-old vampire who has accumulated much wisdom over the centuries, preceded the thought by saying: “Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Mortal or immortal, few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds–justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they can't go on.”

  • Teachers who offer you the ultimate answers do not possess the ultimate answers, for if they did, they would know that the ultimate answers cannot be given, they can only be received. Tom Robbins, a female character known only as “the weigher” speaking, in Jitterbug Perfume (1984)
  • In the Book of Life, the answers are not in the back. Charles Schulz, Charlie Brown speaking, in Peanuts cartoon strip ((Jan. 25, 1972). To see the original cartoon, go to: 1972 Peanuts Cartoon.
  • No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious. George Bernard shaw, in Our Theatres in the Nineties (1932; 1895-98 reviews from Saturday Review)
  • Our whole life consists of despairing of an answer and seeking an answer. Dorothee Sölle, in The Truth Is Concrete (1967)
  • The only interesting answers are those which destroy the questions. Susan Sontag, in Esquire (July, 1968)
  • An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions. John Steinbeck, in Log From the Sea of Cortez (1951)
  • However much you knock at nature’s door, she will never answer you in comprehensible words. Ivan Turgenev, in On the Eve (1860)
  • O God/why do I storm heaven/for answers/that are already in my heart? Macrina Wiederkehr, in Seasons of Your Heart (1979)

ANTAGONISTS

(see also ADVERSARIES and ALLIES and ENEMIES and FOES and FRIENDS and FRIENDS & ENEMIES and OPPOSITION)

  • He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
  • From the true antagonist illimitable courage is transmitted to you. Franz Kafka, notebook entry # 23 (written 1917-18), in The Zürau Aphorisms (original published posthumously in 1931 by Kafka friend Max Brod under the title Reflections of Sin, Hope Suffering, and the True Way)

ANTHOLOGISTS & ANTHOLOGIES

(see also COLLECTING & COLLECTORS and EPIGRAMS and MAXIMS and PROVERBS and QUOTATIONS and VERSE and SAYINGS)

  • Most of those who make collections of verse or epigrams are like men eating cherries or oysters: they choose out the best at first, and end by eating all. Nicolas Chamfort, in Maxims and Considerations (1796)
  • I…am reading aloud in a clerkly manner from a book which hath been culled from the flowers of all books. George Eliot, the character Don Amador speaking, in The Spanish Gypsy (1868)
  • As long as mixed grills and combination salads are popular, anthologies will undoubtedly continue in favor. Elizabeth Janeway, quoted in Helen Hull, The Writer’s Book (1950)
  • An anthology of quotations is a museum of utterances. It collects and displays masterpieces of phrase and thought in a small space. Gary Saul Morson, in The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture (2011)
  • Reframing an extract as a quotation constitutes a kind of coauthorship. With no change in wording, the cited passage becomes different. I imagine that the thrill of making an anthology includes the opportunity to become such a coauthor. Gary Saul Morson, in The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture (2011)
  • There is usually no dreamer so unworldly as the anthologist. He wanders in a vast garden, lost in wonder, unable to decide often between flowers of equal loveliness. Mary Webb, in 1926 article in The Bookman (title and specific date presently undetermined)

Webb went on to add: “The true anthologist has the greatest difficulty in finishing his book. There is always just one more, a new, delicious discovery.“

ANTHROPOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGISTS

(see also PSYCHOLOGY & PSYCHOLOGISTS and SOCIAL SCIENCE and SOCIOLOGY & SOCIOLOGISTS)

  • Anthropology is the science which tells us that people are the same the whole world over—except when they are different. Nancy Banks-Smith, quoted in The Guardian (London; July 21, 1988)
  • Anthropologists are a connecting link between poets and scientists. Robert Graves, “Mammon,” a 1963 speech at The London School of Economics; reprinted in Graves’s Mammon and the Black Goddess (1965)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the portion of the remark that is remembered, but Graves actually went on to add this caveat: “Though their field-work among primitive peoples has often made them forget the language of science.”

ANTICIPATION

(see also DISAPPOINTMENT and EXPECTATION and FUTURE and HOPE and WAITING)

  • Nothing is ever so good or so bad in reality as it is in the anticipation. Marie Bashkirtseff, an 1883 journal entry, in Mary J. Serrano, The Journal of a Young Artist (1919)
  • Night breeds its own sort of anticipation. Jacqueline Carey, “The Ex Files,” in The New York Times Book Review (May 7, 2000)
  • Anticipation was the soul of enjoyment. Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Cage at Cranford,” in All the Year Round (1863)
  • There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it. Alfred Hitchcock, quoted in Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Filmgoer’s Companion (1984)
  • If pleasures are greatest in anticipation, just remember that this is also true of trouble. Elbert Hubbard, in The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927)
  • Such is the state of life, that none are happy but by the anticipation of change: the change itself is nothing; when we have made it, the next wish is to change again. The world is not yet exhausted; let me see something tomorrow which I never saw before. Samuel Johnson, the character Nekayah speaking, in The History of Rasselas (1759)
  • Conscience is, in most men, an anticipation of the opinions of others. Henry Taylor, in The Statesman (1836)
  • Anticipation of pleasure is a pleasure in itself. Sylvia Townsend Warner, from a 1960 letter, in William Maxwell, Letters: Sylvia Townsend Warner (1982)

ANTIDOTE METAPHORS

(see also metaphors involving: ANIMALS, BASEBALL, BIRDS, BOXING & PRIZEFIGHTING, CANCER, DARKNESS, DISEASE, FOOTBALL, FRUIT, HEART, ICEBERGS, JOURNEYS, PARTS OF SPEECH, PATH, PLANTS, PUNCTUATION, RETAIL/WHOLESALE, NAUTICAL and VEGETABLES)

  • As a confirmed melancholic, I can testify that the best and maybe the only antidote for melancholia is action. However, like most melancholics, I suffer also from sloth. Edward Abbey, in A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989)
  • The antidote for civilization. Advertisement for Club Med (1982)
  • Action is the antidote to despair. Joan Baez, in Rolling Stone (1983)
  • A red-hot belief in eternal glory is probably the best antidote to human panic that there is. Phyllis Bottome, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist, a Viennese psychoanalyst who fled to England in the 1930s, in Survival (1943)
  • The serious artist…is like an object caught by a wave and swept to shore. He’s obsessed by his material; it’s like a venom working in his blood and the art is the antidote. Truman Capote, in Truman Capote: Conversations (1987)
  • We’ve licked pneumonia and T.B./And plagues that used to mock us,/We’ve got the virus on the run,/The small pox cannot pock us./We’ve found the antibodies for/The staphylo-strepto-cocus. But oh the universal curse/From Cuba to Korea,/The bug of bugs that bugs us still/And begs for panacea!/Oh, who will find the antidote/For Pentagonarea? E. Y. Harburg, “An Atom a Day Keeps the Doctor Away,” in Rhymes for the Irreverent (1965)
  • Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety. Jack Nicklaus, quoted in George Allen, Strategies for Winning (1990)
  • There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher. Henry van Dyke, “Salt,” in Counsels by the Way (1921 rev. ed.)

Van Dyke added: “There is a nobler character than that which is merely incorruptible. It is the character which acts as an antidote and preventive of corruption.”

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM

(see also FOLLY and FOOLS & FOOLISHNESS and IDIOTS & IDIOCY and IGNORANCE and ILLUSION and INTELLECT and INTELLECTUALS and INTELLIGENCE and LEARNING and LUNATICS & LUNACY and STUPIDITY)

  • There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Isaac Asimov, “A Cult of Ignorance,” in Newsweek magazine (Jan. 21, 1980)

QUOTE NOTE: The full article, as relevant today as when it was written nearly four decades ago, may be seen at Asimov/My Turn.

ANTIPATHY

(includes CONSOLATION; see also and COMPASSION and EMPATHY and KINDNESS and INDIFFERENCE and PITY and SYMPATHY and UNDERSTANDING)

  • If I have learned anything in my long life it is to be grateful for every occasion when I followed my sympathies and avoided my antipathies. Pearl S. Buck, from a character in Mandala: A Novel of India (1970)
  • There is in every country an antipathy to the foreigner. Eleanor Roosevelt, in Eleanor Roosevelt’s Book Of Common Sense Etiquette (1962)
  • There are, I sometimes think, only two sorts of people in this world—the settled and the nomad—and there is a natural antipathy between them, whatever the land to which they may belong. Freya Stark, in A Winter in Arabia: A Journey Through Yemen (1940)

What vitiates nearly all that is written about antisemitism is the assumption in the writer’s mind that he himself is immune to it. “Since I know that antisemitism is irrational,” he argues, “it follows that I do not share it.” He thus fails to start his investigation in the one place where he could get hold of some reliable evidence — that is, in his own mind.

ANTISEMITISM

(see also HATRED and JEWS & JUDAISM and NAZISM and PREJUDICE and RACISM)

  • One social evil for which the New Testament is clearly in part responsible is anti-Semitism. Steve Allen, in Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality (1990)
  • I myself think anti-Semitism is about envy. Joseph Epstein, in an interview with Robert Birnbaum on www.identitytheory.com (August 31, 2003)
  • I think that the roots of racism have always been economic, and I think people are desperate and scared. And when you’re desperate and scared you scapegoat people. It exacerbates latent tendencies toward—well, toward racism or homophobia or anti-Semitism. Henry Louis Gates, in an interview on PBS-TV’s “The Tavis Smiley Show” (March 19, 2008)
  • When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism. Martin Luther King, Jr., quoted in Seymour Martin Lipset, “The Socialism of Fools: The Left, the Jews and Israel,” Encounter magazine (December 1969)
  • It came to me, as we sat there, glumly ordering lunch, that for extremely stupid people anti-Semitism was a form of intellectuality, the sole form of intellectuality of which they were capable. It represented, in a rudimentary way, the ability to make categories, to generalize. Mary McCarthy, “Artists in Uniform” (1953), in On the Contrary (1961)
  • Anti-Semitism is a horrible disease from which nobody is immune, and it has a kind of evil fascination that makes an enlightened person draw near the source of infection, supposedly in a scientific spirit, but really to sniff the vapors and dally with the possibility. Mary McCarthy, in The Humanist in the Bathtub (1964
  • What vitiates nearly all that is written about antisemitism is the assumption in the writer’s mind that he himself is immune to it. “Since I know that antisemitism is irrational,” he argues, “it follows that I do not share it.” He thus fails to start his investigation in the one place where he could get hold of some reliable evidence—that is, in his own mind. George Orwell, “Antisemitism in Britain,” in The Contemporary Jewish Record (April 1945)
  • Anti-Semitism is a noxious weed that should be cut out. It has no place in America. William Howard Taft, in “Anti-Semitism in the United States,” address to the Anti Defamation League, Chicago, Illinois (Dec. 23, 1920)

ANTS

(see also ANIMALS and INSECTS and NATURE)

  • Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves. Lewis Thomas, “On Societies as Organisms,” in The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974)

Thomas continued; “The families of weaver ants engage in child labor, holding their larvae like shuttles to spin out the thread that sews the leaves together for their fungus gardens. They exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.”

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites present this mistaken version of the quotation: “Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into war , use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves, engage in child labor, exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.”

ANXIETY

(see also DEPRESSION and DREAD and FEAR and NERVES & NERVOUSNESS and PANIC and STRESS and WORRY)

  • Anxiety is the space between the “now” and the “then.” Richard Abell, in Own Your Own Life (1976)
  • A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety. Aesop, “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • The Age of Anxiety W. H. Auden, title of 1947 poem

QUOTE NOTE: The Age of Anxiety is a lengthy, six-part poem that explores the search for meaning and identity in a modern, industrialized society. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1948.

  • Ambiguity leads to anxiety. Author Unknown, a psychological maxim from the 1960s.
  • We know that productivity suffers when uncertainty is high. But we’ve failed to realize the equally destructive effects of too little anxiety. Judith M. Bardwick, in Danger in the Comfort Zone (1995)

Bardwick went on to add: “By protecting people from risk, we destroy their self-esteem. We rob them of the opportunity to become strong, competent people.”

  • Anxiety destroys scale, and suffering makes us lose perspective. Saul Bellow, “The Sealed Treasure” (1960), in There Is Simply Too Much to Think About: Collected Nonfiction (2015; Benjamin Taylor, ed.)
  • I’m a firm believer in anxiety and the power of negative thinking. Gertrude Berg, in Molly and Me: The Memoirs of Gertrude Berg (1961)
  • That’s the worst of devotion—its trade-mark is anxiety. Phyllis Bottome, “The Battle-Field,” in Innocence and Experience (1934)
  • Anxiety can be defined as the response of an organism to a threat, real or imagined. It is a process that, in some form, is present in all living things.

Murray Bowen, quoted in Michael Kerr and Murray Bowen, in Family Evaluation: An Approach Based on Bowen Theory (1988)

  • The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety. Deepak Chopra, in a Tweet (Sep. 26, 2012)
  • We are anxious, not because we think so little of ourselves, but because we think so much of ourselves. We are anxious, not that we may appear in the worst light, but that we may not appear in the best light. Anxiety is born of self-consciousness, and it is alleviated to the exact extent that we can drop consciousness of the self. Jo Coudert, in Advice From a Failure (1965)
  • Anxiety is the handmaiden of contemporary ambition. Alain de Botton, in Status Anxiety (2004)
  • When you put yourself wholeheartedly into something, energy grows. It seems inexhaustible. If, on the other hand, you are divided and conflicted about what you are doing, you create anxiety. And the amount of physical and emotional energy consumed by anxiety is exorbitant. Helen De Rosis, quoted in Joyce Brothers, The Successful Woman (1988)
  • Nothing in life is more remarkable than the unnecessary anxiety which we endure, and generally occasion ourselves. Benjamin Disraeli, the voice of the narrator, in Lothair (1870)

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites present the quotation as if it ended: “and generally create ourselves.”

  • Nobody should ever look anxious except those who have no anxiety. Benjamin Disraeli, the character Mr. Neuchatel speaking, in Endymion (1880)
  • Verily, affluence brings anxiety! Anne Ellis, in Plain Anne Ellis (1931)
  • Comforting formulas for getting rid of anxiety may be just the wrong solution. Books about “peace of mind” can be bad medicine. To be afraid when one should be afraid is good sense. Dorothy Fosdick, in Common Sense and World Affairs (1955)

Fosdick introduced the thought by writing: “Fear is a basic emotion; it’s part of our native equipment, and like all normal emotions, it has a positive function to perform.”

  • Anxiety was comfortable to me because it was familiar. If none existed, unconsciously I stirred it up to destroy the unfamiliarity of calm. Lucy Freeman, in Fight Against Fears (1951)
  • Freedom, although it has brought [modern man] independence and rationality, has made him isolated and, thereby, anxious and powerless. Erich Fromm, in Foreword to Escape From Freedom (1941)
  • Love brings me close to you but then, anxiety takes me far away. Kahlil Gibran, in A Second Treasury of Kahlil Gibran (1947)
  • I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance. Seth Godin, in Poke the Box (2011)
  • Stupidity is without anxiety. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an 1824 observation, quoted in Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe (1836)
  • In fact, the harder we chase after pleasurable feelings, the more we are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. Russ Harris, in The Happiness Trap (2007)

Harris preceded the thought by writing: “Like all human emotions, feelings of happiness don’t last. No matter how hard we try to hold on to them, they slip away every time. And as we shall see, a life spent in pursuit of those good feelings is, in the long term, deeply unsatisfying.”

  • I am never so calm as after I have written. And the next morning I will feel the familiar anxiety and I will have to begin the process all over again. Erica Jong, in Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life (2006)
  • A mistake in judgment isn’t fatal, but too much anxiety about judgment is. Pauline Kael, in I Lost It at the Movies (1965)
  • Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. Søren Kierkegaard, in The Concept of Anxiety (1844)
  • Deep within every human being there still lives the anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the world, forgotten by God, overlooked among the millions and millions in this enormous household. Søren Kierkegaard, an 1847 journal entry, in Søren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers, Vol. 3 (1967; E.H. Hong, ed.)

Kierkegaard continued: “One keeps this anxiety at a distance by looking at the many round about who are related to him as kin and friends, but the anxiety is still there, nevertheless, and one hardly dares think of how he would feel if all this were taken away.”

QUOTE NOTE: In early translations of this passage, anxiety was replaced by the word dread.

  • Anxiety and distress, interrupted occasionally by pleasure, is the normal course of man’s existence. Louis Kronenberger, “May,” in The Twelve Seasons (1949)
  • This is, I think, very much the Age of Anxiety, the age of the neurosis, because along with so much that weighs on our minds there is perhaps even more that grates on our nerves. Louis Kronenberger, “The Spirit of the Age,” in Company Manners (1954)
  • Most people today don’t want honest answers insofar as honest means unpleasant or disturbing. They want a soft answer that turneth away anxiety. They want answers that are, in effect, escapes. Louis Kronenberger, in “Unbrave New World,” in The Cart and the Horse (1964)
  • We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety beclouds the future; we expect some new disaster with each newspaper we read. Abraham Lincoln, in speech in Bloomington, Illinois (May 19, 1856)
  • Anxiety is not merely an abstract theoretical concept, any more than swimming is to a person whose boat has capsized a mile from shore. Rollo May, in Foreword to the 1950 edition of The Meaning of Anxiety
  • Anxiety is essential to the human condition. Rollo May, in 1977 Foreword to the revised edition of The Meaning of Anxiety (1950)
  • We still cling to the illogical belief that “mental health is living without anxiety.” We seem unaware that the delusion of living without anxiety reveals a radical misperception of reality. Rollo May, in 1977 Foreword to the revised edition of The Meaning of Anxiety (1950)
  • Because it is possible to create—creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self, as well as creating in all the innumerable daily activities (and these are two phases of the same process)—one has anxiety. One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever. Rollo May, in The Meaning of Anxiety (1950; rev. 1977)
  • Anxiety is an even better teacher than reality, for one can temporarily evade reality by avoiding the distasteful situation; but anxiety is a source of education always present because one carries it within. Rollo May, in The Meaning of Anxiety (1950; rev. 1977)
  • One of the few blessings of living in an age of anxiety is that we are forced to become aware of ourselves. Rollo May, in Man’s Search for Himself (1953)
  • It is well to remind ourselves that anxiety signifies a conflict, and so long as a conflict is going on, a constructive solution is possible. Rollo May, in Man’s Search for Himself (1953)
  • In any age courage is the simple virtue needed for a human being to traverse the rocky road from infancy to maturity of personality. But in an age of anxiety, an age of her morality and personal isolation, courage is a sine qua non. Rollo May, in Man’s Search for Himself (1953)

May continued: “In periods when the mores of the society were more consistent guides, the individual was more firmly cushioned in his crises of development; but in times of transition like ours, the individual is thrown on his own at an earlier age and for a longer period.” And a bit later, he went on to add:

“Courage is the capacity to meet the anxiety which arises as one achieves freedom. It is the willingness to differentiate, to move from the protecting realms of parental dependence to new levels of freedom and integration.”

  • A person can meet anxiety to the extent that his values are stronger than the threat. Rollo May, in Psychology and the Human Dilemma (1967)

A bit earlier, May had written: “Anxiety occurs because of a threat to the values a person identifies with his existence as a self…most anxiety comes from a threat to social, emotional and moral values the person identifies with himself. And here we find that a main source of anxiety, particularly in the younger generation, is that they do not have viable values available in the culture on the basis of which they can relate to their world.”

  • Creative people, as I see them, are distinguished by the fact that they can live with anxiety, even though a high price may be paid in terms of insecurity, sensitivity, and defenselessness for the gift of the “divine madness” to borrow the term used by the classical Greeks. Rollo May, in Psychology and the Human Dilemma (1967)

May continued: “They do not run away from non-being, but by encountering and wrestling with it, force it to produce being. They knock on silence for an answering music; they pursue meaninglessness until they can force it to mean.”

  • Love looks forward, hate looks back, anxiety has eyes all over its head. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook (1963)
  • If I knew what I was so anxious about, I wouldn’t be so anxious. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Second Neurotic’s Notebook (1966)
  • Just as guilt lives in the past, anxiety lives in the future. Susanna McMahon, in The Portable Therapist (1992)
  • Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity. Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island (1955)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is presented on almost all internet sites, but it was originally part of this larger thought: “Now anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity. It is the fruit of unanswered questions. But questions cannot go unanswered unless they first be asked. And there is a far worse anxiety, a far worse insecurity, which comes from being afraid to ask the right questions—because they might turn out to have no answer.”

  • Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety. Jack Nicklaus, quoted in George Allen, Strategies for Winning (1990)
  • Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. Anaïs Nin, diary entry (Feb, 1947), in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1944–47, Vol. 4 (1971)

Nin added: “It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.”

  • The opposite of anxiety is not happiness. The opposite of anxiety is death. Susan Ohanian, in Ask Ms. Class (1996)
  • Without anxiety life would have very little savor. May Sarton, “Tuesday, January 7th,” in The House by the Sea: A Journal (1977)
  • Einstein was always looking for a unifying principle for the universe. I think anxiety about hair is the unifying principle. Diane Sawyer, quoted in a 1996 issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (specific issue undetermined)
  • When you’re faced with fear and anxiety, don’t medicate. Meditate instead. Russell Simmons, in Facebook post (July 25, 2015)
  • It has been well said that our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength. Charles H. Spurgeon, in The Salt-Cellars (1889)
  • I have always described anxiety as the fear of oneself. Wilhelm Stekel, in Conditions of Nervous Anxiety and Their Treatment (1923)
  • Economics anxiety may be even more common than the often identified “math anxiety,” for unlike math, which has its personal uses, economics is seen as a mysterious set of forces manipulated from above. Gloria Steinem, in Moving Beyond Words (1994)
  • Anxiety is the unwillingness to play even when you know the odds are for you. Thomas Szasz, in The Second Sin (1973)

QUOTE NOTE: Szasz was contrasting anxiety with courage, about which he went on to write: “Courage is the willingness to play even when you know the odds are against you.”

  • Catching something is purely a by-product of our fishing. It is the act of fishing that wipes way all grief, lightens all worry, dissolves fear and anxiety. Gladys Taber, in The Book of Stillmeadow (1948)
  • There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature. Henry David Thoreau, in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack River (1849)

APATHY

(see also CARING & UNCARING and DETACHMENT and INDIFFERENCE and PASSIVITY)

  • It is apathy which is really the enemy of Art. C. Anstruther-Thomson, in Art and Man (1923)

Anstruther-Thomson preceded the thought by writing: “Science, far from being the enemy of Art, is the only way to hand Art on, to make it a tradition.”

  • Apathy is grossly undervalued and never there for me when I need it. Alafair Burke, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Samantha Kincaid, in Judgment Calls (2003)
  • I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate—it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn. Leo Buscaglia, in Living, Loving, and Learning (1982)
  • Slums may well be breeding-grounds of crime, but middle-class suburbs are incubators of apathy and delirium. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1944; rev. ed. 1951)
  • Even extreme grief may ultimately vent itself in violence—but more generally takes the form of apathy. Joseph Conrad, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Charles Marlow, in Heart of Darkness (1899)
  • It is, therefore, far more important to resist apathy than anarchy or despotism for apathy can give rise, almost indifferently, to either one. Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, Vol II (1840)
  • Apathy is one of the characteristic responses of any living organism when it is subjected to stimuli too intense or too complicated to cope with. The cure for apathy is comprehension. John Dos Passos, in The Prospect Before Us (1950)
  • Apathy is about as near to the undertaker as you can get. Arlene Francis, in That Certain Something: The Magic of Charm (1960)
  • The greatest danger to our future is apathy. Jane Goodall, “The Power of One,” in Time magazine (Aug. 26, 2002)
  • Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there’s all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens. Arthur Gordon, in A Touch of Wonder: A Book to Help Stay in Love with Life (1974)
  • Apathy is the death knell of any order. Once a system has degenerated to the point that apathy is the only thing holding it in place it, it is in its twilight phase. Then one day the music stops. John Berling Hardy, in Have We Been Played? The Hidden Game Revealed (2010)
  • The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment. Robert M. Hutchins, in Great Books: The Foundation of a Liberal Education (19
  • There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion. Carl Jung, in Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype (1938)
  • Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all—the apathy of human beings. Helen Keller, in My Religion (1927)
  • If you want to know where the apathy is, you’re probably sitting on it. Florynce R. Kennedy, in Color Me Flo: My Hard Life and Good Times (1976)
  • Apathy is the capitulation of personhood, the refusal to grow, to become who we really are. It is the ultimate cop-out—the insistence that things will never change, so why should we. Albert J. LaChance, in Cultural Addiction: The Greenspirit Guide to Recovery (1991)
  • Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is. Rollo May, in Love and Will (1969)
  • Apathy adds up, in the long run, to cowardice. Rollo May, in The Courage to Create (1975)
  • The apathy and inattention of the average citizen is beyond comprehension. Abigail McCarthy, in Private Faces/Public Places (1972)
  • Apathy is the self-defense of the powerless. Letty Cottin Pogrebin, in Deborah, Golda, and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America (1991)
  • So much attention is paid to the aggressive sins, such as violence and cruelty and greed with all their tragic effects, that too little attention is paid to the passive sins, such as apathy and laziness, which in the long run can have a more devastating and destructive effect upon society than the others. Eleanor Roosevelt, in You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life (1960)
  • Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters, for without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves we collude with it through our apathy. J. K. Rowling, in a speech (June 5, 2008)
  • Toleration of exploitation, oppression, and injustice points to a condition lying like a pall over the whole of society; it is apathy, an unconcern that is incapable of suffering. Dorothee Sölle, in Suffering (1973)
  • Procrastination results in apathy, discouragement, and depression. Alexandra Stoddard, in Making Choices (1994)
  • Apathy is the acceptance of the unacceptable. John Stott, in Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (2013)
  • Languor can only be conquered by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be kindled by two things: an ideal which takes the imagination by storm, and a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice. Arnold Toynbee, “The Education of Co-Operators,” an 1882 Oxford University lecture, reprinted in Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England (pub. posthumously in 1884)

ERROR ALERT: All over the Internet, the observation is worded as if it began Apathy can only be conquered by enthusiasm, and with the word aroused rather than kindled. The source of the error is Norman Vincent Peale, who originally misquoted Toynbee in Enthusiasm Makes the Difference (1967).

