Dr. Mardy's Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations


“L” Quotations

LABELS & LABELING

(see also DEFINITIONS and STEREOTYPING and UNDERSTANDING)

  • In some circles, attaching labels to people rates only a little higher than chicken stealing, because it is assumed a label immediately ends attempts to understand the individual. Jo Coudert, in Advice From a Failure (1965)

Coudert continued: “But human beings emit a great deal of surface noise, and sometimes efforts to understand are jammed by the sheer amount of information given off. If the basic assumption is made that all people are engaged in efforts at change, the angry and the guilty then become useful labels, for they enable identification of where the main thrust at change is is coming, whether it is directed at the self or at others.”

  • The language of labels is like paper money, issued irresponsibly, with nothing of intrinsic value behind it, that is, with no effort of the intelligence to see, to really apprehend. Paula Fox, “Unquestioned Answers”, in News From the World: Stories and Essays (2011)

A moment earlier, Fox had written: “Labels not only free us from the obligation to think creatively; they numb our sensibilities, our power to feel. During the Vietnam War, the phrase body count entered our vocabulary. It is an ambiguous phrase, inorganic, even faintly sporty. It distanced us from the painful reality of corpses, of dead, mutilated people.”

  • Once we have labeled the things around us we do not bother to look at them so carefully. Words are part of our rational selves, and to abandon them for a while is to give freer reign to our intuitive selves. Jane Goodall, in Jane Goodall, Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey (2000; with Phillip Berman)

Goodall introduced the thought by writing: “Words can enhance experience, but they can also take so much away. We see an insect and at once we abstract certain characteristics and classify it—a fly. And in that very cognitive exercise, part of the wonder is gone.”

  • A label is the first step toward action. Elizabeth Janeway, in Improper Behavior (1987)

Janeway introduced the thought a moment earlier by writing: “We expect definitions to tell us not only what is, but what to do about it; to show us how the world fits together and how its different parts connect and work.”

  • New labels change nothing. Josephine Lawrence, in Let Us Consider One Another (1945)
  • How ridiculous we often are in our negations, our strutting self importance, our penchant for making labels and sticking them on people. As though labelling a person disposed of him! Muriel Lester, in It Occurred to Me (1937)
  • Decades have a delusive edge to them. They are not, of course, really periods at all, except as any other ten years may be. But we, looking at them, are caught by the different name each bears, and give them different attributes, and tie labels on them, as if they were flowers in a border. Rose Macaulay, in Told By an Idiot (1923)
  • It may be necessary temporarily to accept a lesser evil, but one must never label a necessary evil as good. Margaret Mead, in a 1978 Redbook magazine article; reprinted in Margaret Mead: Some Personal Views (1979)
  • Labels are for filing, labels are for clothing, labels are not for people. Martina Navratilova, quoted in David Blanton, Queer Notions (1996)
  • Labels are for the things men make, not for men. The most primitive man is too complex to be labeled. Rex Stout, the protagonist Nero Wolfe speaking, in The Father Hunt (1968)
  • The first act of insight is to throw away the labels. Eudora Welty, “Must the Novelist Crusade?” in The Eye of the Story (1978)

LABOR

(see also CAREER and EMPLOYMENT and OCCUPATION and PLAY and PROFESSION and REST and TOIL and UNEMPLOYMENT and VOCATION and WORK & PLAY)

  • Hard labor: A redundancy, like “working mother.” Joyce Armor, in The Dictionary According to Mommy (1990)
  • Writing is a labor of love and also an act of defiance, a way to light a candle in a gale wind. Alice Childress, “A Candle in a Gale Wind,” in Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Examination (1984; Mari Evans, ed.)
  • To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given the chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy. As everyone else, I love to dunk my crust in it. But alone, it is not a diet designed to keep body and soul together. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life (1962)
  • Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another. Anatole France, a reflection of the title character, in The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1881)
  • To love life through labor is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret. Kahlil Gibran, “On Work,” in The Prophet (1923)

QUOTE NOTE: The words come from the Prophet, who has been asked: “Speak to us of Work.” He preceded the observation by saying: “You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite. When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.”

  • The fruit derived from labor is the sweetest of all pleasures. Luc de Clapiers (Marquis de Vauvenargues), in Reflections and Maxims (1746)
  • All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Strength to Love (1963)
  • One should not be assigned one’s identity in society by the job slot one happens to fill. If we truly believe in the dignity of labor, any task can be performed with equal pride because none can demean the basic dignity of a human being. Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners), in Common Courtesy (1985)
  • The labor of keeping house is labor in its most naked state, for labor is toil that never finishes, toil that has to be begun again the moment it is completed, toil that is destroyed and consumed by the life process. Mary McCarthy, “The Vita Activa” (1958), in On the Contrary (1961)
  • To love and to labor is the sum of living. Anaïs Nin, a 1922 diary entry, in Linotte, the Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 2 (1982)
  • The virtuous heart, like the body, becomes strong and healthy more by labor than by nourishment. Jean Paul (pen name of Johann Paul Richter), in Hesperus (1795)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation has also been translated this way: “The virtuous heart, like the body, grows sound and strong more by work than by good food.”

  • My own feeling is that the only possible reason for engaging in the hard labor of writing a novel, is that one is bothered by something one needs to understand, and can come to understand only through the characters in the imagined situation. May Sarton, in Writings on Writing (1980)

LACK

(see also ABSENCE and DEFICIT and EMPTY & EMPTINESS andFULLNESS and SCARCITY and SHORTAGE)

  • It’s lack that gives us inspiration. It’s not fullness. Ray Bradbury, in a 1988 interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” program
  • What! Nothing grand and noble to be admired, obeyed, copied? Ah, the lack is not without you, but within you! Julia McNair Wright, in The Complete Home (1879)

LADDER METAPHORS

(see also metaphors involving ANIMALS, BASEBALL, BATHING & BATHS, BIRTH, BOXING & PRIZEFIGHTING, CANCER, DANCING, DARKNESS, DEATH, DISEASE, FOOTBALL, FRUIT, GARDENING, HEART, JOURNEYS, LIGHT & LIGHTNESS, LOTTERY, MOTHERS, NAUTICAL, PARTS OF SPEECH, PATHS, PLANTS, PUNCTUATION, RETAIL/WHOLESALE, ROAD, SAILING & NAUTICAL, SUN & MOONS, VEGETABLES, and WEIGHTS & MEASURES)

  • We make a ladder of our vices if we trample those same vices underfoot. St. Augustine, “De Ascenscione,” in Sermons (5th c.)
  • If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take just gets you to the wrong place faster. Stephen R. Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Personal Workbook (2003)

Covey first used the leaning ladder metaphor in a slightly different way in his classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989): “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

  • The mathematician has reached the highest rung on the ladder of human thought. Havelock Ellis, in The Dance of Life (1923)
  • The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher. T. H. Huxley, “On Medical Education,” in Science and Education: Essays (1900)
  • Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount. Clare Booth Luce, in Reader’s Digest (May, 1979)
  • I work very slowly. It’s like building a ladder, where you’re building your own ladder rung by rung, and you’re climbing the ladder. Joyce Carol Oates, on her approach to writing, in “Wired for Books” interview with Don Swaim (May 13, 1990)

Oates added: “It’s not the best way to build a ladder, but I don’t know any other way.”

LADIES

(see also MEN & WOMEN and WOMEN—DESCRIBED BY MEN and and WOMEN—DESCRIBED BY WOMEN and SEXISM)

  • Women are not ladies. The term connotates [sic] females who are simultaneously put on a pedestal and patronized. Cynthia Heimel, in Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I’m Kissing You Good-Bye (1993)

LAKES & PONDS

(see also CONSERVATION and EARTH and ENVIRONMENT & ENVIRONMENTALISM and FOREST and MOUNTAINS and RIVERS and TREES)

  • Perhaps/The truth depends on a walk around the lake. Wallace Stevens, from the poem “It Must Be Abstract,” in Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction (1942)
  • A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. Henry David Thoreau, “Ponds,” in Walden (1854)

LAMPOON

(see also CRITICISM and HUMOR and IRONY and JOKES and LAMPOON and LAUGHTER and PARODY & PARODISTS and RIDICULE and SARCASM and WIT & WITTICISMS)

  • Lampoon. A personal satire; abuse; censure written not to reform but to vex. Samuel Johnson, in A Dictionary of the English Language (1755)

LAND

(see also ACQUISITION and BUYING & SELLING and ESTATES and FARMS & FARMING and CAPITALISM and OWNERSHIP and POSSESSIONS and PROPERTY and [PRIVATE] PROPERTY and REAL ESTATE and STANDARD OF LIVING and WEALTH)

  • The first man to fence in a piece of land, saying “This is mine,” and who found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in Discourse On the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality Among Mankind (1754)

[Promised] LAND

(see HEAVEN)

LANGUAGE

(see also BODY LANGUAGE and COMMUNICATION and ENGLISH—THE LANGUAGE) and LANGUAGES—SPECIFIC TYPES and SLANG and SPEECH & SPEAKING and TALK & TALKING and WORDS)

  • Language is a playing with words until they can impersonate physical objects and abstract ideas. Diane Ackerman, in Deep Play (1999)
  • Language is a virus. Laurie Anderson, the title song, from the 1986 album Language Is a Virus (1986)
  • Language. I loved it. And for a long time I would think of myself, of my whole body, as an ear. Maya Angelou, quoted in The New York Times (Jan. 20, 1993)
  • High thoughts must have high language. Aristophanes, the character Aeschylus speaking, in Frogs (405 B.C.)
  • The root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. James Baldwin, in Notes of a Native Son (1955)
  • Language is a skin; I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. Roland Barthes, in A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (1977)
  • One can say of language that it is potentially the only human home, the only dwelling place that cannot be hostile to man. John Berger, in And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos (1984)
  • Because language is the carrier of ideas, it is easy to believe that it should be very little else than such a carrier. Louise Bogan, “A Revolution in European Poetry” (1941); reprinted in A Poet’s Alphabet (1970)
  • What is that we human beings ultimately depend on? We depend on our words. We are suspended in language. Our task is to communicate experience and ideas to others. Niels Bohr, quoted in Aage Petersen, “The Philosophy of Niels Bohr,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Sep., 1963)

Bohr continued: “We must strive continually to extend the scope of our description, but in such a way that our messages do not thereby lose their objective or unambiguous character.”

  • We are trapped by language to such a degree that every attempt to formulate insight is a play on words. Niels Bohr, quoted in Niels Blaedel, Harmony and Unity: The Life of Niels Bohr (1988)
  • Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going. Rita Mae Brown, in Starting From Scratch (1988)
  • Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides. Rita Mae Brown, in Starting From Scratch (1988)
  • Language, never forget, is more fashion than science, and matters of usage, spelling, and pronunciation tend to wander around like hemlines. Bill Bryson, in The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way (1990)
  • Literature…the Promised Land in which language becomes what it really ought to be. Italo Calvino, in Six Memos for the Next Millennium (1992)
  • One does not inhabit a country; one inhabits a language. That is our country, our fatherland—and no other. E. M. Cioran, “On the Verge of Existence,” Anathemas and Admirations (1986)
  • For language is the armory of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in Biographia Literaria (1817)
  • If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. Confucius, in Analects (6th c. B.C.)

Confucius preceded the thought by writing: “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.”

  • To a teacher of language there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot. Joseph Conrad, in Prologue to Under Western Eyes, Part I (1911)
  • Language is the apparel in which your thoughts parade before the public. Never clothe them in vulgar or shoddy attire. George W. Crane, in Psychology Applied (1952)
  • In language, the ignorant have prescribed laws to the learned. Richard Duppa, in Maxims (1830)
  • Male supremacy is fused into the language, so that every sentence both heralds and affirms it. Andrea Dworkin, in Pornography (1981)
  • Language is the archives of history. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
  • Language is fossil poetry. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet,” Essays: Second Series (1844)

Emerson introduced the thought by writing: “The etymologist finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant picture.” And he concluded it by writing: “As the limestone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, or tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin.”

  • Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Behavior,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Quotation and Originality,” in Letters and Social Aims (1875)
  • Languages, like our bodies, are in a perpetual flux, and stand in need of recruits to supply the place of those words that are continually falling off through disuse. Henry Felton, in A Dissertation on Reading the Classics and Forming a Just Style (1709)

ERROR ALERT: This observation from a prominent English clergyman and academic is commonly misattributed to Cornelius Conway Felton, an American educator and former president of Harvard University. The mistaken attribution is widespread, even showing up in some respected quotation anthologies. The error can be traced to a practice common in nineteenth-century books of quotations, providing only the last name of authors quoted (e.g. Franklin, Disraeli, Johnson). To see how Felton expressed his observation in the writing style of the time, go to: Henry Felton.

  • How did language develop? In much the same way an economic order develops through the market—out of the voluntary interaction of individuals, in this case seeking to trade ideas or information or gossip rather than goods and services with one another. Milton Friedman & Rose Friedman, in Free to Choose (1980)
  • Language is to the mind more than light is to the eye. William Gibson, the character Anne Sullivan speaking (quoting Dr. Howe), in the teleplay The Miracle Worker (1957)

QUOTE NOTE: The Miracle Worker began as a Playhouse 90 television play in 1957, with Theresa Wright playing Annie Sullivan and Patty McCormack playing Helen Keller. It was only after Gibson expanded the play for the Broadway stage in 1959 (with an unknown Anne Baxter in the role of Sullivan and Patty Duke as Keller), that it became a classic in American theatrical history.

  • Like a diaphanous nightgown, language both hides and reveals. Karen Elizabeth Gordon, in Intimate Apparel (1989)
  • Language, if it throws a veil over our ideas, adds a softness and refinement to them, like that which the atmosphere gives to naked objects. William Hazlitt, “On Classical Education,” in The Round Table (1817)
  • Every language is a temple, in which the soul of those who speak it is enshrined. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in The Professor at the Breakfast Table (1860)
  • 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.”

  • Language is memory and metaphor. Storm Jameson, in Parthian Words (1970)
  • Language is one of the thin walls humanity has built up over centuries against its own bestial and destructive impulses. Storm Jameson, in Parthian Words (1970)

A few moments later, Jameson went on to write: “Not literature alone, but society itself is wormed and rotten when language ceases to be respected not merely by advertisers and politicians, but by persons of learning and authority.”

  • Language is the dress of thought. Samuel Johnson, “Cowley,” in Lives of the English Poets (1779–81)

QUOTE NOTE: Thomas Carlyle was likely thinking of this observation by Dr. Johnson when he wrote in Sartor Resartus (1834): “Language is called the garment of thought: however, it should rather be, language is the flesh-garment, the body, of thought.”

  • I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigrees of nations. Samuel Johnson, a 1773 remark, quoted in James Boswell, Tour to the Hebrides (1785)

Nearly a century later, in The Descent of Man (1871) Charles Darwin offered a related thought on languages that have fallen by the wayside: “A language, like a species, when once extinct, never…reappears. The same language never has two birth-places.”

  • The mystery of language was revealed to me. I know then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, joy, set it free! Helen Keller, in The Story of My Life (1902)
  • Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. Stephen King, in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000)

King added: “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story…to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.” (ellipsis in original)

  • A language is like a beach: every wave of history deposits verbal driftwood on its sand. Rob Kyff, “Words and Meaning Migrate in Linguistic Travelogue,” in The Hartford Courant (Dec. 18, 2007)
  • Language is, without a doubt, the most momentous and at the same time the most mysterious product of the human mind. Susanne K. Langer, in Philosophy in a New Key (1942)
  • Language is a window through which we look at the world. Richard Lederer, in The Miracle of Language (1991)

Lederer continued: “A growing number of people have begun to wonder if our window on reality has a glass that distorts our view. If language reflects culture and in turn influences culture, could it be that the window through which we see life is marked by cracks, smudges, blind spot, and filters?”

  • Lying is the misuse of language. We know that. We need to remember that it works the other way round too. Even with the best intentions, language misused, language used stupidly, carelessly, brutally, language used wrongly, breeds lies, half-truths, confusion. Ursula Le Guin, in Steering the Craft (1998)

Le Guin continued: “In that sense you can say that grammar is morality. And it is in that sense that I say a writer’s first duty is to use language well.”

  • Evil government relies on deliberate misuse of language. Because literary skill is the rigorous use of language in the pursuit of truth, the habit of literature, of serious reading, is the best defense against believing the half-truths of ideologues and the lies of demagogues. Ursula K. Le Guin, in acceptance speech for the Maxine Cushing Gray Award, Seattle, Washington (Oct. 18, 2006)
  • 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)
  • Language, the machine of the poet. Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Milton,” in Edinburgh Review (Aug., 1825); reprinted in Critical and Historical Essays (1843)
  • Language doesn’t belong to grammarians, linguists, wordsmiths, writers, or editors. It belongs to the people who use it. It goes where people want it to go, and, like a balky mule, you can’t make it go where it doesn’t want to go. Rosalie Maggio, in Talking About People: A Guide to Fair and Accurate Language (1997)
  • Language is civilization itself. The Word, even the most contradictory word, binds us together. Wordlessness isolates. Thomas Mann, the character Herr Settembrini speaking, in The Magic Mountain (1924)

QUOTE NOTE: The passage has also been translated this way: “Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact—it is silence which isolates.”

  • To reason with a poor language is like using a pair of scales with inaccurate weights. André Maurois, in The Art of Living (1939; 2007 trans. by Sergio E. Serrano under title An Art of Living)

QUOTE NOTE: I’ve also seen the quotation translated this way: “To reason with poorly chosen words is like using a pair of scales with inaccurate weights.” Maurois began by writing that there are no disputes in algebra because all terms are precisely defined. In most human discourse, by contrast, language is imprecise. He wrote: “The words used in speaking about emotions, about the conduct of government, are vague words which may be employed in the same argument with several different meanings.”

  • A living language is like a man suffering incessantly from small hemorrhages, and what it needs above all else is constant transfusions of new blood from other tongues. The day the gates go up, that day it begins to die. H. L. Mencken, “Joseph Conrad,” in Smart Set (Dec. 1922); reprinted in A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
  • The notion that anything is gained by fixing a language in a groove is cherished only by pedants. H. L. Mencken, in The American Language (1947, 4th ed.)
  • Language screens reality as a filter on a camera lens screens light waves. Casey Miller & Kate Swift, in Words and Women (1976; rev., 2000)
  • Our native language is like a second skin, so much a part of us we resist the idea that it is constantly changing, constantly being renewed. Casey Miller & Kate Swift, in Introduction to The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing (1980)

Miller and Swift introduced the thought by writing: “We learn certain rules of grammar and usage in school, and when they are challenged it is as though we are also being challenged.”

  • When language in common use in any country becomes irregular and depraved, it is followed by their ruin and degradation. John Milton, in letter to Benedetto Bonomatthal ( Sep 10, 1638)

Milton continued: “For what do terms used without skill or meaning, which are at once corrupt and misapplied, denote but a people listless, supine, and ripe for servitude?”

  • Language is in decline. Not only has eloquence departed but simple, direct speech as well, though pomposity and banality have not. Edwin Newman, in Strictly Speaking (1974)
  • Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers. George Orwell, “The English People” (1944); reprinted in The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell (Sonia Orwell & Ian Angus, eds., 1968)
  • The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” in Horizon magazine (April, 1946); reprinted in Shooting an Elephant (1950)

QUOTE NOTE: It was in the same essay—perhaps the most famous of all his essays—that Orwell also wrote: “Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

  • Language is obviously as different from other animals’ communication systems as the elephant’s trunk is different from other animals’ nostrils. Steven Pinker, in The Language Instinct (1994)
  • Language is not a protocol legislated by an authority but rather a wiki that pools the contributions of millions of writers and speakers, who ceaselessly bend the language to their needs and who inexorably age, die, and get replaced by their children, who adapt the language in their turn. Steven Pinker, in Prologue to The Sense of Style (2014)
  • But for the lack of language, a baby has many sad stories to tell. Hart Pomerantz, in a personal communication (Aug. 1, 2021)
  • Different persons growing up in the same language are like different bushes trimmed and trained to take the shape of identical elephants. W. V. Quine, in Word and Object (1960)

Quine continued: “The anatomical details of twigs and branches will fulfill the elephantine shape differently from bush to bush, but the overall outward results are alike.”

  • Language is as real, as tangible, in our lives as streets, pipelines, telephone switchboards, microwaves, radioactivity, cloning laboratories, nuclear power stations. Adrienne Rich, “Power and Danger: Works of a Common Woman” (1977); in On Lies, Secrets and Silence: Selected Prose 1966–1978 (1980)
  • Language is not the frosting, it’s the cake. Tom Robbins, “What Is the Function of Metaphor?” in Wild Ducks Flying Backward (2005)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is often presented, but it was originally the concluding portion of this slightly longer passage: “Ultimately, I use figures of speech to deepen the reader’s subliminal understanding of the person, place, or thing that’s being described. That, above everything else, validates their role as a highly effective literary device. If nothing else, they remind reader and writer alike that language is not the frosting, it’s the cake.”

  • Language is the amber in which a thousand precious and subtle thoughts have been safely embedded and preserved. Richard Chenevix Trench, “Introductory Lecture,” in On the Study of Words (1851)
  • An idea does not pass from one language to another without change. Miguel de Unamuno, in Preface to The Tragic Sense of Life (1913)
  • As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action. Gore Vidal, in The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992)

Vidal continued: “You liberate a city by destroying it. Words are used to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.”

  • I personally think we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain. Jane Wagner, in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (1985; line delivered by Lily Tomlin in the Broadway play)
  • At the very least, a mind enclosed in language is in prison. Simone Weil, “Human Personality” (1943); published in La Table Ronde (1950); reprinted in Selected Essays (R. Rees, ed., 1962)
  • A language is a dialect that has an army and a navy. Max Weinreich, in History of the Yiddish Language (1973)
  • The living language is like a cowpath: it is the creation of the cows themselves, who, having created it, follow it or depart from it according to their whims or their needs. From daily use, the path undergoes change. E. B. White, “The Living Language,” in the New Yorker (Feb. 23, 1957)

White added: “A cow is under no obligation to stay in the narrow path she helped make, following the contour of the land, but she often profits by staying with it and she would be handicapped if she didn’t know where it was or where it led to.”

  • The future author is one who discovers that language, the exploration and manipulation of the resources of language, will serve him in winning through to his way. Thornton Wilder, in Paris Review interview (Winter, 1956)
  • Language is what stops the heart exploding. Jeanette Winterson, “Shafts of Sunlight,” in The Guardian (Nov. 14, 2008)

QUOTE NOTE: Winterson’s essay, timed to coincide with a T. S. Eliot Festival in London, spoke to the power of language—and especially of poetry—to help those coping with life’s problems. She went on to write: “A tough life needs a tough language—and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers—a language powerful enough to say how it is.” The full article may be see at ”Shafts of Sunlight”.

  • Language is a finding place, not a hiding place. Jeanette Winterson, “Shafts of Sunlight,” in The Guardian (Nov. 14, 2008)

QUOTE NOTE: Winterson used this beautiful and evocative phrase to capture what it was like for her, as a deeply troubled sixteen-year-old, to find her inner turmoil given a voice by T. S. Eliot’s verse drama Murder in the Cathedral (1935). She preceded her finding place observation above by writing: “Pain is very often a maimed creature without a mouth. Through the agency of the poem that is powerful enough to clarifying feelings into facts, I am no longer dumb, not speechless, not lost.”

  • Language is wine upon his lips. Virginia Woolf, the narrator describing the character Erasmus Cowan, in Jacob’s Room (1922)

(Body) LANGUAGE

LAS VEGAS

(see also BOSTON and CHICAGO and HOLLYWOOD and LONDON and LOS ANGELES and MIAMI and NEW ORLEANS and NEW YORK CITY and PARIS and SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON, DC)

(see also AMERICAN CITIES)

  • If you aim to leave Las Vegas with a small fortune, go there with a large one. Author Unknown, a popular saying since the 1950s

QUOTE NOTE: Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, in part to help boost the state’s economy during the early stages of the Great Depression. It would take fifteen years before the first casino was built, however, when gangster Bugsy Siegel opened The Flamingo in 1946 (the casino was named after the nickname his mistress, Virginia Hill).

  • The reason you should go to Las Vegas is because, for only the second time, the second time, ever, they have rebuilt Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s back!! And you have the opportunity to see it before it turns to salt. Lewis Black., in The White Album (2000)

Black continued: “And you wanna get out there before the Christian Right finds out what we’re up to and shits all over it.”

  • By night, at thirty thousand feet, it looks as if all the Vatican and Crown jewels had been piled on a strip of blue velvet. A single downtown hotel consumes as much electricity as the houses in a town of sixty thousand. It composes a nighttime image of Babylon in the desert. But it is Everyman’s cut-rate Babylon. Not far away there is, or was, a roadside lunch counter and over it a sign proclaiming in three words that a Roman emperor’s orgy is now a democratic institution. It says: “Topless Pizza Lunch.” Alistair Cooke, in Alistair Cooke’s America (1973)

Cook continued: “And in the pleasure domes of Las Vegas people line up for hours to register into motels and indulge the pleasures that once were reserved at Badan Baden for Edward VII and King Farouk.”

  • I love that town. No clocks. No locks. No restrictions. Marlene Dietrich, in Marlene Dietrich’s ABC (1962)
  • Vegas is the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements, bizarre and beautiful in its venality and in its devotion to immediate gratification. Joan Didion, “Marrying Absurd,” in Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is typically presented, a somewhat shortened version of this larger thought: “Vegas is the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements, bizarre and beautiful in its venality and in its devotion to immediate gratification, a place the tone of which is set by mobsters and call girls and ladies’ room attendants with amyl nitrite papers in their uniform pockets.”

  • I worry about Las Vegas schools. I hear in math, they only teach them to count to 21. Rita Rudner, in In Touch (2003)
  • Las Vegas has become, just as Bugsy Siegel dreamed, the American Monte Carlo—without any of the inevitable upper-class baggage of the Riviera casinos. Tom Wolfe, “Farrar,” in The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965)

A bit later, Wolfe went on to add: “For the grand debut of Monte Carlo as a resort in 1879 the architect Charles Garnier designed an opera house for the Place du Casino; and Sarah Bernhardt read a symbolic poem. For the debut of Las Vegas as a resort in 1946 Bugsy Siegel hired Abbot and Costello, and there, in a way, you have it all.”

LAUGHTER

(see also CHEER and COMEDY & COMEDIANS and HUMOR and [SENSE OF] HUMOR and JESTS and JOKES & JOKERS and JOY and LAUGHING AT OURSELVES and LEVITY and MERRIMENT and MIRTH and SATIRE & SATIRISTS and WIT)

  • Man is distinguished from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (London; Sep. 24, 1712)
  • Without laughter life on our planet would be intolerable. So important is laughter to us that humanity highly rewards members of one of the most unusual professions on earth, those who make a living by inducing laughter in others. Steve Allen, in Funny People (1981)

Allen continued: “This is very strange if you stop to think of it: that otherwise sane and responsible citizens should devote their professional energies to causing others to make sharp, explosive barking-like exhalations.”

  • So many tangles in life are ultimately hopeless that we have no appropriate sword other than laughter. Gordon W. Allport, in The Person in Psychology (1968)
  • Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh. W. H. Auden, in The Dyer’s Hand (1962)
  • Laughter is always fatal to feeling. Amelia E. Barr, the voice of the narrator, in The Maid of Maiden Lane (1900)
  • We should remind ourselves that laughing together is as close as you can get to another person without touching, and sometimes it represents a closer tie than touching ever could. Regina Barreca, in Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful (2000)
  • Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God. Karl Barth

QUOTATION CAUTION: I originally came across this quotation (without any source information provided) in Robert Fitzhenry’s otherwise excellent anthology, The Barnes and Noble Book of Quotations (1986). The quotation has since become extremely popular, but I’ve never seen it with a source cited.

  • Laughter is an instant vacation. Milton Berle, quoted in Jack Runninger, “The Therapy of Laughter,” The Southern Journal of Optometry (July, 1977)

QUOTE NOTE: This was the first published appearance of this popular quotation. The notion that humor was an “instant vacation” had been offered several years earlier, but never phrased precisely in Berle’s way. In a 1968 issue of the Pennsylvania School Journal, writer Eugene P. Bertin wrote in his “Ravelin’s” column: “There is a purifying power in laughter. It is truth in palatable form. It is instant vacation. Seeing the comical side of many situations makes life a great deal easier. It’s like riding through life on sensitive springs that ease every jolt.” For more, see this 2014 post from Garson O'Toole, the Quote Investigator.

  • Pyrotechnically considered, it is the fire-works of the soul. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), on laughing, in Everybody’s Friend (1874)

QUOTE NOTE: In his “Laffing” essay, originally written in his distinctive phonetic style, Billings introduced the topic by writing: “Anatomically considered, laughing is the sensation of feeling good all over, and showing it principally in one spot.” In yet another memorable metaphorical description in the essay, he wrote: “Genuine laughing is the vent of the soul, the nostrils of the heart, and just as necessary for health and happiness as spring water is for a trout.” To see all of these—and more—in their original style, go to the “Laffing” essay.

  • Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Victor Borge, quoted in Gerald Donaldson, The Walking Book (1979)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This observation has become extremely popular, appearing on almost all internet quotation sites and scores of published quotation anthologies. An original source has never been provided, however, and it possible it originated as an alteration of “A smile is the shortest distance between two people,” which Borge did in fact say, according to a 1977 New York Daily News article

  • Where there is laughter there is always more health than sickness. Phyllis Bottome, in Survival (1943)
  • I'm beginning to feel that the real endangered species on planet earth are not the whales and the elephants but those of us who can laugh at the world and ourselves. Rita Mae Brown, in In Her Day (1976)

A moment later, Brown went on to write: “Where’s the energetic wit, the looney outlook, the frivolity, the lightness of comforting laughter? It has become fashionable to know and unfashionable to feel, and you can’t really laugh if you can’t feel.”

  • The only honest art form is laughter, comedy. You can’t fake it. Lenny Bruce, in John Cohen, The Essential Lenny Bruce (1967)
  • How much lies in laughter: the cipher-key wherewith we decipher the whole man! Thomas Carlyle, in Sartor Resartus (serialized in Fraser’s Magazine 1833-34; published as a novel 1836)
  • We have to laugh. Because laughter, we already know, is the first evidence of freedom. Rosario Castellanos, “If Not Poetry, Then What?” (1973), in Maureen Ahern, A Rosario Castellanos Reader (1988)
  • Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,/Sermons and soda water the day after. Lord Byron (George Gordon), in Don Juan, canto 2 (1819)
  • For me, a hearty belly-laugh is one of the beautiful sounds in the world. Bennett Cerf, quoted in Cleveland Amory, Celebrity Register (1960)
  • A day without laughter is a day wasted. Nicolas Chamfort, in Maxims and Considerations (1796)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is now typically presented, but the original thought (La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri) was traditionally translated as follows: “The most wasted of all days is that in which one has not laughed.” Many internet sites mistakenly attribute the quotation to Charles Chaplin and Groucho Marx. For more, see this 2011 post by Garson O’Toole, the Quote Investigator.

  • Laughter is much more important than applause. Applause is almost a duty. Laughter is a reward. Carol Channing, quoted in John Robert Colombo, Popcorn in Paradise (1979)

QUOTE NOTE: It’s possible that Channing was inspired by an earlier observation by Jessamyn West, to be seen below.

  • Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain. Charlie Chaplin, quoted in C. Huff, Chaplin (1951)
  • Laughter has something in it in common with the ancient winds of faith and inspiration; it unfreezes pride and unwinds secrecy; it makes men forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves; something…that they cannot resist. G. K. Chesterton, “Laughter,” in The Common Man (1950)

Chesterton introduced the observation by writing: “Therefore, in the modern conflict between the Smile and the Laugh, I am all in favor of laughing” (he was alluding to a conflict he mentioned earlier in the essay: “The recent stage of culture and criticism might very well be summed up as the men who smile criticizing the men who laugh”).

  • Laughter is a force for democracy. John Cleese, in his narration for The Human Face, a 2001 BBC-TV documentary series

Cleese preceded the observation by saying: “I’m struck by how laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter.”

  • Laughter is the best medicine. But it’s more than that. It’s an entire regime of antibiotics and steroids. Laughter brings the swelling down on our national psyche, and then applies an antibiotic cream. Stephen Colbert, in Entertainment Weekly interview (Jan. 4, 2007)
  • You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time—of anything. If you’re laughing, I defy you to be afraid. Stephen Colbert, on the value of comedy, in Parade magazine interview (Sep. 23, 2007)
  • Laughter is the only strategy that has ever worked at all for me when my world was falling apart. Pat Conroy, the protagonist Tom Wingo speaking, in The Prince of Tides (1986)
  • Laughter is a form of internal jogging. It moves your internal organs around. It enhances respiration. It is an igniter of great expectations. Norman Cousins, in Head First: The Biology of Hope and Healing (1989)
  • Laughter is America’s most important export. Walt Disney, quoted in Christopher Finch, Walt Disney’s America (1978)
  • Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails. Max Eastman, in Enjoyment of Laughter 1936)

QUOTE NOTE: This form of the quotation is familiar to many people, especially dog lovers, but Eastman actually preceded the thought by writing: “Man has been defined as the laughing animal, but that is not strictly accurate.” He went on to conclude about dogs laughing with their tails: “And a tail is an awkward thing to laugh with as you can see by the way they bend themselves half double in extreme hilarity trying to get that rear-end exuberance forward into the main scene of action. What puts man on a higher state of evolution is that he has got his laugh on the right end.”

  • Earth laughs in flowers. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Hamatreya,” in Poems (1846)
  • Many times what cannot be refuted by arguments can be parried by laughter. Desiderius Erasmus, in In Praise of Folly (1509)
  • The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion. Richard P. Feynman, in “What Do You Care What Other People Think”: Further Adventures of a Curious Character (1988)
  • 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.

  • Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects. Arnold H. Glasow, quoted in Reader’s Digest (1987; specific date undetermined)
  • There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in Elective Affinities (1809)
  • There exists a kind of laughter which is worthy to be ranked with the higher lyric emotions and is infinitely different from the twitchings of a mean merrymaker. Nikolai Gogol, in Dead Souls (1842)
  • I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person. Audrey Hepburn, quoted in Dominick Dunne, “Hepburn Heart,” Vanity Fair magazine (May, 1991)
  • Laughter and tears are meant to turn the wheels of the same machinery of sensibility; one is wind-power, and the other water-power; that is all. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858)
  • Laughter is the sun which drives winter from the human face. Victor Hugo, the voice of the narrator, in Les Misérables (1862)
  • Laughter is the jam on the toast of life. It adds flavor, keeps it from being too dry, and makes it easier to swallow. Diane Johnson, quoted in Richard Lederer, “Introduction,” The Bride of Anguished English (2000)
  • I am old enough to know that laughter, not anger, is the true revelation. Erica Jong, in the Preface to Fear of Fifty (1994)
  • You can’t deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants. Stephen King, the voice of the narrator, in Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
  • Laughter is an orgasm triggered by the intercourse of reason with unreason. Jack Kroll, “Comedy is King,” in Newsweek magazine (May 31, 1976)

AUTHOR NOTE: Kroll joined Newsweek as an associate arts editor in 1963 and retired 37 years later as an award-winning drama critic and senior writer (he wrote more than 1,200 articles and was responsible for nineteen cover stories).

  • The sound of laughter is like the vaulted dome of a temple of happiness. Milan Kundera, in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978; tr. 1980)
  • What is released in the explosion of laughter is a deep contradictory thing that is both joy and pain, mischief and madness, pleasure and panic. John Lahr, in Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization: Backstage with Barry Humphries (1992)
  • Laughter is carbonated holiness. Anne Lamott, in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (2005)
  • There is nothing that unites people more, or better, than laughter. Norman Lear, in CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” (Dec 6, 2023)

In the segment, Lear went on to add, “The sound track of my life has been laughter.”

  • Laughter is by definition healthy. Doris Lessing, in The Summer Before the Dark (1973)
  • Laughter is the mind sneezing. Wyndham Lewis, “Inferior Religions,” in Little Review (Sep., 1917)
  • Next to sex my favorite thing is laughing—it’s part of sex. Make me laugh—I’ll love you. Penny Marshall, quoted in Denise Collier and Kathleen Beckett, Spare Ribs: Women in the Humor Biz (1980)
  • Laughter is the great antidote for self-pity, maybe a specific for the malady, yet probably it does tend to dry one’s feelings out a little, as if by exposing them to a vigorous wind. Mary McCarthy, in How I Grew (1987)
  • Laughter, that distinctively human emotion, laughter which springs from trust in the other, from willingness to put oneself momentarily in the other’s place, even at one’s own expense, is the special emotional basis of democratic procedures, just as pride is the emotion of an aristocracy, shame of a crowd that rules, and fear of a police state. Margaret Mead, in New Lives for Old (1956)
  • Laughter is man’s most distinctive emotional expression. Man shares the capacity for love and hate, anger and fear, loyalty and grief, with other living creatures. But humor, which has an intellectual as well as an emotional element, belongs to man. Margaret Mead, in a 1963 Redbook magazine article; reprinted in Margaret Mead: Some Personal Views (1979)
  • A laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer. Herman Melville, in Moby-Dick (1851)
  • There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. Since the first two pass our comprehension, we must do what we can with the third. Aubrey Menen, in Rama Retold (1954)
  • Assuredly it would be a pity if laughter should ever become, like rhetoric and the arts, a habit. Alice Meynell, “Laughter,” in Essays (1914)
  • Hostility is expressed in a number of ways. One is laughter. Kate Millett, in Sexual Politics (1969)
  • I have often observ’d the loudest Laughers to be the dullest Fellows in the Company. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in The Nonsense of Common-Sense (1738)
  • A good laugh is as good as a prayer sometimes. Lucy Maud Montgomery, in Rilla of Ingleside (1921), the sixth in a series of eight “Anne of Green Gables” novels
  • Laughter is part of the human survival kit, a sticking-plaster on the wounds of existence. David Nathan, in The Laughtermakers (1971)

Nathan added: “It will not ward off a bee-sting, but it has helped people to endure wars, pestilence, persecutions, and politicians.”

  • Humor is a prelude to faith and/Laughter is the beginning of prayer. Reinhold Niebuhr, in Discerning the Sign of the Times (1949)
  • A laugh is a terrible weapon. Kate O’Brien, in The Last of Summer (1943)
  • Laughter is wine for the soul—laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness. Sean O’Casey, “The Power of Laughter: Weapon Against Evil,” in Fifty Famous Essays (1964)
  • He who laughs, lasts! Mary Pettibone Poole, in A Glass Eye at a Keyhole (1938)

QUOTE NOTE: Here, Poole cleverly tweaks the popular saying, “He who laughs last, laughs best.”

  • Laughter is God’s hand on a troubled world. Proverb (English)
  • What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. Proverb (Yiddish)
  • Laughter is the best medicine. Proverb (Modern)
  • There is always a secret irritation about a laugh in which we cannot join. Agnes Repplier, “A Plea for Humor,” in Points of View (1891)
  • It has been wisely said that we cannot really love anybody at whom we never laugh. Agnes Repplier, “Goodness and Gayety,” in Americans and Others (1912)
  • What monstrous absurdities and paradoxes have resisted whole batteries of serious arguments, and then crumbled swiftly into dust before the ringing death-knell of a laugh! Agnes Repplier, “A Plea for Humor,” in Points of View (1891)

Forty-five years later, in In Pursuit of Pleasure (1936), Repplier offered another thought on the subject: “Laughter springs from the lawless part of our nature.”

  • To jealousy, nothing is more frightful than laughter. Françoise Sagan, the character Lucile speaking, in La Chamade (1965)

Earlier in the novel, the narrator observed: “There can never be enough said of the virtues, the dangers, the power of shared laughter. Love can no more do without it than can friendship, desire, or despair.”

  • The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool. George Santayana, in Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
  • Love cannot exorcise the gifts of hate./Hate cannot exorcize what has no weight,/But laughter we can never over-rate. May Sarton, “An Intruder,” in A Grain of Mustard Seed (1971)
  • Laughter may be the only free emotion—the only emotion that can’t be compelled. Gloria Steinem, in Marianne Schnall, “Conversation with Gloria Steinem,” www.feminist.com (Dec. 5, 2006)

Steinem continued: “You can certainly compel anger and sadness. You can probably compel love if someone is isolated enough and dependent enough, they come to believe they love the person they are dependent on. But you can’t compel laughter—it’s totally free.”

  • Laughter is an orgasm of the mind. Gloria Steinem, in My Life on the Road (2015)
  • The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion. William Makepeace Thackeray, the voice of the narrator, in Vanity Fair (1847–48)
  • A good laugh is sunshine in the house. William Makepeace Thackeray, “Sketches and Travels in London,” in Miscellanies: Prose and Verse, Vol. II (1870)
  • Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. Mark Twain, “The Chronicle of Young Satan,” in The Mysterious Stranger (1916)

QUOTE NOTE: The observation comes from a young Satan, a direct descendant of the biblical Satan. Speaking to Theodor, the novel’s protagonist, Satan is arguing that the most effective weapon possessed by human beings is their sense of humor, but it is a weapon they rarely use effectively. Here’s the full passage:

“For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century: but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. You are always fussing and fighting with your other weapons. Do you ever use that one? No; you leave it lying rusting. As a race, do you ever use it at all? No; you lack sense and the courage.”

The Mysterious Stranger was Twain’s final novel, begun in 1897, written in bits and pieces over the decades, and unfinished at his death in 1910. A 1916 edition put together by Albert Beigelow Paine was long believed to be an authentic version, but in the 1960s Twain scholars discovered problems with Paine’s manuscript, including some fraudulent passages written by Paine himself. For more on the controversy, see Mysterious Stranger.

ERROR ALERT: A quotation commonly attributed to Twain (“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter”) is clearly an abridged version of the passage in The Mysterious Stranger.

  • Laughter would be bereaved if snobbery died. Peter Ustinov, quoted in The Observer (London; March 13, 1955)
  • I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me to be the most civilized music in the world. Peter Ustinov, in Dear Me (1977)
  • Laughter is the brush that sweeps away the cobwebs of your heart. Mort Walker, quoted in “Quotable Quotes,” Reader’s Digest (1993; specific date undetermined)
  • Applause is nothing compared with laughter. Anyone can clap hands, and the mind be miles away. A laugh comes right from the center. No wonder comedians love their audiences. Jessamyn West, in A Matter of Time (1966)
  • A good time for laughing is when you can. Jessamyn West, in Except for Me and Thee (1969)
  • A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing. Laura Ingalls Wilder, “How to Furnish a Home,” (Nov., 1917); reprinted in Little House in the Ozarks: A Laura Ingalls Wilder Sampler: The Rediscovered Writings (1996; Stephen W. Hines, ed.)
  • She had a penetrating sort of laugh. Rather like a train going into a tunnel. P. G. Wodehouse, Bertie Wooster describing Honoraria, in The Inimitable Jeeves (1923)
  • Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat! Joanne Woodward, on her marriage to Paul Woodward, quoted in a 2008 issue of Glamour magazine.
  • The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder. Virginia Woolf, in A Room of One’s Own (1929)

LAUGHING AT OURSELVES

(see also CHEER and COMEDY & COMEDIANS and HUMOR and [SENSE OF] HUMOR and JESTS and JOKES & JOKERS and JOY and LAUGHTER and MERRIMENT and MIRTH and SELF-ACCEPTANCE)

  • One loses so many laughs by not laughing at oneself. Sara Jeannette Duncan, an 1889 remark, quoted in Marian Fowler, Redney: A Life of Sara Jeannette Duncan (1983)
  • The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. Shirley MacLaine, in Going Within (1989)
  • When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves. Katherine Mansfield, journal entry (Oct., 1922), in Journal of Katherine Mansfield (1927; J. Middleton Murry, ed.)
  • Laughter, that distinctively human emotion, laughter which springs from trust in the other, from willingness to put oneself momentarily in the other’s place, even at one’s own expense, is the special emotional basis of democratic procedures, just as pride is the emotion of an aristocracy, shame of a crowd that rules, and fear of a police state. Margaret Mead, in New Lives for Old (1956)

LAW & ORDER

(see also CRIME and GOVERNMENT and JAILS & PRISONS and JUDGES and JUSTICE and LAWYERS and LAWS and LAWSUITS and LAWYERS and LIBERTY and LITIGATION and PUNISHMENT and TRIALS)

  • Law and order embrace on hate’s border. Kenneth Patchen, “‘Gentle and Giving’ and Other Sayings,” in The Collected Poems of Kenneth Patchen (1968)

LAWN

(see also GARDEN and GRASS and HOME and LANDSCAPING and NATURE and WEEDS)

  • A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule. Michael Pollan, in Second Nature (1991)

LAW

(includes LEGISLATION; see also COURTS & COURTROOMS and CRIME and GOVERNMENT and JAILS & PRISONS and JUDGES and JUSTICE and LAW & ORDER and LAWSUITS and LAWYERS and LEGAL and LIBERTY and LITIGATION and PUNISHMENT and SUPREME COURT and TRIALS)

  • Laws are like spiders’ webs; they hold the weak and delicate who are caught in their meshes, but are torn to pieces by the rich and powerful. Anacharsis, a 6th c. B.C. remark to Solon, quoted in Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans (1st c. A.D.)

QUOTE NOTE: This ancient observation has clearly stood the test of time, appearing as true today as when it was originally offered. While the remark has been translated in a variety of slightly varying ways over the years, the central point has always been retained. The observation is sometime mistakenly attributed directly to Solon (see below), and variations on the idea have been repeated by others over the centuries, including several more to be seen below.

  • Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law. Jean Anouilh, the character Creon speaking, in Antigone (1942)
  • Good laws, if they are not obeyed, do not constitute good government. Aristotle, in Politics (4th c. B.C.)
  • Whereas the law is passionless, passion must ever sway the heart of man. Aristotle, in Politics (4th c. B.C.)
  • Law is a bottomless pit. John Arbuthnot, in The History of John Bull (c. 1712)
  • Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made. Author Unknown, but widely attributed to Otto von Bismarck

ERROR ALERT: This observation has been attributed to the legendary German chancellor since the 1930s, but there is no evidence he ever said anything like it. The Yale Book of Quotations includes the saying in its “Misquotations” section and says, “Attributed to Bismarck, but not traced and probably apocryphal.” For more on the history of the quotation, see this informative 2010 post by Garson O’Toole, the Quote Investigator.

  • Liberty is the soul’s right to breathe, and, when it cannot take a long breath, laws are girdled too tight. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs From Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • It usually takes a hundred years to make a law, and then, after it has done its work, it usually takes a hundred years to get rid of it. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs From Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • Riches without law are more dangerous than in poverty without law. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs From Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • We know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully. The Bible—1 Timothy 1:8 (KJV)
  • There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot. Derek Bok, “A Flawed System,” in Harvard Magazine (May-June, 1983)
  • Laws, like houses, lean on one another. Edmund Burke, in Tracts Relating to Popery Laws (1765)
  • People crushed by law have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws. Edmund Burke, in letter to Charles James Fox (Oct. 8, 1777)
  • Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny. Edmund Burke, in speech at the Guildhall, Bristol, England (Sep. 6, 1780)
  • The science of legislation is like that of medicine in one respect: that it is far more easy to point out what will do harm than what will do good. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • The law is simply expediency wearing a long white dress. Quentin Crisp, in Manners from Heaven (1984)
  • The law, in our case, seems to make the right, and the very reverse ought to be done—the right should make the law. Maria Edgeworth, “The Grateful Negro,” in Popular Tales (1804)
  • People say law but they mean wealth. Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry (Oct., 1841); in Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1911)
  • In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread. Anatole France, in The Red Lily (1894)
  • There’s no better way of exercising the imagination than the study of law. No poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets the truth. Jean Giraudoux, the character Hector speaking, in Tiger at the Gates (1935)
  • Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law. Oliver Goldsmith, in the poem “The Traveller” (1764)
  • I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution. Ulysses S. Grant, in his inaugural address as the 18th U.S. President (March 4, 1869)

Grant preceded the thought by saying: “Laws are to govern all alike—those opposed as well as those who favor them.”

  • In the real world, things don’t last forever. The carton of milk in your refrigerator has an expiration date. So does the credit card in your wallet. Cars need periodic tune-ups, medical prescriptions have to be reauthorized, and financial plans require adjustment. Government should operate on the same assumption. Every law should expire automatically after a fixed period of time—say, 12 or 15 years—unless lawmakers expressly vote to reauthorize it. Jeff Jacoby, “Credit Cards Have Expiration Dates. Laws Should Too,” in The Boston Globe (June 16, 2014)

Jacoby continued: “Likewise every legislatively created agency and program. Members of Congress and state legislatures should be required to revisit their handiwork on a regular basis, reviewing it for relevance, efficacy, and soundness, and allowing measures that have outlived their usefulness to lapse.”

  • The end of law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. John Locke, in Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690)
  • Wherever Law ends, Tyranny begins. John Locke, in Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690)
  • Laws…are felt only when the individual comes into conflict with them. Suzanne La Follette, in Concerning Women (1926)
  • The contempt for law and the contempt for the human consequences of lawbreaking go from the bottom to the top of American society. Margaret Mead, quoted in Claire Safran, “Impeachment?” Redbook magazine (April, 1974)
  • Whenever A attempts by law to impose his moral standards on B, A is most likely a scoundrel. H. L. Mencken, attributed by James J. Kilpatrick, in Paul Dickson, The Official Rules (8th ed.; 2013)

QUOTATION CAUTION: According to Dickson, Kilpatrick referred to this observation as “Mencken’s Working Hypothesis of the Legislative Process.” As it turns out, though, Kilpatrick was taking substantial liberties with Mencken’s actual words, which appeared in the following way in his autobiography Newspaper Days (1940): “Whenever A annoys B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.” Mencken’s thought—which he dubbed “Mencken’s Law”—was not completely original, though, for he had borrowed heavily from William Graham Sumner, who wrote in an 1894 article in The Forum: “When A and B join to make a law to help X, their law always proposes to decide what C shall do for X, and C is the Forgotten Man.” Sumner’s formulation went on to be called The Law of the Forgotten Man.

  • Petty laws breed great crimes. Few rulers, big or little, remember that. Ouida (pen name of Maria Louise Ramé), the narrator describing the thoughts of the character Faello, in “The Marriage Plate,” from Pipistrello: And Other Stories (1881)
  • Laws are always useful to those who have possessions, and harmful to those who have nothing. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in The Social Contract (1762)
  • Ignorance of the law excuses no man; not that all men know the law, but because ’tis an excuse every man will plead, and no man can tell how to confute him. John Selden, in Table-Talk (1689)

QUOTE NOTE: The underlying sentiment is not original to Selden; he was simply passing along a legal principle that had been around since 1530, when, in Dialogues in English, Christopher St. German had written, “Ignorance of the law…doth not excuse.” St. German’s maxim formed the basis for the English proverb “Ignorance of the law excuses nobody” (and that proverbial saying ultimately evolved into the modern proverb: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”).

