Dr. Mardy's Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations

“J” Quotations




  • Incomprehensible jargon is the hallmark of a profession. Kingman Brewster, in speech to The British Institute of Management (Dec. 13, 1977)
  • Jargon is part ceremonial robe, part false beard. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 3rd Selection (1986)
  • Jargon is the verbal sleight of hand that makes the old hat seem newly fashionable. David Lehman, in Signs of the Times (1991)

Lehman, added: “It gives an air of novelty and specious profundity to ideas that, if stated directly, would seem superficial, stale, frivolous, or false. The line between serious and spurious scholarship is an easy one to blur, with jargon on your side.”

  • It was pleasant to talk shop again; to use that elliptical, allusive speech that one uses only with another of one’s trade. Josephine Tey, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist, Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant, in The Daughter of Time (1951)



  • The Sound of Surprise. Whitney Balliett, his term for jazz and the title of his 1959 book

In the Introduction, Balliett wrote: “Jazz, after all, is a highly personal, lightweight form—like poetry, it is an art of surprise—that, shaken down, amounts to the blues, some unique vocal and instrumental sounds, and the limited, elusive genius of improvisation.”

  • Jazz is about the only form of art existing today in which there is this freedom of the individual without the loss of group contact. Dave Brubeck, quoted in Nat Shapiro & Nat Hentoff, Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya (1955)
  • People sometimes forget that jazz was built not only in the minds of the great ones, but on the backs of the ordinary ones—ordinary musicians from down South who carried the music to the corners of the country, to little speakeasies in little towns where they played honky-tonk music for $5 a night. Or less. Sometimes they played for drinks, and the sheer love of it. Cab Calloway, in Of Minnie the Moocher and Me (1976; with Bryant Rollins)
  • I listen to a jazz band at the Casino de Paris: high in the air, in a kind of cage, the Negroes writhe, dandle, toss lumps of raw meat to the crowd in the form of trumpet screams, rattles, drumbeats. The dance tune, broken, punched, counterpointed rises now and again to the surface. Jean Cocteau, written in 1919; in Professional Secrets: An Autobiography of Jean Cocteau (1970; drawn from Cocteau’s lifetime writings by editor Robert Phelps)

QUOTE NOTE: Not long after the United States formally entered WWI, jazz and other elements of American culture began to take Europe by storm. Cocteau’s vivid description of that night at the Casino continued: “The hot hall full of painted girls and American soldiers is a saloon in some Western film. This noise drenches us, wakens us to do something else. It shows us a lost path.”

  • Jazz is a language. It is people living in sound. Jazz is people talking, laughing, crying, building, painting, mathematicizing, abstracting, extracting, giving to, taking from, making of. In other words, living. Willis Conover, quoted in Leonard Feather, The Book of Jazz (1976)
  • By and large…jazz was like the kind of a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with. Duke Ellington, quoted in Nat Hentoff, “This Cat Needs No Pulitzer Prize,” The New York Times Magazine (Sep. 12, 1965)

Hentoff’s article was written just after it was reported that the Pulitzer Prize committee had decided not to award Ellington a special award for composition. The news infuriated many jazz fans, including Hentoff, but the 66-year-old Ellington took it all in good humor, saying: “Fate is being kind to me; fate doesn’t want me to be famous too young.”

  • Playing “bop” is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing. Duke Ellington, quoted in Look magazine (Aug. 10, 1954)

QUOTE NOTE: Bop was the shortened term for bebop, an extension of jazz music that enjoyed great popularity in the 1940s (a practitioner of the style was called a bebopper).

  • Thus it came to pass that jazz multiplied all over the face of the earth and the wiggling of bottoms was tremendous. Peter Gammond & Peter Clayton, in Fourteen Miles on a Clear Night: An Irreverent, Sceptical, and Affectionate Book about Jazz Records (1966)
  • Jazz I regard as an American folk music; not the only one, but a very powerful one which is probably in the blood and feeling of the American people more than any other style of folk music. George Gershwin, “The Relation of Jazz to American Music,” in Henry Cowell, American Composers on American Music (1933)
  • Jazz is the result of the energy stored up in America. George Gershwin, quoted in Sam Morgenstern, Composers on Music: An Anthology of Composers’ Writings (1958)
  • A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges. Benny Green, in The Reluctant Art (1962)
  • I always thought jazz was like the trunk of a tree. After the tree has grown, many branches have sprung out. They’re all with different leaves and they all look beautiful. Earl “Fatha” Hines, in a 1976 interview, quoted in Retha Powers (Ed.), Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations (2013)
  • Jazz has always been a man telling the truth about himself. Quincy Jones, quoted in Raymond Horricks, These Jazzmen of Our Time (1959)
  • Jazz joins together what man has put asunder. To man the theorizer, builder, tradesman, and scientist, jazz restores man the tribesman, maker of symbols and myths and dreams. G. V. Kennard, S. J., quoted by Nat Hentoff, in Show magazine (Nov., 1961)
  • Jazz is the big brother of the blues. B. B. King, quoted in Sunday Times (London, Nov. 4, 1984)

King continued: “If a guy’s playing blues like we play, he’s in high school. When he starts playing jazz, it’s like going on to college, to a school of higher learning.”

  • Jazz is the best of all nourishments. It feeds the creative spirit like nothing else can. Michel Legrand, liner notes for his 1976 album Michel Legrand and Friends

Legrand added: “It is a fantastic adventure, an exciting game of giving and taking and exchanging musical ideas with brothers and friends. When the conditions are right, it is possible to achieve a level of rapport that is nowhere else to be found in music—or for that matter—in art.”

  • Giving jazz the Congressional seal of approval is a little like making Huck Finn an honorary boy scout. Melvin Maddocks, “Pinning a Congressional Medal of Jazz,” in The Christian Science Monitor (Dec. 24, 1986)

Maddocks, a Christian Science Monitor editor and columnist for nearly fifty years, was commenting on a pending congressional resolution “designating jazz as an American national treasure.” In his typically wry way, Maddocks wrote: “Obtaining official recognition for the arts is a little like having your parents laugh at your jokes. It may be the ultimate stamp of approval all right, but if these folks like what you’re doing, what are you doing wrong?” The full column, which contains several other memorable observations, may be seen at: Christian Science Monitor.

  • Jazz is the nobility of the race put into sound; it is the sensuousness of romance in our dialect; it is the picture of the people in all their glory. Wynton Marsalis, “Why We Must Preserve Our Jazz Heritage,” in Ebony magazine (Feb., 1986)

Eight years later, in his book Sweet Singing Blues on the Road (1994), Marsalis defined jazz in this way: “A swinging dialogue between concerned parties whose philosophy is: ‘Let’s try to work it out.’”

  • Jazz is the music of the body. Anaïs Nin, diary entry (Winter, 1947–48), in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5 (1974)
  • Music is a journey. Jazz is getting lost. John O’Farrell, a reflection of protagonist and narrator Michael Adams, The Best a Man Can Get (2010)
  • Jazz,/The meaning of it,/Is as evasive as silence./Name one who could/Accurately define this/Passional art that slices/And churns one’s senses/Into so many delicate/barbarous/And uncountable patterns. Gordon Parks, in Esquire magazine (Dec., 1975)
  • Jazz may be thought of as a current that bubbled forth from a spring in the slums of New Orleans to become the mainstream of the twentieth century. In less than fifty years it has flooded the United States and the rest of the world. Henry Pleasants, “Modern Music: ‘A Dead Art,’” in The New York Times Sunday Magazine (March 11, 1955)
  • Jazz music is an intensified feeling of nonchalance. Françoise Sagan, in A Certain Smile (1956)
  • And what gift of America to the rest of the world is actually most appreciated by the rest of the world? It is African American jazz and its offshoots. What is my definition of jazz? “Safe sex of the highest order.” Kurt Vonnegut, in lecture at Clowes Hall, Indianapolis, IN (April 27, 2007); reprinted in Armageddon in Retrospect (2008)
  • Let’s face it. Jazz has made some dangerous friends. There’s something of the opium eater in your jazz cultist. Orson Welles, in Foreword to Dave Dexter, Jazz Cavalcade: The Inside Story of Jazz (1946)

Welles continued: “His enthusiasm affects him like a drug habit, removing him, it seems, from the uninitiated and less paranoid world about him and encouraging many of the attitudes of full-blown megalomania.”