  • Apathy is a risk-aversion strategy. Joost Van Loon, in Risk and Technological Culture: Towards a Sociology of Virulence (2002)
  • What is called “apathy” is, I believe, a feeling of helplessness on the part of the ordinary citizen, a feeling of impotence in the face of enormous power. It’s not that people are apathetic; they do care about what is going on, but don’t know what to do about it, so they do nothing, and appear to be indifferent. Howard Zinn, in the Huffington Post (Jan. 28, 2010)

APHORISMS

(includes ADAGES; see also ANTHOLOGISTS & ANTHOLOGIES and EPIGRAMS and MAXIMS and PROVERBS and QUOTATIONS and SAYINGS)

  • To read more than a few aphorisms at once is like continuing to water the lawn once it is fully saturated. The excess reading just runs off without soaking, in the same way excess watering runs off the soil. Wallace Alcorn, journal entry (March 20, 2009); in a personal communication to the compiler
  • The best aphorisms are pointed expressions of the results of observation, experience, and reflection. They are portable wisdom, the quintessential extracts of thought and feeling. William R. Alger, “The Utility and the Futility of Aphorisms,” in Atlantic Monthly (Feb., 1863)

Alger continued: “They furnish the largest amount of intellectual stimulus and nutriment in the smallest compass. About every weak point in human nature, or vicious spot in human life, there is deposited a crystallization of warning and protective proverbs.” These are the beginning words of the article; to see the full piece, go to ALGER ON APHORISMS

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites present an abridged version of Alger’s thought: Aphorisms are portable wisdom. This should be regarded as a paraphrase, not a direct quotation.

  • Aphorisms are essentially an aristocratic genre of writing. W. H. Auden, in Foreword to The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1962)

Auden added: “The aphorist does not argue or explain, he asserts; and implicit in his assertion is a conviction that he is wiser and more intelligent than his readers.”

  • Adage, n. Boned wisdom for weak teeth. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Aphorism, n. Predigested wisdom. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Our live experiences, fixed in aphorisms, stiffen into cold epigram. Our heart’s blood, as we write with it, turns to mere dull ink. F. H. Bradley, in Aphorisms (1930)

ERROR ALERT: This observation is often mistakenly presented as if it read cold epigrams. Also, many internet sites mistakenly say “as we write it,” and not “as we write with it.”

  • How many of us have been incited to reason, have first learned to think, to draw conclusions, to extract a moral from the follies of life, by some dazzling aphorism. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, in “The New Phaedo,” in The Student: A Series of Papers (1835)
  • All great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other well. Elias Caneti, in The Human Province (1978)
  • The largest and worthiest portion of our knowledge consists of aphorisms. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Introductory Aphorisms,” in Aids to Reflection (1825)

Coleridge continued: “And the greatest and best of men is but an aphorism.”

  • The aphorism is a slippery plaything. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 8th Selection (1991)
  • The aphorism offers a momentary sense of mastery over some confusion or unhappiness. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 12th Selection (1993)
  • The best aphorisms are poems or novels in capsule form. Alfred Corn, in The Pith Helmet (1992)
  • The aphorisms of one generation become the clichés of the next. Lillian Day, in Ninon: A Courtesan of Quality (1957)
  • Pithy sentences are like sharp nails which force truth upon our memory. Denis Diderot, quoted in Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1891)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This observation has not been found in any of Diderot’s published works.

  • All of us encounter, at least once in our life, some individual who utters words that make us think forever. There are men whose phrases are oracles; who condense in a sentence the secrets of life; who blurt out an aphorism that forms a character, or illustrates an existence. Benjamin Disraeli, the narrator, in Coningsby (1844)
  • Aphorisms give you more for your time and money than any other literary form. Only the poem comes near to it, but then most good poems either start off from an aphorism or arrive at one. Louis Dudek, in Notebooks, 1960–1994 (1994)

Dudek concluded: “Aphorisms and epigrams are the corner-stones of literary art.”

  • An aphorism is the last link in a long chain of thought. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880-93)
  • We should treat them not as food but as condiments, not to sufficiency but for delight. Desiderius Erasmus, on adages, in Adages (1508)
  • Windbags can be right. Aphorists can be wrong. It is a tough world. James Fenton, quoted in The Times (London; Feb. 21, 1985)
  • Most of my writing consists of an attempt to translate aphorisms into continuous prose. Northrop Frye, quoted In Richard Kostelanetz, “The Literature Professors’ Literature Professor,” Michigan Quarterly Review (Fall, 1978)
  • Aphorisms are literature’s hand luggage. Light and compact, they fit easily into the overhead compartment of your brain. James Geary, in The World in a Phrase (2005)
  • Like a good joke, a good aphorism has a punch line, a quick verbal or psychological flip, a sudden sting in the tail that gives you a jolt. James Geary, in The World in a Phrase (2005)

Geary continued: “Both jokes and aphorisms lift you into a wonderful weightless state—that giddy point just after the joke is finished and just before you get it—then drop you back down to earth in some completely unexpected place. Aphorisms, like jokes, teach the mind to do the twist.”

  • Aphorisms are literary loners, set apart from the world because they’re worlds unto themselves. They’re like porcupines, bristling with prickly philosophical spines. Rub them the wrong way and you’re in for a surprise. James Geary, in The World in a Phrase (2005)
  • Like sushi, aphorisms come in small portions, are exquisitely formed, and always leave you wanting more. James Geary, in Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists (2007)
  • The aphorism is a personal observation inflated into a universal truth, a private posing as a general. Stefan Kanfer, “Proverbs or Aphorisms,” a Time magazine essay (June 11, 1983)

In a striking metaphorical contrast between aphorisms and proverbs, Kanfer added about the latter: “A proverb is anonymous human history compressed to the size of a seed.”

  • Aphorisms are the blossoms of thought. They may depend on stalk and soil, but their beauty is independent of those prerequisites. Roger Kimball, “G. C. Lichtenberg: A ‘Spy on Humanity,’” in The New Criterion (May, 2002)
  • An aphorism can never be the whole truth; it is either a half-truth or a truth-and-a-half. Karl Kraus, in Die Fackel (Jan. 19, 1909); later reprinted in Thomas Szasz, Anti-Freud: Karl Kraus's Criticism of Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry (1976)
  • An aphorism need not be true, but it should surpass the truth. It must go beyond it with one leap. Karl Kraus, in Dicta and Contradicta (2001; orig. pub. 1909 as Sprüche und Widersprüche [Sayings and Gainsayings])
  • Aphorisms respect the wisdom of silence by disturbing it, but briefly. Yahia Lababidi, “Aphorisms on Art, Morality & Spirit,” Elephant Journal Nov. 3, 2013)
  • An aphorism/should be/like a burr;/sting,/…/and leave/a little soreness. Irving Layton, in The Whole Bloody Bird: Obs, Aphs & Pomes (1969)
  • An apt aphorism half kills, half immortalizes. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, in More Unkempt Thoughts (1964)
  • Aphorism: A little window with a big view. James Lough, in James Lough and Alex Stein (eds.), Short Flights (2016)
  • Short Flights. James Lough and Alex Stein (eds.), title of 2016 book

QUOTE NOTE: A short flight is a brilliant metaphor for an aphorism, and a perfect title for a compilation of aphorisms. Lough and Stein’s quotation anthology was subtitled: Thirty-Two Modern Writers Share Aphorisms of Insight, Inspiration, and Wit.

  • The essence of aphorism is the compression of a mass of thought into a single saying…it is good sense brought to a point. John Morley, quoted by Elizabeth Lee, in Introduction to La Bruyère and Vauvenargues (1903
  • There are aphorisms that, like airplanes, stay up only while they are in motion. Vladimir Nabokov, in The Gift (1937; tr. 1963)
  • It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a whole book—what everyone else does not say in a whole book. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Things the Germans Lack,” in Twilight of the Idols (1888)
  • Certain brief sentences are peerless in their ability to give one the feeling that nothing remains to be said. Jean Rostand, in Notepad of a Biologist (1959); reprinted in The Substance of Man (1962)
  • An aphorism ought to be entirely isolated from the surrounding world like a little work of art and complete in itself like a hedgehog. Friedrich von Schlegel, Aphorism No. 207, in Aphorisms from the Athenaeum (1798)
  • Aphorisms are salted and not sugared almonds at Reason’s feast. Logan Pearsall Smith, in Afterthoughts (1931)

Just prior to this observation, Smith had written: “What pursuit is more elegant than that of collecting the ignominies of our nature and transfixing them for show, each on the bright pin of a polished phrase?”

  • An aphorism is a one-line novel. Leonid Sukhorukov, in All About Everything: 400 Daily Aphorisms of a Lifetime (2005)

APHRODISIAC

(see also MALE-FEMALE DYNAMICS and SEX and SEX APPEAL)

  • With women the best aphrodisiac is words. Isabel Allende, in Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses (1998)

ERROR ALERT: This is the way the quotation originally appears, the conclusion to a passage about contrasting sexual triggers in men and women. In a number of popular quotation anthologies, and on hundreds of internet sites, the quotation is mistakenly presented this way: “For women, the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time.”

I grew suspicious when I first encountered the erroneous quotation, believing Allende would have more likely written best aphrodisiac is words rather than best aphrodisiacs are words. When I tracked down the original quotation, I discovered the widely-quoted version is also wrong in several other ways, appearing to be a paraphrase of Allende’s original thought rather than a direct quotation. I present her full original thought below. In contrast to men, who primarily respond to a visual stimulus, Allende writes:

“We women have a better developed sense of the ridiculous, and besides, our sensuality is tied to our imagination and our auditory nerves. It may be that the only way we will listen is if someone whispers in our ear. The G spot is in the ears, and anyone who goofs around looking for it farther down is wasting his time and ours. Professional lovers, and I am referring not just to lotharios like Casanova, Valentino, and Julio Iglesias, but to the quantities of men who collect amorous conquests to prove their virility with quantity—since quality—is a question of luck—know that with women the best aphrodisiac is words.”

  • There is no aphrodisiac like innocence. Jean Baudrillard, in Cool Memories: 1980–1985 (1987)
  • Talent is a very potent aphrodisiac. When someone is incredibly gifted, I find them incredibly sexy. Patricia Clarkson, quoted in Los Angeles magazine (Feb., 2004)
  • An intriguing mind is a powerful aphrodisiac. Becky Freeman, in Becky Freeman and Ruthie Arnold, Marriage 911 (1966)
  • Fame is a powerful aphrodisiac. Graham Greene, quoted in Radio Times (Sep. 10, 1964)
  • Fame is a powerful aphrodisiac. Graham Greene, quoted in Radio Times magazine (London; Sep. 10, 1964)

Greene was likely inspired by the popular French proverb: “Power is an aphrodisiac” (more on this—including the famous Kissinger update—in the Kissinger entry below). Greene had previously used the fame-as-aphrodisiac metaphor in his novel A Burnt-Out Case (1961), where the protagonist says to another character: “You are famous among your readers and fame is a potent aphrodisiac. Married women are the easiest.”

  • Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Henry Kissinger, quoted in The New York Times (Oct. 28, 1973)

QUOTE NOTE: Two years earlier (Jan. 19, 1971), The New York Times quoted Kissinger as making a similar remark: “Power is the great aphrodisiac.” The essential idea, however, was not original to Kissinger. A student of history, he was almost certainly inspired by a similar observation Napoleon made to his personal valet, Louis Constant Wairy. In Wairy’s memoirs, first published in Paris in 1830, he quoted the French emperor as saying about women: “Power is what they like—it is the greatest of all aphrodisiacs.”

  • Money is not an aphrodisiac; the desire it may kindle in the female eye is more for the cash than the carrier. Marya Mannes, in But Will it Sell? (1964)

APOCALYPSE

(see also ANNIHILATION and CATACLYSM and CATASTROPHE and ARMAGEDDON) )

  • The premonition of apocalypse springs eternal in the human breast. Irving Kristol, “Our Shaken Foundations,” Fortune magazine (July, 1968)

APOLOGY

(includes SAYING “I’M SORRY”; see also ATONEMENT and FORGIVENESS and RECONCILIATION and REGRET and REMORSE)

  • Never ruin an apology with an excuse. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites attribute this saying to Kimberly Johnson or Ann Landers (some even cite Benjamin Franklin). According to quotation researcher Barry Popik, the saying first emerged as an anonymous saying in 1996, and only later began to be attributed to others. There is a respected American poet and critic by the name of Kimberly Johnson, but she has disavowed authorship of the saying.

  • Apologizing doesn’t always mean you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your ego. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation has become quite popular in recent years and has all the characteristics—succinctness, salience, sensibility—that might one day elevate it to the status of a modern proverb (actor Will Smith even passed along a version of it in a June 10, 2014 Tweet).

  • Why must conversions always come so late? Why do people apologize to corpses? Gregory Benford & David Brin, the voice of the narrator, in Heart of the Comet (1986)

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites attribute the quotation to Brin only, and mistakenly phrase it: Why do people always apologize to corpses?

  • Apologize, v. To lay the foundation for a future offense. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Apology is birthed in the womb of regret. We regret the pain we have caused, the disappointment, the inconvenience, the betrayal of trust. Regret focuses on what you did or failed to do and how it affected the other person. Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, in The Five Languages of Apology (2006)

Earlier in the book, Chapman and Thomas had written: “Genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. Then we can continue to build the relationship. Without apology, the offense sits as a barrier, and the quality of the relationship is diminished.”

  • A stiff apology is a second insult…. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt. G. K. Chesterton, “The Real Dr. Johnson,” in The Common Man (1950)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation appears in almost all anthologies and, technically, it is accurate as presented. You might be interested in knowing, though, that the full quotation appeared in an admiring essay that Chesterton wrote about Dr. Samuel Johnson. Here’s the full passage:

“We have all heard enough to fill a book about Dr. Johnson’s incivilities. I wish they would compile another book consisting of Dr. Johnson’s apologies. There is no better test of a man’s ultimate chivalry and integrity than how he behaves when he is wrong; and Johnson behaved very well. He understood (what so many faultlessly polite people do not understand) that a stiff apology is a second insult. He understood that the injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”

  • It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize. Stephen R. Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)
  • An insult is twice as deep as an apology. Charles William Day, in The Maxims, Experiences, and Observations of Agogos (1844)

Day continued: “An insult strikes to the heart, and rankles there; whilst an apology merely skins over the surface, but never heals the wound.”

  • Never apologize for showing feeling, my friend. Remember that when you do so, you apologize for truth. Benjamin Disraeli, the title character speaking, in Contarini Fleming (1832)
  • Right actions for the future are the best apologies for wrong ones in the past—the best evidence of regret for them that we can offer, or the world receive. Tyron Edwards, in A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly present this version of the thought: “Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past.”

  • Apology is only egotism wrong side out. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in The Professor at the Breakfast-Table (1860)
  • An apology is the superglue of life! It can repair just about anything. Lynn Johnston, the character Sharon Edwards speaking, in the syndicated comic strip For Better or For Worse (May 31, 1994)

QUOTE NOTE: This saying has become so popular it’s almost achieved the status of a modern proverb. Johnston, an award-winning Canadian cartoonist began writing the strip in 1978, and it is currently syndicated in nearly 2000 newspapers around the world. After years of unsuccessful attempts to track down the original source of the quotation, I put the incomparable quotation sleuth Garson O’Toole on the case—and he didn’t disappoint. See this 2016 Quote Investigator post.

  • Apology is humanity’s perfect response to imperfection. John Kador, in Effective Apology: Mending Fences, Building Bridges, and Restoring Trust (2009)

Kador went on to add: “Apology sends the clearest signal that we have the strength of character to reconcile ourselves with the truth. Apology is the most courageous gesture we can make to ourselves.”

  • Apologies rebuild the bridge that gets severed when we hurt someone else, either intentionally or by accident. Apologies don’t require us to grovel or wallow in guilt. We simply acknowledge that our actions were insensitive, unkind, or harmful and say we are sorry. Charlotte Kasl, in If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path (1999)
  • A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. Alexander Pope, “Thoughts on Various Subjects,” in Miscellanies, Vol. 2 (1712)
  • Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift. Margaret Lee Runbeck, in Time for Each Other (1944)
  • Is it not true that the ability to apologize is one of the elements of true greatness? It is the small-souled man who will not stoop to apologize. J. Oswald Sanders, in Christ Incomparable (1953; rev. 1971)
  • It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them. P. G. Wodehouse, the narrator, in The Man Upstairs (1914)

APOTHEGM

(see also APHORISM and EPIGRAM and MAXIM and QUOTATION and PLATITUDES and PROVERBS and SAYINGS)

  • Nor do apothegms only serve for ornament and delight, but also for action and civil use: as being the edge-tools of speech, which cut and penetrate the knot of business and affairs. Francis Bacon, in De Augmentis Scientarum (1623)
  • The apothegm is the most portable form of Truth. William Gilmore Simms, in Egeria: Or Voices of Thought and Counsel (1853)

APPAREL

(see also APPEARANCE and CHIC and CLASS and CLOTHES & CLOTHING and CONFORMITY and DRESSES and ELEGANCE and FASHION and GLAMOUR and HATS & HEADWEAR and SHOES and STYLE and TASTE and TRENDS)

  • Be neither too early in the fashion, nor too long out of it, nor too precisely in it…where the eye is the jury, thy apparel is the evidence. Francis Quarles, in Enchiridion (1640)
  • The fashion wears out more apparel than the man. William Shakespeare, the character Conrade speaking, in Much Ado About Nothing (1598)
  • The apparel oft proclaims the man. William Shakespeare, the character Polonius speaking, in Hamlet (1601)

APPEARANCE & REALITY

(see also DECEPTION and ILLUSION and MASKS and REALITY and SUPERFICIALITY)

  • Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow. Aesop, “The Dog and the Shadow,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)

QUOTE NOTE: Writing twenty-five-hundred years later, Thomas Carlyle was almost certainly inspired by Aesop’s fable when he wrote in Sartor Resartus (1833–34): “How we clutch at shadows as if they were substances; and sleep deepest while fancying ourselves most awake!”

  • If you go through life trading on your good looks, there’ll come a time when no one wants to trade. Lynne Alpern & Esther Blumenfeld, in Oh, Lord, I Sound Just Like Mama (1986)
  • Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearances only. Samuel Butler, in Erewhon (1872)
  • Appearances are not seen to be a clue to the truth. But we seem to have no other. Ivy Compton-Burnett, in Manservant and Maidservant (1947)
  • Judge nothing by the appearance. The more beautiful the serpent, the more fatal its sting. William Scott Downey, in Downey’s Proverbs (1853)
  • The world more often rewards the appearances of merit than merit itself. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Proverb (American)
  • All that glitters is not gold. Proverb (English)
  • There is no one who would not rather appear to know than to be taught. Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus), in De Institutione Oratoria (1st c A.D.)
  • Why not be oneself? That is the whole secret of a successful appearance. If one is a greyhound, why try to look like a Pekingese? Edith Sitwell, at age seventy-five, in E. Salter, Edith Sitwell (1979)

APPEASERS & APPEASEMENT

(see also ACCOMMODATION and AGREEMENT and COMPROMISE and CONCILIATION and TREATIES)

  • An infallible method of conciliating a tiger is to allow oneself to be swallowed. Konrad Adenauer, quoted in Paul Dickson, The Official Explanations (1980)
  • Appeasers believe that if you keep on throwing steaks to a tiger, the tiger will become a vegetarian. Heywood Broun, quoted in Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of China and India (1942)

QUOTE NOTE: Yutang expressed his admiration for the observation by writing: “The folly of appeasers was once wittily expressed by Heywood Broun in Aesop fashion.”

  • An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. Winston Churchill

ERROR ALERT: This is the way the quotation appeared in a Dec., 1954 issue of Reader’s Digest, but it has never been found in Churchill’s writings, speeches, press conferences, radio addresses, or parliamentary debates. Some respected quotation anthologies say it was offered in a House of Commons debate in 1938 or 1940, but that does not appear to be the case. It does not show up at all in Richard Langworth’s definitive collection of Churchill quotations, Churchill by Himself (2008). I now regard it as a paraphrase of remarks Churchill made in a radio address to the British people on January 20, 1940. Speaking of European nations that attempted to remain neutral in the early stages of WWII, he said:

Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear—I fear greatly—the storm will not pass. It will rage and it will roar, even more loudly, even more widely.

It was a prescient speech. Within four months, three nations that had earlier proclaimed a strict neutrality (Holland, Luxembourg, and Belgium) were overrun by German forces.

  • No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in a radio address (Dec. 29, 1940)

QUOTE NOTE: The remark came one of FDR’s famous “Fireside Chats.” He continued: “There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb.”

  • I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air—the rather nauseating stench of appeasement. Margaret Thatcher, in House of Commons debate (Oct. 30, 1990) after Saddam Hussein’s armed forces invaded Kuwait

QUOTE NOTE: The British Prime Minister kept her cool in the contentious debate, during which one House member disrespectfully called her a “stupid, negative woman” and recklessly charged: “You would love a war.” She ended her response by saying: “Saddam Hussein started a war, and it continues day after day with the killing, murder, torture and brutal treatment of people. Some people—and most Members of the House—have the guts to stand up to him.”

APPETITE

(see also COOKERY & COOKING and DINNERS & DINING and FOOD and EATING and GASTRONOMY and GLUTTONY and HUNGER and OBESITY)

  • The most violent appetites in all creatures are lust and hunger; the first is a perpetual call upon them to propagate their kind, the latter to preserve themselves. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (July 18,1711)
  • Check impulse; quench appetite; keep reason under its own control. Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations (2nd c. A.D.)
  • Appetite, n. An instinct thoughtfully implanted by Providence as a solution to the labor question. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Denial of one appetite sharpens the others. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 6th Selection (1989)
  • Fear regulates. Appetite impels. ‬Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 9th Selection (1992)
  • Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human natur’. That is the way to inculcate strength of mind. Charles Dickens, Mr. Squeers speaking, in Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39)

QUOTE NOTE: This admonition from the hypocritical schoolmaster to his young charges appears in one of literary history’s most famous scenes on the theme of do as I say and not as I do.

  • I can reason down or deny everything, except this perpetual Belly: feed he must and will, and I cannot make him respectable. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Montaigne; Or, The Skeptic,” in Representative Men (1850)
  • Riches rather enlarge than satisfy appetites. Thomas Fuller, M.D., in Gnomologia (1732)
  • Other people’s appetites easily appear excessive when one doesn’t share them. André Gide, in The Counterfeiters (1925)
  • Food, sex, and liquor create their own appetite. Sheila Graham, in A State of Heat (1972)
  • Nothing in the world is so incontinent as a man’s cursed appetite. Homer, in Odyssey (9th c. B.C.)
  • Appetite is essentially insatiable, and . . . will infallibly discover congenial agencies (mechanical and political) of expression. Marshall McLuhan, “American Advertising,” in Horizon (London; October 1947)
  • When one has an honest appetite all food tastes good. Kathleen Norris, in Hands Full of Living (1931)
  • Appetite comes with eating…. But the thirst goes away with drinking. François Rabelias, in Gargantua (1534
  • And appetite, a universal wolf,/So doubly seconded with will and power,/Must make perforce an universal prey/And last eat up himself. William Shakespeare, the character Ulysses speaking, in Troilus and Cressida (1602)

QUOTE NOTE: As a result of this passage, it is now popular to view an out-of-control appetite as a hungry beast that will ultimately prey upon—and devour—itself.

  • ’Tis not the meat, but ’tis the appetite/Makes eating a delight. Sir John Suckling, “Of Thee, Kind Boy,” in Fragmenta Aurea (1646)
  • The appetite grows for what it feeds on. Ida B. Wells, an 1889 remark, quoted in Linda O. McMurry, To Keep the Waters Troubled: The Life of Ida B. Wells (1998)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is presented in almost all quotation anthologies, but it originally appeared as part of a larger remark. Wells, a pioneering African-American civil rights activist with a desire to edit and publish her own newspaper, originally said about her dream: “Since the appetite grows for what it feeds on, the desire came to own a paper.”

APPLAUSE

(see also ADMIRATION and APPRECIATION and OVATION and PRAISE)

  • Why, if there’s nothing else, there’s applause. I’ve listened backstage to people applaud. It’s like, like waves of love coming over the footlights. Anne Baxter, as the character Eve Harrington, in the 1950 film All About Eve (screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
  • Applause, n. The echo of a platitude. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • O, popular applause! What heart of man/Is proof against thy sweet, seducing charms? William Cowper, in The Task (1785)
  • The silence that accepts merit as the most natural thing in the world is the highest applause. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in address to senior class at Harvard University’s Divinity School (July 15, 1838)
  • The highest applause is silence. Elbert Hubbard, in Selected Writing of Elbert Hubbard (1922)

QUOTE NOTE: The observation originally appeared in a 1908 issue of Fra magazine, where it was written this way: “We flatter only those we fear—the highest applause is silence.” Hubbard was almost certainly inspired by an 1838 observation by Ralph Waldo Emerson, seen above. See also the Alfred Jarry entry below.