  • 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)
  • Laws are generally found to be nets of such a texture, as the little creep through, the great break through, and the middle-sized are alone and entangled in. William Shenstone, in Works in Verse and Prose (1764)
  • Laws are like spider’s webs which, if anything falls into them they ensnare it, but large things break through and escape. Solon (6th c. B.C.), quoted in Diogenes Laërtius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (3rd c. A.D.)
  • What a cage is to the wild beast, law is to the selfish man. Herbert Spencer, in Social Statics (1850)
  • Laws are like spider’s webs, which hold firm when any light, yielding object falls upon them, while a larger thing breaks through them and escapes. Jonathan Swift, in A Critical Essay Upon the Faculties of the Mind (1709)
  • In civilized life, law floats in a sea of ethics. Earl Warren, address at Jewish Theological Seminary (Nov. 11, 1962)
  • The law, like art, is always vainly racing to catch up with experience. Rebecca West, in The Meaning of Treason (1947)
  • To make laws is a human instinct that arises as soon as food and shelter have been ensured, among all peoples, everywhere. Rebecca West, in The Meaning of Treason (1947)
  • The choice between law and justice is an easy one for courageous minds. Rebecca West, “The Mildness of Militancy,” on English laws prohibiting suffrage for women, in The Clarion (Feb. 28, 1913)
  • It ain’t no sin if you crack a few laws now and then, just so long as you don’t break any. Mae West, as the character Peaches O’Day, in the 1937 film Every Day’s a Holiday (screenplay by Mae West)

LAWSUITS & LITIGATION

(see also CRIME and JUDGES and JUSTICE and LAW and LAWYERS and LITIGATION and TRIALS)

  • In the strange heat all litigation brings to bear on things, the very process of litigation fosters the most profound misunderstandings in the world. Renata Adler, in Reckless Disregard (1986)
  • Lawsuit, n. A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)

LAWYERS

(includes ATTORNEYS; see also CRIME and JUDGES and LAWS and LAWSUITS and LEGAL and LITIGATION and TRIALS)

  • A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: This saying, which has become a catchphrase in the legal profession and proverbial in general culture, first appeared in the early 1800s, according to Bryan A. Garner in A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2nd ed.; 1995)

  • Lawyer, n., One skilled in circumvention of the law. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • It may be that the jury would incline to regard a practicing lawyer as a man of probity whose word was prima facie worthy of belief. But the belief of lawyers in their own probity is not universally shared, and there are those who believe them to be capable of almost any chicanery or sharp practice. Thomas Henry Bingham (Lord Bingham of Cornhill), in Singh v. The State (Trinidad and Tobago) (2005)
  • Doctors and lawyers must go to school for years and years, often with little sleep, and at great sacrifice to their first wives. Roy Blount, Jr., “Loss: A Guide to Economics,” in The Atlantic Monthly (April, 1981)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites and quotation anthologies mistakenly present the quotations as if it were worded, “with great sacrifice.”

  • We have the heaviest concentration of lawyers on Earth—one for every five-hundred Americans; three times as many as are in England, four times as many as are in West Germany, twenty-one times as many as there are in Japan. We have more litigation, but I am not sure that we have more justice. Jimmy Carter, in remarks at the 100th Anniversary Luncheon of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (May 4, 1978)

Carter continued: “No resources of talent and training in our own society, even including the medical care, is more wastefully or unfairly distributed than legal skills. Ninety percent of our lawyers serve ten percent of our people. We are over-lawyered and under-represented.”

  • America is the paradise of lawyers. David J. Brewer, quoted in Champ Clark, My Quarter Century of American Politics (1920),
  • Even an attorney of moderate talent can postpone doomsday year after year, for the system of appeals that pervades American jurisprudence amounts to a legalistic wheel of fortune, a game of chance, somewhat fixed in favor of the criminal, that the participants play interminably. Truman Capote, in In Cold Blood (1965)

QUOTE NOTE: In a March 3, 1971 edition of the Los Angeles Times, California Attorney General Evelle J. Younger offered a thought that may have been inspired by Capote’s observation: “An incompetent attorney can delay a trial for years or months. A competent attorney can delay one even longer.”

  • Lawyers never go to law, do they? They know better. Agatha Christie, the character Miss Bridget speaking, in Murder Is Easy (1939)
  • If you cannot avoid a quarrel with a blackguard, let your lawyer manage it, rather than yourself. No man sweeps his own chimney, but employs a chimney-sweeper, who has no objection to dirty work, because it is his trade. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1825)

ERROR ALERT: This observation is often mistakenly presented as: “A lawyer is a chimney-sweeper who has no objection to dirty work, because it is his trade.”

  • He was a lawyer before he worked his way up to pimping. Glen Cook, the character known only as One-Eye speaking, in The Black Company (1984)
  • One hires lawyers as one hires plumbers, because one wants to keep one’s hands off the beastly drains. Amanda Cross, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Kate Fansler, in The Question of Max (1976)
  • Lawyers make their cake by cooking up other people’s troubles. Margaret Deland, the character Henry Houghton speaking, in The Vehement Flame (1922)
  • If there were no bad people there would be no good lawyers. Charles Dickens, the character Mrs. Brass speaking, in The Old Curiosity Shop (1840)
  • God works wonders now and then:/Behold! A lawyer, an honest man! Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (Dec., 1733)
  • No workman without tools,/No Lawyer without Fools. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (Feb., 1742)
  • A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer. Robert Frost, quoted in Lawrence Thompson, Fire and Ice: The Art and Thought of Robert Frost (1961)
  • I know you lawyers can, with ease,/Twist words and meanings as you please;/That language by your skill made pliant,/Will bend to favor ev’ry client. John Gay, in “The Dog and the Fox” (1738)
  • There’s no better way of exercising the imagination than the study of law. No poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets the truth. Jean Giraudoux, the character Hector speaking, in Tiger at the Gates (1935)
  • Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called inbreeding, from which comes idiot children and more lawyers. Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, in screenplay for the 1949 film Adam’s Rib (line delivered by actor David Wayne in the film).
  • A lawyer should never ask a witness on cross-examination a question unless in the first case he knew what the answer would be, or in the second place he didn’t care. David Grahame, quoted in Frances L. Wellman, The Art of Cross-Examination (1903)

QUOTE NOTE: Grahame’s observation went on to become a legal tenet that was famously described by Harper Lee in her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird (see the Lee entry below)

  • It is a horrible demoralizing thing to be a lawyer. You look for such low motives in everyone and everything. Katharine Tynan Hinkson, from a character in Love of Sisters (1902)
  • Lawyers spend their professional careers shoveling smoke. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., quoted in Edward W. Knappman, Watergate and the White House (1973)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This looks like the first appearance of Justice Holme’s popular “shoveling smoke” observation (which has never been found in his works). Most internet sites now present a modified version of the thought: “Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke.”

  • Lawyer: The only man in whom ignorance of the law is not punished. Elbert Hubbard, in The Roycrift Dictionary and Book of Epigrams (1923)
  • Lawyers earn their bread in the sweat of their browbeating. James Huneker, the voice of the narrator, in Painted Veils (1920)
  • Butting heads at trial was the way attorneys bonded. Kind of like dogs sniffing at each other’s hindquarters. Jonnie Jacobs, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Kali O’Brien, in Evidence of Guilt (1997)
  • A lawyer has no business with the justice or injustice of the case which he undertakes, unless the client asks his opinion, and then he is bound to give it honestly. Samuel Johnson, journal entry (Aug. 15, 1773); quoted in James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785)

Johnson continued: “The justice or injustice of the cause is to be decided by the judge.”

  • A lawyer’s relationship to justice and wisdom…is on a par with a piano tuner’s relationship to a concert. He neither composes the music, nor interprets it—he merely keeps the machinery running. Lucille Kallen, the title character speaking, in Introducing C. B. Greenfield (1979)
  • I think we may class the lawyer in the natural history of monsters. John Keats, in letter to George and Georgiana Keats (March 13, 1819); reprinted in The Letters of John Keats (1931; M. B. Forman, ed.)
  • The question arises…whether all lawyers are the same. This is like asking whether everything that gets into a sewer is garbage. Florynce R. Kennedy, in Color Me Flo: My Hard Life and Good Times (1976)
  • Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. Charles Lamb, “The Old Benchers of the Inner Temple,” in Essays of Elia (1823)
  • Never, never, never, on cross examination ask a witness a question you don’t already know the answer to, was a tenet I absorbed with my baby-food. Do it, and you’ll often get an answer you don’t want. Harper Lee, Scout Finch reflecting on a lesson she learned from her father, the Southern lawyer Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

QUOTE NOTE: The legal tenet being described here was originally advanced by American attorney David Grahame (1808-52), seen above.

  • If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already. Abraham Lincoln, in letter to Isham Reavis (Nov. 5, 1855)

QUOTE NOTE: Reavis, a young man who aspired to become a lawyer, had asked if he might “read Law” [a term similar to apprenticing] with Lincoln. Lincoln sensitively declined the request, saying “I did not read with anyone,” and urging him to forge ahead on his own, if it came to that. In the letter, Lincoln also offered one of his most famous observations: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”

  • A lawyer is one who protects you against robbers by taking away the temptation. H. L. Mencken, in A Little Book in C Major (1916)

QUOTE NOTE: In A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949), Mencken slightly tweaked the saying by writing“ “Lawyer—One who protects us against robbers by taking away the temptation.”

  • I don’t know as I want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do, I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do. J. P. Morgan, quoted in Ida M. Tarbell, The Life of Elbert H. Gary (1925)
  • Sincerity is essential for a good lawyer. Once a lawyer learns to fake that, he’s got it made. Arthur O’Leary, quoted in Omaha [Nebraska] World Herald (Feb. 20, 1973)

QUOTE NOTE: This looks like the first appearance of the sincerity version of a saying that usually employed the word honesty, and the first to apply it to lawyers (previous iterations had all applied it to actors). For more, see this informative 2011 Quote investigator post from Garson O’Toole.

  • Lawyers can steal more money with a briefcase than a thousand men with guns and masks. Mario Puzo, Don Corleone speaking to his son, “Sonny” Corleone, in The Godfather (1969)

QUOTE NOTE: at another point in the book, Tom Hagen, the lawyer—or consigliere—for the Corleone family is reflecting on his decision to attend law school after college. The narrator says of him: “He had heard Don Corleone say once, ‘A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.’” Even though it’s a wonderful line, neither version showed up in the film adaptation of the novel.

  • Lawyers, operators of the toll bridge across which anyone in search of justice has to pass. Jane Bryant Quinn, in Newsweek magazine (Oct. 9, 1975)
  • Lawyers like to leave no stone unturned, provided they can charge by the stone. Deborah L. Rhode, in a 1985 Stanford Law Review article; reprinted in Pro Bono in Principle and in Practice (2005)
  • You want the unvarnished and ungarnished truth, and I’m no hand for that. I’m a lawyer. Mary Roberts Rinehart, the character Mr. McKnight speaking, in The Man in Lower Ten (1909)
  • I never saw a lawyer yet who would admit he was making money. Mary Roberts Rinehart, an unnamed doctor speaking, in The Window at the White Cat (1910)
  • About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists of telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop. Elihu Root, quoted in Philip C. Jessup, Elihu Root (1938)
  • Lawyers enjoy a little mystery, you know. Why, if everybody came forward and told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth straight out, we should all retire to the workhouse. Dorothy L. Sayers, the character Sir Impey speaking, in Clouds of Witness (1926)
  • Everybody hates lawyers, but they don’t realize judges are just lawyers with a promotion. Think about it. Lisa Scottoline, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Rita Morrone Hamilton, in Running From the Law (1996)
  • All the courtroom’s a stage, and all the men and women in it merely lawyers. Lisa Scottoline, the narrator and protagonist Rita Morrone Hamilton tweaking a popular Shakespeare line, in Legal Tender (1996)
  • What are lawyers really? To me a lawyer is basically the person that knows the rules of the country. Jerry Seinfeld, in SeinLanguage (1993)

Seinfeld continued: “We’re all throwing the dice, playing the game, moving our pieces around the board, but if there’s a problem, the lawyer is the only person that has actually read the inside of the top of the box.”

  • The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. William Shakespeare, the character Dick the Butcher speaking, in Henry the Sixth, Part II (1592)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation, although widely viewed as an anti-lawyer quote, is actually a testimony to the importance of lawyers in society. Dick the Butcher, a rebel and sidekick to the would-be autocrat Cade, knows that lawyers and the law stand in the way of the Cade Rebellion.

  • Lawyers love paper. They eat, sleep, and dream paper. They turn paper into gold, and their files are colorful and their language neoclassical and calligraphic ally bewigged. Karl Shapiro, in Reports of My Death (1990)
  • Every lawyer, no matter whom they represent, is trying to help someone, whether it’s a person, corporation, a government entity, or a small or big business. To me, lawyering is the height of service—and being involved in this profession is a gift. Sonia Sotomayor, in a interview with Oprah Winfrey, in O: The Oprah Magazine (Feb., 2013)
  • The lawyer hummed [sic] and hawed, not because he had any real objections but because it is a lawyer’s business to consider remote contingencies, and a straightforward agreement to anything would be wildly unprofessional. Josephine Tey, in A Shilling for Candles (1936)
  • The lawyer’s truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency. Henry David Thoreau, in On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849)
  • What chance has the ignorant, uncultivated liar against the educated expert? What chance have I…against a lawyer? Mark Twain, in “On the Decay of the Art of Lying” (1882)
  • When there are too many policemen, there can be no individual liberty, when there are too many lawyers, there can be no justice, and when there are too many soldiers, there can be no peace. Lin Yutang, in Between Tears and Laughter (1943)

LAZINESS

(see also IDLENESS and INDOLENCE and INDUSTRY (as in INDUSTRIOUS) and PROCRASTINATION and SLOTH and VICE)

  • My ambition is handicapped by my laziness. Charles Bukowski, the character Manny speaking, in Factotum (1975)
  • Up sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (Sep., 1741)
  • Laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him. Benjamin Franklin, in The Way to Wealth (1758)
  • Our minds are lazier than our bodies. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • Failure is not our only punishment for laziness; there is also the success of others. Jules Renard, journal entry (Jan, 1898), in The Journal of Jules Renard (1964; L. Bogan & E. Roget, eds.)
  • Laziness: the habit of resting before fatigue sets in. Jules Renard, journal entry (May, 1906), in The Journal of Jules Renard (1964; L. Bogan & E. Roget, eds.)

LEADERS & LEADERSHIP

(see also AUTHORITY and COMMAND & COMMANDING and EXECUTIVES and GOVERNING and GOVERNMENT and INFLUENCE and LEADERS & RULERS—ON THEMSELVES and LEADERS & RULERS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and MANAGEMENT and ORDERS and POLITICIANS and POLITICS and RULERS & RULING)

  • In Aristotelian terms, the good leader must have ethos, pathos and logos. The ethos is his moral character, the source of his ability to persuade. The pathos is his ability to touch feelings, to move people emotionally. The logos is his ability to give solid reasons for an action, to move people intellectually. Mortimer J. Adler, quoted in Time magazine (June 15, 1974)
  • The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang. Mary Kay Ash, in Mary Kay (1981)
  • I believe that in order to be a good leader you must understand the value of praising people to success. Mary Kay Ash, in The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles From America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur (2008)
  • Credibility is lost when there are big discrepancies between what leaders say and what they do. Judith M. Bardwick, in Danger in the Comfort Zone (1995)

Bardwick went on to write: “Increasing credibility requires openness. Hidden agendas will destroy trust.”

  • Leaders evoke emotional connections in followers only to the extent that the followers are emotionally needy. Judith M. Bardwick, quoted in F. Hesselbein, M. Goldsmith, and R. Beckhard, The Leader of the Future (1996)
  • The leader’s style pulls rather than pushes people. Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus, in Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge (1985)
  • The capacity to create a compelling vision and translate it into action and sustain it. Warren Bennis, his definition of leadership, in Director magazine (April, 1991)
  • As leaders, we live under a microscope. Nothing we say or do escapes the scrutiny and examination of our followers. Sheila Murray Bethel, in Making a Difference (1990)
  • And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. The Bible—Matthew 15:14
  • What a rope of sand we are without a leader. Marjorie Bowen, the character Jerome Caryl speaking, in The Master of Stair (1907)
  • The greatness of a leader is measured by the achievements of the led. This is the ultimate test of his effectiveness. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, in address at the U. S. Army Command and General Staff College (April 27, 1966)

Bradley preceded the thought by saying: “The test of a leader lies in the reaction and response of his followers. He should not have to impose authority. Bossiness in itself never made a leader. He must make his influence felt by example and the instilling of confidence in his followers.”

  • The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there. John Buchan, in speech at the University of St. Andrews (Jan. 27, 1930); reprinted in Montrose on Leadership (1930)

Buchan added: “I offer you that reflection as my last word on the subject this afternoon. I believe that it is profoundly true. It is a truth which is the basis of all religion. It is a truth which is the only justification for democracy. It is a truth which is at the foundation and the hope of our mortal lives.”

  • Leadership, in a very real sense, is helping others develop their leadership. Sylvia Bushell, in Paths to Leadership: Power Through Feminine Dignity (1987)

In her book, Bushell also offered these thoughts on leadership:

“Above everything else leadership is confidence in our inner resources.”

“The highest type of leadership is serving other people in such a way that they lead themselves, that they develop spiritually.”

“An authentic leader helps others increase their own independence, and…does not actually give direction or assert authority.”

“Leadership is the initiative to conquer our limitations and to more ably extend our abilities over a greater area.”

“The power of leadership is derived from perfecting ourselves. The closer we lead ourselves into becoming an ideal person, the greater our power to lead others. The foundation of leadership power is in striving toward perfection.”

  • Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery. Octavia E. Butler, a passage from the religious book “Earthseed: The Books of the Living,” in Parable of the Talents (1998)
  • True leaders have so much power they are willing to give it away. Power is not a fixed, quantifiable sum; instead it is an unlimited abstraction which grows as it is shared. Marlene Caroselli, The Language of Leadership (1990)

In her book, Caroselli also wrote:

“True leaders enjoy using their power and are comfortable with it—so comfortable, in fact, that they don’t mind sharing that control when it is appropriate to do so.”

“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.”

  • A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be. Rosalynn Carter, in a 2003 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific issue undetermined)
  • Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. Stephen R. Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)
  • Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. Stephen R. Covey, in The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness (2004)
  • Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. Peter Drucker, in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Challenges (1973)
  • Hail to the man who went through life always helping others, knowing no fear, and to whom aggressiveness and resentment are alien. Such is the stuff of which the great moral leaders are made. Albert Einstein, in Essays Presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (1954); reported in The New Quotable Einstein (2005; Alice Calaprice, ed.)
  • You do not lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership. Dwight D. Eisenhower

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is almost always presented these days, but it is a slightly abridged version of Eisenhower’s original words, which were first quoted in The Ordeal of Power: A Political Memoir of the Eisenhower Years (1963) by Emmet John Hughes: “Now, look, I happen to know a little about leadership. I’ve had to work with a lot of nations, for that matter at odds with each other. And I tell you this: you do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it’s usually called ‘assault’—not ‘leadership.’” Eisenhower went on to add: “I’ll tell you what leadership is. It’s persuasion—and conciliation—and patience. It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know or believe in—or will practice.”

  • In order to be a leader, a man must have followers; to have followers, a leader must have their confidence. Hence the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose. Dwight D. Eisenhower, quoted in Clarence Poe, My First Eighty Years (1963)

QUOTE NOTE: This appears to be the original source—and the complete original phrasing—of a quotation that has become very popular. John Maxwell and Steven Covey have used slightly different versions of it in a number of their books, and James Comey included a portion of the observation in his 2018 book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. Poe, a southern journalist, served as editor of The Progressive Farmer for 65 years. He died a year after My First Eighty Years was published.

  • If you would be a leader, you must resist the reactive role that is the easier path. Those who succumb to fire fighting and crisis management will seldom enjoy the pleasures of achievement. Priscilla Elfrey, in The Hidden Agenda (1982)

Elfrey went on to write: “The mark of a leader may be the ability to prevent fire fighting behavior and to seek elegant solutions.”

  • To be a leader of men one must turn one’s back on men. Havelock Ellis, in Introduction to Joris Karl Huysman’s Against the Grain (1884)
  • There are men, who by their sympathetic attractions, carry nations with them, and lead the activity of the human race. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Power,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • The most successful leader of all is one who sees another picture not yet actualized. Mary Parker Follett, in Dynamic Administration: The Collected Papers of Mary Parker Follett (1941; H. C. Metcalf & L. Urwick, eds.)

In some other salient observations on the subject, Follett wrote:

“We should think not only of what the leader does to the group, but also of what the group does to the leader.”

“The best leader does not ask people to serve him, but the common end. The best leader has not followers, but men and women working with him.”

“Part of the task of the leader is to make others participate in his leadership. The best leader knows how to make his followers actually feel power themselves, not merely acknowledge his power.”

“We no longer think that the best leader is the greatest hustler or the most persuasive orator or even the best trader. The great leader is he who is able to integrate the experience of all and use it for a common purpose.”

  • No one’s a leader if there are no followers. Malcolm Forbes, in 1991 issue of Forbes magazine
  • Women lead in ways different from men’s. Men, I think, have been programmed to give orders. Women have been programmed to motivate people, to educate them, to bring out the best in them. Ours is a less authoritarian leadership. Muriel Fox, quoted in Marilyn Loden, Feminine Leadership (1985)

Fox continued: “I think women tend to play hardball less often. This is the trend of office politics anyway: the days of warring factions are over. We’re talking now in terms of cooperation, and I think that is the game women play best.”

  • All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership. John Kenneth Galbraith, in The Age of Uncertainty (1977)
  • Those whose gifts fit them for leadership must recognize that a prime function of the leader is to keep hope alive. John W. Gardner, in The Recovery of Confidence (1970)
  • A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there. David Gergen, describing the leadership philosophy of North Carolina governor Terry Sanford, in “A Conscience with a Bite,” U.S. News & World Report (May 4, 1998)
  • A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame; a little less than his share of the credit. Arnold H. Glasow, quoted in a 1961 issue of Today’s Health magazine (specific issue undetermined)

QUOTE NOTE: When the observation first appeared in the magazine, the author’s name was misspelled as Glasgow)

  • The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow. Seth Godin, in Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (2008)
  • No creature can fly with just one wing. Gifted leadership occurs when heart and head—feeling and thought—meet. These are the two wings that allow a leader to soar. Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, & Annie McKee, in Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence (2013)
  • That’s what leadership is all about. Staking your ground ahead of where opinion is and convincing people, not simply following the popular opinion of the moment. Doris Kearns Goodwin, quoted in Anthony Lewis, “Abroad at Home: Leading From Behind,” The New York Times (Dec. 19, 1994)
  • Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation. Doris Kearns Goodwin, “The Secrets of America’s Great Presidents,” in Parade magazine (Sep. 14, 2008)
  • Leadership is a mirror in which the people see their collective reflection. Doris Kearns Goodwin, in Leadership in Turbulent Times (2018)
  • The very essence of leadership is you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. Theodore Hesburgh, quoted in Ezra Bowen, “His Trumpet Was Never Uncertain,” Time magazine (May 18, 1987)
  • The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist. Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer (1951)
  • A leader who fluctuates back and forth sends a very wavery signal. Like the soprano who can shatter glass by finding that high note and holding it, a leader who can hold that high note, without wavering, can shatter walls. Laurie Beth Jones, in Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership (1995)

Jones introduced the observation by writing: “Belief in oneself is a crucial quality of leadership, because ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand.’” In her book, Jones also offered these other observations on the subject:

“Perhaps the true mark of a leader is that she or he is willing to stand alone.”

“Leaders identify, articulate, and summarize concepts that motivate others. Most important, they boil concepts down to an understandable idea.”

  • Leadership is the process by which one individual consistently exerts more impact than others on the nature and direction of group activity. Barbara Kellerman, “Leadership As a Political Act,” in Leadership: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (1984)
  • Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. John F. Kennedy, in speech prepared for delivery on the day of his assassination in Dallas, Texas (Nov. 22, 1963)
  • In English, the word “leader” is more than 1000 years old, and little has changed from its Anglo-Saxon root laedere, meaning “people on a journey.” Karin Klenke, in Women and Leadership: A Contextual Perspective (1996)
  • Women who want to lead the orchestra have to turn their back on the crowd. Patti LaBelle, in Patti’s Pearls (2001; with Laura Randolph Lancaster)
  • The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on. Walter Lippmann, “Roosevelt Has Gone,” in the New York Herald Tribune (April 14, 1945)
  • A prince who is not wise himself will never take good advice. Niccolo Machiavelli, in The Prince (1532)
  • A leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind. Nelson Mandela, quoting an “axiom” he learned from a South African mentor, Jongintaba Dalindyebo, in Long Walk to Freedom (1995)

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites delete the “he said” portion of the observation, and mistakenly attribute the thought directly to Mandela.

  • When there is danger, a good leader takes the front line; but when there is celebration, a good leader stays in the back of the room. Nelson Mandela, in interview with Oprah Winfrey, in O: The Oprah Magazine (April, 2001)
  • If you’re a leader, you don’t push wet spaghetti, you pull it. Bill Mauldin, in The Brass Ring: A Sort of Memoir (1971)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation came in a discussion of Gen. George Patton, who clearly understood this concept, according to Mauldin. “The stupid bastard was crazy,” Mauldin wrote about the legendary WWII military leader, “But I certainly respected his theories and the techniques he used to get his men out of their foxholes.”

  • Too many leaders make the mistake of thinking when they reach the top, it means they can use their position and power to force certain behaviors from their subordinates. John C. Maxwell, in The Power of Leadership (2001)
  • The real leader has no need to lead—he is content to point the way. Henry Miller, in The Wisdom of the Heart (1941)
  • Political leaders are never leaders. For leaders we have to look to the Awakeners! Henry Miller, in My Bike & Other Friends (1977)

Miller’s list of Great Awakeners included Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Socrates, and Jesus.

  • A leader is a dealer in hope. Napoleon I (Napoleon Bonaparte), in Napoleon in His Own Words (1916; Jules Bertaut, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: This has become one of the most popular observations ever made on the nature of leadership, appearing in almost every current anthology on the subject. According to Bertaut, Napoleon preceded the observation by saying: “One can lead a nation only by helping it see a bright outlook.”

  • Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible. Colin Powell, in A Soldier’s Way (1995)
  • The difference between government and leadership is that leadership has a soul. Anna Quindlen, “No There There,” in Thinking Out Loud (1993)
  • You take people as far as they will go, not as far as you would like them to go. Jeannette Rankin, quoted in Hannah Josephson, Jeannette Rankin: First Lady in Congress (1974)
  • You cannot be a leader and ask people to follow you unless you are willing to follow, too. Sam Rayburn, quoted in The Leadership of Speaker Sam Rayburn: Collected Tributes of His Congressional Colleagues (1961)
  • Will we ever learn to use reason instead of force in the world, and will people ever be wise enough to refuse to follow bad leaders? Eleanor Roosevelt, quoted in Blanche Wiesen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 (1992)
  • No leader can be too far ahead of his followers. Eleanor Roosevelt, in This I Remember (1949)
  • 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.)
  • Most great leaders are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Norman Schwarzkopf, in remarks to a group of bankers (Rockford, Maine; July 23, 1996); quoted in the Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY; July 25, 1996)

In that same meeting, General Schwarzkopf told his audience that they could forget everything else about leadership if they simply remembered two Army rules: “When placed in command—take charge” and “Do what’s right, not what you think the high headquarters wants or what you think will make you look good.”

  • Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy. Norman Schwarzkopf, quoted in John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1998)
  • Ninety-nine percent of leadership failures are failures of character. Norman Schwarzkopf, quoted in John C. Maxwell, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth (2012)
  • Be wary of great leaders. Hope that there are many, many small leaders. Pete Seeger, quoted in Ben Greenman, “Pete Seeger’s Heavy Folk,” The New Yorker magazine (Jan. 28, 2014).
  • In essence, leaders are people who “walk ahead,” people genuinely committed to deep changes, in themselves and in their organizations. Peter M. Senge, in The Dance of Change (1999)

Senge continued: “They naturally influence others through their credibility, capability, and commitment. And they come in many shapes, sizes, and positions.”

  • There comes a point when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his own conscience. Hartley Shawcross, in opening remarks at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal (Nov. 19, 1945)

QUOTE NOTE: Shawcross was the lead British prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials.

  • Leaders are people we as followers want to regard with awe as the fullest flowering of our own possibilities. Gail Sheehy, in Pathfinders (1981)
  • Clearly no one knows what leadership has gone undiscovered in women of all races, and in black and other minority men. Gloria Steinem, in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983)
  • The best kind of leader: one who creates independence, not dependence. Gloria Steinem, in Revolution From Within (1993)
  • Consensus is the negation of leadership. Margaret Thatcher, quoted in Reader’s Digest (Jan., 1995); originally reported in a 1993 issue of The Globe (London).
  • True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders. In combat, officers eat last. Robert Townsend, in Further Up the Organization (1984)
  • Not all readers become leaders. But all leaders must be readers. Harry S Truman, in unmailed letter to Governor Orville Freeman of Minnesota; reprinted in M. M. Poen, Strictly Personal and Confidential—The Letters Harry Truman Never Mailed (1982)
  • The history of the world’s great leaders is often the story of human folly. Voltaire, in La Siècle de Louis XIV (1751)
  • Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion. Jack Welch, quoted in N. Tichy and R. Charan, “Speed, Simplicity, and Self-Confidence: An Interview with Jack Welch,” in Harvard Business Review (Sep.-Oct., 1989)
  • One of the things about leadership is that you cannot be a moderate, balanced, thoughtful careful articulator of policy. You’ve got to be on the lunatic fringe. Jack Welch, quoted in The Washington Post (March 23, 1997)
  • Leaders I feel should guide as far as they can—and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit. H. G. Wells, in Experiment in Autobiography (1934)
  • Leaders shape our visions of the possible and direct our energies toward it. Marcia Lynn Whicker, in Toxic Leaders: When Organizations Go Bad (1996)

In her book, Whicker also offered these thoughts:

“Typically, our love for our leaders is one-sided: their successes become our own, while their failures are theirs alone.”

“Leadership is elusive and enigmatic, just as it is enlightening and empowering. It is a bright light among human energies that sometimes, by its very intensity, casts a long and dark shadow.”

“Good leadership is pervasive, persuasive, and persistent. Bad leadership is poisoned with pedanticism, posturing, self-importance.”

  • The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people. Woodrow Wilson, “Leaders of Men,” speech at the University of Tennessee (June 17, 1890)
  • Writing is the handmaiden of leadership. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill rode to glory on the back of the strong declarative sentence. William Zinsser, in Writing to Learn: How to Write—and Think—Clearly About Any Subject at All (1988)

LEADERS & RULERS—ON THEMSELVES

(see also AUTHORITY and COMMAND & COMMANDING and EXECUTIVES and GOVERNING and GOVERNMENT and INFLUENCE and LEADERS & LEADERSHIP and LEADERS & RULERS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and MANAGEMENT and ORDERS and POLITICIANS and POLITICS and RULERS & RULING)

  • You philosophers are lucky men. You write on paper and paper is patient. Unfortunate Empress that I am, I write on the susceptible skins of living beings. Catherine the Great, in 1775 letter to Denis Diderot; reprinted in The Memoirs of Catherine the Great (1955; Dominique Maroger, ed.)
  • I felt as if I was walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial. Winston Churchill, in remarks upon becoming England’s Prime Minister (May 10, 1940)
  • It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar. Winston Churchill, in speech at London’s Westminster Hall (Nov. 30, 1954)

QUOTE NOTE: Churchill gave the speech at a special ceremony in celebration of his eightieth birthday. Just earlier, Labor Party leader Clement Attlee paid tribute to Churchill’s role in WWII by saying: “You offered us only blood and sweat and tears and we gladly took your offer.” When Churchill took the stage, he thanked Mr. Attlee but humbly suggested that he was merely expressing the resolve of freedom-loving people everywhere. He then preceded his famous give the roar quotation above with these words about the English people: “Their will was resolute and remorseless and, as it proved, unconquerable. It fell to me to express it, and if I found the right words you must remember that I have always earned my living by my pen and by my tongue.”

LEADERS & RULERS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS

(see also AUTHORITY and COMMAND & COMMANDING and EXECUTIVES and GOVERNING and GOVERNMENT and INFLUENCE and LEADERS & LEADERSHIP and LEADERS & RULERS—ON THEMSELVES and MANAGEMENT and ORDERS and POLITICIANS and POLITICS and RULERS & RULING)

  • His lazy, long, lascivious reign. Daniel Defoe, on the reign of Charles II of England, in The True-Born Englishman (1701)
  • He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle to steady his fellow countrymen and hearten those Europeans upon whom the long dark night of tyranny had descended. Edward R. Murrow, on Winston Churchill, in CBS broadcast to mark Churchill’s eightieth birthday (Nov. 30, 1954); reprinted in In Search of Light: The Broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow, 1938–1961 (1967)
  • The constant, obvious flattery, contrary to all evidence, of the people around him had brought him to the point that he no longer saw his contradictions, no longer conformed his actions and words to reality, logic, or even simple common sense, but was fully convinced that all his orders, however senseless, unjust, and inconsistent with each other, became sensible, just, and consistent with each other only because he gave them. Leo Tolstoy, the narrator describing tsar Nicholas I, in Hadji Murad (1912)

LEARNING

(see also CURIOSITY and DISCOVERY and EDUCATION & EDUCATORS and [Learning From] EXPERIENCE and IGNORANCE and INSTRUCTION & INSTRUCTORS and KNOWLEDGE and [Lifelong] LEARNING and SCHOLARS & SCHOLARSHIP and SCHOOLS & SCHOOLCHILDREN and KNOWLEDGE and STUDENTS and STUDY & STUDIES and TEACHERS & TEACHING and UNDERSTANDING)

  • Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. Abigail Adams, from letter to son John Quincy Adams (May 8, 1780); in The Quotable Abigail Adams (2009; John P. Kaminski, ed.)
  • They know enough who know how to learn. Henry Brooks Adams, in The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
  • It is always in season for old men to learn. Aeschylus, the chorus leader speaking, in Agamemnon (5th c. B.C.)

The passage has also been commonly translated this way: “Old men are always young enough to learn with profit.”

  • I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship. Louisa May Alcott, the character Amy speaking, in Little Women (1868–1869)
  • I like to have a thing suggested rather than told in full. When every detail is given, the mind rests satisfied, and the imagination loses the desire to use its own wings. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, “Leaves From a Notebook,” in Ponkapog Papers (1903)
  • To learn is a natural pleasure, not confined to philosophers, but common to all men. Aristotle, in Poetics (4th c. B.C.)
  • The day you stop learning is the day you begin decaying. Isaac Asimov, in 1975 commencement address at Connecticut College (specific date undetermined), quoted in Peter Smith, Onward! 25 Years of Advice, Exhortation, and Inspiration from America’s Best Commencement Speeches (2000)
  • Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: For the past half-century, this observation (in a variety of similar phrasings) has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but there is no evidence he every said anything like it. It’s a perfect example of an “orphan quotation,” authored by some anonymous figure and then attributed to Franklin to lend it credibility. The original author has never been determined, and will likely never be.

  • Learning hath his infancy, when it is but beginning, and almost childish; then his youth, when it is luxuriant and juvenile; then his strength of years, when it is solid and reduced; and, lastly, his old age, when it waxeth dry and exhaust. Francis Bacon, “Of Vicissitudes of Things,” in Essays (1625)
  • Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • In my experience one thing you don't learn from is anything anyone set up to be a lesson. Elizabeth Bowen, in The Heat of the Day (1949)
  • But let me say this about learning experiences: they’re weird. Or put it this way: what you learn from a learning experience is generally something else. Peg Bracken, in A Window Over the Sink (1981)
  • There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. Willa Cather, in The Song of the Lark (1915)
  • When someone is taught the joy of learning, it becomes a life-long process that never stops, a process that creates a logical individual. That is the challenge and joy of teaching. Marva Collins, “Marva Collins: Teaching Success in the City,” in a 1987 issue of the journal Message (specific issue undetermined)
  • Learning acquired in youth arrests the evil of old age. Leonardo da Vinci, in Notebooks (1508–18)

Leonardo added: “And if you understand that old age has wisdom for its food, you will conduct yourself in youth that your old age will not lack for nourishment.”

  • Be open to learning new lessons even if they contradict the lessons you learned yesterday. Ellen DeGeneres, in a 2005 issue of Elle magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • The three pillars of learning; seeing much, suffering much, and studying much. Isaac D’Israeli, “Britain and the Britons,” in Amenities of Literature, Vol. I (1841)

ERROR ALERT: In most current quotation collections, a slightly different version of this observation (“Seeing much, suffering much, and studying much, are the three pillars of learning”) is mistakenly attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, the son of Isaac D’Israeli. To make things perhaps more interesting, the observation does not even appear to be original with the father. The observation originally appeared in a discussion of triads (what we would now call tricolons), where D’Israeli selected some examples of the device from 3rd to 12th-century English literature.

  • People read the papers not in the hopes of learning something new, but in the expectation of being told what they already know. This is a form of living death. Roger Ebert, in “A Memo To Myself and Certain Other Film Critics” (Nov. 17, 1991); reprinted in Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert, 2nd Edition (2017; David Bordwell, ed.)
  • Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Considerations by the Way,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)

To drive home his point, Emerson went on to add: “We learn geology the morning after the earthquake.”

  • What we learn most deeply is usually what we do not know we are learning at all. Years later, if we are lucky, we recognize the shape of what we have learned, its true anatomy. Bonnie Friedman, in Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction, and Other Dilemmas in the Writer’s Life (1993)
  • If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure—all your life. It’s as simple as that. John W. Gardner, in Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society (1964)
  • Learning starts with failure, the first failure is the beginning of education. John Hersey, in The Child Buyer (1960)
  • In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists. Eric Hoffer, in Reflections on the Human Condition (1973)
  • When we make children afraid we stop their learning dead in its tracks. John Holt, in Preface to How Children Learn (1967; rev. 1983)
  • Learning can be a bridge between doing and thinking. But then there is a danger that the person who uses learning as a bridge between doing and thinking may get stuck in learning and never get on to thinking. Laura Riding Jackson, in Four Unposted Letters to Catherine (1993)
  • Learning without wisdom is a load of books on a donkey’s back. Zora Neale Hurston, the character Mentu speaking, in Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939)
  • I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. Eartha Kitt, quoted in a 1978 issue of Playbill (specific date undetermined)
  • That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you've understood all your life, but in a new way. Doris Lessing, protagonist Martha Quest speaking, in The Four-Gated City (1969; the final volume of her five-volume Children of Violence series)

QUOTE NOTE: The remark comes in a conversation between Martha and her friend Joanna. A few moments earlier, Martha had said: “We keep learning things and then forgetting them so we have to learn them again.”

  • When something bad happens is when you really learn. It causes self-examination, it causes you to take a look at yourself. You naturally start analyzing. It’s not that you’re wrong; it’s that sometimes you just need to make adjustments. Jennifer Lopez, “Jennifer Lopez: The All-Star” (interview with Jane Fonda), Glamour magazine (Oct. 31, 2011)

Lopez added: “Change your way of thinking, change your way of doing, change your way of choosing.”

  • We will be victorious if we have not forgotten how to learn. Rosa Luxemburg, in The Crisis in the German Social Democracy (1918)
  • You cannot learn and be perfect at the same time. Marvin Marshall, in Live Without Stress: How to Enjoy the Journey (2017)
  • Most people did not care to be taught what they did not already know; it made them feel ignorant. Mary McCarthy, in Birds of America (1971)
  • A good deal of education consists in un-learning—the breaking of bad habits as with a tennis serve. Mary McCarthy, in How I Grew (1987)
  • The ability to learn is older—as it is also more widespread—than is the ability to teach. Margaret Mead, in Continuities in Cultural Evolution (1964)
  • The world of learning is so broad, and the human soul is so limited in power! We reach forth and strain every nerve, but we seize only a bit of the curtain that hides the infinite from us. Maria Mitchell, diary entry (Oct. 17, 1854), in Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters, and Journals (1896; Phebe Mitchell Kendall, ed.)
  • The man of learning without imagination has feet but no wings. Hugo Münsterberg, “Connection in Science and Isolation in Art,” in Melvin Rader (ed.), A Modern Book of Esthetics: An Anthology (1952); originally published in The Principles of Art Education (1905)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites attribute a very similar saying (“He who has learning without imagination has feet but no wings”), to a gentleman named Stanley Goldstein. I’ve been unable to locate any biographical information on Goldstein, but his observation—which first appeared in a 1993 issue of Forbes magazine—was simply a rephrasing of Münsterberg’s original thought.

  • Remember that the secret of all learning is patience and that curiosity is not the same thing as a thirst for knowledge. Iris Murdoch, the character Miss Walpole speaking, in The Flight From the Enchanter (1956)
  • The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning. M. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled (1978)

Peck continued: “If this path is followed long and earnestly enough, the pieces of knowledge begin to fall into place. Gradually things begin to make sense.”

  • A little learning is a dangerous thing. Alexander Pope, in An Essay on Criticism (1711)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of history’s most famous lines, as well as one of its most misunderstood. Pope was not suggesting that learning per se was dangerous, only that inadequate learning was. Think about it this way. People who have shallow or superficial knowledge often make the mistake of believing they know more than they do. When confronted with problems whose solutions demand deep and extensive knowledge, these folks with little learning but big ambitions can become dangerous to themselves and others.

Often misquoted as A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, the line appears in a poem—not an essay—originally written in 1709, but first published in 1711 (the poem also gave us “To err is human, to forgive divine” and “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”). Pope’s little learning line has been tweaked and parodied countless times over the centuries, as when T. H. Huxley wrote in Science and Culture (1881): “If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?” For more on the poem, go to An Essay on Criticism.

  • Learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history. Carl Rowan, quoted in American Libraries (Feb., 1995)

Rowan introduced the thought by writing: “The library is the temple of learning.”

  • Learning is always rebellion…. Every bit of new truth discovered is revolutionary to what was believed before. Margaret Lee Runbeck, in The Year of Love (1956)
  • The wisest mind hath something yet to learn. George Santayana, the character Hermes speaking, in Lucifer: A Theological Tragedy (1899)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly present the quotation as if it were phrased has something.

  • Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we re-create ourselves. Peter M. Senge, in The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990; rev. 2006)

Senge continued: “Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life. There is within each of us a deep hunger for this type of learning.” Senge went on to describe the essence of a learning organization this way: “An organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future.”

  • You have learnt something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something. George Bernard Shaw, the character Undershaft speaking, in Major Barbara (1905)
  • I grow old, ever learning many things. Solon, quoted in Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans (1st c. A.D)
  • Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket; and do not merely pull it out, and strike it, merely to show you have one. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to his son (Feb. 22, 1748)

QUOTE NOTE: The strike it reference is to the bell of tower clock that strikes to mark the hour. Lord Chesterfield added: “If you are asked what o’clock it is, tell it; but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman.”

  • Learning is acquired by reading books: but the much more necessary learning, the knowledge of the world, is only to be acquired by reading men, and studying all the various editions of them. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to his son (March 16, 1752)
  • The first problem for all of us, men and woman, is not to learn, but to unlearn. Gloria Steinem, in a 1971 New York Times article (specific issue undetermined)

Steinem continued: “We are filled with the popular wisdom of several centuries just past, and we are terrified to give it up. Patriotism means obedience, age means wisdom, woman means submission, black means inferior: these are preconceptions imbedded so deeply in our thinking that we honestly may not know that they are there.”

  • 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)
  • Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. Thomas Szasz, in Words to the Wise: A Medical-Philosophical Dictionary (2004)

Szasz continued: “That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.”

  • There is no royal road to learning; no short cut to the acquirement of any valuable art. Anthony Trollope, the voice of the narrator, in Barchester Towers (1857)

QUOTE NOTE: Here, Trollope was almost certainly inspired by Euclid’s famous reply (“There is no royal road to geometry”) to an Egyptian emperor who had asked if there was a short cut to learning geometry.

A moment after making his no royal road to learning observation, the narrator went on to add: “Let biographers, novelists, and the rest of us groan as we may under the burdens which we so often feel too heavy for our shoulders; we must either bear them up like men, or own ourselves too weak for the work we have undertaken. There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily.”

  • Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one’s enemies. Leon Trotsky, in Literature and Revolution (1924)
  • One can learn, at least. One can go on learning until the day one is cut off. Fay Weldon, a reflection of the character Jocelyn, in Down Among the Women (1971)
  • The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning you’re not old. Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, quoted in Barbara Shiels, Women and the Nobel Prize (1985)

[Lifelong] LEARNING

(see also CURIOSITY and DISCOVERY and EDUCATION & EDUCATORS and [Learning From] EXPERIENCE and IGNORANCE and INSTRUCTION & INSTRUCTORS and KNOWLEDGE and LEARNING and SCHOLARS & SCHOLARSHIP and SCHOOLS & SCHOOLCHILDREN and KNOWLEDGE and STUDENTS and STUDY & STUDIES and TEACHERS & TEACHING and UNDERSTANDING)

  • Our minds, unlike our bodies, are able to grow and develop until death overtakes us. Mortimer J. Adler, in A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror: Further Autobiographical Reflections of a Philosopher at Large (1992).

Adler continued: “Unless it declines because of serious mental illness, the mind is not like a muscle, bone, or bodily organ that begins to decline when youth ends, but it is a vital instrument that, if properly exercised, continues to improve.”

QUOTE NOTE: In the Second Look book, which was his second autobiography, Adler wrote: “Fifteen years ago, when I was only seventy-five years old, I wrote my autobiography prematurely.” So much had happened in the intervening years that Adler concluded: “I am, therefore, impelled to take a second look in the rearview mirror and hope that those who found the earlier volume engaging will be similarly entertained by this one.”

  • It is always in season for old men to learn. Aeschylus, the chorus leader speaking, in Agamemnon (5th c. B.C.)

The passage has also been commonly translated this way: “Old men are always young enough to learn with profit.”

  • The day you stop learning is the day you begin decaying. Isaac Asimov, in 1975 commencement address at Connecticut College (specific date undetermined), quoted in Peter Smith, Onward! 25 Years of Advice, Exhortation, and Inspiration from America’s Best Commencement Speeches (2000)
  • Learning acquired in youth arrests the evil of old age. Leonardo da Vinci, in Notebooks (1508–18)

Da Vinci added: “And if you understand that old age has wisdom for its food, you will conduct yourself in youth that your old age will not lack for nourishment.”

  • One’s work may be finished someday, but one’s education never! Alexandre Dumas, père, in Dumas: An Autobiography—Anthology (1962; Guy Endore, ed.)
  • Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it. Albert Einstein, from letter to a fan (March 24, 1954), in Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1979; Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffmann, eds.)
  • Never lose a holy curiosity. Albert Einstein, quoted in William Miller, “Death of a Genius,” Life magazine (May 2, 1955)
  • Anyone who stops learning is old, whether he halts at twenty or eighty. Henry Ford, quoted in Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistic, State of Connecticut (1928)
  • If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure—all your life. It’s as simple as that. John W. Gardner, in Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society (1964)
  • I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. Eartha Kitt, quoted in a 1978 issue of Playbill (specific date undetermined)
  • There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when he was an old man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well spent. Michel de Montaigne, “Of Experience,” in Essays (1580–88)
  • When I learn something new—and it happens every day—I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest. Bill Moyers, in a 1988 interview with Isaac Asimov; reprinted in A World of Ideas (1989)

Moyers added: “I’m afraid that by the time I begin to feel really at home, it’ll be over.”

  • The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning. M. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled (1978)

Peck continued: “If this path is followed long and earnestly enough, the pieces of knowledge begin to fall into place. Gradually things begin to make sense.”

  • The wisest mind hath something yet to learn. George Santayana, the character Hermes speaking, in Lucifer: A Theological Tragedy (1899)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly present the quotation as if it were phrased has something.

  • I grow old, ever learning many things. Solon, quoted in Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans (1st c. A.D)
  • The key to beauty is to be always educating yourself, always learning something new, always doing something new and to have something to talk about. Cheryl Tiegs, citing an important life lesson she learned from from her agent, in The Huffington Post (July 27, 2012)
  • One can learn, at least. One can go on learning until the day one is cut off. Fay Weldon, a reflection of the character Jocelyn, in Down Among the Women (1971)
  • The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning you’re not old. Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, quoted in Barbara Shiels, Women and the Nobel Prize (1985)

LECTURE

(includes LECTURERS and LECTURING; see also AUDIENCE and SERMONS and SPEAKERS and SPEECHES and TALKS)

  • A lecture has been well described as the process whereby the notes of the teacher become the notes of the student without passing through the mind of either. Mortimer J. Adler, in How to Read a Book (1960)
  • A watch is the most essential part of a lecture. Willa Cather, in a 1926 speech, quoted in L. Brent Bohlke, Willa Cather in Person (1986)
  • The ruder lecturers are, and the louder their voices, the more converts they make to their opinions. Winifred Holtby, “The Murder of Madame Mollard” (1930), in Pavements at Anderby (1937)
  • Within the confines of the lecture hall, no other virtue exists but plain intellectual integrity. Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” in a 1917 lecture at Munich University
  • The first duty of a lecturer—to hand you after an hour’s discourse a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on the mantelpiece for ever. Virginia Woolf, in A Room of One’s Own (1929)

LEGACY

(see also ANCESTORS & ANCESTRY and GIFT and HERITAGE and INHERITANCE and TRADITION)

  • Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation, as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (Sep. 10, 1711)
  • If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased. Maya Angelou, quoted in a 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar
  • In my belief, a harvest [of hope] is also a legacy, for very often what you reap is, in the way of small miracles, more than you consciously know you have sown. Faith Baldwin, Harvest of Hope (1962)
  • Thought alone holds the tradition of the bygone life. The endless legacy of the past to the present is the secret source of human genius. Honoré de Balzac, the title character speaking, in Séraphîta (1834)
  • Certainly it is important to work hard for your children, but if the only legacy you can give them is money it is a poor legacy indeed. Helen Beardsley, in Who Gets the Drumstick? (1965)
  • If you are constantly being critical and putting others down, this is who you are, this is your character, your legacy. You’re leaving behind a trail of hate and negativity that lingers like a thorn bush, snagging anything that it touches. Patrick Bisher, “Be a Warrior, Not a Victim: An Ex-SEAL’s Guide to Surviving Life’s Setbacks,” FoxNews.com (Aug. 11, 2017)

Bisher preceded the thought by saying: “You become what you think about, what you talk about, and what you act upon. Print off everything that you say to others and all posts on all of your social media accounts.”

  • Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. Ray Bradbury, the protagonist Guy Montag speaking, in Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

A bit later, still talking about his grandfather, Montag said: “It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”

  • Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. Warren Buffet, quoted in Andrew Kilpatrick, Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett (1994)
  • The maxim, “An unexamined life is not worth living,” is the priceless legacy of Socrates to the generations of men who have followed him upon this earth. The beings who have stood on humanity’s summit are those, and only those, who have heard the voice of Socrates across the centuries. The others are a superior kind of cattle. Nicholas Murray Butler, in lecture at Columbia University (March 4, 1908)
  • No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it. George Washington Carver, in letter to Booker T. Washington (May 25, 1915)
  • There is a strange charm in the thoughts of a good legacy, or the hopes of an estate, which wondrously alleviates the sorrow that men would otherwise feel for the death of friends. Miguel de Cervantes, in Don Quixote (1605)
  • There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. If these basic needs aren’t met, we feel empty, incomplete…. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase “to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” Steven R. Covey, in First Things First (1994; with A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill)
  • The legacy of heroes—the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example. Benjamin Disraeli, in House of Commons speech (Feb. 1, 1849)
  • 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)
  • My life has been a poor attempt/To imitate the man./I am the living legacy/To the leader of the band. Dan Fogelberg, lyric in the 1981 song “Leader of the Band”, on the album The Innocent Age (1981)

QUOTE NOTE: Leader of the Band may be the most moving tribute a musician has ever paid to his or her father. In clicking the link above, you will not only hear the song, but the entire set of lyrics as well.

  • The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. Billy Graham, in Hope for the Troubled Heart (1991)
  • Our names are our first gifts, and they bring a mixed legacy of burdens and hopes. Anndee Hochman, in Everyday Acts and Small Subversions: Women Reinventing Family, Community and Home (1994)
  • Your legacy should be that you made it better than it was when you got it. Lee Iacocca, in Talking Straight (1988)
  • Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage. Pope John XXIII, in An Invitation to Hope (1967)
  • My new year’s resolution: Never be afraid to be kicked in the teeth. Let the blood and the bruises define your legacy. Lady Gaga, in a FaceBook post (Jan. 01, 2012)
  • Lives of great men all remind us/We can make our lives sublime,/And, departing, leave behind us/Footprints on the sands of time. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in “A Psalm of Life” (1838)
  • I am convinced that the greatest legacy we can leave our children are happy memories: those precious moments so much like pebbles on the beach that are plucked from the white sand and placed in tiny boxes that lay undisturbed on tall shelves until one day they spill out and time repeats itself, with joy and sweet sadness, in the child now an adult. Og Mandino, in The Choice (1984)
  • There is no magic on earth strong enough to wipe out the legacies of one’s parents. Salman Rushdie, the voice of protagonist Saleem Sinai, in Midnight’s Children: A Novel (1981)
  • No legacy is so rich as honesty. William Shakespeare, the character Mariana speaking, in All’s Well That Ends Well (1603-04)
  • No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind. Taylor Swift, in a 2013 Twitter post
  • 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)
  • I think of all the choices I never knew. And those I let be made for me—to please, from fear, for love. Where did they disappear to, those choices that I never made? They are all part of who I am. They are the legacy I leave behind, they are the finished portrait of myself I cannot change. Liv Ullmann, in Choices (1984)
  • In the midst of tragedy, we learn what is important, and that is the redemptive legacy of any crisis experience. Robert L. Veninga, in A Gift of Hope: How We Survive Our Tragedies (1985)

QUOTE NOTE: Veninga wisely pointed out that when we wake up in the coronary care unit, we don’t think about the job concerns that preoccupied us yesterday. Or when a child is lying in a hospital bed, we don’t think about last night’s missed curfew. He preceded the thought by writing: “A crisis event explodes the illusions that anchor our lives.”

  • I never thought about leaving a tennis legacy. I always thought about leaving a legacy of fulfillment, living out your dreams, and giving back. Serena Williams, quoted in Melissa Harris Perry, “Serena Williams Is Unstoppable,” in Glamour magazine (June 7, 2016)
  • When you make loving others the story of your life, there’s never a final chapter, because the legacy continues. You lend your light to one person, and he or she shines it on another and another and another. Oprah Winfrey, in What I Know For Sure (2014)

(see also JUDGES and LAW and LAWSUITS and LAWYERS)

  • Never let us confuse what is legal with what is right.

Marian Wright Edelman, in speech at “Call to Renewal” Conference (Chicago; Sep. 14, 1996)

QUOTE NOTE: Edelman was speaking about a Welfare Reform Bill that had recently passed Congress, and had just been signed into law by President Clinton (she described his signing as “a moral blot” on his presidency). She added after the foregoing observation: “Everything Hitler did in Nazi Germany was legal, but it was not right.”

LEGISLATION

(see LAW)

LESBIANS & LESBIANISM

(see also FEMINISM and GAY and HOMOSEXUALS & HOMOSEXUALITY and QUEER and SEXUAL ORIENTATION)

  • Feminism is a theory, lesbianism is a practice. Ti-Grace Atkinson, in a 1970 speech, quoted in Sidney Abbott and Barbara Love, Sappho Was a Right-On Woman (1972)
  • Albinos aren’t reproached for having pink eyes and whitish hair, why should they hold it again me for being a lesbian? It’s a question of nature: my queerness isn’t a vice, isn’t “deliberate,” and harms no one. Natalie Clifford Barney, a 1910 remark, quoted in Shari Benstock, Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940(1986)
  • They say lesbians hate men. How can they? They don't have to fuck them. Roseanne Barr, quoted in Geraldine Barr, My Sister Roseanne (1994; with Ted Schwarz)
  • I became a lesbian out of devout Christian charity. All those women out there are praying for a man and I gave them my share. Rita Mae Brown, the protagonist Mary Frazier Armstrong speaking, in Venus Envy (1993)
  • Many lesbians were so far in the closet they were in danger of being mistaken for garment bags. Rita Mae Brown, quoted in a 1995 issue of Ms. magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • For a woman to be a lesbian in a male-supremacist, capitalist, misogynist, racist, homophobic, imperialist culture, such as that of North America, is an act of resistance. Cheryl Clarke, “Lesbianism: An Act of Resistance,” in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, This Bridge Called My Back (1983)

In her essay, Clarke also wrote: “Historically, this culture has come to identify lesbians as women who over time, engage in a range and variety of sexual-emotional relationships with women. I, for one, identify a woman as a lesbian who says she is.”

  • Women who love women, who choose women to nurture and support and to create a living environment in which to work creatively and independently, are lesbians. Blanche Wiesen Cook, quote in a 1987 issue of The Atlantic magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Lesbianism has always seemed to me an extremely inventive response to the shortage of men but otherwise not worth the trouble. Nora Ephron, a reflection of protagonist Rachel Samstat, in Heartburn (1983)
  • I was so excited to be able to say that I was a lesbian that I would shake hands with strangers on the street and say, “Hi! I’m Sally Gearhart and I’m a lesbian.” Once, appearing on a panel program, I began, “I’m Sally Lesbian and I’m a gearhart!” I realized then that I had put too much of my identity into being lesbian. Sally Gearhart, quoted in Leigh W. Rutledge, Unnatural Quotations: A Compendium of Quotations by, for, or about Gay People (1988)
  • Girls who put out are tramps. Girls who don’t are ladies. This is, however, a rather archaic usage of the word. Should one of you boys happen upon a girl who doesn’t put out, do not jump to the conclusion that you have found a lady. What you have probably found is a lesbian. Fran Lebowitz, in Metropolitan Life (1974)
  • I am not just a lesbian. I am not just a poet. I am not just a mother. Honor the complexity of your vision and yourselves. Audre Lorde, in a 1989 commencement address at Oberlin College (Ohio)

Lorde preceded the thought by saying: “There will always be someone begging you to isolate one piece of yourself, one segment of your identity above the others, and say ‘Here, this is who I am.’ Resist that trivialization.”

  • Except two breeds—the stupid and the narrowly feline—all women have a touch of the Lesbian: an assertion all good non-analytic creatures refute with horror, but quite true: there is always the poignant intensive personal taste, the flair of inner-sex, in the tenderest friendships of women. Mary MacLane, in I, Mary MacLane: A Diary of Human Days (1917)
  • The suppressed lesbian I had been carrying in me since adolescence began to stretch her limbs. Adrienne Rich, “Split at the Root,” in Blood, Bread, and Poetry (1986)
  • Lesbian: Any uppity woman, regardless of sexual preference. If they don’t call you a lesbian, you’re probably not accomplishing anything. Marie Shear, “Media Watch: Celebrating Women’s Words,” New Directions for Women (May/Jun 1986)
  • We’re like the Evian water of the ’90s. Everyone wants to know a lesbian or to be with a lesbian or just to dress like one. Suzanne Westenhoefer, quoted in David Blanton, Queer Notions (1996)
  • One of the first things a typical lesbian learns is that there is no such thing as a typical lesbian. Yvonne Zipter, in Diamonds Are a Dyke’s Best Friend: Reflections, Reminiscences, and Reports From the Field on the Lesbian National Pastime (1988)

LESS

(includes FEWER; see also MORE and NUMBER and QUANTITY)

  • Less is more. Robert Browning, a line from the poem “Andrea Del Sarto,” in Men and Women (1855)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one history’s most famous examples of oxymoronica. Nothing could be further from the literal truth, but when people use the expression, they are using self-contradictory phrasing to describe an important principle—keeping things simple and avoiding unnecessary detail almost always improves things. In the twentieth century, the legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted it as a maxim and, as a result, the saying is frequently attributed to him.

LETTERS & LETTER-WRITING

(see also COMMUNICATION and CORRESPONDENCE and E-MAIL and MAIL and POSTAL SERVICE)

  • Letters from my friends are a cordial to my Soul. Abigail Adams, in a 1785 letter; in The Quotable Abigail Adams (2009; John P. Kaminski, ed.)
  • Letters are expectation packed in an envelope. Shana Alexander, “The Surprises of the Mail,” in Life magazine (June 30, 1967)

In that same piece, Alexander wrote: “A handwritten, personal letter has become a genuine modern-day luxury, like a child’s pony ride.”

  • It is a rule with me, that a person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot write ill. Jane Austen, the character Elizabeth Bingley speaking, in Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Everyone allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Jane Austen, the character Henry Tilney speaking, in Northanger Abbey (1818)
  • Goethe says somewhere that letters are the most significant memorial that a man leaves behind him. Author Unknown, in a review of Personal and Literary Letters of the Earl of Lytton, in The Christmas Bookseller (Dec. 15, 1906)

ERROR ALERT: Nothing like this sentiment has ever been found in Goethe’s writings, so any attribution of the saying to him should be considered suspect. On many internet sites, however, and in one of Jack Canfield’s popular Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Goethe is quoted as saying:  “Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.” It should be noted that this rendition of the thought is so grammatically mangled that Goethe would have been embarrassed to see it offered in his name.

  • Life seems to go in letter-writing, and I’m beginning to think that the proper definition of “Man” is “an animal that write letters.” Lewis Carroll, in letter to Marion Terry (Feb. 14, 1887); reprinted in The Letters of Lewis Carroll (1979; Morton Cohen & Roger Green, eds.)

QUOTE NOTE: Carroll was one of literary history’s most prolific letter writers, once claiming that he wrote “wheelbarrows full, almost.” Another time, he said, “One-third of my life seems to go in receiving letters, and the other two-thirds in answering them.” He confided to one friend that he wrote approximately two thousand every year, and was still constantly behind in his correspondence.

  • Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls;/ For, thus friends absent speak. John Donne, in “To Sir Henry Wotten” (1693)
  • Your letter carries with it not only the message you want it to convey, but another very definite message about yourself. Lillian Eichler, in The New Book of Etiquette (1924)
  • The letter you write is your personal representative. It takes your place when circumstances make it impossible for you to be there in person. Lillian Eichler, in Standard Book of Letter Writing (1948)

In her book, Eichler also wrote: “The purpose of a business letter is to inspire action, either at once or at some future date.”

  • We lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrevocably for ourselves and for others. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a passage from Ottilie’s diary, in Elective Affinities (1809)
  • No literary form is more revealing, more spontaneous or more individual than a letter. P. D. James, in Foreword to Olga Kenyon, 800 Years of Women’s Letters (1992)

James continued: “Long before women were writing novels they were expressing their emotions, aspirations, hopes and fears in epistolary form, and those letters from past centuries which have survived can give us a more vivid and realistic portrait of the age in which they were written than many more portentous literary forms.”

  • I have made this [letter] longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal, in Letters Provinciales, No. 16 (1657)

QUOTE NOTE: Here, Pascal offers what appears to be the earliest observation on the oxymoronic theme that might be expressed this way: “It takes a long time to write short things.” Two centuries later, in a Nov. 16, 1857 letter to Harrison Blake, Henry David Thoreau, expressed the same dilemma: “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” See the Woodrow Wilson entry in SPEECHES & SPEECHMAKING for a similar thought.

  • There were people whose only interest in life was writing letters. To the newspapers, to authors, to strangers, to City Councils, to the police. It did not much matter to whom; the satisfaction of writing seemed to be all. Josephine Tey, a reflection of protagonist Alan Grant, in The Singing Sands (1952)
  • The post is the grand connecting link of all transactions. Those who are absent, by its means become present; it is the consolation of life. Voltaire, “Post,” in Philosophical Dictionary (1764)
  • You have a touch in letter writing that is beyond me. Something unexpected, like coming round a corner in a rose garden and finding it still daylight. Virginia Woolf, in letter to Madge Vaughan (August 1908); quoted in The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume I: 1888-1912 (1975; Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds.)
  • It was very nice of you to write to me. I love getting letters, but I hate answering them, at least when I’ve let them, as generally happens, lie about and become moldy and reproachful. Virginia Woolf, 1934, in The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume V: 1932-1935 (1979; Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds.)
  • Letters are a cross between saying what you can’t keep quiet about and what you think the recipient would like to hear. Jessamyn West, in Double Discovery (1980)

LEVERS & LEVERAGE

(see also ADVANTAGE and CLOUT and CROWBAR and INFLUENCE and MECHANICS)

  • The Net’s interactivity gives us powerful new tools for finding information, expressing ourselves, and conversing with others. It also turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment. Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (2010)
  • A belief is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life. Sam Harris, in The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason ((2005)

Harris went on to add: “Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings.” And a little later in the book, he wrote: “Every belief is a fount of action in potentia.”

  • Leverage is everything…don’t begin to pry till you have got the long arm on your side. Oliver Wendell Holnes, Sr. in an 1859 letter to Bernard Langdon
  • There are two levers for moving men—interest and fear. Napoleon I (Napoleon Bonaparte), quoted in Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Napoleon; or The Man of the World,” Representative Men (1850)
  • Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up. Thomas J. Watson, Sr., quoted in Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Father, Son & Co.: My Life at IBM and Beyond (2000; with Peter Petre)

LEVITY

(see also CHEER and COMEDY & COMEDIANS and HUMOR and [SENSE OF] HUMOR and JESTS and JOKES & JOKERS and JOY and LAUGHTER and MERRIMENT and MIRTH and SATIRE & SATIRISTS and WIT)

  • The body, she says, is subject to the force of gravity. But the soul is ruled by levity, pure. Saul Bellow, the narrator, passing along a remark from the character Mrs. Gracewell, in the title story, Him with His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories (1984)
  • Levity is often less foolish and gravity less wise than each of them appears. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • The desire to spread levity in the world weighs heavily upon me. Gregg Eisenberg, in Letting Go is All We Have to Hold Onto (2018)
  • Poets are always in search of the right word, the adjective that is inevitable,/Because an ill-chosen adjective induces levity in the reader, and no poet wishes to be levitable. Ogden Nash, “A Strange Casement of the Poetic Apothecary,” in Everyone But Thee and Me (1962)
  • A little levity is appropriate in a dangerous trade. Walter M. (Wally) Schirra, on levity in the U. S. space program, quoted in Dora Jane Hamblin, “Spacecraft Anonymous,” Life magazine (Oct. 11, 1968)
  • Levity is the lubricant of a crisis. We resort to jokes, pranks, and good natured kidding to relieve tension, stress, and boredom. Wally Schirra, quoted in Ed Buckbee and Wally Schirra, The Real Space Cowboys (2005)
  • My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. George Bernard Shaw, in the privately-printed pamphlet “Nine Answers” (Sep., 1896)

QUOTE NOTE: In the pamphlet, Shaw answered nine questions that had been submitted to him by journalist Clarence Rook).

LEXICOGRAPHY & LEXICOGRAPHERS

(see also DICTIONARY & DICTIONARIES and DEFINITIONS and DIALECT and ENGLISH—THE LANGUAGE and ETYMOLOGY and LANGUAGE and MEANING and PRONUNCIATION and WORDS)

  • Lexicography is a chastening as well as an illuminating and fascinating art. Robert Burchfield, in Unlocking the English Language (1989)
  • I am not yet so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. Samuel Johnson, in Preface to Dictionary of the English Language (1755)
  • Lexicographer—A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge. Samuel Johnson, in Dictionary of the English Language (1755)
  • To be a lexicographer, you must be able to sit with a word and all its many, complex uses and whittle those down into a two-lined definition that is both broad enough to encompass the vast majority of the word’s written use and narrow enough that it actually communicates something specific about this word—that “teeny” and “measly,” for instance, don’t refer to the same kind of smallness. Kory Stamper, in Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries (2017)
  • Lexicographers spend a lifetime swimming through the English language in a way that no one else does; the very nature of lexicography demands it. Kory Stamper, in Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries (2017)

Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, continued: “English is a beautiful, bewildering language, and the deeper you dive into it, the more effort it takes to come up to the surface for air.”

LIBERAL ARTS

(see also EDUCATION)

  • A liberal arts education remains unequalled for the exercise and development of the most valuable qualities of the mind: penetration of thought, broadmindedness, fineness of analysis, gifts of expression. Pope Pius XII in a papal address (September 5, 1957)

LIBERALS & LIBERALISM

(see also CONSERVATIVES & CONSERVATISM and DEMOCRATS and GOVERNMENT and IDEOLOGY and MODERATION and MODERATES and POLITICS and REPUBLICANS)

  • The liberals can understand everything but people who don’t understand them. Lenny Bruce, “Politics,” in The Essential Lenny Bruce (1967; John Cohen, ed.)
  • Reality has a well-known liberal bias. Stephen Colbert, in remarks at White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (Washington, DC; April 29, 2006)
  • My objection to Liberalism is this—that it is the introduction into the practical business of life of the highest kind—namely politics—of philosophical ideas instead of political principles. Benjamin Disraeli, in House of Commons speech (June 5, 1848)
  • To be absolutely honest, what I feel bad about is that I don’t feel worse. There’s the ineffectual liberal’s problem in a nutshell. Michael Frayn, quoted in a 1965 issue of the Observer (London; specific date undetermined)
  • Texas liberals are the camels of good news. We can cross entire deserts between oases. Molly Ivins, “Thank You, George, Dan, Marilyn…,” in Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Nov. 26, 1992)

QUOTE NOTE: Ivins was writing in celebration of Bill Clinton’s victory over George H. W. Bush in the recent presidential election. Delighted to see a Democrat in the White House after twelve years of Republican control, she went on to add: “Most liberals, ever sensitive and compassionate to the point of making you want to throw up, are horribly good sports when they win. Personally, I believe in gloating. It’s not enough for me that the Republicans lost; I’d just as soon they all had flat tires on the way home from the polls.”

  • Miss Manners has come to believe that the basic political division in the society is not between liberals and conservatives but between those who believe that they should have a say in the love lives of strangers and those who do not. Judith Martin, in Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)
  • Liberals have invented whole college majors—psychology, sociology, women’s studies—to prove that nothing is anybody’s fault. P. J. O’Rourke, in Give War a Chance (1992)
  • By liberalism I don’t mean the creed of any party or any century, I mean a generosity of spirit, a tolerance of others, an attempt to comprehend otherness, a commitment to the rule of law, a high ideal of the worth and dignity of man, a repugnance for authoritarianism, and a love of freedom. Alan Paton, in a 1973 lecture on South Africa at Yale University; reprinted in Paton’s Journey Continued: An Autobiography (1988)
  • Long ago, there was a noble word, liberal, which derives from the word free. Now a strange thing happened to that word. A man named Hitler made it a term of abuse, a matter of suspicion, because those who were not with him were against him, and liberals had no use for Hitler. And then another man named McCarthy cast the same opprobrium on the word. Eleanor Roosevelt, in Tomorrow Is Now (1963)

Roosevelt went on to add: “We must cherish and honor the word free or it will cease to apply to us.”

  • The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment. Bertrand Russell, “Philosophy and Politics,” in Unpopular Essays (1950)
  • I am also very proud to be a liberal. Why is that so terrible these days? The liberals were liberators—they fought slavery, fought for women to have the right to vote, fought against Hitler, Stalin, fought to end segregation, fought to end apartheid. Thanks to liberals we have Social Security, public education, consumer and environmental protection, Medicare and Medicaid, the minimum wage law, unemployment compensation. Liberals put an end to child labor and they gave us the five-day work week! What's to be ashamed of? Such a record should be worn as a badge of honor. Barbra Streisand, “The Artist As Citizen,” speech at Harvard University Institute of Politics (Feb. 3, 1995)
  • Liberals must stop viewing government as the caretaker of first resort. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, quoted in a 1985 issue of U.S. News and World Report (specific issue undetermined)
  • We who are liberal and progressive know that the poor are our equals in every sense except that of being equal to us. Lionel Trilling, “The Princess Casamassima,” in The Liberal Imagination (1950). Also an example of Oxymoronica.
  • He was learning for himself the truth of the saying, “A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested.” Tom Wolfe, the narrator describing a growing realization on the part of the character Sherman McCoy, in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987)

QUOTE NOTE: Almost all reference sources identify Wolfe as the author of this popular definition of a liberal, but he may have simply helped to popularize an anonymously authored quip that had recently emerged in popular culture. The saying—which quickly achieved a kind of proverbial status—also quickly spawned a counter-proverb: “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.”

  • Why is it that right-wing bastards always stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, while liberals fall out among themselves? Yevgeny Yevtushenko, quoted in The Observer (London; Dec. 15, 1991)

LIBERTY

(see also CAPTIVITY and DEMOCRACY and FREEDOM and [Religious] LIBERTY and OPPRESSION and RIGHTS and SERVITUDE and SLAVERY)

  • A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty/Is worth a whole eternity in bondage. Joseph Addison, in Cato (1713)
  • Liberty is a better husband than love—to many of us. Louisa May Alcott, an 1860 journal entry, quoted in Eve LaPlante, Marmee and Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother (2012)
  • Liberty must not be abused. Louisa May Alcott, the voice of the narrator, in Little Men (1871)
  • Conquering any difficulty always gives one a secret joy, for it means pushing back a boundary-line and adding to one's liberty. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, entry in his Journal Intime
  • Liberty is the soul’s right to breathe, and, when it cannot take a long breath, laws are girdled too tight. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs From Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • Liberty is the one thing no man can have unless he grants it to others. Ruth Benedict, quoted in Margaret Mead, An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict (1959)

QUOTE NOTE: See the similar observation from William Allan White below.

  • The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. Louis D. Brandeis, in Olmstead v. United States (1928)

Brandeis introduced the thought by writing: “Experience should teach us to be most on guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers.”

  • The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for experience, and by parts. Edmund Burke, in letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol (April 3, 1977)
  • The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. Edmund Burke, in a 1784 speech in Buckinghamshire, England
  • The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do as they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations. Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
  • Political liberty does not consist in the notion that a man may do whatever he pleases; liberty is the right to do whatsoever the laws allow. Catherine the Great, quoted in Robert K. Massie, Catherine the Great (2011)
  • Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty, it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)

ERROR ALERT: I’ve also seen this observation misattributed to Abraham Cowley and Emma Goldman.

  • The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt. John Philpott Curran, “Lord Mayor Speech to Privy Council of Ireland” (July 10, 1790); reprinted in Speeches of John Philpott Curran (1811)

QUOTE NOTE: This speech from the newly elected Lord Mayor of Dublin is the origin of “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” a proverbial saying that first emerged in the early 1800s and was already well known when President Andrew Jackson said in his March 4, 1837 farewell address: “you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.”

  • Liberty…is the delicate fruit of a mature civilization; and scarcely a century has passed since nations that knew the meaning of the term resolved to be free. John Dalberg (Lord Acton), the opening words of “The History of Freedom in Antiquity,” address at Bridgnorth Institute (Feb. 26, 1877)

Lord Acton continued: “In every age its progress has been beset by its natural enemies, by ignorance and superstition, by lust of conquest and by love of ease, by the strong man’s craving for power, and the poor man’s craving for food.”

  • Liberty is the only idea which circulates with the human blood, in all ages, in all countries, and in all literature—liberty that is, and what cannot be separated from liberty, a love of country. Germaine de Staël, quoted in Margaret Goldsmith, Madame de Staël (1938)
  • Money is coined liberty, and so it is ten times dearer to the man who is deprived of freedom. If money is jingling in his pocket, he is half consoled, even though he cannot spend it. Fyodor Dostoevsky, the narrator, reflecting on the role of money among prison inmates, in The House of the Dead (1862)
  • Liberty is a different kind of pain from prison. T. S. Eliot, the character Harry speaking, in The Family Reunion (1939)
  • Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. Benjamin Franklin, “Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor” (Nov. 11 1755); reprinted in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 6, 1755-1756 (1963, Leonard W. Labaree, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: A slightly altered form of this observation is inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

  • There is a word sweeter than Mother, Home, or Heaven—that word is Liberty. Matilda Joslyn Gage, quoted in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty Years and More (1898)
  • 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.

  • I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death. Patrick Henry, in Virginia House of Delegates speech (March 23, 1775); quoted in William Wirt, Patrick Henry (1818)
  • Absolute liberty may also corrupt absolutely. Gertrude Himmelfarb, tweaking Lord Acton’s famous maxim, in On Liberty and Liberalism: The Case of John Stuart Mill (1974)
  • When we are badly frightened, we think we can make ourselves safer by sacrificing some of our liberties. We did it during the McCarthy era out of fear of communism. Less liberty is regularly proposed as a solution to crime, to pornography, to illegal immigration, to abortion, to all kinds of threats. Molly Ivins, in You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You (1998)

Ivins introduced the thought by writing: “The impulse to make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free is an old one.”

  • The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. Thomas Jefferson, in letter to Col. William S. Smith (Nov. 13, 1787)
  • The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave. Thomas Jefferson, in letter to Richard Rush (Oct. 20, 1820)

QUOTE NOTE: The boisterous sea of liberty was a favorite Jefferson metaphor, offered in a number of his letters and papers. For example, in an April 24, 1796 letter to Philip Mazzei, Jefferson expressed concern about an increasing support for a return to British colonial rule. After writing that “An Anglican monarchical & aristocratical party has sprung up,” he went on to say:

“Against us are the Executive, the Judiciary, two out of three branches of the legislature, all of the officers of the government, all who want to be officers, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty.”

For more, see Barry Popik’s research into the saying at The Big Apple.

  • The deadliest foe of democracy is not autocracy but liberty frenzied. Otto Kahn, in a University of Wisconsin speech (Jan. 14, 1918)
  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. Learned Hand, in New York City “Spirit of Liberty” speech (May 21, 1944)

In a speech that is widely known as his “Central Park Address,” Judge Hand said he could not define liberty, but “can only tell you of my own faith.” He continued: “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him, who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.”

  • There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies. Walter Lippmann, “What Modern Liberty Means,” in Liberty and the News (1920)
  • Liberty is not less a blessing, because oppression has so long darkened the mind that it can not appreciate it. Lucretia Mott, in an 1849 speech, quoted in Dana Greene, Lucretia Mott: Her Complete Speeches and Sermons (1980)
  • If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. George Orwell, “The Freedom of the Press” (written 1944), first printed in Time Literary Supplement (Sep. 15, 1972)

ERROR ALERT: Numerous internet sites and many published books present the following erroneous phrasing of this observation: “Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

  • He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. Thomas Paine, in Dissertation on First Principles of Government (1795)
  • Freedom, remember, is not the same as liberty.” Katherine Anne Porter, in The Never-Ending Wrong (1977)

Porter preceded the thought by writing: “Freedom is a dangerous intoxicant and very few people can tolerate it in any quantity; it brings out the old raiding, oppressing, murderous instincts; the rage for revenge, for power, the lust for bloodshed. The longing for freedom takes the form of crushing the enemy…into the earth.”

  • Lean liberty is better than fat slavery. Proverb (English) (first recorded in the early 1600s)
  • If we do not die for liberty, we shall soon have nothing left to do but weep for her. Marie-Jeanne Roland, in a 1790 letter, quoted in Lydia Maria Child, Memoirs of Madame de Staël and of Madame Roland (1847)
  • O Liberty! O Liberty! How many crimes are committed in thy name! Marie-Jeanne Roland, a 1793 remark, said on her way to the guillotine, quoted in Alphonse de Lamartine, Histoire des Girondins (1847)
  • Too little liberty breeds stagnation, and too much brings chaos. Bertrand Russell, “The Role of Individuality,” in Authority and the Individual (1949)
  • Power is so apt to be insolent and Liberty to be saucy, that they are very seldom upon good terms. George Savile (Lord Halifax), in Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)

A half-century earlier, in his Maxims of State (1700), Lord Halifax offered this additional thought about power and liberty: “Power and Liberty are like Heat and Moisture: where they are well mixed, everything prospers; where they are single, they are destructive.”

  • Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. George Bernard Shaw, “Maxims for Revolutionists: Liberty and Equality,” in Man and Superman (1903)
  • Liberty is the possibility of doubting, the possibility of making a mistake, the possibility of searching and experimenting, the possibility of saying “No” to any authority—literary, artistic, philosophic, religious, social, and even political. Ignazio Silone (pen name of Secondo Tranquilli), from his essay in The God That Failed (1949; Richard H. Crossman, ed.)
  • I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive. Harriet Tubman, quoted in Sarah H. Bradford, Harriet, The Moses of Her People (1869)
  • It is a fact beyond question that there are two kinds of Christian experience, one of which is an experience of bondage, and the other an experience of liberty. Hannah Whitall Smith, in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (1870)
  • It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives. Dorothy Thompson, “What Price Liberty?” in a 1958 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal (specific date undetermined)

In that same article, Thompson also wrote: “When liberty is taken away by force it can be restored by force. When it is relinquished voluntarily by default it can never be recovered.”

  • I have the impression that when we talk so confidently of liberty, we are unaware of the awful servitudes that are created by the ancient enemies of mankind. Barbara Ward, in The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations (1962)

Ward went on to list the following ancient enemies: “The servitude of poverty when means are so small that there is literally no choice at all; the servitude of ignorance when there are no perspectives to which the mind can open because there is no education on which the mind can begin to work; the servitude of ill-health which means that the expectation of life is almost too short to allow for any experience of freedom, and the years that are lived are dragged out without the health and strength which are themselves a liberation.”

  • Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth. George Washington, in letter to James Madison (March 2, 1788)
  • One of the indispensable foods of the human soul is liberty. Liberty, taking the word in its concrete sense, consists in the ability to choose. Simone Weil, in The Need for Roots (1949)
  • It would seem that man was born a slave, and that slavery is his natural condition. At the same time nothing on earth can stop a man from feeling himself born for liberty. Never, whatever may happen, can he accept servitude; for he is a thinking creature. Simone Weil, in Oppression and Liberty (1958)
  • Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you give it to others. William Allan White, in “A Free Press in a Machine Age,” speech at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia; May 2, 1938)

QUOTE NOTE: See the similar observation by Ruth Benedict above.

  • The shallow consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint. The wise man sees it, on the contrary, the potent Law of Laws. Walt Whitman, “Freedom,” in Notes Left Over (1881)
  • Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance. Woodrow Wilson, in speech at the New York Press Club (Sep. 9, 1912)
  • You cannot tear up ancient rootages and safely plant the tree of liberty in soil which is not native to it. Woodrow Wilson, “The Old Order Changeth,” in The New Freedom (1923; first offered in a Sep. 12, 1912 speech)

[Religious] LIBERTY

(see also CAPTIVITY and DEMOCRACY and FREEDOM and LIBERTY and OPPRESSION and RIGHTS and SERVITUDE and SLAVERY)

  • If churches want to exercise their “religious liberty” by denying services to those who do not conform to their doctrines, they should reject government funding and provide the services on their own dime. Marie Alena Castle, in Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom (2013)

[Statue of] LIBERTY

(see also BEACON and DEMOCRACY and FREEDOM and IMMIGRATION and MIGRATION & MIGRANTS and STATUE and SYMBOL)

  • A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name/Mother of exiles. Emma Lazarus, on the Statue of Liberty, in “The New Colossus” (1883)

QUOTE NOTE: This passage is inscribed on a plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The plaque also contains these more famous words: “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

LIBRARIES & LIBRARIANS

(see also AUTHOR and BOOKS and BOOKSTORE and FICTION and LITERATURE and NOVELS & NOVELISTS and READING and WRITERS and WRITING)

  • There are times when I think that the ideal library is composed solely of reference books. They are like understanding friends—always ready to meet your mood, always ready to change the subject when you have had enough of this or that. J. Donald Adams, in Speaking of Books—And Life (1965)
  • The library became the cathedral where I would come to worship and the stories were as precious to me as prayers. Anita Anand, “Character Building,” in The Reading Agency, The Library Book (2012)
  • Here is where people,/One frequently finds,/Lower their voices/And raise their minds. Richard Armour, “Library,” in Light Armour (1971)
  • It isn’t just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you—and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life. Isaac Asimov, letter to the children of Troy, New York (March 16, 1971); reprinted in Robert Dawson, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay (2014)

QUOTE NOTE: Asimov was responding to a note from Marguerite Hart, the first children’s librarian at the new Troy Public Library (Troy, NY). Hart had asked a large number of public figures to write to the children of Troy describing the significance of libraries and the importance of reading. Asimov was one of ninety-seven who responded; his letter (along with notes from Dr. Seuss and E. B. White) may be seen at: Asimov Letter.

  • When I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself. Isaac Asimov, in I, Asimov (1994)

Asimov preceded the observation by writing: “I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it.”

  • I myself spent hours in the Columbia library as intimidated and embarrassed as a famished gourmet invited to a dream restaurant where every dish from all the world’s cuisines, past and present, was available on request. Luigi Barzini, Jr., in O America When You and I Were Young (1977)
  • A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessaries of life. Henry Ward Beecher, in Eyes and Ears (1862)

ERROR ALERT: Many web sites and books mistakenly have necessities in place of necessaries.

Beecher preceded the thought by writing: “A little library, growing larger every year, is an honorable part of a young man’s history. It is a man’s duty to have books.”

  • My house is a library with living rooms attached. Bernard Berenson, quoted in Lore & Maurice Cowan, The Wit of the Jews (1970)
  • Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one. Augustine Birrell, in Obiter Dicta (1884)
  • I had always imagined Paradise as a kind of library. Jorge Luis Borges, “Blindness,” in Seven Nights (1984)

The book is a collection of seven lectures Borges delivered in Buenos Aires in 1977. This lovely paradise image was offered as he reflected on his literary success and recalled the many childhood trips he made to the library with his father. He showed his deep affection for libraries and librarians by writing: “In my life I have received many unmerited honors, but there is one which has made me happier than all the others: the director of the National Library [of Mexico].” He borrowed the Paradise metaphor from a line in his earlier “Poem of the Gifts” (1959).

  • For the location of a mislaid volume, an uncatalogued item, your good librarian has a ferret’s nose. Give her a scent and she jumps the leash, her eye bright with battle. Catherine Drinker Bowen, in Adventures of a Biographer (1959)

Bowen overcame a lack of formal training in history or biography to become one of America’s most respected biographers. Paying tribute to librarians for the assistance they provided, she wrote: “In early days, I tried not to give librarians any trouble, which was where I made my primary mistake. Librarians like to be given trouble; they exist for it, they are geared to it.”

  • Libraries raised me. Ray Bradbury, quoted in Jennifer Steinhauer, “A Literary Legend Fights for a Local Library,” in The New York Times (June 19, 2009)

Bradbury, approaching ninety when the article appeared, was still making appearances around the country in support of libraries endangered by budget cuts. He said: “When I graduated from high school, it was during the depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.” In a 1986 interview with William J. Grabowski, reported in Fantasy Review, Bradbury expressed the thought this way: “I am indeed a child of the libraries.”

  • A library doesn’t need windows. A library is a window. Stewart Brand, in How Buildings Learn (1994)
  • Our library has the most effective search engines yet invented—librarians who are highly skilled at ferreting out the uniquely useful references you need. William R. Brody, president of Johns Hopkins University, quoted in JHU Gazette (Dec. 26, 2004)
  • The library is not, as some would have it, a place for the retiring of disposition or faint of heart. It is not an ivory tower or a quiet room in a sanitarium facing away from the afternoon sun. Eric Burns, in The Joy of Books: Confessions of a Lifelong Reader (1995)

Burns continued: “It is, rather, a command center, a power base. A board room, a war room. An Oval Office for all who preside over their own destinies. One does not retreat from the world here; one prepares to join it at an advantage.”

  • My soul found ease and rest in the companionship of books. Pat Conroy, recalling his college years, in My Losing Season: A Memoir (2002)

Conroy continued: “The library staff knew me on a first-name basis; I felt as comfortable entering the Citadel library as a shell entering its shell.”

  • A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas—a place where history comes to life. Norman Cousins, “The Need for Continuity,” in ALA Bulletin (Oct., 1954)

Cousins prefaced the observation by writing: “The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one’s devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual.”

  • A great library contains the diary of the human race. George Dawson, in speech at dedication of the Birmingham (England) Free Library (Oct. 26,1866)
  • Librarianship is the connecting of people to ideas. GraceAnne A. DeCandido, in keynote address at Southeast Pennsylvania Library Association annual meeting (Oct. 17, 2008)

QUOTE NOTE: The phrase connecting people to ideas captures the essence of what librarians do and, in my opinion, ranks right up there with some of Madison Avenue’s best advertising slogans. Here’s the fuller passage from DeCandido’s keynote address: “If librarianship is the connecting of people to ideas—and I believe that is the truest definition of what we do—it is crucial to remember that we must keep and make available, not just good ideas and noble ideas, but bad ideas, silly ideas, and yes, even dangerous and wicked ideas.”

  • Upon the library shelves tall tomes, with their backs to the world, preserved the ponderous knowledge of ages. Isak Dinesen, “The Cardinal’s First Tale,” in Last Tales (1957)

The words come from the Cardinal, describing the library in which his mother, many years earlier, had taken refuge. He continued: “But from time to time during three centuries, volumes of more frivolous thoughts, of longing and levity and words that rhymed, had happened to leap in amongst them.”

  • The world is a library of strange and wonderful books, and sometimes we just need to go prowling through the stacks. Michael Dirda, in Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life (2005)
  • The three most important documents a free society gives are a birth certificate, a passport, and a library card. E. L. Doctorow, in a 1994 interview, quoted in The New York Times (March 27, 1994)
  • The library is an arena of possibility, opening both a window into the soul and a door onto the world. Rita Dove, quoted in David Drake, Each of Us Is a Book: Poems for the Library Minded (2003)
  • A man should keep his little brain-attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it. Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes speaking, in “The Five Orange Pips” (1891); reprinted in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)

QUOTE NOTE: See the Doyle entry in the BRAIN section for another Sherlocution on the same theme.

  • A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements, clumsy hands. Umberto Eco, the abbot speaking to William, in The Name of the Rose (1983)

The abbot continued: “So the librarian protects them not only against mankind but also against nature, and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion, the enemy of truth.”

  • A man’s library is a sort of harem. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Books,” in Society and Solitude (1870)
  • Do not be guilty of possessing a library of learned books while lacking learning yourself. Desiderius Erasmus, in a 1497 letter to Christian Northoff; in Collected Works of Erasmus (1974; W. K. Ferguson, ed.)
  • A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. The library is the university. Shelby Foote, quoted in North Carolina Libraries (Vol. 51-54; 1993
  • You know, when you’re young, you’re growing up, they’re almost sexually exciting places because books are powerhouses of knowledge, and therefore they’re kind of slightly dark and dangerous. You see books that kind of make you go “Oh!” Stephen Fry, on libraries, in a March, 2001 appearance on the BBC television series “Room 101”

QUOTE NOTE: Fry may be seen delivering the remark at five minutes, forty-five seconds into his appearance on Room 101.

  • Every private library is a reading plan. José Gaos, quoted in Gabriel Zaid, So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance (1996)
  • The librarian isn’t a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user. Seth Godin, “The Future of the Library,” in The Reading Agency’s The Library Book (2012)
  • He that revels in a well-chosen library has innumerable dishes, all of admirable flavor. William Godwin, in The Enquirer: Reflections on Education, Manners, and Literature (1797)
  • A family library is a breeding-place for character. Graham Greene, “Background for Heroes” (1937), in Collected Essays (1969)
  • Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. Germaine Greer, “Still in Melbourne, January 1987,” in Daddy, We Hardly Knew You (1989)

Greer continued: “The pleasure they give is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed.”

  • A library is a place where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity. Germaine Greer, quoted by Bob Mondello in “Libraries’ Leading Roles,” in All Things Considered radio broadcast (Aug. 08, 2013)

QUOTATION CAUTION: After first hearing the Greer observation on the NPR broadcast, I discovered that it shows up on hundreds of websites. I’ve been unable to find an original source, though, so it is wise to proceed with caution until it is authenticated. To listen to Mondello’s wonderful exposition of how public libraries have been portrayed in popular culture go to: Libraries’ Leading Roles.

  • Library-denigrators, pay heed: suggesting that the Internet is a viable substitute for libraries is like saying porn could replace your wife. Joanne Harris (@Joannechocolat), a Tweet (Feb. 13, 2013)
  • Your library is your portrait. Holbrook Jackson, in Maxims of Books and Reading (1934)
  • The small library in my Cleveland-area day school was merely a gateway drug to the local public library a mile from my home. I spent innumerable hours there as a boy, addicted as much to the serendipitous pleasures of searching for a good book as to the satisfying relish of losing myself in its pages once I found one. Jeff Jacoby, “Life without Libraries? Unthinkable”, in The Boston Globe (June 18, 2015)
  • No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library. Samuel Johnson, in The Rambler (March 23, 1751)
  • I took to the Bodleian library as to a lover and…would sit long hours in Bodley’s arms, to emerge, blinking and dazed with the smell and feel of all those books. Laurie R. King, in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994)

QUOTE NOTE: The words come from the novel’s protagonist, a fifteen-year-old Jewish-American girl named Mary Russell. After losing her parents in a car accident, Mary moves to England to live with her aunt. In 1915, she befriends the 54-year-old Sherlock Holmes, who has retired from his consulting detective practice to raise bees. Holmes takes Mary under his wings and trains her in detecting skills. This was the first in a series of thirteen novels featuring the young detective-in-training. The novel’s protagonist may be fictional, but The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford is a very real place. One of Europe’s oldest libraries, it has been in continuous operation since 1600s, but has roots going back to the 14th century. Oxford professors and students refer to the library as “Bodley” or simply “The Bod.”

  • I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book. Barbara Kingsolver, the narrator Orleanna Price speaking, in The Poisonwood Bible (1998)

The line is offered almost as an aside early in the novel, the first few pages of which are abundant with metaphors of all kinds. To sample them, go to: The Poisonwood Bible.

  • The library is the proper workshop of professors and students alike. Christopher C. Langdell, in Harvard University address (1887), quoted in Fred R. Shapiro, The Yale Book of Quotations (2006)

Langdell, Dean of the Harvard Law School and one of the legal profession’s most innovative educators, continued with this library analogy: “It is to us all that the laboratories of the university are to the chemists and physicists, the museum of natural history to the zoologists, the botanical garden to the botanists.” Langdell occupies a place in legal history as the person who introduced blind grading and the case method of instruction to Harvard’s law school.

  • A library is a focal point, a sacred p[lace to a community, and its sacredness is its accessibility, its publicness. It’s everybody’s place. I remember certain libraries, vividly and joyfully, as my libraries—elements of the best of my life. Ursula Le Guin, “My Libraries,” a 1997 talk at Multnomak County Library, Portland, Maine; reprinted in The Wave in the Mind (2004)
  • With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates. It is the most democratic of institutions because no one—but no one at all—can tell you what to read and when and how. Doris Lessing, in Index on Censorship (1999)
  • Libraries/Are/Necessary/Gardens,/Unsurpassed/At/Growing/Excitement. J. Patrick Lewis, “Necessary Gardens,” in Please Bury Me in the Library (2005; illustrated by Kyle M. Stone)
  • For the existence of a library, the fact of its existence, is, in itself and of itself, an assertion—a proposition nailed like Luther’s to the door of time. Archibald MacLeish, “The Premise of Meaning,” in American Scholar (June 5, 1972); reprinted in Riders on the Earth: Essays and Recollections (1978)
  • A library is never—for lovers of the written word—simply a place for conserving or storing books but rather a sort of living creature, with a personality and even moods which we should understand and learn to live with. Francisco Márquez, “A Modest Tribute to Widener Library,” in Harvard Magazine (May, 1997)
  • A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. Caitlin Moran, “Alma Mater,” in The Times magazine (August 13, 2011)

Moran continued: “On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen, instead. A human with a brain and a heart and a desire to be uplifted, rather than a customer with a credit card and an inchoate ‘need’ for ‘stuff.’”

  • From his refined accent, quiet voice and apparent omniscience, I took him for a librarian. George Orwell, diary entry describing a man in a discussion group (March 11, 1936), from “The Road to Wigan Pier Diary,” in Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 1 (1987)

Orwell’s entry describes his attendance at a discussion group for John Galsworthy’s The Skin Game. The discussion, which continued after the group adjourned to a local pub, was dominated by two men. The first was “a huge bull-headed man named Rowe” and the second “a youngish, very intelligent and extremely well-informed young man named Creed.” As it turns out, Creed was not a librarian, but the proprietor of a tobacconist’s shop.

  • It’s funny that we think of libraries as quiet demure places where we are shushed by dusty, bun-balancing, bespectacled women. The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy, and community. Paula Poundstone, quoted in “FOLUSA Forms New Partnership,” American Libraries (June/July 2008)

Poundstone, a popular comedian and panelist on the NPR quiz show “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me,” had recently become a national spokesperson for the Friends of the Library USA. This observation came from a 30-second PSA she made for the group. She went on: “Librarians have stood up to the Patriot Act, sat down with noisy toddlers, and reached out to illiterate adults. Libraries can never be shushed. If you haven’t been to your library lately, you’re over-due.”

  • Librarian is a service occupation, gas station attendant of the mind. In an earlier age, I might have made things. Now I only make things available. Richard Powers, the character Jan O’Deigh, a librarian, speaking, in Gold Bug Variations (1991)
  • When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground. Proverb (African)
  • The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history. Carl Rowan, quoted in American Libraries (Feb., 1995)
  • We are the only species on the planet, so far as we know, to have invented a communal memory stored neither in our genes nor in our brains. The warehouse of that memory is called the library. Carl Sagan, in Cosmos (1980)

A little later in the book, Sagan wrote: “The library connects us with the insights and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species.”

  • A library is thought in cold storage. Herbert Samuel, in Viscount Samuel’s Book of Quotations (1947)
  • As the strata of the earth preserve in their order the living creatures of past epochs, so do the shelves of libraries preserve in their order past errors and their expositions. Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Reading and Books,” in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)

Schophauer continued: “Like the living creatures, those books were in their day very much alive and made a great stir. But they are now stiff and fossilized and are considered only by the literary paleontologist.”

  • My library is an archive of longings. Susan Sontag, journal entry (April 26, 1980), in As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964–1980 (2012)
  • There it is: that wonderful library smell. How could I have forgotten it? The feel of libraries—the way they look, feel, smell sound—lingers intensely as the memories of a fierce first love. Susan Allen Toth, “A Celebration of Libraries,” in Reading Rooms: America's Foremost Writers Celebrate Our Public Libraries (1991; S. A. Toth & J. Coughlan, eds.)
  • To a historian libraries are food, shelter, and even muse. Barbara Tuchman, “The Houses of Research,” in Practicing History (1981)
  • Every time I went to the library, it felt like a treasure hunt: somewhere amid those dusty books was the answer, and all I had to do was find it. Jean M. Twenge, in Generation Me (2006)
  • The death of a library, any library, suggests that the community has lost its soul. Kurt Vonnegut, quoted in The Hartford Courant (Jan. 31, 1995)
  • In the nonstop tsunami of global information, librarians provide us with floaties and teach us how to swim. Linton Weeks, in The Washington Post (Jan 31, 2001)
  • I ransack public libraries & find them full of sunk [sic] treasure. Virginia Woolf, diary entry (Aug. 9, 1921), in The Diary of Virginia Woolf: 1920–24 (1980)

LIES & LYING

(includes UNTRUTH; see also DECEPTION & DECEIPT and DISHONESTY and ERROR and FALSEHOOD and HONESTY and LYING TO ONESELF and MENDACITY and PERJURY and SELF-DECEPTION and TRUTH)

  • A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth. Aesop, “The Shepherd’s Boy,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)

QUOTE NOTE: This saying so perfectly captured an enduring human reality that it quickly became proverbial. Over the centuries, it has been repeated in many different ways by many others.

  • Lying wastes more time than anything else in the modern world. Margery Allingham, in The Tiger in the Smoke (1952)
  • Cowards are not invariably liars, but liars are invariably cowards. Minna Thomas Antrim, in Knocks: Witty, Wise, and— (1905)
  • The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth, and truth be defamed as lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed. Hannah Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” in Peter Laslett and W. G. Runciman, Philosophy, Politics and Society (1967)
  • There always comes a point beyond which lying becomes counterproductive. This point is reached when the audience to which the lies are addressed is forced to disregard altogether the distinguishing line between truth and falsehood in order to be able to survive. Hannah Arendt, “Lying in Politics,” in Crises of the Republic (1972)

In the essay, Arendt also wrote: “Truthfulness has never been counted among the political virtues, and lies have always been regarded as justifiable tools in political dealings.”

  • If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. Hannah Arendt, in interview with Roger Errera, The New York Review of Books (Oct. 26, 1978)

Arendt continued: “On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.”