  • Jazz came to America three hundred years ago in chains. Paul Whiteman, the opening line of Jazz (1926, written with M. M. McBride)


(see also ENVY and INSECURITY and LOVE)

  • The jealous man’s disease is of so malignant a nature that it converts all he takes into its own nourishment. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (Sep. 14, 1711)
  • Jealousy is a terrible thing. It resembles love, only it is precisely love’s contrary. Instead of wishing for the welfare of the object loved, it desires the dependence of that object upon itself, and its own triumph. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, entry in his Journal Intime (Dec. 28, 1880)
  • Jealousy is conceived only in insecurity and must be nourished in fear. Maya Angelou, in Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas (1976)
  • Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening. Maya Angelou, in Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993)
  • Jealousy, the old Worm that bites. Aphra Behn, in The Lucky Chance (1687)
  • Jealousy is one of love’s parasites. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), in Josh Billings’ Wit and Humor (1874)
  • Jealousy is no more than feeling alone against smiling enemies. Elizabeth Bowen, in The House in Paris (1935)
  • Jealousy dislikes the world to know it. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), in Don Juan (1819–24)
  • He sicken’d at all triumphs but his own. Charles Churchill, on Thomas Franklin, in The Rosciad (1761)
  • People may show jealousy, but hide their envy. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 11th Selection (1993)
  • Jealousy is the homage that inferiority pays to merit. Madeleine d'Arsant de Puisieux, quoted in J. De Finod, A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1886)
  • To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self. Joan Didion, “Jealousy: Is It a Curable Illness?” in Vogue magazine (June, 1961)
  • Jealousy, the jaundice of the soul. John Dryden, in The Hind and the Panther (1687)
  • It is not love that is blind, but jealousy. Lawrence Durrell, an observation from the unnamed narrator and protagonist, in Justine: A Novel (1957)
  • Jealousy is the grave of affection. Mary Baker Eddy, in Science and Health (1875)
  • One of the tortures of jealousy is that it can never turn away its eyes from the thing that pains it. George Eliot, the narrator, “Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story,” in Scenes of Clerical Life (1857)
  • Anger and jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of their objects than love. George Eliot, the narrator, in The Mill on the Floss (1860)
  • Jealousy is never satisfied with anything short of an omniscience that would detect the subtlest fold of the heart. George Eliot, the narrator, in The Mill on the Floss (1860)
  • There is a sort of jealousy which needs very little fire: it is hardly a passion, but a blight bred in the cloudy, damp despondency of uneasy egoism. George Eliot, the narrator, in Middlemarch (1871–72)
  • Jealousy: that dragon which slays love under the pretense of keeping it alive. Havelock Ellis, in On Life and Sex (1937)
  • Jealousy is the very reverse of understanding, of sympathy, and of generous feeling. Never has jealousy added to character, never does it make the individual big and fine. Emma Goldman, “Jealousy: Causes and a Possible Cure,” a circa 1912 lecture, quoted in Red Emma Speaks (1983; A. K. Shulman, ed.)
  • A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity. Robert A. Heinlein, the protagonist Lazurus Long speaking, in (1987). Time Enough for Love (1987)
  • Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy—in fact, they’re almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other. Both at once can produce unbearable turmoil. Robert A. Heinlein, the character Jubal Harshaw speaking, in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
  • Jealousy is the weed that seems to shoot up in the garden where sisters grow. Jeanne Hendricks, in A Woman for All Seasons (1977)
  • Jealousy had a taste, all right. A bitter and tongue-tasting flavor, like a pitch pit. Dolores Hitchens, in In a House Unknown (1973)
  • When however small a measure of jealousy is mixed with misunderstanding, there is going to be trouble. John Irving, the narrator John Wheelright speaking, in A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel (1989)

ERROR ALERT: Numerous internet sites mistakenly have the quotation end with “always going to be trouble.”

  • Jealousy, he thought, was as physical as fear; the same dryness of the mouth, the thudding heart, the restlessness which destroyed appetite and peace. P. D. James, the narrator describing a reflection of the character Dr. Maxim Howarth, in Death of an Expert Witness (1977)
  • Jealousy is all the fun you think they had. Erica Jong, epigraph to “Bennett Tells All in Woodstock,” in How to Save Your Own Life (1977)
  • The kernel of all jealousy is a lack of love. Carl Jung, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1962, 4th ed.)
  • Jealousy is always born with love but does not always die with it. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)

In his classic work, the legendary French aphorist also offered these additional thoughts:

In jealousy there is more of self-love than love.

Jealousy lives upon doubts; it becomes madness or ceases entirely as soon as we pass from doubt to certainty.

  • Jealousy is not a barometer by which the depth of love can be read. It merely records the degree of the lover’s insecurity. Margaret Mead, “Jealousy: Primitive and Civilized,” in Woman’s Coming of Age: A Symposium (1931; S. D. Schmalhausen & V. F. Calverton, eds.)
  • Jealousy is not born of love! It is a child of selfishness and distrust. Mourning Dove, in Cogewea the Half-Blood (1927)
  • Jealousy is the most dreadfully involuntary of all sins. It is at once one of the ugliest and one of the most pardonable. Iris Murdoch, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist Bradley Pearson, in The Black Prince (1973)

QUOTE NOTE: Pearson, who does not think of himself as a jealous type, is surprised when he begins to feel pangs of jealousy as he grows fonder of a beautiful young woman named Julian. Continuing to think about how the emotion is playing out, he goes on to add: “Jealousy is a cancer, it can kill that which it feeds on, though it usually is a horribly slow killer. (And thereby dies itself.) Also of course, to change the metaphor, jealousy is love, it is loving consciousness, loving vision, darkened by pain and in its most awful forms distorted by hate,”

  • Love that is fed by jealousy dies hard. Ovid, in Love’s Cure (1st. c. A.D.)
  • The cancer of jealousy on the breast can never wholly be cut out, if I am to believe great masters of the healing art. Jean Paul (pen name of Johann Paul Richter), in Hesperus (1795)
  • The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves. William Penn, in Fruits of Solitude (1682)
  • Jealousy is like a hot pepper. Use it mildly, and you add spice to the relationship. Use too much of it and it can burn. Ayala M. Pines, in Romantic Jealousy (1992)
  • The knives of jealousy are honed on details. Ruth Rendell, in An Unkindness of Ravens (1985)
  • Jealousy is the tie that binds—and binds—and binds. Helen Rowland, in A Guide to Men (1922)
  • To jealousy, nothing is more frightful than laughter. Françoise Sagan, the character Lucile speaking, in La Chamade (1965)
  • Realizing that you’re important to someone because he’s jealous may well be exhilarating. It certainly is a sign of love, but it’s a sign that it’s already dying. Françoise Sagan, in Night Bird: Conversations with Françoise Sagan (1980; with Jean Jacques Pauvert)

Sagan preceded the observation by saying: “Love means trusting people. A love affair based on jealousy is doomed from the start. Jealousy means struggles and fights.”

  • Trifles light as air/Are to the jealous confirmations strong/As proofs of holy writ. William Shakespeare, the character Iago speaking, in Othello (1602-04)
  • O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on. William Shakespeare, in Othello (1602–04)

QUOTE NOTE: The words come from Iago, speaking to Othello, and they serve as the origin of the expression green-eyed monster as an idiom for jealousy. The original saying alluded to the practice of cats—whether wild or domesticated—toying with their trapped victims before actually devouring them.

  • Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius. Fulton J. Sheen, quoted in Daniel P. Noonan, The Passion of Fulton Sheen (1972)
  • Her jealousy never slept. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the protagonist Winzy describing his wife Bertha, in “The Mortal Immortal: A Tale” (1833), in Tales and Stories (1891)
  • Jealousy is the lifelong noose hanging about the neck of love. Caitlin Thomas, in Not Quite Posthumous Letter to My Daughter (1963)
  • Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo. H. G. Wells, the the narrator, in The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman (1914)



  • I was sitting before my third or fourth Jellybean—which is anisette, grain alcohol, a lit match, and a small, wet explosion in the brain. Louise Erdrich, the opening line of the short story “Scales” (1980), in The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories, 1978-2008 (2009)

QUOTE NOTE: This is not simply a Great Opening Line, it is one of the best things ever said on the topic (one day, I’m hoping to do a book titled The Single Best Thing Ever Said on Just About Any Topic You Can Think Of, and this is my Number One choice for observations about jellybeans).