  • The applause of silence is the only kind that counts. Alfred Jarry, from a 1960 French publication, reprinted in The Selected Works of Alfred Jarry (1965; R. Shattuck & S. W. Taylors, eds.)
  • The applause of a single human being is of a great consequence. Samuel Johnson, a 1780 remark, quoted by James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
  • To receive applause for works which do not demand all our powers hinders our advance towards a perfecting of our spirit. It usually means that thereafter we stand still. G. C. Lichtenberg, entry in Notebook K (1789–93); in Aphorisms (1806)
  • A slowness to applaud betrays a cold temper or an envious spirit. Hannah More, quoted in William Roberts, Memories of the Life of Mrs. Hannah More (1835)
  • There is no applause that so flatters a man as that which he wrings from unwilling throats. Ouida (pen name of Maria Louise Ramé), the title character speaking, “Pipistrello,” in Pipistrello and Other Stories (1880)
  • Applause is a receipt, not a note of demand. Artur Schnabel, explaining why he did not perform encores after extended applause, in The Saturday Review of Literature (Sep. 29, 1951)
  • When most the world applauds you, most beware/’Tis often less a blessing than a snare. Edward Young, “Satire VI. On Women,” in Love of Fame, The Universal Passion (1728)

APPLES

(includes APPLE PIE; see also BANANAS and FRUIT and FRUIT METAPHORS and FRUITS, N.E.C., and GRAPES and ORANGES and VEGETABLES)

  • Three Apples that changed the world: The first tempted Eve, the second inspired Newton, and the third was offered to the world half eaten by Steve Jobs. Author Unknown, sign on window of Apple Store Museum in Prague (reported by Bill Case)
  • Imagination seems to be a glory and a misery, a blessing and a curse. Adam, to his sorrow, lacked it. Eve, to her sorrow, possessed it. Had both been blessed—or cursed—with it, there would have been much keener competition for the apple. Stella Benson, the voice of the narrator, in I Pose (1915)
  • I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work. No set goal achieved satisfies. Success only breeds a new goal. The golden apple devoured has seeds. It is endless. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life (1962)
  • The finished man of the world must eat of every apple once. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Culture,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • It wasn’t sin that was born on the day Eve picked her apple: what was born that day was a splendid virtue called disobedience. Oriana Fallaci, a reflection of the unnamed narrator, in the heavily autobiographical Letter to a Child Never Born: A Novel (1975)
  • A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard—by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off. Archibald MacLeish, quoted in Charles Poore, “Mr. MacLeish and the Disenchantmentarians,” The New York Times (Jan. 25, 1968)
  • You cannot compare apples and oranges. Proverb (American)
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Proverb (English)
  • One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel. Proverb (English)
  • The apple does not fall far from the tree. Proverb (German)

QUOTE NOTE: The Yale Book of Quotations (2006) reports that proverb scholar Wolfgang Mieder has traced this proverb to 1554 in German.

  • Ever since Eve gave Adam the apple, there has been a misunderstanding between the sexes about gifts. Nan Robertson, in a column on Christmas shopping (“‘Misunderstood’ Men Offer Words on Gifts; Most Bought Presents”), in The New York Times (Nov. 28, 1957)
  • If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. Carl Sagan, in Cosmos (1980)

QUOTE NOTE: This has become one of Sagan’s most popular quotations, even though many have trouble explaining exactly what the saying actually means. In the book, a companion volume to his historic 1980 PBS television series, Sagan preceded the observation by writing:

“To make an apple pie, you need wheat, apples, a pinch of this and that, and the heat of the oven. The ingredients are made of molecules—sugar, say, or water. The molecules, in turn, are made of atoms—carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and a few others. Where do these atoms come from? Except for hydrogen, they are all made in stars. A star is a kind of cosmic kitchen inside which atoms of hydrogen are cooked into heavier atoms. Stars condense from interstellar gas and dust, which are composed mostly of hydrogen. But the hydrogen was made in the Big Bang, the explosion that began the Cosmos.”

  • Ingratitude is the frost that nips the flower even as it opens, that shrivels the generous apple on the branch, that freezes the fountain in mid-flow and numbs the hand, even in the very act of giving. Ann Wroe, “Ingratitude Is the Deadliest Sin,” in Intelligent Life magazine (May/June, 2014)

Wroe continued: “It is a sin of silence, absence and omission, as winter’s sin is a lack of light; a sin against charity, which otherwise warms the heart and, in the truest sense, makes the world turn.”

APPRECIATION

(see also ADMIRATION and APPLAUSE and COMPLIMENTS and ENCOURAGEMENT and FLATTERY and OVATION and PRAISE and RECOGNITION)

  • We humans are appreciation junkies, especially when it comes from an authority figure or someone in a leadership position. Jack Altschuler, in personal communication to the compiler (Feb. 11, 2018)
  • Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: Almost all Internet sites—and many published quotation anthologies—attribute this quotation to Voltaire, but it has not been found in his writings.

  • Next to excellence is the appreciation of it. Author Unknown, but widely attributed to William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Do not be chary of appreciation. Hearts are unconsciously hungry for it. Phillips Brooks, “Destruction and Fulfilment [sic],” in Twenty Sermons (4th Series; 1887)

QUOTE NOTE: Brooks felt that those in leadership and management positions needed to be especially cognizant of the needs for praise and appreciation. Just earlier, He wrote: “I beg you to think of this, you who are set in positions of superintendence and authority.”

  • You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world’s happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Dale Carnegie, quoted in Dorothy Carnegie, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking (1962)

Carnegie continued: “Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”

  • The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them. G. K. Chesterton, in The Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton (1936)

The very heart of appreciation, according to Chesterton, was the simple ability to experience enjoyment—over even the smallest things. He went on to write: “The real difficulty of man is not to enjoy lamp-posts or landscapes, not to enjoy dandelions or chops, but to enjoy enjoyment. That is the practical problem which the philosopher has to solve.”

  • All charming people have something to conceal, usually their total dependence on the appreciation of others. Cyril Connolly, in Enemies of Promise (1938)
  • The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship. Amelia Earhart, “My Husband,” in Redbook magazine (Sep., 1932)
  • Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood or appreciated. Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry (May 6, 1840)
  • The greatest humiliation in life is to work hard on something from which you expect great appreciation, and then fail to get it. E. W. Howe, “Miscellany of Life,” in Ventures in Common Sense (1919)

Howells continued: “Such happiness does not come with money, nor does it flow from a fine physical state. It cannot be brought. But it is the keenest joy, after all, and the toiler’s truest and best reward.”

  • I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have, than to have things I am not able to appreciate. Elbert Hubbard, in The Philistine (March, 1902)
  • The achievement is appreciation. Your ability to be surprised and awed by beauty! William Hurt, quoted in Deborah Caulfield, “William Hurt: Through A Glass Darkly,” the Los Angeles Times (Sep. 15, 1985)
  • The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated. William James, in letter to his Philosophy 2A class at Radcliffe College (April 6, 1896)

QUOTE NOTE: James wrote the letter six years after he had come out with Psychology, the first textbook of psychology published in America. After receiving the gift of an azalea plant from the young women in his Philosophy 2A class, James was so moved by the gift and accompanying note of appreciation that he penned a letter to the class. The letter is so intriguing, I’m reproducing it in its entirety below:

“Dear Young Ladies, I am deeply touched by your remembrance. It is the first time anyone ever treated me so kindly, so you may well believe that the impression on the heart of the lonely sufferer will be even more durable than the impression on your minds of all the teachings of Philosophy 2A. I now perceive one immense omission in my Psychology—the deepest principle of Human Nature is the craving to be appreciated, and I left it out altogether from the book, because I had never had it gratified until now. I fear that you have let lose a demon in me, and that all my actions will now be for the sake of such rewards.”

  • One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. Carl Jung, “The Gifted Child,” (1942), in The Development of Personality (1954)
  • As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them. John F. Kennedy, in Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (Nov. 4, 1963)
  • Brains, on the whole, are like hearts, and they go where they are appreciated. Robert S. McNamara, in The Essence of Security: Reflections in Office (1968)
  • There are slavish souls who carry their appreciation for favors done them so far that they strangle themselves with the rope of gratitude. Friedrich Nietzsche, in Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits (1878)

QUOTE NOTE: Appreciation is a good thing, of course, but like all good things, it can be carried too far. And few people have expressed that thought better than Nietzsche does here.

  • Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness and self worth. Elizabeth O’Connor, in Eighth Day of Creation (1971)
  • I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time; so, in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred. Fred Rogers, in Commencement Address, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont (May, 2001)

This wonderful passage about the sacred nature of appreciation came at the very beginning of the address, directly after the opening words: “For a long time I wondered why I felt like bowing when people showed their appreciation for the work that I’ve been privileged to do. And I’ve come to understand that those of us who bow are probably, whether we know it or not, acknowledging the presence of the eternal in our neighbor.”

  • Knowing how things work is the basis for appreciation, and is thus a source of civilized delight. William Safire, in Coming to Terms (1988)
  • It takes patience to appreciate domestic bliss; volatile spirits prefer unhappiness. George Santayana, in The Life of Reason (1905-06)
  • The way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement. Charles W. Schwab, quoted in Eugene Clyde Brooks, Education for Democracy (1919)
  • Of all the qualities of a gracious life, appreciation is the most essential. Alexandra Stoddard, in Gracious Living in a New World (1996)

Stoddard Continued: “When we’re conscious of all the good and beautiful things and people in our lives, not judging, but living in continuous gratitude, we’re free to connect with the great, timeless truth. When we show appreciation, we’re recognizing the divinity within us, our true identity.”

  • Only a just appreciation of things will enable us to possess them in tranquility, or console ourselves for their loss. Anne Sophie Swetchine, in The Writings of Madame Swetchine (1869; Count de Falloux, ed.)
  • When you don’t come from struggle, gaining appreciation is a quality that’s difficult to come by. Shania Twain, in interview with Holly George Warren, Redbook magazine (Nov. 6, 2007)

QUOTE NOTE: Twain, the Country & Western music superstar who grew up in poverty in rural Ontario, was thinking about how different life was going to be for her six-year-old son Eja. She added: “We go out of our way to try to keep him appreciative.”

APPROBATION

(see also ACCEPTANCE and ADMIRATION and APPLAUSE and APPRECIATION and APPROVAL and COMPLIMENTS and ENCOURAGEMENT and PRAISE and RECOGNITION)

  • We ask advice, but we mean approbation. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • We thirst for approbation, yet cannot forgive the approver. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Circles (1841)

APPROVAL

(includes SEEKING APPROVAL; see also ACCEPTANCE and ADMIRATION and APPLAUSE and APPRECIATION and APPROBATION and COMPLIMENTS and ENCOURAGEMENT and PRAISE and RECOGNITION)

  • How quick come the reasons for approving what we like! Jane Austen, the voice of the narrator, in Persuasion (1818)
  • I don’t even/Like you/And/I want/Your/Approval. Sondra Anice Barnes, in Life Is the Way It Is (1978)
  • I believe that we, as a nation, have a complex about being being liked and admired that gets in the way of our true functions. Dorothy Carnegie, Don’t Grow Old—Grow Up! (1956)
  • Material things aside, we need not advice but approval. Coco Chanel, quoted in Marcel Haedrich, Coco Chanel: Her Life, Her Secrets (1972)
  • We thirst for approbation, yet cannot forgive the approver. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Circles (1841)
  • Understanding is the beginning of approving. André Gide, a 1902 entry, in Journals (Justin O'Brien, ed.)
  • You can’t do anything worthwhile till you get over minding what people say. Mother Jones, quoted in Margaret Case Harriman, From Pinafores to Politics (1923)
  • More than nine tenths of the suffering we endure is because those around us do not show that regard for us which we think they ought to. Mary Lyon, in Recollections of Mary Lyon: With Selections From Her Instructions to the Pupils in Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary (1866)
  • Poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another. Madonna, quoted in Gillian G. Gaar, She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll (2002)
  • She who trims herself to suit everyone will soon whittle herself away. Laura Nyro, quoted in Patti LaBelle, Patti’s Pearls (2001/ with Laura Randolph Lancaster)
  • Fools admire, but men of sense approve. Alexander Pope, in An Essay on Criticism (1711)
  • Be careful not to enter the world with any need to seduce, charm, conquer what you do not really want only for the sake of approval. Otto Rank, quoted in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4 (1971)

Rank continued: “This is what causes the frozen moment before people, and cuts all naturalness and trust.”

  • I wanted him to cherish and approve of me, not as he had when I was a child, but as the woman I was, who had her own mind and had made her own choices. Adrienne Rich, on her father, “Split at the Root,” in Blood, Bread, and Poetry (1986)
  • Never in her life had any object, or friendship, or experience acquired value for her save through the eyes of others. Gabrielle Roy, in The Tin Flute (1947)
  • Shyness is I-ness. Shyness is really wondering if you have other people’s approval. Dorothy Sarnoff, in Never Be Nervous Again (1987)
  • I will not ask that you, nor you, approve. The wild thyme is itself, nor asks consent of rose nor reed. Muriel Strode, in My Little Book of Prayer (1905)
  • A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. Mark Twain, the Old Man speaking, in the short story “What is Man?” (1906)
  • There’s a big difference between tolerance and approval, and I have no right to expect or demand the latter from anyone. Norah Vincent, “Tolerance, Not Approval,” in The Advocate (Oct. 9, 2001)

QUOTE NOTE: Vincent's article was a kind of open letter to the gay community. She went on to write: “I'm an adult. I don't need unconditional approval anymore. If the gay movement is to grow out of its adolescence, it too has to move beyond the puerile need for approval and graduate to the more sensible appeal for and practice of tolerance.”

ARCHITECTS & ARCHITECTURE

(see also ART and ARTISTS and BEAUTY and BUILDERS & BUILDING and CITY PLANNING and DESIGN and DRAWING and ENGINEERS & ENGINEERING and HOUSE and SKYSCRAPERS)

  • Architect, n. One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Architecture is inhabited sculpture. Constantin Brancusi, quoted in Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Themes and Episodes (1966)
  • We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us. Winston Churchill, in House of Commons speech (Oct. 28, 1943). Another example of chiasmus.
  • Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul. Ernest Dimnet, in What We Live By (1932)
  • The home of the Utopian impulse was architecture rather than painting or sculpture. Painting can make us happy, but building is the art we live in; it is the social art par excellence, the carapace of political fantasy, the exoskeleton of one’s economic dreams. It is also the one art nobody can escape. Robert Hughes, “Trouble in Utopia,” in The Shock of the New (1991; 2nd ed.)

ERROR ALERT: This observation has also been commonly presented in this abridged version: “Architecture is the one art nobody can escape.”

  • Architecture has recorded the great ideas of the human race. Not only every religious symbol, but every human thought has its page in that vast book. Victor Hugo, the voice of the narrator, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831)

QUOTE NOTE: This is a modern translation of a passage that was originally presented this way: “Architecture has been the great manuscript of the human race. And this is true to such a degree, that not only every religious symbol, but every human thought, has its page and its memorial in that cast book.” Hugo’s classic novel was originally titled Notre-Dame de Paris when it was published in 1931. Because Gothic novels were all the rage at the time, the title was changed to The Hunchback of Notre-Dame when an English edition was published in 1833.

  • Architecture is the art of how to waste space. Philip Johnson, quoted in The New York Times (Dec. 27, 1964)

QUOTE NOTE: Philip Johnson was one of the twentieth century’s most influential architects, and this is one of his most popular quotations. While I’ve long admired Johnson, I’ve never been particularly fond of this observation. However, it did inspire me to pen this spin-off: “Architecture is the art of how to taste space.”

  • Architecture deals with spaces, the thoughtful and meaningful making of spaces. Louis Kahn, quoted in Recent American Synagogue Architecture (The Jewish Museum; 1963)
  • Architecture is a sort of oratory of power by means of forms. Now it is persuasive, even flattering, and at other times merely commanding. Friedrich Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols (1888)

QUOTE NOTE: This passage has been translated in several other ways, including: “Architecture is a sort of eloquence of power embodied in forms, sometimes persuading, even flattering, and sometimes merely commanding.”

  • No architecture is so haughty as that which is simple. John Ruskin, in The Stones of Venice (1853)
  • Architecture in general is frozen music. Friedrich von Schelling, in Philosophie der Kunst (1809)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation is often attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and it is true that Goethe did describe architecture as frozen music (or petrified music in some translations) in an 1829 letter, according to Johann Peter Eckermann in Conversations with Goethe in the Last Years of His Life, Vol. II (1836). Schelling should be regarded as the original author of the thought.

  • Architecture aims at Eternity. Christopher Wren, quoted in Parentalia; or Memoirs of the Family of the Wrens (1750; compiled by Wren’s son Christopher)
  • The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines. Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in The New York Times (Oct. 4, 1953)
  • A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart. Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, Frank Lloyd Wright: Master Builder (1997)

Wright continued: “It is the love of the thing he does that really qualifies him in the end.”

ARGUMENTS & DISPUTES

(see also ADVERSARIES & ANTAGONISTS and ANGER and CONFLICT and DISAGREEMENTS and ENEMIES and FIGHTS & FIGHTING and OPPOSITION and QUARRELS and SHOUTING & YELLING)

  • Our disputants put me in mind of the skuttle fish, that when he is unable to extricate himself, blackens all the water about him, till he becomes invisible. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (Sep. 5, 1712)

Addison was describing a marine creature now known as the cuttlefish. Like a squid or octopus, an endangered cuttlefish is able to expel an ink-like pigment from an internal sac to evade predators.

  • It takes two flints to make a fire. Louisa May Alcott, the character Laurie speaking, in Little Women (1869)
  • Problems rarely exist at the level at which they are expressed. If you are arguing for more than ten minutes then you are probably not discussing the real conflict. Kare Anderson, in Mutuality Matters (2014)
  • I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to. Author Unkown

ERROR ALERT: Many books and internet sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to W. C. Fields. The observation is also commonly presented as a piece of advice (“You don't have to attend every argument you’re invited to”).

  • Arguments are like fire-arms which a man may keep at home but should not carry about with him. Samuel Butler, in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • An inaccurate use of words produces such a strange confusion in all reasoning that in the heat of debate, the combatants, unable to distinguish their friends from their foes, fall promiscuously on both. Maria Edgeworth, in letter from Caroline to Julia, in Letters of Julia and Caroline (1795)
  • The best causes tend to attract to their support the worst arguments. R. A. Fisher, in Statistical Methods and Scientific Inference (1956)
  • Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic. William E. Gladstone, in The Might of Right (1880, E. E. Brown, ed.)
  • The successful conciliation of a dispute is marked by the feeling of each side that it has “won.” (If each side feels the other has got the better of it in the settlement, the dispute has only been postponed, not resolved.) Sydney J. Harris, in his “Strictly Personal” syndicated column (Oct. 19, 1979)
  • The most important tactic in an argument, next to being right, is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent, so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face. Sydney J. Harris, in Pieces of Eight (1982)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites and far too many books present a mistakenly-phrased version of this quotation: The most important thing in an argument, next to being right, is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent, so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without too much apparent loss of face.

  • Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding. Samuel Johnson, a June, 1784 remark, quoted by James Boswell, in Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
  • There is no good in arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an east wind is to put on your overcoat. James Russell Lowell, “Democracy,” in Democracy and Other Addresses (1887)
  • Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. John Milton, in Aeropagitica (1644)

Earlier, Milton had written: “Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.”

  • It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing. John Henry Newman, in an 1831 sermon on “The Usurpations of Reason”; reprinted in Oxford University Sermons (1843)
  • The argument of the broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics. Emmeline Pankhurst, quoted in George Dangerfield, The Strange Death of Liberal England (1936)
  • Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom: it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. William Pitt, in House of Commons speech (Nov. 18, 1783)
  • A disputant no more cares for the truth than the sportsman for the hare. Alexander Pope, in Thoughts on Various Subjects (1727)

Pope introduced the thought by writing: “True disputants are like true sportsmen, their whole delight is in the pursuit.”

  • The Argument from Intimidation is a confession of intellectual impotence. Ayn Rand, “The Argument from Intimidation,” in The Virtue of Selfishness (1964)

Rand began the essay by writing: “There is a certain type of argument which, in fact, is not an argument, but a means of forestalling debate and extorting an opponent’s agreement with one’s undiscussed notions. It is a message of bypassing logic by means of psychological pressure.”

  • At Cambridge I was taught a laudable method of argument: you never personalize, but you have absolutely no respect for people’s opinions. You are never rude to the person, but you can be savagely rude about what the person thinks. Salman Rushdie, “Do We Have to Fight the Battle for the Enlightenment All Over Again?” in The Independent (London; Jan. 22, 2005)
  • Anger is never without an argument, but seldom with a good one. George Savile (Lord Halifax), “Of Anger,” in Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
  • Argument, as usually managed, is the worst sort of conversation; as it is generally in books the worst sort of reading. Jonathan Swift, “Hints on Good Manners,” in A Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding (1754; published posthumously)

ERROR ALERT: On almost all internet sites, the first portion of this observation is mistakenly presented: “Argument is the worst sort of conversation.”

ARISTOCRACY & ARISTOCRATS

(see also and AUTOCRACY and CLASS and DEMOCRACY and DICTATORSHIP and ELECTIONS and EQUALITY and FREEDOM and GOVERNMENT and LIBERTY and MERITOCRACY and POLITICIANS and POLITICS and REVOLUTION and TYRANNY and VOTING and WEALTH)

  • Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats. Diane Arbus, in Diane Arbus (1972)
  • The aristocracy of wealth is the lowest and commonest possible. It is a pity that one meets it in America more than one ought to. One can even, in walking through the streets, hear the expression, “He is worth so and so many dollars!” Fredrika Bremer, from an 1850 letter, in America of the Fifties: Letters of Fredrika Bremer (1924)

Bremer preceded the thought by writing: “People who are so arrogant on account of their wealth are about equal in civilization to Laplanders, who measure a man’s worth by the number of his reindeer. A man with a thousand reindeer is a very great man.”

  • The aristocrat, when he wants to, has very good manners. The Scottish upper classes, in particular, have that shell-shocked look that probably comes from banging their heads on low beams leaping to their feet whenever a woman comes into the room. Aristocrats are also deeply male chauvinist, and…on the whole they tend to be reactionary. Jilly Cooper, in Class (1979)
  • I believe in aristocracy, though—if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. E. M. Forster, “What I Believe,” in The Nation (July 16, 1938)

Forster added: “They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.”

  • In an autocracy, one person has his way; in an aristocracy, a few people have their way; in a democracy, no one has his way. Celia Green, in The Decline and Fall of Science (1976)
  • There is no aristocracy of grief. Grief is a great leveler. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead (1973)
  • Even if their outward fortunes could be absolutely equalized, there would be, from individual constitution alone, an aristocracy and a democracy in every land. Harriet Martineau, in Society in America, Vol. 1 (1837)

Martineau continued: “The fearful by nature would compose an aristocracy, the hopeful by nature a democracy, were all other causes of divergence done away.”

  • Wherever the appearance of a conventional aristocracy exists in America, it must arise from wealth, as it cannot from birth. An aristocracy of mere wealth is vulgar everywhere. In a republic, it is vulgar in the extreme. Harriet Martineau, in Society in America, Vol. 3 (1837)

In her book, Martineau also wrote: “Even if their outward fortunes could be absolutely equalized, there would be, from individual constitution alone, an aristocracy and a democracy in every land. The fearful by nature would compose an aristocracy, the hopeful by nature a democracy, were all other causes of divergence done away.”

  • The wealthy…live in marble mausoleums surrounded by the suspicions and neuroses that have replaced the medieval moats which once isolated so-called aristocrats from reality. Elsa Maxwell, in R.S.V.P.: Elsa Maxwell’s Own Story (1954)
  • Whatever advantages may have arisen, in the past, out of the existence of a specially favored and highly privileged aristocracy, it is clear to me that today no argument can stand that supports unequal opportunity or any intrinsic disqualification for sharing in the whole of life. Margaret Mead, in Blackberry Winter (1972)
  • An aristocracy in a republic is like a chicken whose head has been cut off: it may run about in a lively way, but in fact it is dead. Nancy Mitford, in Noblesse Oblige (1956)
  • Black is the most aristocratic color of all. The only aristocratic color. For me this is the ultimate. You can be quiet and it contains the whole thing. There is no color that will give you the feeling of totality. Of peace. Of greatness. Of quietness. Of excitement. I have seen things that were transformed into black, that took on just greatness.” Louise Nevelson, in Dawns + Dusks (1976)

Nevelson preceded the thought by writing: “But when I fell in love with black, it contained all color. It wasn’t a negation of color. It was an acceptance. Because black encompasses all colors.”

  • The aristocratic rebel, since he has enough to eat, must have other causes of discontent. Bertrand Russell, in The History of Western Philosophy (1946)
  • When properly trained and cared for, the horse has about him an aristocratic air that is unmatched by any other animal, domesticated or wild. Marietta Whittlesey, in Majesty of the Horse (1989)

ARIZONA

ARKANSAS

ARMS

(see GUNS)

ARROGANCE

(see also BOASTING and BRAGGING & BLUSTERING and CONCEIT and HUMILITY and SELF-IMPORTANCE and SELF-PROMOTION)

  • Riches are apt to betray a man into arrogance. Joseph Addison, quoted in The Forbes Book of Business Quotations (1997)

QUOTATION CAUTION: So far, I’ve been unable to confirm the authenticity of this quotation.

  • Truth, acceptance of the truth, is a shattering experience. It shatters the binding shroud of culture trance. It rips apart smugness, arrogance, superiority, and self-importance. Paula Gunn Allen, in Off the Reservation: Reflections on Boundary-Busting, Border-Crossing Loose Cannons (1998)

Allen continued: “It requires acknowledgment of responsibility for the nature and quality of each of our own lives, our own inner lives as well as the life of the world. Truth, inwardly accepted, humbling truth, makes one vulnerable. You can't be right, self-righteous, and truthful at the same time.”

  • He realized…that the loudest are the least sincere, that arrogance is a quality of the ignorant, and that flatterers tend to be vicious. Isabel Allende, in Zorro (2006)
  • If you want to be a writer, you should go into the largest library you can find and stand there contemplating the books that have been written. Then you should ask yourself, “Do I really have anything to add?” If you have the arrogance or the humility to say yes, you will know you have the vocation. Margaret Atwood, “An End to Audience?” in Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (1982)
  • All politicians are humble, and seldom let you forget it. They go around the country boasting about their humility. They are proud of their humility. Many are downright arrogant about their humility and insist that it qualifies them to be President. Russell Baker, “The Big Town,” in So This Is Depravity (1980)
  • The arrogance of race prejudice is an arrogance which defies what is scientifically known of human races. Ruth Benedict, a 1943 remark, quoted in Margaret Mead, An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict (1959)
  • There are some things the arrogant mind does not see; it is blinded by its vision of what it desires. Wendell Berry, “People, Land, and Community,” in Standing by Words (1983)
  • There is a marvelous turn and trick to British arrogance; its apparent unconsciousness makes it twice as effectual. Catherine Drinker Bowen, in Adventures of a Biographer (1959)
  • Arrogance or pride is defined as offensively exaggerating one's own importance. John Bradshaw, in Healing the Shame That Binds You (1988)

A bit later in the book, Bradshaw went on to add: “Arrogance is a way for a person to cover up shame. After years of arrogance, the arrogant person is so out of touch, she truly doesn’t know who she is. This is one of the greatest tragedies of shame cover-ups: not only does the person hide from others, she also hides from herself.”

