Dr. Mardy's Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations


Table of Contents

“S” Quotations

SABBATH

(see also [Ten] COMMANDMENTS and RELIGION and SUNDAY and WORSHIP)

  • The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. The Bible—Mark:2–27

QUOTE NOTE: Chiasmus was a characteristic of early Hebrew poetry, and here Jesus offers a legendary example of the device.

  • Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week. Alice Walker, “To the Editors of Ms. Magazine,” in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens (1983)

SACRAMENT

(see also GRACE and RELIGION and RITUAL and SACRED and SYMBOLS & SYMBOLISM)

  • I mean by this word Sacrament and outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. The Book of Common Prayer (1662)
  • Voting is a civic sacrament. Theodore Hesburgh, quoted in Reader’s Digest (Oct., 1984)

SACRED

(see also CHERISHED and DIVINE and GODLY and HALLOWED and PURE and REVERED and SAINTLY and VENERABLE)

  • Human beings tend to regard the conventions of their own societies as natural, often as sacred. Mary Catherine Bateson, in Composing a Life (1989)
  • Awareness of the sacred in life is what holds our world together, and the lack of awareness of the sacred is what is tearing it apart. Joan Chittister, in In a High Spiritual Season (1995)
  • Nothing is sacred anymore, even the sacred. Maureen Dowd, “Forgive Me, Father, for I Have Linked,” The New York Times (Feb. 8, 2011)

Dowd continued: “And even that most secret ritual of the Roman Catholic faith, the veiled black confessional box. Once funeral homes began live-streaming funerals, it was probably inevitable. But now confessions are not only about touching the soul, but touching the screen.”

  • The body is a sacred garment. It’s your first and your last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor, and with joy and with fear as well. But always, though, with blessing. Martha Graham, in Blood Memory: An Autobiography (1991)
  • The word which can never die on this earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning and the glory. The sacred word: EGO. Ayn Rand, in Anthem (1946)
  • The words secret and sacred are siblings. Mary Ruefle, in Madness, Rack, and Honey (2012)
  • The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas—uncertainty, progress, change—into crimes. Salman Rusdie, in a speech (Feb. 6, 1990)
  • It is not easy to be sure that being yourself is worth the trouble, but we do know it is our sacred duty. Florida Scott-Maxwell, in The Measure of My Days (1968)
  • The sacred is not in heaven or far away. It is all around us, and small human rituals can connect us to its presence. And of course the greatest challenge (and gift) is to see the sacred in each other. Alma Luz Villanueva, quoted in a 1999 issue of Ms. magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • People thinking for themselves have more energy in their voice, than any government, which it is possible for human wisdom to invent; and every government not aware of this sacred truth will, at some period, be suddenly overturned. Mary Wollstonecraft, in An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution and the Effect It Has Produced in Europe (1794)

SACRED COWS

(see also CRITICISM and DOGMA and QUESTIONING and SACRED and SCRUTINY and SKEPTICISM & SKEPTICS)

  • Sacred cows make the best hamburger. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: A sacred cow is something (or someone) so revered that it is considered immune from criticism. The term derives from the Hindu practice of venerating cows, who are regarded as reincarnated human beings. The expression is American in origin and was well understood by the end of the nineteenth century. For example, an 1890 New York Herald editorial on a public construction project wrote: “While the great ditch may be regarded as one of the commercial diversities of the commonwealth, to worship it as a sort of sacred cow is not necessarily a work of true statesmanship.” The concept of “butchering sacred cows” emerged early in the twentieth century, but the make the best hamburger saying did not emerge until the 1960s. The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012) marks its first appearance in an Oct. 19, 1965 column in The Daily Collegian, Pennsylvania State University’s student-run newspaper.

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites mistakenly attribute the observation to Mark Twain.

  • Sacred cows make very poor gladiators. Nikki Giovanni, the title essay, in Sacred Cows…And Other Edibles (1988)
  • Every sacred cow in the business has to do with economics. Gena Rowlands, quoted in Judith Crist, Take 22 (1984)

SACRIFICE

(see also ABSTINENCE and MARTYRS & MARTYRDOM and RENUNCIATION and SELF-DENIAL)

  • Nothing so much enhances a good as to make sacrifices for it. George Santayana, in The Sense of Beauty (1896)
  • Too long a sacrifice/Can make a stone of the heart. William Butler Yeats, in “Easter 1916” (1916)

SADNESS

(see also ANGUISH and [The] BLUES and DEPRESSION and DESPAIR and GRIEF and MELANCHOLY and MISERY and SORROW and UNHAPPINESS)

  • Venice, California, in the old days had much to recommend it to people who liked to be sad. Ray Bradbury, the opening line of Death is a Lonely Business (1985)
  • The saddest thing under the sky is a soul incapable of sadness. Catherine de Gasparin, in Human Sadness (1863)
  • Being in the depths of sadness is just as important an experience as being exuberantly happy. Marlene Dietrich, “How to Be Loved,” in a 1954 edition of Ladies’ Home Journal (specific issue undetermined)
  • Sadness does not inhere in things; it does not reach us from the world and through mere contemplation of the world. It is a product of our own thought. Émile Durkheim, in Suicide: A Study in Sociology (1897)
  • If the souls of lives were voiced in music, there are some that none but a great organ could express, others the clash of a full orchestra, a few to which nought but the refined and exquisite sadness of a violin could do justice. Miles Franklin, a reflection of protagonist Sybylla Melvyn, in My Brilliant Career (1901)

Melvyn continued: “Many might be likened unto common pianos, jangling and out of tune, and some to the feeble piping of a penny whistle, and mine could be told with a couple of nails in a rusty tin-pot.”