  • Black was my favorite. The most sophisticated flavor in jelly beans, someone once told me. Faith Sullivan, in The Cape Ann (1988)



  • Good jests ought to bite like lambs, not dogs; they should cut, not wound. Charles II, attributed in Stephen Leacock, “A Rehabilitation of Charles, II,” Essays and Literary Studies (1916)
  • Often when I thought I joked, I told the truth, afraid to speak it except in jest. Lucy Freeman, in Fight Against Fears (1951)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation was almost certainly inspired by a similar thought from a character in George Bernard Shaw’s 1904 play John Bull’s Other Island, seen in the JOKES & JOKING section.



  • These Christians today don’t represent the Christianity I know. I want Jesus to come back and say, “That’s not what I meant!” Margaret Cho, in I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight (2005)
  • Jesus would be framed and in jail if he was living today. Carson McCullers, in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940)
  • Since religion was so much a part of my life as a child, and since my childhood was so happy and so full of laughter and joy, I associate the two. Even my concept of Jesus goes along with this association of happiness and religion. Minnie Pearl, in Minnie Pearl: An Autobiography (1980)
  • Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Barbara Brown Taylor, “The Perfect Mirror,” The Christian Century (1998)
  • The more you forget yourself, the more Jesus will think of you. Mother Teresa, in Life in the Spirit (1983)
  • Failure is nothing but the kiss of Jesus. Mother Teresa, in Life in the Spirit (1983)
  • Jesus loves me—this I know,/For the Bible tells me so. Anna Bartlett Warner, quoted in Susan Warner, Say and Seal (1860)
  • A lady once longed to be wild/But kept herself quite undefiled—/By thinking of Jesus/And venereal diseases—/ And the danger of having a child. Rebecca West, a 1925 poem, in Selected Letters of Rebecca West (2000; Bonnie Kime Scott, ed.)



  • Next to gold and jewelry, health is the most important thing we have. Phyllis Diller, from her stand-up comedy routine
  • Jewelry takes people's minds off your wrinkles. Sonja Henie, quoted in John Robert Colombo, Popcorn in Paradise (1979)
  • Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? All the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry. John Lennon, in remarks to the audience at London’s Royal Variety Performance (Nov. 4, 1963)
  • Any girl who was a lady would not even think of having such a good time that she did not remember to hang on to her jewelry. Anita Loos, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925)
  • Men who have pierced ears are better prepared for marriage. They’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry. Rita Rudner, in Rita Rudner’s Guide to Men (1994)



  • This iceberg cuts its facets from within./Like jewelry from a grave/it saves itself perpetually and adorns/only itself. Elizabeth Bishop, “The Imaginary Iceberg,” in North and South (1955)
  • The biographer at work, indeed, is like the professional burglar, breaking into a house, rifling through certain drawers that he has good reason to think contain the jewelry and money, and triumphantly bearing his loot away. Janet Malcolm, in The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (1993)

Malcolm preceded the thought by writing: “Biography is the medium through which the remaining secrets of the famous dead are taken from them and dumped out in full view of the world.”




  • The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes. Bella Abzug, in Bella!: Ms. Abzug goes to Washington (1972)
  • Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Author Unknown, now regarded as a “modern proverb,” in Computerworld magazine (June 3, 1985)
  • There are no little people, and there are no little jobs. Myrtie Barker, in I Am Only One (1963)
  • I define a recession as when your neighbor loses his job, but a depression is when you lose your own. Dave Beck, quoted in Time magazine (Feb. 22, 1954)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the first appearance of a sentiment that was offered by President Truman in the mid 1950s and President Reagan in the the 1980s (his version was “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours”). Beck (1894-1993) was an American labor, and president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from 1952 to 1957.

  • Go to lots of interviews, at least one a month even when you don't need a job, to keep in training for when you do. Jilly Cooper, in How to Survive From Nine to Five (1970)
  • No job, no matter how lowly, is truly “unskilled.” Barbara Ehrenreich, in Nickel and Dimed (2001)
  • Each job presents a self-contained social world, with its own personalities, hierarchy, customs, and standards. Barbara Ehrenreich, in Nickel and Dimed (2001)
  • The first duty of a human is to assume the right functional relationship to society—more briefly, to find your real job, and do it. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1935)
  • There are very few jobs that actually require a penis or vagina. All other jobs should be open to everybody. Florynce Kennedy, quoted in Ms. Magazine (March 1973)
  • The person who knows “how” will always have a job. The person who knows “why” will always be his boss. Diane Ravitch, quoted in Time magazine (1985)
  • There is perhaps only one human being in a thousand who is passionately interested in his job for the job’s sake. The difference is that if that one person in a thousand is a man, we say, simply, that he is passionately keen on his job; if she is a woman, we say she is a freak. Dorothy L. Sayers, in Unpopular Opinions (1946)

In the book, Sayers also wrote: “It is ridiculous to take on a man’s job just in order to be able to say that ‘a woman has done it — yah!’ The only decent reason for tackling a job is that it is your job and you want to do it.”

  • Just having a job, any job, is not quite enough. Real joy in work comes when the job is necessary. Eleanor Searle Whitney, in Invitation to Joy (1971)
  • No matter what the job description says, your real job is to make the boss look good. Lois Wyse, in The Six-Figure Woman (1983)



  • Housekeeping ain’t no joke. Louisa May Alcott, in Little Women (1868)

QUOTE NOTE: Most people assume this wonderful quotation comes from one of the March sisters, or perhaps Mrs. March, but it is presented in the novel as a favorite saying of Hannah Mullet, the family’s maid and cook. Here’s the full passage: “In fact it was an immense relief to them all to have a little work, and they took hold with a will, but soon realized the truth of Hannah’s saying, ‘Housekeeping ain’t no joke.’”

  • Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments. Isaac Asimov, in the Introduction to Isaac Asimov’s Treasury of Humor (1971)
  • The announcement that you are going to tell a good story (and the chuckle that precedes it) is always a dangerous opening. Margot Asquith, in More or Less About Myself (1934)
  • Family jokes, of course, though rightly cursed by strangers, are the bond that keeps most families alive. Stella Benson, in Pipers and a Dancer (1924)
  • If everyone laughs and your joke isn’t funny, you must be the boss. Esther Blumenfeld, in Esther Blumenfeld and Lynne Alpern, Humor at Work (1994)
  • Conversation with someone at whose joke you have heartily laughed without seeing the point is apt to become precarious. Elizabeth Bowen, in To the North (1933)
  • The act of sex, gratifying as it may be, is God’s joke on humanity. It is man’s last desperate stand at superintendency. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life (1962)

QUOTE NOTE: Erica Jong was likely inspired by this Davis observation when she wrote in Parachutes and Kisses (1984): “Sex is God’s joke on the human race…if we didn’t have sex to make us ridiculous, She would have had to think up something else instead.”

  • Better warn her that a short cut to matrimonial unhappiness is not to have the same taste in jokes! Margaret Deland, the character Mr. Houghton speaking, in The Vehement Flame (1922)

QUOTE NOTE: The remark was clearly inspired by a famous observation from George Eliot’s 1876 novel Daniel Deronda, to be seen below.

  • The novel is a game or joke shared between author and reader. Annie Dillard, in Living by Fiction (1983)
  • 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.”

  • Often when I thought I joked, I told the truth, afraid to speak it except in jest. Lucy Freeman, in Fight Against Fears (1951)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation was almost certainly inspired by a similar thought from a character in George Bernard Shaw's 1904 play John Bull's Other Island, seen below.