  • The truest characters of ignorance/Are vanity, and pride, and arrogance. Samuel Butler (1613–1680), “Miscellaneous Thoughts,” in The Genuine Poetical Remains of Samuel Butler (Rev. ed., 1827; Robert Thyer, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the portion of the couplet that is routinely presented these days, but it formally ended this way: “As blind men use to bear their noses higher/Than those that have their eyes and sight entire.”

  • Born to wealth that he believed would make him always independent, [Robert] Moses felt no compulsion to turn associates into friends; arrogance is, after all, one of the coefficients of money. Robert A. Caro, in The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1974)
  • The “control of nature” is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man. Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring (1962)
  • Arrogance occurs in people who have achieved something and believe that they independently caused their own success with no assistance, support, or input from others. Chérie Carter-Scott, in If Success Is a Game, These Are the Rules (2000)
  • Sometimes a neighbor whom we have disliked a lifetime for his arrogance and conceit lets fall a single commonplace remark that shows us another side, another man, really; a man uncertain, and puzzled, and in the dark like ourselves. Willa Cather, in Epilogue to Shadows on the Rock (1931)
  • Arrogance rides triumphantly through the gates, barely glancing at the old woman about to cut the rope and spring shut the trap. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 4th Selection (1987)
  • Two ideas militate against our consciously contributing to a better world. The idea that we can do everything or the conclusion that we can do nothing to make this globe a better place to live are both temptations of the most insidious form. One leads to arrogance; the other to despair. Joan Chittister, in In a High Spiritual Season (1995)
  • What is so hateful to a poor man as the purse-proud arrogance of a rich one? Richard Cumberland, in The Observer: Being A Collection of Moral, Literary and Familiar Essays (1786)

Cumberland continued: “Let fortune shift the scene, and make the poor man rich, he runs at once into the vice that he declaimed against so feelingly; these are strange contradictions in the human character.”

  • No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Second Sex (1949)
  • The arrogance of some Christians would close heaven to them if, to their misfortune, it existed. Simone de Beauvoir, in All Said and Done (1972)
  • The insufferable arrogance of human beings to think that Nature was made solely for their benefit, as if it was conceivable that the sun had been set afire merely to ripen men’s apples and head their cabbages. Cyrano de Bergerac, in The Other World (1657)
  • I regret nothing, says arrogance; I will regret nothing, says inexperience. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880)
  • He was like a cock, who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow. George Eliot, Mrs. Irwin’s description of Craig, in Adam Bede (1859)

QUOTE NOTE: For the full passage in which this quotation appears, as well as some admiring remarks about the observation, see the accompanying note in DESCRIPTIONS—OF PEOPLE

  • It is the privilege of any human work which is well done to invest the doer with a certain haughtiness. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Wealth,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • Are you not justified in feeling inferior, when you seek to cover it up with arrogance and insolence? Malcolm Forbes, quoted in The Forbes Book of Business Quotations (1997)
  • The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos. Stephen Jay Gould, summarizing a thought from Sigmund Freud, “Jove’s Thunderbolts,” in Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History (1995)
  • Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Arrogance is being full of yourself, feeling you’re always right, and believing your accomplishments or abilities make you better than other people. Christie Hartman, in It's Not Him, It's You (2010)

Dr. Hartman continued: “People often believe arrogance is excessive confidence, but it’s really a lack of confidence. Arrogant people are insecure, and often repel others. Truly confident people feel good about themselves and attract others to them.”

  • Where men are the most sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken, and have there given reins to passion, without that proper deliberation and suspense, which can alone secure them from the grossest absurdities. David Hume, in Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary (1741-42)
  • Men must be stripped of arrogance and women must become independent for any mutually nurturing alliance to endure between the sexes. Erica Jong, “Jane Eyre’s Unbroken Will,” in What Do Women Want? (1998)
  • Cats are narcissistic. Their needs come before ours. They don’t understand the word No. They carry themselves with that aloof, arrogant sense of perpetual entitlement, they will jump up and insinuate themselves wherever they please–on your lap, on your newspaper, on your computer keyboard–and they really couldn’t care less how their behavior affects the people in their lives. I’ve had boyfriends like this; who needs such behavior in a housepet? Caroline Knapp, “Lucille Versus Stumpy: The (Real) Truth About Cats and Dogs,” in The Merry Recluse (2004)

QUOTE NOTE: Knapp’s essay, originally published in 1998, was written in response to an article (“Stumpy Versus Lucille: The Great Pet Debate”) that her friend and fellow journalist Ron Rosenbaum had written in his regular column in the New York Observer (Aug. 8, 1998). Rosenbaum, in proclaiming the superiority of cats–particularly his cat Stumpy–over dogs, had disparaged canines as “the pathetic transparent brown-nosers of the domestic animal kingdom” (see more on Rosenbaum’s views in DOGS and in CATS & DOGS). Knapp’s essay, a rejoinder to Rosenbaum’s thesis, proclaimed the superiority of dogs–particularly her dog Lucille–over cats.

  • What is more arrogant than honesty? Ursula K. Le Guin, the character Estraven speaking, in The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
  • One can become as intellectually arrogant about spirituality as about empirical science. Shirley MacLaine, in Going Within (1989)
  • Timing and arrogance are decisive factors in the successful use of talent. Marya Mannes, in Out of My Time (1971)
  • Whenever men in their arrogance and pride set themselves up as absolute, they will be beaten to the ground. Benjamin E. Mays, “The Inescapable Christ” an address at Howard University (June 8, 1945)
  • Arrogance in persons of merit affronts us more than arrogance in those without merit; merit is itself an affront. Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted in W. H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1962)
  • Arrogance diminishes wisdom. Proverb (Arab)
  • Arrogance is a weed that grows mostly on a dunghill. Proverb (Arab)
  • Arrogance is intolerable. Proverb (Latin)
  • To knock a thing down, especially if it is cocked at an arrogant angle, is a deep delight to the blood. George Santayana, in The Life of Reason (1905–06)
  • Because arrogance is born in personal vanity, arrogant people are driven without mercy. They can never get enough power to fill the soul’s needs or enough respect to overcome the fear that they deserve less than they are getting. Lewis B. Smedes, in Love Within Limits (1978)

Smedes, a popular Christian author, was one of the earliest writers to make a connection between acting superior as a defense against feeling inferior. His book also contained these other observations on the subject:

“When vanity creates arrogance, it creates a monster.”

“The root cause of arrogance is pride, but between the two stands vanity. Pride leaves us vain, and vanity pushes us toward arrogance.”

“Since the arrogant person can think of power only in terms of being more powerful than other people, he will always be fearful that that somebody else will threaten his power. To cover his insecurity, he becomes even more arrogant, and is ready to use any means to make his power more secure.”

  • Arrogant and domineering people can’t stand the least, lightest, faintest breath of criticism. It just kills them. Booth Tarkington, the character Eugene Morgan speaking, in The Magnificent Ambersons (1918)

Eugene preceded the thought by saying: “In all my life, the most arrogant people that I’ve known have been the most sensitive. The people who have done the most in contempt of other people’s opinion, and who consider themselves the highest above it, have been the most furious if it went against them.”

  • An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person's main task in life—becoming a better person. Leo Tolstoy, in Path of Life (1909)
  • Arrogance really comes from insecurity, and in the end our feeling that we are bigger than others is really the flip side of our feeling that we are smaller than others. Desmond Tutu, in God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time (2004)
  • If arrogance is the heady wine of youth, then humility must be its eternal hangover. Helen Van Slyke, in Always Is Not Forever (1977)
  • Ignorance, arrogance, and racism have bloomed as Superior Knowledge in all too many universities. Alice Walker, “A Talk: Convocation 1972,” in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens (1983)
  • Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change. Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in the Chicago Tribune (Sep. 26, 2004)

ART

(see also [Modern] ART and [Work of] ART and ARTIST and ARTISTS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK and ARTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and PAINTING & PAINTERS and SCIENCE & ART and SCULPTURE & SCULPTORS)

  • Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Scott Adams, in Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain (2007)
  • Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one. Stella Adler, in Stella Adler on America’s Master Playwrights (2012)
  • Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth. Theodor Adorno, in Minima Moralia (1951)
  • True art selects and paraphrases, but seldom gives a verbatim translation. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, “Leaves From a Notebook,” in Ponkapog Papers (1903)
  • Art is an experience, not the formulation of a problem. Lindsay Anderson, quoted in The Times (London; March 29, 1989)
  • The object of art is to give life a shape, and to do it by every conceivable artifice. Jean Anouilh, the Count speaking, in The Rehearsal: A Play (1961, tr. By P. H. Johnson & K. Black); orig. La Répétition ou l’Amour puni (1950)

QUOTE NOTE: I’ve also seen the observation translated this way: “Life is very nice, but it lacks form. It’s the aim of art to give it some.”

  • Art is an adventure. When it ceases to be an adventure, it ceases to be art. Robert Ardrey, in The Hunting Hypothesis: A Personal Conclusion Concerning the Evolutionary Nature of Man (1976)

Ardrey continued: “Not all of us pursue the inaccessible landscapes of the twelve-tone scale, just as not all of us strive for inaccessible mountain-tops, or glory in storms at sea. But the human incidence is there. Could it be that these two impractical pursuits—of beauty and of adventure's embrace—are simply two differing profiles of the same uniquely human reality?”

  • Art is a fruit that grows in man, like a fruit on a plant, or a child in its mother’s womb. Jean Arp, quoted in Robert Motherwell, On My Way (1948)
  • The only real rival of love is Art, for that in itself is a deep personal passion, its function an act of creation, fed by some mysterious perversion of sex, and demanding all the imagination’s activities. Gertrude Atherton, in Julia France and Her Times (1912)
  • Art is born of humiliation. W. H. Auden, quoted in Stephen Spender, World Within World (1951)
  • Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead. W. H. Auden, in the New York Times Magazine (Aug. 8, 1971)
  • Art is man added to nature. Francis Bacon, quoted in Joseph Torrey, A Theory of Fine Art (1874)
  • All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. James Baldwin, in Nobody Knows My Name (1961)

Baldwin added: “All artists, if they are to survive, are forced at last to tell the whole story, to vomit the anguish up.”

  • The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers. James Baldwin, “The Creative Process,” in The National Cultural Center’s Creative America (1962); reprinted in The Price of the Ticket (1985)
  • What is Art…but Nature concentrated? Honoré de Balzac, in Lost Illusions (1837–1843)
  • The first mistake of Art is to assume that it’s serious. Lester Bangs, “James Taylor Marked For Death,” in Who Put the Bomb (Winter/Spring, 1971)
  • Do not imagine that Art is something which is designed to give gentle uplift and self-confidence. Julian Barnes, in Flaubert’s Parrot (1984)

Barnes added: “Art is not a brassière. At least, not in the English sense. But do not forget that brassière is the French for life-jacket.”

  • All expression, all art, is an indiscretion we commit against ourselves. This is not an “impoverishment” but an increase in wealth, for it is in this way that we make the short hours of our lives live on beyond themselves. Natalie Clifford Barney, “Scatterings” (1910), in A Perilous Advantage: The Best of Natalie Clifford Barney (1992; Anna Livia, ed.)

In another memorable line from the work, Barney wrote: “If only art were as rare as good taste.“

  • At the center of everything we call “the arts,” and children call “play,” is something which seems somehow alive. Lynda Barry, in What It Is (2008)
  • In art as in lovemaking, heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and so does heartless skill, but what you want is passionate virtuosity. John Barth, quoted in Charles B. Harris, Passionate Virtuosity: The Fiction of John Barth (1983)

QUOTE NOTE: The phrase passionate virtuosity, which Barth offered on a number of occasions over the years, became so singularly associated with him that Charles B. Harris selected it as the title of his 1983 critical study of Barth’s work (the Harris book also presented Barth’s most quotable version of the sentiment). Barth introduced the idea in an August, 1967 Atlantic Monthly article (“The Literature of Exhaustion”), in which he wrote: “My feeling about technique in art is that it has about the same value as technique in love-making. That is to say, on the one hand, heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and, on the other hand, so does heartless skill; but what you want is passionate virtuosity.” He reprised the sentiment in his 1972 novel Chimera, where he had The Genie say to another character: “Heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal, Dunyazade; so does heartless skill. But what you want is passionate virtuosity.”

  • The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure. Mikhail Baryshnikov, quoted in “Baryshnikov: Gotta Dance,” Time magazine (May 19, 1975)

Later in the article, Baryshnikov observed: “There comes a moment in a young artist’s life when he knows he has to bring something to the stage from within himself. He has to put in something in order to be able to take something out. Many performers are physically well trained but not morally disciplined and content onstage. They fall apart.” The full article may be seen at: "Gotta Dance"

  • Art distills sensation and embodies it with enhanced meaning in memorable form—or else it is not art. Jacques Barzun, in The House of Intellect (1959)
  • Art is an infinitely precious good, a draught both refreshing and cheering which restores the stomach and the mind to the natural equilibrium of the ideal. Charles Baudelaire, in Salon of 1846 (1846); reprinted in Art in Paris, 1845–1862 (1981)
  • A frenzied passion for art is a canker that devours everything else. Charles Baudelaire, originally in an 1852 French publication, reprinted in Complete Works (1976)
  • It is the end of art to inoculate men with the love of nature. Henry Ward Beecher, in Star Papers, or, Experiences of Art and Nature (1855)

Beecher added: “But those who have a passion for nature in the natural way, need no pictures nor galleries. Spring is their designer, and the whole year their artist.”

  • Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great Goddess? Ludwig van Beethoven, in letter to Bettina von Arnim (Aug. 11, 1810)
  • No one should drive a hard bargain with an artist. Ludwig Van Beethoven, in a letter to a friend (June 5, 1822)
  • Art and Religion are, then, two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstasy. Clive Bell, in Art (1914)

Bell added: “Between aesthetic and religious rapture there is a family alliance. Art and Religion are means to similar states of mind.”

  • Art is the big yes. In art, you get a chance to make something where there was nothing. Marvin Bell, quoted in Garrison Keillor, The Writer’s Almanac (Aug. 3, 2012)

Bell, a poet who taught at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop for forty years, was named the first poet laureate of the state of Iowa in 2000. He began his observation this way: “Much of our lives involves the word ‘no.’ In school we are mostly told, ‘Don’t do it this way. Do it that way.’” Bell might have been inspired by an observation from Gore Vidal, to be found below in (WORK OF) ART.

  • Art strives for form, and hopes for beauty. George Bellows, quoted in Stanley Walker, City Editor (1934)
  • Art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness that characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction. Saul Bellow, in Paris Review interview (Winter, 1966)

QUOTE NOTE: John Cheever, in the introduction to The Short Stories of John Cheever (1978) may have been inspired by this Bellow observation when he said more succinctly: “Art is the triumph over chaos.”

  • If Freud was right in saying that happiness is nothing more than the remission of habitual suffering, then it may be legitimate to say that art, in bringing relief from the absurd strivings of consciousness, from the enslaving superego, frees us for aesthetic bliss. Saul Bellow, in “The Distracted Public,” a 1990 Romanes Lecture at Oxford University; reprinted in It All Adds Up: From the Dim Past to the Uncertain Future (1994)

Later in the lecture, Bellow said: “If the remission of pain is happiness, then the emergence from distraction is aesthetic bliss.”

  • And what is art anyway but a way of seeing? Thomas Berger, an observation from the character Siv Zirko, in Being Invisible: A Novel (1987)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly present the quotation without the word anyway.

  • Art obeys the opposite of Gresham's law: Quality drives out quantity. Daniel Boorstin, in Hidden History (48)
  • Art is the only thing that can go on mattering once it has stopped hurting. Elizabeth Bowen, in The Heat of the Day (1949)
  • Art is an invitation to heightened attention. Carl Bowers, the Silver Medal-winning entry in “Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week” 2020 Art Metaphor Quotation Competition
  • Art is meant to disturb, science reassures. Georges Braque, journal entry, in Le Jour et la nuit: Cahiers 1917–52 (1952)
  • Art hurts. Art urges voyages—/and it is easier to stay at home. Gwendolyn Brooks, in “The Chicago Picasso” (1967)
  • Art is a refining and evocative translation of the materials of the world. Gwendolyn Brooks, in A Capsule Course in Black Poetry Writing (1975)
  • I believe in art that conceals art. Rita Mae Brown, in Starting From Scratch (1988)
  • Art is the perfection of nature…nature is the art of God. Sir Thomas Browne, in Religio Medici (1643)
  • What is art,/But life upon the larger scale. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in Aurora Leigh (1857)
  • Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don’t want it. Anthony Burgess, quoted in Face magazine (Dec. 1984)
  • What critics often ask for is the impossible, though this may be a salutary means of extending the borders of art. Anthony Burgess, in You’ve Had Your Time (1990)
  • The youth of an art is, like the youth of anything else, its most interesting period. Samuel Butler, in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • Every art is a church without communicants, presided over by a parish of the respectable. An artist is born kneeling; he fights to stand. Hortense Calisher, in Herself (1972)
  • Art is born in attention. Its midwife is detail. Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (1992)
  • After all, perhaps the greatness of art lies in the perpetual tension between beauty and pain, the love of men and the madness of creation, unbearable solitude and the exhausting crowd, rejection and consent, Albert Camus, “The Artist and His Time,” in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (1961)
  • Out of various forms of personal catastrophe comes art, if you’re lucky. Rosanne Cash, in Composed (2010)
  • For me, art is a more trustworthy expression of God than religion. Rosanne Cash, in Composed (2010)
  • What was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mold in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself—life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose. Willa Cather, a reflection of protagonist Thea Kronborg, in The Song of the Lark (1915)
  • Her secret? It is every artist’s secret…passion [ellipsis in original]. That is all. It is an open secret, and perfectly safe. Like heroism, it is inimitable in cheap materials. Willa Cather, the character Mr. Harsanyi reflecting on Thea’s secret, in The Song of the Lark (1915)
  • Art must spring out of the fullness and richness of life.

Willa Cather, in a 1921 interview, quoted in L. Brent Bohlke, Willa Cather in Person (1986)

Cather introduced the thought by saying: “Many people seem to think that art is a luxury to be imported and tacked on to life. Art springs out of the very stuff that life is made of.”

  • Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers. Willa Cather, in On Writing (1949)
  • Art…asserts the possibility of fellowship in a world built entirely from the materials of solitude. Michael Chabon, “The Loser’s Club,” in Manhood for Amateurs (2000)

Chabon added: “The novelist, the cartoonist, the songwriter, knows that the gesture is doomed from the beginning but makes it anyway, flashes his or her bit of mirror, not on the chance that the signal will be seen or understood but as if such a chance existed.”

  • Art seems to me above all a state of soul. Marc Chagall, in My Life (1922)
  • In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. Raymond Chandler, in The Simple Art of Murder (1950)
  • There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Raymond Chandler, in The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler (1976)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation appeared under the heading “Great Thought.” Chandler continued: “Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other. Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.”

  • Art is Nature speeded up and God slowed down. Malcolm de Chazal, in Sens plastique (1948)
  • Art is the triumph over chaos. John Cheever, in Introduction to The Short Stories of John Cheever (1978)
  • We talk of art as something artificial in comparison with life. But I sometimes fancy that the very highest art is more real than life itself. G. K. Chesterton, “A Defense of Humility,” in The Defendant (1902)
  • Art is the signature of man. G. K. Chesterton, in The Everlasting Man (1925)
  • If art speaks clearly about something relevant to people's lives it can change the way they perceive reality. Judy Chicago, quoted in Betsey Beaven et. al., The Political Palate (1980)
  • Art is to beauty what honor is to honesty. Winston Churchill, quoted in Randolph S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill: Youth, 1874-1900 (1966)
  • Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse. Winston Churchill, in speech to Royal Academy of Arts (May 11, 1953)
  • To be first-rate at anything you have to stake your all. Nobody's an artist “on the side.” Eleanor Clark, in Eyes, Etc. (1977)
  • All great art comes from a sense of outrage. Glenn Close, quoted in Nina Darnton, “Glen Closer,” More magazine (June, 2002)

More than a decade earlier, in a December 1991 issue of Us magazine, Close had offered a similar thought: “I’ve always felt that behind any great creation, there’s a sense of outrage. I don’t think complacent people can do disturbing art.”

  • Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious. Jean Cocteau, in Paris Review interview (Summer-Fall, 1964)
  • Art is science made clear. Jean Cocteau, originally in a 1926 French publication, reprinted in Collected Works (1950)
  • There is no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall. Cyril Connolly, “The Charlock’s Shade,” in Enemies of Promise and Other Essays (1938)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly present the observation as if it ended pram in the hallway.

  • The reward of art is not fame or success but intoxication. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1944; revised 1951)

QUOTE NOTE: Many anthologies and internet sites present only this portion of Connolly’s art-as-intoxication metaphor, leaving out the memorable conclusion: “that is why so many bad artists are unable to give it up.”

  • Any work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line. Joseph Conrad, in the Preface to The Nigger of Narcissus (1897)

Conrad continued: “Art itself may be defined as a single-minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the visible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying its every aspect.”

  • Art is an absolute mistress; she will not be coquetted with or slighted; she requires the most entire self-devotion, and she repays with grand triumphs. Charlotte Cushman, quoted in Emma Stebbin, Charlotte Cushman (1879)
  • Art, as far as it is able, follows nature, as a pupil imitates his master. Thus your art must be, as it were, God’s grandchild. Dante Alighieri, “The Inferno,” The Divine Comedy (1310-21)
  • Experience is wine, and art is the brandy we distill from it. Robertson Davies, in A Mixture of Frailties (1979)

Davies described the process as “Art’s distillation.” See the similar quote by Jacques Barzun earlier.

  • Art is vice. You don’t marry it legitimately, you rape it. Edgar Degas, quoted in Paul Lafond, Degas (1918)

QUOTE NOTE: Not surprisingly, this observation has been controversial. For a pithy rebuttal, see the Susan Sontag observation below.

  • As long as art is the beauty parlor of civilization, neither art nor civilization is secure. John Dewey, in Art as Experience (1934)

QUOTE NOTE: Dewey’s point was that art should be more democratic and accessible, a part and parcel of everyday human experience—and not something restricted to sophisticates who live and work in the seclusion of ivory towers.

  • Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. John Dewey, in Time and Individuality (1940)

Dewey continued: “Those who have the gift of creative expression in unusually large measure disclose the meaning of the individuality of others to those others. In participating in the work of art, they become artists in their activity. They learn to know and honor individuality in whatever form it appears. The fountains of creative activity are discovered and released. The free individuality which is the source of art is also the final source of creative development in time.”

  • Art is like an ill-trained Labrador retriever that drags you out into traffic. Annie Dillard

ERROR ALERT: This is how the quotation appears on scores of web sites, but it is not how Dillard originally expressed the thought. It is an abridgment of what she wrote about the creations of artists in Living by Fiction (1983): “The art object is always passive in relation to its audience. It is alarmingly active, however, in relation to its creator. Far from being like a receptacle in which you, the artist, drop your ideas, and far from being like a lump of clay which you pummel until it fits your notion of an ashtray, the art object is more like an enthusiastic and ill-trained Labrador retriever which yanks you into traffic.”

  • Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail. Theodore Dreiser, in Life, Art, and America (1917)
  • Art is the most passionate orgy within man’s grasp. Jean Dubuffet, a 1946 observation, later reprinted in Mildred Glimcher, Jean Dubuffet (1987)

QUOTE NOTE: The observation has also been translated: “Art is the most frenzied orgy man is capable of.”

  • The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. Will Durant, in The Story of Philosophy (1926)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Aristotle.

  • When art finds no temple open, it takes refuge in the workshop. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880)
  • If Art does not enlarge men’s sympathies, it does nothing morally. George Eliot, in an 1859 letter to Charles Bray, in The George Eliot Letters, Vol. 3 (1954; Gordon S. Haight, ed.)
  • All art is concerned with the creation of an emotional reaction on the part of the beholder. Maren Elwood, in Characters Make Your Story (1942)
  • Art is the path of the creator to his work. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
  • Art is a jealous mistress. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Wealth,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)

Emerson added: “And, if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider.” George Bernard Shaw picked up on the theme in Man and Superman (1903), when he had the character Tanner say: “The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.” See also the earlier Cushman quotation and the related ARTIST quotation by Faulkner.

  • All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography. Federico Fellini, in The Atlantic (December, 1965)
  • Great art is the contempt of a great man for small art. F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Notebook L,” in The Crack-Up (1945; Edmund Wilson, ed.)
  • Art is a protest against death. Audrey Flack, in Audrey Flack on Painting (1981)
  • Human life is a sad show, undoubtedly; ugly, heavy, and complex. Art has no other end, for people of feeling, than to conjure away the burden and bitterness. Gustave Flaubert, in letter to Amelie Bosquet (July 1864)
  • To make us feel small in the right way is a function of art. E. M. Forster, “A Book That Influenced Me,” in Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)

Forster continued: “Men can only make us feel small in the wrong way.”

  • Art is significant deformity. Roger Fry, quoted in Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry (1940)
  • Always Art is Art, only by presenting an adequate outward symbol of some fact in the interior life. Margaret Fuller, in an 1847 issue of the New-York Daily Tribune (specific date undetermined)
  • Art gropes, it stalks like a hunter lost in the woods, listening to itself and to everything around it, unsure of itself, waiting to pounce. John W. Gardner, in On Moral Fiction (1979)
  • Art reminds us that we are not condemned to inhabit only a single version of reality. Nancy C. Gates Meyer, the Bronze Medal-winning entry in “Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week” 2020 Art Metaphor Quotation Competition
  • Art is either plagiarism or revolution. Paul Gauguin, quoted in James Huneker, The Pathos of Distance (1913)

QUOTE NOTE: In a number of recent quotation anthologies, the observation has been presented: “Art is either a revolutionist or a plagiarist.”

  • Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better. André Gide, in Autumn Leaves (1941)
  • Art is a step in the known toward the unknown. Kahlil Gibran, in Spiritual Sayings of Kahlil Gibran (1963)
  • Art is skill, that is the first meaning of the word. Eric Gill, in Art (1934)
  • Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self. Jean-Luc Godard, “What is Cinema?” in Godard on Godard: Critical Writings (1972; J. Narboni & T. Milne, eds.)
  • Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another. Seth Godin, in Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (2010)
  • In art the best is good enough. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a journal entry (March, 1787), Italian Journey (1816)
  • Art is partly communication but only partly. The rest is discovery. William Golding, the protagonist Samuel Mountjoy speaking, in Free Fall (1959)
  • Just as science is the intellect of the world, art is its soul. Maxim Gorky, in Untimely Thoughts (1968)
  • The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity. Glenn Gould, quoted in Peter F. Ostwald, Glenn Gould: The Ecstasy and Tragedy of Genius (1998)
  • Art is the accomplice of love. Take love away and there is no longer art. Remy de Gourmont, in Le Chemin de Velours (1902); reprinted in in Decadence: And Other Essays on the Culture of Ideas (1921; tr. by W. A. Bradley)

Gourmont introduced the thought by writing: “Aesthetic emotion puts man in a state favorable to the reception of erotic emotion.”

  • Art…is the flower of life and, as seed, it gives back life. Rémy de Gourmont, in Selected Writings (1966)
  • Art is accusation, expression, passion. Art is a fight to the finish between black charcoal and white paper. Günter Grass, Professor Kuchen speaking, in The Tin Drum (1959)
  • Art is so wonderfully irrational, exuberantly pointless, but necessary all the same. Günter Grass, in interview in New Statesman & Society (June 22, 1990)

Grass continued: “Pointless and yet necessary, that's hard for a puritan to understand.”

  • Great art is the expression of a solution of the conflict between the demands of the world without and that within. Edith Hamilton, in The Greek Way (1930)
  • Art is not escape, but a way of finding order in chaos, a way of confronting life. Robert Hayden, in Collected Prose: Robert Hayden (1984; Frederick Glaysher, ed.)
  • Art is, after all, only a trace—like a footprint which shows that one has walked bravely and in great happiness. Robert Henri, in The Art Spirit (1923)

Henri’s book, a collection of his thoughts about art and life, also contained this observation: “No nation as yet is the home of art. Art is an outsider, a gypsy over the face of the earth.”

  • The highest art…sets down its creations and trusts in their magic, without fear of not being understood. Hermann Hesse, in Reflections (1974; V. Michels, ed.)
  • Art is to the soul as love is to the heart. Doug Hickey, the Gold Medal-winning entry in “Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week” 2020 Art Metaphor Quotation Competition
  • Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus. David Hockney, quoted in The Guardian (London; Oct. 26, 1988)
  • The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is—it is to imagine what is possible. Bell Hooks, in Outlaw Culture (1994)
  • I cry out for order and find it only in art. Helen Hayes, in On Reflection, An Autobiography (1968)
  • Art is the solution of a problem which cannot be expressed explicitly until it is solved. Piet Hein, quoted in Jim Hicks, “Piet Hein Bestrides Art and Science,” in Life magazine (Oct. 14, 1966); later reprinted in Grooks (1966)
  • There is/one art,/no more,/no less:/to do’all things/with art-/lessness. Piet Hein, quoted in Jim Hicks, “Piet Hein Bestrides Art and Science,” in Life magazine (Oct. 14, 1966); later reprinted in Grooks (1966)
  • Art is not a thing: it is a way. Elbert Hubbard, in One Thousand and One Epigrams (1911)
  • Money and art/are far apart. Langston Hughes, “Plaint” (1955); in The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (1994; A. Rampersad & D. Roessel, eds.)
  • The aim of art is almost divine: to bring to life again if it is writing history, to create if it is writing poetry.

Victor Hugo, in Preface to the play Cromwell (Oct., 1827)

QUOTE NOTE. In the Preface, which went on to become a kind of manifesto of the Romantic Movement, Hugo also wrote: “Mediocrity has no existence so far as art is concerned; art supplies wings not crutches.”

  • That fine problem of art—the finest of all, perhaps— truly to depict humanity by the enlargement of man: that is, to generate the real in the ideal.* Victor Hugo, in William Shakespeare (1864)
  • Art is to man what nature is to God. Victor Hugo, in Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Biography: Postscriptum De Ma Vie (pub. posthumously 1901)

The book also contained these other observations on the subject:

“Art moves. Hence its civilizing power.”

“In the domain of art there is no light without heat.”

“Civilization is exhaled from art as perfume from the flower.”

  • Dear God! How beauty varies in nature and art. In a woman the flesh must be like marble; in a statue the marble must be like flesh. Victor Hugo, “Utility of the Beautiful,” in Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Biography: Postscriptum De Ma Vie (pub. posthumously 1901). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Great art is an instant arrested in eternity. James Gibbons Huneker, in The Pathos of Distance (1913)
  • Art always has an ax to grind. Ada Louise Huxtable, in Architecture, Anyone? (1986)

Huxtable preceded the thought by writing: “Every age cuts and pastes history to suit its own purposes.”

  • Art requires, above all things, a suppression of self, a subordination of one’s self to an idea. Henry James, “Walt Whitman, Drum-Taps,” in The Nation (Nov. 16,1865)
  • Art without life is a poor affair. Henry James, in The Art of Fiction (1888)
  • In art economy is always beauty Henry James, in Preface to a 1909 edition of The Altar of the Dead (first published in Terminations (1895)

ERROR ALERT: This observation is commonly presented as, “In art economy is always beautiful.”

  • It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance. Henry James, in letter to H. G. Wells (specific date undetermined)
  • Art hath an enemy called ignorance. Ben Johnson, the character Asper speaking, in Every Man Out of His Humour (1599)
  • Art is essentially divine play, not dogged work. Erica Jong, in Parachutes & Kisses (1984)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation often appears, but it was originally part of the following larger observation: “Perfectionism is the enemy of art. Since art is essentially divine play, not dogged work, it often happens that as one becomes more professionally driven one also becomes less capriciously playful.”

  • Art keeps one young, I think, because it keeps one perpetually a beginner, perpetually a child. Erica Jong, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Jessica Pruitt, in Shylock’s Daughter [formerly titled Serenissima] (1987)
  • Art is always an energy exchange. Erica Jong, in The Devil at Large: Erica Jong on Henry Miller (1993)
  • Art is not advocacy and advocacy is not art. Erica Jong, “Lolita Turns Thirty,” in What Do Women Want? (1998)
  • Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end, James Joyce, the character Stephen Dedalus speaking, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
  • Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. Carl Jung, in Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933)
  • There is, in any art, a tendency to turn one’s own preferences into a monomaniac theory. Pauline Kael, in I Lost It at the Movies (1965)
  • We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. John F. Kennedy, in a speech at Amherst College (Oct. 26, 1963)
  • Art, that great undogmatized church. Ellen Key, in The Renaissance of Motherhood (1914)
  • Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around. Stephen King, in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000)
  • Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible. Paul Klee, “Creative Credo” (1920), in The Inward Vision (1958)
  • The more minimal the art, the more maximum the explanation. Hilton Kramer, quoted in Marilyn Bender, The Beautiful People (1967)
  • Art serves to rinse out our eyes. Karl Kraus, in Dicta and Contradicta (2001; orig. pub. 1909 as Sprüche und Widersprüche [Sayings and Gainsayings])
  • Art’s natural enemy—and man’s—is chaos. Today art is our most advanced attempt to map out our chaos so we can avoid disappearing into it. Jack Kroll, in “Arts in America,” a 1973 special issue of Newsweek; recalled in his New York Times obituary (June 9, 2000)
  • In art there are tears that do often lie too deep for thoughts. Louis Kronenberger, in Company Manners: A Cultural Inquiry Into American Life (1954)

QUOTE NOTE: Here, Kronenberger is playing off the concluding lines of William Wordsworth’s ode: “Intimations of Immortality” (c. 1804): “To me the meanest flower that blows can give/Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.” Kronenberger had preceded his spin-off by writing, “In art the reverse of Wordsworth’s saying is also true and immensely important.”

  • Art is that chalice into which we pour the wine of transcendence. Stanley Kunitz, “Speaking of Poetry” (written “Instead of a Foreword”), in Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected (1995)
  • Brave art…the best sense we can make of our time. Tony Kushner, quoted by John Lahr, in “After Angels,” The New Yorker magazine (Jan. 3, 2005)
  • To be great, art has to point somewhere. Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1995)
  • Art is the objectification of feeling and the subjectification of nature. Susanne K. Langer, in Mind: An Essay of Human Feeling (1967)
  • Very few people possess true artistic ability. It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort. If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass. Fran Lebowitz, in Metropolitan Life (1974)
  • Art, like sex, cannot be carried on indefinitely solo; after all, they have the same enemy, sterility. Ursula K. Le Guin, “A Citizen of Mondath,” in Language of the Night (1979)
  • Art and Entertainment are the same thing, in that the more deeply and genuinely entertaining a work is, the better art it is. Ursula K. Le Guin, in Language of the Night (1979)

Le Guin continued: “To imply that Art is something heavy and solemn and dull, and Entertainment is modest but jolly and popular, is neo-Victorian idiocy at its worst.”

  • Art is not a special sauce applied to ordinary cooking; it is the cooking itself if it is good. W. R. Lethaby, “Art and Workmanship,” in Form in Civilization: Collected Papers on Art and Labour (1922)
  • To interest is the first duty of art; no other excellences will ever begin to compensate for failure in this. C. S. Lewis, “Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem,” in Selected Literary Essays (1942)
  • Art is power. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in Hyperion (1839)
  • Art is long, Time is fleeting. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in Hyperion (1839)

Here, Longfellow is playing off the familiar Latin proverb Ars longa, vita brevis (Art is long,life is short”).

  • Art is the gift of God, and must be used unto his glory. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in Michael Angelo (pub. posthumously in 1889)
  • Art, true art, is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in. Amy Lowell, in Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (1917)
  • Art is a revolt against fate. André Malraux, in The Voices of Silence (1951)
  • The only domain where the divine is visible is that of art, whatever name we choose to call it. André Malraux, in The Metamorphosis of the Gods (1957)
  • Art can excite, titillate, please, entertain, and sometimes shock; but its ultimate function is to ennoble. Marya Mannes, in More in Anger (1958)
  • I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you’re an idiot. Steve Martin, a Facebook post (Nov. 27, 2011)
  • Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue. Henri Matisse

QUOTATION CAUTION: One of Matisse’s most famous observations, this is how it is typically presented. But it appears to be a condensation of a larger thought, originally written in “Notes of a Painter,” a 1908 essay in Paris’s La Grande Review: “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or disturbing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman was well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

  • Art…is merely the refuge which the ingenious have invented, when they were supplied with food and women, to escape the tediousness of life. W. Somerset Maugham, in Of Human Bondage (1915)
  • Art, unless it leads to right action, is no more than the opium of an intelligentsia. W. Somerset Maugham, playing off the familiar Karl Marx observation about religion, in A Writer’s Notebook (1949)
  • I think of Art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system, that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it. Marshall McLuhan, in Understanding Media (1964)

Elizabeth Janeway echoed the theme in Between Myth and Morning: Women Awakening (1974): “For what society requires from art . . . is that it function as an early warning system.”

  • Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island (1955)

Following this lovely example of oxymoronic phrasing Merton added: “The mind that responds to the intellectual and spiritual values that lie hidden in a poem, a painting, or a piece of music, discovers a spiritual vitality that lifts it above itself, takes it out of itself, and makes it present to itself on a level of being that it did not know it could ever achieve.”

  • Art is not an end in itself. It introduces the soul into a higher spiritual order, which it expresses and in some sense explains. Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island (1955)

Merton continued: “Music and art and poetry attune the soul to God because they induce a kind of contact with the Creator and Ruler of the Universe.”

  • The more perfect the approximation to truth, the more perfect is art. Maria Montessori, in Spontaneous Activity in Education (1917)
  • Art is not Nature, art is Nature digested. Art is a sublime excrement. George Moore, in Confessions of a Young Man (1886)
  • If the real world is orange juice, then art is like orange-juice concentrate. Martin Mull, in “20 Questions with Martin Mull,” Playboy magazine (April, 1984)

Mull began by saying: “Most visual art is, to some extent, distillation. You’ve drawn perimeters; the canvas gives you a top, bottom, and sides. But those edges aren’t there when you walk down the street.”

  • Art is the final cunning of the human soul which would rather do anything than face the gods. Iris Murdoch, “Art and Eros,” in Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues (1986)
  • All art deals with the absurd and aims at the simple. Good art speaks truth, indeed is truth, perhaps the only truth. Iris Murdoch, “Bradley Pearson’s Foreword,” in The Black Prince (1973)
  • All art is the struggle to be, in a particular sort of way, virtuous. Iris Murdoch, the voice of protagonist Bradley Pearson, in The Black Prince (1973)

ERROR ALERT: Many quotation anthologies mistakenly have a instead of the struggle.

  • Art tells the only truth that ultimately matters. It is the light by which human things can be mended. And after art there is, let me assure you all, nothing. Iris Murdoch, the closing words of the novel, from the character P. Loxias, in The Black Prince (1973)
  • Art is an epiphany in a coffee cup. Elizabeth Murray, quoted in I. Sandler, Art of the Postmodern Era (1996)
  • Beauty plus pity—this is the closest we can get to a definition of art. Vladimir Nabokov, discussing Kafka’s Metamorphosis, in Lectures on Literature (1980)
  • Art is a reaching out into the ugliness of the world for vagrant beauty and the imprisoning of it in a tangible form. George Jean Nathan, in The Critic and the Drama (1922).
  • Great art is as irrational as great music. It is mad with its own loveliness. George Jean Nathan, “Intelligence and Drama,” in The American Mercury (December 1925); reprinted in The World of George Jean Nathan: Essays, Reviews, & Commentary (1998; C. S. Angoff, ed.)
  • Art is the sex of the imagination. George Jean Nathan, “Art and Criticism,” in The World in Falseface (1923); reprinted in The American Mercury magazine (July, 1926)

Nathan preceded the thought by writing, “To speak of morals in art is to speak of legislature in sex.”

  • Art raises its head where creeds relax. Friedrich Nietzsche, in Human, All Too Human (1878)
  • Truth is ugly: We have art lest we perish from the truth. Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Will to Power (1888)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation is now often presented in the following translation: “We have art in order not to die of the truth.”

  • We have art in order not to die of the truth. Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted in Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)

ERROR ALERT: Many quotation anthologies and internet sites mistakenly have Camus saying: “We have art in order not to die of life.”

  • Art is the method of levitation, in order to separate one’s self from enslavement by the earth. Anaïs Nin, in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. Five, 1947–1955 (1974)

Nin added: “The earth demands servitude from us, menial tasks, earthy tasks, every day, every hour, and only at this moment at which we discard the servitude and enter the world of the spirit through music or painting or writing are we free.”

  • Art transcends its limitations only by staying within them. Flannery O’Connor, quoted in Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, Mystery and Manners (1969)
  • Filling a space in a beautiful way—that is what art means to me. Georgia O’Keeffe, in Art News (1997)
  • Take a quart of nature, boil it down to a pint, and the residue is art. Austin O’Malley, in Keystones of Thought (1914)
  • Art is a form of catharsis. Dorothy Parker, in the 1928 poem “Coda.”
  • Art is not to throw light but be light. Kenneth Patchen, in Sleepers Awake (1946)
  • All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music. Walter Pater, “The School of Giorgione,” in Studies in the History of The Renaissance (1873)
  • It is the addition of strangeness to beauty that constitutes the romantic character in art. Walter Pater, “Postscript,” in Appreciation (1889)
  • Art is indeed not the bread but the wine of life. Jean Paul (pen name of Johann Paul Richter), quoted in C. Reynolds, The Banquet Book (1902)
  • We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth. Pablo Picasso, in The Arts (May, 1923)
  • Art…washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. Pablo Picasso, commonly attributed

ERROR ALERT: In this widely-quoted line, Picasso clearly “borrowed” (and might even have plagiarized) a magnificent metaphor from Berthold Auerbach: “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” See the Auerbach entry in MUSIC & MUSICIANS for more.

QUOTE NOTE: In almost all anthologies, the Picasso quotation is presented without the ellipsis, but in European Erotic Art (1972), Francis Carr presented a fuller version: “Art is the best possible introduction to the culture of the world. I love it for the buried hopes, the garnered memories, the tender feelings it can summon at a touch. It washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” I have recently learned that this observation has also lifted key phrases from L. E. Landon’s 1831 novel Romance and Reality (see the Landon entry in MUSIC & MUSICIANS). I now view the entire Picasso observation as erroneous, and believe it might even be regarded as a hoax). Many thanks to Garson O’Toole, the Quote Investigator, for pointing out the similarity between the Landon and Picasso quotations.

  • Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term “Art,” I should call it “the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.” Edgar Allan Poe, in “Marginalia” (1844)

QUOTE NOTE: Both Cézanne and Gauguin were familiar with Poe’s observation, and even adopted it as a kind of motto. As a result, the quotation is often mistakenly attributed to both of them. Regarding the value of looking at things through a veil, Poe explained: “Something of the kind appears indispensable in Art. We can, at any time, double the true beauty of an actual landscape by half closing our eyes as we look at it. The naked Senses sometimes see too little—but then always they see too much.” See also the similar WORK OF ART quotation by Émile Zola.

  • The greatest art comes out of warmth and conviction and deep feeling, but then, very few people, even geniuses, have all that. Katherine Anne Porter, in a letter to Paulo Porter (Aug. 28, 1943), in Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990; Isabel Bayley, ed.)
  • Emotional art is a kind of illness. Giacomo Puccini, in letter to Giuseppe Adami (Nov. 10 1920)
  • Art is the indispensable medium for the communication of a moral ideal. Ayn Rand, in The Romantic Manifesto (1969)
  • Art is too serious to be taken seriously. Ad Reinhardt, quoted in Lucy R. Lippard, Ad Reinhardt (1981)
  • Art is never didactic, does not take kindly to facts, is helpless to grapple with theories, and is killed outright by a sermon. Agnes Repplier, “Fiction in the Pulpit,” in Points of View (1891)
  • While art may instruct as well as please, it can nevertheless be true art without instructing, but not without pleasing. Agnes Repplier, “Pleasure: A Heresy,” in Points of View (1891)
  • Compared to art, all other professions are but chores. T. L. Rese, in a personal communication to the compiler (Feb. 6, 2018)
  • Art: to nudge truth along a little. Jules Renard, journal entry (September, 1908)
  • The big art is our life. M. C. Richards, in Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person (25th Anniversary Edition; 1989)
  • Art happens when a person of talent is seized with nervous energy and discovers that he or she has nothing to do except create. Laurence Shames, the voice of the narrator, in Scavenger Reef (1994)
  • It is not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. Robert D. Richardson, paraphrasing Henry David Thoreau, in Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind (1986)

ERROR ALERT: This observation, which is often mistakenly attributed to Henry David Thoreau, is in fact quite similar to an actual Thoreau observation (see his entry below)

  • Art too is just a way of living, and however one lives, one can, without knowing, prepare for it. Rainer Maria Rilke, in letter to Franz Xaver Kappus (Dec. 26, 1908); published posthumously in Letters to a Young Poet (1929)

He continued: “In everything real one is closer to it, more its neighbor, than in the unreal half-artistic professions, which, while they pretend to be close to art, in practice deny and attack the existence of all art—as, for example, all of journalism does and almost all criticism and three quarters of what is called (and wants to be called) literature.”

  • Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further. Rainer Maria Rilke, in letter to his wife (June 24, 1907); reprinted in Rilke’s Letters on Cézanne (1952; Clara Rilke, ed.)
  • In the haunted house of life, art is the only stair that doesn’t creak. Tom Robbins, in Skinny Legs and All (1990)
  • Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit by which Nature herself is animated. Auguste Rodin, in L’Art: Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell [Art: Interviews Brought Together by Paul Gsell] (1911; trans. in 1912 by Romilly Fedden

A moment later, Rodin went on to add: “Art is the most sublime mission of Man, since it is the expression of thought seeking to understand the world and to make it understood.”

  • Whatever may be the means, or whatever the more immediate end of any kind of art, all of it that is good…is the expression of one soul talking to another, and is precious according to the greatness of the soul that utters it. John Ruskin, in Stones of Venice, Vol. III (1853)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites mistakenly present the following abridged version of the thought: “All that is good in art is the expression of one soul talking to another, and is precious according to the greatness of the soul that utters it.”

  • Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together. John Ruskin, “The Unity of Art” lecture, in The Two Paths (1859)
  • All great art is the work of the whole living creature, body and soul, and chiefly of the soul. John Ruskin, in The Stones of Venice, Vol. III (1853)
  • What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, quoted in Frank Muir, The Frank Muir Book: An Irreverent Companion to Social History (1976)
  • Art must take reality by surprise. Françoise Sagan, in Paris Review interview (August, 1956)
  • Art is not a study of positive reality; it is a search after ideal truth. George Sand, “The Author to the Reader,” in first chapter of The Devil's Pool (1851; also published in English under the title The Haunted Pool)
  • Art belongs to all times and to all countries; its special benefit is precisely to be still living when everything else seems dying. George Sand, in an 1863 letter, in Letters of George Sand, Vol. 2 (1886; Raphaël Ledos de Beaufort, ed.)
  • Art, for the sake of art itself, is an idle sentence. Art, for the sake of truth, for the sake of what is beautiful and good, that is the creed I seek. George Sand, in letter to Gustave Flaubert (April 9, 1872); reprinted in Letters of George Sand, Vol. 3 (1886, R. L. de Beaufort, ed.)
  • Art is the response to the demand for entertainment, for the stimulation of our senses and imagination, and truth enters into it only as it subserves these ends. George Santayana, in The Sense of Beauty (1896)
  • The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited. William Saroyan, quoted in Manhattan memorial service, reported in The New York Times (Oct. 31, 1983)
  • Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable. George Bernard Shaw, the character Ecrasia speaking, in Back to Methuselah (1921)

A bit later, after the character Acis disparages the “make-believe” quality of art, Ecrasia spoke for countless numbers of artists throughout history when she replies: “You have no right to say that I am not sincere. I have found a happiness in art that real life has never given me. I am intensely in earnest about art. There is is a magic and mystery in art that you know nothing of.”

  • Art is the magic mirror you make to reflect your invisible dreams in visible pictures. You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul. George Bernard Shaw, the character the She-Ancient speaking, in Back to Methuselah (1921)
  • Art thaws even the frozen, darkened soul, opening it to lofty spiritual experience. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “The Gift of Art,” his 1970 Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Solzhenitsyn added: “Through Art we are sometimes sent—indistinctly, briefly—revelations not to be achieved by rational thought. It is like that small mirror in the fairy tales—you glance in it and what you see is not yourself; for an instant, you glimpse the Inaccessible, where no horse or magic carpet can take you. And the soul cries out for it.”

  • Art is seduction, not rape. Susan Sontag, in Against Interpretation (1966)

QUOTE NOTE: See the earlier Degas observation which stimulated this line.

  • Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. Susan Sontag, the title essay (1964), in Against Interpretation (1966)
  • The moral pleasure in art, as well as the moral service that art performs, consists in the intelligent gratification of consciousness. Susan Sontag, “On Style” (1965), in Against Interpretation (1966)
  • The purpose of art is always, ultimately, to give pleasure— though our sensibilities may take time to catch up with the forms of pleasure that art in a given time may offer. Susan Sontag, “On Style” (1965), in Against Interpretation (1966)

In that same essay, Sontag wrote: “The most potent elements in a work of art are, often, its silences.”

  • Unfortunately, moral beauty in art—like physical beauty in a person—is extremely perishable. Susan Sontag, “Camus’ Notebooks” (1963), Against Interpretation (1966)
  • Art is a form of consciousness. Susan Sontag, a 1964 remark, quoted in David Rieff, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh (2012)
  • The history of art is a sequence of successful transgressions. Susan Sontag, “The Aesthetics of Silence,” in Styles of Radical Will (1969)

See also the related “transgression” thought by E. L. Doctorow in [Work of] ART.

  • A part of all art is to make silence speak. The things left out in painting, the note withheld in music, the void in architecture—all are as necessary and as active as the utterance itself. Freya Stark, “On Silence,” in The Cornhill Magazine (Autumn, 1966)
  • Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization. Lincoln Steffens, quoted in The Forbes Scrapbook of Thoughts on the Business of Life (1950)
  • There is truth and that should form the basis for all art. Alfred Stieglitz, in American Amateur Photographer (1893)
  • Art is the affirmation of life. Alfred Stieglitz, quoted by Ansel Adams, in Playboy magazine interview (May 1983)
  • Art is about human growth. Keeping this growth process alive in ourselves both by making art and by looking at art is a wonderful way to keep us alive to life and to deepen its meaning. Alexandra Stoddard, in Gracious Living in a New World (1996)

In the book, Stoddard also wrote: “When an object is made by skilled hands, it has a soul that is felt.”

  • Art’s a staple, like bread or wine or a warm coat in winter. Those who think it is a luxury have only a fragment of a mind. Man’s spirit grows hungry for art in the same way his stomach growls for food. Irving Stone, in Depths of Glory (1985)
  • In Art, man reveals himself and not his objects. Rabindranath Tagore, in “What is Art?” lecture delivered at Twentieth Century Club, Buffalo, NY (Dec. 11, 1916); reprinted in Pritwish Neogy, Rabindrnath Tagore on Art and Aesthetics (1961)
  • Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. Twyla Tharp, in a 1976 Ms. magazine profile (specific issue undetermined); later republished in Push Comes to Shove (1992)
  • If you want to create art, you’d best have a deep belief in yourself and no ulterior motives. Twyla Tharp, in Push Comes to Shove (1992)
  • If art is the bridge between what you see in your mind and what the world sees, then skill is how you build that bridge. Twyla Tharp, in The Creative Habit (2003; with Mark Reiter)
  • Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art, if it is not art itself. Twyla Tharp, in The Creative Habit (2003; with Mark Reiter)

Tharp continued: “Metaphor is our vocabulary for connecting what we’re experiencing now with what we have experienced before. It’s not only how we express what we remember, it’s how we interpret it—for ourselves and others.”