  • One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often. Erich Fromm, in an interview on ABC-TV (May 25, 1958)
  • Sadness is almost never anything but a form of fatigue. André Gide, journal entry (March, 1922), in The Journals of André Gide, 1889–1949, Vol. 1 (1956)
  • And finally: ought we not, from time to time, open ourselves up to cosmic sadness? Etty Hillesum, a March 1942 diary entry, in An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-43 (1983)

A moment later, Hillesum added: “Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is its due, for if everyone bears his grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate. But if you do not clear a decent shelter for your sorrow, and instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge—from which new sorrows will be born for others—then sorrow will never cease in this world and will multiply.”

  • In the deepest heart of all of us there is a corner in which the ultimate mystery of things works sadly. William James, “Is Life Worth Living?” in The Will to Believe (1897)
  • Be happy, talk happiness. Happiness calls out responsive gladness in others. There is enough sadness in the world without yours. Helen Keller, in Out of the Dark (1914)
  • In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. Abraham Lincoln, in letter to Fanny McCullough (Dec. 23, 1862)
  • Believe me, every heart has his secret sorrows which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the protagonist Paul Flemming speaking, in Hyperion (1839)

ERROR ALERT: Countless books and internet sites mistakenly present this quotation with every man rather than every heart. The problem originated in The Longfellow Birthday Book, a commemorative quotation anthology published in England shortly after Longfellow’s death in 1882. The mistake stubbornly continues to be made, showing up on numerous internet sites and even in such respected quotation anthologies as H. L. Mencken’s A New Dictionary of Quotations (1942) and, more recently, in Hugh Rawson and Margaret Miner’s The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations (2008).

  • A feeling of sadness comes o’er me/That my soul cannot resist;/A feeling of sadness and longing,/That is not akin to pain/,And resembles sorrow only/As the mist resembles the rain. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Day is Done,” in The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems (1846)
  • There does seem to me something sad in life. It is hard to say what it is. I don’t mean the sorrow that we all know, like illness and poverty and death. No, it is something different. It is there, deep down, deep down, part of one, like one’s breathing. Katherine Mansfield, “The Canary,” in The Doves’ Nest (1923)
  • Even though sometimes you can control your anger, you can’t control your sadness. Barbara Park, a reflection of the protagonist, ten-year-old Howard Jeeter, in The Kid in the Red Jacket (1987)

A moment later, Howard continued with this “out of the mouths of babes” thought: “If you’ve ever been sad, really sad, you know what I’m talking about. Sadness is with you all the time. Even when your friends are trying to make you laugh, sadness seems to be waiting right behind your smile.”

  • Better by far you should forget and smile/Than that you should remember and be sad. Christina Rossetti, in the poem “Remember” (1862)
  • For of all sad words of tongue or pen./The saddest are these: “It might have been!” John Greenleaf Whittier, in “Maud Muller” (1854)
  • To make art is to realize another’s sadness within, realize the hidden sadness in other people’s lives, to feel sad with and for a stranger. Marianne Wiggins, the voice of the narrator, in The Shadow Catcher (2007)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is typically presented on internet quotation sites, but it was originally part of a larger passage in which the character Clara was reflecting on her father often saying that art was the ability to recognize sadness in others, and often to “imagine sadness greater than his own.” Here’s the fuller passage:

“Art, their father had frequently told them, was exactly that: to make art is the realize another’s sadness within, realize the hidden sadness in other people’s lives, to feel with and for a stranger.”

[Feeling] SAFE

(see also FRIENDS & FRIENDSHIP and RELATIONSHIPS and TRUST)

  • 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. Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, a reflection of protagonist and narrator Dora Johnston, in A Life For a Life (1859)

She preceded the thought by saying: “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.”

SAFETY

(see also CAUTION and DANGER and OBSTACLES and PROBLEMS and TROUBLE and STUMBLES & STUMBLING and TEST and TROUBLE)

  • Our insignificance is often the cause of our safety. Aesop, “The Great and the Little Fishes,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • Our sense of safety depends on predictability, so anything living outside the usual rules we suspect to be an outlaw, a ghoul. Diane Ackerman, in The Moon by Whale Light: And Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians, and Whales (1991)
  • Early and provident fear is the mother of safety. Edmund Burke, in a House of Commons speech (May 11, 1792)
  • Everyone, my friend, demands a spice of danger in their lives. Some get it vicariously—as in bullfights. Some read about it. Some find it at the cinema. But I am sure of this—too much safety is abhorrent to the nature of a human being. Agatha Christie, the character Hercule Poirot speaking, in Curtain (1975)

Poirot continued: “Men find danger in many ways— women are reduced to finding their danger mostly in affairs of sex. That is why, perhaps, they welcome the hint of the tiger—the sheathed claws, the treacherous spring. The excellent fellow who will make a good and kind husband—they pass him by.”