  • Jokes are ideally pleasurable. They are an act of assassination without a corpse, a moment of total annihilation that paradoxically makes anything possible. Penelope Gilliatt, in To Wit (1990)
  • Audiences are always better pleased with a smart retort, some joke or epigram, than with any amount of reasoning. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1935)
  • Advice is sometimes transmitted more successfully through a joke than grave teaching. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • She had always found platypuses irresistible proof that God likes a joke as much as anyone else. Kerry Greenwood, in Death by Water (2010)
  • A joke is a joke or the image of a truth, Storm Jameson, in The Journal of Mary Hervey Russell (1945)
  • Never joke with the press. Irony does not translate into newsprint. Erica Jong, in Serenissima (1987)
  • There is nothing in the world so incomprehensible as the joke we do not see. Agnes Repplier, “The American Laughs,” in Under Dispute (1924)
  • Men love a joke—on the other fellow. But your really humorous woman loves a joke on herself. Mary Roberts Rinehart, in Isn’t That Just Like a Man! (1920)
  • The joke loses everything when the joker laughs himself. Johann Friedrich von Schiller, the title character speaking, in Fiesco: or, the Genoese Conspiracy (1783)

Another popular translation of the saying goes this way: “The joke loses its force when the joker laughs himself.”

  • My way of joking is to tell the truth. That’s the funniest joke in the world. George Bernard Shaw, the character Keegan speaking, in John Bull’s Other Island (1904)
  • A taste for irony has kept more hearts from breaking than a sense of humor—for it takes irony to appreciate the joke which is on oneself. Jessamyn West, in To See the Dream (1957)
  • A jokester needs to see two things at once, appearance and reality. Jessamyn West, in South of the Angels (1960)



  • It’s all storytelling, you know. That’s what journalism is all about. Tom Brokaw, quoted in Byline: Northwestern’s Journalism Quarterly (Spring, 1982)
  • The tragedy of journalism lies in its impermanence; the very topicality which gives it brilliance condemns it to an early death. Vera Brittain, in Testament of Friendship (1940)

Brittain added: “Too often it is a process of flinging bright balloons in the path of a hurricane, a casting of priceless petals upon the rushing surface of a stream.”

  • Being a journalist is permission for lifetime learning. David Carr, in commencement address at the University of California Graduate School of Journalism (Berkeley, CA; May 17, 2014)

Earlier in the address, Carr said: “Being a journalist, I never feel bad talking to journalism students because it’s a grand, grand caper. You get to leave, go talk to strangers, ask them anything, come back, type up their stories, edit the tape. That’s not going to retire your loans as quickly as it should, and it’s not going to turn you into a person who’s worried about what kind of car they should buy, but that’s kind of as it should be. I mean, it beats working. Otherwise, you’d have to get a job—a real one. Think of the people who go to work every day, sweating hatred for what they do. We skip to work.”

  • Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers another. G. K. Chesterton, “On the Cryptic and the Elliptic,” in All Things Considered (1908)
  • I know that journalism largely consists in saying “Lord Jones Dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive. G. K. Chesterton, “The Purple Wig,” in The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914)
  • The duty of journalists is to tell the truth. Journalism means you go back to the actual facts, you look at the documents, you discover what the record is, and you report it that way. Noam Chomsky, quoted in Joy Wang, ”Lecture: Noam Chomsky,” Bullpen: NYU Journalism (Dec. 2004)
  • Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grasped at once. Cyril Connolly, in Enemies of Promise (1938)
  • Gossip? It’s the mother’s milk of journalism. Herb Caen, quoted in Jerry Carroll, “Psst! Heard the Latest?” in The San Francisco Chronicle (April 10, 1990)
  • We are a noisy, imperfect lot, struggling to scribble what has been called the first draft of history. Maureen Dowd, On journalists, “Raffish and Rowdy,” in The New York Times (March 31, 1996)
  • Journalism without a moral position is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist. It’s absolutely unavoidable. A journalist is someone who looks at the world and the way it works, someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees, someone who represents the world, the event, for others. She cannot do her work without judging what she sees. Marguerite Duras, in Foreword to Outside: Selected Writings (1984)
  • Working as a journalist is exactly like being the wallflower at an orgy. Nora Ephron, in Introduction to Wallflower at the Orgy (1970)

Ephron continued: “I always seem to find myself at a perfectly wonderful event where everyone else is having a marvelous time, laughing merrily, eating, drinking, having sex in the back room, and I am standing on the side taking notes on it all.”

  • Journalism is literature in a hurry. Francis H. Jeune, in speech to The Incorporated Society of Authors, New York City (May 23, 1895); reprinted in the periodical The Author (June 1, 1895)

ERROR ALERT: Nearly all internet sites mistakenly attribute this observation to the English critic Matthew Arnold. Jeune, a prominent English judge, was known to have offered the thought as much as a year earlier, but this was the first time a print publication provided the formal quotation. For more, see this 2012 post from quotation researcher Barry Popik.

  • Journalism is a good place for any writer to start—the retailing of fact is always a useful trade and can it help you learn to appreciate the declarative sentence. Garrison Keillor, in “Post to the Host,” a A Prairie Home Companion website page (July, 2005)

Keillor continued: “A young writer is easily tempted by the allusive and ethereal and ironic and reflective, but the declarative is at the bottom of most good writing.”

  • Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust, and betraying them without remorse. Janet Malcolm, “The Journalist and the Murderer,” The New Yorker (March, 1989)
  • Hot lead can be almost as effective coming from a linotype as from a firearm. John O’Hara, in Introduction to The Portable F. Scott Fitzgerald (1945)

QUOTE NOTE: Newspapers no longer use linotype, but O’Hara’s observation remains as true today as when it first appeared.

  • Journalism is the first rough draft of history. Modern Proverb

QUOTE NOTE: This saying, also commonly expressed as “News is the first rough draft of history,” can be traced directly to a 1963 remark by Washington Post publisher Philip Graham. In the Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations (2006), Hugh Rawson and Margaret Miner report that Graham was speaking to a group of Newsweek correspondents in London on April 29, 1963 when he said: “So let us today drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of a history that will never be completed about a world we can never really understand.”

  • Journalists are, in the very nature of their calling, alarmists; and this is their way of giving interest to what they write. Herein they are like little dogs; if anything stirs, they immediately set up a shrill bark. Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Art of Literature,” in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)
  • I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon. Tom Stoppard, quoted in Kenneth Tynan, “Tom Stoppard,” New Yorker magazine (Dec. 19, 1977)
  • Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections in people and places. The sane scene that is much of life, the great portion of the planet unmarked by madness, does not lure them. Gay Talese, opening lines of The Kingdom and the Power: Behind the Scenes at the New York Times (1969)

Talese went on to write that journalists were attracted to the lurid aspects of life, like “riots and raids, crumbling countries and sinking ships, bankers banished to Rio and burning Buddhist nuns.” He brought the book’s open paragraph to a close this way: “Gloom is their game, the spectacle their passion, normality their nemesis.”

  • Journalism is the ability to meet the challenge of filling space. Rebecca West, quoted in The New York Times (Dec. 10, 1989)
  • The fact is, that the public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesmanlike habits, supplies their demands. Oscar Wilde, in The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)
  • There is much to be said in favor of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist,” in Intentions (1891)

Wilde continued: “By carefully chronicling the current events of contemporary life, it shows us of what very little importance such events really are.”

  • As for modern Journalism, its not my business to defend it. It justifies its own existence by the great Darwinian principle of the survival of the vulgarest. Oscar Wilde, the character Gilbert speaking, “The Critic as Artist,” in Intentions (1891)

When Gilbert offers this thought, the character Ernest asks, “But what is the difference between literature and journalism?” Gilbert replies: “Oh! Journalism is unreadable, and literature is not read.”


(includes NOTEBOOK; see also DIARIES and MEMOIRS and WRITERS and WRITING)

  • Journal writing is a voyage to the interior. Christina Baldwin, in One to One: Self-Understanding Through Journal Writing (1977)
  • My journal is my life’s companion. Christina Baldwin, in Life’s Companion, Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest (1990)

Later in the book, Baldwin wrote: “Writing makes a map, and there is something about a journey that begs to have its passage marked.”

  • What the Journal posits is not the tragic question, the Madman’s question, “Who am I?”, but the comic question, the Bewildered Man’s question, Am I?” Roland Barthes “Deliberation,” in Tel Quel, No. 82 (Winter, 1979)

Barthes continued: “A comic—a comedian, that’s what the Journal keeper is.”

  • The Journal is not essentially a confession, a story about oneself. It is a Memorial. Maurice Blanchot, “The Essential Solitude,” in The Space of Literature (1955)

Blanchot continued: “What does the writer have to remember? Himself. who he is when he is not writing, when he is living his daily life, when he is alive and real, and not dying and without truth.”