  • The question is not what you look at but how you look & whether you see. Henry David Thoreau, a journal entry (Aug. 5, 1851)
  • Art—the one achievement of Man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised. James Thurber, quoted in Clifton Fadiman, I Believe (1939)
  • In every art there are two aberrations: triviality and artificiality. Leo Tolstoy, a journal entry (Jan. 23, 1896)
  • Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul, and shows to people these secrets which are common to all. Leo Tolstoy, a journal entry (May 17, 1896)

Tolstoy preceded the thought by writing: “The chief purpose of art, if there is art and if it has a purpose, is to manifest and express the truth about man’s soul, to express those secrets which can’t be expressed in simple words. That is the origin of art.”

  • Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings, and also experience them. Leo Tolstoy, in “What is Art?” (1897)
  • Real art, like the wife of an affectionate husband, needs no ornaments. But counterfeit art, like a prostitute, must always be decked out. Leo Tolstoy, in “What is Art?” (1897)
  • Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes. Leon Trotsky, in Literature and Revolution (1924)

ERROR ALERT: A similar observation (“Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it”) is commonly attributed to both Bertolt Brecht and Vladimir Mayakovsky, but there is no evidence that they wrote or said anything like this. Trotsky should be regarded as the original author of the sentiment.

  • It is ultimately character that underwrites art. Anne Truitt, in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (1982)
  • All lasting art, one might argue, is an SOS in a bottle, dispatched in desperate hope. Carll Tucker, in Montaigne for Jane (an unpublished 2018 manuscript)
  • Art is parasitic on life, just as criticism is parasitic on art. Kenneth Tynan, “Ionesco and the Phantom,” quoted in Observer (London, July 6, 1958)
  • Art is like baby shoes. When you coat them with gold, they can no longer be worn. John Updike, the title character speaking, “Alphonse Peintre,” in The New Yorker (March 18, 1961); reprinted in Assorted Prose (1965)

QUOTE NOTE: The article was a humorous interview with the imaginary French painter Alphonse Peintre, conducted in his shack near Roeun, France. In most anthologies, the quotation is presented as a straight-on Updike observation.

  • No art is possible without a dance with death. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., in Slaughterhouse Five (1969)

QUOTE NOTE: In the novel, the narrator credits the French writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline with the line, although it is more likely a paraphrasing of something the French author wrote. Here’s the full passage: “Céline was a brave French soldier in the First World War-until his skull was cracked. After that he couldn’t sleep, and there were noises in his head. He became a doctor, and he treated poor people in the daytime, and he wrote grotesque novels all night. No art is possible without a dance with death, he wrote.”

  • The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., “Despite Tough Guys, Life is Not the Only School for Real Novelists,” in The New York Times (May 24, 1999)

QUOTE NOTE: In Man Without a Country (2005). Vonnegut reprised the sentiment, and expanded upon it: “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

  • Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct…and to refrain from destruction. Simone Weil, in First and Last Notebooks (1970)
  • Art is not a luxury, but a necessity. Rebecca West, the title essay, in The Strange Necessity (1928)

In that same essay, West also offered these thoughts on the subject of art:

“Art is at least in part a way of collecting information about the universe.”

“I cannot see that art is anything less than a way of making joys perpetual.”

“Bad art is maintained by the neurotic, who is deadly afraid of authentic art because it inspires him to go on living, and he is terrified of life.”

  • Art is not a plaything, but a necessity, and its essence, form, is not a decorative adjustment, but a cup into which life can be poured and lifted to the lips and be tasted. Rebecca West, in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)
  • What is art? It is not decoration. It is the re-living of experience. The artist says: “I will make that event happen again, altering its shape, which was disfigured by its contacts with other events, so that its true significance is revealed. Rebecca West, in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)
  • In all the arts abundance seems to be one of the surest signs of vocation. Edith Wharton, in The Writing of Fiction (1925)
  • To make art is to realize another’s sadness within, realize the hidden sadness in other people’s lives, to feel sad with and for a stranger. Marianne Wiggins, the voice of the narrator, in The Shadow Catcher (2007)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is typically presented on internet quotation sites, but it was originally part of a larger passage in which the character Clara was reflecting on her father often saying that art was the ability to recognize sadness in others, and often to “imagine sadness greater than his own.” Here’s the fuller passage:

“Art, their father had frequently told them, was exactly that: to make art is the realize another’s sadness within, realize the hidden sadness in other people’s lives, to feel with and for a stranger.”

  • All art is immoral. Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist,” in Intentions (1891)
  • Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. Oscar Wilde, in The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)
  • Details are of no importance in life, but in art details are vital. Oscar Wilde, an 1892 remark to Sir George Alexander as they were preparing to stage Lady Windermere’s Fan; quoted in Peter Raby, The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde (1997)
  • Art, all art, not just painting, is a foreign city, and we deceive ourselves when we think it familiar. Jeanette Winterson, in Art Objects (1995)
  • If art, all art, is concerned with truth, then a society in denial will not find much use for it. Jeanette Winterson, in Art Objects (1995)
  • If art is not living in a continuous present, it is living in a museum, only those working now can complete the circuit between the past, present and future energies we call art. in Jeanette Winterson, in Art Objects (1995)

Winterson preceded the thought by writing: “Sometimes we forget that if we do not encourage new work now, we will lose all touch with the work of the past we claim to love.”

  • Art is a human product, a human secretion; it is our body that sweats the beauty of our works. Émile Zola, in Le Moment Artistique (1868)

[Abstract] ART

(see also ART and [Work of] ART and ARTIST and ARTISTS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK and ARTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and PAINTING & PAINTERS and SCULPTURE & SCULPTORS)

  • A product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered. Al Capp, on abstract art, quoted in the National Observer (July 1, 1963)
  • Fear is the deep motive of abstract art—fear of a repellent civilization which is dominated by the power of things. Storm Jameson, a reflection of the title character, in The Journal of Mary Hervey Russell (1945)

Russell continued: “Who can be surprised if, more sensitive than the others, the artist is terrified by the power things have acquired over us?”

  • Abstract art: a construction site for high fashion, for advertising, for furniture. Adrienne Monnier, a 1939 remark, quoted in Richard McDougall, The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier (1976)

[Modern] ART

(see also ART and [Work of] ART and ARTIST and ARTISTS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK and ARTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and PAINTING & PAINTERS and SCIENCE & ART and SCULPTURE & SCULPTORS)

  • Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves they have a better idea. John Ciardi, in his regular Saturday Review column (May 21, 1966)
  • The public history of modern art is the story of conventional people not knowing what they are dealing with. Robert Motherwell, in Preface to The Dada Painters and Poets (1951)
  • Much of modern art is devoted to lowering the threshold of what is terrible. By getting us used to what, formerly, we could not bear to see or hear, because it was too shocking, painful, or embarrassing, art changes morals. Susan Sontag, in On Photography (1977)
  • Another unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before. Edith Wharton, in The Writing of Fiction (1925)

[Work of] ART

(see also ART and ARTIST and ARTISTS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK and ARTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and PAINTING & PAINTERS and SCULPTURE & SCULPTORS)

  • To the accountants, a true work of art is an investment that hangs on the wall. Hilary Alexander, quoted in a 1993 issue of The Sunday Telegraph (London; no specific date determined)
  • Every great work of art has two faces, one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity. Daniel Barenboim, quoted in International Herald Tribune (Jan. 20, 1989)
  • Any great work of art…revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world—the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air. Leonard Bernstein, “What Makes Opera Grand?” in Vogue (December 1958)
  • A work of art does not answer questions: it provokes them; and its essential meaning is in the tension between their contradictory answers. Leonard Bernstein, “The Unanswered Question,” a 1976 talk at Harvard University; reprinted in Findings (1982)
  • A work of art should be like a well-planned crime. Constantin Brancusi, quoted in Sidney Geist, Brancusi: A Study of the Sculpture (1983)
  • A work of art is a confession. Albert Camus, in Notebooks, 1935–42 (1963)

Camus preceded the observation by writing: “A guilty conscience needs to confess.”

  • Any work of art, provided it springs from a sincere motivation to further understanding between people, is an act of faith and therefore is an act of love. Truman Capote, quoted in Harvey Breit, “Talk with Truman Capote,” New York Times Book Review (Feb. 24, 1952)
  • Every work of art is one half of a secret handshake, a challenge that seeks the password, a heliograph flashed from a tower window, an act of hopeless optimism in the service of bottomless longing. Michael Chabon, “The Loser’s Club,” in Manhood for Amateurs (2000)

Chabon added: “Every great record or novel or comic book convenes the first meeting of a fan club whose membership stands forever at one but which maintains chapters in every city—in every cranium—in the world.”

  • Surely even the most self-confident and assured of artists must have moments of battling with self-doubt and so, in a way, every finished work of art is the triumph of one part of its creator’s nature over another, and thus record of a Pyrrhic victory, gained and lost on the terribly personal battleground of one's own brainpan. Elisabeth Cobb, in My Wayward Parent: A Book About Irvin S. Cobb (1945)
  • The true work of art is the one which the seventh wave of genius throws up the beach where the under-tow cannot drag it back. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1944)
  • Every major work of art is a transgression, but the artist is not necessarily, by nature, a transgressor. E. L. Doctorow, “Theodore Dreiser: Book One and Book Two,” in Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution (1993)

See also the related “transgression” thought by Susan Sontag in ART.

  • Perpetual modernness is the measure of merit in every work of art. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Plato,” in Representative Men (1850)
  • A great work of Art demands a great thought, or a thought of beauty adequately expressed. Neither in Art nor literature more than in life can an ordinary thought be made interesting because well dressed. Margaret Fuller, in At Home and Abroad (1856)
  • The work of art is the exaggeration of an idea. André Gide, journal entry (undated, 1889), in Journals, 1889–1913 (1949; Justin O’Brien, ed.); later repeated in the epilogue to Prometheus Unbound (1899)
  • No work of art is ever finished, nothing is ever static, no performance is for keeps. Uta Hagen, quoted in Marlo Thomas and Friends, The Right Words at the Right Time (2002)
  • In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know. Ann Hamilton, “Making Not Knowing,” in Mary Jane Jacob and Jacquelynn Baas, Learning Mind : Experience into Art (2010)

Hamilton preceded the thought by writing: “One doesn’t arrive—in words or in art—by necessarily knowing where one is going.” Her essay was adapted from her 2005 commencement address at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

  • A work of art is the trace of a magnificent struggle. Robert Henri, in The Art Spirit (1951)
  • Any work of art, regardless of its form or formlessness, is great when it makes you feel that its creator has dipped into your very heart. Fannie Hurst, in Lummox (1923)
  • A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind. Eugène Ionesco, “Address Delivered to a Gathering of French and German Writers” (Feb., 1960), in Notes and Counter-Notes (1962).
  • What is called a sincere work [of art] is one that is endowed with enough strength to give reality to an illusion. Max Jacob, in Art Poétique (1922)
  • Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art. Garson Kanin, quoted in The New York Times Book Review (Feb. 26, 1978)
  • To create a work of art, great or small, is work, hard work, and work requires discipline and order. Madeleine L’Engle, in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (1980)

L’Engle preceded the thought by writing: “A life lived in chaos is an impossibility for the artist. No matter how unstructured may seem the painter’s garret in Paris or the poet’s pad in Greenwich Village, the artist must have some kind of order or he will produce a very small body of work.”

  • I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.” Madeleine L’Engle, in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (1980)
  • One thing living in Japan did for me was to make me feel that what is left out of a work of art is as important as, if not more important than, what is put in. Katherine Paterson, in The Spying Heart: More Thoughts on Reading and Writing Books (1989)
  • A work of art that contains theories is like an object on which the price tag has been left. Marcel Proust, in Remembrance of Things Past (1927)
  • A work of art is good if it has grown out of necessity. Rainer Maria Rilke, in letter to Franz Xaver Kappus (Feb. 17, 1903); published posthumously in Letters to a Young Poet (in 1929)
  • Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. Eleanor Roosevelt, widely quoted, but not sourced
  • All great works of art are “about God” in the sense that they show the perplexed human being the path, the way up the mountain. E. F. Schumacher, in A Guide for the Perplexed (1978)
  • You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. George Bernard Shaw, in Back to Methuselah (1921)
  • Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, conformable. Susan Sontag, title essay (1964), in Against Interpretation (1966)
  • The most potent elements in a work of art are, often, its silences. Susan Sontag, “On Style” (1965), in Against Interpretation (1966)
  • A work of art, so far as it is a work of art, cannot—whatever the artist’s personal intention—advocate anything at all. Susan Sontag, “On Style” (1965), in Against Interpretation (1966)
  • To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of food that it is very good but that most people can’t eat it. Leo Tolstoy, in What is Art? (1910)
  • The creation of a work of art, like an act of love, is our one small “yes” at the center of a vast “no.” Gore Vidal, in Rocking the Boat (1962)
  • Style is not a seductive decoration added to a functional structure; it is of the essence of a work of art. Evelyn Waugh, quoted in David Lodge, “The Fugitive Art of Letters,” in David Pryce-Jones, Evelyn Waugh and His World (1973)
  • A work of art has an author and yet, when it is perfect, it has something which is essentially anonymous about it. Simone Weil, in Gravity and Grace (1947)
  • A work of art may be simple, though that is not necessary. There is no logical reason why the camel of great art should pass through the needle of mob intelligence. Rebecca West, “Battlefield and Sky,” in The Strange Necessity (1928)

In that same essay, West wrote: “Whatever a work of art may be, the artist certainly cannot dare to be simple. He must have a nature as complicated and as violent, as totally unsuggestive of the word innocence, as a modern war.”

  • Most works of art, like most wines, ought to be consumed in the district of their fabrication. Rebecca West, in Ending in Earnest (1931)
  • Any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience. Rebecca West, in The Court and the Castle (1957)
  • A work of art is a corner of nature seen through a temperament. Émile Zola, in My Hates (1866)

Zola’s observation was inspired by the earlier ART quotation by Edgar Allan Poe.

ARTICULATION & ARTICULATENESS

(see ELOQUENT and FACILE and FLUENT)

  • All really great lovers are articulate, and verbal seduction is the surest road to actual seduction. Marya Mannes, in More in Anger (1958)
  • The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become. May Sarton, in Journal of a Solitude (1973)
  • It’s not “natural” to speak well, eloquently, in an interesting, articulate way. People living in groups, families, communes say little—have few verbal means. Eloquence—thinking in words—is a byproduct of solitude, deracination, a heightened painful individuality. In groups, it’s more natural to sing, to dance, to pray: given, rather than invented (individual) speech. Susan Sontag, a 1976 remark, quoted in David Rieff, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh (2012)

ARTISTS

(see also ART and [WORK OF] ART and ARTISTS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK and ARTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and PAINTING & PAINTERS and SCULPTURE & SCULPTORS)

  • The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces. Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica (1273)
  • An artist cannot do anything slovenly. Jane Austen, in letter to Cassandra Austen (Nov. 17, 1798)
  • The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery. Francis Bacon (1909–92), quoted in Sunday Telegraph (London, 1964)
  • This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art. James Baldwin, “Autobiographical Notes” (1952), in Notes of a Native Son (1955)

Baldwin preceded the thought by writing, “One writes out of one thing only—one’s own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give.”

  • Every artist is involved with one single effort, really. which is to dig down to where reality is. James Baldwin, “Words of a Native Son,” in Playboy magazine (December 1964)
  • The primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone. James Baldwin, “The Creative Process,” in The National Cultural Center’s Creative America (1962); reprinted in The Price of the Ticket (1985)
  • If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work…as the soldier flings himself into the enemy’s trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner…he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent. Honoré de Balzac, in La Cousine Bette (1846)

QUOTE NOTE: It is rare to find a phrase as dramatic and moving as “The suicide of his own talent.” I regard it as one of the best things ever said on the subject of squandered talent.

  • Every artist joins a conversation that’s been going on for generations, even millennia, before he or she joins the scene. John Barth, quoted in Naomi Epel, Writers Dreaming (1993)
  • Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • The true artist is not proud, he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal; and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun. Ludwig van Beethoven, in letter to a young girl (July 17, 1812); quoted in Michael Hamburger, Beethoven: Letters, Journals, and Conversations (1978)

QUOTE NOTE: Beethoven was replying to a young aspiring pianist named Emilie, who had recently sent him a fan letter and a hand-embroidered gift. He preceded the thought above by writing: “Do not only practice art, but get at the very heart of it; this it deserves, for only art and science raise men to the God-head. If, my dear Emilie, you at any time wish to know something, write without hesitation to me.”

  • The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business. John Berryman, in Paris Review interview (Winter, 1972)
  • The artist is the most interesting of all phenomena, for he represents creativity, the definition of man. Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind (1987)
  • Artists are exposed to great temptations: their eyes see paradise before their souls have reached it, and that is a great danger. Phyllis Bottome, the title character speaking, in “Brother Leo,” in The Century Magazine (June, 1913; reprinted in Innocence and Experience: Stories (1934)
  • The great artist is the slave of his ideal. Christian Nestell Bovee, in Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Vol. II (1862)

ERROR ALERT: This observation is often mistakenly presented as: “The great artist is a slave to his ideals.”

  • The artist uses the talent he has, wishing he had more talent. The talent uses the artist it has, wishing it had more artist. Robert Brault, in Round Up the Usual Suspects (2014). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • The artist has never been a dictator, since he understands better than anybody else the variations in human personality. Heywood Broun, “Bring on the Artist,” in The New World Telegram (Jan. 19, 1933)
  • Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist. Anthony Burgess, in Re Joyce (1968)
  • Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact. William S. Burroughs, quoted in A. Charters, The Beats (1983)
  • Every art is a church without communicants, presided over by a parish of the respectable. An artist is born kneeling; he fights to stand. Hortense Calisher, in Herself (1972)
  • I’ve said it about myself but I really meant it about all artists. I think that all artists are two-headed calves. Truman Capote, in Lawrence Grobel, Conversations With Capote (1985)

QUOTE NOTE: This was Capote’s full reply to Grobel’s question, “You’ve always thought of yourself as a two-headed calf. In other words, in your own eyes, you felt that you were different, a freak. Is that the way you really feel about yourself?”

  • The serious artist…is like an object caught by a wave and swept to shore. He’s obsessed by his material; it’s like a venom working in his blood and the art is the antidote. Truman Capote, in Truman Capote: Conversations (1987)
  • One who desires nothing, hopes for nothing, and fears nothing cannot be an artist. Anton Chekhov, in an 1892 letter to Alexey S. Suvorin
  • The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. G. K. Chesterton, “On Maltreating Words,” in Generally Speaking (1928)
  • An artist carries on throughout his life a mysterious, uninterrupted conversation with his public. Maurice Chevalier, in Holiday magazine (Sep., 1956)
  • The great artist takes what he needs. Kenneth Clark, in Civilization (1969)
  • An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture. Jean Cocteau, quoted in Newsweek (May 16, 1955)
  • The artist of to-day…walks at first with his companions, till one day he falls through a hole in the brambles, and from that moment is following the dark rapids of an underground river which may sometimes flow so near the surface that the laughing picnic parties are heard above. Cyril Connolly, in The Condemned Playground (1945)
  • I have often described the artist as the seismograph of his age. He is the rabbit in the submarine or the canary in the coal mine. Robert W. Corrigan, in 1968 remarks accepting position of President of the California Institute of the Arts; quoted in Arts in Society (Univ. of Wisc. Ext. Division, 1970)

Corrigan continued: “And what he creates is an act of discovery, an act of discovery which simultaneously reveals and reflects the reality of the present moment.”

  • To give a body and a perfect form to your thought, this alone is what it is to be an artist. Jacques-Louis David, a 1796 statement to his students, quoted in Jules David, in Le Peintre Louis David 1748–1825 (1880)
  • The attitude that nature is chaotic and that the artist puts order into it is a very absurd point of view, I think. All that we can hope for is to put some order into ourselves. Willem De Kooning, in Trans/formation (1951)
  • Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost! Isak Dinesen (pen name of Karen Blixen), “Babette's Feast,” in Anecdotes of Destiny (1958)
  • Life, the raw material, is only lived in potentia until the artist deploys it in his work. Lawrence Durrell, the voice of the unnamed narrator, in Justine (1957)
  • All artists today are expected to cultivate a little fashionable unhappiness. Lawrence Durrell, the narrator describing the character Pursewarden, in Justine (1957)
  • The defining function of the artist is to cherish consciousness. Max Eastman, “The Defining Function,” in Enjoyment of Poetry: With Other Essays in Aesthetics (1939)
  • Every artist writes his own autobiography. Havelock Ellis, in The New Spirit (1890)
  • In proportion to his force, the artist will find in his work an outlet for his proper character. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art,” in Essays: First Series (1841)

Emerson continued: “He must not in any manner be pinched or hindered by his material, but through his necessity of imparting himself the adamant will be wax in his hands, and will allow an adequate communication of himself, in his full stature and proportion.”

  • The torpid artist seeks inspiration at any cost, by virtue or by vice, by friend or by fiend, by prayer or by wine. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Power,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)

QUOTE NOTE: The American Heritage Dictionary defines torpid as “Sluggish, lethargic, or inactive.”

  • The artists must be sacrificed to their art. Like bees, they must put their lives into the sting they give. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Inspiration,” in Letters and Social Aims (1876)
  • The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. William Faulkner, in Paris Review interview (Spring, 1956)

Faulkner added: “Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind…. This is the artist’s way of scribbling ‘Kilroy was here’ on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.”

  • An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they chose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done. William Faulkner, in Paris Review interview (Spring, 1956)

Faulkner famously added: “The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.” See the related ART quotation by Emerson.

  • The artist is simply the medium between his fantasies and the rest of the world. Federico Fellini, quoted in J. R. Colombo, Colombo’s Hollywood: Wit and Wisdom of the Moviemakers (1979)
  • The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him. Gustave Flaubert, 1857 letter to Leroyer de Chantepie

QUOTE NOTE: Oscar Wilde was thinking similarly when he wrote in the Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891): “To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.” See also the similar James Joyce ARTIST quotation below.

  • Great artists are people who find the way to be themselves in their art. Any sort of pretension induces mediocrity in art and life alike. Margot Fonteyn, in Margot Fonteyn: Autobiography (1976)
  • The free play of art cannot be enjoyed on an empty stomach. Only after the dinner do we bring the artist onto the stage. His function is not to nourish but to intoxicate. André Gide, in Pretexts: Reflections on Literature and Morality (1903)

Gide introduced the observation by writing: “Panem et circenses cried the Roman mob; bread first, games next.”

  • We eat up artists like there’s going to be a famine at the end. Nikki Giovanni, “Poem for Aretha,” in The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1995 (1996)
  • When you make any kind of artwork, you have to serve it. You could easily call the artist a servant. M. B. Goffstein, “Conversations: M. B. Goffstein,” in the children’s literature review The Five Owls (May/June, 1991)
  • No artist is pleased…. No satisfaction whatever at any time…. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others. Martha Graham, quoted in Agnes de Mille, Dance to the Piper (1952)
  • The artist’s work, it is sometimes said, is to celebrate. But really that is not so; it is to express wonder. Patricia Hampl, in Spillville: A Collaboration (1978; engravings by Steven Sorman)

Hampl added: “And something terrible resides at the heart of wonder. Celebration is social, amenable. Wonder has a chaotic splendor. It moves into experience rather than into judgement. It zooms headlong into the act of perception.”

  • When artists create pictures and thinkers search for laws and formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something that lasts longer than we do. Hermann Hesse, the voice of the narrator, in Narcissus and Goldmund: A Novel (1930)

The narrator preceded the thought by writing about Goldmund: “He thought that fear of death was perhaps the root of all art, perhaps also of all things of the mind. We fear death, we shudder at life’s instability, we grieve to see the flowers wilt again and again, and the leaves fall, and in out hearts we know that we, too, are transitory and will soon disappear.”

  • Scratch an artist and you will surprise a child. James G. Huneker, in The Man and His Music (1900)
  • The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you’re an artist. Max Jacob, in Art Poétique (1922)
  • It is the artists who make the true value of the world, though at times they may have to starve to do it. They are like earthworms, turning up the soil so things can grow, eating dirt so that the rest of us may eat green shoots. Erica Jong, the voice of protagonist Jessica Pruitt, in Shylock’s Daughter, A Novel of Love in Venice (1987); originally published as Serenissima: A Novel of Venice.
  • An artist or writer is a specimen human being who just goes about the world hoping to be a bundle of nerve endings that take in everything and transform it into a voice. Erica Jong, quoted in S. Mitchell, Icons, Saints & Divas: Intimate Conversations with Women who Changed the World (1997)
  • The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails. James Joyce, the character Stephen Dedalus speaking, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

See the similar Gustave Flaubert ARTIST quotation above.

  • Unlearning is the choice, conscious or unconscious, of any real artist. And it is the true sign of maturity. Madeleine L’Engle, from a 1976 lecture, quoted in Carole F. Chase, Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life (2001)
  • With the pride of the artist, you must blow against the walls of every power that exists, the small trumpet of your defiance. Norman Mailer, in The Deer Park (1955)
  • We artists cannot tread the path of Beauty without Eros keeping company with us and appointing himself as our guide. Thomas Mann, the character Aschenbach speaking, in Death in Venice (1912)

Aschenbach continued: “Though we may be heroes in our fashion and disciplined warriors…it is passion that exalts us, and the longing of our soul must remain the longing of a lover—that is our joy and our shame.”

  • For in almost every artist’s nature is inborn a wanton and treacherous proneness to side with the beauty that breaks hearts, to single out aristocratic pretensions and pay them homage. Thomas Mann, the narrator describing Aschenbach, in Death in Venice (1912)
  • An artist must never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of a style, prisoner of reputation. Henri Matisse, in Jazz (1947)

Matisse preceded the thought by writing about artists: “For most of them, success = Prison, and the artist must never be a prisoner.”

  • Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul. W. Somerset Maugham, in The Summing Up (1938)
  • The artist produces for the liberation of his soul. It is his nature to create as it is the nature of water to run down hill. W. Somerset Maugham, in Mr. Maugham Himself (1954)

Maugham continued: “It is not for nothing that artists have called their works the children of their brains and likened the pains of production to the pains of childbirth.”