  • I love you and, because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies. Pietro Aretino, quoted in The Works of Aretino (1926; Samuel Putnam, ed.)
  • Liars when they speak the truth are not believed. Aristotle, quoted in Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers (3rd c. A.D.)
  • Truth is no man’s slave—but lies—what magnificent servants they make. Phyllis Bottome, in The Life Line (1946)
  • Elvira always lied first to herself before she lied to anybody else, since this gave her a conviction of moral honesty. Phyllis Bottome, in Under the Skin (1950)
  • Nobody speaks the truth when there’s something they must have. Elizabeth Bowen, in The House in Paris (1935)
  • So often the truth is told with hate, and lies are told with love. Rita Mae Brown, in Bingo (1988)
  • The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way. Samuel Butler, in The Way of all Flesh (1903)
  • Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to tell a lie as well. Samuel Butler, “Truth and Convenience,” in Note-Books (1912)

Butler went on to write: “Lying has a kind of respect and reverence with it. We pay a person the compliment of acknowledging his superiority whenever we lie to him.”

  • I fear one lies more to one’s self than to any one else. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), a notebook entry (Dec. 6, 1813), in Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. 3 (1974; Leslie Marchand, ed.)
  • And, after all, what is a Lie? ’Tis but/The truth in masquerade. Lord Byron (George Noel Gordon), in Don Juan (1819–24)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the well known portion of the quatrain. It continues with this less familiar portion: “And I defy/Historian—heroes—lawyers—priests, to put/A fact without some leaven of a lie.”

  • We tell ourselves that we lie to protect others, but the self usually comes out looking damn good in the process. David Carr, “Me and My Girls,” in The New York Times Magazine (July 20, 2008)
  • That was the trouble with lies: it was very important to remember them accurately when, generally, they were the things you most wanted to forget. Liza Cody, in Stalker (1984)
  • The lie that flatters I abhor the most. William Cowper, in “Table Talk” (1782)
  • The lie is the basic building block of good manners. Quentin Crisp, in Manners from Heaven: A Divine Guide to Good Behavior (1984)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation appears on most internet sites, but it was originally part of this larger observation: “Of course I lie to people. But I lie altruistically—for our mutual good. The lie is the basic building block of good manners. That may seem mildly shocking to a moralist—but then what isn’t?”

  • We reveal more of ourselves in the lies we tell than we do when we try to tell the truth. Dorothy Salisbury Davis, in Death in the Life (1976)
  • When you base your life upon a lie,/You carry weights until you die. Jim DeKornfeld, in a personal communication to the compiler (Sep. 19, 2016)
  • There are lying looks, as well as lying words; dissembling smiles, deceiving signs, and even a lying silence. Ellin Devis, “Maxims and Reflections,” in The Accidence, or First Rudiments of English Grammar (1775)

QUOTE NOTE: The Accidence was the first English grammar book written exclusively for young women. The author, an English schoolmistress from a prominent London family, may have been largely forgotten by history, but her students included such pioneering female writers as Maria Edgeworth, Frances Burney, and Hester Thrale. For more maxims and reflections from the book, go to The Accidence.

  • Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Fyodor Dostoevsky, the character Father Zosima speaking, in The Brothers Karamazov (1880)

QUOTE NOTE: After continuing with a few more thoughts on the dangers of lying to oneself, Father Zosima concludes by saying: “A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. It sometimes feels very good to take offense, doesn’t it? And surely he knows that no one has offended him, and that he himself has invented the offense and told lies just for the beauty of it, that he has exaggerated for the sake of effect, that he has picked on a word and made a mountain out of a pea—he knows all of that, and still he is the first to take offense, he likes feeling offended, it gives him great pleasure, and thus he reaches the point of real hostility.”

  • The whole world is absolutely brought up on lies. We are fed nothing but lies. We begin with lies, and half our lives we live with lies. Most human beings waste some twenty-five to thirty years of their lives before they break through the actual and conventional lies which surround them. Isadora Duncan, “Memoirs,” in This Quarter (1929)
  • The nature of lies is to please. Truth has no concern for anyone’s comfort. Katherine Dunn, the character Arturo Binewski speaking, in Geek Love (1989)

Binewski preceded the remark by saying: “The truth is always an insult or a joke. Lies are generally tastier. We love them.”

  • The little bit of truth contained in many a lie is what makes them so terrible. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880)
  • Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Prudence,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • Without lies humanity would perish of despair and boredom. Anatole France, in Afterword to The Bloom of Life (1922)
  • Just because some people are liars, Jim, is no reason why we should be fools. Erle Stanley Gardner, protagonist Perry Mason speaking to James Etna, in The Case of the Grinning Gorilla (1952)
  • Like all valuable commodities, truth is often counterfeited. James Gibbons, in The Ambassador of Christ (1896)

Gibbons continued: “If it is a crime to counterfeit money, it is a greater crime to adulterate virtue. The more precious the genuine coin, the more criminal and dangerous is the spurious imitation.”

  • When I err, every one can see it; but not when I lie. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1892; Bailey Saunders, trans. & ed.)
  • A single lie destroys a whole reputation for integrity. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

COMPILER’S NOTE: Given the realities of modern life, I believe Gracián’s observation can be amended in the following way: “A single lie destroys a whole reputation for integrity—unless the liar is the head of your political party or religious sect.”

  • 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)
  • In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths. Graham Greene, the character Henry Scobie thinking about his own life, in The Heart of the Matter (1948)

Just prior to this thought, the narrator had written about Scobie: “The truth, he thought, has never been of any real value to any human being—it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue.”

  • Lying is the royal road to chaos. Sam Harris, in Lying (2013)

This is the concluding sentence of the opening paragraph to the book. Harris preceded the thought by writing: “Among the many paradoxes of human life, this is perhaps the most peculiar and consequential: We often behave in ways that are guaranteed to make us unhappy. Many of us spend our lives marching with open eyes toward remorse, guilt, and disappointment. And nowhere do our injuries seem more casually self-inflicted, or the suffering we create more disproportionate to the needs of the moment, than in the lies we tell to other human beings.”

  • Nothing gives such a blow to friendship as the detecting another in an untruth. It strikes at the root of our confidence ever after. William Hazlitt, in Characteristics (1823)
  • Maybe half a lie is worse than a real lie. Lillian Hellman, in Another Part of the Forest (1947)
  • A man should be jailed for telling lies to the young. Lillian Hellman, in Candide (1957)
  • Dare to be true: nothing can need a lie./A fault, which needs it most, grows two thereby. George Herbert, from the poem “The Church Porch,” in The Temple (1633)
  • The great masses of the people…will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one. Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf [My Battle] (1933)
  • We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
  • Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in The Autocrat of the Breakfats-Table (1858)
  • I detest the man who hides one thing in the depths of his heart, and speaks forth another. Homer, the character Achilles speaking, in Iliad (8th c. B.C.)
  • All lies turn to poison, but a lie that is told for pity or shame breeds such a host of ills that no power on earth can compass their redemption. Storm Jameson, the character Miriam speaking, in The Clash (1922)
  • He who permits himself to tell a lie once finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. Thomas Jefferson, in letter to his nephew, Peter Carr (Aug. 19, 1785)

Jefferson preceded the thought by writing: “It is of great importance to set a resolution not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth.”

  • By a lie a human being throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a human being. Immanuel Kant, “On Lying,” in The Metaphysics of Morals, Part II (1797)

Defining lying as “intentional untruth,” Kant went on to add: “Lying…need not be harmful to others in order to be repudiated; for it would then be a violation of the rights of others. It may be done merely out of frivolity or even good nature, the speaker may even intend to achieve a really good end by it. But his way of pursuing this end is, by its mere form, a crime of a human being against his own person and a worthlessness that must make him contemptible in his own eyes.”

ERROR ALERT: On most internet sites, the quotation is presented in this abridged form: “By a lie a man annihilates his dignity as a man.”

  • Lying is the misuse of language. We know that. We need to remember that it works the other way round too. Even with the best intentions, language misused, language used stupidly, carelessly, brutally, language used wrongly, breeds lies, half-truths, confusion. Ursula Le Guin, in Steering the Craft (1998)

Le Guin continued: “In that sense you can say that grammar is morality. And it is in that sense that I say a writer’s first duty is to use language well.”

  • As many have observed, it is easy to tell a lie, but it is almost impossible to tell only one. Harriet Lerner, in The Dance of Deception (1993)
  • There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies. Walter Lippmann, “What Modern Liberty Means,” in Liberty and the News (1920)
  • Politeness is one-half good nature and the other half good lying. Mary Wilson Little, in A Paragrapher’s Reveries (1904)
  • When the tongue lies, the eyes tell the truth. George Horace Lorimer, the character John Graham writing in a letter to his son, in Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son (1903)
  • It isn’t the initial cost of a lie, it is the upkeep which counts so terribly. Emilie Loring, in Hilltops Clear (1933)
  • The biggest liar in the world is They Say. Douglas Malloch, “The Truth About Truth,” Judge magazine (Dec. 21, 1978)
  • Sometimes a lie is heavenly, and truth infernal. Herman Melville, in Pierre: Or, The Ambiguities (1852)

The narrator is describing the thought processes of the title character, who is deciding not to disclose a dark secret to his mother, one that will pain her deeply. Just earlier, as he rationalizes the decision, he thinks: “The truth should not always be paraded.”

  • That lies should be necessary to life is part and parcel of the terrible and questionable character of existence. Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Will to Power (1888)
  • The most common sort of lie is the one uttered to one’s self; to lie to others is relatively exceptional. Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Antichrist (1888)
  • A lie is a breach of promise; for whoever seriously addresses his discourse to another, tacitly promises to speak the truth, because he knows that the truth is expected. William Paley, “Lies,” in The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (1785)
  • There is no sincerity like a woman telling a lie. Cecil Parker, in the role of Alfred Munson, as he observes Ingrid Bergman (as Ann Kalman) talking to someone on the phone, in the 1958 film Indiscreet (screenplay by Norman Krasna)
  • False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the world with evil. Plato, in Phaedo (4th c. B.C.)
  • Lying matters. Truth is a rock; if you chip away at it enough, you wind up with gravel, then sand. Anna Quindlen, in a 2006 essay in Newsweek (specific issue undetermined)
  • There is no doubt about the truth of the proverb that a liar should have a good memory. Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus), in De Institutione Oratoria (1st. c A.D.)
  • Lies are usually attempts to make everything simpler—for the liar—than it really is, or ought to be. Adrienne Rich, “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying,” in On Lies, Secrets, and Silence (1979)
  • The liar has many friends, and leads an existence of great loneliness. Adrienne Rich, “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying,” in On Lies, Secrets, and Silence (1979)

In that same essay, Rich also expressed the thought in this way: “The liar leads an existence of unutterable loneliness.”

  • Lying is done with words, and also with silence. Adrienne Rich, “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying,” in On Lies, Secrets, and Silence (1979)
  • Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a radio address (Oct. 26, 1939)
  • To tell a falsehood is like the cut of a saber; for though the wound may heal, the scar of it will remain. Saadi, in Gulistan (1258)
  • People lie because they don’t remember clear what they saw./People lie because they can’t help making a story better than it was the way it happened. Carl Sandburg, in The People, Yes (1936)
  • But coming halfway clean was a time-honored way of continuing to lie. Laurence Shames, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Pete Amsterdam, in The Naked Detective (2000)
  • Lying is like alcoholism. You are always recovering. Steven Soderbergh, written for the film Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)

QUOTE NOTE: In the film, the line is delivered by James Spader (as the character Graham) to Andie MacDowell (as Annie).

  • Lying is an elementary means of self-defense. Susan Sontag, “The Double Standard of Aging,” in The Saturday Review (1972)
  • A lie is an abomination unto the Lord, and an ever present help in times of trouble. Adlai Stevenson, in Springfield, Illinois speech (Jan., 1951)

QUOTE NOTE: Stevenson, who offered this remark during his first presidential campaign against Dwight Eisenhower, has long been admired for this clever mingling of two biblical passages (Proverbs—12:22 and Psalms 46:1), but his observation was borrowed almost completely from a 1901 Mark Twain remark on unconscious humor (to be seen below).

  • The cruelest lies are often told in silence. Robert Louis Stevenson, “Truth of Intercourse,” in Virginibus Puerisque (1881)

Stevenson went on to add: “How many loves have perished because, from pride, or spite, or that unmanly shame which withholds a man from daring to betray emotion, a lover, at the critical point of the relation[ship], has but hung his head and held his tongue?”

  • That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies;/That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright—/But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in “The Grandmother” (1847)
  • If one cannot invent a really convincing lie, it is often better to stick to the truth. Angela Thirkell, in What Did It Mean? (1954)
  • One man lies in his words, and gets a bad reputation; another in his manners, and enjoys a good one. Henry David Thoreau, a journal entry (June 25, 1851)
  • You can’t pray a lie. Mark Twain, the title character speaking, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)
  • One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives. Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar,” in Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)
  • It is often the case that a man who can’t tell a lie thinks that he is the best judge of one. Mark Twain, in 1895 Notebook entry
  • Another instance of unconscious humor was of the Sunday school boy who defined a lie as “An abomination before the Lord and an ever present help in time of trouble.” Mark Twain, in a 1901 speech on “Scotch Humor” to the Sons of Scotland, reported in The New York Times (Dec. 1, 1901)

QUOTE NOTE: Twain offered this thought as he was making a distinction between conscious and unconscious humor. Instead of unconscious humor, a more appropriate term might have been inadvertent humor, for in this case the school boy was inadvertently conflating two biblical proverbs (Book of Proverbs—12:22 and Book of Psalms 46:1). About the schoolboy’s definition, Twain added: “That may have been unconscious humor, but it looked more like hard, cold experience and knowledge of facts.”

  • Once a country is habituated to liars, it takes generations to bring the truth back. Gore Vidal, in the 2013 documentary film Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (Nicholas D. Wrathall, director)
  • Lies are the death of an honest relationship. Violet Weingarten, in Half a Marriage (1976)
  • Lies are the mortar that bind the savage individual man into the social masonry. H. G. Wells, Mr. Chaffery speaking to the title character, in Love and Mr. Lewisham (1899)

Chaffrey, a spiritualist huckster, preceded the remark by observing: “I am prepared to maintain that Honesty is essentially an anarchistic and disintegrating force in society, that communities are held together and the progress of civilization made possible only by vigorous and sometimes even, violent Lying; that the Social Contract is nothing more or less than a vast conspiracy of human beings to lie and humbug themselves and one another for the general Good.” A bit earlier, he had said to Lewisham: “I don’t think you fully appreciate the importance of Illusion in life, the Essential Nature of Lies and Deception of the body politic.”

  • A lie that is half a truth is ever the hardest to fight. Patricia Wentworth, in The Chinese Shawl (1943)
  • What we have to do, what at any rate is our duty to do, is to revive the old art of lying. Oscar Wilde, in The Artist as Critic: Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde (1969; Richard Ellmann, ed.)
  • I think that deliberate, conscienceless mendacity, the acceptance of falsehood and hypocrisy, is the most dangerous of all sins. Tennessee Williams, in 1957 interview with Don Ross, published in The New York Herald Tribune (specific date undetermined)

Williams preceded the thought by saying: “I regard hypocrisy and mendacity as almost the cardinal sins. It seems they are the ones to which I am most hostile.”

  • 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)

[White] LIES

(see also DECEPTION & DECEIPT and DISHONESTY and ERROR and FALSEHOOD and HONESTY and LIES & LYING and MANNERS and TRUTH)

  • She tells enough white lies to ice a wedding cake. Margot Asquith, on Ethel “Ettie” Grenfell (Lady Desborough); quoted in The Listener (London; June 11, 1953)
  • What does the truth matter? Haven’t we mothers all given our sons a taste for lies, lies which from the cradle upwards lull them, reassure them, send them to sleep: lies as soft and warm as a breast! George Bernanos, the character Madame la Comtesse speaking, in The Diary of a Country Priest (1936)
  • All lies disgrace a gentleman, white or black; although I grant there is a difference. To say the least of it, it is a dangerous habit, for white lies are but the gentleman ushers to black ones. Frederick Marryat, the captain speaking to the title character, in Peter Simple (1834)

The captain continued: “I know but of one point on which a lie is excusable, and that is, when you wish to deceive the enemy. Then your duty to your country warrants your lying till you’re black in the face.; and, for the very reason that it goes against your grain, it becomes, as it were, a sort of virtue.”

  • Those that think it permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind. Austin O’Malley, in Keystones of Thought (1914)
  • The perjurer’s mother told white lies. Austin O’Malley, in Keystones of Thought (1914)
  • White lies always introduce others of a darker complexion. William Paley, “Lies,” in The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (1785)

Paley continued: “I have seldom known anyone who deserted truth in trifles that could be trusted in matters of importance.”

  • 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)

COMPILER'S NOTE: Here are two of my own observations on the subject:

“Life would be intolerable without the soothing balm of a considerate white lie.”

“If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then white lies are the homage that virtue pays to vice.”

LIFE

(includes LIVING; see also DEATH and EXISTENCE and THE GOOD LIFE and LIFE & DEATH and LIFE AS A WORK OF ART and LIFE & THE ART OF LIVING and MORTALITY)

  • To the intelligent man or woman, life appears infinitely mysterious. But the stupid have an answer for every question. Edward Abbey, in A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1990)
  • Every life is a march from innocence, through temptation, to virtue or to vice. Lyman Abbott, in Problems of Life (1900)

Abbott continued: “There is no way in which virtue can be won save by battle; there is no way in which battle can be fought without possibility of defeat.”

  • I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. Diane Ackerman, quoted in Newsweek (Sep. 22, 1986)

QUOTE NOTE: This was Ackerman’s reflection—at age thirty-seven—as she looked back over nearly two decades as a poet and writer who attempted to enrich her life through such varied activities as teaching, working as a cowhand, and piloting planes.

  • It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between. Diane Ackerman, on life, in A Natural History of the Senses (1990)
  • Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit. Henry Brooks Adams, in The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
  • On the keyboard of life, always keep one finger on the escape key. Scott Adams, in The Dilbert Principle (1996)
  • Life is my college. May I graduate well, and earn some honors! Louisa May Alcott, journal entry (March, 1859), in Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters, and Journals (1914, Ednah D. Cheney, ed.)
  • Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor. Sholem Aleichem, quoted in Leo Rosten, Leo Rosten’s Treasury of Jewish Quotations (1972)
  • Life, in my estimation, is a biological misadventure that we terminate on the shoulders of six strange men whose only objective is to make a hole in one with you. Fred Allen quoted in Forbes magazine (Aug. 1, 1967)
  • Showing up is 80 percent of life. Woody Allen, quoted in The New York Times (Aug. 21, 1977)
  • There’s a speech I had to cut out of [the 1979 film] Manhattan and plan to get into the next film, where my character says that the metaphor for life is a concentration camp. I do believe that. Woody Allen, quoted in Frank Rich, “An Interview with Woody,” Time magazine (April 30, 1979)

Allen added: “The real question in life is how one copes in that crisis. I just hope I’m never tested, because I’m very pessimistic about how I would respond. I worry that I tend to moralize, as opposed to being moral.”

  • Life is but a daily oscillation between revolt and submission. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, entry in his Journal Intime (April 16, 1875)
  • Every man’s life is a fairy-tale written by God’s fingers. Hans Christian Andersen

QUOTATION CAUTION: This quotation has been extremely popular since it appeared, without source information, in a popular 1886 quotation anthology: Edge-Tools of Speech by Maturin M. Ballou. In 1896, J. K. Hoyt’s The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations said the observation came from “Preface to Works” (a citation that has since been repeated countless times). While the quotation may indeed be authentic, I’ve been unable to locate it in any of Anderson’s works.

  • Life loves the liver of it. Maya Angelou, “The Black Scholar Interviews Maya Angelou,” in The Black Scholar (Jan.–Feb., 1977; reprinted in Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989, J. M. Elliott, ed.)
  • Life loves to be taken by the lapel and be told, “I am with you kid. Let’s go!” Maya Angelou, quoted in Barbara A. Reynolds, And Still We Rise: Interviews with 50 Black Role Models (1988)
  • The drama of life begins with a wail and ends with a sigh. Minna Antrim, in Naked Truth and Veiled Illusions (1901)
  • Life is a toy made of glass; it appears to be of inestimable price, but in reality it is very cheap. Pietro Aretino, in letter to Bernardo Tasso (Sep. 26, 1537)
  • Life is a theater in which the worst people often have the best seats. Aristonymus, quoted in Joannes Stobaeus, Florigeum (5th c. A.D.)
  • In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate. Isaac Asimov, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1988)
  • Life is a journey, but don’t worry, you’ll find a parking spot at the end. Isaac Asimov, quoted in Janet Asimov, Notes for a Memoir: On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing (2006)
  • Life is not a dress rehearsal. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: This saying—so popular it may almost be considered a modern proverb—has been attributed to many people (Katherine Ross, Rose Tremain, Wayne Dyer, and Tallulah BankHead), but an original author has never been identified. Thanks to the Quote Investigator, we now know that the earliest published evidence of the saying was in 1953, when a Covina, California newspaper identified it as the title of a sermon by Lawrence T. Holman, the pastor of a local church. There is no evidence, though, that Rev. Holman himself authored the saying. A popular variant is Life is no dress rehearsal.

  • I’ve learned that life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. Author Unknown, but widely attributed to Andy Rooney

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites and scores of quotation anthologies attribute this quotation to Andy Rooney, but there is no evidence he ever said such a thing.

  • Life is a school of probability. Walter Bagehot, in Literary Studies (1879)
  • Life is like a great jazz riff. You sense the end the very moment you were wanting it to go on forever. Sheila Ballantyne, the title story of Life on Earth (1988)
  • The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. J. M. Barrie, a reflection of the narrator, an unnamed schoolmaster, in The Little Minister (1891)
  • Life is a long lesson in humility. J. M. Barrie, in The Little Minister (1891)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is almost always presented, but it is an abridgment of a fascinating larger passage in which Mr. Carfrae, an aging minister who is about to retire, offers some parting words of wisdom to his twenty-one-year old replacement, Gavin Dishart. He says: “The useless men are those who never change with the years. Many views that I held to in my youth and long afterwards are a pain to me now, and I am carrying away…memories of errors into which I fell at every stage of my ministry. When you are older you will know that life is a long lesson in humility.”

  • As you get up in the morning, as you make decisions, as you spend money, make friends, make commitments, you are creating a piece of art called your life. Mary Catherine Bateson, in Willing to Learn: Passages of Personal Discovery (2004)

Bateson introduced the thought by writing: “An artist takes ingredients that may seem incompatible, and organizes them into a whole that is not only workable, but finally pleasing and true, even beautiful.”

  • Life is a hospital in which every patient is possessed by the desire of changing his bed. One would prefer to suffer near the fire, and another is certain he would get well if he were by the window. Charles Baudelaire, “Anywhere Out of the World,” in Paris Spleen (1869)

QUOTE NOTE, This is the opening line of one of Baudelaire’s best-known pieces. For an alternate translation and a presentation of the complete prose poem, go to ”Anywhere Out of the World”.

  • All life is nothing but a brief reprieve from death. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Prime of Life (1960)
  • Life, it’s rather like opening a tin of sardines—we are all of us looking for the key. Alan Bennett, in Beyond the Fringe: A Revue (1960)

QUOTE NOTE: Beyond the Fringe, a pioneering stage satire that laid the foundation for such later productions as That Was the Week That Was and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, was co-authored and performed by Bennett, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Jonathan Miller. Bennett, who offered this line in an “Alan Bennett Solo” at the beginning of Act II, continued: “Some of us—some of us think we’ve found the key, don’t we? We roll back the lid of the sardine tin of Life, we reveal the sardines, the riches of Life, therein and we get them out, we enjoy them. But, you know, there’s always a little piece in the corner you can’t get out.”

  • Life may be seen through many windows, none of them necessarily clear or opaque, less or more distorting than any of the others. Isaiah Berlin, in Personal Impressions (1980)
  • For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. The Bible—James 4:14 (KJV)

The Revised Standard Version of the passage is: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

  • Life, n. A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Life is a grindstone, and whether it grinds a man down or polishes him up depends on the stuff he’s made of. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), quoted in Forbes magazine (Oct. 14, 1922)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This is an extremely popular quotation, but I’ve been unable to find it—in either standard English or in Billings’s characteristic phonetic style—in any of his published works.

  • If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? Erma Bombeck, title of 1971 book. See also the Lew Brown quote below.
  • Life is a succession of readjustments. Elizabeth Bowen, in To the North (1933)
  • Life—the way it really is—is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse. Joseph Brodsky, “A Writer is a Lonely Traveler, and No One is His Helper,” in The New York Times (Oct. 1, 1972)
  • Life is a game with many rules but no referee. One learns how to play it more by watching it than by consulting any book, including the Holy Book. Small wonder, then, that so many play dirty, that so few win, that so many lose. Joseph Brodsky, “Speech at the Stadium,” in On Grief and Reason: Essays (1996)
  • Life is a copycat and can be bullied into following the master artist who bids it come to heel. Heywood Broun, in It Seems to Me (1935)
  • Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries. Lew Brown, title of 1931 song
  • The long habit of living indisposeth us for dying. Thomas Browne, in Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial (1658)
  • It’s a great life, if you don’t weaken. John Buchan, the character Abel Gresson speaking, in Mr. Standfast (1919)
  • Life is a death-defying experience. Edna Buchanan, the protagonist Britt Montero speaking, in Miami, It’s Murder (1994)
  • I count life just a stuff/To try the soul’s strength on. Robert Browning, “In a Balcony,” in Men and Women (1855)
  • Life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party. Jimmy Buffett, in A Pirate Looks at Fifty (1998)
  • Life is heredity plus environment. Luther Burbank, in My Beliefs (1927)
  • A man’s life may stagnate as literally as water may stagnate. John Burroughs, “Analogy—True and False,” in Literary Values and Other Papers (1902)

Burroughs added: “And just as motion and direction are the remedy for one, so purpose and activity are the remedy for the other.”

  • Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on. Samuel Butler (1835–1902), in speech at Somerville Club (London; Feb. 27, 1895); reprinted in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises. Samuel Butler (1835–1902), “Life,” in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule. Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases—though not often. Samuel Butler, “Life,” in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • Life is funny. Sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the windshield. Pat Buttram, as “Pops” the bartender, in the 1981 film Choices (screenplay by Jon Stevens)
  • Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends. Joseph Campbell, in The Masks of God: Creative Mythology (1965)
  • We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell, quoted in Diane K. Osbod, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion (1991)

QUOTE NOTE: Osbon said she heard the remark directly from Campbell and immediately recorded it in her journal.

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, a strikingly similar quotation is attributed to English writer E. M. Forster (“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us”). There is no evidence that Forster ever wrote or said anything like this (sadly, the erroneous attribution now shows up on almost all internet quotation sites.) For more, see this 2017 post by Garson O'Toole, better known as the Quote Investigator.

  • Like any work of art, life needs to be thought about. Albert Camus, a reflection of the character Patrice Mersault, in A Happy Death (written 1936–38; published posthumously in 1971)
  • All human life has its seasons, and no one’s personal chaos can be permanent: winter, after all, does not last forever, does it? There is summer, too, and spring, and though sometimes when branches stay dark and the earth cracks with ice, one thinks they will never come, that spring, that summer, but they do, and always. Truman Capote, in letter to Mary Louise Aswell, quoted in Gerald Clarke, Capote: A Biography (1988)
  • Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act. Truman Capote, quoted in Jay Presson Allen, Tru (1991)
  • Life is a near-death experience. George Carlin, in Brain Droppings (1997)
  • Life is like a beautiful flirt, whom we love and to whom, finally, we grant every condition she imposes as long as she doesn’t leave us. Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, in Foreword to The Story of My Escape from the Prisons of the Republic of Venice Called the Leads (1787; Eng. trans. by Dr. John M. Friedberg, 1788)
  • 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.”

  • Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. Charlie Chaplin, quoted in his obituary in the Guardian (Dec. 28, 1977)
  • Life itself is the proper binge. Julia Child, quoted in Time magazine (Jan 7, 1980)
  • I still believe life is a short walk from the cradle to the grave and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another. Alice Childress, the father of protagonist Cora James speaking to his daughter, in A Short Walk (1979)
  • The tragedy of life is that people do not change. Agatha Christie, the character Hercule Poirot speaking, in There is a Tide…. (1948; pub. in UK as Taken at the Flood)
  • Life is a test and this world a place of trial. Winston Churchill, in speech at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (March 31, 1949)

Churchill added: “Always the problems—or it may be the same problem—will be presented to every generation in different forms.”

  • Nature has granted the use of life like a loan, without fixing any day for repayment. Marcus Tullius Cicero, in Tusculan Disputations (c. 45. B.C.)
  • If life had a second edition, how I would correct the proofs. John Clare (1793–1864), from a letter to a friend, quoted in J. W. Tibble and Anne Tibble, John Clare: A Life (1972)
  • Life is a horizontal fall. Jean Cocteau, in Opium: Diary of a Cure (1929; tr. 1932). Also an example of Oxymoronica.
  • To see life through the lens of death is to approach the condition of gratitude for the gift (or simply the fact) of our existence. Billy Collins, in online interview with Farideh Hassanzadeh, Kritya: A Journal of Poetry (specific date undetermined)
  • Life is a maze in which we take the wrong turning before we have learnt to walk. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1944)
  • Life is a do-it-yourself project. Robert Conklin, in How to Get People to Do Things (1979)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the earliest published example I’ve found of a saying that has become so popular it may almost be considered a modern proverb.

  • I have learned that life is an adventure in forgiveness. Nothing clutters the soul more than remorse, resentment, recrimination. Norman Cousins, written at age seventy-four, in Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit (1989)
  • Life is an incurable disease. Abraham Cowley, in “To Dr. Scarborough” (1656)
  • Men deal with life as children with their play,/Who first misuse, then cast their toys away. William Cowper, in “Hope” (1782), in The Poems of William Cowper, Esq. (1824)
  • Variety’s the very spice of life/That gives it all its flavor. William Cowper, “The Timepiece,” in The Task (1785)

QUOTE NOTE: This is generally regarded as the origin of the proverbial saying Variety is the spice of life. The underlying idea was not original to Cowper, though. The notion that variety was a kind of antidote to staleness was first advanced by Publilius Syrus, who wrote in Sententiae (1st c. B.C.): “No pleasure endures unseasoned by variety.”

  • Life is like a camel: you can make it do anything except back up. Marcelene Cox, in a 1945 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal
  • Life is a game in which the rules are constantly changing. Quentin Crisp, in Manners from Heaven (1984)
  • Life is the funny thing that happens to you on the way to the grave. Quentin Crisp, quoted in The Spectator (London; Nov. 20, 1999)
  • Life has this in common with prizefighting: if you’ve received a belly blow, it’s likely to be followed by a right to the jaw. Amanda Cross (pen name of Carolyn Heilbrun), the protagonist Kate Fansler speaking, in The James Joyce Murder (1967)
  • If one considered life as a simple loan, one would perhaps be less exacting. We possess actually nothing; everything goes through us. Eugène Delacroix, journal entry (Sep. 22, 1844)
  • Once a relatively simple dirt road with forks where the traveler had a simple choice, life is now a crowded superhighway with bewildering cloverleaf exits on which, after a maize [sic] of turns, a man is libel [sic] to find himself speeding back in the direction he came. Peter De Vries, the narrator and protagonist Stan Waltz speaking, in Let Me Count the Ways: A Novel (1965)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites and quotation anthologies present an abridged form of the quotation: “Life is a crowded superhighway with bewildering cloverleaf exits on which a man is liable to find himself speeding back in the direction he came.” The thoughts and observations of Stan Waltz, a Polish-American blue-collar worker with intellectual aspirations that surpass his limited education, are filled with solecisms (e.g., he also speaks of “identity crisises” and confuses allusion with illusion).

  • Life is a zoo in a jungle. Peter De Vries, the character Joe Sandwich speaking, in The Vale of Laughter (1967)
  • Surgeons must be very careful/When they take the knife!/Underneath their fine incisions/Stirs the Culprit—Life! Emily Dickinson, poem no. 108 (c. 1859)
  • When I consider Life, ’tis all a cheat;/Yet, fool’d with hope, men favor the deceit. John Dryden, the title character speaking, in Aureng-Zebe (1676)
  • Life Is a Journey. No maps/But now with apps/Certain straps and caps/Plenty of flaps, gaps,/Wraps, yaps, zaps,/Saps, traps and overlaps/Maybe a few bad raps/At the extremes, naps/At the end, taps. E. T. Dwyer, in a personal communication to the compiler

QUOTE NOTE: This was the winning “Senior Division” entry in a “Life Metaphors Competition” I sponsored in 2013. For the “Adult Division” winner, see the Ned Fergusion entry below. For the winning entry in the “Pre-Teen Division,” see the Aidan Kash & Alex Torre entry below. All finalists in the competition may be seen at: Dr. Mardy Newsletter.

  • Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Albert Einstein, in letter to his son Eduard (Feb. 5, 1930); quoted in Walter Isaacson, Great Innovators (2011)
  • The man who regards life…as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life. Albert Einstein, in The World As I See It (1949)
  • Life is our dictionary. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in address to Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard University (Aug. 31, 1837)

QUOTE NOTE: The underlying notion is that scholars—indeed, all people—will become fully educated only when they set aside their books and draw upon real life experiences. In A History of American Literature (2011), Richard Gray said about Emerson’s assertion: “From this, it follows that everything in life is a source of knowledge, even the humblest, everyday subject or event. From this, it also follows that everyone can be a gatherer of knowledge, a scholar. The sources of knowledge are everywhere and are accessible to anyone who cares to attend.” The full address may be seen at Life is Our Dictionary.

  • Do not be too timid & squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry (Nov. 26, 1842)

Emerson continued: “What if they are a little coarse, & you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall nevermore be so afraid of a tumble.”

  • Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day. Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry (July-Aug., 1847)
  • Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Illusions,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • Life is a search after power: and this is an element with which the world is so saturated—there is no chink or crevice in which it is not lodged—that no honest seeking goes unrewarded. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Power,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • For what is life but a play in which everyone acts a part until the curtain comes down? Desiderius Erasmus, in In Praise of Folly (written 1509; published 1511)

QUOTE NOTE: Erasmus’s work was well known in Elizabethan England, and it is likely that William Shakespeare was influenced by this line when he wrote his famous All the world’s a stage line (see Shakespeare entry in WORLD)

  • It will make far less impression on the mind if you say “Fleeting and brief is the life of man” than if you quote the proverb “Man is but a bubble.” Desiderius Erasmus, in The Adages of Erasmus (2001; William Barker, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: If you want to get somebody’s attention, Erasmus is suggesting here, use a pithy observation that is metaphorically phrased. He preceded the thought by writing: “An idea launched like a javelin in proverbial form strikes with sharper point on the hearer's mind and leaves implanted barbs for meditation.”

  • For most men, life is a search for the proper manila envelope in which to get themselves filed. Clifton Fadiman, quoted in International Celebrity Register (1960)
  • 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)
  • On the keyboard of life, the backspace and delete keys are missing. Ned Ferguson, in a personal communication to the compiler

QUOTE NOTE: This was the winning “Adult Division” entry in a “Life Metaphors Contest” I sponsored in 2013. For the “Senior Division” winner, see the E. T. Dwyer entry above. For the “Pre-Teen Division” winner, see the Aidan Kash & Alex Torre entry below. All finalists in the competition may be seen at: Dr. Mardy Newsletter.

  • Life is a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you’re going to get. Sally Field, in the role of Forrest Gump’s mother, speaking to her son (played by Tom Hanks), in the film Forrest Gump (1994; screenplay by Eric Roth)

QUOTE NOTE: When Forrest repeats the line later in the film, he changes it from a metaphor to a simile, saying “My momma always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”

  • What is life but one long risk? Dorothy Canfield Fisher, the character Adrian Fort quoting his father, in The Deepening Stream (1930)
  • Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice. E. M. Forster, the voice of the narrator, in A Room with a View (1908)
  • Life is like a library owned by an author. In it are a few books which he wrote himself, but most of them were written for him. Harry Emerson Fosdick, quoted in Barry Henault, in Oral Tradition in the Gospels (1993)
  • Dost thou love Life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard's Almanack (June, 1746)
  • Life, that can shower you with so much splendor, is unremittingly cruel to those who have given up. Stephen Fry, in Moab is My Washpot: A Memoir (1997)

Fry continued: “Thank the gods there is such a thing as redemption, the redemption that comes in the form of other people the moment you are prepared to believe that they exist.”

  • Life—and I don’t suppose I’m the first to make this comparison—is a disease: sexually transmitted, and invariably fatal. Neil Gaiman, the character Death speaking, in Death Talks About Life (1994; illustrated by Dave McKean)

QUOTE NOTE: It is certainly true that Gaiman, through his famous character, wasn’t the first to offer the metaphor. I’ve seen it expressed in many different ways over the years. In The Sinner’s Congregation (1984), Guy Bellamy wrote: “Life is a sexually transmitted disease.” The following year, in a short piece in The Observer (March 17, 1985), Peter Hillmore quoted British psychiatrist R. D. Laing as saying: “Life, you see, is a sexually transmitted disease and there’s a 100 per cent mortality rate”). These observations may all be viewed as modern spin-offs of the Abraham Cowley quotation presented earlier.

  • Someone said that “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” John W. Gardner, “Personal Renewal,” in Western Journal of Medicine (Oct., 1992)

ERROR ALERT: Every quotation anthology I’ve seen—and that amounts to several hundred when print and electronic sources are combined—has presented the observation without the someone has said that portion and cited Gardner as the author of the sentiment. In the WJoM article, however, Gardner makes it clear that he was simply quoting an observation from an unnamed source. Gardner was eighty years old at the time, and the article contains many thoughts of interest to those interested in the topic of lifelong growth and development. It may be viewed in full at Personal Renewal.

  • Life is a jest; and all things show it./I thought so once; but now I know it. John Gay, in “My Own Epitaph” (1720)
  • Life without Love is like a tree without blossom and fruit. Kahlil Gibran, in A Second Treasury of Kahlil Gibran (1962)
  • Life is mostly froth and bubble,/Two things stand like stone,/Kindness in another’s trouble,/Courage in your own. Adam Lindsay Gordon, “Ye Wearie Wayfarer” (1866); in Sea Spray and Smoke Drift (1867)

ERROR ALERT: The revised and enlarged 10th edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (1919) mistakenly ended the quatrain with the phrase in our own, and the error continues to show up on many internet quotation sites.

  • Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does–that’s what makes it so boring. Edward Gorey, quoted in Alexander Theroux, The Strange Case of Edward Gorey (2010)
  • In Life as in Football/Fall Forward when you fall. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)

QUOTE NOTE: This might be the original inspiration of a concept—failing forward—that has become quite popular in recent years.

  • Life is a quarry, out of which we are to mold and chisel and complete character. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, quoted in “What They Say,” Autumn Leaves (Jan., 1892)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This popular quotation—which now usually appears with the phrase complete a character at the conclusion—has not been found in Goethe’s writing, and it may be a paraphrase of what he thought rather than something he actually wrote. Autumn Leaves was a monthly publication aimed at Mormon youth, popular in the late nineteenth century. To see the original publication, go to Autumn Leaves.

  • Life is a verb, not a noun. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in Human Work (1904)
  • Consider a man riding a bicycle. Whoever he is, we can say three things about him. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it. That is a metaphor for the journey through life of any living thing, and I think of any society of living things. William Golding, in “Utopias and Antiutopias” speech in Lille, France (Feb. 13, 1977)

QUOTE NOTE: Golding was speaking to a group of Anglophiles who belonged to a club named Les Anglicistes. He was already famous—a result of his very first novel, the 1954 allegorical classic Lord of the Flies—but it would be another six years before he was named a 1983 Nobel Prize laureate. The full 1977 speech did not appear in the first edition of A Moving Target (1982), a collection of Golding essays, but it did appear in subsequent editions. See the Einstein and Schulz entries in this section for other bicycle metaphors.

  • Life is like farming. You have to prepare the land, you have to have the right seeds, continue to water, and you have to work very, very hard to make sure that everything is right and correct. Vincent Golshani, epigraph for his painting “Harvest Time,” in Vincent (2008; Jessica Reiling, ed.)

Golshani continued: “You have to be patient and hard, gentle and firm. You have to take the weeds out, keep the wild birds away, and you have to see your sweat on the dry soil. You have to wake up early and go to bed late. You have to help and give help. All this to one day have the opportunity to harvest what you have worked so very hard for.”

  • Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does—that’s what makes it so boring. Edward Gorey, quoted in Paul Theroux, The Strange Case of Edward Gorey (2000)
  • It happens in life, as in grammar, that the exceptions outnumber the rules. Remy de Gourmont, quoted in Rudolf Flesch, The New Book of Unusual Quotations (1966)
  • It is the law of life that if you are kind to someone you feel happy. If you are cruel you are unhappy. And if you hurt someone, you will be hurt back. Cary Grant, quoted in Sheila Graham, “Love—That’s All Cary Grant Ever Thinks About,” in Motion Picture magazine (June, 1964). See the full article at Graham on Grant.
  • Just remember this one thing: Life is like a dog-sled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes. Lewis Grizzard, quoted in The Washington Post (Jan. 13, 1985)
  • The game of life is a lot like football. You have to tackle your problems, block your fears, and score your points when you get the opportunities. Lewis Grizzard, in Gettin’ It On: A Down-Home Treasury (1990)
  • Life has got a habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it like you find it. You got to change with it. If a day goes by that don’t change some of your old notions for new ones, that is just about like trying to milk a dead cow. Woody Guthrie, quoted in Woody Sez (1975)
  • 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)
  • Life is made up of marble and mud. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the voice of the narrator, in The House of the Seven Gables (1851)

The narrator preceded the observation by writing: “If we look through all the heroic fortunes of mankind, we shall find this same entanglement of something mean and trivial with whatever is noblest in joy or sorrow.”

  • A bit beyond perception's reach/I sometimes believe I see/that life is two locked boxes/each containing the other's key. Piet Hein, “The Paradox of Life,” in Grooks (1966)
  • Life is a disease, the whole world a hospital, and Death is our physician. Heinrich Heine, in City of Lucca (1829)
  • Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating. O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi,” in The Four Million (1906)
  • Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “The Class of ’61,” speech at Harvard University (June 28, 1911); quoted in Francis Biddle, Mr. Justice Holmes (1942)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of the most popular quotations from one of America’s most influential Supreme Court justices, offered in an address at the 50th anniversary of Harvard’s graduating class of 1861. The original metaphor had occurred to Justice Holmes several months earlier, though. In a March 8, 1911 letter to Harvard student Oswald Ryan, he wrote: “Life is a romantic business. It is painting a picture, not doing a sum—but you have to make the romance, and it will come to the question of how much fire you have in your belly.”

  • Life is not to be bought with heaps of gold. Homer, in The Illiad (8th c. B.C.; Alexander Pope translation)
  • As leaves on the trees, such is the life of man. Homer, in The Illiad (8th c. B.C.)
  • Fortunately, analysis is not the only way to resolve inner conflicts. Life itself remains a very effective therapist. Karen Horney, in Our Inner Conflicts (1945)
  • Life is like a blanket too short. You pull it up and your toes rebel, you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulders; but cheerful folks manage to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night. Marion Howard, in Perpetrations: Wise and Otherwise (1911)
  • Life is a compromise between fate and free will. Elbert Hubbard, in A Thousand and One Epigrams (1911)
  • Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow without gilding. Samuel Johnson, quoted in Hester Lynch Piozzi, Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson (1786)
  • Life is a test, you get some questions right, and some wrong. Aidan Kash & Alex Torre, in a personal communication to the compiler

QUOTE NOTE: This was the winning “Pre-Teen Division” entry in a “Life Metaphors Contest” I sponsored in 2013. At the time of the competition, Aidan and Alex were ten-year-old girls in the fourth grade at Anchorage Independent School in Louisville, Kentucky. Their teacher, Lisa Campbell, a newsletter subscriber, told students in her class about the competition, encouraged them to participate, and submitted entries on their behalf. For the “Senior Division” winner, see the E. T. Dwyer entry above. For the “Adult Division” winner, see the Ned Ferguson entry above. All finalists in the competition may be seen at: Dr. Mardy Newsletter.

  • Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. Danny Kaye, quoted in a 1987 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific date undetermined)

QUOTATION CAUTION: Despite the enormous popularity of this quotation, an original source has not been identified. It sometimes appears in an abridged form, as in this version on IMDB: “Life is a great big canvas, throw all the paint you can at it.”

  • I compare human life to a large mansion of many apartments, two of which I can only describe, the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me. John Keats, in letter to J. H. Reynolds (May 3, 1818)
  • 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)
  • 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. She added: “To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

Keller reprised the daring adventure line—exactly as it was originally phrased—in her 1957 book The Open Door, writing: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

  • All of life is a foreign country. Jack Kerouac, in a letter (June 24, 1949); reprinted in The Beat Vision: A Primary Sourcebook (1987, A & K. Knights, ed.)
  • There are many people who reach their conclusions about life like schoolboys; they cheat their master by copying the answer out of a book without having worked out the sum for themselves. Søren Kierkegaard, journal entry (Jan. 17, 1837), in The Journals of Kierkegaard (1958; Alexander Dru, ed.)
  • Philosophy is perfectly right in saying that life must be understood backward. But then one forgets the other clause—that it must be lived forward. Søren Kiekegaard, an 1843 journal entry, in The Essential Kierkegaard (1978; H. V. Hong & E. H. Hong, eds.)
  • A man’s life was five dogs long, Cortland believed. The first was the one that taught you. The second was the one you taught. The third and fourth were the ones you worked. The last was the one that outlived you. That was the winter dog. Cortland’s winter dog had no name. He thought of it only as the scarecrow dog….” [ellipsis in original] Stephen King, the epigraph to Chapter 1, in Ur (2009)

QUOTE NOTE: Ur was a novella written exclusively for the Amazon Kindle platform. A heavily revised edition of the work was later included with other King works in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015). In the revised edition, the final two sentences were collapsed into one: “Cortland’s winter dog was Negrita, but he thought of it only as the scarecrow dog….”

  • Life for most of us is full of steep stairs to go puffing up and, later, of shaky stairs to totter down; and very early in the history stairs must have come the invention of banisters. Louis Kronenberger, “Unbrave New World,” in The Cart and the Horse (1964)
  • All man’s life among men is nothing more than a battle for the ears of others. Milan Kundera, in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1981)
  • Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994)
  • A great book begins with an idea; a great life, with a determination. Louis L’Amour, in Education of a Wandering Man (1989)
  • Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends on what you put in. Tom Lehrer, in comedy album An Evening (Wasted) with Tom Lehrer (1959)
  • Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death. Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee, the title character speaking, in the 1957 play Auntie Mame.

QUOTE NOTE: Lawrence and Lee’s play was adapted from Patrick Dennis’s 1955 novel by the same title, but nothing like the sentiment above appeared in the book. In the play, the line was delivered in an unforgettable way by Rosalind Russell (it went on to become a signature line for Russell, who titled her 1977 autobiography Life is a Banquet). When the play was adapted into a 1958 film, also starring Russell, the line was sanitized to “most poor suckers are starving to death.”

  • 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)
  • The art of living is more like that of wrestling than of dancing. The main thing is to stand firm and be ready for an unforeseen attack. Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations (2nd c. A.D.)
  • Now it is a funny thing about life, if you refuse to accept anything but the best you very often get it. W. Somerset Maugham, a reflection of protagonist Richard Harenger, in the short story “The Treasure” (1940) in The Mixture as Before (1940)
  • Someone said that life is a party. You join after it’s started and you leave before it’s finished. Elsa Maxwell, in How To Do It (1957)
  • The circumference of life cannot be rightly drawn until the center is set. Benjamin E. Mays, quoted in Venice Johnson, Heart Full of Grace: A Thousand Years of Black Wisdom (1997)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This quotation—with spectacular metaphorical phrasing and aphoristic artistry—has become very popular, but an original source has not been found.

  • Life is like a Sunday that never knew a Monday. Rod McKuen, lyric from the song “Ain’t You Glad You’re Livin’, Joe?” (1966)
  • For the happiest life, days should be rigorously planned, nights left open to chance. Mignon McLaughlin, in Atlantic magazine (July, 1965)
  • Life is a mixed blessing, which we vainly try to unmix. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Second Neurotic’s Notebook (1966)
  • life in the twentieth century is like a parachute jump: You have to get it right the first time. Margaret Mead, in People and Places (1959)
  • To live without loving is not really to live. Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin), the character Cynthie, in La Princesse d’Elide (1664)
  • A sweater is like life, you get nothing out of it that you don’t put into it! Marilyn Monroe, quoted in Adele Whitely Fletcher, “So That the Memory of Marilyn Will Linger On,” in a 1965 issue of Photoplay magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it. Christopher Morley, in Thunder on the Left (1925)
  • Life is the only art that we are required to practice without preparation, and without being allowed the preliminary trials, the failures and botches, that are essential for the training of a mere beginner. Lewis Mumford, in The Conduct of Life (1951)

QUOTE NOTE: Mumford continued in a fascinating way. It’s a bit longer than most of the quotations featured here, but the metaphor is so beautiful I think you will appreciate it:

“In life, we must begin to give a public performance before we have acquired even a novice’s skill; and often our moments of seeming mastery are upset by new demands, for which we have acquired no preparatory facility. Life is a score that we play at sight, not merely before we have divined the intentions of the composer, but even before we have mastered our instruments; even worse, a large part of the score has been only roughly indicated, and we must improvise the music for our particular instrument, over long passages. On these terms, the whole operation seems one of endless difficulty and frustration; and indeed, were it not for the fact that some of the passages have been played so often by our predecessors that, when we come to them, we seem to recall some of the score and can anticipate the natural sequence of the notes, we might often give up in sheer despair.”

ERROR ALERT: The first line of the Mumford quotation is often mistakenly presented as if it ended that are essential for training.

  • Life will have terrible blows, horrible blows, unfair blows. Doesn’t matter. And some people recover and others don’t. And there I think the attitude of Epictetus is the best. He thought that every mischance in life was an opportunity to behave well. Charles Munger, in a 2007 University of Southern California Law School Commencement Address

In his address on “the core ideas that have helped me” in life, Munger continued: “Every mischance in life was an opportunity to learn something and your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity, but to utilize the terrible blow in a constructive fashion. That is a very good idea.”

  • Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. Vladimir Nabokov, “Commentary,” in Pale Fire (1962)
  • Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism. The way you play it is free will. Jawaharlal Nehru, as quoted by Norman Cousins, in Saturday Review (November 4, 1967)
  • Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it. Reinhold Niebuhr, a 1928 notebook entry, in Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (1930)
  • A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP Leonard Nimoy (@The RealNimoy), his final Tweet (Feb. 23, 2015)

QUOTE NOTE. The final four letters, of course, stand for “Live Long and Prosper,” Dr. Spock’s catchphrase from the Star Trek franchise. Nimoy died later that week, at age 83, on Feb. 27, 2015. For more, see this Scientific American Nimoy Obituary.

  • Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Anaïs Nin, in D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study (1932)
  • Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. Anaïs Nin, diary entry (June, 1941), in The Diary of Anaïs Nin: 1939–1944 (1969)
  • But somehow one never had time to stop and savor the taste of life as the stream of it flowed by. Kathleen Norris, in Bread Into Roses (1936)

Norris added: “ It would be good to find some quiet inlet where the waters were still enough for reflection, where one might sense the joy of the moment, rather than plan breathlessly for a dozen mingled treats in the future.”

  • I can entertain the proposition that life is a metaphor for boxing—for one of those bouts that go on and on, round following round, jabs, missed punches, clinches, nothing determined, again the bell and again and you and your opponent so evenly matched it’s impossible not to see your opponent is you. Joyce Carol Oates, in On Boxing (1987)
  • Life is a petty thing unless there is pounding within it an enormous desire to extend its boundaries. José Ortega y Gasset, in The Dehumanization of Art (1925)

Ortega y Gasset added: “We live in proportion to the extent to which we yearn to live more.”

  • Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise. George Orwell, “Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool,” in Shooting an Elephant (1950)
  • Life is the greatest art of all, and the master-artist is the man who is living the beautiful life. John Edgar Park, in The Keen Joy of Living (1908)

Park continued: “We cannot all of us excel in the minor arts. But whether we like it or no, we are all artists in the art of arts and are producing either ugly or beautiful lives out of the materials at our command.” The original source of this quotation was long a mystery to me, but Park’s great-grandson (who shares his name) recently provided the citation (as well as a link to the original 1908 Book). He also informs me that the Reverend Dr. Park served as president of Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts) from 1926-44 and was one of the most popular college commencement speakers of his era.

  • The last act is bloody, however delightful the rest of the play may be. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670)
  • Life is like a mirror. The people you see reflect back to you the way you present yourself. Kalman Packouz, in Shabbat Shalom Weekly (April 3, 2013)

Rabbi Packouz added: “If you look happy, they will respond buoyantly. If you look upset, they will be cautious or concerned. If you want a joyous life try to be happy around others. It will be easier on them and more enjoyable for you.”

  • Living is like working out a long addition sum, and if you make a mistake in the first two totals you will never find the right answer. Cesare Pavese, diary entry (May 5, 1936), in This Business of Living: Diaries 1935–1950 (1952)
  • Life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic. Cesare Pavese, diary entry (Jan. 19, 1938), in This Business of Living: Diaries 1935–1950 (1952)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is typically presented, but it was originally part of a larger metaphorical observation about the operation of life: “Why does a man who is truly in love insist that this relationship must continue and be ‘lifelong’? Because life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic. Who would want to wake up halfway through an operation?”

  • You can get all A’s and still flunk life. Walker Percy, in The Second Coming (1980)
  • Life is not an organization chart. Life is more like a spider’s web. Things happen in strange ways. H. Ross Perot, quoted in W. Randall Jones, The Richest Man in Town (2009)
  • Life is like a mirror. Smile at it and it smiles back at you. Peace Pilgrim, in Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words (1991)
  • Like my mother always said, “Life is like a box of hand grenades, you never know what will blow you to kingdom come.” Mario Puzo, the character Ernest Vail speaking, in The Last Don (1996)
  • The unexamined life is not worth living. Plato, in Apology (4th c. B.C.)
  • What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who would yearn for the day if there were no night? Glenn Ringtved, the character Death speaking, in Cry, Heart, But Never Break (2016; illustrated by Charlotte Pardi)
  • Life is the game that must be played. Edwin Arlington Robinson, “Ballade by the Fire,” in The Children of the Night (1897)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is typically presented, but it originally appeared in the following fuller passage: “Life is the game that must be played:/This truth at least, good friend, we know;/So live and laugh, nor be dismayed/As one by one the phantoms go.”

  • In life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard. Theodore Roosevelt, “What Can We Expect of the American Boy?” in St. Nicholas magazine (May, 1900)
  • Eating, loving, singing and digesting are, in truth, the four acts of the comic opera known as life, and they pass like the bubbles of a bottle of champagne. Whoever lets them break without having enjoyed them is a complete fool. Gioachino Rossini, quoted in Robert Thicknesse, The Times Opera Notes: An Accessible Yet Scholarly Guide to Over 90 Major Operas (2001)
  • I long ago come to the conclusion that all life is six to five against. Damon Runyon, the character Sam the Gonoph speaking, “The Nice Price,” in Collier’s magazine (Sep. 8, 1934); reprinted in Money from Home (1935)

ERROR ALERT: In many quotation compilations, come is mistakenly replaced by came.

  • The life of man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible forces, tortured by weariness and pain, towards a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry long. Bertrand Russell, in A Free Man’s Worship and Other Essays (1976)
  • 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.)
  • There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. George Santayana, in Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)
  • Life is always bringing unexpected gifts. May Sarton, in a 1948 letter to Juliette Huxley (Aug. 5, 1948); reprinted in Susan Sherman, May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954 (1997)
  • The May of life blooms once, and not again. Johann Friedrich von Schiller, in the poem “Resignation” 1788)
  • 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.”

  • 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.
  • Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears that we never use. Charles M. Schulz, from the character Linus, in Peanuts cartoon strip (May 29, 1981)

QUOTE NOTE: The strip was later reprinted in Life is Like a Ten-Speed Bicycle, a 1998 book devoted exclusively to Linus’s philosophical reflections. To see the original cartoon, go to: 1981 Peanuts Cartoon.

  • Life is like a play: it’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger), in Letters to Lucilius (c. 65 A.D.)

QUOTE NOTE: One of history’s most famous similes, this observation has been translated in many different ways over the centuries. Another common translation is: “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is that matters.”

  • The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together. William Shakespeare, one unnamed nobleman speaking to another, in All’s Well That Ends Well (1603–04)
  • Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,/and then is heard no more, it is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/signifying nothing. William Shakespeare, the title character speaking, in Macbeth (1605)

QUOTE NOTE: This legendary passage inspired the title of William Faulkner’s 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury. Macbeth began the observation by famously exclaiming about life, “Out, out brief candle!” See the Shaw entry below for a rejection of that idea.

  • I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. George Bernard Shaw, “Art and Public Money,” in Sussex Daily News (March 7, 1907)

QUOTE NOTE: The brief candle phrase here as an allusion to—and an absolute rejection of—an idea contained in Macbeth’s famous lament about life: “Out, out brief candle.” See the full passage in the Shakespeare entry above.

  • Life is a disease; and the only difference between one man and another is the stage of the disease at which he lives. George Bernard Shaw, the character Lubin speaking, in Back to Methuselah (1921)

QUOTE NOTE: Lubin is speaking to another character, Mr. Burge. He continues: “You are always at the crisis; I am always in the convalescent stage. I enjoy convalescence. It is the part that makes the illness worth while.”

  • The battle of life is, in most cases, fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were, perhaps, to win it without honor. Samuel Smiles, “Self-Culture,” in Self-Help (1856)

Smiles continued: “If there were no difficulties, there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved.”

  • All life is a struggle. Amongst workmen, competition is a struggle to advance towards higher wages. Amongst masters, to make the highest profits. Amongst writers, preachers, and politicians, it is a struggle to succeed—to gain glory, reputation, or income. Samuel Smiles, “Masters and Men, in Thrift (1875)
  • Night after night I went to sleep murmuring, “Tomorrow I will be easy, strong, quick, supple, accurate, dashing and self-controlled all at once!” For not less than this is necessary in the Game of Life called golf. Ethyl Smyth, in What Happened Next (1940)
  • Life is the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations. Herbert Spencer, in The Principles of Psychology (1855)
  • Life, at any moment and in any view, is as dangerous as a sinking ship; and yet it is man’s handsome fashion to carry umbrellas, to wear india-rubber overshoes, to begin vast works, and to conduct himself in every way as if he might hope to be eternal. Robert Louis Stevenson, the Captain speaking, “The Sinking Ship,” in Fables (1896)
  • Each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations. Deborah Tannen, the opening line of You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation (1990)
  • Life is a frail moth flying/Caught in the web of the years that pass. Sara Teasdale, “Come,” in Rivers to the Sea (1915)
  • The school of life offers some difficult courses, but it is in the difficult class that one learns the most. Corrie ten Boom, in Tramp for the Lord (1974)
  • It is never too late—in fiction or in life—to revise. Nancy Thayer, in Morning (1989)
  • Life is the dancer and you are the dance. Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (2005)

Tolle preceded the observation by writing: “There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life. Being one with life is being one with now. You then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you.”

  • We learn the rope of life by untying its knots. Jean Toomer, in Definitions and Aphorisms (1931)
  • Life is like a B-movie. You don’t want to leave in the middle of it but you don’t want to see it again. Ted Turner, quoted in International Herald Tribune (Paris; March 2, 1990)
  • Life does not consist mainly—or even largely—of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one’s head. Mark Twain, in Autobiography (pub. posthumously in 1924)

About this immense storm of thoughts Twain continued: “Could you set them down stenographically? No. Could you set down any considerable fraction of them stenographically? No. Fifteen stenographers hard at work couldn’t keep up. Therefore a full autobiography has never been written, and it never will be.”

  • Life is like an overlong drama through which we sit being nagged by vague memories of having read the reviews. John Updike, the character Michaelis Ezana speaking, in The Coup: A Novel (1978)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites present the quotation with the mistaken wording “by the vague memories.”

  • There is something about life that art is glad to be without. Arturo Vivante, a female character speaking, in Doctor Giovanni: A Novel (1969)
  • Life is a series of problems. Every time you solve one, another is waiting to take its place. Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Life (2002)

Warren added: “Not all of them are big, but all are significant in God’s growth process for you.”

  • Life is a poem written on a blank page/Life is a poem that reflects each stage/Life is a poem that changes with age/Sometimes it feels like the words of a sage/Sometimes it reflects frustration or rage/Sometimes I wish I had a new page. Chip Webster, “Life is a Poem,” in A Passion for Life: Reflections From the Journey (2017)
  • Life is the only real counselor. Edith Wharton, in Sanctuary (1903)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation usually appears, but it was originally part of an exceptionally interesting larger passage about parents advising their children. As Mrs. Peyton reflects on her son Dick’s distraught state, she believes she has some life experiences that bear on his problem and some insights into his situation that might prove helpful. But at that same moment, she realizes he will likely learn best from his own experiences, and not as a result of any advance counsel provided by her. The narrator puts it this way:

The peculiar misery of her situation was that she could not, except indirectly, put this intuition, this foresight, at his service. It was a part of her discernment to be aware that life was the only real counsellor [sic], that wisdom unfiltered through personal experience does not become a part of the moral tissues. Love such as hers had a great office, the office of preparation and direction; but it must know how to hold its hand and keep its counsel, how to attend upon its object as an invisible influence rather than as an active interference

  • Life is always either a tight-rope or a featherbed. Give me the featherbed. Edith Wharton, journal entry (March, 1926); quoted in Cynthia Griffin Wolff, in A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton (1978)
  • Life is an offensive, directed against the repetitious mechanism of the universe. Alfred North Whitehead, in Adventures of Ideas (1933)
  • One can live for years sometimes without living at all, and then all life comes crowding into one single hour. Oscar Wilde, The Czar speaking, in Vera, or the Nihilist (1880)
  • Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute? Thornton Wilder, the character Emily Webb speaking, in Our Town (1938)
  • Life is all memory except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going. Tennessee Williams, the character Mrs. Goforth speaking, in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1963)
  • I sit astride life like a bad rider on a horse. I only owe it to the horse’s good nature that I am not thrown off at this very moment. Ludwig Wittgenstein, notebook entry (1939–40), in Culture and Value (1980)
  • Life is a rainbow which also includes black. Yevgeny Yevtushenko, quoted in The Guardian (August 11, 1987)
  • Life was to me like a horse to whose motions one yields, but only after having trained the animal to the utmost. Marguerite Yourcenar, the voice of the memoirist, in Memoirs of Hadrian (1951; Grace Frick, trans.)

THE GOOD LIFE

(see also LIFE and LIFE AS A WORK OF ART and LIFE & THE ART OF LIVING and [Secrets of] LIFE)

  • There are three ingredients to the good life; learning, earning, and yearning. Christopher Morley, in Pipefuls (1930)
  • The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination. Carl Rogers, in On Becoming a Person (1961)

In the book, Rogers also wrote: “This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one's potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.”

  • The secret of a good life is to have the right loyalties and hold them in the right scale of values. Norman Thomas, in Great Dissenters (1961)

LIFE & DEATH

(includes LIVING & DYING; see also DEATH and EXISTENCE and LIFE and LIFE AS A WORK OF ART and LIFE & THE ART OF LIVING and MORTALITY)

  • You don’t get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now. Joan Baez, in Daybreak (1968)
  • All life is nothing but a brief reprieve from death. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Prime of Life (1960)
  • Life is a death-defying experience. Edna Buchanan, the protagonist Britt Montero speaking, in Miami, It’s Murder (1994)
  • Life is a near-death experience. George Carlin, in Brain Droppings (1997)
  • To see life through the lens of death is to approach the condition of gratitude for the gift (or simply the fact) of our existence. Billy Collins, in online interview with Farideh Hassanzadeh, Kritya: A Journal of Poetry (specific date undetermined)
  • Life is a disease, the whole world a hospital, and Death is our physician. Heinrich Heine, in City of Lucca (1829)
  • It always comes down to just two choices. Get busy living or get busy dying. Stephen King, a reflection of the character Red, in “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” in Different Seasons: Four Novellas (1982)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly present the verse as if it began Life is a sheet of paper white.

  • Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Anaïs Nin, in D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study (1932)
  • What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who would yearn for the day if there were no night? Glenn Ringtved, the character Death speaking, in Cry, Heart, But Never Break (2016; illustrated by Charlotte Pardi)

LIFE AS A WORK OF ART

(includes LIVING; see also [Work of] ART and DEATH and EXISTENCE and LIFE and LIFE & DEATH and LIFE & THE ART OF LIVING and MORTALITY)

  • As you get up in the morning, as you make decisions, as you spend money, make friends, make commitments, you are creating a piece of art called your life. Mary Catherine Bateson, in Willing to Learn: Passages of Personal Discovery (2004)

Bateson introduced the thought by writing: “An artist takes ingredients that may seem incompatible, and organizes them into a whole that is not only workable, but finally pleasing and true, even beautiful.”

  • Life is a copycat and can be bullied into following the master artist who bids it come to heel. Heywood Broun, in It Seems to Me (1935)
  • Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on. Samuel Butler (1835–1902), in speech at Somerville Club (London; Feb. 27, 1895); reprinted in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • Every man’s work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself. Samuel Butler (1835–1902), in The Way of All Flesh (1903)
  • Like any work of art, life needs to be thought about. Albert Camus, a reflection of the character Patrice Mersault, in A Happy Death (written 1936–38; published posthumously in 1971)
  • There is no heroic poem in the world but is at bottom a biography, the life of a man. Thomas Carlyle, “Sir Walter Scott,” in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838-39)

Carlyle finished the thought by writing: “Also, it may be said, there is no life of a man, faithfully recorded, but is a heroic poem of its sort, rhymed or unrhymed.” The entire quotation is an example of chiasmus.

  • If life had a second edition, how I would correct the proofs. John Clare (1793–1864), from a letter to a friend, quoted in J. W. Tibble and Anne Tibble, John Clare: A Life (1972)
  • Is there not a certain satisfaction in the fact that natural limits are set to the life of the individual, so that at its conclusion it may appear as a work of art. Albert Einstein, “Paul Langevin in Memoriam,” in La Pensée (May-June, 1947); reprinted in Out of My Later Years (1950)
  • It has always been difficult for Man to realize that his life is all an art. Havelock Ellis, opening line of The Dance of Life (1923)
  • Life is a quarry, out of which we are to mold and chisel and complete character. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, quoted in “What They Say,” Autumn Leaves (Jan., 1892)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This popular quotation—which now usually appears with the phrase complete a character at the conclusion—has not been found in Goethe’s writing, and it may be a paraphrase of what he thought rather than something he actually wrote. Autumn Leaves was a monthly publication aimed at Mormon youth, popular in the late nineteenth century. To see the original publication, go to Autumn Leaves.

  • Someone said that “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” John W. Gardner, “Personal Renewal,” in Western Journal of Medicine (Oct., 1992)

ERROR ALERT: Every quotation anthology I’ve seen—and that amounts to several hundred when print and electronic sources are combined—has presented the observation without the someone has said that portion and cited Gardner as the author of the sentiment. In the WJoM article, however, Gardner makes it clear that he was simply quoting an observation from an unnamed source. Gardner was eighty years old at the time, and the article contains many thoughts of interest to those interested in the topic of lifelong growth and development. It may be viewed in full at Personal Renewal.

  • Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “The Class of ’61,” speech at Harvard University (June 28, 1911); quoted in Francis Biddle, Mr. Justice Holmes (1942)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of the most popular quotations from one of America’s most influential Supreme Court justices, offered in an address at the 50th anniversary of Harvard’s graduating class of 1861. The original metaphor had occurred to Justice Holmes several months earlier, though. In a March 8, 1911 letter to Harvard student Oswald Ryan, he wrote: “Life is a romantic business. It is painting a picture, not doing a sum—but you have to make the romance, and it will come to the question of how much fire you have in your belly.”

  • 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)
  • Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. Danny Kaye, quoted in a 1987 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific date undetermined)

QUOTATION CAUTION: Despite the enormous popularity of this quotation, an original source has not been identified. It sometimes appears in an abridged form, as in this version on IMDB: “Life is a great big canvas, throw all the paint you can at it.”

  • Life is the only art that we are required to practice without preparation, and without being allowed the preliminary trials, the failures and botches, that are essential for the training of a mere beginner. Lewis Mumford, in The Conduct of Life (1951)

QUOTE NOTE: Mumford continued in a fascinating way. It’s a bit longer than most of the quotations featured here, but the metaphor is so beautiful I think you will appreciate it:

“In life, we must begin to give a public performance before we have acquired even a novice’s skill; and often our moments of seeming mastery are upset by new demands, for which we have acquired no preparatory facility. Life is a score that we play at sight, not merely before we have divined the intentions of the composer, but even before we have mastered our instruments; even worse, a large part of the score has been only roughly indicated, and we must improvise the music for our particular instrument, over long passages. On these terms, the whole operation seems one of endless difficulty and frustration; and indeed, were it not for the fact that some of the passages have been played so often by our predecessors that, when we come to them, we seem to recall some of the score and can anticipate the natural sequence of the notes, we might often give up in sheer despair.”

ERROR ALERT: The first line of the Mumford quotation is often mistakenly presented as if it ended that are essential for training.

  • Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. Vladimir Nabokov, “Commentary,” in Pale Fire (1962)
  • Life is the greatest art of all, and the master-artist is the man who is living the beautiful life. John Edgar Park, in The Keen Joy of Living (1908)

Park continued: “We cannot all of us excel in the minor arts. But whether we like it or no, we are all artists in the art of arts and are producing either ugly or beautiful lives out of the materials at our command.” The original source of this quotation was long a mystery to me, but Park’s great-grandson (who shares his name) recently provided the citation (as well as a link to the original 1908 Book). He also informs me that the Reverend Dr. Park served as president of Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts) from 1926-44 and was one of the most popular college commencement speakers of his era.

  • The big art is our life. M. C. Richards, in Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person (25th Anniversary Edition; 1989)
  • Life is like a play: it’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger), in Letters to Lucilius (c. 65 A.D.)

QUOTE NOTE: One of history’s most famous similes, this observation has been translated in many different ways over the centuries. Another common translation is: “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is that matters.”

  • Every minute of human life as long as it is an expression of its inner self is original, divine, creative, and cannot be retrieved. Each individual life is thus a great work of art. Whether or not one makes it a fine inimitable masterpiece depends upon one’s consciousness. D. T. Suzuki, in Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (1957 )
  • People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates. Thomas Szasz, in The Second Sin (1973)
  • 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)
  • We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones. Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man’s features, and meanness or sensuality to imbrute them. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden (1854)

Thoreau introduced the thought by writing: “Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own.”

LIFE & THE ART OF LIVING

(see also EXISTENCE and DEATH and LIFE and LIFE & DEATH and MORTALITY)

  • Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises. Samuel Butler (1835–1902), “Life,” in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • Is there not a certain satisfaction in the fact that natural limits are set to the life of the individual, so that at its conclusion it may appear as a work of art. Albert Einstein, “Paul Langevin in Memoriam,” in La Pensée (May-June, 1947); reprinted in Out of My Later Years (1950)
  • All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding in. Havelock Ellis, in Affirmations (1898)

ERROR ALERT: Most quotation anthologies and almost all internet sites mistakenly present the observation as if it ended with “holding on.”

  • The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and to endure much. William Hazlitt, “Common Places” #1, in The Literary Examiner (Sep-Dec, 1823)
  • Love while you‘ve got/love to give./Live while you‘ve got/life to live. Piet Hein, “Memento Vivere,” in Grooks (1966)
  • The art of living is more like that of wrestling than of dancing. The main thing is to stand firm and be ready for an unforeseen attack. Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations (2nd c. A.D.)
  • People living deeply have no fear of death. Anaïs Nin, diary entry (Aug., 1935), in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1934–1939, Vol. 2 (1967)

Nin preceded the thought by writing: “By being alive, I mean living out of all ther cells, all the parts of one’s self. The cells which are denied become atrophied, like a dead arm, and infect the rest of the body.”

  • Life is the greatest art of all, and the master-artist is the man who is living the beautiful life. John Edgar Park, in The Keen Joy of Living (1908)

Park continued: “We cannot all of us excel in the minor arts. But whether we like it or no, we are all artists in the art of arts and are producing either ugly or beautiful lives out of the materials at our command.” The original source of this quotation was long a mystery to me, but Park’s great-grandson (who shares his name) recently provided the citation (as well as a link to the original 1908 Book). He also informs me that the Reverend Dr. Park served as president of Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts) from 1926-44 and was one of the most popular college commencement speakers of his era.

  • There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life. Being one with life is being one with now. You then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you. Life is the dancer and you are the dance. Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (2005)

[Secrets of] LIFE

(see also LIFE and THE GOOD LIFE and LIFE & THE ART OF LIVING)

  • And so you have found out that secret—one of the deep secrets of Life—that all, that is really worth the doing, is what we do for others. Lewis Carroll, in letter to Ellen Terry (Nov. 13, 1890)

QUOTE NOTE: A few months earlier, Carroll had asked Terry—one of the era’s most prominent actresses—if she would be willing to recommend some teachers of elocution for the child of one of his friends (she had recently expressed interest in acting as a career). Terry not only met with the girl, but took the time to provide her with some private lessons). Carroll was so touched by Terry’s kindness and generosity that he wrote at the beginning of the letter: “What is one to do with a friend who does about 100 times more than you ask them to do?”

ERROR ALERT: Almost all Internet sites present an abridged and paraphrased version of the thought: “One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.”

  • The secret of a good life is to have the right loyalties and hold them in the right scale of values. Norman Thomas, in Great Dissenters (1961)

LIFTING & UPLIFTING

(see also RAISING)

  • Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. Peter Drucker, in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Challenges (1973)
  • All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Strength to Love (1963)
  • All our dignity consists of thought. It is from there that we must be lifted up and not from space and time, which we could never fill. So let us work on thinking well. That is the principle of morality. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670)
  • Dancing has been a way of lifting the human spirit since the beginning of time. Gloria Steinem, in Revolution from Within (1992)
  • 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.”

  • I have had a good many more uplifting thoughts, creative and expansive visions—while soaking in comfortable baths or drying myself after bracing showers—in well-equipped American bathrooms than I have ever had in any cathedral. Here the body purges itself, and along with the body, the spirit. Edmund Wilson, “Europe,” in A Piece of My Mind: Reflections at Sixty (1956)

LIGHT

(see also BRIGHTNESS and CANDLE and DARKNESS and DAWN and DAYLIGHT and ILLUMINATION and DARKNESS & LIGHT and LIGHT BULB and SHADOW and SUNSHINE)

  • Ring the bells that still can ring,/Forget your perfect offering,/There is a crack in everything,/That’s how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen, refrain from “Anthem,” on the album The Future (1992)

QUOTE NOTE: Cohen wrote many memorable lyrics in his career, but few rival the power of this simple refrain about imperfection in human life. To see Cohen deliver a live performance of the song, go to Anthem.

  • Those whose own light is quenched are often the light-bringers. Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, in Sermons Out of Church (1875)
  • Light, God’s eldest daughter, is a principal beauty in a building. Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), “Of Building,” in The Holy State and the Profane State (1642)
  • The best way to see divine light is to put out thy own candle. Thomas Fuller, M.D. (1654-1734), in Gnomologia (1732)
  • Sadness flies on the wings of the morning and out of the heart of darkness comes the light. Jean Giraudoux, the character known only as The Deaf-Mute speaking, in The Madwoman of Chaillot (written 1943; first performed posthumously in 1945)
  • Long is the way/And hard that out of hell leads up to light. John Milton, in Paradise Lost (1667)
  • I saw darkness for weeks. It never dawned on me that I could come out of it, but you heal. Nature heals you, and you do come out of it. All of a sudden I saw a crack of light…then all of a sudden I saw another crack of light. Then I saw forms in the light. And I recognized that there was no darkness, that in darkness there’ll always be light. Louise Nevelson, in Dawns + Dusks (1976)
  • My first memory is of the brightness of light—light all around. Georgia O’Keeffe, in Georgia O’Keeffe (1976)
  • Art is not to throw light but be light. Kenneth Patchen, in Sleepers Awake (1946)
  • No one is a light unto himself, not even the sun. Antonio Porchia, in Voces (1943; translated into English as Voices in 1968 by W. S. Merwin)
  • Light is snow sifted/To an abstraction. May Sarton, from the poem “Night of Snow” (1929), quoted in Susan Sherman, May Sarton: Among the Usual Days (1993)
  • Sometimes our light goes out but is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light. Albert Schweitzer, quoted in Erica Anderson, The World of Albert Schweitzer: A Book of Photographs (1955)

QUOTE NOTE: According to Anderson, this now-famous quotation first appeared in Schweitzer’s Memoirs of Childhood and Youth (1924). Over the years, the passage has been rendered in a variety of slightly different ways, but this is the version I like best. Special thanks to Garson O’Toole, aka The Quote Investigator, for his typically brilliant research on the quotation. See his post here.

  • There are two ways of spreading light; to be/The candle or the mirror that reflects it. Edith Wharton, in the poem “Vesalius in Zante (1564)” (1902)

The verse continued: “I let my wick burn out—there yet remains/To spread an answering surface to the flame/That others kindle.”

  • Truly great people emit a light that warms the hearts of those around them. Banana Yoshimoto, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Mikage Sakurai, in Kitchen (1988)

She continued: “When that light has been put out, a heavy shadow of despair descends.”

LIGHTNESS & DARK

LIGHT BULB

(see also CANDLE and DARKNESS and ELECTRICITY and ENERGY and ILLUMINATION and LIGHT and POWER)

  • The killer app that got the world ready for appliances was the light bulb. So the light bulb is what wired the world. Jeff Bezos, in TED talk (Feb., 2003)

Bezos continued: “And they weren’t thinking about appliances when they wired the world. They were really thinking about — they weren't putting electricity into the home. They were putting lighting into the home.” The full speech may be viewed at Bezos TED talk.

LIKING & BEING LIKED

(see also LOVE and RELATIONSHIPS and PEOPLE PLEASING and POPULARITY)

  • Being liked is pleasant but has exceedingly limited value. Theodore Isaac Rubin, in Overcoming Indecisiveness (1985)

LIMITATIONS

(including LIMITS; see also DEFECTS and FAULTS and FLAWS and IMPERFECTIONS and INADEQUACY and SHORTCOMINGS and STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES and WEAKNESSES)

  • The sad thing is that, even though we know our lives aren’t working in certain areas, we are still afraid to change. We are locked into our comfort zone, no matter how self-destructive it may be. Yet, the only way to get out of our comfort zone and to be free of our problems and limitations is to get uncomfortable. Dr. Robert Anthony, in Beyond Positive Thinking: 30th Anniversary Edition (2018)
  • Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly. Richard Bach, the title character speaking, in Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970)
  • Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them. Richard Bach, protagonist Donald Shimoda speaking, in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977)

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, this passage is presented as if it were phrased: “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.”

  • The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, “Thus far and no farther.” Ludwig van Beethoven, quoted in Samuel Smiles, Self-Help (1859)
  • There are places in me that I didn’t know existed. Only by pressing the limits do you ever find them. Dr. Joyce Brothers, in Dennis Wholey, Are You Happy? Some Answers to the Most Important Questions in Your Life (1986)

Brothers preceded the observation by writing: “In each of us are places where we have never gone, which is very surprising. You’d think that you would know yourself after having lived with yourself for a lifetime.”

  • 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)
  • The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible. Arthur C. Clarke, in Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into the Limits of the Possible (1962)
  • If you don’t understand your limitations you won’t achieve much in your life. Kevin Costner, “Keeper of the flame“(Interview with Kevin Costner), The Guardian (London; March 15, 2001)
  • Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. Peter Drucker, in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Challenges (1973)
  • A man’s got to know his limitations. Clint Eastwood, in the role of San Francisco police detective Harry Callahan, in the 1973 film Magnum Force (screenplay by John Milius and Michael Cimino)
  • We are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds. Roger Ebert, in Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2004 (2003)
  • Every man, indeed, works with the limitations of his qualities, just as we all struggle beneath the weight of the…atmosphere; our defects are even a part of our qualities, and it would be foolish to quarrel with them. Havelock Ellis, “Nietzsche,” in Affirmations (1898)
  • Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. 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.

  • All of us have a personal sound that’s coming from our limitations. What makes a sound unique is the inability to do what we’re trying to do. Bill Frisell, in interview with Marc Ribot, Bomb magazine (Spring 2002)

Frisell continued: “You know that thing about Miles Davis: when he was young and trying to play like Dizzy Gillespie, he said he couldn’t play that high or that fast. If he could have just played like Dizzy Gillespie, then there wouldn’t be any Miles Davis.”

  • I am conscious of my own limitations. That consciousness is my only strength. Whatever I might have been able to do in my life has proceeded more than anything else out of the realization of my own limitations. Mohandas Gandhi, in Young India magazine (Nov. 13, 1924)
  • Limitations are really good for you. They are a stimulant. If you were told to make a drawing of a tulip using five lines, or one using a hundred, you’d have to be more inventive with the five. David Hockney, quoted in Martin Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney ( 2011)

Hockney continued: “After all, drawing in itself is always a limitation. It’s black and white, or line or not line, charcoal, pencil, pen. You might have a bit of color—but if you can use only three colors, you’ve got to make them look whatever color you want. What did Picasso say? ‘If you haven’t got any red, use blue.’ Make blue look like red.”

  • The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse. Helen Keller, in My Religion (1927)

Keller continued: “I have never believed that my limitations were in any sense punishments or accidents. If I had held such a view, I could never have exerted the strength to overcome them.”

  • Limitations of all kinds are forms of chastening to encourage self-development and true freedom. They are the tools put into our hands to hew away the stone and flint which keep the higher gifts hidden away in our being. Helen Keller, in My Religion (1927)

Keller added: “They tear away the bandage of indifference from our eyes, and we behold the burdens others are carrying, and we learn to help them by yielding to the dictates of a pitying heart.”

  • No one knows better than I the bitter denials of life. But I have made my limitations tools of learning and true joy. Helen Keller, “Helen Keller at 80” (interview with Ann Carnahan), in This Week magazine (June 19, 1960)
  • I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. The wind passes and the flowers are content. Helen Keller, quoted in Marjorie Barrows, These Wonderful People: Intimate Moments in Their Lives (1947)
  • Limited minds can recognize limitations only in others. Jack London, the narrator describing the character Ruth Morse, in Martin Eden (1909)
  • Your only limitations are those you set up in your mind, or permit others to set up for you! Og Mandino, in Og Mandino’s University of Success (1982)
  • Leadership is seeing the possibilities in a situation while others are seeing the limitations. John C. Maxwell, in Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading (2008
  • Creativity itself requires limits, for the creative act rises out of the struggle of human beings with and against that which limits them. Rollo May, in The Courage to Create (1975)
  • Learning too soon our limitations, we never learn our powers. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook (1963)
  • No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character. John Morley, “Robespierre,” in Critical Miscellanies, Vol. 1 (1886)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is typically presented, but it was originally the conclusion to an observation Morley made about the famous French political figure known mainly by a single name: “To run risks for chivalry’s sake was not in Robespierre’s nature, and no man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character.”

  • The basic experience of everyone is the experience of human limitation. Flannery O’Connor, quoted in Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, Mystery and Manners (1969)

In their book, the Fitzgeralds also quoted O’Connor as saying: “Art transcends its limitations only by staying within them.”

  • One extends one’s limits only by exceeding them, and exceeding limits requires effort. M. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled (1974)
  • To know one’s own limitations is the hallmark of competence. Dorothy L. Sayers, the character Gaston Chapparelle speaking, in Thrones, Dominations (1998; unfinished novel completed by Jill Paton Walsh)
  • Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world. Arthur Schopenhauer, “Further Psychological Observations,” in Studies in Pessimism (1893; pub. posthumously)
  • The most important thing one can do for children is not accept the limitations they are so willing to impose on themselves. Dr. Ruth Simmons, quoted in Marlo Thomas and Friends, The Right Words at the Right Time (2002)
  • To know one’s limitations is a good and necessary thing for effective work in life. Now that I know what I can’t do, I shall put more determination and whole-souled devotion in the work I can do. Lilian “Paula” Steichen, in 1908 letter to future husband Carl Sandburg, in Penelope Niven, Carl Sandburg: A Biography (1991)
  • The inability of a man of science to take the poetic view simply shows his mental limitation; as the mental limitation of a poet is shown by his inability to take the scientific view. The broader mind can take both. Hubert Spencer, in An Autobiography (1904)
  • Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, quoted in Glenn Van Ekeren, Words for All Occasions (1988)

QUOTE NOTE; I’ve also see the quotation translated in this way: “It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though limits to our abilities do not exist.”

  • Self-doubt does more to sabotage individual potential than all external limitations put together. Brian Tracy, in a FaceBook post (Nov. 18, 2012)
  • “Maturity, the way I understand it,” he told me, “is knowing what your limitations are.” Kurt Vonnegut, the protagonist known only as John quoting Frank Hoenikker, in Cat’s Cradle (1963)
  • The greatest limitations you will ever face will be those you place on yourself. Denis Waitley, in Being Your Best (1988)
  • It’s hard work, writing, you know. Honestly, a fight every day against your own limitations. You have to squeeze books out of your brain. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, “Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s love letter to literature,” New Zealand Listener (Mar. 14, 2013)

Zafon added: “I think most writers enjoy the feeling of having written something, rather than the process of writing it.”

LINGERIE

(see also APPAREL and BRAS & PANTIES and FASHION and SEX and UNDERWEAR)

  • Brevity is the soul of lingerie. Dorothy Parker, playing off the famous line from Hamlet, quoted in Alexander Woollcott, While Rome Burns (1934)

QUOTE NOTE: This has become one of Parker’s most popular quotations, but you should know that it’s a shortened version of her original creation. In 1916, while employed at Vogue magazine, Parker’s job included the writing of captions for the magazine’s many fashion and wardrobe layouts. On a page devoted to ladies’ underwear, she wrote the following: “From these foundations of the autumn wardrobe, one may learn that brevity is the soul of lingerie, as the Petticoat said to the Chemise.” See the full Shakespeare quotation in BREVITY. See also the Maugham entry in IMPROPRIETY.

LIQUOR

(see also ADDICTS & ADDICTION and ALCOHOL & ALCOHOLISM and BARS, PUBS, & TAVERNS and BEER & ALE and COCKTAILS and DRINKING & DRINKS and DRUGS & RECOVERY and DRUNKENNESS & DRUNKS and WHISKEY and WINE)

  • Good liquor is not cheap. Cheap liquor is not good. Dorothy Draper, in Entertaining Is Fun! (1941). An example of chiasmus.
  • The liquor sneaked up and grabbed her, got into her mind and talked to her, fooled her into thinking she was thinking for herself when really it was the whiskey thinking whiskey thoughts. Louise Erdrich, the voice of the narrator, in Four Souls (2004)
  • Employed as I had been employing it, liquor is a fixative of old patterns. Margaret Halsey, in No Laughing Matter (1977)
  • Liquor is such a nice substitute for facing adult life. Dorothy B. Hughes, in In a Lonely Place (1947)
  • Candy/Is dandy/But liquor/Is quicker. Ogden Nash in the 1931 poem “Reflection on Ice-breaking.”
  • 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)

Rogers preceded the thought by writing: “The fun, joy, and humor dry up in a relationship when one of the partners is swimming in gin.”

LISTENING

(see also ATTENTION and COMMUNICATION and CONVERSATION and INTIMACY and SPEECH & SPEAKING and TALK & TALKING and TALKING & LISTENING and UNDERSTANDING)

  • If you love listening you will learn; if you lend an ear, wisdom will be yours. Apocrypha—Ecclesiasticus 6:33

QUOTE NOTE: This beautiful translation comes from The Jerusalem Bible (TJB). The King James Version is: “If thou love to hear, thou shalt receive understanding: and if thou bow thine ear, thou shalt be wise.” The TJB version goes on to offer two additional pieces of wise conversational advice: “Listen before you answer; and do not interrupt a speech in the middle” (11:8) and “To retort without first listening is folly” (18:3).

  • Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable. David W. Augsburger, in Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard (1982)
  • An open ear is the only believable sign of an open heart. David W. Augsburger, in The New Freedom of Forgiveness (2000)
  • Listening is harvesting what is in the speaker’s mind. Author Unknown, quoted in Michael Rost, Teaching and Researching: Listening (2002)
  • One of the keys to life is to listen eloquently. Howard Baker, quoted by John Meacham, in “Stories From the Ridge: A Conversation with Jon Meacham About the Legacy of Senator Howard Baker,” The McCallie Podcast (Jan 21, 2020)
  • Good listeners don’t interrupt—ever—unless the house is on fire. Letitia Baldridge, “The Art of Listening,” in Town & Country magazine (Sep., 1995)
  • It seemed rather incongruous that in a society of supersophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners. Erma Bombeck, in If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? (1971)
  • Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery. Joyce Brothers, tweaking a familiar saying, in How to Get Whatever You Want Out of Life (1987)
  • Were we as eloquent as angels, yet should we please some men, some women, and some children, much more by listening, than by talking. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation mistakenly appears all over the internet in this abridged form: “Were we as eloquent as angels we still would please people much more by listening rather than talking.”

  • Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People (1989)
  • But oh! The blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Dinah Mulock Craik, in A Life for a Life (1859)

Craik continued: “Oh, the comfort—the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

  • Good listeners are unfussy about the chaos which others may for a time create in their minds; they’ve been there before and know that everything can eventually be set back in its place. Alain de Botton, in The Course of Love: A Novel (2016)
  • The hearing ear is always found close to the speaking tongue. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Race,” in English Traits (1856)
  • A man is already halfway in love with any woman who listens to him. Brendan Francis (pen name of Edward F. Murphy), in Edward F. Murphy, The Crown Treasury of Relevant Quotations (1978)
  • All of man’s life among his kind is nothing other than a battle to seize the ears of others. Milan Kundera, the narrator, in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: A Novel (1980)
  • A good listener is one who helps us overhear ourselves. Yahia Lababidi, in Signposts to Elsewhere (2008)
  • Two evils, of almost equal weight, may befall the man of erudition: never to be listened to, and to be listened to always. Walter Savage Landor, Epicurus speaking, in “Epicurus, Leontion, and Ternissa,” from Imaginary Conversations, Vol. 5 (1829)
  • Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk. Doug Larson, in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (Feb. 28, 1985)
  • The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting. Fran Lebowitz, “People,” in Social Studies (1981)
  • To be able to listen—really, wholly passively, self-effacingly listen—without presupposing, classifying, improving, controverting, evaluating, approving or disapproving, without dueling with what is being said, without rehearsing the rebuttal in advance, without free-associating to portions of what is being said so that succeeding portions are not heard at all—such listening is rare. Albert Maslow, in The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance (1966)
  • You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer. Alice Duer Miller, in a 1930s radio broadcast, quoted in Henry Wise Miller, All Our Lives (1945)

Miller preceded the observation by writing: “People love to talk but hate to listen. Listening is not merely not talking, though even that is beyond most of our powers; it means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us.

  • I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to, no one, that is, who really wants to listen. When it does at last dawn on a man that you really want to hear about his business, the look that comes over his face is something to see. Walker Percy, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist, Binx Bolling, in The Moviegoer (1961)
  • If speaking is silver, then listening is gold. Proverb (Turkish)
  • A man who listens because he has nothing to say can hardly be a source of inspiration. The only listening that counts is that of the talker who alternately absorbs and expresses ideas. Agnes Repplier, “The Luxury of Conversation,” in Compromises (1904)
  • Almost always, when a person realizes he has been deeply heard, his eyes moisten. I think in some real sense he is weeping for joy. It is as though he were saying, “Thank God, somebody heard me. Someone knows what it’s like to be me.” Carl Rogers, in A Way of Being (1980)

Rogers continued: “In such moments I have had the fantasy of a prisoner in a dungeon, tapping out day after day a Morse code message, ‘Does anybody hear me? Is anybody there?’ And finally one day he hears some faint tappings which spell out ‘Yes’ By that one simple response he is released from his loneliness; he has become a human being again.”

  • We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know. Carl Rogers, in A Way of Being (1980)
  • When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to reperceive my world in a new way and to go on. It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens, how confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard. Carl Rogers, in A Way of Being (1980)

Rogers introduced the thought by saying: “I can testify that when you are in psychological distress and someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!”

  • When I can really hear someone, it puts me in touch with him; it enriches my life. It is through hearing people that I have learned all that I know about individuals, about personality, about interpersonal relationships. Carl Rogers, in A Way of Being (1980)
  • One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears—by listening to them. Dean Rusk, quoted in Reader's Digest (July 1961)
  • Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice. William Shakespeare, the character Polonious speaking, in Hamlet (1599)
  • No siren did ever so charm the ear of the listener as the listening ear has charmed the soul of the siren. Henry Taylor, in The Statesman (1836)

In discussing what he called “the flattery of listening,” Taylor preceded this lovely chiastic observation by writing: “He that can wear the appearance of drinking in every word that is said with thirsty ears, possesses such a faculty for conciliating mankind as a siren might envy.”

  • Listening is a sacred art. Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. Sue Patton Thoele, in The Woman’s Book of Spirit (1997)

Thoele continued: “When someone welcomes us with open-hearted, accepting, interested listening, our spirits expand and we are inspired to unveil the miracle of our Self.”

  • 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.” The article, which appeared after Thoreau’s death in 1862, was based on a series of lectures (titled “What Shall It Profit?”) that Thoreau had delivered in previous years.

  • The first duty of love is to listen. Paul Tillich

QUOTATION CAUTION: This is one of Tillich’s most famous lines, but I’ve not been able to locate an original source (he was first quoted as making the remark in a 1964 article in The Episcopalian). The observation certainly sounds authentic, though, and is consistent with other things Tillich had to say on love and listening. In “Personal Relations,” an essay in the book Love, Power, and Justice (1954), he wrote: “In order to know what is just in a person-to-person encounter, love listens. It is its first task to listen. No human relation, especially no intimate one, is possible without mutual listening.”

  • When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life. You know how if a person laughs at your jokes you become funnier and funnier, and if he does not, every tiny little joke in you weazens up and dies. Well, that is the principle of it. Brenda Ueland, “Tell Me More,” in The Ladies’ Home Journal (Nov., 1941)

Ueland preceded the thought by writing: “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. You can see that when you think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.”

QUOTE NOTE: In his 1942 book Love Against Hate, psychiatrist Karl Menninger was so impressed with Ueland’s observation that he wrote about it: “The principal element in the technique of psychoanalysis is listening—uncritical but attentive listening. A good many hundreds of pages have been written about this in the technical literature, but I do not recall anything else so eloquent and, at the same time, so sound.”

  • Not listening is probably the commonest unkindness of married life, and one that creates — more devastatingly than an eternity of forgotten birthdays and misguided Christmas gifts — an atmosphere of not loving and not caring. Judith Viorst, in Yes, Married (1972)
  • People sinking into self-pity and depression are dreary, but they can’t get out of it by themselves. So every now and then, just sit there and listen, and listen, and listen. You’re paying your membership dues in the human race. Barbara Walters, in How to Talk With Practically Anybody About Practically Anything (1970)

LISTS & LIST-MAKING

(see also ORGANIZATION and PLANNING)

  • Making lists of reasons was sometimes a good way to figure things out. Lois Lowry, in Anastasia Krupnik (1979)
  • Ask any woman how she makes it through the day, and she may mention her calendar, her to-do lists, her babysitter. But if you push her on how she really makes it through her day, she will mention her girlfriends. Anna Quindlen, in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake: A Memoir of a Woman’s Life (2012)
  • I don’t like the sound of all those lists he’s making—it’s like taking too many notes at school; you feel you’ve achieved something when you haven’t. Dodie Smith, in I Capture the Castle (1948)
  • We humans are great list-makers, are we not? And our two favorite categories are the significance of our own concerns and the insignificance of the concerns of others. Harvey Stanbrough, the narrator and protagonist Soleada Garcia speaking, in Blackwell Ops 20 (2024)

In the novel, Garcia continued: “Or perhaps our own better attributes and the lack of those attributes in others. Either way, I suppose I am not an exception.”

LITERACY

(see also BOOKS and EDUCATION and LEARNING and READING and WRITING)

  • Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Kofi Annan, in The Quotable Kofi Annan (1998)

The United Nations Secretary-General continued: “Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.”

  • The reason literacy is important is that literature is the operating instructions. The best manual we have. The most useful guide to the country we’re visiting, life. Ursula Le Guin, “The Operating Instructions” (a 2000 talk); in The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on The Reader, the Writer, and the Imagination (2004)

LITERATURE

(see also AUTHORS and BOOKS and FICTION and NOVELS & NOVELISTS and READING and WRITERS and WRITING)

  • The finer literature, indeed, is characterized by a certain suffusion of the feminine flavor, the finer, the more ideal, thought plumed with sentiment. A. Bronson Alcott, in Table-Talk (1877)
  • Literature is the lie that tells the truth. Dorothy Allison, in Skin (1994)
  • Literature is not only a mirror; it is a map, a geography of the mind. Margaret Atwood, in Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972)

Atwood introduced the observation by writing: “What a lost person needs is a map of the territory, with his own position marked on it so he can see where he is in relation to everything else.”

  • What do things signify, what does the world signify? All literature is this question, but we must immediately add, for this is what constitutes its specialty, literature is this question minus its answer. Roland Barthes, “The Last Word on Robbe-Grillet?” in Critical Essays (1972)

ERROR ALERT: The final portion of this observation is almost always mistakenly presented as Literature is the question minus the answer. Barthes continued: “No literature in the world has ever answered the question it asked, and it is this very suspension which has always constituted it as literature. It is that very fragile language which set men between the violence of the question and the silence of the answer.”

  • Literature in its most comprehensive sense is the autobiography of humanity. Bernard Berenson, notebook entry (Dec. 11, 1892), in The Bernard Berenson Treasury (1962; Hanna Kiel, ed.)
  • Studying literature at Harvard is like learning about women at the Mayo Clinic. Roy Blount, Jr., originally quoted in Robert Byrne, The 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1982)

QUOTATION CAUTION: Byrne’s book appears to be the first published appearance of this now famously-repeated observation from one of our best contemporary humorists. So far, I’ve been unable to track down an original source.

  • All literature is, finally, autobiographical. Jorge Luis Borges, a 1926 remark, quoted in James Woodall, The Man in the Mirror of the Book (1996)
  • A losing trade, I assure you, sir: literature is a drug. George Borrow, quoting an unnamed publisher, in Lavengro (1851)
  • Ideas are to literature what light is to painting. Paul Bourget, in La Physiologie de l’Amour Moderne (1890)
  • 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.”

  • Literature, by the way, may be defined as the aesthetic exploitation of language. Anthony Burgess, in A Mouthful of Air (1992)
  • Literature…the Promised Land in which language becomes what it really ought to be. Italo Calvino, in Six Memos for the Next Millennium (1992)
  • All literature is gossip. Truman Capote, in interview with Beverly Gary Kempton, “After Hours: Books,” Playboy (December, 1976)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is usually presented, but it was part of a fuller observation when Capote first advanced the thought. Earlier in the year, Esquire magazine printed three chapters from Capote’s long-anticipated novel Answered Prayers. The chapters were filled with numerous gossipy tidbits that resulted in widespread speculation about the real identities of the novel’s characters. In response to the question, “Is gossip literature?” Capote replied:

“Of course it is—and, in fact, my entire book is gossip. I don’t deny that for an instant. What I say is that all literature is gossip, certainly all prose-narrative literature. What in God’s green earth is Anna Karenina or War and Peace or Madame Bovary if not gossip? Or Jane Austen? Or Proust? Gossip is the absolute exchange of human communication. It can be two ladies at the back fence or Tolstoy writing War and Peace.”

In her 1988 writing guide Starting From Scratch, Rita Mae Brown picked up on the theme when she wrote: “I believe all literature started as gossip.”

  • Literature is born when something in life goes slightly adrift. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Prime of Life (1960)

Two years earlier, in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), de Beauvoir offered an even more compelling metaphor: “Literature takes its revenge on reality by making it the slave of fiction.”

  • Every one who contributes to the “too much” of literature is doing grave social injury. George Eliot, in an 1871 letter to editor Alexander Main, reprinted in George Eliot’s Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals (1885; J.W. Cross, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: In this letter to her editor, Eliot feared she might be flirting with the danger of repeating herself and her themes if she (like Francis Trollope) became too productive or prolific. She preceded the thought by writing: “I have the conviction that excessive literary production is a social offense.”