  • A page of my Journal is like a cake of portable soup. A little may be diffused into a considerable portion. James Boswell, journal entry (Sep., 1773), in Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1936; L. F. Powell, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: If you think of cake as something like cube (as in a boullion cube), this observation makes enormous sense—in this case, meaning that a brief journal entry about something Samuel Johnson said or did might eventually result in pages and pages of text for Boswell’s famous Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)

  • The journal is a relief. When I am tired…out comes this, and down goes every thing. But I can’t read it over—and God knows what contradictions it may contain. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), a notebook entry (Dec. 6, 1813), in Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. 3 (1974; Leslie Marchand, ed.)

Byron continued: “If I am sincere with myself (but I fear one lies more to one's self than to any one else) every page should confute, refute, and utterly abjure its predecessor.”

  • After the writer’s death, reading his journal is like receiving a long letter. Jean Cocteau, diary entry written while reading the journals of Franz Kafka (June 7, 1953), in Past Tense: Diaries, Vol. 2 (1988)
  • If life is envisioned as a continuously running motion picture, the keeping of a notebook stops the action and allows a meaningful scene to be explored frame by frame. Jo Coudert, in Advice From a Failure (1965)
  • It is all right to wallow in one’s journal; it is a way of getting rid of self-pity and self-indulgence and self-centeredness. What we work out in our journals we don’t take out on family and friends. Madeleine L’Engle, in Foreword to the 1989 edition of C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed (orig. pub. in 1961)
  • Keeping a journal implies hope. Erica Jong, a reflection of protagonist Isadora Wing, in How to Save Your Own Life (1977)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is most commonly presented on internet sites, but Wing’s full thought was originally expressed this way: “Keeping a journal implies hope, and in the last year I had given up hope.”

  • The yearning to write in a journal, like the yearning to meditate, is very deep in the human psyche. We record in order to experience what is more clearly; even if we don’t reread what we have written, out of a wish to be spared the emotions that would be evoked Joyce Carol Oates, in “End of Story?” (interview with Jeffrey Smalldon), The Columbus Dispatch (April 6, 2008)

Oates continued: “Our ancestors more naturally meditated, in church, and wrote in journals, while we, in an accelerated age, move too quickly forward without looking back. A journal enhances life, forcing the individual to see it close-up, to appreciate it more.”

  • Writing a journal means that facing your ocean you are afraid to swim across it, so you attempt to drink it drop by drop. George Sand, an 1837 journal entry, in The Intimate Journal of George Sand (1929' Marie Jenney Howe, ed.)
  • What fun it is to generalize in the privacy of a note book. It is as I imagine waltzing on ice might be. A great delicious sweep in one direction, taking you your full strength, and then with no trouble at all, an equally delicious sweep in the opposite direction. My note book does not help me think, but it eases my crabbed heart. Florida Scott-Maxwell, in The Measure of My Days (1968)
  • [It is] Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts—like a confidante who is deaf, dumb, and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself. Susan Sontag, a journal entry titled “On Keeping a Journal” (Dec. 31, 1957), in Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 (2008; David Rieff, ed.)

Sontag went on to write: “The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather—in many cases—offers an alternative to it.”

  • The notebook has become an art form…a thought form…even a philosophical form. Susan Sontag, a 1980 journal entry, in As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals & Notebooks, 1964—1980 (2012; David Rieff, ed.)

In the very next notebook entry, Sontag wrote: “Decline of the letter, the rise of the notebook! One doesn’t write to others any more; one writes to oneself.”

  • Journal-keepers tend to be solitaries, shy and contemptuous of society, incastled in intellectual pride, skittish about intimacy. They peer at their world from battlements and through slits. Carll Tucker, in privately-circulated e-missive (Oct. 27, 2018)
  • People who keep journals have life twice. Jessamyn West, in To See the Dream (1957)
  • I prefer all journals to letters because they are more “inner.” Letters tell you what the writer thinks of the recipient; journals tell you who the writer is. Jessamyn West, in Double Discovery (1980)

In the book, West also offered this contrast: “Letters strike me as an attempt to tell others how you are. Journals are an attempt to discover who you are.”



  • The longest journey begins with a single step, not with the turn of an ignition key. Edward Abbey, “Walking,” in The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West (1991)
  • Someone soon to start on a journey is always a little holy. Elizabeth Bowen, the voice of the narrator, in This House in Paris (1935)
  • All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware. Martin Buber, “The Life of the Hasidim,” in The Legend of the Baal-Shem (1908; translated by Maurice Friedman in 1955 English edition)
  • Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Richard F. Burton, a journal entry (Dec. 2, 1856) made just prior to his expedition to find the source of the Nile River; quoted in Fawn M. Brodie, The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton (1967)

Burton continued: “Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Home, man feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood.”

  • A man sets out on a journey, dreaming of a beautiful or magical place, in pursuit of some unknown treasure. At the end of his journey, the man realizes the treasure was with him the entire time. Paulo Coelho, in the 2013 Foreword to The Alchemist, originally published in 1988
  • Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think. Lawrence Durrell, the opening words of Bitter Lemons of Cyprus: Life on a Mediterranean Island (1957)

Durrell continued: “They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our natures—and the best of them lead us not only outwards in space, but inwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.”

  • All amateur travellers have experienced horror journeys, long or short, sooner or later, one way or another. As a student of disaster, I note that we react alike to our tribulations: frayed and bitter at the time, proud afterwards. Nothing is better for self-esteem than survival. Martha Gellhorn, in Travels with Myself and Another (1978)
  • It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. Ursula Le Guin, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Gently Ai, in The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
  • Whenever I prepare for a journey I prepare as though for death. Should I never return, all is in order. Katherine Mansfield, a journal entry (Jan. 29, 1922)
  • How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man’s city? How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading somebody else’s life? Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation (1962)

Merton went on to add: “You must have the humility to work out your own salvation in a darkness where you are absolutely alone.”

  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Proverb (Chinese)
  • Life, as the most ancient of all metaphors insists, is a journey; and the travel book, in its deceptive simulation of the journey’s fits and starts, rehearses life’s own fragmentation. More even than the novel, it embraces the contingency of things. Jonathan Raban, in For Love and Money (1987)
  • A pen and a notebook and a reasonable amount of discrimination will change a journey from a mere annual into a perennial, its pleasures and pains renewable at will. Freya Stark, “On Traveling With a Notebook,” in The Cornhill Magazine (1954)



  • When large numbers of people share their joy in common, the happiness of each is greater because each adds fuel to the other’s flame. St. Augustine, in Confessions (397–398 A.D.)
  • Joy is really the simplest form of gratitude. Karl Barth, in Church Dogmatics, Vol. III (1945–51)

Barth added: “When we are joyful, time stands still for a moment or moments because it has fulfilled its meaning as the space of our life-movement and, engaged in this movement, we have attained in one respect at least the goal of our striving.”

  • The test of Christian character should be that a man is a joy-bearing agent to the world. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. The Bible—Psalms 30:5 (KJV)
  • Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The Bible—James 1: 2-4 (RSV)
  • Love to faults is always blind,/Always is to joy inclined. William Blake, “Love to Faults,” in Poems (written 1791-92)

The quatrain continued: “Lawless, wing’d, and unconfin’d,/And breaks all chains from every mind.”

  • There may be Peace without Joy, and Joy without Peace, but the two combined make Happiness. John Buchan, in Pilgrim’s Way: An Essay in Recollection (1940)
  • We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy. Joseph Campbell, in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living (1992; Diane Osbon, ed.)
  • Find a place where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. Joseph Campbell, in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living (1992; Diane Osbon, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: Campbell believed that everybody has a sacred space (“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again”) and joy results from dwelling in that space. He wrote: “You really don’t have a sacred space, a rescue land, until you find…some field of action where there is a spring of ambrosia—a joy that comes from inside, not something external that puts joy into you—a place that lets you experience your own will and your own intention and your own wish so that, in small, the Kingdom is there. I think everybody, whether they know it or not, is in need of such a place.”