  • Artists are generally soft-spoken persons who are concerned with their inner visions and images. But that is precisely what makes them feared by any coercive society. For they are the bearers of the human being’s age-old capacity to be insurgent. Rollo May, in The Courage to Create (1975)

May continued: “They love to emerse [sic] themselves in chaos in order to put it into form, just as God created form out of chaos in Genesis. Forever unsatisfied with the mundane, the apathetic, the conventional, they always push on to newer worlds.”

  • The artist is not a reporter, but a Great Teacher. It is not his business to depict the world as it is, but as it ought to be. H. L. Mencken, in Prejudices: First Series (1919)
  • The integrity of an artist lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it. Thomas Merton, in The Seven Storey Mountain (1948)

QUOTE NOTE: Merton was born in France in 1915, not long after WWI had darkened most of Europe (“That world was the picture of hell”). Here, he was reflecting on a valuable life perspective he learned from his parents. About them, he wrote: “My father and mother were captives in that world, knowing they did not belong with it or in it, and yet unable to get away from it. They were in the world and not of it—not because they were saints, but in a different way: because they were artists.”

  • The arrogance of the artist is a very profound thing, and it fortifies you. James Michener, quoted in Caryn James, “The Michener Phenomenon,” The New York Times (Sep. 8, 1985)
  • One doesn’t become an artist overnight. First you have to be crushed, to have your conflicting points of view annihilated. You have to be wiped out as a human being in order to be born again an individual. Henry Miller, “My First Book—Tropic of Capricorn,” in Henry Miller on Writing (1964)

Miller continued: “You have to be carbonized and mineralized in order to work upwards from the last common denominator of the self. You have to get beyond pity in order to feel from the very roots of your being.”

  • Every artist is an unhappy lover. And unhappy lovers want to tell their story. Iris Murdoch, in The Black Prince (1973)
  • I believe an artist is the last person in the world who can afford to be affected. Georgia O’Keeffe, in a 1915 letter to Anita Pollitzer, quoted in Clive Giboire, Lovingly, Georgia (1990)
  • There is a chord in every human heart than has a sigh in it if touched aright. When the artist finds the keynote, which that chord will answer to, in the dullest as in the highest—then he is great. Ouida (pen name of Maria Louise Ramé), the voice of the narrator, in Signa (1875)
  • It is possible…that the artist is both thin-skinned and prophetic and, like the canary lowered into the mine shaft to test the air, has caught a whiff of something lethal. Walker Percy, in Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book (1983)
  • The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web. Pablo Picasso, “Conversation avec Picasso,” in Cahiers d’Art (1935, vol. 10, no. 10); reprinted in Alfred H. Harr, Jr., Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art (1946)
  • When I say artist I don’t mean in the narrow sense of the word—but the man who is building things…. It’s all a big game of construction—some with a brush—some with a shovel—some choose a pen. Jackson Pollock, in a 1932 letter to his father; reprinted in Jackson Pollock: A Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. 4 (1978)

QUOTE NOTE: This is a slightly abridged version of the full thought, which was as follows: “When I say artist I don’t mean in the narrow sense of the word—but the man who is building things—creating molding the earth—whether it be the plains of the west—or the iron ore of Penn. It’s all a big game of construction—some with a brush—some with a shovel—some choose a pen.”

  • Artists are the antennae of the race, but the bullet-headed many will never learn to trust their great artists. Ezra Pound, “Henry James,” in the Little Review (Aug, 1918); reprinted in Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (1954)
  • Great innovators and original thinkers and artists attract the wrath of mediocrities as lightning rods draw the flashes. Theodor Reik, in The Need to Be Loved (1963)

Reik added: “The originality of their thought is as provoking as the prominence of the lightning conductor which directs the electricity to the salient point on the roof.”

  • The great artist, and by this I mean the poet as well as the painter and the sculptor, finds even in suffering, in the death of loved ones, in the treachery of friends, something which fills him with a voluptuous though tragic admiration. Auguste Rodin, in L’Art: Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell [Art: Interviews Brought Together by Paul Gsell] (1911; trans. in 1912 by Romilly Fedden)

Rodin continued: “At times his own heart is on the rack, yet stronger than his pain is the bitter joy which he experiences in understanding and giving expression to that pain.”

  • The artist does not see Nature as she appears to the vulgar, because his emotion reveals to him the hidden truths beneath appearances. Auguste Rodin, in L’Art: Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell [Art: Interviews Brought Together by Paul Gsell] (1911; trans. in 1912 by Romilly Fedden)
  • The artist who parades his drawing, the writer who wishes to attract praise to his style, resemble the soldier who plumes himself on his uniform but refuses to go into battle, or the farmer who polishes the ploughshare instead of driving it into the earth. Auguste Rodin, in L’Art: Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell [Art: Interviews Brought Together by Paul Gsell] (1911; trans. in 1912 by Romilly Fedden)
  • The word artist, in in its widest acceptation, means to me the man who takes pleasure in what he does. Auguste Rodin, in L’Art: Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell [Art: Interviews Brought Together by Paul Gsell] (1911; trans. in 1912 by Romilly Fedden)

Rodin continued: “So it would be desirable were there artists in all trades—artist carpenters, happy in skillfully raising beam and mortice—artist masons—spreading the plaster with pleasure—artist carters, proud of caring for their horses and of not running over those in the street. Is it not true that that would constitute an admirable society?”

  • The artist…sees; that is to say, his eye, grafted on his heart, reads deeply into the bosom of nature. Auguste Rodin, in L’Art: Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell [Art: Interviews Brought Together by Paul Gsell] (1911; trans. in 1912 by Romilly Fedden
  • He is the greatest artist who has embodied, in the sum of his work, the greatest number of the greatest ideas. John Ruskin, in Modern Painters, Vol. I (1843)
  • An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world. George Santayana, in The Life of Reason (1905–06)
  • To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts—such is the duty of the artist. Robert Schumann, quoted in Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911)
  • What an artist is for is to tell us what we see but do not know that we see. Edith Sitwell, “Experiment in Poetry,” in Tradition and Experiment in Present-Day Literature (City Literary Institute; 1929); reprinted in Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind (1976; E. Salter and A. Harper, eds.)
  • The artist should be a seeing-eye dog for a myopic civilization. Jacob Getlar Smith, quoted in American Artist (Vol. 17, 1953)
  • An artist is somebody who enters into competition with God. Patti Smith, quoted in J. Tarr, The Words and Music of Patti Smith (2008)
  • If you’re an artist, you try to keep an ear to the ground and an ear to your heart. Bruce Springsteen, in interview on CBS-TV’s Sixty Minutes (Jan. 21, 1996)
  • A nation may be moved by its statesmen and defended by its military but it is usually remembered for its artists. It does seem to me that you, sir, have discovered or rather rediscovered this lost truth. John Steinbeck, in letter to John F. Kennedy (Jan. 23, 1961); quoted in Steinbeck: A Life in Letters (1989; E. Steinbeck & R. Wallsten, eds.)

QUOTE NOTE: Steinbeck was writing to thank president Kennedy for inviting him to his inauguration, held a few days earlier. He preceded the thought above by writing: “Personally, of course, I am honored to have been invited, but much more sharply felt is my gratification that through me you have recognized the many good members of my profession as existing at all.”

  • An artist is the magician put among men to gratify—capriciously—their urge for immortality. Tom Stoppard, in Travesties (1974)
  • One has a nose. The nose scents and it chooses. An artist is like a pig snouting truffles. Igor Stravinsky, quoted in N. Tierney, The Unknown Country: A Life of Igor Stravinsky (1977)
  • If there is any reason to single out artists as being more necessary to our lives than any others, it is because they provide us with light that cannot be extinguished. They go into dark rooms and poke at their souls until the contours of our own are familiar to us. Phyllis Theroux, in The Book of Eulogies (1997)
  • The wretched Artist himself is alternatively the lowest worm that ever crawled when no fire is in him: or the loftiest God that ever sang when the fire is going. Caitlin Thomas, in Not Quite Posthumous Letter to My Daughter (1963)
  • What marks the artist is his power to shape the material of pain we all have. Lionel Trilling, “Art and Neurosis,” in The Liberal Imagination (1950)
  • The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one’s own most intimate sensitivity. Anne Truitt, in The Journal of an Artist (1982)

In her journal, Truitt also wrote about artists: “Their essential effort is to catapult themselves wholly, without holding back one bit, into a course of action without having any idea where they will end up. They are like riders who gallop into the night, eagerly leaning on their horse’s neck, peering into a blinding rain. And they have to do it over and over again.”

  • Artists often lie behind on the field long after the art combine, the broad-bladed harvester of informed criticism, has mowed, bailed, and stored the crop. Anne Truitt, in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (1982)
  • Artists buy their fruits and vegetables in the Still Life section at the market. Stella Violano, blog post (June 1, 2012)
  • Do lifelong artists pay a price for having chosen to make art? Of course. Everyone pays the price for his or her choices. Sally Warner, quoted in Eric Maisel, Fearless Creating (1995)
  • An artist must be a reactionary. He has to stand out against the tenor of his age and not go flopping along; he must offer some little opposition. Evelyn Waugh, in Paris Review interview (Summer–Fall, 1963)
  • Children, like animals, use all their senses to discover the world. Then artists come along and discover it the same way, all over again. Eudora Welty, in One Writer’s Beginnings (1984)
  • The romantic artist, off alone in his storm-battered castle, fuming whole worlds from his brain, reflects his culture’s most persistent myth, of God creating from a primal loneliness. Garry Wills, in Confessions of a Conservative (1979)
  • This is the artist, then—life’s hungry man, the glutton of eternity, beauty’s miser, glory’s slave. Thomas Wolfe, in Of Time and the River (1935)
  • The artist must bow to the monster of his own imagination. Richard Wright, in Twelve Million Black Voices (1941)
  • The only compensation for the artist is the chance to feed hungry hearts. Anzia Yezierska, in Children of Loneliness: Stories of Immigrant Life in America (1923)
  • There are two men inside the artist, the poet and the craftsman. One is born a poet. One becomes a craftsman. Émile Zola, in letter to Paul Cézanne (April 16, 1860)

ARTISTS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK

(see also ART and [WORK OF] ART and ARTISTS and ARTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and PAINTING & PAINTERS and SCULPTURE & SCULPTORS)

  • No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell. Antonin Artaud, quoted in Lewis Wolpert, Malignant Sadness (1999)

QUOTE NOTE: Artaud makes the common mistake here of saying literally when he means metaphorically. But his point is still clear—people gravitate toward art in order to exorcize personal demons.

  • I have the whole world as my canvas. I paint souls. Meher Baba, in The Answer: Conversations with Meher Baba (1972)
  • Nothing grows in the shade of great trees. Constantin Brancusi, on giving up his early studies with Auguste Rodin, quoted in Town & Country magazine (Oct., 1995)
  • Most artists, ashamed of their need for encouragement, try to carry their work to term like a secret pregnancy. Julia Cameron, in The Sound of Paper (2005)

Cameron went on to write: “We bunker in with our projects, beleaguered by our loneliness and the terrible secret that we carry: We need friends to our art. We need them as desperately as friends to our hearts. Our projects, after all, are our brainchildren, and what they crave is a loving extended family, a place where ‘How’d it go today?’ can refer to a turn at the keys or the easel as easily as a turn in the teller’s cage.”

  • The biggest part of painting perhaps is faith, and waiting receptively, content to go any way, not planning or forcing. The fear, though, is laziness. It is so easy to drift and finally be tossed up on the beach, derelict. Emily Carr, in Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr (1966)
  • I don’t know if color chose me or I chose color, but since childhood I’ve been married to color in its pure state. Marc Chagall, quoted in R. McMullen and I. Bidermass, The World of Marc Chagall (1968). Also an example of chiasmus.

Chagall began by saying: “You might say that in my mother’s womb I had already noticed the purity of the colors of the flowers.”

  • The soil that had nourished the roots of my art was Vitebsk [his home town in Russia]; but my art needed Paris as much as a tree needs water. Marc Chagall, on his first stay in Paris, from 1910–14; quoted in I. F Walther & R. Metzger, Chagall (2000)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation is often presented: “I needed Paris as a tree needs rain.”

  • If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing. Marc Chagall, quoted in Roy McMullen, The World of Marc Chagall (1968)
  • My Art is just an effort to express the truth of my Being in gesture and movement. It has taken me long years to find even one absolutely true movement. Isadora Duncan, in My Life (1927)
  • One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul, and yet no one ever comes to sit by it. Vincent Van Gogh, in July 1880 letter to Theo Van Gogh
  • With this painting, I tried to make everything breathe faith, quiet suffering, religious and primitive style and great nature with its scream. Paul Gauguin, referring to his painting Breton Calvary: The Green Christ, in letter to Theo Van Gogh (Nov. 20, 1889)
  • This place is my psychotherapist. Robert Genn, on his studio, “A Safe Place,” title of one of his twice-weekly e-newsletters from The Painter’s Keys (Sep. 20, 2013)
  • I go to my studio every day, because one day I may go and the angel will be there. What if I don’t go and the angel came? Philip Guston, quoted in The Washington Post (March 7, 1991)
  • The strokes of the hammer on the chisel have to be in time with your heartbeat or pulse. Barbara Hepworth, quoted in The New York Times (March 5, 1995)
  • Carving became a harbor of safety into which I could steer my thoughts and senses, a sort of salvation by self-obliteration. Malvina Hoffman, in Sculpture Inside and Out (1939)
  • To give life to sculpture I found it must have a pulse, a breathing quality that could change in a flash, and it must never appear static, hard, or unrevealing. All these demands formed themslves in my thoughts, and became like an endless obsession. Malvina Hoffman, in Yesterday Is Tomorrow: A Personal History (1965)
  • A little snow, a little rain, but altogether a pleasant day. It’s always pleasant when I paint well. Rockwell Kent, a journal entry, in Wilderness: A Journey of Quiet adventure in Alaska (1920)
  • All my life as an artist I have asked myself: What pushes me continually to make sculpture? I have found the answer—at least the answer for myself. Art is an action against death. It is a denial of death. Jacques Lipchitz, quoted in Bert Van Bork, Jacques Lipchitz: The Artist at Work (1966)
  • I have only too much of a wife in this art of mine, who has always kept me in tribulation, and my children shall be the works I leave, which, even if they are naught, will live for a while. Michelangelo, replying to a comment that he had never married or had children, quoted in Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists (1568)
  • I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers. Claude Monet, a 1924 remark made while admiring his own garden, quoted in Claire Joyes, Monet at Giverny (1975)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites present this remark as if it were immediately preceded by, “I am following Nature without being able to grasp her.” Monet did say this—but without the added comment about flowers—in an 1889 letter (see the Monet entry in NATURE). The two observations were separated by thirty-five years and do not belong together

  • In my studio I’m as happy as a cow in her stall. Louise Nevelson, in Dawns + Dusks (1976)

Nevelson preceded the thought by writing: “I’m a work horse. I like to work. I always did. I think that there is such a thing as energy, creation overflowing. And I always felt that I have this great energy and it was bound to sort of burst at the seams, so that my work automatically took its place with a mind like mine. I've never had a day when I didn't want to work. I've never had a day like that. And I knew that a day I took away from the work did not make me too happy. I just feel that I'm in tune with the right vibrations in the universe when I'm in the process of working.”

  • Since I cannot sing, I paint. Georgia O’Keeffe, “Austere Stripper,” in Time magazine (May 27, 1946)
  • Filling a space in a beautiful way—that is what art means to me. Georgia O’Keeffe, in Art News (1997)
  • The morning is the best time, there are no people around. My pleasant disposition likes the world with nobody in it. Georgia O’Keeffe, “Horizons of a Pioneer,” Life magazine (March 1, 1968)
  • To create one’s own world in any of the arts takes courage. Georgia O’Keeffe, in Georgia O’Keeffe (1976)
  • Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest. Georgia O’Keeffe, in Georgia O’Keeffe (1976)
  • The days one works are the best days. Georgia O’Keeffe, quoted in Lisa Mintz Messinger, Georgia O’Keeffe (1984)
  • I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them. Pablo Picasso, quoted in John Golding, Cubism (1959)
  • I am only a public entertainer, who understands his age. Pablo Picasso, in Le Spectacle du Monde (Paris, Nov., 1962); reprinted in Duncan Williams, The Trousered Ape (1971)

Picasso began by saying: “Today, as you know, I am famous and very rich. But when I am alone with myself, I haven’t the courage to consider myself an artist, in the great and ancient sense of that word.”

  • It’s with my brush that I make love. Pierre Auguste Renoir, quoted in Albert André, Renoir (1919)
  • I invent nothing. I rediscover. Auguste Rodin, quoted in Camille Mauclair, Auguste Rodin: The Man, His Ideas, His Works (1905)
  • Lines and colors are only the symbols of hidden realities. Our eyes plunge beneath the surface to the meaning of things and when afterward we reproduce the form, we endow it with the spiritual meaning which it covers. Auguste Rodin, in L’Art: Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell [Art: Interviews Brought Together by Paul Gsell] (1911; trans. in 1912 by Romilly Fedden)
  • Every time I make a sculpture, it breeds ten more, and then time is too short to make them all. David Smith, in Art in America magazine (January-February, 1966)
  • I will always be a thoroughbred hitched up to a rubbish cart. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, referring to his wild, artistic temperament lodged in a frail and sickly body, quoted in Julia Frey, Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life (1994); originally in Thadée Natanson, Un Certain Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1951)
  • I have no home but me. Anne Truitt, in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (1982)
  • The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one's own most intimate sensitivity. Anne Truitt, in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (1982)
  • I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate. Vincent van Gogh, in an 1886 letter; reprinted in The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Vol. 2 (1958)
  • I’m like a prostitute; I’m never off duty. Andrew Wyeth, quoted in Richard Corliss, “Andrew Wyeth’s Stunning Secret,” Time magazine (Aug. 18, 1986)

QUOTE NOTE: Wyeth said this with a laugh as he explained to Corliss that on the morning of their interview he'd been out painting, just as he had every morning for the previous fifty years!

ARTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS

(see also ART and [WORK OF] ART and ARTISTS and ARTISTS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK and PAINTING & PAINTERS and SCULPTURE & SCULPTORS)

  • A man like Picasso studies an object as a surgeon dissects a corpse. Guillaume Apollinaire, in Les Peintres cubists (1913)
  • It was Sophie who, by the example of her work and her life, both of them bathed in clarity, showed me the right way. Jean Arp, on his wife Sophie Tauber-Arp, quoted in Serge Fauchereau, Arp (1988)

Arp continued: “In her world, the high and the low, the light and the dark, the eternal and the ephemeral, are balanced in perfect equilibrium.”

  • He clashed his colors together like cymbals and the effect was like a lullaby. John Berger, on Henri Matisse, in Toward Reality: Essays in Seeing (1962)

Berger began by writing: “It is comparatively easy to to achieve a certain unity in a picture by allowing one color to dominate, or by muting all the colors. Matisse did neither.”

ASCETICISM

(see also ABSTINENCE and CHASTITY and FASTING and MODERATION and SELF-CONTROL and SELF-DENIAL and STOICISM & STOICS and TEMPTATION)

  • Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day. That is, be systematically ascetic or heroic in little unnecessary points, do every day or two something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test. William James, in The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1 (1890)

James continued: “Asceticism of this sort is like the insurance which a man pays on his house and goods. The tax does him no good at the time, and possibly may never bring him a return. But if the fire does come, his having paid it will be his salvation from ruin. So with the man who has daily inured himself to the habits of concentrated attention, energetic volition, and self-denial in unnecessary things. He will stand like a tower when everything rocks around him, and when his softer fellow-mortals are winnowed like chaff in the blast.”

  • Asceticism is to remain pure amidst impurities. Guru Nanak, quoted in Raj Pruthi, Sikhism and Indian Civilization (2004)

QUOTE NOTE: Guru Nanak (1469–1539), the founder of Sikhism, introduced this thought by saying: “Asceticism doesn’t lie in ascetic robes, or in walking staff, nor in the ashes. Asceticism doesn’t lie in the earring, nor in the shaven head, nor blowing a conch. Asceticism lies in remaining pure amidst impurities.”

  • The ascetic makes a necessity of virtue. Friedrich Nietzsche, reversing the proverbial saying about making a virtue of necessity, in Human, All Too Human (1878)
  • I find that my life constantly threatens to become complex and divisive. A life of prayer is basically a very simple life. This simplicity, however, is the result of asceticism and effort: it is not a spontaneous simplicity. Henri J. M. Nouwen, in The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery (1989)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Thomas Merton.

  • Ascetic Christianity called the world evil and left it. Humanity is waiting for a revolutionary Christianity which will call the world evil and change it. Walter Rauschenbusch, in Christianity and the Social Crises (1907)

ASIDES

(see also DISGRESSIONS)

  • For, let’s face it, 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, in “Coda” (1979), an afterword to the 1979 edition of Fahrenheit 451 (first published in 1953)

Bradbury continued: “Laurence Sterne said it once: Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine, the life, the soul of reading! Take them out and one cold eternal winter would reign in every page. Restore them to the writer—he steps forth like a bridegroom, bids them all-hail, brings in variety and forbids the appetite to fail.”

  • ’Tis the good reader that makes the good book; a good head cannot read amiss; in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Success,” in Society and Solitude (1870)

ASKING

(see also ANSWERS and ENTREATY and INQUIRY and QUESTIONING and QUESTIONS and QUESTIONS & ANSWERS and REQUESTS)

  • To be happy with human beings, we should not ask them for what they cannot give. Tristan Bernard, in L’Enfant Prodigue du Vésinet (1921)
  • Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. The Bible: Matthew 7:7 KJV)
  • That is the essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer. Jacob Bronowski, in The Ascent of Man (1973)
  • Not to ask is not to be denied. John Dryden, in The Hind and the Panther (1687)
  • You must not ask from people more than they are capable of giving. W. Somerset Maugham, quoting the Mother Superior of a Chinese convent, in On a Chinese Screen: Sketches of Life in China (1922)

After the nun offered this observation to Maugham, he replied: “How true, and yet how hard to remember!”

  • Even the gods are moved by the voice of entreaty. Ovid, in The Art of Love (1st c. A.D.)
  • There is no harm in asking. Proverb (American)

QUOTE NOTE: In The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), Fred Shapiro says the first appearance in print of this modern American proverb was a 1921 issue of The New York Times.

  • The great pleasure of ignorance is, after all, the pleasure of asking questions. The man who has lost this pleasure or exchanged it for the pleasure of dogma, which is the pleasure of answering, is already beginning to stiffen. Robert Lynd, in The Pleasure of Ignorance (1921)

Lynd preceded the thought by writing: “One of the greatest joys known to man is to take such a flight into ignorance in search of knowledge.”

  • He who asks questions cannot avoid the answers. Proverb (Cameroonian)
  • Better ask twice than lose your way once. Proverb (Danish)
  • Never ask of him who has, but of him who wishes you well. Proverb (Spanish)
  • To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner. Anne Rice, the character Marius de Romanus speaking, in The Vampire Lestat (1992)

The words are spoken in an instructional, even didactic, manner to the title character. Marius, a 2,000-year-old vampire who has accumulated much wisdom over the centuries, preceded the thought by saying: “Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Mortal or immortal, few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds—justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they can't go on.”

  • We never reflect how pleasant it is to ask for nothing. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger), in Letters to Lucilius (c. 65 A.D.)

ASPIRATION

(see also ACHIEVEMENT & ACCOMPLISHMENT and AIMS & AIMING and AMBITION and DREAMS—ASPIRATIONAL and GOALS & GOAL-SETTING and STRIVING)

  • Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I cannot reach them: but I can look up, and see their beauty; believe in them, and follow where they lead. Louisa May Alcott, in Work: A Story of Experience (1873)
  • Aspiration is the twin angel to inspiration. It unlocks the gates of joy. James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh (1903)

QUOTE NOTE: Allen was an English philosophical writer who wrote a number of popular inspirational books, including As a Man Thinketh, a classic in self-help literature (the title was inspired by the biblical passage, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The book (in reality, a lengthy essay) heavily influenced Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, and a generation of later writers. He preceded the thought above by writing: “Aspiration makes all things possible. It opens the way to advancement. Even the highest state of perfection conceivable it brings near and makes real and possible; for that which can be conceived can be achieved.”

  • Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your Vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your Ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil. James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh (1903)
  • He who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realize it. James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh (1903)
  • A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man by one which is lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other, ambition. Ambition is the way in which a vulgar man aspires. Henry Ward Beecher, in Life Thoughts (1858)

ERROR ALERT: It is common for variations of this observation to be mistakenly attributed to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

  • The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, “Thus far and no farther.” Ludwig von Beethoven, quoted in Samuel Smiles, “Workers in Art,” Self-Help (1859)

QUOTE NOTE: Smiles described the saying as “Beethoven’s favorite maxim.”

  • No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wing. William Blake, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–93)
  • Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,/Or what’s a heaven for? Robert Browning, in the poem “Andrea del Sarto” (1855)
  • Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood. Daniel Burnham, in 1910 speech in London, later quoted in Collier’s magazine (July 6, 1912)
  • If a man is not rising upwards to be an angel, depend upon it, he is sinking downwards to be a devil. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in Table Talk (Aug. 30, 1833)
  • To have his path made clear for him is the aspiration of every human being in our beclouded and tempestuous existence. Joseph Conrad, “Rulers of East and West,” in The Mirror of the Sea (1906)
  • We never know how high we are/Till we are called to rise;/And then, if we are true to plan/Our statures touch the skies. Emily Dickinson, in No. 1176 (c. 1870), in Poems: Third Series (1896; Mary Loomis Todd, ed.)

The poem was originally untitled, only numbered (like all of Dickinson’s poems), but Todd gave it the title “Aspiration” in her anthology.

  • Hitch your wagon to a star. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Civilization,” in Society and Solitude (1870)
  • Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. William Faulkner, in Paris Review interview (Spring, 1956)
  • Every man, through fear, mugs his aspirations a dozen times a day. Brendan Francis (pseudonym of Edward F. Murphy), in Edward F. Murphy, The Crown Treasury of Relevant Quotations (1978)

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Brendan Behan.