  • Bad literature of the sort called amusing is spiritual gin. George Eliot, a reflection of the title character, in Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879)
  • Our literature is a substitute for religion, and so is our religion. T. S. Eliot, in “A Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry” (1928); reprinted in Selected Essays (1932)
  • The use of literature is to afford us a platform whence we may command a view of our present life, a purchase by which we may move it. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • To provoke dreams of terror in the slumber of prosperity has become the moral duty of literature. Ernst Fisher, in Art Against Ideology (1969)
  • My definition of literature would be just this, words that have become deeds. Robert Frost, in letter to Louis Untermeyer (July 8, 1915)
  • Exciting literature after supper is not the best digestive. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1935)
  • The charms of money are distinctly under-represented in literature. There are no songs or poems extolling its virtues. This seems on the face of it strange. The claims of money to be celebrated in verse might well seem to be no less than those of faithful dogs, beautiful women, or jugs of wine. Celia Green, in The Decline and Fall of Science (1976)
  • A people’s literature is the great textbook for real knowledge of them. Edith Hamilton, in Preface to The Roman Way (1932)
  • Literature, like nobility, runs in the blood. William Hazlitt, in Table-Talk (1821)
  • He knew everything about literature except how to enjoy it. Joseph Heller, the narrator describing the character Clevinger, in Catch-22 (1961)
  • Such a superiority do the pursuits of literature possess above every other occupation, that even he who attains but a mediocrity in them, merits the pre-eminence above those that excel the most in the common and vulgar professions. David Hume, in The History of England, Vol. 1 (1762)
  • Literature flourishes best when it is half a trade and half an art. W. R. Inge, “The Victorian Age,” in Outspoken Essays (Second Series, 1922)
  • It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature. Henry James, in Hawthorne (1879)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the observation typically appears in quotation anthologies, but it was originally part of a beautiful larger passage in which James presented “a valuable moral” that could be learned from studying Hawthorne. He wrote: “This moral is that the flower of art blooms only where the soil is deep, that it takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature, that it needs a complex social machinery to set a writer in motion.” To see how James continued the thought, go to: Hawthorne

  • Great literature cannot grow from a neglected or impoverished soil. P. D. James, quoted in Daily Telegraph (London, April 14, 1988)

James added: “Only if we actually tend or care will it transpire that every hundred years or so we might get a Middlemarch.”

  • The thing that teases the mind over and over for years, and at last gets itself put down rightly on paper—whether little or great, it belongs to literature. Sarah Orne Jewett, from a letter to Willa Cather, in Preface to Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896)
  • Literature is my Utopia. Helen Keller, in The Story of My Life (1903)

Keller added: “Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book-friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.”

  • Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life. Literature sucks you into another psyche. So the creation of empathy necessarily influences how you’ll behave to other people. How can that not affect you politically? Barbara Kingsolver, quoted in Maya Jaggi, “A Life in Writing: Barbara Kingsolver,” The Guardian (June 11, 2010)
  • Literature is a splendid mistress, but a bad wife. Rudyard Kipling, advice to Edgar Wallace, circa 1897, quoted in Margaret Lane, Edgar Wallace (1964)
  • Literature is a toil and a snare, a curse that bites deep. D. H. Lawrence, in letter to Louie Burrows (Sep. 25, 1911), reprinted in The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Vol I: 1901–13 (1979; James T. Boulton, ed.)
  • Oh literature, oh the glorious Art, how it preys upon the marrow in our bones. It scoops the stuffing out of us, and chucks us aside. D. H. Lawrence, in letter to Walter De La Mare (June 10, 1912), reprinted in The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Vol I: 1901–13 (1979; James T. Boulton, ed.)
  • The reason literacy is important is that literature is the operating instructions. The best manual we have. The most useful guide to the country we’re visiting, life. Ursula Le Guin, “The Operating Instructions” (a 2000 talk); in The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on The Reader, the Writer, and the Imagination (2004)
  • Evil government relies on deliberate misuse of language. Because literary skill is the rigorous use of language in the pursuit of truth, the habit of literature, of serious reading, is the best defense against believing the half-truths of ideologues and the lies of demagogues. Ursula K. Le Guin, in acceptance speech for the Maxine Cushing Gray Award, Seattle, Washington (Oct. 18, 2006)
  • For she was of that generation who, having found nothing in religion, had formed themselves by literature. Doris Lessing, in Children of Violence: A Proper Marriage (1954)
  • Literature is analysis after the event. Doris Lessing, in The Golden Notebook (1962)
  • People who love literature have at least part of their minds immune from indoctrination. Doris Lessing, in Antonia Fraser, The Pleasure of Reading (1992)

Lessing continued: “If you read, you can learn to think for yourself.”

  • Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead. Sinclair Lewis, “The American Fear of Literature,” Nobel Prize address (Dec. 12, 1930)
  • When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. Samuel Lover, the character Mr. Goggins speaking, in Handy Andy (1842)
  • Even the choicest literature should be taken as the condiment, and not as the sustenance of life. It should be neither the warp nor the woof of existence, but only the flowery edging upon its borders. Horace Mann, in Thoughts: Selected From the Writings of Horace Mann (1867)
  • In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others. André Maurois, in The Art of Living (1939)
  • Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. Gabriel García Márquez, in Paris Review interview (Winter, 1981)

Marquez added: “Both are very hard work. Writing something is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques.”

  • Literature, the most seductive, the most deceiving, the most dangerous of professions. John Morley, in Life of Burke (1879)
  • Literature of the first order, so far from being a mere pleasure device, is a supreme attempt to face and encompass reality—an attempt beside which a busy working life involves a shrinkage and represents a partial retreat. Lewis Mumford, in Technics and Civilization (1934),
  • Literature was born not the day when a boy crying “wolf, wolf” came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying “wolf, wolf” and there was no wolf behind him. Vladimir Nabokov, in Lectures on Literature (1980)

Nabokov added: “Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”

  • Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man. Vladimir Nabokov, quoted in Radio Times (Oct. 1962)
  • Literature is food for the soul and the heart. Edna O’Brien, in Paris Review interview (Summer, 1984)
  • Literature is a defense against the attacks of life. Cesare Pavese, diary entry (Nov. 10, 1938), in This Business of Living: Diaries, 1935–1950 (1952)

Pavese added: “It says to life: ‘You can’t deceive me. I know your habits, foresee and enjoy watching your reactions, and steal your secret by involving you in cunning obstructions that halt your normal flow.’”

  • Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. Octavio Paz, “The Exception to the Rule,” in Alternating Current (1967)

Paz added: “But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.”

  • Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life. Fernando Pessoa, in The Book of Disquiet (1982; first Eng. trans., 1991)

QUOTE NOTE: The Book of Disquiet, published 47 years after Pessoa’s death in 1935, was presented to the world as the autobiography of one of Pessoa’s heteronyms, an unmarried Portuguese bookkeeper named Bernardo Soares. The book was pieced together from thousands of pages of Pessoa’s diary entries, personal and philosophical ramblings, autobiographical vignettes, poems, and other literary fragments. For more on Pessoa, see this review of a new translation of The Book of Disquiet in The Guardian (June 21, 2001).

  • Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. Ezra Pound, in How to Read (1931)
  • Literature is news that STAYS news. Ezra Pound, in The ABC of Reading (1931)
  • There is nothing like literature. I lose a cow, I write about her death, and my writing pays me enough to buy another cow. Jules Renard, journal entry (Sep. 26, 1903)
  • To turn events into ideas is the function of literature. George Santayana, “The Essence of Literature,” in Little Essays (1921; Logan Pearsall Smith, ed.)
  • It seems that the analysis of character is the highest human entertainment. And literature does it, unlike gossip, without mentioning real names. Isaac Bashevis Singer, in Richard Durgin, “Isaac Bashevis Singer Talks…About Everything,” in The New York Times (Nov. 26, 1978)

A bit later, Singer went on to explain: “We [writers], for some reason, always love to discuss and discover character. This is because each character is different, and human character is the greatest of puzzles. No matter how much I know a human being, I don’t know him enough. Discussing character constitutes a supreme form of entertainment.”

  • Literature is the memory of humanity. Isaac Bashevis Singer, quoted in U. S. News & World Report (1978, Vol. 85)
  • Literature usually begets literature. Susan Sontag, “Michel Leiris’ Manhood,” in Against Interpretation (1961)
  • 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. Susan Sontag, “The Conscience of Words,” in At the Same Time (2007)

Sontag introduced the thought by writing: “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.” [ellipsis in original]

  • Literature is the orchestration of platitudes. Thornton Wilder, in a Boston speech, quoted in Time magazine (April 1, 1929), and later in a Jan. 12, 1953 Time cover story of Wilder
  • Literature is the record of our discontent. Virginia Woolf, “The Evening Party,” in Susan Dick, The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf (1985)

LITIGATION

LITTLE

(see also AMOUNTS and LITTLENESS and NOTHING and PETITE and SMALL and TINY)

  • It is the greatest of all mistakes, to do nothing because you can only do little. Sydney Smith, in Elementary Sketches of Moral Philosophy (1850)

ERROR ALERT: A very similar saying is commonly attributed to Edmund Burke, but there is no evidence that he ever said or wrote such a thing. Many thanks to Garson O’Toole for tracking down the source of this quotation. See his Quote Investigator post here.

LITTLENESS

  • No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men. Thomas Carlyle, “The Hero as Divinity,” in On Heroes and Hero-Worship (1841)

LIVING & DYING

(see LIFE & DEATH)

LOBSTERS

(see also ANIMALS and FISH and SHELLFISH)

  • The proper place to eat lobster…is in a lobster shack as close to the sea as possible. There is no menu card because there is nothing else to eat except boiled lobster with melted butter. Pearl S. Buck, in Pearl Buck’s America (1971)
  • If I eat lobster, and if I don’t eat lobster, I shall regret it. Ellen Glasgow, in The Descendant (1897)
  • I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don’t bark, and they don’t gnaw upon one’s nomadic privacy like dogs do. Gérard de Nerval, quoted in Théophile Gautier, Portraits et Souvenirs Litteraires (1875)

QUOTE NOTE: This was Nerval’s explanation for why he walked a lobster on a leash in the gardens of the Palais Royal.

  • Books…are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with ’em, then we grow out of ’em and leave ’em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development. Dorothy L. Sayers, the protagonist Lord Peter Wimsey speaking, in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)
  • The bad is more easily perceived than the good. A fresh lobster does not give such pleasure to the consumer as a stale one will give him pain. Rebecca West, quoted in Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West (1987)

LOGIC

(see also ANALYSIS and PHILOSOPHY and PERSUASION and REASON)

  • No mistake is more common and more fatuous than appealing to logic in cases which are beyond her jurisdiction. Samuel Butler, in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it. Rabindranath Tagore, in Stray Birds (1916)
  • Logic, like whiskey, loses its beneficial effect when taken in too large quantities. Edward Plunkett (Lord Dunsany), in My Ireland (1937)
  • Logic is in the eye of the logician. Gloria Steinem, in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983)

LONELINESS

(see also [BEING] ALONE and RELATIONSHIPS and SOLITARINESS and SOLITUDE)

  • The surest sign of age is loneliness. A. Bronson Alcott, in Tablets (1868)
  • Loneliness comes about when I am alone without being able…to keep myself company. Hannah Arendt, in The Life of the Mind, Vol. One (1978)

Arendt was comparing loneliness to solitude, which she described this way: “Solitude is that human situation in which I keep myself company.”

  • No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world. Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics (4th c. B.C.)
  • Fame always brings loneliness. Success is as ice cold and as lonely as the North Pole. Vicki Baum, the character Elisaveta Alexandrovna Grusinskaya speaking, in Grand Hotel (1929)

See also the related thought by Gabriel Garcia Marquez below.

  • No one ever discovers the depths of his own loneliness. Georges Bernanos, in The Diary of a Country Priest (1936)
  • Real loneliness is not necessarily limited to when you are alone. Charles Bukowski, in New Poems: Book Two (published posthumously in 2010)
  • There is a loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock. Charles Bukowski, in The Pleasures of the Damned: Selected Poems 1951-1993 (2012)
  • People who lead a lonely existence always have something on their minds that they are eager to talk about. Anton Chekhov, the voice of the narrator, in the short story “About Love” (1898 in The Little Trilogy (1898)
  • If you are afraid of loneliness, do not marry. Anton Chekhov, undated entry (c. 1900), in Note-Book of Anton Chekhov (1922; S. Koteliansky & Leonard Woolf, trans.)

QUOTE NOTE: This is an early—and perhaps the earliest—example of a powerful theme in human interaction that might be described as relationship loneliness (for several more, see the Gilman, Greer, Hubbard, and Jong entries below).

  • The dread of loneliness is greater than the fear of bondage, so we get married. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1944)
  • Who knows what true loneliness is—not the conventional word but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion. Joseph Conrad, the voice of the narrator, in Under Western Eyes (1911)

The narrator continued: “Now and then a fatal conjunction of events may lift the veil for an instant. For an instant only. No human being could bear a steady view of moral solitude without going mad.”

  • Loneliness seems to have become the great American disease. John Corry, in The New York Times (April 25, 1984)
  • The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness. Norman Cousins, in Human Options (1981)
  • What does it matter if a man is lonely? One does not die of it. Margaret Craven, a reflection of protagonist Mark Brian, in I Heard the Owl Call My Name (1973)
  • We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. Dorothy Day, in The Long Loneliness (1952)
  • It is better to be lonely than to wish to be alone. Margaret Deland, the character Mrs. Dale speaking, in The Story of a Child (1893)
  • Music was invented to confirm human loneliness. Lawrence Durrell, in Clea (1960)
  • Loneliness/Got a mind of its own/The more people around/The more you feel alone. Bob Dylan, lyric from the song “Marchin’ to the City,” in the compilation album The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006 (2008).
  • What loneliness is more lonely than distrust? George Eliot, the voice of the narrator, in Middlemarch (1871–72)
  • But who can count the beatings of the lonely heart? Susan Edmonstone Ferrier, the voice of the narrator, in The Inheritance (1824)
  • 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 arrator Nick Nick Carraway, in The Great Gatsby (1925)
  • On a holiday lonely persons always feel their loneliness more keenly. Lucille Fletcher, the voice of the narrator, in …And Presumed Dead (1963)
  • At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one’s lost self. Brendan Francis (pseudonym of Edward F. Murphy), in Edward F. Murphy, The Crown Treasury of Relevant Quotations (1978)

QUOTE NOTE: For a biographical note on the author, who for many years was a great mystery to quotation lovers, see the Brendan Francis entry in Quotations.

  • A person can be lonely even if he is loved by many people, because he is still not the “One and Only” to anyone. Anne Frank, diary entry (Dec. 29, 1943), in The Diary of a Young Girl (1952)
  • Loneliness is not a longing for company, it is a longing for kind. And kind means people who can see you who you are, and that means they have enough intelligence and sensitivity and patience to do that. Marilyn French, a reflection of the protagonist, known only as Mira, in The Women’s Room (1977)
  • No doubt there are affinities between power and fame. I think the loneliness of power and the loneliness of fame are much alike. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, quoted in Marlise Simons, “A Talk with Gabriel Garcia Marquez,” in The New York Times (Dec. 5, 1982)
  • She had encountered one of the more devastating kinds of loneliness in existence: that of being in close contact with someone to whom she was a nonperson, and who thereby rendered her invisible and of no consequence. Dorothy Gilman, the title character reflecting on her interaction with Max Janko, in Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish (1990)

QUOTE NOTE: Gilman might have been inspired by a similar—and very well known—observation from Germaine Greer, just below.

  • Loneliness is never more cruel than when it is felt in close propinquity with someone who has ceased to communicate. Germaine Greer, “Security,” in The Female Eunuch (1970)
  • Now and then, especially at night, solitude loses its soft power and loneliness takes over. I am grateful when solitude returns. Donald Hall, “Between Solitude and Loneliness,” in The New Yorker (Oct. 15, 2016)
  • What makes loneliness an anguish/Is not that I have no one to share my burden,/But this:/I have only my own burden to bear. Dag Hammarskjöld, in Markings (1963)

A bit later in the book, Hammarskjöld went on to write: “Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.”

  • Alone. But loneliness can be a communion. Dag Hammarskjöld, in Markings (1963)
  • Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely. Lorraine Hansberry, in To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words (1969; Robert Nemiroff, ed.)
  • Nothing makes us more vulnerable than loneliness except greed. Thomas Harris, the character Dr. Hannibal Lecter speaking, in The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
  • I think it’s very important to be alone. Loneliness is just an idea that, I’m afraid, has something to do with self-pity. Helen Hayes, in A Gathering of Hope (1983)
  • Lonely people talking to each other can make each other lonelier. They should be careful, because maybe lonely people are the only people who can’t afford to cry. Lillian Hellman, the character Ned Crossman speaking, in The Autumn Garden (1951)
  • Loneliness is the way by which destiny endeavors to lead man to himself. Hermann Hesse, in Reflections (1974; Volker Michels, ed.)
  • Life may be brimming over with experiences, but somewhere, deep inside, all of us carry a vast and fruitful loneliness wherever we go. Etty Hillesum, in An Interrupted Life (1983)

Hillesum continued: “And sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”

  • No one should ever be afraid alone. It is the worst form of loneliness and the most corrosive. Marion Hilliard, in A Doctor Looks at Love and Life (1957)
  • It is loneliness that makes the loudest noise. This is as true of men as of dogs. Eric Hoffer, “Thoughts of Eric Hoffer, Including ‘Absolute Faith Corrupts Absolutely’,” in The New York Times (April 25, 1971)
  • Loneliness is not in being alone, for then ministering spirits come to soothe and bless—loneliness is to endure the presence of one who does not understand. Elbert Hubbard, “Alexander Hamilton,” in Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great, Vol. 3 (1916)

QUOTE NOTE: This is an early example of a number of quotations that describe what might be termed relationship loneliness (see Gilman, Greer, and Jong in this section). Writing about the mother of Alexander Hamilton, Hubbard was describing her marriage to a dull and distant husband while the couple lived on the Caribbean island of Nevis (near Saint Kitts). Here’s his masterful metaphorical description of what life must have been like for this vibrant woman to be married to an emotionally constipated man: “To be cast on a desert isle with a being, no matter how good, who is incapable of feeling with you the eternal mystery of the encircling tides; who can only stare when you speak of the moaning lullaby of the restless sea; who knows not the glory of the sunrise, and feels no thrill when the breakers dash themselves into foam, or the moonlight dances on the phosphorescent waves—ah, that is indeed exile.”

  • They’re sharing a drink they call loneliness/But it’s better than drinking alone. Billy Joel, lyric from the song “Piano Man,” in the album Piano Man (1973)
  • There is no loneliness like the loneliness of a dead marriage. Erica Jong, the narrator and protagonist Isadora Wing, reflecting on her own marriage, in How to Save Your Own Marriage (1977)

QUOTE NOTE: Here’s the full passage, which captures the essence—and the despairing quality—of relationship loneliness: “This was the bottom, the lowest point in marriage. Sleeping alone in the same house, unable to comfort each other. More alone than if we’d never met. Better to live in a cave like a hermit or to haunt singles’ bars, cruising for one-night stands. There is no loneliness like the loneliness of a dead marriage. The bed might as well be a raft in a shark-infested sea. You might as well have landed on a dead planet with no atmosphere. There is nowhere to go. Nowhere. The soul stinks like a stone.”

  • Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible. Carl Jung, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963)
  • If we don’t have each other, we go crazy with loneliness. When we do, we go crazy with togetherness. Stephen King, the voice of the narrator, in The Stand (1978)
  • It’s a mistake for a lonely woman to form an engrossing friendship. One should have the courage of one’s loneliness. Ngaio Marsh, the character Alleyn speaking, in Singing in the Shrouds (1958)
  • A writer soon discovers he has no single identity but lives the lives of all the people he creates and his weathers are independent of the actual day around him. I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen. Carson McCullers, in The Square Root of Wonderful (1958)
  • The psychological difference between solitude and loneliness is parallel to the difference between fasting and starvation: one is voluntary and the other, not. Dan Millman, in a personal communication to the compiler (Dec.10, 2023)
  • Loneliness is but a cutting adrift from our moorings and floating out to the open sea; an opportunity for finding ourselves, our real selves, what we are about, where we are heading during our little time on this beautiful earth. Anne Shannon Monroe, in Singing in the Rain (1926)
  • There’s no loneliness like the loneliness of people who are living together, and who don’t belong together. Kathleen Thompson Norris, the voice of the narrator, in Beauty’s Daughter (1935)
  • I am learning to see loneliness as a seed that, when planted deep enough, can grow into writing that goes back out into the world. Kathleen Norris, in Dakota (1993)
  • Man’s loneliness is but his fear of life! Eugene O’Neill, the title character speaking, in Lazarus Laughed (1927)
  • Loneliness is not simply a matter of being alone. Loneliness is the feeling that nobody else truly cares what happens to you. Sister Pascalina, quoted in Paul I. Murphy, La Popessa: The Controversial Biography of Sister Pascalina, the Most Powerful Woman in Vatican History (1983; with R. René Arlington)
  • Loneliness is the prison of the human spirit. When we are lonely, we pace back and forth in small, shut-in worlds. John Powell, in Will the Real Me Please Stand Up? (1995)
  • Every loneliness is a pinnacle. Ayn Rand, the character Ellsworth Toohey speaking, in The Fountainhead (1943)
  • To comfort any mortal against loneliness, one other is enough. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, in Golden Apples (1935)
  • Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives. Bertrand Russell in Marriage and Morals (1929)
  • Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self. May Sarton, the title character speaking, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing (1965)
  • All young people should be taught now to put up with loneliness…because the less man is compelled to come into contact with others, the better off he is. Arthur Schopenhauer, in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)
  • I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick. John Steinbeck, the character Crooks speaking, in Of Mice and Men, (1937)
  • The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us. Robert Louis Stevenson, in Virginibus Puerisque (1881)
  • Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. Mother Teresa, “Saints Among Us,” in Time magazine (Dec. 29, 1975)
  • The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. Mother Teresa, in A Simple Path (1995)
  • Alone is a fact, a condition where no one else is around. Lonely is how you feel about that. Twyla Tharp, in The Creative Habit (2003; with Mark Reiter)
  • Old age approaches, an awful specter of loneliness to those who have never found joy in being alone. Dorothy Thompson, in The Courage to Be Happy (1957)
  • 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.”

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

  • In a place where so many are lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone. Tennessee Williams, the character Don Quixote speaking, in Camino Real (1953)

QUOTE NOTE: A later, revised edition of the play had the title character saying: “When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.”

  • What is the opposite of two? A lonely me, a lonely you. Richard Wilbur, in Opposites (1973)
  • When I get lonely, it’s only a sign./Some room is empty, that room is there by design./If I feel hollow, that’s just my proof that there’s more for me to follow:/That’s what the lonely is for. David Wilcox, the refrain from his song “That’s What the Lonely is For” (on his 2002 album “Lives Songs and Stories”).
  • It is the privilege of loneliness; in privacy one may do as one chooses. Virginia Woolf, the character Peter Walsh reflecting on his situation, in Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Walsh continued: “One might weep if no one saw.”

  • Loneliness is a prerequisite for freedom. Freedom depends on the ability to reflect, and reflection can only begin when one is alone. Gao Xingjian, “The Necessity of Loneliness,” in The Case for Literature (2006); originally in speech at American Academy of Achievement (Jun. 8, 2002)

LONGING

(see also APPETITE and CRAVING and DESIRE and FULFILLMENT and WANTING and YEARNING)

  • Longing, the hope for fulfillment, is the one unwavering passion of the world’s commerce. E. L. Doctorow, “Theodore Dreiser: Book One and Book Two,” in Jack London, Hemingway, and the Constitution (1993)
  • Longing is my fuel of choice on the spiritual adventure. Spiritual longing is a sort of loneliness for an unknown yet deeply perceived presence. Some call the presence God; some call it peace; some call it consciousness; some call it love. Elizabeth Lesser, in The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual adventure (1999)

Lesser continued: “Its source rests in the well of our own hearts. When we slow down, quiet the mind, and allow ourselves to feel hungry for something that we do not understand, we are dipping into the abundant well of longing.”

  • My library is an archive of longings. Susan Sontag, journal entry (April 26, 1980), in As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964–1980 (2012)

LOS ANGELES

(see also BOSTON and CHICAGO and HOLLYWOOD and LAS VEGAS and LONDON and MIAMI and NEW ORLEANS and NEW YORK CITY and PARIS and SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON, DC)

(see also AMERICAN CITIES)

  • I don’t want to live in a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light. Woody Allen, as the character Alvy Singer, referring to Los Angeles, in the 1977 film Annie Hall (screenplay by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman)
  • It is in love with its limitless horizontality, as New York may be with its verticality. Jean Baudrillard, in America (1986)
  • A big hardboiled city with no more personality than a paper cup. Raymond Chandler, protagonist Philip Marlowe speaking about Los Angeles, in The Little Sister (1949)
  • Los Angeles has Hollywood—and hates it. It ought to consider itself damn lucky. Without Hollywood, it would be a mail-order city. Everything else in the catalogue you could get better somewhere else.” Raymond Chandler, protagonist Philip Marlowe speaking, in The Little Sister (1949)
  • Los Angeles is a sprawl of broken dreams and lost opportunities, disconnected souls and entertainment junkies. The sunny skies and graceful palms don't redeem jammed roadways to nowhere. Carolyn Hart, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Henrietta Collins, in Death in Lovers’ Lane (1997)
  • Thought is barred in this City of Dreadful Joy, and conversation is unknown. Aldous Huxley, in Jesting Pilate: The Diary of a Journey (1926)
  • In a foreign country people don’t expect you to be just like them, but in Los Angeles, which is infiltrating the world, they don’t consider that you might be different because they don’t recognize any values except their own. And soon there may not be any others. Pauline Kael, in I Lost It at the Movies (1965)
  • If, while watching the sun set on a used-car lot in Los Angeles, you are struck by the parallels between this image and the inevitable fate of humanity, do not, under any circumstances, write it down. Fran Lebowitz, in Metropolitan Life (1974)
  • A great many people in Los Angeles are on special diets that restrict their intake of synthetic foods. The reason for this appears to be a widely held belief that organically grown fruits and vegetables make the cocaine work faster. Fran Lebowitz, in Social Studies (1981)
  • As I holed up in the city of angels, I was also aware of a comforting feeling of anonymity. In the world’s biggest third-class city I could pass unnoticed. John D. MacDonald, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Travis McGee, in A Deadly Shade of Gold (1965)

McGee continued: “I spoke the language. I was familiar with the currency. I could drink the water. I could almost breathe the air, late April air, compounded of interesting hydrocarbons.”

  • It is not that Los Angeles is altogether hideous, it is even by degrees pleasant, but for an Easterner there is never any salt in the wind; it is like Mexican cooking without chile, or Chinese egg rolls missing their mustard Norman Mailer, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” Esquire magazine (November 1960)

Mailed continued: “As one travels through the endless repetitions of that city which is the capital of suburbia with its milky pinks, its washed-out oranges, its tainted lime-yellows of pastel on one pretty little architectural monstrosity after another, the colors not intense enough, the styles never pure, and never sufficiently impure to collide on the eye, one conceives the people who live here—they have come out to express themselves.”

  • That essence of a new postwar SuperAmerica is found nowhere so perfectly as in Los Angeles’ ubiquitous acres. One gets the impression that people come to Los Angeles in order to divorce themselves from the past, here to live or try to live in the rootless pleasure world of an adult child. Norman Mailer, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” Esquire magazine (November 1960)

Mailer continued: “One knows that if the cities of the world were destroyed by a new war, the architecture of the rebuilding would create a landscape which looked, subject to specifications of climate, exactly and entirely like the San Fernando Valley.”

  • In this land of the pretty-pretty, the virility is in the barbarisms, the vulgarities, it is in the huge billboards, the screamers of the neon lighting, the shouting farm-utensil colors of the gas stations and monster drugstores, it is in the swing of the sports cars, hot rods, convertibles. Norman Mailer, on Los Angeles, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” Esquire magazine (November 1960)

Mailer introduced the thought by writing: “Los Angeles is the home of self-expression, but the artists are middle-class and middling-minded.”

  • Nineteen suburbs in search of a metropolis. H. L. Mencken, on Los Angeles, in Americana (1925)

QUOTE NOTE: A similar saying (“Seventy-two suburbs in search of a city”) has been attributed to Dorothy Parker, but it has never been found in her writings.

  • In a pure anonymous encounter you find a world alive and full of character. In New York, the street adventures are incredible. There are a thousand stories in a single block. You see the stories in people's faces. You hear the songs immediately. Here, in Los Angeles, there are fewer characters because they are all inside automobiles. Joni Mitchell, quoted in Leonore Fleischer, Joni Mitchell (1976)
  • Hollywood, the Versailles of Los Angeles. Jan Morris, in Destinations (1980)
  • My sense of Los Angeles was very New York provincial, as in “all those people are crazy out there” (which they are), and stupid (which they’re not), and immoral (it’s more interesting than that). Lynda Obst, in Hello, He Lied—And Other Truths From the Hollywood Trenches (1996)
  • You cannot live in Los Angeles for any period of time without eventually trying to write a screenplay. It’s like a flu bug that you catch. Gilda Radner, in It’s Always Something (1989)

Radner went on to add: “Even the plumber has a screenplay in his truck.”

  • Los Angeles is a first-rate third-world country. Connie Rice, referring to the massive income disparity between rich and poor residents, on the PBS-TV show “Now” (Feb. 20, 2004)

QUOTE NOTE: Nearly forty years earlier, mystery writer John D. MacDonald also referred to L.A. as a third-world country (see his observation above).

  • Los Angeles is a very transient town. It’s the only place I know where you can actually rent a dog. Rita Rudner, in Naked Beneath My Clothes (1992)

In the book, she also wrote: “We live in Los Angeles, where you are expected to move every two to four years, so people can see how well your career is going.”

  • When it’s 105 in New York City, it’s 78 in L.A. When it’s 20 below in New York City, it’s 78 in L.A. There are 11 million interesting people in New York City and only 78 in L.A. Neil Simon, quoted in the Chicago Tribune (Sep. 4, 1977)
  • One feature about Los Angeles that I particularly love is the chance for association with all kinds of creative artists, a thing I never before have had. I certainly do love a number of the writers, the painters, the musicians, and the sculptors that I meet here. Gene Stratton-Porter, quoted in Jeannette Porter Meehan, The Lady of the Limberlost: Life and Letters of Gene Stratton-Porter (1928)

Stratton-Porter continued: “This is the element that my life has always been deprived of previously. Next to the sunshine, I appreciate it the most of anything in California.”

  • Visitors to Los Angeles, then and now, were put out because the residents of Los Angeles had the inhospitable idea of building a city comfortable to live in, rather than a monument to astonish the eye of jaded travelers. Jessamyn West, in Hide and Seek: A Continuing Journey (1973)

LOSING

(see also DEFEAT and FAILURE and GAIN and LOSS and SUCCESS and SUCCESS & FAILURE and VICTORY and WINNING and WINNING & LOSING)

  • Losing is the bane and bugbear of every professional athlete’s existence. Roger Angell, “Hard Lines,” in Geoffrey C. Ward & Ken Burns, (eds.), Baseball (1994)

Angell continued: “But in baseball the monster seems to hang closer than in other sports, its chilly claws and foul breath palpable around the neck hairs of the infielder bending for his crosshand scoop or the reliever slipping his first two fingers off-center on the ball seams before delivering his two-and-two cut fastball.”

  • If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out. George Brett, quoted in Sports Illustrated (June 23, 1986)

QUOTE NOTE: Brett was piggybacking on an observation commonly attributed to Michigan State football coach Duffy Daugherty, but originally offered by the U. S. Naval Academy football coach Eddie Erdelatz (see his entry in TIE)

  • There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss. The great secret of athletics is that you can learn more from losing than winning. Pat Conroy, in My Losing Season: A Memoir (2002)

On the same subject, Conroy went on to write: “Losing prepares you for the heartbreak, setback, and the tragedy that you will encounter in the world more than winning ever can. By licking your wounds you learn how to avoid getting wounded the next time.”

  • It is by losing himself in the objective, in inquiry, creation, and craft, that a man becomes something. Paul Goodman, in The Community of Scholars (1962)
  • If fate means you to lose, give him a good fight anyhow. Charles McFee, in Casuals of the Sea (1916)
  • A wise man never loses anything if he has himself. Michel de Montaigne, “Of Solitude,” in Essays (1580–88)
  • In life it is more necessary to lose than to gain. A seed will only germinate if it dies. Boris Pasternak, in I Remember (1959)
  • Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday. Wilma Rudolph, in Wilma: The Story of Wilma Rudolph (1977)
  • Losing is the price we pay for living. It is also the source of much of our growth and gain. Judith Viorst, in Necessary Losses (1986)

LOSING OUR WAY

(includes [Being] LOST; see also FINDING OURSELVES and IDENTITY)

  • The book asks why lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives. Nelson Algren, description in dust jacket of first edition of A Walk on the Wide Side (1956)
  • What a lost person needs is a map of the territory, with his own position marked on it so he can see where he is in relation to everything else. Margaret Atwood, in Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972)

Atwood continued: “ Literature is not only a mirror; it is a map, a geography of the mind.”

  • It’s easy to lose our way when we lose our why. Author Unknown
  • One recognizes one’s course by discovering the paths that stray from it. Albert Camus, in the essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” (1942; first Eng. trans., 1955)
  • There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night. Albert Camus, in the essay The Myth of Sisyphus (1942; first Eng. trans., 1955)
  • Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself within a forest dark,/⁠For the straightforward pathway had been lost. Dante Alighieri, the opening words of “Inferno,” the first portion of The Divine Comedy (circa 1310)

QUOTE NOTE: The Divine Comedy is one of literary history’s greatest narrative poems. The opening lines capture Dante’s journey through the dark forest of error and sin, which ultimately leads him to the gates of Hell. The opening words have been translated in a number of different ways. The version above comes from the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who published a complete three-volume translation of the entire poem in 1867. Here is another popular translation: “When I had journeyed half of our life’s way,/I found myself within a shadowed forest,/For I had lost the path that does not stray.”

  • People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night. Kahlil Gibran, in Sand and Foam (1926)
  • Mistakes are a fact of life/It is response to error that counts. Nikki Giovanni, in “Of Liberation” (1970)
  • The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one’s life. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in Kindness, Clarity, and Insight (1984)

The Dalai Lama continued: “If you go along in an easy way, with everything okay, you feel everything is just fine. Then one day when you encounter problems, you feel depressed and hopeless. Through a difficult period you can learn, you can develop inner strength, determination, and courage to face the problem.”

  • The descent into the depths always seems to precede the ascent. Carl Jung, “Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious,” in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (1934)
  • It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand. Madeleine L’Engle, in The Crosswicks Journal: The Summer of the Great-Grandmother (1974)

L’Engle continued: “It stops us from taking anything for granted. It has also taught me a lot about living in the immediate moment. I am somehow managing to live one day, one hour at a time.”

  • It isn’t for the moment you are struck that you need courage but for the long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead (1973)

QUOTE NOTE: On March 1, 1932, the 20-month-old son of legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh was kidnapped from the Lindbergh’s New Jersey home. A little over two months later, his dead body was discovered in a shallow grave a short distance from where he had been abducted. This diary entry from the prior year seems almost prescient, and in Mrs. Lindbergh’s slow and painful recovery over the subsequent years, she said she recalled her own words many times.

  • It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way. Rollo May, in Love and Will (1969)

May continued, “And we grasp more fiercely at research, statistics, and technical aids when we have lost the values and meaning of love.”

  • We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen. Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude (1956)
  • Amazing grace! How sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me!/I once was lost, but now am found,/Was blind, but now I see. John Newton, “Amazing Grace,” in Olney Hymns (1779)
  • By losing your goal—you have lost your way, too! Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Shadow,” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1892)
  • None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever. Eugene O’Neill, the character Mary Tyrone speaking, in Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1956)
  • I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them. Boris Pasternak, the title character speaking, in Doctor Zhivago (1957)
  • In a dark time, the eye begins to see. Theodore Roethke, “In a Dark Time,” in The Far Field (1964)
  • To be tested is good. The challenged life may be the best therapist. Gail Sheehy, in Spirit of Survival (1986)

Sheehy preceded the thought by writing: “Children may need challenges and high-risk conditions in order to develop the self-generated immunity to trauma that characterizes survivors.”

  • It is never too late—in fiction or in life—to revise. Nancy Thayer, in Morning (1989)
  • Not till we are lost…do we begin to find ourselves. Henry David Thoreau, “The Village,” in Walden (1954)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is often presented, but here’s the full original thought: “Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”

  • Not all those who wander are lost. J. R. R. Tolkien, the character Bilbo speaking, in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)

QUOTE NOTE: This has become one of Tolkien’s most popular quotations. It first appeared in an aphorism-laden piece of verse that the character Bilbo used to describe Aragorn: “All that is gold does not glitter;/Not all those who wander are lost;The old that is strong does not wither,/Deep roots are not reached by frost,/From the ashes a fire shall be woken,/A light from the shadows shall spring; /Renewed shall be blade that was broken:/The Crownless again shall be king.”

LOSERS & WINNERS

(see also DEFEAT and FAILURE and SUCCESS and VICTORY and LOSS [as in DEFEAT] and WINNERS & LOSERS)

  • A loser smolders with unexpressed resentment at bad treatment, and revenges himself by doing worse; a winner freely expresses resentment at bad treatment, discharges his feelings, and then forgets it. Sydney J. Harris, in Leaving the Surface (1973)

LOSS

(see also ADVERSITY and DEATH & DYING and DEFEAT and FAILURE and FRIENDSHIP and [LOSS OF] LOVE and PROFIT and PROFIT & LOSS)

  • Blessings may appear under the shape of pains, losses, and disappointments; but let him have patience, and he will see them in their proper figures. Joseph Addison, in The Guardian (July 25, 1713)
  • We never understand how little we need in this world until we know the loss of it. J. M. Barrie, quoting his mother, in Margaret Ogilvy (1896)
  • Every loss recapitulates earlier losses, but every affirmation of identity echoes earlier moments of clarity. Mary Catherine Bateson, in Composing a Life (1989)
  • Our losses should frequently be put on the credit side. Elizabeth Bibesco, in Haven (1951)
  • I still miss those I loved who are no longer with me but I find I am grateful for having loved them. The gratitude has finally conquered the loss. Rita Mae Brown, in Starting From Scratch (1988)
  • I thought grief was a simple, wrenching realm of sadness and longing that gradually receded. What that definition left out was the body blow that loss inflicts, as well as the temporary madness, and a range of less straightforward emotions shocking in their intensity. Gail Caldwell, on the death of her friend Caroline Knapp, in Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship (2010)
  • Loss is the great unifier, the terrible club to which we all eventually belong. Roseanne Cash, in Composed: A Memoir (2010)
  • Youth, art, love, dreams, true-heartedness—why must they go out of the summer world into darkness? Willa Cather, from the short story “Double Birthday” (1929)
  • There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss. The great secret of athletics is that you can learn more from losing than winning. Pat Conroy, in My Losing Season: A Memoir (2002)

On the same subject, Conroy went on to write: “Losing prepares you for the heartbreak, setback, and the tragedy that you will encounter in the world more than winning ever can. By licking your wounds you learn how to avoid getting wounded the next time.”

  • The loss of love is a terrible thing;/They lie who say death is worse. Countee Cullen, “Variations on a Theme (The Loss of Love)” in On These I Stand: An Anthology of the Best Poems of Countee Cullen (1947)
  • He who possesses most must be most afraid of loss. Leonardo da Vinci, in Notebooks (c. 1500)
  • Loss came with the seasons, blew into the house when you opened the windows, piled up in the bottom desk and dresser drawers, accumulated in the back of closets, heaped in the basement starting by the furnace, and came creeping up the basement stairs. Loss grew as you did, without your consent; your losses mounted beside you like earthworm castings. Annie Dillard, in An American Childhood (1987)
  • The only infallible truth of our lives is that everything we love in life will be taken from us. Dave Eggers, the character Will quoting his astronomy professor, who had just lost his wife, in You Shall Know Our Velocity (2002)
  • There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums. Michael J. Fox, in National Public Radio (NPR) interview (April 17, 2010)
  • Love is the only game that is not called on account of darkness. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, “Men and God(s),” in An Accidental Autobiography (1996)
  • You must lose a fly to catch a trout. George Herbert, in Jacula Prudentum (1651)
  • People are always encouraging about a terrible loss, so that sometimes the loser would like to strangle them. Garrison Keillor, in the Preface to Lake Wobegone Days (1985)
  • When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. Helen Keller, in We Bereaved (1929)
  • The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss—an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc.—is sure to be noticed. Søren Kierkegaard, in The Sickness Unto Death (1849)
  • The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in Death: The Final Stage of Growth (1975
  • Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight. Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations (2nd c. A.D.)
  • 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)
  • Where there is chance of gain, there is also chance of loss. Whenever one courts great happiness, one also risks malaise. Walker Percy, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist, Binx Bolling, in The Moviegoer (1961)
  • What is the atomic weight of loss? Louis Phillips, “What’s An Old Man To Do,” in Sunlight Falling to the Lake (2020)
  • All that she had had, and all that she had missed, were lost together, and were twice lost in this landslide of remembered losses. Katherine Anne Porter, “Theft,” in Flowering Judas (1930)
  • As there is no worldly gain without some loss, so there is no worldly loss without some gain. Francis Quarles, in Enchiridion (1640)

Quarles explained: “If thou hast lost thy wealth, thou has lost some trouble with it; if thou art degraded from thy honor, thou art likewise freed from the stroke of envy; if sickness hath blurred thy beauty, it hath delivered thee from pride: set the allowances against the loss, and thou shalt find no loss great.”

  • We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent. Joseph Roux, in Meditations of a Parish Priest (1886)
  • One knows what one has lost, but not what one may find. George Sand, the character Germain speaking, in The Devil’s Pool (1846)

QUOTE NOTE: This novel has also appeared in English under the title The Haunted Pool, which seems like a bit of a stretch from the original French title: La Mare Au Diable.

  • A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself. May Sarton, diary entry (June 23, 1982), in At Seventy: A Journal (1984)
  • We only keep what we lose. May Sarton, “O Saisons! O Saisons!” in The Lion and the Rose (1948). Also an example of Oxymoronica.
  • He that is robbed, not wanting what is stol’n,/Let him not know’t, and he’s not robbed at all. William Shakespeare, the title character speaking, in Othello (1602–04)
  • Loss. A strange word. It seemed to mean an absence, something missing; but loss was also a presence all its own, a fanged and snarling monster ready at any moment to break its chain and snatch someone away. Laurence Shames, the voice of the narrator, in Mangrove Squeeze (1998)
  • I cannot say what loves have come and gone,/I only know that summer sang in me/A little while, that in me sings no more. Edna St. Vincent Millay, from the poem “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why,” in The Harp-Weaver (1912)
  • 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.)
  • It is always our treasure that the lightning strikes. Harriet Beecher Stowe, in an 1857 letter, in Life and Letters of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1898; Annie Fields, ed.)
  • If you sit down crying because the sun has set, you miss the privilege of seeing the stars. Sorrow for what you have lost should not make you neglect that which comes in its place. Rabindranath Tagore, quoted in M. V. Lyengar, Rabindranath Tagore (1946)

Tagore continued: “The leaves make a noise when the wind is blowing and the flower makes none.”

  • Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size. Mark Twain, in the unfinished story “Which Was the Dream?” (written 1897); first published in Which Was the Dream and Other Symbolic Writings (1967; John S. Tuckey, ed.)
  • Losing is the price we pay for living. It is also the source of much of our growth and gain. Judith Viorst, in Necessary Losses (1986)
  • We begin life with loss. We are cast from the womb without an apartment, a charge plate, a job or a car. We are sucking, sobbing, clinging, helpless babies. Judith Viorst, in Necessary Losses (1986)
  • The lives we lead are determined, for better and worse, by our loss experiences. Judith Viorst, in Necessary Losses (1986)
  • When we think of loss we think of the loss, through death, of people we love. But loss is a far more encompassing theme in our life. For we lose not only through death, but also by leaving and being left, by changing and letting go and moving on. Judith Viorst, in Necessary Losses (1986)

Viorst continued: “And our losses include not only our separations and departures from those we love, but our conscious and unconscious losses of romantic dreams, impossible expectations, illusions of freedom and power, illusions of safety—and the loss of our own younger self, the self that thought it would always be unwrinkled and invulnerable and immortal.”

  • No man can lose what he never had. Izaak Walton, in The Compleat Angler (1653)
  • Nothing is so dear as what you’re about to leave. Jessamyn West, in The Life I Really Lived (1979)
  • Oh, dark, inevitable and awful day,/When one of us must go and one must stay! Ella Wheeler Wilcox, from the poem “That Day,” in Poems of Power (1903)
  • Real loss is only possible when you love something more than you love yourself. Robin Williams, as psychology professor Dr. Sean Maquire, in Good Will Hunting (1967; screenplay by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon)

QUOTE NOTE: This now-classic line from the film came in a breakthrough moment between Maquire, a wise but unorthodox counselor, and his brilliant but fragilely-defended client, Will Hunting (played by Ben Affleck). It’s an exceptionally well-phrased line, and one containing so much wisdom that it’s hard to believe it was penned by a couple of virtually unknown twenty-something screenwriters. Good Will Hunting went on to great critical and commercial success, nominated for nine Academy Awards and winning two (Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Williams). When the two screenwriters accepted their awards at the 1998 Academy Award Ceremonies, the 25-year old Affleck became the youngest winner in history (with Damon not far behind, at age 27).

(Being) LOST

LOTTERY & LOTTERY METAPHORS

(see also CHANCE and GAMBLING)

(see also metaphors involving ANIMALS, BASEBALL, BATHING & BATHS, BIRTH, BOXING & PRIZEFIGHTING, CANCER, DANCING, DARKNESS, DEATH, DISEASE, FOOTBALL, FRUIT, GARDENING, HEART, JOURNEYS, LIGHT & LIGHTNESS, MOTHERS, NAUTICAL, PARTS OF SPEECH, PATHS, PLANTS, PUNCTUATION, RETAIL/WHOLESALE, ROAD, SAILING & NAUTICAL, SUN & MOONS, VEGETABLES, and WEIGHTS & MEASURES)

  • Marriage is a lottery in which all women are eager to take a chance. Minna Thomas Antrim, in Knocks Witty, Wise, And… (1905)
  • If you want to be happy for a year, win the lottery. If you want to be happy for life, love what you do. Mary Higgins Clark, in On the Street Where You Live (2001)
  • Marriage is a lottery in which men stake their liberty and women their happiness. Virginie de Rieux, a 1580 remark, quoted in J. De Finod, A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1886)
  • As long as there is a lottery, we the people of the United States must believe in getting something for nothing. Fay Faron, in Rip-Off: A Writer's Guide to Crimes of Deception (1998)
  • It is a bad business, dealing in lottery tickets…. Riches got in such a hasty manner never wear well. Sarah Josepha Hale, in Traits of American Life (1835)
  • In theory we are all equal before the law. In practice, there are overwhelming privileges that come with winning the birth lottery. Arianna Huffington, in Fanatics and Fools (2004)
  • I figure you have the same chance of winning the lottery whether you play or not. Fran Lebowitz, quoted in a 1993 issue of Forbes magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Life is a lottery. Pay up and take your chance if you desire a prize. You may not get it even then. You will never have it unless you pay with yourself first. Jean Stubbs, in The Painted Face (1974)

LOUSIANA

LOVE

(see also AFFECTION and EMOTION and HATE and LOVE—PLATONIC and LOVE—UNREQUITED and LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and LOVE & FRIENDSHIP and LOVE & HATE and LOVE & SEX and LOVERS and MARRIAGE and ROMANCE & ROMANTICS and SEX)

  • Love is the white light of emotion. Diane Ackerman, in A Natural History of Love (1994)
  • Love, like truth, is the unassailable defense. Diane Ackerman, in A Natural History of Love (1994)
  • There’s always a moment when you start to fall out of love, whether it's with a person or an idea or a cause, even if it's one you only narrate to yourself years after the event: a tiny thing, a wrong word, a false note, which means that things can never be quite the same again. Douglas Adams, “Turncoat” (Oct., 2000), in The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time (pub. posthumously in 2002)
  • Love and the union of love is impossible without conversation. Mortimer J. Adler, “How to Think About Love” (interview with Lloyd Luckman), in How to Think About the Great Ideas, Vol. I (2000; Max Eastman, ed.)

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites present an abridged version of the thought: “Love without conversation is impossible.”

Adler continued: “Each of us is alone. Each of us is quite lonely. Without the communication of love, without the conversations, the heart-to-heart talks, which are love’s way of achieving union, each of us would be as isolated, as shut out from one another as animals are, even when they are herding together physically, most closely. Only the communion of love produced by the conversations of lovers overcomes our human aloneness or loneliness.”

  • Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone. Mitch Albom, a remark from Morrie Schwartz, in Tuesdays With Morrie (1997)
  • Love is a great beautifier. Louisa May Alcott, the voice of the narrator, in Little Women (1869)T
  • I never knew how much like heaven this world could be, when two people love and live for one another! Louisa May Alcott, the character Amy, in a letter about her recent engagement, in Little Women (1868)
  • Love is a net that catches hearts like fish. Muhammad Ali, “What I’ve Learned,” in Esquire (Jan., 2004)

QUOTE NOTE: Beginning in 1998 and continuing for six years, Esquire staffers interviewed actors, sports stars, captains of industry, and other celebrities. Unlike Playboy interviews, which provided something close to detailed transcripts, the material offered by Esquire interviewees was capsulized and provided in bullet-point form in a feature titled “What I’ve Learned.” While the Ali piece contains many sayings clearly borrowed from other sources, it does offer a glimpse into the aging boxer’s mind. To see the full piece, go to: Ali Esquire Article.

  • Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time. Maya Angelou, in The Heart of a Woman (1981)
  • Oh, love is real enough; you will find it some day, but it has one arch-enemy—and that is life. Jean Anouilh, the General speaking to a young woman, in Ardèle (1949)

QUOTE NOTE: A common alternate translation is: “There is love of course. And then there’s life, its enemy.”

  • Love is, above all, the gift of oneself. Jean Anouilh, in Ardèle (1949)

QUOTE NOTE: This is such a beautiful saying that it often appears in wedding ceremonies, anniversary celebrations, and other romantic occasions. It was not originally written as an aphorism, however, but as part of a longer passage. The Countess, speaking to a character who has offered some clever but cynical thoughts about romantic relationships, says: “In your efforts to dazzle us your reasoning has gone awry. You know very well that love is, above all, the gift of oneself.”

  • I love you and, because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies. Pietro Aretino, quoted in The Works of Aretino (1926; Samuel Putnam, ed.)
  • Nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from. Margaret Atwood, Offred (the narrator and protagonist) speaking, in The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)
  • Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. Margaret Atwood, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Elaine Risley, in Cat’s Eye (1988)

Risley continued: “It’s like the tide going out, revealing whatever’s been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is not the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future. The ruin you’ve made.”