  • The deep joy we take in the company of people with whom we have just recently fallen in love is undisguisable. John Cheever, the voice of the narrator, in “The Bus to St. James’s,” in The Stories of John Cheever (1978)
  • Joy rises in me, like as a summer’s morn. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in “A Christmas Carol” (1799)
  • Mister sat at the top of the car-crusher as close to joy as he'd been in a long time. Harry Crews, the opening line of Car (1972)
  • It is not easy always to be joyful, to keep in mind the duty of delight. Dorothy Day, in The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist (1952)
  • How necessary it is to cultivate a spirit of joy. It is a psychological truth that the physical acts of reverence and devotion make one feel devout. The courteous gesture increases one’s respect for others. To act lovingly is to begin to feel loving, and certainly to act joyfully brings joy to others which in turn makes one feel joyful. Dorothy Day, “On Pilgrimage” in The Catholic Worker (Jan., 1959)
  • Every joy digs its own grave. Comtesse Diane, in Les Glanes de la Vie (1898)
  • The second half of joy/Is shorter than the first. Emily Dickinson, in Poem No. 1715 (undated)

Dickinson preceded these lines by writing: “Consulting summer’s clock,/But half the hours remain./I ascertain it with a shock—/I shall not look again.”

  • Present joys are more to flesh and blood,/Than a dull prospect of a distant good. John Dryden, in The Hind and the Panther (1687)
  • There are joys so complete, so all perfect, that one should not survive them. Isadora Duncan, in My Life (1927)
  • We all need joy, and we can all receive joy in only one way, by adding to the joy of others. Eknath Easwaran, in The End of Sorrow (1975)
  • It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. Albert Einstein, in speech at Pasadena City College (Feb. 26, 1931)

QUOTE NOTE: Einstein was the honored guest at the dedication of a new observatory that had recently been constructed on school grounds. The words above have been preserved on a bronze plaque on the exterior of the college’s astronomy building.

  • Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift. Albert Einstein, in Ideas and Opinions (1954)
  • There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Behavior,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • Nothing can convince me that people are at one with their work unless they’re joyous about it. Indira Gandhi, quoted in Dorothy Norman, Indira Gandhi: Letters to An American Friend 1950-1984 (1985)
  • To win one’s joy through struggle is better than to yield to melancholy. André Gide, journal entry (May 12, 1927)
  • People need joy quite as much as clothing. Some of them need it far more. Margaret Collier Graham, in Gifts and Givers (1906)
  • There is no such thing as the pursuit of happiness, but there is the discovery of joy. Joyce Grenfell, in a 1976 edition of The Observer (specific date undetermined)
  • Love and joy are twins, or born of each other. William Hazlitt, “Common Places,” in Literary Examiner (Sep.–Dec., 1823)
  • Gardening is all of my pleasure. It was even more of a joy than a duty, to watch the tender shoots burst forth in spring, and to know that I had a part of them, in the cold season. Mosemary Hawley Jarman, the opening words of We Speak No Treason (1971)
  • Gloom we have always with us, a rank and sturdy weed, but joy requires tending. Barbara Holland, in Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences (1995)
  • The root of joy, as of duty, is to put all one’s powers towards some great end. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “The Class of ’61,” speech at Harvard University (June 28, 1911)
  • Joy’s smile is much closer to tears than laughter. Victor Hugo, in Hernani (1830)

QUOTE NOTE: Hernani is one of Hugo’s lesser-known works, but this line from the play was a source of inspiration for the popular expression tears of joy.

  • Words are less needful to sorrow than to joy. Helen Hunt Jackson, in Ramona (1884)
  • The trick is not how much pain you feel—but how much joy you feel. Any idiot can feel pain. Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live, excuses, excuses, excuses. Erica Jong, in How to Save Your Own Life (1977)
  • It’s easier to write about pain than about joy. Joy is wordless. Erica Jong, in Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir (1994)
  • I used to think—when I was small, and before I could read—that everybody was always happy, and at first it made me very sad to know about pain and great sorrow; but now I know that we could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world. Helen Keller, in letter to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (March 1, 1890) ; quoted in M. Anagnos, Helen Keller (1892)

QUOTE NOTE: Keller was only nine years old when she wrote this letter to one of America’s most prominent figures; she signed it “From your loving little friend.”

  • You will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Helen Keller, in The Story of My Life (1902)
  • Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Helen Keller, “To the New College Girl,” in Out of the Dark (1914)
  • Joy is a spiritual element that gives vicissitudes unity and significance. Helen Keller, in Helen Keller’s Journal (1938)
  • Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Nobel Peace Prize Lecture (Dec. 11, 1964)

Dr. King continued: “Such is the moment I am presently experiencing. I experience this high and joyous moment not for myself alone but for those devotees of nonviolence who have moved so courageously against the ramparts of racial injustice and who in the process have acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.”

  • Men without joy seem like corpses. Käthe Kollwitz, in The Diaries and Letters of Käthe Kollwitz (1955; Hans Kollwitz, ed.)
  • Joy is the best makeup. Joy, and good lighting. Anne Lamott, in Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (2007)

Lamott added: “If you ask me, a little lipstick is a close runner-up.”

  • When you jump for joy, beware that no one moves the ground from beneath your feet. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, in Unkempt Thoughts (1957)
  • For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Locked Rooms and Open Doors (1974)
  • The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared by them. Audre Lorde, in Uses of the Erotic (1978)
  • Life thy life as it were spoil and pluck the joys that fly. Martial, in Epigrams (1st. c. A.D.)

QUOTE NOTE: Spoil here refers to wartime plunder seized from the enemy by the victors, as in spoils of war. Martial’s original epigram contains the embedded metaphor life is a battle, and suggests that joys come from victories in any ongoing struggle.

  • Art is man’s expression of his joy in labor. William Morris, in the 1883 essay “Art Under Plutocracy”
  • Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. Rollo May, in Man’s Search For Himself (1953)

May continued: “It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity, who is able to affirm his being, if need be, against all other beings and the whole inorganic world.”

  • Beauty often fades, but seldom so swiftly as the joy it gives us. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook (1963)
  • The sweetest joys of life grow in the very jaws of its perils. Herman Melville, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Pierre Glendenning, in Pierre: Or, The Ambiguities (1852)
  • Remembered joys are never past. James Montgomery, in the poem “The Little Cloud” (1825)
  • A person laughs in idleness, for fun, not for joy. Joy has nothing, nothing but the old way of tears. Margaret Oliphant, in A House in Bloomsbury (1894)

Oliphant introduced the thought by writing: “Laughing is not the first expression of joy.”

  • Joy is a brief spark,/A flashing light./But grief is fire/Burning everything in sight. Louis Phillips, “What’s An Old Man To Do,” in Sunlight Falling to the Lake (2020)
  • I think joy is just as instructive as pain, and I like it better. I never meant to suffer any more than I could help; my nature was meant for happiness, a daylight art and living. Katherine Anne Porter, in a 1951 letter; reprinted in Isabel Bayley, Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)
  • Black people are natural, they possess the secret of joy. Mirella Ricciardi, in Africa Saga (1981)

This passage from the Kenyan-born English photographer's novel was the likely inspiration for Alice Walker’s 1992 novel Possessing the Secret of Joy.

  • I trust all joy. Theodore Roethke, an undated notebook entry, in Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke, 1943-63 (1972; David Wagoner. ed.)
  • The more the heart is sated with joy, the more it becomes insatiable. Gabrielle Roy, in Where Nests the Water Hen (1951)
  • When the great joys are stilled, the minor ones must sing. Margaret Lee Runbeck, in Pink Magic (1949)

QUOTE NOTE: In a parenthetical observation just after this thought, Runbeck wrote: “I think that must be a quotation, it sounds too lovely for me to have thought of spontaneously.”

  • Whoever has loved knows all that life contains of sorrow and of joy. George Sand, quoted in J. De Finod, A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1886)
  • There is no hope of joy except in human relations. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in Wind, Sand, and Stars (1939)
  • You have to sniff out joy, keep your nose to the joy-trail. Buffy Sainte-Marie, quoted in Susan Braudy, “Buffy Sainte-Marie: ‘Native North American me.’” Ms. magazine (March, 1975)
  • Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness—happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love. Adela Rogers St. Johns, in Some Are Born Great (1974)
  • This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. George Bernard Shaw, “Epistle Dedicatory,” in Man and Superman (1903)

QUOTE NOTE: This has become one of Shaw’s most popular quotations. He continued with this less familiar thought: “And also the only real tragedy in life is the being used by personally minded men for purposes which you recognize to be base.”