  • What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. Victor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning (1946)

Frankl continued: “What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

  • Just as a cautious businessman avoids tying up all his capital in one concern, so, perhaps, worldly wisdom will advise us not to look for the whole of our satisfaction from a single aspiration. Sigmund Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)

QUOTE NOTE: It’s fascinating to see how different translators render the same passage in different ways. For an alternate translation that makes this a happiness observation, see Freud in HAPPINESS. Regardless of translation, Freud’s original thought might have been stimulated by a fragment from the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus, who wrote in the second century: “A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope.”

  • I drink the wine of aspiration and the drug of disillusion. Thus am I never dull. John Galsworthy, the Wine Horn Mountain speaking, in The Little Dream (1911)
  • To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to. Kahlil Gibran, in The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran (1995)
  • Aspiration is discontent. Holbrook Jackson, in Platitudes in the Making (1911)
  • Leaders talk about communicating a vision as an instrument of change, but I prefer the notion of communicating an aspiration. It’s not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, “The Enduring Skills of Change Leaders,” Leader to Leader (Summer, 1999)

Kanter continued: “It reminds us that the future does not just descend like a stage set; we construct the future from our own history, desires, decisions.”

  • One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar. Helen Keller, in speech to American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf (July 8, 1896)
  • Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you get neither. C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity (1952)
  • Every man is in some sort a failure to himself. No one ever reaches the heights to which he aspires. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it;/Every arrow that flies feels the attraction of earth. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in “Elegiac Verse” (1881)
  • A fierce unrest seethes at the core/Of all existing things:/It was the eager wish to soar/That gave the gods their wings. Don Marquis, the opening quatrain of “Unrest” (1915), reprinted in Louis Untermeyer (ed.), Modern American Poetry (1919; rev. ed. 1921)

QUOTE NOTE: The full poem may be seen at “Unrest”. Marquis had presented a slightly different version of this quatrain when the poem made its first appearance in The Pacific Monthly (Jan., 1909): “A fierce unrest seethes at the core/Of all existing things—/It is the restless wish to soar/That gave a god his wings.”

  • If a young man tells me what he aspires to be, I can almost predict his future. Benjamin E. Mays, in Born to Rebel (1971)
  • Do whatever you do so well that no man living and no man yet unborn could do it better. Benjamin E, Mays, “What Man Lives By,” quoted in William M. Philpot, Best Black Sermons (1972)
  • Yet some there be that by due steps aspire/To lay their just hands on that golden key/That opes the palace of eternity. John Milton, in “Comus” (1634)
  • Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down. Toni Morrison, from the character Guitar in Song of Solomon (1995)
  • Let the youthful soul look back on life with the question: what have you truly loved up to now, what has drawn your soul aloft, what has mastered it and at the same time blessed it? Friedrich Nietzsche, “Schopenhauer as Educator,” in Untimely Meditations (1874)

Nietzsche continued: “Set up these revered objects before you and perhaps their nature and their sequence will give you a law, the fundamental law of your own true self.” A traditional translation of the first portion of the quotation goes this way: “Let the youthful soul look back on life with the question, ‘What hast thou up to now truly loved, and what has drawn thy soul upward, mastered it and blessed it too?’”

  • The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly. Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Dawn of Day (1903)
  • Keep your feet on the ground and your thoughts at lofty heights. Peace Pilgrim, in Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words (1991)
  • Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon. Daniel Pink, in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009)
  • We all run the risk of declining, if somebody does not rise to tell us that life is on the heights, and not in the cesspools. George Sand, in letter to M. Charles Edmond (Jan. 9, 1858); reprinted in Letters of George Sand, Vol II (2009; R. L. De Beaufort, ed.)
  • He who bears in his heart a cathedral to be built is already victorious. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in Flight to Arras (1942)
  • ’Tis but a base ignoble mind/That mounts no higher than a bird can soar. William Shakespeare, Gloucester speaking, in King Henry VI (1592)
  • Man can climb to the highest summits; but he cannot dwell there long. George Bernard Shaw, in Candida (1898)
  • An aspiration is a joy for ever, a possession as solid as a landed estate, a fortune which we can never exhaust and which gives us year by year a revenue of pleasurable activity. Robert Louis Stevenson, “El Dorado,” (1878), reprinted in Virginibus Puerisque (1881)

QUOTE NOTE: In composing this observation, Stevenson was almost certainly influenced by the immortal John Keats line about a thing of beauty being a joy for ever, to be seen in BEAUTY.

  • Life’s aspirations come/in the guise of children. Rabindranath Tagore, in Fireflies (1928)
  • Men may rise on stepping-stones/Of their dead selves to higher things. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in “In Memoriam A. H. H.” (1850)
  • Always aspire higher than you can. For, however high you aspire, you will never arrive more than halfway up the cliff of your aspiration. Caitlin Thomas, in Not Quite Posthumous Letter to My Daughter (1963)
  • Associate reverently and as much as you can with your loftiest thoughts. Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg, by the side of which more will be laid. Henry David Thoreau, journal entry (Jan. 22, 1852)
  • I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. Henry David Thoreau, “Where I Lived,” in Walden (1854)

ERROR ALERT: Many of the most popular internet quotation sites mistakenly omit the “a” before the phrase conscious endeavor.

  • We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Oscar Wilde, Lord Darlington speaking, in Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892)
  • Too low they build, who build beneath the stars. Edward Young, in Night Thoughts (1742–45)
  • Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. Marianne Williamson, in A Return to Love (1992)

ASSASSINATION

  • Assassination is the extreme form of censorship. George Bernard Shaw, in preface to The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet (1911)

ASSUMPTIONS

(see also ASSUMING and BELIEFS and PREMISES and SUPPOSITIONS)

  • Assumptions are the things you don’t know you’re making…. Douglas Adams, opening words of “Blind Panic,” in Last Chance to See (1990; with Mark Carwardine)

QUOTE NOTE: The entire opening paragraph goes this way: “Assumptions are the things you don’t know you’re making, which is why it is so disorienting the first time you take the plug out of a wash-basin in Australia and see the water spiraling down the hole the other way around. The very laws of physics are telling you how far you are from home.”

  • Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while or the light won’t come in. Alan Alda, in Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself (2007)

QUOTE NOTE: Alda first offered this thought in a commencement address at Connecticut College in May, 1980. Instead of addressing all of the graduates, he spoke directly to his daughter Eve, a member of the graduating class. The device worked so well that Alda’s speech is now often described as one of the best commencement addresses of all time. About assumptions, he continued:

If you challenge your own, you won’t be so quick to accept the unchallenged assumptions of others. You’ll be a lot less likely to be caught up in bias or prejudice or be influenced by people who ask you to hand over your brains, your soul, or your money because they have everything all figured out for you.

For a transcript of the complete address, go to: Alda commencement speech.

  • Assumptions are dangerous things. Agatha Christie, the character Sir Henry speaking, in the short story “The Herb of Death,” in Thirteen Problems (1932)
  • Assumption is the mother of screw-up. Angelo Donghia, in “Behind Angelo Donghia’s Gray Flannel Success,” The New York Times (Jan. 20, 1983)

Donghia was interior designer to the stars in the latter part of the 20th century, with a client list that included Diana Ross, Barbara Walters, and Ralph Lauren. His observation applies to all who provide consulting and other personal services—assuming one understands the needs and desires of a client can be disastrous. Donghia rose to fame in 1966 when, as a little-known interior designer, he wowed New Yorkers with his design of the Opera Club at the Metropolitan Opera House. His trademark was the use of gray flannel in wallcoverings and furniture fabric. For more, see: 1979 People magazine profile of Donghia.

  • Let us assume nothing, and we shall not be mortified. Anna Brown Lindsay, in What Is Worth While? (1893)
  • Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves. Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision,” in On Lies, Secrets, and Silence (1979)
  • What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts. George Bernard Shaw, “Maxims for Revolutionists,” in Man and Superman (1903)
  • I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge. Igor Stravinsky, “Contingencies,” in Themes and Episodes (1966)
  • Assumptions are the termites of relationships. Henry Winkler, in 1995 commencement address at Emerson College (Boston, MA)

Winkler, an alumnus of the school, inserted this line into his remarks to graduating students. I have verified with the college’s public relations office that the quotation is accurate, but I have no information about the context. It’s a powerful metaphor from an unexpected source, though, perfectly capturing how unwarranted assumptions about what another person is thinking or feeling can eat away at—and even ultimately destroy—the foundation on which a relationship is built.

  • I don’t answer questions containing two or more unsupported assumptions. Rex Stout, the protagonist Nero Wolfe speaking, in The Rubber Band (1936)
  • Being abroad for the first time brings one’s unexamined assumptions into sharp focus. Deryn P. Verity, quoted in Christina Henry de Tessan, Expat: Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad (2002)
  • No matter how honest scientists think they are, they are still influenced by various unconscious assumptions that prevent them from attaining true objectivity. Colin Wilson, in Mysteries (1978)

ATHEISM & ATHEISTS

(see also AGNOSTICISM & AGNOSTICS and BELIEF and CHRISTIANITY and DOUBT and FAITH and HERESY & HERETICS and RELIGION and SKEPTICISM & SKEPTICS and THEOLOGY)

  • If you describe yourself as “Atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god—in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). Douglas Adams, in American Atheist Magazine (Winter 1998-99)

Adams added: “It's easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it's an opinion I hold seriously.”

  • It is not hardness of heart or evil passions that drive certain individuals to atheism, but rather a scrupulous intellectual honesty. Steve Allen, in Reflections (1994)

Allen continued: “The average believer rarely examines his beliefs and, indeed, would not know how to subject them to proper critical analysis.”

  • The average atheist has usually arrived at his intellectual position through a tough-minded consideration of deep philosophical questions. Indeed, the typical atheist is more interested in religion than the average believer. Steve Allen, in Reflections (1994)
  • To you, I’m an atheist. To God, I’m the loyal opposition. Woody Allen, the character Sandy Bates replying to an accusation that he was an atheist, in the film Stardust Memories (1980)
  • I’m an Atheist. I don’t believe in God, Gods, Godlets or any sort of higher power beyond the universe itself, which seems quite high and powerful enough to me. Natalie Angier, “Confessions of a Lonely Atheist,” in The New York Times (Jan. 14, 2001)

Angier continued: “I don’t believe in life after death, channeled chat rooms with the dead, reincarnation, telekinesis or any miracles but the miracle of life and consciousness, which again strike me as miracles in nearly obscene abundance. I believe that the universe abides by the laws of physics, some of which are known, others of which will surely be discovered.”

  • I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Isaac Asimov, in Free Inquiry magazine (Spring 1982)

Asimov continued: “Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.”

  • Properly read, it [the Bible] is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived. Isaac Asimov, on the Bible, quoted in Janet Jeppson Asimov, Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing (2006)

Asimov preceded the thought by writing: “If you suspect that my interest in the Bible is going to inspire me with sudden enthusiasm for Judaism and make me a convert of mountain‐moving fervor and that I shall suddenly grow long earlocks and learn Hebrew and go about denouncing the heathen—you little know the effect of the Bible on me.”

  • A doctrinaire agnostic is different from someone who doesn’t know what they believe. A doctrinaire agnostic believes quite passionately that there are certain things that you cannot know, and therefore ought not to make pronouncements about. In other words, the only things you can call knowledge are things that can be scientifically tested. Margaret Atwood, a self-description, in Warren Allen Smith, Who’s Who in Hell (2000)
  • Atheism is a non-prophet organization. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, this is mistakenly attributed to George Carlin

  • Nobody talks so constantly about God as those who insist that there is no God. Heywood Broun, in Collected Edition of Heywood Broun (1941)
  • An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support. John Buchan, quoted in Harry Emerson Fosdick, On Being a Real Person (1943)
  • In spite of all the yearnings of men, no one can produce a single fact or reason to support the belief in God and in personal immortality. Clarence Darrow, in Sign magazine (May 1938)
  • Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Richard Dawkins, in The Blind Watchmaker (1986)
  • We’ve reached a truly remarkable situation: a grotesque mismatch between the American intelligentsia and the American electorate. A philosophical opinion about the nature of the universe which is held by the vast majority of top American scientists, and probably the majority of the intelligentsia generally, is so abhorrent to the American electorate that no candidate for popular election dare affirm it in public. Richard Dawkins, in “Militant Atheism,” a TED talk (February 2002)

In his talk, Dawkins continued:

“If I’m right, this means that high office in the greatest country in the world is barred to the very people best qualified to hold it—the intelligentsia—unless they are prepared to lie about their beliefs. To put it bluntly American political opportunities are heavily loaded against those who are simultaneously intelligent and honest.”

  • We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. Richard Dawkins, in The Devil’s Chaplain (2003)
  • I am so far beyond atheism there isn’t a word in the English language dictionary to describe me. Harlan Ellison in a 1970s remark to Tom Snyder on NBC-TV’s “The Tomorrow Show”
  • In practice, all men are Atheists; they deny their faith by their acts. Ludwig Feuerbach, quoted in Ludwig Büchner, Force and Matter (1855; rev. & enlarged 1891)
  • [I call myself] an atheist. Agnostic for me would be trying to weasel out and sound a little nicer than I am about this. Richard Feynman, his response when asked whether he called himself an atheist or an agnostic; quoted in Denis Brian, The Voice of Genius: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries (1995)
  • Hope is the atheist’s prayer. It does all the good that prayer does, with none of the nonsense. Peter Flom, “What Should Humanists Do in the Age of Trump?” in Pique [Newsletter of the Secular Humanist Society of New York] (February 2017)
  • Agnosticism is a perfectly respectable and tenable philosophical position; it is not dogmatic and makes no pronouncements about the ultimate truths of the universe. It remains open to evidence and persuasion; lacking faith, it nevertheless does not deride faith. Sydney J. Harris, “Atheists, Like Fundamentalists, are Dogmatic,” in Pieces of Eight (1982)

Harris was contrasting agnosticism with atheism. He continued: “Atheism, on the other hand, is as unyielding and dogmatic about religious belief as true believers are about heathens. It tries to use reason to demolish a structure that is not built upon reason; because, though rational argument may take us to the edge of belief, we require a ‘leap of faith’ to jump the chasm.”

  • All thinking men are atheists. Ernest Hemingway, the major speaking, in A Farewell to Arms (1929)
  • I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people. Katharine Hepburn, “Kate Talks Straight,” in Ladies’ Home Journal (Oct. 1, 1991)
  • I am not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief is positively harmful. Christopher Hitchens, in Letters to a Young Contrarian (2001)

Hitchens continued: “Reviewing the false claims of religion, I do not wish, as some sentimental materialists affect to wish, that they were true. I do not envy believers their faith. I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually the case.”

  • The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not. Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer (1951)
  • The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg. Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia (1781-85)
  • You don’t have to be brave or a saint, a martyr, or even very smart to be an atheist. All you have to be able to say is “I don’t know.” Penn Jillette, in God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (2011)
  • American Atheists has always encouraged the public to read both the Old and New Testaments from cover to cover. Many people become atheists after reading the Bible. Ellen Johnson, quoted in Jack Huberman, The Quotable Atheist (2007)
  • Tolerance is thin gruel compared to the rapture of absolute truths. It’s not surprising that religious people are often better protected by atheists and agnostics than each other. Wendy Kaminer, “Absolutisms on Parade,” in Free Inquiry (2001)
  • Atheists express their rage against God although in their view He does not exist. C. S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain (1940)
  • In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist. H. P. Lovecraft, in letter to Robert E. Howard (Aug. 16, 1932)

Lovecraft preceded the thought by writing: “All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don't regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine.”

  • An atheist doesn’t have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can't be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question. John McCarthy [American computer scientist], quoted in Jack Huberman, The Quotable Atheist (2007)
  • I don’t believe in an afterlife. I am an atheist. Darwin proved for me that there is birth and death and in-between evolution and that is all there is to it. John McCarthy [English entrepreneur], quoted in Charlie Berridge, Building a Billion: the Story of John McCarthy (2011)

A moment later, McCarthy added: “I don’t believe in God or some greater being than mortal man here on earth. In the end we’re just like the leaves on the trees. They start as little green shoots, grow into dense foliage, turn golden, and then drop off and fall to the ground. They are gathered up for the bonfire or rot to provide nourishment for the next generation. All the while the tree trunk grows stronger.”

  • At no time have I ever said that people should be stripped of their right to the insanity of belief in God. If they want to practice this kind of irrationality, that’s their business. It won’t get them anywhere; it certainly won’t make them happier or more compassionate human beings; but if they want to chew that particular cud. they’re welcome to it. Madalyn Murray O’Hair, in Playboy magazine interview (Oct. 1965)
  • Atheism is a disease of the mind caused by eating underdone philosophy. Austin O’Malley, in Keystones of Thought (1914)
  • He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike him). George Orwell, on his father, in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933),
  • I’m an atheist. The good news about atheists is that we have no mandate to convert anyone. So you’ll never find me on your doorstep on a Saturday morning with a big smile, saying, “Just stopped by to tell you there is no word. I brought along this little blank book I was hoping you could take a look at.” Paula Poundstone, in There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say (2006)
  • I am an intransigent atheist, though not a militant one. This means that I am not fighting against religion—I am fighting for reason. Ayn Rand, from a 1963 letter, in Letters of Ayn Rand (1995; Michael S. Berliner, ed.)
  • Sometimes when I’m faced with an atheist, I am tempted to invite him to the greatest gourmet dinner that one could ever serve, and when we have finished eating that magnificent dinner, to ask him if he believes there’s a cook. Ronald Reagan, from a May 30, 1988 speech, in Speaking My Mind (1989)
  • In the first place, I’m sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don’t care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. J. D. Salinger, a reflection of protagonist Holden Caulfield, in The Catcher in the Rye (1951; pub. in serial form 1945-46,

Caufield continued: “Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down.”

  • My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety towards the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men into their own image, to be servants of their human interests. George Santayana, “On My Friendly Critics,” in Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (1922)
  • Among the repulsions of atheism for me has been its drastic uninterestingness as an intellectual position. Where was the ingenuity, the ambiguity, the humanity (in the Harvard sense) of saying that the universe just happened to happen and that when we’re dead we’re dead? John Updike, in Self-Consciousness: Memoirs (1989)
  • Atheism is the vice of a few intelligent persons, and superstition is the vice of fools. Voltaire, in Philosophical Dictionary (1764)
  • The study of anthropology…confirmed my atheism, which was the faith of my fathers anyway. Religions were exhibited and studied as the Rube Goldberg inventions I’d always thought they were. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., in Paris Review interview (Spring 1977)
  • As you learn more and more about the universe, you find you can understand more and more without any reference to supernatural intervention, so you lose interest in that possibility. Most scientists I know don’t care enough about religion even to call themselves atheists. And that, I think, is one of the great things about science—that it has made it possible for people not to be religious. Steven Weinberg, quoted in Natalie Angier, “Confessions of a Lonely Atheist,” in The New York Times (Jan. 14, 2001)
  • By night an atheist half believes in God. Edward Young, in Night Thoughts (1742-45)

ATTAINMENT

(see also ACCOMPLISHMENT see also ACHIEVEMENT and AMBITION and ASPIRATION)

  • Is there anything in life so disenchanting as attainment? Robert Louis Stevenson, the character Prince Florizel speaking, “The Adventure of the Hansom Cabs” (1878), in New Arabian Nights, Vol. I (1882)

ATTENTION

(see also CONCENTRATION and FOCUS and LISTENING)

  • Art is born in attention. Its midwife is detail. Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (1992)
  • From the simplest lyric to the most complex novel and densest drama, literature is asking us to pay attention. Frederick Buechner, in Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary (1988)

Buechner continued: “Pay attention to the frog. Pay attention to the west wind. Pay attention to the boy on the raft, the lady in the tower, the old man on the train. In sum, pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells therein.”

  • A man is what he does with his attention. John Ciardi, quoted in Vince Clemente, “‘A Man is What He Does with His Attention’: A Conversation with John Ciardi,’ in Vince Clemente, John Ciardi: Measure of the Man (1987)

Ciardi continued: “Poetry—any of the arts—is for those with a willing attention and must not be diluted for those who haven’t formed an attention.”

  • The one serviceable, safe, certain, remunerative, attainable quality in every study and every pursuit is the quality of attention. Charles Dickens, in speech at Birmingham and Midland Institute (Sep. 27, 1869)

Dickens continued: “My own invention or imagination, such as it is, I can most truthfully assure you, would never have served me as it has, but for the habit of commonplace, humble, patient, daily, toiling, drudging attention.”

  • The true art of memory is the art of attention. Samuel Johnson, in The Idler (Sep. 15, 1759)

Johnson concluded the essay by writing: “What is read with delight is commonly retained, because pleasure always secures attention; but the books which are consulted by occasional necessity, and perused with impatience, seldom leave any traces on the mind.”

  • The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnified world in itself. Henry Miller, in Plexus (1953)

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites mistakenly present the observation with magnified replaced by magnificent.

  • Attention is a silent and perpetual flattery. Anne Sophie Swetchine, in The Writings of Madame Swetchine (1869; Count de Falloux, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation has also been translated this way: “Attention is a tacit and continual compliment.” See the Thoreau entry below for a strikingly similar observation.

  • The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer. Henry David Thoreau, “Life Without Principle,” in The Atlantic Monthly (Oct., 1863)

Thoreau continued: “I am surprised, as well as delighted, when this happens, it is such a rare use he would make of me, as if he were acquainted with the tool.”

  • Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them their attention. Simone Weil, “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies,” in Waiting on God (1950

Weil added: “The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it.”

  • Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. Simone Weil, quoted in Simone Pétrement, Simone Weil: A Life (1976)

ATTITUDE

(see also BELIEF and DISPOSITION and PERSPECTIVE and POINT OF VIEW and TEMPERAMENT)

  • Flight is nothing but an attitude in motion. Diane Ackerman, in On Extended Wings: An Adventure in Flight (1985)
  • Civilization is a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all men. Jane Addams, in Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922)
  • I happen to feel that the degree of a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting attitudes she can bring to bear on the same topic. Lisa Alther, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Ginny Babcock, in Kinflicks (1975)
  • If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Maya Angelou, quoted in Ann Kannings, Maya Angelou: Her Words (2014)
  • We are commanded to love our neighbor because our “natural” attitude toward the “other” is one of either indifference or hostility. W. H. Auden, “Neighbor, Love of One’s,” in A Certain World (1970)

Auden preceded the thought by writing: “We are not commanded (or forbidden) to love our mates, our children, our friends, our country because such affections come naturally to us and are good in themselves, although we may corrupt them.”

  • A healthy attitude is contagious, but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites and numerous published anthologies attribute this observation to Tom Stoppard, but there is no evidence he ever said or wrote such a thing. A similar saying, but with cheerfulness instead of healthy attitude, was cited as one of Arnold H. Glasow’s “Gloombusters” in 1972. For more, see this 2016 post from quotation researcher Barry Popik.

  • The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. Author Unknown, but widely attributed to William James

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, this observation is attributed to William James, but it has never been found in his speeches and writings. It all started in 1952, when Norman Vincent Peale wrote in The Power of Positive Thinking: “William James said, ‘The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.’ As you think, so shall you be. So flush out all old, tired, worn-out thoughts. Fill your mind with fresh, new creative thoughts of faith, love, and goodness.”

  • A child’s attitude toward everything is an artist’s attitude. Willa Cather, in The Song of the Lark (1915)
  • The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude. Julia Child, in My Life in France (2006; with Alex Prud’homme)
  • Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush. It can color a situation gloomy or gray, or cheerful and gay. In fact, attitudes are more important than facts. Mary C. Crowley, in Think Mink (1976)

QUOTE NOTE: A very similar observation was offered three decades later by American leadership expert John C. Maxwell in The Difference Maker (2006): “Your attitude colors every aspect of your life. It is like the mind’s paintbrush. It can paint everything in bright, vibrant colors—creating a masterpiece. Or it can make everything dark and dreary.”

  • Men’s fundamental attitudes toward the world are fixed by the scope and qualities of the activities in which they partake. John Dewey, in Democracy and Education (1916)
  • A determined man, by his very attitude and the tone of his voice, puts a stop to defeat, and begins to conquer. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Resources,” in Letters and Spiritual Aims (1876)
  • Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search For Meaning (1946)
  • It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in Kindness, Clarity, and Insight (1984)
  • The essence of spiritual practice is your attitude toward others. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, “The Dalai Lama in Depth” (An interview with Catherine Ingram), Yoga Journal (Jan./Feb., 1990)
  • Happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors. If your own mental attitude is correct, even if you remain in a hostile atmosphere, you feel happy. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, quoted in Maurice Cayem, Why We Behave (2009)
  • Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation. Robert A. Heinlein, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist, Clifford “Kip” Russell, in Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958)
  • The attitude you have as a parent is what your kids will learn from more than what you tell them. They don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are. Jim Henson, in It’s not Easy Being Green (2005; Cheryl Henson, ed.)
  • Anyone who desires to change his environment and outer conditions may do so by changing his inner attitude. Harry Granison Hill, “We Make Our Own World,” in The Cincinnati Enquirer (Jan. 7, 1928)
  • Every extreme attitude is a flight from the self. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
  • You can do everything wrong with the right attitude and succeed, and do everything right with the wrong attitude and fail! Shirley Hutton, in Pay Yourself What You’re Worth (1988; with Constance deSwaan)
  • I have often thought that the best way to define a man's character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: “This is the real me!” William James, in 1878 letter to his wife, Alice Gibbons James; reprinted in The Letters of William James (1920)
  • To me good health is more than just exercise and diet. It’s really a point of view and a mental attitude you have about yourself. Angela Lansbury, in Angela Lansbury’s Positive Moves: My Personal Plan for Fitness & Well-Being (1991)
  • Good posture and an attitude let you get away with anything. Lorna Landvik, in Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons (2003)
  • Although it’s not useful to drown in despair, it’s also not useful to keep a “positive attitude” when this means concealing or denying real emotions. Harriet Lerner, “Good Advice,” in New Woman magazine (1993; specific issue undetermined)
  • Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change of attitude. Katherine Mansfield, quoted in A. R. Orage, “Talks with Katherine Mansfield at Fountainebleau,” The Century Magazine (Nov. 1924)
  • Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. Norman Vincent Peale, in B & O Maga