  • The error bred in the bone/Of each woman and each man/Craves what it cannot have,/Not universal love/But to be loved alone. W H. Auden, in the poem “September 1, 1939”; reprinted in The English Auden: Poems, Essays, & Dramatic Writings, 1927–1939 (1977, E. Mendelsohn, ed.)

Auden introduced this portion of the poem by writing: “What the mad Nijinsky wrote/About Diaghilev/Is true of the normal heart.”

  • Love makes time pass, time makes love pass. Author Unknown, but widely—and almost certainly mistakenly—attributed to Victor Hugo.
  • We are born with a scream; we come into life with a scream, and maybe love is a mosquito net between the fear of living and the fear of death. Francis Bacon, in Feb. 1992 interview with Francis Giacobetti; published as “Francis Bacon: I Paint to be Loved,” in The Art Newspaper (June, 2003)
  • Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up. James Baldwin, “In Search of a Majority” (1960 speech at Kalamazoo College), reprinted in Nobody Knows My Name (1961)
  • Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. James Baldwin, “A Letter to my Nephew,” in The Progressive (Dec., 1962); reprinted as “My Dungeon Shook,” in The Fire Next Time (1963)
  • Love is like some fresh spring that leaves its cresses, its gravel bed, and flowers to become first a stream and then a river, changing its aspect and its nature as it flows to plunge itself in some boundless ocean, where restricted natures only find monotony, but where great souls are engulfed in endless contemplation. Honoré de Balzac, the protagonist Raphaël de Valentin speaking, in La Peau de chagrin (1831)

QUOTE NOTE: The book, yet another in Balzac’s monumental collection of novels that became known as The Human Comedy, was published in English under the titles The Magic Skin or The Wild Ass’s Skin.

  • Love has its own instinct, finding the way to the heart, as the feeblest insect finds the way to its flower, with a will which nothing can dismay nor turn aside. Honoré de Balzac, the voice of the narrator, in A Woman of Thirty (1842)
  • Love is an exploding cigar which we willingly smoke. Lynda Barry, in Big Ideas (1983)

QUOTE NOTE: This was the conclusion to a line of thinking that began this way: “If it is your time, love will track you down like a cruise missile. If you say, “No! I don’t want it right now,” that’s when you’ll get it for sure. Love will make a way out of no way.”

  • A woman who is loved always has success. Vicki Baum, a reflection of the character Elisaveta Alexandrovna Grusinskaya, in Grand Hotel (1929)
  • Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable. Henry Ward Beecher, in Notes From Plymouth Pulpit (1859)
  • Nothing is so sensitive as love—and the greater, the more sensitive. It cannot endure indifference. It needs to be wanted. Like a lamp, it needs to be fed from out of the oil of another’s heart, or its flame burns low. Henry Ward Beecher, in The Original Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, Vol. I,, Sep., 1868 to March, 1869 (1869)

ERROR ALERT: This is how the quotation originally appeared, but it commonly appears as if it began: “Love cannot endure indifference….”

  • Love is the wine of existence. Henry Ward Beecher, “The Reward of Loving,” in The Sermons of Henry Ward Beecher (1872)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation is typically viewed as a celebration of romantic love, but Beecher was originally talking about the love of others that stems from a love of God (commonly called agape in theological circles). About people who have this kind of love in their hearts, he said: “Loving God, they know what the whole world-life is worth. After all, love is the wine of existence. When you have taken that, you have taken the most precious drop that there is in the cluster.”

  • Love’s a thin Diet, nor will keep out Cold. Aphra Behn, in The Lucky Chance (1687)
  • Oh, what a dear ravishing thing is the beginning of an Amour! Aphra Behn, in The Emperor of the Moon (1687)
  • Love is nature’s psychotherapy. Eric Berne, in A Layman’s Guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis (1957)
  • Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. The Bible—1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (RSV)
  • There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear. The Bible—1 John 4:18 (KVV). Also an example of chiasmus
  • Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god. Jorge Luis Borges, “The Meeting in a Dream,” in Other Inquisitions (1952)
  • When you love someone all your saved-up wishes start coming out. Elizabeth Bowen, in The Death of the Heart (1938)
  • Married love is a stream that, after a certain length of time, sinks into the earth and flows underground. Something is there, but one does not know what. Only the vegetation shows that there is still water. Gerald Brenan, in Thoughts in a Dry Season (1978)
  • Love is like a card trick. After you know how it works, it’s no fun any more. Fanny Brice, quoted in Norman Katkov, The Fabulous Fanny (1952)
  • When first we met we did not guess/That love would prove so hard a master. Robert Bridges, in “Triolet” (1876)

QUOTE NOTE: Almost all quotation collections present only this portion of the poem, depriving readers of a spectacular conclusion. And while it is clear that Bridges was reflecting on a problematical relationship in these opening lines, even the most jaded reader couldn’t know where he was going with the poem. He continued: “When first we met we did not guess./Who could foretell this sore distress,/This irretrievable disaster.”

  • On the whole, love comes with the speed of light; separation, with that of sound. Joseph Brodsky, in Watermark (1992)
  • Real love is a pilgrimage. It happens when there is no strategy, but it is very rare because most people are strategists. Anita Brookner, quoted in Olga Kenyon, Women Writers Talk: Interviews with 10 Women Writers (1989)

Brookner continued: “So the chance of two non-strategists ever meeting is slight, and even if they do meet they may be deflected by the strategists.”

  • Love doesn’t just drop on you unexpectedly; you have to give off signals, sort of like an amateur radio operator. Helen Gurley Brown, in Cosmopolitan magazine (1983)
  • Love is the wild card of existence. Rita Mae Brown, in In Her Day (1976)
  • I used to think that romantic love was a neurosis shared by two, a supreme foolishness. I no longer thought that. There’s nothing foolish in loving anyone. Thinking you’ll be loved in return is what’s foolish. Rita Mae Brown, a reflection of the protagonist, Nickel Smith, in Bingo (1988)
  • I have always been suspicious of romantic love. It looks too much like a narcissism shared by two. Rita Mae Brown, the protagonist Mary Frazier Armstrong speaking, in Venus Envy (1993)
  • The face of all the world is changed, I think,/Since I first heard the footsteps of thy soul. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in Sonnets from the Portuguese, VII (1850)
  • How do I love thee? Let me count the ways./I love thee to the depth and breadth and height/My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in Sonnets from the Portuguese, XLIII (1850)
  • Take away love, and our earth is a tomb! Robert Browning, “Fra Lippo Lippi,” in Men and Women (1855)
  • For that is one of the best things about love: the feeling of being wrapped, like a gift, in understanding. Anatole Broyard, “The Gifts of the Magi and the Not-So-Magi,” in The New York Times (Jan. 14, 1979)
  • Like the measles, love was most dangerous when it came late in life. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), quoted in Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington), Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington (1834)

QUOTE NOTE: Similar versions of the love is like measles simile were later made by Josh Billings, Jerome K. Jerome, and Douglas Jerrold, but Byron was the first to make the connection.

  • Love dies only when growth stops. Pearl S. Buck, “What Shall I Tell My Daughter,” in To My Daughters, With Love (1967)
  • Love is the business of the idle, but the idleness of the busy. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the voice of the narrator, in Rienzi, Last of the Tribunes (1835). Also an example of chiasmus

The narrator preceded the thought by writing: “In real life, after a certain age, ambitious men love indeed; but it is only as an interlude. And indeed with most men, life has more absorbing though not more frequent concerns than those of love.”

  • It seems to me that the coming of love is like the coming of spring; the date is not to be reckoned by the calendar. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the protagonist speaking, in Kenelm Chillingly (1873)

Chillingly added: “It may be slow and gradual; it may be quick and sudden. But in the morning, when we wake and recognize a change in the world without, verdure on the trees, blossoms on the sward, warmth in the sunshine, music in the air, then we say Spring has come!”

  • O, my luve’s like a red, red rose/That’s newly sprung in June./O, my luve’s like the melodie,/That’s sweetly play’d in tune. Robert Burns, in “A Red Red Rose” (1894)
  • No cord nor cable can so forcibly draw, or hold so fast, as love can do with a twined thread. Robert Burton, in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621–51)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is often mistakenly presented with bind so fast instead of hold so fast.

  • Yes, Love indeed is a light from heaven;/a spark of that immortal fire. George Gordon, Lord Byron, in The Giaour (1813)
  • To love is not to look at one another but to look together in the same direction. Albert Camus, quoted in André Maurois, From Proust to Camus: Profiles of Modern French Writers (1967)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the observation is usually presented, but Maurois indicates that it was originally the concluding portion of this larger observation: “It is only when we are united with our brothers in a common goal, which is outside of ourselves, that we can breathe. And the experience shows us that to love is not to look at one another but to look together in the same direction.”

  • For Love is ever the beginning of Knowledge, as fire is of light; and works also more in the manner of fire. Thomas Carlyle, “Death of Goethe,” in New Monthly Magazine (June, 1832); reprinted in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1838)
  • Love is not altogether a delirium…yet has it many points in common therewith. Thomas Carlyle, quoting the fictional German philosopher Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, in Sartor Resartus (serialized 1833–34; pub. as novel 1836)
  • One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving. Amy Carmichael, quoted in Elisabeth Elliot, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael (1982). Also an example of chiasmus
  • Love is three-quarters curiosity. Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, quoted in Theodore Reik, The Need to Be Loved (1963)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This quotation has not been found in Casanova’s works, and it’s possible Reik was paraphrasing the legendary lover. Reik offered the Casanova thought twice in his book, first writing “Did not Casanova once say that love is three-quarters curiosity?” And a little later: “I assume that Casanova’s remark that love is three-quarters curiosity refers to man’s eagerness to know his object in the sexual situation.”

  • Where there is great love, there are always miracles. Willa Cather, the character Bishop Jean Marie Latour speaking, in Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)
  • In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. Marc Chagall, in Chagall by Chagall (1979); later quoted in his Newsweek obituary (April 8, 1985)

Chagall preceded the observation by writing: “Despite all the troubles of the world in my heart I have never given up on the love in which I was brought up or on man’s hope in love.” In Chagall (1998), Jacob Baal-Teshuva wrote: “This conviction was Chagall's lifelong credo”

  • Love is more pleasant than marriage for the same reason that novels are more amusing than history. Nicolas Chamfort, in Maxims and Considerations (1796)
  • If grass can grow through cement, love can find you at every time in your life. Cher, quoted in The Times (London, May 30, 1998)
  • A man when he is making up to anybody can be cordial and gallant and full of little attentions and altogether charming. But when a man is really in love he can't help looking like a sheep. Agatha Christie, the character Miss Viner speaking, in The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)
  • A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. Agatha Christie, “The Last Séance,” in The Hound of Death (1933)
  • Anyone who has never really loved has never really lived. Agatha Christie, the character Laura Welman speaking, in Sad Cypress (1940)

Mrs. Welman preceded the thought by saying: “To care passionately for another human creature brings always more sorrow than joy; but all the same…one would not be without that experience.”

  • Any woman can fool a man if she wants to and if he’s in love with her. Agatha Christie, the character Sir Wilfrid speaking, in Witness for the Prosecution: A Play in Three Acts (1953)
  • It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous, that you realize just how much you love them! Agatha Christie, in An Autobiography (1977)
  • The saddest thing in life and the hardest to live through is the knowledge that there is someone you love very much whom you cannot save from suffering. Agatha Christie, in An Autobiography (1977)

Christie was writing about her daughter Rosalind, whose husband had recently been killed in WWII. She continued: “You can do things to aid people’s physical disabilities; but you can do little to help the pain of the heart.”

  • Love is a sometimes breathless sigh, a sometimes gasping cry, a moaning plea, a lonely ship on an angry sea, calling out for an SOS, or just a helping hand to guide her home. Natalie Cole, quoted in Ebony magazine (Aug. 1981)
  • Before we love with our heart, we already love with our imagination. Louise Colet, in Lui, A View of Him (1859)
  • Love comes disguised as a thunderbolt and often vanishes at the same pace. Colette (pen name of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), in My Apprenticeships (1936)
  • Like everything else, love’s not worth much without some action to back it up. Pat Conroy, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist Jack McCall, in Beach Music: A Novel (1995)
  • I do not have any other way of saying it. I think it happens but once and only to the very young when it feels like your skin could ignite at the mere touch of another person. I could not satisfy myself with her or get enough of the endless feast her body provided. You get to love like that but once. Pat Conroy, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist Jack McCall, in Beach Music: A Novel (1995)
  • Love clamors far more incessantly and passionately at a closed gate than an open one! Marie Corelli, in The Master Christian (1900)
  • Love, if it be love indeed, asks no permission as to where it shall seek vantage ground or gain its victory—it is of all powers the most unfettered and the one which takes the widest course of largest liberty. Marie Corelli, in Open Confession: To a Man From a Woman (1925)
  • The loss of love is a terrible thing;/They lie who say death is worse. Countee Cullen, “Variations on a Theme (The Loss of Love)” in On These I Stand: An Anthology of the Best Poems of Countee Cullen (1947)
  • Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth, or burn down your house, you can never tell. Joan Crawford, quoted in The Hollywood Reporter (Dec. 1943)
  • Love is not enough. It must be the foundation, the cornerstone—but not the complete structure. It is much too pliable, too yielding. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life (1962)
  • Love is a kind of dementia with very precise and oft-repeated clinical symptoms. Louis de Bernieres, in Corelli’s Mandolin (1995)

QUOTE NOTE: The words come from Dr. Iannis, a Greek physician who is concerned that his beautiful daughter Pelagia is falling in love with a handsome young Italian officer, Antonio Corelli, who they have been forced to billet after Italian troops have overtaken their small Greek island of Cephalonia in the early years of WWII. After ticking off some of the “symptoms” he has observed in the young lovers, Dr. Iannis offers a beautiful description of the nature of love. I was captivated when I first read it, and I believe you will enjoy it as well (it starts right after he says “And another thing”): Dr. Iannis’s extended “love” metaphor.

  • Love is a great privilege. Real love, which is very rare, enriches the lives of the men and women who experience it. Simone de Beauvoir, in Paris Review interview (Spring–Summer 1965)
  • Love is a skill rather than an enthusiasm. Alain de Botton, in The Course of Love: A Novel (2016)

QUOTE NOTE: This is a wonderful observation in its own right, but it was originally the concluding portion of the narrator’s description of what protagonist Rabih Khan needs to learn about intimacy skills: “For his relationships to work, he will need to give up on the feelings that got him into them in the first place. He will need to learn that love is a skill rather than an enthusiasm.”

  • Love never dies of starvation, but often of indigestion. Ninon de L’Enclos, in Lettres de Ninon de l’Enclos au marquis de Sévigné (1750)

QUOTE NOTE: I’ve also seen translations in which the observation begins love never dies of desire and love never dies of want. According to my trusty French to English translator, the original words (L’amour ne meurt jamais de besoin mais souvent d’indigestion) may be expressed as: “Love never dies from need but often from indigestion.” All of the translations, then, seem to get at the heart of Madame de L’Enclos’s meaning—people don’t die from a lack of love or a desire for love, but from problems digesting the love they have received. Many thanks to Garson O’Toole, the Quote Investigator, for his assistance in researching this quotation.

  • Love is the whole history of a woman’s life, it is but an episode in a man’s. Germaine de Staël, in The Influence of the Passions (1796)
  • Love is an art. I thought you might notice my craft is ebbing. Peter De Vries, the character Joe, in The Vale of Laughter (1967)

QUOTE NOTE: Only the most discerning readers with recognize the clever wordplay in this observation, with the final portion of the remark playing off the name of Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902), the German psychiatrist who did pioneering research in the field of human sexual behavior.

  • It has been said that love robs those who have it of their wit, and gives it to those who have none. Denis Diderot, in Paradoxe sur le Comédien (1773-1777)
  • Love did his reason blind,/And love’s the noblest frailty of the mind. John Dryden, the character Cortez speaking, In The Indian Emperor (1665)
  • Love is the most selfish of all the passions. Alexandre Dumas, the voice of the narrator, in The Three Musketeers (1844)
  • Puberty is the cradle of love, senility its cremation. Obi Egbuna, in Wind versus Polygamy (1974)
  • I love you to the limits of speech, and beyond./It’s strange that words are so inadequate./Yet, like the asthmatic struggling for breath,/So the lover must struggle for words. T. S. Eliot, the character Charles speaking to Monica, in the verse play The Elder Statesman (1958)
  • Love is all we have, the only way/that each can help the other. Euripides, in Orestes (5th c. B.C.)
  • There’s no such thing as safe love. Real love means giving someone the power to hurt you. Julian Fellowes, the character Tom Branson speaking to Lady Mary, in Downton Abbey (Season Six, Episode Five)

QUOTE NOTE: The remark comes as Branson and Lady Mary are watching Henry Talbot test-drive a racing car around a track. In previous episodes, Talbot has indicated a clear romantic interest in Lady Mary, but she is hesitant because she exceeds him in wealth and status. Years earlier, Branson was a Downton Abbey chauffeur when he won the heart of Lady Sybil, Mary’s sister. He challenges the wisdom of Lady Mary’s class-based thinking and urges her to follow her heart. His full remark was as follows: “There’s no such thing as slow motor racing. And there’s no such thing as safe love. Real love means giving someone the power to hurt you.”

  • Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. Henry Fielding, the character Lady Matchless speaking, in Love in Several Masques (1728)

Speaking to the character Vermilia, Lady Matchless goes on to add: “Love is not so dangerous to our sex as you imagine. It is a warfare wherein we always get the better, if we manage prudently; men are perfectly empty bullies in it; and, as a certain poet says—“Swift to attack, and swift to run away.’”

  • When love first dawns on the mind, the faintest superficial contact flashes along the nerves as a thrill of delicious emotion. Henry T. Finck, in Romantic Love and Personal Beauty (1887)

Finck added: “To walk along the beach in a stiff breeze, and have her veil accidentally flutter in his face, is a romantic incident on which a youthful lover’s memory feasts for a month.”

  • Of all the icy blasts that blow on love, a request for money is the most chilling and havoc-wreaking. Gustave Flaubert, in Madame Bovary (1856)
  • Now that we love/Now that the lonely nights are over/How do we make love stay?/Now that we know/The fire can burn bright or merely smolder/How do we keep it from dying away? Dan Fogelberg, opening lyrics to the 1981 song “Make Love Stay.”

QUOTE NOTE: “Make Love Stay” is a beautiful song, and it captured much of what I was trying to understand in my own life around the time it was released. For a stunning live performance of the song, done ten years after it was first released, go here. In introducing the song, Fogelberg revealed something new about its inspiration:

“‘Make Love Stay’ was based on the book written by Tom Robbins called Still Life with Woodpecker.  It was wonderful.  His precept was the most difficult concept that man in the late 20th century has to really wrestle with is how to make love stay.  I love that idea.  I thought that was a great philosophical moment, so I wrote some music, basically, to his ideas.”

  • Love and memory last, and will so endure till the game is called because of darkness. Gene Fowler, in Skyline: A Reporter’s Reminiscence of the 1920s (1961)
  • A man is already halfway in love with any woman who listens to him. Brendan Francis (pen name of Edward F. Murphy), in Edward F. Murphy, The Crown Treasury of Relevant Quotations (1978)
  • Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. Erich Fromm, in The Art of Loving (1956)
  • The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism. Erich Fromm, in The Art of Loving (1956)
  • At the gate which suspicion enters, love goes out. Thomas Fuller, M.D., in Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs (1732)
  • Love is no hot-house flower, but a wild plant, born of a wet night, born of an hour of sunshine; sprung from wild seed, blown along the road by a wild wind. John Galsworthy, in The Man of Property (1906)
  • Love-matches are made by people who are content for a month of honey, to condemn themselves to a life of vinegar. Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington), quoted in R. R. Madden, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, Vol. 1 (1855)
  • When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the Heart of God.” And think not [that] you can direct the course of love, for love, if it kinds you worthy, directs your course. Kahlil Gibran, “On Love,” in The Prophet (1923). A nice example of double chiasmus.
  • Life without Love is like a tree without blossom and fruit. Kahlil Gibran, in A Second Treasury of Kahlil Gibran (1962)
  • Love, like a running brook, is disregarded, taken for granted; but when the brook freezes over, then people begin to remember how it was when it ran, and they want it to run again. Kahlil Gibran, in letter to Mary Haskell; quoted in Suheil Bushrui, Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet (1998)
  • We love because it’s the only true adventure. Nikki Giovanni, quoted in Ebony magazine (Aug. 1981)
  • Ambition and love are the wings of great actions. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in Iphigenia and Tauris (prose version, 1779; verse version in 1786)
  • Love is a plant of the most tender kind,/That shrinks and shakes with every ruffling wind. George Granville, in The British Enchanters (1705)
  • In love as in sport, the amateur status must be strictly maintained. Robert Graves, “Lars Porsena,” in Occupation: Writer (1950)
  • Love is a universal migraine/A bright stain on the vision/Blotting out reason. Robert Graves, in “Symptoms of Love” (1961)
  • Love is man’s natural endowment, but he doesn’t know how to use it. He refuses to recognize the power of love because of his love of power. Dick Gregory, in The Shadow That Scares Me (1968). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • What the great philosophers have said vis-à-vis love. “Love is a slippery eel that bites like hell.” Bertrand Russell. “Love is a perky elf dancing a merry little jig and then suddenly he turns on you with a miniature machine-gun.” Kierkegaard. “Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.” Nietzsche. Matt Groening, summarizing great philosophers’ views of love, in Life is Hell (1984)

Before becoming famous for The Simpsons, Groening was an underground comic strip artist in Los Angeles. In the late 1970s, he began drawing “Life is Hell,” a weekly cartoon strip that reflected his darkly comic view of the universe. Originally sold out of his car and then published in several alternative West Coast publications, Life is Hell became an underground bestseller shortly after it was published in book form in 1984.

  • Love cannot live where there is no trust. Edith Hamilton, quoting the mythical character Cupid from the 2nd c. A.D. story “Cupid and Psyche,” in Mythology (1942)
  • Do I love you because you’re beautiful? Or are you beautiful because I love you? Oscar Hammerstein II, lyric in the 1957 song “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Love is as impossible to define to the egocentric as a rainbow to the sightless (the difference being that the sightless are willing to accept other people’s word for the rainbow, whereas the egocentric dismiss unselfish love as a mirage of the deluded). Sydney J. Harris, in his “Strictly Personal” syndicated column (Aug. 15, 1974)
  • There is only one terminal dignity—love. And the story of a love is not important—what is important is that one is capable of love. It is perhaps the only glimpse we are permitted of eternity. Helen Hayes, in Guideposts (Jan., 1960)

ERROR ALERT: This observation is often mistakenly presented as “Love is perhaps the only glimpse we are permitted of eternity.”

  • Love and joy are twins, or born of each other. William Hazlitt, “Common Places,” in Literary Examiner (Sep.–Dec., 1823)
  • 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)
  • Love while you’ve got/love to give./Live while you’ve got/life to live. Piet Hein, “Memento Vivere,” in Grooks (1966)
  • “Love” is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. Robert Heinlein, the character Jubal attempting “an exact definition” of love, in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

A bit later, Jubal went on to contrast love and jealousy: “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.”

  • If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it. Ernest Hemingway, in Death in the Afternoon (1932)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of Hemingway’s most famous observations, a somber reminder about the ultimate fate of even the most blissful love affairs. He introduced the thought by writing: “Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you. Especially do all stories of monogamy end in death, and your man who is monogamous while he often lives most happily, dies in the most lonely fashion. There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her.”

  • Maybe love shouldn’t be built on a foundation of compromises, but maybe it can’t exist without them either. Emily Henry, a reflection of protagonist Nora Stephens, in Book Lovers (2022)

Nora continued: “Not the kind that forces two people into shapes they don’t fit in, but the kind that loosens their grips, always leaves room to grow. Compromises that say, there will be a you-shaped space in my heart, and if your shape changes, I will adapt. No matter where we go, our love will stretch out to hold us, and that makes me feel like…like everything will be okay.”

  • Love is like a faucet. It turns off and on./Sometimes when you think it’s on, baby,/It has turned off and gone. Billie Holiday, the closing lyrics of her song “Fine and Mellow” (1940)
  • Love is the master key that unlocks the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and most easily of all, the gate of fear. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in A Moral Antipathy (1885)
  • We know that we can help ourselves only as we help others, and that the love we give away is the only love we keep. Elbert Hubbard, in The Fra: A Magazine of Business Inspiration (April, 1915)
  • The first symptom of true love in a young man is timidity; in a young girl it is boldness. Victor Hugo, the voice of the narrator, in Les Misérables (1862)

The narrator continued: “It is the two sexes tending to approach each other, and each assuming the other’s qualities.”

  • Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. Zora Neale Hurston, widely attributed

ERROR ALERT: This is the way the quotation typically appears, but it’s not the way it was originally written. Here’s how Hurston originally expressed the sentiment in Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937): “Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place.”

  • Love, I find, is like singing. Everybody can do enough to satisfy themselves, though it may not impress the neighbors as being very much. Zora Neale Hurston, in Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography (1942)
  • 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.”

  • Love is the most subtle form of self-interest. Holbrook Jackson, in Platitudes in the Making (1911)
  • So what is this thing called love? I’ll venture a definition: Love is when another person’s happiness is as important to you as your own. Jeff Jacoby, “What Love Is—and Isn't,” in The Boston Globe (Feb. 14, 1995)

Jacoby continued: “Your ardor for someone isn’t proof of love, though that can be an element of it. You may go to great lengths to be with her, you may burn for her, be dazzled by her, want her all to yourself forever and always. That doesn’t mean you love her. But if you can’t be happy unless she is, if only her joy makes you truly joyful—ah, that’s love.”

  • Love is a sport in which the hunter must induce the quarry to pursue him. Alphonse Karr, quoted in J. Raymond Solly, Selected Thoughts from the French (1913)

The quotation has also been translated this way: “Love is a sport in which the hunter must contrive to have the quarry in pursuit.”

  • One expresses well only the love he does not feel. Alphonse Karr, quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Pearls of Thought (1882)
  • If love gives wit to fools, it undoubtedly takes it from wits. Alphonse Karr, quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Pearls of Thought (1882)
  • Love is the most terrible, and also the most generous of the passions: it is the only one that includes in its dreams the happiness of someone else. Alphonse Karr, quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Pearls of Thought (1882)
  • Love is wholly in him who loves; the beloved is only a pretext. Alphonse Karr, quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Notable Thoughts About Women: A Literary Mosaic (1882)
  • For many people, love is a collaborative work of art. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, in Metaphors We Live By (1980; rev. ed. 2008)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation came in a discussion of the powerful ways in which metaphor can shape human conduct. The behavior of people who guide their lives by this metaphor, the authors suggest, will be starkly different from those who favor a different metaphor, such as love is madness.

  • We turn toward love like sunflowers to the sun, and then the human parts kick in. This seems to me the only real problem, the human parts—the body, for instance, and the mind. Anne Lamott, in Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (2007
  • Imagination is to love what gas is to the balloon—that which raises it from the earth. L. E. Landon, the character Edward Lorraine speaking, in Romance and Reality, Vol. II (1831)
  • The journey of love has been rather a lacerating, if well-worth-it, journey.D. H. Lawrence, in Fantasia of the Unconscious (1922)

Lawrence began by writing: “They say it is better to travel than to arrive. It’s not been my experience, at least.”

  • Love is an Observant Traveller. JonArno Lawson, title of 1997 book
  • We love in another’s soul/whatever of ourselves/we can deposit in it;/the greater the deposit,/the greater the love. Irving Layton, “Aphs,” in The Whole Bloody Bird (1969)
  • Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new. Ursula K. Le Guin, in The Lathe of Heaven (1971)
  • Love is a force. It is not a result; it is a cause. It is not a product; it produces. It is a power, like money or steam or electricity. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Locked Rooms and Open Doors (1974)
  • Love, in spite of the romantics, is not self-sustaining; it endures only when the lovers love many things together, and not merely each other. Walter Lippmann, “Love in the Great Society,” in A Preface to Morals (1929)
  • Oh, there is nothing holier, in this life of ours, than the first consciousness of love—the first fluttering of its silken wings; the first rising sound and breath of wind which is so soon to sweep through the soul, to purify or to destroy! Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the voice of the narrator, in Hyperion (1839)
  • Love makes its record in deeper colors as we grow out of childhood into manhood; as the emperors signed their names in green ink when under age, but when of age in purple. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • You mustn’t force sex to do the work of love or love to do the work of sex. Mary McCarthy, the character Dottie Renfrew speaking, in The Group (1954). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • And in the end, the love you take/is equal to the love you make. Paul McCartney, closing lyric from the song “The End,” in the 1969 album Abbey Road
  • The hardest-learned lesson: that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Second Neurotic’s Notebook (1966); reprinted in The Complete Neurotic’s Notebook (1981)
  • Love is like playing checkers. You have to know which man to move. Jackie “Moms” Mabley, “Behind the Laughter of Jackie (Moms) Mabley,” in Ebony magazine (Aug., 1962)

AUTHOR NOTE: For a fascinating portrait of one of the most popular comedians of her era, see the 1962 Ebony article.

  • Love’s a disease. But curable. It passes Rose Macaulay, the character Humphrey Gresham speaking, in Crewe Train (1926)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of the most quoted of all passages from Macaulay’s works. Gresham continued: “Unfortunately also it recurs. One must try hard not to take it too seriously. Plenty of things matter a great deal more. Most things, in fact.”

  • I never saw love as luck, as that gift from the gods which put everything else in place, and allowed you to succeed. No, I saw love as reward. Norman Mailer, the character Harry Hubbard speaking, in Harlot’s Ghost (1991)

Hubbard continued: “One could find it only after one’s virtue, or one’s courage, or self-sacrifice, or generosity, or loss, has succeeded in stirring the power of creation.”

  • The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love. W. Somerset Maugham, in The Summing Up (1938)
  • We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person. W. Somerset Maugham, in The Summing Up (1938)

Maugham continued: “Mostly, different ourselves, we make a desperate, pathetic effort to love in a different person the person we once loved. It is only because the power of love when it seizes us seems so mighty that we persuade ourselves that it will last forever.”

  • Falling in love is like religious conversion. It goes on for a long time below the threshold before it reaches consciousness.

Helen McCloy, the character susan speaking, in A Question of Time (1971)

  • They say love is a two-way street. But I don’t believe it, because the one I’ve been on for the last two years was a dirt road. Terry McMillan, in Waiting to Exhale (1992)
  • Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull. H. L. Mencken, in A Little Book in C Major (1916)
  • To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia—to mistake an ordinary young man for a Greek god or an ordinary young woman for a goddess. H. L. Mencken, in Prejudices: First Series (1919)
  • Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another. H. L. Mencken, in A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
  • Love cures people, the ones who receive love and the ones who give it, too. Karl A. Menninger, M.D., in Sparks (1973)
  • We cannot love ourselves unless we love others, and we cannot love others unless we love ourselves. But a selfish love of ourselves makes us incapable of loving others. Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island (1955)
  • Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can. Thomas Merton, in letter to Dorothy Day, quoted in Stephen Hand, Catholic Voices in a World on Fire (2005)
  • We often mistake love for fireworks—for drama and dysfunction. But real love is very quiet, very still. It's boring, if seen from the perspective of high drama. Love is deep and calm—and constant. Alex Michaelides, the character Ruth, a psychotherapist, speaking, in The Silent Patient (2019)
  • 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)
  • To fall in love you have to be in the state of mind for it to take, like a disease. Nancy Mitford, quoted in The Observer (London; April 28, 1968)
  • To live without loving is not really to live. Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin), the character Cynthie, in La Princesse d’Elide (1664)
  • The more we love our friends, the less we flatter them; it is by excusing nothing that pure love shows through. Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin), in The Misanthrope (1666)
  • Without love, intelligence is dangerous; without intelligence, love is not enough. Ashley Montagu, an epigraph in Eleanora Brownleigh’s 1984 novel Keepsake. Also an example of chiasmus
  • In the love affair, as in sculpture, poetry, and every other fine art, no lasting success can be achieved without skill. Doris Langley Moore, in The Technique of the Love Affair (1928)
  • Age doesn’t protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age. Jeanne Moreau, quoted in J. R. Colombo, Colombo’s Hollywood: Wit and Wisdom of the Moviemakers (1979). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • 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.”

  • Love is the emotion that a woman feels always for a poodle dog and sometimes for a man. George Jean Nathan, “General Conclusions About the Coarse Sex,” in The Theater, the Drama, the Girls (1921)
  • Love is an emotion experienced by the many and enjoyed by the few. George Jean Nathan, in The Autobiography of an Attitude (1925)
  • Love demands infinitely less than friendship. George Jean Nathan, quoted in in The World of George Jean Nathan (1952; Charles S. Angoff, ed.)
  • To love and to labor is the sum of living. Anaïs Nin, a 1922 diary entry, in Linotte, the Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 2 (1982)
  • Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source, it dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illnesses and wounds, it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings, but never a natural death. Every lover should be brought to trial as the murderer of his own love. Anaïs Nin, the character Djuna reflecting on her tempestuous relationship with Rango, in the autobiographical novel The Four-Chambered Heart (1950)
  • 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)
  • Love will enter cloaked in friendship’s name. Ovid, in The Art of Love (1st. c. A.D.)
  • Love is like quicksilver in the hand, Sylvie. Leave the fingers open and it stays in the palm; clutch it and it darts away. Be, above all things, always calm. Let it be peace to be with you. Dorothy Parker, the thirty-nine-year old character Miss Cynthia Marion giving relationship advice to nineteen-year old Sylvie, “Advice to the Little Peyton Girl,” in Harper’s Bazaar (February 1933)

QUOTE NOTE: In a 1939 issue of Reader’s Digest, this passage was presented in the following way: “Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays in the palm; clutch it and it darts away.” Ever since, this 1939 abridged version is the one that generally appears in published quotation anthologies and on internet sites.

  • Life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic. Cesare Pavese, diary entry (Jan. 19, 1938), in This Business of Living: Diaries 1935–1950 (1952)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is typically presented, but it was originally part of a larger metaphorical observation about the operation of life: “Why does a man who is truly in love insist that this relationship must continue and be ‘lifelong’? Because life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic. Who would want to wake up halfway through an operation?”

  • We love those who know the worst of us and don’t turn their faces away. Walker Percy, a reflection of the protagonist and narrator, Dr. Thomas More, in Love in the Ruins (1971)
  • There is no joy on this earth like falling in love with a woman and managing at the same time the trick of keeping just enough perspective to see her fall in love too. Walker Percy, the title character, Lancelot Lamar, speaking, in Lancelot (1977)

QUOTE NOTE: A little later, Lamar offered a sad counterpoint: “There is no pain on this earth like seeing the same woman look at another man the way she once looked at you.”

  • Human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and the pursuit of the whole is called love. Plato, in Symposium (4th c. B.C.)
  • Love is an attempt to change a piece of a dream world into reality. Theodor Reik, quoted in his obituary in The New York Times (Jan. 1, 1970)
  • Love kills intelligence. The brain and the heart act upon each other in the manner of an hour-glass. One fills itself only to empty the other. Jules Renard, a March, 1901 journal entry; in The Journal of Jules Renard (1964; Louise Bogan & Elizabeth Roget, eds.)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the observation was introduced to an American audience in 1964. Today, almost all internet sites and scores of quotations anthologies omit the love kills intelligence portion and present a more succinct version of the thought: “Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties.”

  • All the world does not love a lover. Agnes Repplier, the opening line of “The Beloved Sinner,” in Points of Friction (1920)

QUOTE NOTE: By directly contradicting one of history’s most famous sayings, Repplier immediately gets our attention and dramatically increases the likelihood of our reading on. She continued:

“It is a cultivated taste, alien to the natural man, and unknown to childhood. But all the world does love a sinner, either because he is convertible to a saint, or because a taste for law-breaking is an inheritance from our first parents, who broke the one and only law imposed upon them.”

  • For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. Rainer Maria Rilke, in letter to Franz Xaver Kappus (May 14, 1904); published posthumously in Letters to a Young Poet (1929)

A bit later in the letter, Rilke also wrote: “Young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot yet know love: they have to learn it.”

  • Love is something difficult and it is more difficult than other things because in other conflicts nature herself enjoins men to collect themselves, to take themselves firmly in the hand with all their strength, while in the heightening of love the impulse is to give oneself wholly away. Rainer Maria Rilke, in letter to Franz Xaver Kappus (May 14, 1904); published posthumously in Letters to a Young Poet (1929)
  • The demands which the difficult work of love makes upon our development are more than life-size, and as beginners we are not up to them. Rainer Maria Rilke, in letter to Franz Xaver Kappus (May 14, 1904); published posthumously in Letters to a Young Poet (1929)

Rilke continued: “But if we nevertheless hold out and take this love upon us as burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in all the light and frivolous play, behind which people have hidden from the most earnest earnestness of their existence—then a little progress and alleviation will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us; that would be much.

  • Love is dope, not chicken soup. Tom Robbins, the character Jelly speaking, in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976)

QUOTE NOTE: In the novel, Jelly is cautioning her friend Sissy, who has suggested that her love for her boyfriend will have a therapeutic effect. When Sissy looks puzzled, Jelly continues: “I mean, love is something to be passed around freely, not spooned down someone’s throat for their own good by a Jewish grandmother who cooked it all by herself.”

  • Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Tom Robbins, from the character Bernard, in Still Life with Woodpecker (1980)

Bernard, an outlaw bomber, writes this in a note to his girl friend, Leigh-Cheri, an environmentalist princess (he is in jail at the time, so the note is delivered by his attorney). He continues: “Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet.”

  • Up to a certain point it is good for us to know that there are people in the world who will give us love and unquestioned loyalty to the limit of their ability. I doubt, however, if it is good for us to feel assured of this without the accompanying obligation of having to justify this devotion by our behavior. Eleanor Roosevelt, in The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961)
  • Falling in love consists merely in uncorking the imagination and bottling the common sense. Helen Rowland, in A Guide to Men (1922)
  • A man falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her imagination, and then they both speak of it as an affair of “the heart.” Helen Rowland, in A Guide to Men (1922)
  • Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. Bertrand Russell, in The Conquest of Happiness (1930)
  • Life has taught us that love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in Wind, Sand, and Stars (1939)
  • The emotion we call love is a feeling telling us we are “at home” in someone’s arms. Carl Safina, in Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace (2020)
  • There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved. George Sand, in letter to Lina Calamatta (March 31, 1862)
  • Love is a passion that hath friends in the garrison. George Savile (Lord Halifax), in Advice to a Daughter (1688)
  • Love is the most difficult and dangerous form of courage./Courage is the most desperate, admirable and noble kind of love. Delmore Schwartz, in Last and Lost Poems of Delmore Schwartz (1979; Robert Phillips, ed.)
  • Real love amounts to withholding the truth, even when you’re offered the perfect opportunity to hurt someone’s feelings. David Sedaris, in “At The Movies With David & Sarah,” www.esquire.com (Jan. 29, 2007)
  • We can’t profess love without talking through hand puppets. David Sedaris, in “At The Movies With David & Sarah,” www.esquire.com (Jan. 29, 2007)
  • The course of true love never did run smooth. William Shakespeare, the character Lysander speaking, in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1596)
  • To say the truth, reason and love keep little company together now-a-days. William Shakespeare, the character Nick Bottom speaking, after hearing Titania’s profession of love, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596)
  • If music be the food of love, play on. William Shakespeare, Duke Orsino speaking, in Twelfth Night (1601)
  • Love is the only disease that makes you feel better. Sam Shepard, widely quoted, but wrongly

ERROR ALERT: This is a spurious quotation, even though it appears in exactly this way in numerous anthologies (including, sadly, in my own I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like book). I have since discovered that it is an abridged and cleaned-up version of a passage from Shepard’s play A Lie of the Mind (1985). Speaking about a failed love affair, the character Lorraine says: “Love. Whata crock a’ shit. Love! There’s another disease. Only difference is it’s a disease that makes ya feel good. While it lasts. Then, when it’s gone, yer worse off than before you caught it.”

  • How appropriate it seems that in the dwelling place of human emotions, love is the last to leave. A. C. Snow, “When Love is the Last Emotion to Leave,” in The News & Observer [Raleigh, NC] (Feb. 21, 2016)

QUOTE NOTE: These were the concluding words of Snow’s touching tribute to his sister-in-law, Carolyn, who had recently died after spending her last years in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease. During a regular Sunday visit, Snow leaned over and asked, “Do you love me?” Not expecting much of an answer, Snow was overwhelmed when he heard a faint “yes” come from her lips. It was the only word she spoke that day, and the last thing Snow heard from her before her death. To see the full column, go to “When Love is the Last Emotion to Leave” .

  • It is the hardest thing in the world to be in love, and yet attend to business. As for me, all who speak to me find me out, and I must lock myself up, or other people will do it for me. A gentleman asked me this morning, “What news from Lisbon?” and I answered, “She is exquisitely handsome.” Richard Steele, in a 1707 letter to Mary Scurlock

QUOTE NOTE: A year earlier, the 33-year-old Steele met Mary Scurlock at his first wife's funeral. He felt an immediate and powerful connection to her, and began to pour out his heart in more than 400 letters to her over the next year (they ultimately married in 1707). This letter captures one of the most interesting dynamics of the love experience—when we’re in the throes of love, thoughts of our beloved dominate every single aspect of our life.

  • A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love. Stendhal (penname of Marie-Henri Beyle), in On Love (1822)
  • Love must be cultivated, and can be increased by judicious culture, as wild fruits may double their bearing under the hand of a gardener; and love can dwindle and die out by neglect, as choice flower-seeds planted in poor soil dwindle and grow single. Harriet Beecher Stowe (writing under the pen name Christopher Crowfield), the voice of the narrator, in Little Foxes (1866)
  • Love needs new leaves every summer of life, as much as your elm-trees, and new branches to grow broader and wider, and new flowers at the root to cover the ground. Harriet Beecher Stowe (writing under the pen name Christopher Crowfield), the voice of the narrator, The Chimney-Corner (1868)
  • Love is the fart/Of every heart:/It pains a man when ’tis kept close,/And others doth offend, when ’tis let loose. John Suckling, in “Love’s Offence” (1646)
  • He that shuts love out, in turn shall be/Shut out from love, and on her threshold lie/Howling in the outer darkness. Alfred, Lord Tennysson, “The Palace of Art” (1833), in The Lover’s Tale (1879)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the portion of the poem that is almost always featured in quotation anthologies. Tennysson preceded it with a beautiful stand-alone line: “Love lieth deep; Love dwells not in lip-depths.”

  • Love is a fruit, in season at all times and within the reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no limit is set. Mother Teresa, in No Greater Love (1997)
  • Lovers’ quarrels are the renewal of love. Terence (Publius Terentius Afer), the character Chremes speaking, in Andria (166 B.C.)
  • It is best to love wisely, no doubt: but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all. William Makepeace Thackeray, the voice of the narrator, in The History of Pendennis (1848–50)
  • To see a young couple loving each other is no wonder; but to see an old couple loving each other is the best sight of all. William Makepeace Thackeray, the voice of the narrator, in The History of Henry Esmond (1852)
  • Love must be as much a light as a flame. Henry David Thoreau, in letter to Harrison Blake (Sep., 1852); reprinted in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Vol. VI (F. B. Sanborn, ed., 1906)

A bit earlier in the letter, Thoreau offered a sobering observation on the often critical and unforgiving nature of love: “Love is a severe critic. Hate can pardon more than love. Those who aspire to love worthily, subject themselves to an ordeal more rigid than any other.” It’s a remarkable letter in many ways, and may be viewed at: Thoreau on Love.

  • The first duty of love is to listen. Paul Tillich

QUOTATION CAUTION: This is one of Tillich’s most famous lines, but I’ve not been able to locate an original source (he was first quoted as making the remark in a 1964 article in The Episcopalian). The observation certainly sounds authentic, though, and is consistent with other things Tillich had to say on love and listening. In “Personal Relations,” an essay in the book Love, Power, and Justice (1954), he wrote: “In order to know what is just in a person-to-person encounter, love listens. It is its first task to listen. No human relation, especially no intimate one, is possible without mutual listening.”

  • Love is like any other luxury. You have no right to it unless you can afford it. Anthony Trollope, in The Way We Live Now (1875)
  • Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit. Peter Ustinov, quoted in The Christian Science Monitor (Dec. 9, 1958)
  • To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides. David Viscott, in How to Live with Another Person (1974)
  • The most wonderful of all things in life, I believe, is the discovery of another human being with whom one’s relationship has a glowing depth, beauty, and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvellous thing; it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of Divine accident. Hugh Walpole, “What is Happiness?” in Martin Armstrong, ed., What is Happiness? (1938)

QUOTE NOTE: Many thanks to Garson O’Toole, aka The Quote Investigator, for his help in researching this quotation (see his entry here).

  • The essence of love is not what we think or do or provide for others, but how much we give of ourselves. Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Life (2002)
  • An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge. John Wesley, quoted in Robert Southey The Life of John Wesley (1820)

Wesley preceded the observation by warning: “Beware you be not swallowed up in books!”

  • Money is of value for what it buys, and in love it buys time, place, intimacy, comfort, and a private corner alone. Mae West, in Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It! (1959)
  • To love is to accept that one might die another death before one dies one’s own. Marianne Wiggins, the voice of the narrator, in John Dollar (1989)

QUOTE NOTE: The allusion here is to one of life’s saddest realities—the death of someone we dearly love well before our own departure from this mortal coil. Hemingway memorably captured this same tragic reality when he offered his famous “no happy end” thought in Death in the Afternoon (to be seen above)

  • Wherever love comes from, whatever is its genesis, it isn’t like a quantity of gold or diamonds, even water in the earth—a fixed quantity. Marianne Wiggins, a reflection of protagonist Ray “Fos” Foster, in Evidence of Things Unseen (2003)

In his thought process, Fosworth continued: “You can’t use up love, deplete it at its source. Love exists beyond fixed limits. Beyond what you can see or count. It isn’t something measurable, something you can say okay, this is love from here to here.”

  • Now he discovered that secret from which one never quite recovers, that even in the most perfect love one person loves less profoundly than the other. There may be two equally good, equally gifted, equally beautiful, but there can never be two that love one another equally well. Thornton Wilder, the narrator describing Esteban’s relationship with Camila Perichole, in The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927)
  • There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning. Thornton Wilder, the closing words of The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927)

Wilder preceded the thought by writing: “We ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love.”

  • Love is an energy which exists of itself. It is its own value. Thornton Wilder, quoted in Time magazine (Feb. 13, 1958)
  • That cordial drop heaven in our cup has thrown/To make the nauseous draught of life go down. John Wilmot (Earl of Rochester), on love, in “A Letter from Artemisa in the Town to Chloe in the Country” (1679)
  • Love is a rose but you better not pick it. It only grows when it’s on the vine. Neil Young, lyric from song “Love is a Rose” (1977)

QUOTE NOTE: Most people of a certain age will recall the lyric from Linda Ronstadt’s mega-hit version of the song. The familiar refrain continues: “A handful of thorns and you’ll know you’ve missed it. You lose your love when you say the word ‘mine’.”

  • In how many lives does Love really play a dominant part? The average taxpayer is no more capable of a “grand passion” than of a grand opera. Israel Zangwill, “Love in Life and Literature,” in Without Prejudice (1899)

[First] LOVE

(see also AFFECTION and EMOTION and INFATUATION and LOVE and [Unrequited] LOVE and [Platonic] LOVE and LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and LOVE & FRIENDSHIP and LOVE & HATE and LOVE & SEX and LOVERS)

  • The years shall run like rabbits,/For in my arms I hold/The Flower of the Ages,/And the first love of the world. W. H. Auden, in “As I Walked Out One Evening” (1937); in Another Time (1940)

QUOTE NOTE: To hear Auden recite the poem, go to Auden “One Evening” Poem.

  • The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end. Benjamin Disraeli, the voice of the narrator, in Henrietta Temple: A Love Story, Vol. II (1837)

ERROR ALERT: This observation is often mistakenly presented as if it were phrased this way: “The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can never end.”

  • How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Albert Einstein, a late 1920s remark, quoted in H. Borsook, “Informal Remarks ‘by Way of Summary,’” in Journal of Cellular and Comparative Physiology (1956, Supplement 1)
  • I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. Daphne du Maurier, a reflection of the unnamed narrator, who later becomes known as the second Mrs. Maximilian de Winter, in Rebecca (1938)
  • Among all the many kinds of first love, that which begins in childish companionship is the strongest and most enduring. George Eliot, the voice of the narrator, from “Mr Gilfil’s Love Story,” in Scenes of Clerical Life (1857)
  • One always returns to one's first love. Charles-Guillaume Étienne, in La Joconde (1814)

This passage has also been translated this way: “But we return always/To the loves of yesterday.”

  • Your first love has no beginning or end. Your first love is not your first love, and it is not your last. It is just love. It is one with everything. Nhat Hanh, in Cultivating the Mind of Love (2005)
  • O my first love,/You are in my life forever. Hugh MacDiarmid (pen name of Christopher Murray Grieve), in the poem “Of My first Love,” in Complete Poems (1978)
  • It was first love. There's no love like that. I don't wish it on a soul. I don’t hate anyone enough. Carol Matthau, in Among the Porcupines: A Memoir (1992)

QUOTE NOTE: Matthau was talking about her first love, William Saroyan, and man she married in 1943, divorced in 1949, remarried in 1951, and divorced him for a second time in 1952.

  • When first we fall in love , we feel that we know all there is to know about life, and perhaps we are right. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook (1963)
  • First love is a momentous step in our emotional education, and in many ways, it shapes us forever. Laura Miller, in The Magician’s Book: A Skeptics Adventures in Narnia (2008)

Miller preceded the observation by writing: “First loves are famously tenacious. A first love teaches you how to be with another human being by choice, rather than out of the imperative of blood ties. If we are lucky, our first love shows us how to negotiate the paradox of entering into a union with someone who remains fundamentally unknowable.”

  • All our loves are first loves. Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, in Mainland (1986)
  • First love is only a little foolishness and a lot of curiosity. George Bernard Shaw, the character Broadbent speaking, in John Bull’s Other Island (1904)
  • The first experience can never be repeated. The first love, the first sunrise, the first South Sea Island are memories apart, and touched a virginity of sense. Robert Louis Stevenson, the voice of the narrator, in In The South Seas (1896)
  • I think your life is full of first loves because every time you love someone new, you love them in a different way. Taylor Swift in an interview on the “Oh No They Didn’t” website (April 8, 2012)

This observation came in response to the question, “Can you talk about your first love?” Swift preceded the thought above by saying: “It’s so hard because I’ve considered three different people (as my first love). I dated a guy in high school for a while and I think that was, in a way, first love-ish. But then there’s the first time that you love someone more than you’ve ever loved anything, ever. That’s a different thing. Then there’s the time after that where you feel like you’ve loved a man more than anyone you ever loved in your life and that must be your first love because that must be the only time you’ve ever felt that kind of love.”