  • I find my joy in living in the fierce and ruthless battles of life, and my pleasure comes from learning something. August Strindberg, in Preface to Miss Julie (1888)
  • Oh who can tell the range of joy/Or set the bounds of beauty? Sara Teasdale, “A Winter Bluejay,” in Rivers to the Sea (1915)
  • Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. God loves a cheerful giver. She gives most who gives with joy. Mother Teresa, in A Gift for God: Prayers & Meditations (1975)

QUOTE NOTE: These are the opening words of the “Joy” chapter. Mother Teresa continued: “The best way to show our gratitude to God and the people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.”

  • joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. Mother Teresa, in A Gift for God: Prayers & Meditations (1975)
  • One filled with joy preaches without preaching. Mother Teresa, in a 1991 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific issue undetermined)
  • Those undeserved joys which come uncalled and make us more pleased than grateful are they that sing. Henry David Thoreau, journal entry (Feb. 28, 1842)
  • Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with. Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar,” in Following the Equator (1897)
  • Joy is not in things, it is in us. Richard Wagner, quoted in Elbert Hubbard, Elbert Hubbard’s Scrap Book (1923)
  • Resistance is the secret of joy! Alice Walker, a reflection of protagonist Tashi/Evelyn, in Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992)

QUOTE NOTE: The epigraph of the book, also written by Walker, foreshadows this later passage and captures the essence of the novel: “There are those who believe Black people possess the secret of joy and that it is this that will sustain them through any spiritual or moral or physical devastation.” In crafting both thoughts, but especially the epigraph, I believe Walker was influenced by a 1981 observation from the Kenyan-born English photographer Mirella Ricciardi, seen earlier.

  • Joy is being fully aware of reality. Simone Weil, quoted in Thierry Gossit, Women Mystics of the Contemporary Era (2003)
  • The source of one’s joy is also often the source of one’s sorrow. Jessamyn West, in Cress Delahanty (1948)
  • I cannot see that art is anything less than a way of making joys perpetual. Rebecca West, in the title essay, in The Strange Necessity (1928)
  • Why should we need extra time in which to enjoy ourselves? If we expect to enjoy our life, we will have to learn to be joyful in all of it, not just at stated intervals when we can get time or when we have nothing else to do. Laura Ingalls Wilder, quoted in Stephen W. Hines, Words From a Fearless Heart (1995)
  • I have seen/a curious child, who dwelt upon a tract/of inland ground, applying to his ear/The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell,/To which, in silence hushed, his very soul/Listened intensely, and his countenance soon/Brightened with joy. William Wordsworth, “The Excursion I,” in The Excursion (1814)

The verse continued: “for from within were heard/Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed/Mysterious union with its native sea.”



  • It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it. Amelia Barr, the voice of the narrator, in Jan Vedder’s Wife (1885)
  • Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps. William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell,” in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)
  • Joy goes as deep as sorrow, but leaves less of itself behind. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 12th Selection (1993)
  • Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. Kahlil Gibran, in The Prophet (1923)

QUOTE NOTE: The Prophet was responding to a woman who said, “Speak to us of joy and sorrow.” He continued: “And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”

ERROR ALERT: Many quotation sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to René Descartes.

  • We should spread joy, but, as far as we can, repress sorrow. Michel de Montaigne, “Of Vanity,” in Essays (1580–88)
  • Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow. Proverb (Swedish)
  • The source of one’s joy is also often the source of one’s sorrow. Jessamyn West, the title character speaking, in Cress Delahunty (1948)



  • To be a Jew is a destiny. Vicki Baum, in And Life Goes On (1932)
  • The Jews started it all—and by “it” I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and atheist, tick. Thomas Cahill, in The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (1998)

Cahill continued: “Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings…we would think with a different mind, interpret all our experience differently, draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives.”

  • I am neither a German citizen, nor do I believe in anything that can be described as a “Jewish faith.” But I am a Jew and glad to belong to the Jewish people, though I do not regard it in any way as chosen. Albert Einstein, in letter to Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith (April 3, 1920); quoted The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2010; Alice Calaprice, ed.)
  • If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew. Albert Einstein, in address to the French Philosophical Society (April 6, 1922)
  • I have felt that to be a Jew was, in some ways at least, to be especially privileged. Edna Ferber, in A Peculiar Treasure: An Autobiography (1938)
  • A whole roomful of Jews is like a charged battery. The vitality sparks seem to fly, and frequently the result is a short circuit. Edna Ferber, in A Peculiar Treasure: An Autobiography (1938)
  • I’m not really a Jew. Just Jew-ish. Not the whole hog, you know. Jonathan Miller, in the comedy play Beyond the Fringe (1960; coauthored with Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, and Dudley Moore)
  • A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die! Philip Roth, a reflection of the title character, in Portnoy’s Complaint 1969
  • I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as the Christian is? William Shakespeare, the character Shylock speaking to Salerio, in The Merchant of Venice (1596-98)

Shylock famously continued; “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”

  • If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one per cent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star-dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. Mark Twain, “Concerning The Jews,” in Harper’s Magazine (September, 1899)

In his legendary essay, Twain continued:

“His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him.

“He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.

“The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? ”



  • I have only one passion and it is to be a good judge, to judge fairly. Ruth Bader Ginzburg, in her U.S. Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings (July 21, 1993)



  • It is very unfair to judge of any body’s [sic] conduct without an intimate knowledge of their situation. Jane Austen, the title character speaking, in Emma (1815)

Emma continued: “Nobody, who has not been in the interior of a family, can say what the difficulties of any individual of that family may be.”

  • By a small sample we may judge of the whole piece. Miguel de Cervantes, an unnamed merchant speaking to the title character, in Don Quixote (1605)
  • Distrust your judgment the moment you can discern the shadow of a personal motive in it. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880–93)
  • When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown. Stephen Jay Gould, “The Quack Detector,” in New York Review of Books (Feb. 4, 1982); reprinted in An Urchin in the Storm (1987)
  • 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)
  • He liked the work of his friends which is beautiful as loyalty but can be disastrous as judgment. Ernest Hemingway, writing about Ezra Pound, in A Movable Feast (1964)

QUOTE NOTE: Hemingway was referring to Pound’s inability—or perhaps his unwillingness—to criticize the artistic creations of people he regarded as friends. Hemingway added: “We never argued about these things because I kept my mouth shut about things I did not like. If a man liked his friends’ painting or writing, I thought it was probably like those people who like their families, and it was not polite to criticize them.”

  • Every judgment teeters on the brink of error. Frank Herbert, the character Leto speaking, in Children of Dune (1976)

QUOTE NOTE: Leto added: “To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous. Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.” Herbert borrowed the adventure at the edge of uncertainty expression from Jacob Bronowski, who employed it a few years earlier in his 1973 classic The Ascent of Man (see the Bronowski entry in KNOWLEDGE).

  • Few things make us feel finer than havin’ our judgment vindicated. Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard, in Abe Martin: Hoss Sense and Nonsense (1926)
  • A mistake in judgment isn’t fatal, but too much anxiety about judgment is. Pauline Kael, in I Lost It at the Movies (1965)
  • So often we judge when we have only been called to witness. JonArno Lawson, in Love is an Observant Traveller (1997)

In 1849 the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a novel titled “Kavanagh” that included these words: 2

  • we judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the voice of the narrator, in the novel Kavanagh (1849)

QUOTE NOTE: It is possible that Longfellow was inspired by an 1836 thought from the American cleric William Nevins, a man whose sermons and writings were popular in New England in that era. See the following entry.

  • In judging ourselves, we cannot be too severe; in judging others, we cannot be too candid. We should judge ourselves by our motives, but others by their actions. William Nevins, in Select Remains of the Rev. William Nevins with a Memoir (1836)
  • Knowledge is the treasure, but judgment the treasurer, of a wise man. William Penn, in Fruits of Solitude (1682)
  • It is only an error in judgment to make a mistake, but it argues an infirmity of character to stick to it. Adela Rogers St. Johns, in Some Are Born Great (1974)
  • You can’t depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus. Mark Twain, a notebook entry, in Mark Twain’s Notebook (1935; A. E. Paine, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation has often confused Twain fans because an extremely similar line appeared in Twain’s famous time-travel fantasy A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889): “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” For more on both quotations, see this 2015 post from Garson O’Toole, the Quote Investigator.



  • Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? The Bible—Matthew 7:3 (RSV)

QUOTE NOTE: This biblical verse began with the immortal words: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

  • By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Disciple and Unbelievers,” in The Cost of Discipleship (1937)

Bonhoeffer preceded the thought by writing: “Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating.”

  • we judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the voice of the narrator, in the novel Kavanagh (1849)

QUOTE NOTE: It is possible that Longfellow was inspired by an 1836 thought from the American cleric William Nevins, a man whose sermons and writings were popular in New England in that era. See the following entry.

  • In judging ourselves, we cannot be too severe; in judging others, we cannot be too candid. We should judge ourselves by our motives, but others by their actions. William Nevins, in Select Remains of the Rev. William Nevins with a Memoir (1836)
  • They must first judge themselves, that presume to censure others. William Penn, in Some Fruits of Solitude (1693)



  • There is no virtue so truly great and godlike as justice. Joseph Addison, in The Guardian (London; July 4, 1713)

Addison's essay also contained these other thoughts on the theme:

“To be perfectly just is an attribute in the divine nature; to be so to the utmost of our abilities, is the glory of man.”

“Justice discards party, friendship, kindred, and is therefore always represented as blind.”

  • Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites mistakenly attribute this saying to Benjamin Franklin.

  • The place of justice is a hallowed place. Francis Bacon, “Of Judicature,” in Essays (1625)
  • Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. James Baldwin, in No Name in the Street (1972)
  • Justice is mercy’s highest self. Frances Hodgson Burnett, in A Lady of Quality (1896)
  • For Justice, though she’s painted blind,/Is to the weaker side inclin’d. Samuel Butler, in Hudibras (1663)
  • Justice begins with the recognition of the necessity of sharing. Elias Canetti, in Crowds and Power (1962)
  • Justice is not to be taken by storm. She is to be wooed by slow advances. Benjamin Cardozo, in The Growth of the Law (1924)
  • We have accumulated a wealth of historical experience which confirms our belief that the scales of American justice are out of balance. Angela Davis, in If They Come in the Morning (1971)
  • Justice is always violent to the party offending, for every man is innocent in his own eyes. Daniel Defoe, in The Shortest Way with Dissenters (1702)
  • Justice which does not bear a sword beside its scales soon falls into ridicule. Charles de Gaulle, in The Army of the Future (1941)
  • Justice can never be done in the midst of injustice. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Second Sex (1949)
  • Privilege is the greatest enemy of justice. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880-93)
  • Justice is not cheap. Justice is not quick. It is not ever finally achieved. Marian Wright Edelman, in Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change (1987)
  • Justice is like the Kingdom of God—it is not without us as a fact, it is within us as a great yearning. George Eliot, in Romola (1862)
  • The first requisite of civilization…is that of justice. Sigmund Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)
  • Justice…limps along, but it gets there all the same. Gabriel García Márquez, the character Guardiola speaking, in Evil Hour (1968)
  • I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. Barry Goldwater, in speech accepting the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, San Francisco, CA (July 16, 1964)

QUOTE NOTE: In formulating this thought, Goldwater was almost certainly inspired by an observation from Thomas Paine in his 1792 classic The Rights of Man (see Paine entry in MODERATION). Goldwater’s line, delivered so confidently at the convention, went on to doom his chances at winning the U. S. presidential election. For more, see this informative post by Bob Deis at This Day In Quotes.

  • Thou shalt not ration justice. Learned Hand, in speech to the Legal Aid Society of New York (Feb. 16, 1951)
  • Since when do you have to agree with people to defend them from injustice? Lillian Hellman, quoted in Katherine Lederer, Lillian Hellman (1979)
  • Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. Gordon Hewart (Lord Hewart), in Rex v. Sussex Justices (Nov. 9, 1923)
  • Even in envy may be discerned something of an instinct of justice, something of a wish to see universal fair-play, and things on a level. Leigh Hunt, in The Indicator (Sep. 13, 1820)
  • Justice, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Zora Neale Hurston, in Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)
  • The most odious of all oppressions are those which mask as justice. Robert H. Jackson, in Krulewitch v. United States (1949)
  • Human justice is imperfect, but it's the only justice we have. P. D. James, the protagonist Adam Dalgliesh speaking, in Death of an Expert Witness (1977)
  • Justice is truth in action. Joseph Joubert, in Pensées (1842)
  • until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained. Helen Keller, in Out of the Dark (1914)
  • Justice delayed is democracy denied. Robert F. Kennedy, “To Secure These Rights,” in The Pursuit of Justice (1964)

QUOTE NOTE: Kennedy was piggybacking on a 1693 observation by William Penn and elaborated by others (see the Penn entry below).

  • No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Martin Luther King, Jr., in speech at Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Aug. 28, 1963)
  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Introduction to the American Committee on Africa’s Southwest Africa: The UN’s Stepchild (Oct. 1959)
  • Delay of justice is injustice. Walter Savage Landor, the character President Du Paty speaking, in Imaginary Conversations: Second Series (1824)

QUOTE NOTE: Lander was clearly inspired by an earlier John Dryden observation (see his entry above), and both his and Dryden's thought were given a more familiar form by William E. Gladstone (see his entry above).

  • Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. H. L. Mencken, in Prejudices, Third Series (1922)
  • The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Theodore Parker, quoted in John Haynes Homes, et. al., Readings From Great Authors (1918)

QUOTE NOTE: In “Out of the Long Night,” a 1958 article in The Gospel Messenger, Martin Luther King, Jr. offered this saying without citing an author, but he placed the observation in quotation marks, suggesting that is was a proverbial saying. He continued to use the saying in later speeches and articles and, as a result, it is almost always attributed to him. The original author, however, is Theodore Parker, an American Unitarian preacher and prominent abolitionist. Parker did not express it as cleanly and simply as it was reported in the 1918 book, however (the passage in the book looks like an attempt to summarize a slightly longer thought). Parker’s original words, as presented in Ten Sermons of Religion (1853), were as follows: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” The shorter version from the 1918 book enjoyed limited popularity among American clergyman in the 1930s and 40s, but it didn’t go mainstream until Dr. King began using it in the 1950s and 60s (see the King entry above). See also this informative Quote Investigator post by Garson O’Toole.

  • Having been unable to strengthen justice, we have justified strength. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670. Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Our Law says well, “To delay justice, is injustice.” William Penn, in Fruits of Solitude (1693)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the original expression of a sentiment that was tweaked by Walter Savage Landor in 1824 (see his entry above) and went on to inspire William E. Gladstone to say in a March 18, 1868 House of Commons speech: “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Gladstone’s phrasing of the thought evolved into a modern proverb, and has been adapted by others.

  • Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both. Eleanor Roosevelt, a 1947 remark; reported in My Day, Vol. 2 (1990)
  • Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in a letter to three students who had written him (Oct., 1967); reprinted in Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Record (1970; L. Labedz, ed.)

Solzhenitsyn continued: “Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.”

  • Justice, like vengeance, is not good eaten cold. Elsa Triolet, in Proverbes d’Elsa (1971)
  • Justice is what love looks like in public. Cornel West: Living and Loving Out Loud, a Memoir (2009; with David Ritz)

West continued: “When you love people, you hate the fact that they’re being treated unjustly. Justice is not simply an abstract concept to regulate institutions, but also a fire in the bones to promote the well-being of all.”

  • Justice is a terrible but necessary thing. Jessamyn West, in The Massacre at Fall Creek (1975)
  • Justice is always in jeopardy. Walt Whitman, in Democratic Vistas (1870)
  • It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world! Mary Wollstonecraft, in A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)
  • Justice is a train that always comes too late. Yevgeny Yevtushenko, quoted in The Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. 15 (1963)

QUOTE NOTE: Most Western versions of the quotation are slightly different: “Justice is like a train that’s nearly always late.”



  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Introduction to the American Committee on Africa’s Southwest Africa: The UN’s Stepchild (Oct. 1959)
  • Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. H. L. Mencken, in Prejudices, Third Series (1922)
  • Justice in the extreme is often unjust. Jean Racine, the character Jocasta speaking, in The Thebans (1664)



  • Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. Georges Clemenceau, attributed in United States Law Week (June 3, 1969)

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