  • First love is an astounding experience and if the object happens to be totally unworthy and love not really love at all, it makes little difference to the intensity of the pain. Angela Thirkell, quoted in Pat Ross, The Circle of Enduring Love: A Celebration of Romance and Affection (1998)
  • There it is: that wonderful library smell. How could I have forgotten it? The feel of libraries—the way they look, feel, smell sound—lingers intensely as the memories of a fierce first love. Susan Allen Toth, “A Celebration of Libraries,” in Reading Rooms: America’s Foremost Writers Celebrate Our Public Libraries (1991; S. A. Toth & J. Coughlan, eds.)
  • We always believe our first love to be our last, and our last love our first. George Whyte-Melville, in Katerfelto (1875). An example of chiasmus.
  • Men always want to be a woman’s first love. That is their clumsy vanity. We women have a more subtle instinct about things. What we like is to be a man's last romance. Oscar Wilde, the character Mrs. Allonby speaking, in A Woman of No Importance (1893)

[Unrequited] LOVE

(see also AFFECTION and EMOTION and LOVE and [First] LOVE and [Platonic] LOVE and LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and LOVE & FRIENDSHIP and LOVE & HATE and LOVE & SEX and LOVERS and MARRIAGE and ROMANCE & ROMANTICS)

  • Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart. Author Unknown, but widely attributed to Washington Irving

ERROR ALERT: This quotation was first attributed—without source information—to Irving in an 1883 book (Angie Manly Stewart’s Hit and Miss: A Story of Real Life). The saying has not been found in any of Irving’s works, however, and is considered by scholars to be spurious. Sadly, almost all popular internet sites continue to perpetuate the error.

  • Let no one who loves be called altogether unhappy. Even love unreturned has its rainbow. J. M. Barrie, the voice of the narrator, in The Little Minister (1891)
  • Thus much and more, and yet thou lov’st me not,/And never wilt! Love dwells not in our will./Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot
/To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still. Lord Byron (George Noel Gordon), the final stanza of Byron’s last piece of verse, untitled, and written just before his death in 1824; in Byron’s Last Verses, The Library Magazine (Jan., 1887)
  • A mighty pain to love it is,/And ’tis a pain that pain to miss;/But of all pains, the greatest pain/It is to love, but love in vain. Abraham Cowley, in Anacreon (1656)
  • I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Charles Dickens, the narrator and protagonist Pip (Phillip Pirrup) speaking of his unrequited love for Estella, in Great Expectations (1861)
  • You have never loved me as I love you—never—never! Yours is not a passionate heart—your heart does not burn in a flame! You are, upon the whole, cold—a sort of fay, or sprite—not a woman! Thomas Hardy, the title character speaking to his wife Sue, in Jude the Obscure (1895)
  • Unrequited love generally lasts longer than any other kind, because it is never forced to confront reality. Sydney J. Harris, in For the Time Being (1972)
  • Unrequited love’s a bore,/And I’ve got it pretty bad./But for someone you adore,/It’s a pleasure to be sad. Lorenz Hart, lyric from the song “Glad to be Unhappy,” first performed in the 1936 musical On Your Toes (lyrics by Lorenz Hart, music by Richard Rodgers)
  • That is the nature of being a parent, Sabine has discovered. You love your children far more than you ever loved your parents, and—in that love, and in the recognition that your own children cannot fathom the depth of your love—you come to understand the tragic, unrequited love of your own parents. Ursula Hegi, the voice of the narrator, in Hotel of the Saints (2001)
  • There is nothing so mortifying as to fall in love with someone who does not share one’s sentiments. Georgette Heyer, the character Mrs. Henred speaking, in Venetia (1958)
  • Unrequited love is so boring. Weeping under a blue-black sky is for suckers or maniacs. Alice Hoffman, the voice of the narrator, in Practical Magic (1995)
  • When unrequited love is the most expensive thing on the menu, sometimes you settle for the daily special. Miranda Kenneally, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Jordan Woods, in Catching Jordan (2011)
  • I thought narcissism meant you loved yourself. And then someone told me there is a flip side to it. So it’s actually drearier than self-love; it’s unrequited self-love. Emily Levin, in TEDTalk (Feb., 2002)
  • I never expected you to love me, I didn’t see any reason that you should. I was thankful to be allowed to love you. I tried not to bore you with my love. What most husbands expect as a right I was prepared to receive as a favor. W. Somerset Maugham, the character Walter Fane speaking to his wife Kitty, in The Painted Veil (1925)
  • I know I am but summer to your heart,/And not the full four seasons of the year. Edna St. Vincent Millay, from “I Know I Am But Summer to Your Heart,” in The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems (1923)
  • Unrequited love does not die; it's only beaten down to a secret place where it hides, curled and wounded. For some unfortunates, it turns bitter and mean, and those who come after pay the price for the hurt done by the one who came before. Elle Newmark, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist, a man known only as Luciano, in The Chef’s Apprentice (2008; previously published as The Book of Unholy Mischief)
  • The worst thing: to give yourself away in exchange for not enough love. Joyce Carol Oates, a reflection of the narrator, in the short story “Death Mother,” in The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque (1999)
  • The sun’s gone dim, and/The moon’s turned black;/For I loved him, and/He didn’t love back. Dorothy Parker, “Two-Volume Novel,” in Dorothy Parker (1944)
  • When you give someone your whole heart and he doesn’t want it, you cannot take it back. It’s gone forever. Sylvia Plath, a remark about her troubled relationship with husband Ted Hughes; quoted in Elizabeth Sigmund, “Sylvia, 1962: A Memoir” The New Review (May, 1976)
  • 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.

[Platonic]LOVE

(see also AFFECTION and EMOTION and LOVE and [Unrequited] LOVE and LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and LOVE & FRIENDSHIP and LOVE & HATE and LOVE & SEX and LOVERS and MARRIAGE and ROMANCE & ROMANTICS)

  • My love and hers have always been purely Platonic. Miguel de Cervantes, the title character speaking, in Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605-1615)

QUOTE NOTE: This is regarded as the origin of the term Platonic Love for a type of love that is full and deep, but without a romantic or sexual component.

  • I am convinced, and always was, that Platonic love is Platonic nonsense. Samuel Richardson, The character Mrs. B, quoting her husband, in a letter to Lady Davers, in Pamela (1741)
  • Platonic love is love from the neck up. Thyra Samter Winslow, quoted by James Simpson in an interview (Aug. 19, 1952)

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP

(see also AFFECTION and EMOTION and HATE and LOVE and LOVE—PLATONIC and LOVE—UNREQUITED and LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and LOVE & HATE and LOVERS and MARRIAGE and ROMANCE & ROMANTICS and SEX)

  • Love is like the wild rose-briar;/Friendship like the holly-tree./The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms,/But which will bloom most constantly? Emily Brontë, “Love and Friendship” (1846). See the full poem at “Love and Friendship”.
  • Friendship is Love without his wings! George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron ), in “L’amitié est l’amour sans ailes” (1806)
  • Friendship may, and often does, grow into love, but love never subsides into friendship. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), quoted in Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington), Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington (1834). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Friendship, which is of its nature a delicate thing, fastidious, slow of growth, is easily checked, will hesitate, demur, recoil where love, good old blustering love, bowls ahead and blunders through every obstacle. Colette (pen name of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), in My Apprenticeships (1936)
  • Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Ann Landers, in The Ann Landers Encyclopedia (1978)

Landers, who was picking up on the familar American proverb about friendship set on fire (see below) added: “Love is content with the present, it hopes for the future, and it doesn’t brood over the past. It’s the day-in and day-out chronicle of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories and working toward common goals. If you have love in your life it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don’t have it, no matter what else there is, it’s not enough.”

  • Love will enter cloaked in friendship’s name. Ovid, in The Art of Love (1st c. A.D.)
  • Perhaps what makes friendship and love exciting is the continuing discovery of another personality. Gladys Taber, in Harvest of Yesterdays (1976)
  • True love is friendship set on fire. Proverb (American), in Wolfgang Mieder, et. al., A Dictionary of American Proverbs (1992)

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, “Love is friendship set on fire” is attributed to the English clergyman Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667). Even though Taylor’s eloquence earned him the sobriquet “The Shakespeare of Divines,” there is no evidence he ever wrote anything like this.

  • Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing. Elie Wiesel, in The Gates of the Forest (1966)
  • All love that has not friendship for its base,/Is like a mansion built upon the sand./Love, to endure life’s sorrow and earth’s woe,/Needs friendship’s solid masonwork below. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Upon the Sand,” in Poems of Passion (1883)

LOVE & HATE

(see also AFFECTION and ANIMOSITY and EMOTION and HATE and LOVE and LOVE—PLATONIC and LOVE—UNREQUITED and LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and LOVE & HATE and LOVE & SEX and LOVERS and MARRIAGE and RAGE and ROMANCE & ROMANTICS and SEX)

  • To be loved is to be fortunate, but to be hated is to achieve distinction. Minna Antrim, in Naked Truth and Veiled Illusions (1901)
  • So often the truth is told with hate, and lies are told with love. Rita Mae Brown, in Bingo (1988)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation comes as narrator and protagonist Nickel Smith is reflecting on her life, and especially on her relationship with Regina Frost, who does not fit the pattern described in the foregoing quotation. Here’s the full passage, which is quite lovely: “Regina showed me myself. It wasn’t so much that she showed me my failures, only that she showed me who I was. If I wanted to change something, that was up to me. So often the truth is told with hate, and lies are told with love. She told me the truth with love, more love than I felt I deserved at the moment.”

  • Hate is as all-absorbing as love, as irrational, and in its own way as satisfying. Frederick Buechner, in Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter's dictionary (1988)

Buechner continued: “As lovers thrive on the presence of the beloved, haters revel in encounters with the one they hate. They confirm him in all his darkest suspicions. They add fuel to all his most burning animosities. The anticipation of them makes the hating heart pound. The memory of them can be as sweet as young love.”

  • The major difference between hating and loving is perhaps that whereas to love somebody is to be fulfilled and enriched by the experience, to hate somebody is to be diminished and drained by it. Lovers, by losing themselves in their loving, find themselves, become themselves. Haters simply lose themselves. Theirs is the ultimately consuming passion. Frederick Buechner, in Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter's dictionary (1988)
  • Words spoken in deep love or deep hate set things in motion within the human heart that can never be reversed. Frederick Buechner, in Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons (2006)
  • Now hatred is by far the longest pleasure;/Men love in haste, but they detest at leisure. Lord Byron (George Noel Gordon), in Don Juan (1819–24)
  • Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorned. William Congreve, the character Zara, delivering the concluding lines of the play, in The Mourning Bride (1697)
  • When Love is suppressed Hate takes its place. Havelock Ellis, in On Life and Sex: Essays of Love and Virtue (1937)
  • Hatred is blind, as well as love. Thomas Fuller, M.D., in Gnomologia (1732)
  • It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom. Each, in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowledge; each renders one individual dependent for the food of his affections and spiritual life upon another; each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his object. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The voice of the narrator, in The Scarlet Letter (1850)

The passage comes near the end of the book, with the narrator adding: “Philosophically considered, therefore, the two passions seem essentially the same, except that one happens to be seen in a celestial radiance, and the other in a dusky and lurid glow.”

  • Violent antipathies are always suspicious, and betray a secret affinity. William Hazlitt, “On Vulgarity and Affectation,” in Table-Talk (1822)
  • Love that is ignorant and hatred have almost the same ends. Ben Jonson, “Explorata,” in Timber (1640)
  • Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Strength to Love (1963)
  • If we judge of love by its usual effects, it resembles hatred more than friendship. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • Anger is the fluid that love bleeds when you cut it. C. S. Lewis, in Letters to Malcolm (1964)
  • There’s nothing in this world so sweet as love,/And next to love the sweetest thing is hate! Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the character Don Carlos speaking, in the verse drama The Spanish Student (1843)
  • As the best wine doth make the sharpest vinegar, so the deepest love turneth to the deadliest hate. John Lyly, in Euphes: The Anatomy of Wit (1579)
  • Hate is funny. Love isn’t. Love can kill you. Hate can keep you alive. Carol Matthau, in Among the Porcupines (1992)
  • Hate leaves ugly scars; love leaves beautiful ones. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook (1960)
  • Hatred is love frustrated. Ashley Montagu, in The Natural Superiority of Women (1952)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation typically appears on most internet sites. The full passage from the 1952 book is as follows: “Where hatreds exist in any persons within any society we may be sure that they, too, are due to the involvement with love, for hatred is love frustrated.”

  • Hate generalizes, love specifies. Robin Morgan, in The Anatomy of Freedom (1982)
  • Scratch a lover, and find a foe. Dorothy Parker, “Ballade of a Great Weariness,” in Enough Rope (1926)
  • Love must be learned, and learned again and again; there is no end to it. Hate needs no instruction, but waits only to be provoked. Katherine Porter, “The Necessary Enemy,” in The Days Before (1952)

Porter preceded the thought by writing: “If we say I love you, it may be received with doubt, for there are times when it is hard to believe. Say I hate you, and the one spoken to believes it instantly, once for all.”

  • In hatred as in love, we grow like the thing we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our very soul. Mary Renault, the character Dion speaking, in The Mask of Apollo (1966)
  • Love and hate have a magical transforming power. They are the great soul changers. We grow through their exercise into the likeness of what we contemplate. George William Russell, the character Lavelle speaking, in The Interpreters (1922)
  • When we want to read of the deeds that are done for love, whither do we turn? To the murder column; and there we are rarely disappointed. George Bernard Shaw, in Preface to Three Plays for Puritans (1901)
  • I hated her now with a hatred more fatal than indifference because it was the other side of love. August Strindberg, the narrator and protagonist Axel referring to his former lover Marie, in A Madman’s Defense (1893; later published in English under the title The Confession of a Fool)
  • Our mother gives us our earliest lessons in love—and its partner, hate. Our father—our “second other”—elaborates on them. Judith Viorst, in Necessary Losses (1986)
  • Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Optimism,” in Poems of Pleasure (1888)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation appears in most anthologies, but it was originally part of the closing words of the poem: “I detect/More good than evil in humanity./Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes,/And men grow better as the world grows old.”

  • Love is a great glue, but there is no cement like mutual hate. Lois Wyse, in The Rosemary Touch (1974)

LOVE & MARRIAGE

(see also AFFECTION and EMOTION and LOVE and LOVE—PLATONIC and LOVE—UNREQUITED and LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and LOVE & FRIENDSHIP and LOVE & HATE and LOVE & SEX and LOVERS and MARRIAGE)

  • Love is more pleasant than marriage for the same reason that novels are more amusing than history. Nicolas Chamfort, in Maxims and Considerations (1796)

LOVE & SEX

(see also AFFECTION and EMOTION and LOVE and LOVE—PLATONIC and LOVE—UNREQUITED and LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and LOVE & FRIENDSHIP and LOVE & HATE and LOVE & MARRIAGE and LOVERS and MARRIAGE)

  • The price of shallow sex may be a corresponding loss of capacity for deep love. Shana Alexander, in Talking Woman (1976)
  • Love is music, and sex is only the instrument. Isabel Allende, in The Infinite Plan (1991)
  • It was an old quandary for them. He needed sex in order to feel connected to her, and she needed to feel connected to him in order to enjoy sex. Lisa Alther, in Bedrock (1990)

See how this chiastic theme is also explored below in the Buchanan and Shain entries.

  • Nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from. Margaret Atwood, in The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
  • Sex and love are like tea and milk. They can be mixed or they can be taken straight. Each has certain distinctive characteristics, but when they are combined they form a unique substance. Joyce Brothers, in Woman (1962)
  • Men give love because they want sex. Women give sex because they want love. That’s the difference between men and women. Ever notice how when we talk about our love lives, it’s always about a man? Singular. All most of us want is one good man. But when men talk, it's about women. Plural. They want as many as they can get. Edna Buchanan, in Act of Betrayal (1996)

See how this chiastic theme is also explored in the Alther and Shain entries.

  • Love is the drug which…makes sexuality palatable in popular mythology. Germaine Greer, in The Female Eunuch (1970)
  • Young people fail to understand that some propositions are not convertible: the fact that romantic love almost always includes a component of sexual attraction does not imply that a high degree of sexual attraction indicates “love.” Sydney J. Harris, in his Strictly Personal syndicated column (April, 1986)
  • I might not be a psychiatrist, but I am convinced that sex is not as important as we tend to make it. First there is that little feeling, that little red flame, called love. Blow on the flame and make it get bigger like a fire, don’t blow it out like a candle. Xaviera Hollander, in The Happy Hooker (1971)
  • How odd that sex should be so simple and love such a complication. P. D. James, in The Lighthouse (2005)
  • Sex without love is a cancerous cigarette we willingly smoke. Erica Jong, in Fear of Dying (2015)
  • Love lay like a mirage through the golden gates of sex. Doris Lessing, in Children of Violence: A Proper Marriage (1954)
  • You mustn’t force sex to do the work of love or love to do the work of sex—that’s quite a thought, isn’t it? Mary McCarthy, in The Group (1954)
  • Love is very funny business. And sex — well, let’s face it, sex is hysterical. Nora Roberts, in a 1999 issue of the Author’s Guild Bulletin (specific issue undetermined)
  • Passion’s a good, stupid horse that will pull the plough six days a week if you give him the run of his heels on Sundays. But love’s a nervous, awkward, over-mastering brute; if you can’t rein him, it’s best to have no truck with him. Dorothy L. Sayers, in Gaudy Night (1935)
  • Sex deepens love and love deepens sex, so physical intimacy transforms everything and playing with it is playing with fire. Merle Shain, in Some Men Are More Perfect Than Others (1973)
  • Girls gave sex to get love and boys gave love to get sex and conning girls was the favorite indoor sport. Merle Shain, in Some Men Are More Perfect Than Others (1973)

See how this chiastic theme is also explored above in the Alther and Buchanan entries.

  • The best contact with humanity is through love and sex. Here, really, you learn all about life, because in sex and in love human character is revealed more than anywhere else. Isaac Bashevis Singer, in Richard Durgin, “Isaac Bashevis Singer Talks…About Everything,” in The New York Times (Nov. 26, 1978)
  • On the level of simple sensation and mood, making love surely resembles an epileptic fit at least as much as, if not more than, it does eating a meal or conversing with someone. Susan Sontag, “The Pornographic Imagination,” in Styles of Radical Will (1969)
  • Sex divorced from love is the thief of personal dignity. Caitlin Thomas, in Not Quite Posthumous Letter to My Daughter (1963)
  • Sex with love is the greatest thing in life. But sex without love—that’s not so bad either. Mae West, in an interview with Charlotte Chandler, reported in Chandler’s book The Ultimate Seduction (1984)

LOVELINESS

(see also BEAUTY and PRETTINESS and UGLINESS)

  • Great art is as irrational as great music. It is mad with its own loveliness. George Jean Nathan, “Intelligence and the Drama” (1925), reprinted in The World of George Jean Nathan: Essays, Reviews, & Commentary (1998; C. S. Angoff, ed.)
  • Loveliness/Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,/But is when unadorned adorned the most. James Thomson, “Autumn,” in Seasons (1730)
  • For lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day. Evelyn Underhill, in “Sources of Power in Human Life,” a 1921 lecture at Manchester College, Oxford University; reprinted in Evelyn Underhill: Modern Guide to the Ancient Quest for the Holy (1988; Dana Greene, ed.)

LOVERS

(see also LOVE and MALE-FEMALE DUNAMICS and MARRIAGE and ROMANCE & ROMANTICS and SEX)

  • It is easier to be a lover than a husband, for the simple reason that it is more difficult to have a ready wit the whole day long than to say a good thing occasionally. Honoré de Balzac, in The Physiology of Marriage (1829)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation has been translated in a variety of similar ways over the years, including this slightly more liberal translation: “It is easier to be a lover than a husband, for the same reason that it is more difficult to show a ready wit all day than to produce an occasional bon mot.”

  • All really great lovers are articulate, and verbal seduction is the surest road to actual seduction. Marya Mannes, in More in Anger (1958)
  • The potion drunk by lovers is prepared by no one but themselves. Anaïs Nin, a reflection of the protagonist Djuna, in The Four-Chambered Heart (1950), book three of the five-volume Cities of the Interior (1959)

LOYALTY

(includes FIDELITY; see also BETRAYAL and FAITHFULNESS and LEADERS & LEADERSHIP and PATRIOTISM and POLITICS and TRUST and VIRTUE)

  • It is a very great mistake to imagine that the object of loyalty is the authority and interest of one individual man, however dignified by the applause or enriched by the success of popular actions. Samuel Adams, “Loyalty and Sedition,” an essay in The Advertiser (1748); reprinted in William Vincent Wells, The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams, Vol. 1 (1865)

QUOTE NOTE: The one individual man Adams was referring to, of course, was the English monarch. Loyalty to the king, Adams wrote, had led millions into “dependence and submission.” He continued with a passage that rings as true today as when it was originally written:

“The true object of loyalty is a good legal constitution, which, as it condemns every instance of oppression and lawless power, derives a certain remedy to the sufferer by allowing him to remonstrate his grievances, and pointing out methods of relief when the gentle arts of persuasion have lost their efficacy. Whoever, therefore, insinuates notions of government contrary to the constitution, or in any degree winks at any measures to suppress or even to weaken it, is not a loyal man.”

  • Wasn’t that what happened to Lot’s Wife? A loyalty to old things, a fear of the new, a fear to change, to look ahead? Toni Cade Bambara, the voice of the narrator, in The Salt Eaters (1980)
  • Fidelity, n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Loyalty is still the same,/Whether it win or lose the game;/True as a dial to the sun,/Although it be not shined upon. Samuel Butler, in Hudibras (1663)
  • I have never found in a human being loyalty that comparable to a dog’s loyalty. Doris Day, in A. E. Hotchner, Doris Day: Her Own Story (1975)

QUOTE NOTE: Not all dog-lovers agree with Day’s assessment. Helen Hayes, in her 1968 autobiography On Reflection, wrote: “When I hear tell of the character and the loyalty and devotion of dogs, I remain unmoved. All of my dogs have been scamps and thieves and troublemakers and I’ve adored them all.”

  • Loyalty is not an entitlement. It must be earned, both by leaders and by those who follow them. And even when loyalty has been earned, it must have limits. Martin Dempsey, in No Time For Spectators: The Lessons That Mattered Most From West Point to the West Wing (2020)

Dempsey, a U.S. Army General who became the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continued: “Who among us can forget being asked by our chiding parents, ‘If your friend told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?’ Every day we see misplaced loyalty contributing to problems such as bullying, hazing, sexual harassment, discrimination, and corruption. To be sure, it can be difficult to say no to someone in a position of power who is using loyalty as leverage, especially when that person makes it clear that they expect total and unconditional loyalty. But that’s where loyalty must meet moral courage, if we are to act honorably and do what’s right.”

  • Never place loyalty to institutions and things above loyalty to yourself. Wayne W. Dyer, a chapter title in Pull Your Own Strings (1978)
  • The only true test of loyalty is fidelity in the face of ruin and despair. Eric Felten, in Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue (2011)
  • I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty. Samuel Goldwyn, quoted in Arthur Marx, Goldwyn: A Biography of The Man Behind the Myth (1976)
  • Loyalty is a noble quality, so long as it is not blind and does not exclude the higher loyalty to truth and decency. Basil H. Liddell Hart, “Blinding Loyalties,” in Why Don’t We Learn From History? (1944)

Hart continued: “But the word is much abused, for ‘loyalty’ analyzed, is too often a polite word for what would be more accurately described as a ‘conspiracy for mutual inefficiency.’ In this sense, it is essentially selfish—like a servile loyalty, demeaning to both master and servant. They are in false relationship to each other, and the loyalty which is then so much prized can be traced, if we probe deep enough, to an ultimate selfishness on either side.”

  • That was the trouble with experience; it taught you that most people were capable of anything, so that loyalty was never quite on firm ground—or, rather, became a matter of pardoning offenses instead of denying their existence. Shirley Hazzard, from the short story “The Picnic,” in Cliffs of Fall (1961)
  • 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.”

  • An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. Elbert Hubbard, in A Thousand and One Epigrams (1911)
  • Loyalty is one of the most attractive of moral qualities, and it necessarily inhibits criticism of its own objects, which has the appearance of treason. But, unless the aims of the corporate body which claims our absolute allegiance are right and reasonable, loyalty may be, and often has been, the parent of hideous crimes, and a social evil of the first magnitude. W. R. Inge,

“The Indictment against Christianity” (1917), in Outspoken Essays (1919)

  • I don’t want loyalty, I want loyalty. I want him to kiss my ass in Macy’s window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses. I want his pecker in my pocket. Lyndon B. Johnson, in David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (1972)

QUOTE NOTE: When a White House staffer informed LBJ about a new hire, the president asked, “How loyal is that man?” When his aide replied, “Well, he seems quIte loyal,” LBJ replied as above.

  • Sometimes party loyalty asks too much. John F. Kennedy, quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1979)
  • A genuine revolution of values means, in the final analysis, that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” a speech in New York City (April 4, 1967); reprinted as “A Single Garment of Destiny,” in A Global Vision of Justice (2012)
  • Loyalty is a fine quality but in excess it fills political graveyards. Neil Kinnock, a June, 1976 remark, quoted in G. M. F. Drower, Neil Kinnock (1984)
  • Loyalty is in most people only a ruse used by self-interest to attract confidence. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • It’s impossible to be loyal to your family, your friends, your country, and your principles, all at the same time. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Second Neurotic’s Notebook (1966); reprinted in The Complete Neurotic’s Notebook (1981)
  • We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. Edward R. Murrow, in CBS-TV’s See it Now broadcast (March 7, 1954)

QUOTE NOTE: This broadcast, formally titled “Report on Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy,” was the first domino to fall in the eventual toppling of the right-wing demagogue. In The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations (2006), Hugh Rawson and Margaret Miner wrote: “This was the first major assault on McCarthyism. Even the popular and influential Murrow felt that he had to bide his time until McCarthy’s excesses began to worry the American public.” Murrow’s broadcast seemed to embolden other Americans. Three months later, in the televised “Army-McCarthy” hearings, attorney Joseph Welch famously said to the Wisconsin senator: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?”

  • Certain loyalty comes only through dependency. Richard M. Nixon, in Leaders (1982)
  • There is a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top down is even more necessary and much less prevalent. One of the most frequently noted characteristics of great men who have remained great is loyalty to their subordinates. George S. Patton War, in War As I Knew It (1947
  • Up to a certain point it is good for us to know that there are people in the world who will give us love and unquestioned loyalty to the limit of their ability. I doubt, however, if it is good for us to feel assured of this without the accompanying obligation of having to justify this devotion by our behavior. Eleanor Roosevelt, in The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961)
  • I entirely appreciate loyalty to one’s friends, but loyalty to the cause of justice and honor stands above it. Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in H. Hagedorn & S. Wallach, A Theodore Roosevelt Round-Up (1958)
  • We have come to a point where it is loyalty to resist, and treason to submit. Carl Schurz, in speech at Albany Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (March 23, 1859)

QUOTE NOTE: Schurz, the first German-American elected to the United States Senate (in 1868, from Missouri), offered this thought in response to the infamous Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which mandated that escaped slaves captured in Northern free states were to be returned to their Southern masters. Schurz occupies a footnote in history by presciently writing in an 1864 letter: “I will make a prophecy that may now sound peculiar. In fifty years Lincoln’s name will be inscribed close to Washington’s on this Republic’s roll of honor.”

  • Master, go on, and I will follow thee,/To the last gasp, with truth and loyalty. William Shakespeare, Adam, speaking to Orlando, in As You Like It (1599)

QUOTE NOTE: The idiom last gasp, meaning the final breath one takes before dying, owes its popularity to Shakespeare. The expression made an earlier appearance in King Henry VI, Part I (1592), where the character Joan La Pucelle (Shakespeare’s name for Joan of Arc) urges a follower: “Fight till the last gasp.”

  • Loyalty is a verbal switch-blade used by little and big bosses to force us quickly to accept a questionable situation which our intelligence and conscience should reject. Lillian Smith, in The Journey (1954)
  • The loyalty of the systematically betrayed. Is there anything sadder? Michael Swanwick, the character Incolore speaking, in The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1993)
  • The secret of a good life is to have the right loyalties and hold them in the right scale of values. Norman Thomas, in Great Dissenters (1961)
  • Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world—and never will. Mark Twain, in an 1884 speech in Hartford, Connecticut
  • My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its office-holders. Mark Twain, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist Hank Morgan, in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)

Morgan continued: “The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags—that is a loyalty of unreason.”

  • If you don’t provide loyalty down, you can’t expect loyalty up. The Wall Street Journal, in editorial “On Loyalty” ((May 11, 1988)
  • On their faces lay that plastered, flattened look of loyalty to a cause. Rebecca West, in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

LUCK

(see also CHANCE and DESTINY and FATE and FORTUNE and [Bad] LUCK and [Good] LUCK and MISFORTUNE)

  • He is lucky who realizes that “luck” is the point where preparation meets opportunity. Author Unknown, a “sagacious saying” reprinted in “Fact and Comment,” The Youth’s Companion (April 25, 1912)

QUOTE NOTE: According to The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012), this is the earliest appearance in print of a sentiment that evolved into the modern proverb “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” The saying has been attributed to many people—including Darryl Royal, Oprah Winfrey—but all who have advanced the idea were borrowing from the 1912 saying above.

  • The luck of having talent is not enough; one must also have a talent for luck. Hector Berlioz, quoted in Henry I. Christ, Modern Short Biographies (1960); later quoted in a 1981 issue of Time magazine

ERROR ALERT: This quotation has become quite popular, but it is not an accurate representation of Berlioz’s original thought. Writing about the German composer Giacomo Meyerbeer in Evenings with the Orchestra (1852), Berlioz wrote more precisely: “The author of The Prophet not only has the good luck to have talent, he has also the talent to have good luck” (the original French was: “L'auteur de ce Prophète a non seulement le bonheur d'avoir du talent, mais aussi le talent d'avoir du Bonheur”).

  • Good luck needs no explanation. Shirley Temple Black, in Child Star (1988)
  • Luck enters into any contingency. You are a fool if you forget it—and a greater fool if you count upon it. Phyllis Bottome, in The Secret Stair (1954)
  • Luck is not a business model. Anthony Bourdain, in Medium Raw (2010)
  • People are lucky and unlucky not according to what they get absolutely, but according to the ratio between what they get and what they have been led to expect. Samuel Butler, “Lucky and Unlucky,” in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested. Paulo Coelho, the title character speaking, in The Alchemist (1988)
  • I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I seem to have. Coleman Cox, in Listen to This (1922)

ERROR ALERT: Over the years, this quotation has been mistakenly attributed to Thomas Jefferson, Stephen Leacock, and many others. Even many respected quotation anthologies have botched this one, with some citing F. L. Emerson in a 1947 issue of Reader’s Digest. To see the original observation from Cox’s 1922 book, go to Listen to Me. For more on the history of the observation, see this 2012 post from The Quote Investigator, Garson O’Toole.

  • What we call luck is the inner man externalized. We make things happen to us. Robertson Davies, the character Darcourt speaking, in What’s Bred in the Bone (1985)

Darcourt continued: “I know that sounds horrible and cruel, considering what happens to a lot of people, and it can’t be the whole explanation. But it’s a considerable part of it.

  • It is so difficult not to become vain about one’s own good luck. Simone de Beauvoir, in Force of Circumstance (1963)
  • Luck is not chance—/It’s toil—/Fortune’s expensive smile/Is earned. Emily Dickinson, in poem no. 1350 (c. 1876)
  • There’s good chances and bad chances, and nobody’s luck is pulled only by one string. George Eliot, the character Denner (Mrs. Hickes) speaking, in Felix Holt, The Radical (1866)
  • Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances…. Strong men believe in cause and effect. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Worship,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Wealth,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • Hard work and a proper frame of mind prepare you for the lucky breaks that come along—or don’t. Harrison Ford, quoted in Glenn Plaskin, “The Real Harrison Ford,” San Francisco Chronicle (Aug. 13, 1990)
  • Care and diligence bring luck. Thomas Fuller, M.D,. in Gnomologia (1732)
  • Some folk want their luck buttered. Thomas Hardy, the character Mrs. Cuxsom speaking, in The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)
  • Luck is a mighty queer thing. All you know about it for certain is that it’s bound to change. And it’s finding out when it’s going to change that makes you. Bret Harte, the character Mr. Oakhurst speaking, in The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1869)
  • Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get. Ray Kroc, quoted in Penny Moser, “The McDonald’s Mystique,” Fortune magazine (July 4, 1988)

QUOTE NOTE: Kroc was clearly inspired by a popular saying authored by Coleman Cox, but often mistakenly attributed to Thomas Jefferson, Stephen Leacock, and others (see the Cox entry above).

  • Do you find yourself in the same unhappy situation again and again, wondering where you went wrong and why it happened again? It’s not always just bad luck—it may be bad ideas. Arnold A. Lazarus, quoted in Harold H. Bloomfield and Peter McWilliams, How to Heal Depression (1995)
  • I never saw love as luck, as that gift from the gods which put everything else in place, and allowed you to succeed. No, I saw love as reward. Norman Mailer, the character Harry Hubbard speaking, in Harlot’s Ghost (1991)

Hubbard continued: “One could find it only after one’s virtue, or one’s courage, or self-sacrifice, or generosity, or loss, has succeeded in stirring the power of creation.”

  • now and then/there is a person born/who is so unlucky/that he runs into accidents/which started to happen/to somebody else. Don Marquis, in archys life of mehitabel (1933)
  • You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from. Cormac McCarthy, the character Ellis speaking to Ed Tom Bell, in No Country for Old Men (2005)
  • Luck is the residue of design. Branch Rickey, in Sporting News (Feb. 21, 1946)

QUOTE NOTE: This went on to become a signature line for Rickey, who was one of the most influential executives in baseball history. In Branch Rickey’s Little Blue Book: Wit and Strategy from Baseball’s Last Wise Man (1995), editor John Monteleone reported that Rickey delivered a 1950 lecture using Luck is the Residue of Design as the title. In that lecture, Rickey said: “Things worthwhile generally just don’t happen. Luck is a fact, but should not be a factor. Good luck is whatever is left over after intelligence and effort have combined at their best.”

  • Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Darryl Royal, quoted in James A. Michener, Sports in America (1976)

QUOTE NOTE: Several decades ago, it was common to see Royal described as the author of this saying, but the original idea first appeared in print an 1912 (see the Author Unknown entry above). Royal was one of America’s most successful college football coaches, most famously with the University of Texas (1957–76). In a coaching career that spanned twenty-two years, he won three national championships and never had a losing season.

  • We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like? Eric Satie, quoted by Jean Cocteau in a 1964 Paris Review interview
  • 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.”

  • I have often noticed that when Fate has a phenomenal run of ill-luck in store for you, she begins by dropping a rare piece of good fortune into your lap, thereby enhancing the artistic effect of the sequel. Ethyl Smyth, in Impressions That Remained, Vol. II (1919)
  • In creative endeavors luck is a skill. Twyla Tharp, in The Creative Habit (2003; with Mark Reiter)

Tharp introduced the thought by writing: “Some people resent the idea of luck. Accepting the role of chance in our lives suggests that our creations and triumphs are not entirely our own, and that in some way we’re undeserving of our success. I say, Get over it. This is how the world works.”

  • Generosity is luck going in the opposite direction, away from you. If you’re generous to someone, if you do something to help him out, you are in effect making him lucky. This is important. It’s like inviting yourself into a community of good fortune. Twyla Tharp, in The Creative Habit (2003; with Mark Reiter)
  • Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men. E. B. White, “Control,” in One Man’s Meat (1944)
  • I don’t believe in luck. Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. Oprah Winfrey, in interview at Academy of Achievement (Chicago, Illinois; Feb. 21, 1991)

QUOTE NOTE: Winfrey was clearly inspired by a popular sentiment that first appeared in 1912 (see Author Unknown entry above).

LUPUS

LUNACY & LUNATICS

(see also BLUNDERS and FOLLY and FOOLS & FOOLISHNESS and IDIOTS & IDIOCY and IGNORANCE and SELF-DECEPTION and STUPIDITY)

  • Love is apt to make lunatics of even saints and sages, so young people cannot be expected to escape the delusions, disappointments, and mistakes, as well as the delights, of this sweet madness. Louisa May Alcott, the voice of the narrator, in Jo’s Boys (1886)
  • All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher. Ambrose Bierce, in Cosmopolitan magazine (Feb., 1907)
  • I swear that each of us keeps, battened down inside himself, a sort of lunatic giant—impossible socially, but full-scale—and that it’s the knockings and batterings we sometimes hear in each other that keeps our intercourse from utter banality. Elizabeth Bowen, the character St. Quentin speaking, in The Death of the Heart (1938)
  • The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum. Havelock Ellis, in The Dance of Life (1923)
  • Lunatics are similar to designated hitters. Often an entire family is crazy, but since an entire family can't go into the hospital, one person is designated as crazy and goes inside. Susanna Kaysen, in Girl, Interrupted (1993)
  • In a sense, all murderers are lunatics. Killing is a not a sane reaction to the circumstances of life. Gladys Mitchell, in The Rising of the Moon (1945)
  • Among the wise and high-minded people who in self-respecting and genuine fashion strive earnestly for peace, there are the foolish fanatics always to be found in such a movement and always discrediting it—the men who form the lunatic fringe in all reform movements. Theodore Roosevelt, in An Autobiography (1923)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the first appearance of a phrase (“the lunatic fringe”) that has now become commonplace. While Roosevelt was thinking about crazies in the fringe elements of reform movements, his expression is now routinely used to describe fanatics and extremists who exist in all political undertakings.

  • The longer I live the more I am inclined to the belief that this earth is used by other planets as a lunatic asylum. George Bernard Shaw, quoted by Judge Henry Neil in a Sep. 1, 1919 Letter to the Editor, New York Tribune (published Sep. 14, 1919)

Thanks to Garson O’Toole, aka The Quote Investigator, for not only tracking down the original source of this popular Shaw quotation, but also providing the backstory.

  • It is quite hard at times to distinguish a genius from a lunatic. Dorothy Thompson, in The Courage to Be Happy (1957)
  • One of the things about leadership is that you cannot be a moderate, balanced, thoughtful careful articulator of policy. You’ve got to be on the lunatic fringe. Jack Welch, quoted in The Washington Post (March 23, 1997)
  • Those comfortably padded lunatic asylums which are known, euphemistically, as the stately homes of England. Virginia Woolf, Outlines: Lady Dorothy Nevill,” in The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)
  • Two hundred years ago we made a practice of treating lunatics as criminals. Nowadays we are more inclined to treat criminals as lunatics. Barbara Wootton, quoted in The Vancouver Sun (July 24, 1962)

LUNCH

(includes LUNCHEON; see also APPETITE and BREAKFAST and COOKS & COOKING and DESCRIPTIONS—OF FOODS & PREPARED DISHES and DESSERT and DIETS & DIETING and DINING and DRINK and EATING and FOOD and HUNGER and MEALS and RESTAURANTS and SUPPER)

  • Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. Adelle Davis, in Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit (1970)
  • It is said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But the universe is the ultimate free lunch. Alan Guth, in A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988)
  • Traditionally, a luncheon is a lunch that takes an eon. Judith Martin, in Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior: Freshly Updated (2005)

LUPUS

  • Mother has lupus./She says it’s a disease/of self-attack./It’s like a mugger broke into your home/and you called the police/and when they came they beat up on you/instead of on your attackers,/she says. Paula Gunn Allen, “Dear World,” in Skins and Bones (1988)

LUST

(see also DESIRE and EMOTION and EROS & EROTICISM and INTERCOURSE and KISSES & KISSING and LOVE and LUST & LOVE and MALE-FEMALE DYMANICS and ORGASM and PASSION and ROMANCE and SENSUALITY and SEX & SEXUALITY)

  • How is it possible, that the love of gain and the lust of domination should render the human mind so callous to every principle of honor, generosity, and benevolence? Abigail Adams, in letter to husband John (July 25, 1775)
  • 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 (London; July 18,1711)
  • 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.”

  • Thunder and lightning, wars, fires, plagues, have not done that mischief to mankind as this burning lust, this brutish passion. Robert Burton, in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621-51)
  • Society drives people crazy with lust and calls it advertising. John Lahr, quoted in the Guardian (London; Aug. 2, 1989)
  • Consumerism is what physical lust is really about. Carole Stewart McDonnell, “Oreo Blues,” an essay in Patricia Bell-Scott (ed.), Life Notes: Personal Writings by Contemporary Black Women (1994)
  • When I ponder the seven deadly sins, I have a soft spot in my heart for lust. Not the active physical kind. But carnal concupiscence, sensual longing…the need to be held physically and loved inside and out. Carole Stewart McDonnell, “Oreo Blues,” an essay in Patricia Bell-Scott (ed.), Life Notes: Personal Writings by Contemporary Black Women (1994)

McDonnell went on to explain: “We are all searching for the hug of God, our ultimate true love. Sometimes we realize this. Usually we forget and fly to human hearts, and powerless human beds which cannot heal us. Perhaps that is the sin in lust, the forgetting of God’s own beauty and his own ability to comfort.”

  • Sins become more subtle as you grow older. You commit sins of despair rather than lust. Piers Paul Read, quoted in the Daily Telegraph (London; Oct. 3, 1990)

LUST & LOVE

(see also DESIRE and EMOTION and EROS & EROTICISM and INTERCOURSE and KISSES & KISSING and LOVE and LUST and MALE-FEMALE DYMANICS and ORGASM and PASSION and ROMANCE and SENSUALITY and SEX & SEXUALITY)

  • ’Tis better to have loved and lust than never to have loved at all. Craig Rice, in Trial by Fury (1941)

QUOTE NOTE: This might be the first-ever tweaking of the famous Tennyson couplet. The proverb scholar Wolfgang Mieder once identified the earliest spin-off as coming from the mid-1980s, but Rice beats that by a long way. Notice also that the title of the book is a clever one-letter alteration of trial by jury.

  • If they substituted the word “Lust” for “Love” in the popular songs it would come nearer the truth. Sylvia Plath, “Smith College 1950-1955,” in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-62 (2000; Karen V. Kukil, ed.)
  • Lust is what makes you keep wanting to do it, even when you have no desire to be with each other. Love is what makes you keep wanting to be with each other, even when you have no desire to do it. Judith Viorst, in Love and Guilt and the Meaning of Life, Etc. (1979). Also an example of chiasmus.

LUXURY

(includes LUXURIOUS; see also EXCESS and EXTRAVAGANCE and HEDONISM and NECESSITY and OPULENCE and RICHES & THE RICH and SPLENDOR and WEALTH)

  • One person's luxury is another person's necessity. Author Unknown
  • Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity. Coco Chanel, quoted in Karen Karbo, The Gospel According to Coco (2011)
  • The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury. Charlie Chaplin, in My Autobiography (1964)
  • I have very often deprived myself of the necessities of life, but I have never consented to give up a luxury. Colette (pen name of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), in a 1932 letter to Anna de Noailles; reprinted in Letters From Colette (1980; Robert Phelps, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: Frank Lloyd Wright is credited with a similar thought (see his entry below), but his came nearly three decades later. See also the John Motley entry below.

  • Luxuries unfit us for returning to hardships easily endured before. Mary Mapes Dodge, the voice of the narrator, in Hans Brinker (1865)
  • Even luxury finds a zest in change. Horace, in Odes (1st c. BC)
  • First-class travel, provided one hasn’t to pay for it oneself, is the most insidiously addictive of life’s luxuries. P. D. James, in Time to Be in Earnest (1999)
  • Nothing more strongly marks the insufficiency of luxuries than the ease with which people grow accustomed to them; they are rather known by their want than by their presence. L. E. Landon, the voice of the narrator, in Ethel Churchill, or, The Two Brides, Vol II (1837)

The narrator continued: “The word blasé has been coined expressly for the use of the upper classes.”

  • The greatest foe to art is luxury, art cannot live in its atmosphere. William Morris, “The Beauty of Life,” an address at the Birmingham Society of Arts and School of Design (Feb. 19, 1880)
  • Give us the luxuries of life, and we will dispense with its necessities. J. L. Motley, quoted in Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr, The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858)

QUOTE NOTE: This appears to be the earliest expression of a sentiment that has gone on to be repeated in many ways (see the Colette entry above and Wright entry below).

  • Luxury, like a minimum wage, is a relationship; it changes as we change. Vita Dutton Scudder, in The Privilege of Age (1939)
  • What had formerly been the luxuries of the few were becoming necessities of the many. Flora Thompson, the voice of the narrator, in Candleford Green (1943)
  • Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” in Walden (1854)
  • Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities. Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in his New York Times obituary (April 9, 1959)

QUOTE NOTE: In this observation, which is now the most popular version of the sentiment, Wright was almost certainly inspired by earlier quotations on the subject (see the Colette and Motley entries above)

LYING

(see LIES & LYING)

LYING TO ONESELF

(includes UNTRUTH; see also DECEPTION & DECEIPT and DISHONESTY and ERROR and FALSEHOOD and HONESTY and ILLUSIONS and LIES & LYING and MENDACITY and PERJURY and SELF-DECEPTION and TRUTH)

  • Our greatest illusion is to believe that we are what we think ourselves to be. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, entry in his Journal Intime (Feb 10, 1853)
  • Illusion is the dust the devil throws in the eyes of the foolish. Minna Thomas Antrim, in Naked Truth and Veiled Illusions (1901)
  • People everywhere enjoy believing things that they know are not true. It spares them the ordeal of thinking for themselves and taking responsibility for what they know. Brooks Atkinson, in Once Around the Sun (1951)
  • The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. Richard Bach, in “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977)
  • A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is great. Saul Bellow, in To Jerusalem and Back: A Personal Account (1976)
  • If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. The Bible—I John 1:8 (KJV)
  • We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in place of reality. Daniel J. Boorstin, in Preface to The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961)
  • Truth is no man’s slave—but lies—what magnificent servants they make. Phyllis Bottome, in The Life Line (1946)
  • Elvira always lied first to herself before she lied to anybody else, since this gave her a conviction of moral honesty. Phyllis Bottome, in Under the Skin (1950)
  • The easiest person to deceive is one's own self. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
  • I fear one lies more to one’s self than to any one else. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), a notebook entry (Dec. 6, 1813), in Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. 3 (1974; Leslie Marchand, ed.)
  • The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions. Leonardo da Vinci
  • Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Fyodor Dostoevsky, the character Father Zosima speaking, in The Brothers Karamazov (1880)

QUOTE NOTE: After continuing with a few more thoughts on the dangers of lying to oneself, Father Zosima concludes by saying:

“A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. It sometimes feels very good to take offense, doesn’t it? And surely he knows that no one has offended him, and that he himself has invented the offense and told lies just for the beauty of it, that he has exaggerated for the sake of effect, that he has picked on a word and made a mountain out of a pea—he knows all of that, and still he is the first to take offense, he likes feeling offended, it gives him great pleasure, and thus he reaches the point of real hostility.”

  • We do not like those who unmask our illusions. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the “Character” essay, in Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883)
  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. Richard P. Feynman, in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1999)

Feynman preceded the thought by writing, “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself.”

  • We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
  • Rob the average man of his life-illusion, and you rob him of his happiness at the same stroke. Henrik Ibsen, the character Relling speaking, in The Wild Duck (1884)
  • No estimate is more in danger of erroneous calculations than those by which a man computes the force of his own genius. Dr. Samuel Johnson
  • No death is so sad and final as the death of an illusion. Arthur Koestler, in Scum of the Earth (1941)

QUOTE NOTE: Scum of the Earth, a memoir written after Koestler escaped from occupied France to England in 1940, was the first book Koestler wrote in English (his earlier works, including his 1940 classic Darkness at Noon were originally written in German). In this observation, he might have been inspired by the title of Sigmund Frued’s The Future of an Illusion (1927).

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites and many published works mistakenly present the observation this way: “Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion.”

  • It is the common failing of an ambitious mind to over-rate itself. Caroline Lamb
  • Every stink that fights the ventilator thinks it is Don Quixote. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
  • The last sin, the sin against the Holy Ghost — to lie to oneself. Lying to other people—that's a small thing in comparison. Rose Macaulay, in Crewe Train (1926)
  • We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves. Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation (1962)
  • There are certain faults which press too near our self-love to be even perceptible to us. Hannah More
  • The notion that as man grows older his illusions leave him is not quite true. What is true is that his early illusions are supplanted by new and, to him, equally convincing illusions. George Jean Nathan, “Woman,” in The Theater, the Drama, the Girls (1921)

Nathan continued: “The man of forty-five has just as many illusions as the boy of eighteen, but they are different illusions.”

  • The most common sort of lie is the one uttered to one’s self; to lie to others is relatively exceptional. Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Antichrist (1888)
  • The illusion which exalts us is dearer to us than ten thousand truths. Alexander Pushkin, in the poem “The Hero”(1820)
  • We all have our little illusions about our own mental capacities. Cornelia Otis Skinner
  • It is notorious that illusions are shattered by conflict with reality, so no real happiness, no real wit, no real profundity are tolerated where the illusion prevails. Virginia Woolf, the voice of the narrator, in Orlando: A Biography (1928)
  • I believe that, though illusion often cheers and comforts, it ultimately and invariably weakens and constricts the spirit. Irvin D. Yalom, “Do Not Go Gentle,” in Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy (1989)

LYNCHING

(see also CRIME & CRIMINALS and [Racial] DISCRIMINATION and HATRED and KU KLUX KLAN and [Racial] PREJUDICE and RACE and RACE RELATIONS and RACISM and SEGREGATION)

  • Southern trees bear a strange fruit/(Blood on the leaves and blood at the root),/Black body swinging in the southern breeze/Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Lewis Allan (pen name of Abel Meeropol), opening words of the poem “Strange Fruit” (1937)

QUOTE NOTE: Strange fruit is one of history’s most powerful metaphors, tragically capturing the image of black men lynched from Southern trees by Ku Klux Klansmen and others. Allan, a Jewish schoolteacher and labor organizer in New York City, was inspired by a 1930 photograph he had seen of a Southern lynching. Shortly after Allan and his wife Laura Duncan set the poem to music, it was immortalized by Billie Holiday in a 1939 recording (see Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”). For more, go to Strange Fruit.


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