  • You cannot play for safety and make art. You have to get past your own fear Lucille Clifton, in interview with Bill Moyers, in The Language of Life: A Festival of Poets (1996)

Clifton continued: “It’s all right to be afraid, but if you draw back from what frightens you, then you may as well stop writing because, in a way, everything is frightening. Every morning you wake up to the unexpected, to what might kill you, but you have to do it anyway. Once you decide, ‘I will see clearly, I will speak clearly, I will say what I see, then you have to do it all.’”

  • Safety that depends on an apron-string is very unsafe! Margaret Deland, the character Dr. Lavendar speaking, in The Awakening of Helena Richie (1906)
  • 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.”

  • When we deliberately leave the safety of the shore of our lives, we surrender to a mystery beyond our intent. Ann Linnea, in Deep Water Passage: A Spiritual Journey at Midlife (1995)
  • Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety. William Shakespeare, the character Hotspur speaking, in King Henry IV, Part I (1596–97)
  • Don’t play for safety./It’s the most dangerous thing in the world. Hugh Walpole, in the poem Fortitude (1913)

SAILING METAPHORS

SAILING & YACHTING

(see also ATHLETES & ATHLETICISM and BASEBALL and BASKETBALL and BOXING and FISHING and FOOTBALL and GOLF and HOCKEY and HUNTING and MOUNTAINEERING & ROCK-CLIMBING and POOL & BILLIARDS and RUNNING & JOGGING and SHIPS & BOATS and SOCCER and SPORT and SWIMMING and TENNIS and TRACK & FIELD and WALKING and WRESTLING)

  • Nothing comes from a life of ease./The good sailor hails from the stormy seas. Author Unknown
  • It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage. George William Curtis, “The Public Duty of Educated Men,” Commencement address at Union College (Schenectady, NY; June 27, 1877); reprinted in Opinions and Addresses of George William Curtis (1894)
  • The effect of sailing is produced by a judicious arrangement of the sails to the direction of the wind. William Falconer, in An Universal Dictionary of the Marine (1769)
  • There is no more thrilling sensation I know of than sailing. It comes as near to flying as man has got to yet—except in dreams. Jerome K. Jerome, in Three Men In a Boat (1889)

Jerome continued: “The wings of the rushing wind seem to be bearing you onward, you know not where. You are no longer the slow, plodding, puny thing of clay, creeping tortuously upon the ground; you are a part of Nature!

  • Ocean racing is like standing under a cold shower and tearing up five-pound notes. Edward Heath, former British prime minister, quoted in Randy Steele, “Talking Points,” Boating magazine (July, 2001)

SAINTS & SAINTHOOD

(see also MARTYRS & MARTYRDOM and RELIGION and SAINTS & SINNERS and SIN)

  • Can one be a saint if God does not exist? Albert Camus, the character Tarrou speaking, in The Plague (1947)

Tarrou continued: “That is the only concrete problem I know of today.”

  • Saint and Martyr rule from the tomb. T. S. Eliot, in Murder in the Cathedral (1935)
  • Mistaken saints, who thought to save/Their souls, by making life a grave. Helen Hunt Jackson, “The Gift of Grapes,” in Poems (1893)
  • For the wonderful thing about saints is that they were human. They lost their tempers, got hungry, scolded God, were egotistical or testy or impatient in their turns, made mistakes and regretted them. Still they went on doggedly blundering toward heaven. Phyllis McGinley, “Running to Paradise,” in Saint-Watching (1969)
  • The saints are what they are, not because their sanctity makes them admirable to others, but because the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everybody else. Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation (1962) [italics in original]
  • Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent. George Orwell, “”Reflections on Gandhi,” in Shooting the Elephant (1950)
  • And thus I clothe my naked villainy/With odd old ends stol’n forth of holy writ,/And seem a saint when most I play the devil. William Shakespeare, the character Gloucester speaking, in Richard III (1591)
  • They saint you for the miracles, not the sermons. Ron Simoncini, in a personal communication to the compiler (Jan. 8, 2017)

SAINTS & SINNERS

(see also SAINTS & SAINTHOOD and SIN)

  • As no roads are so rough as those that have just been mended, so no sinners are so intolerant as those that have just turned saints. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • Many of the insights of the saint stem from his experience as a sinner. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)

SALADS

(see also APPETITE and BREAD and CHEESE and CONDIMENTS and COFFEE and COOKS & COOKING and DESCRIPTIONS—OF FOODS & PREPARED DISHES and DESSERT and DIETS & DIETING and DINNERS & DINING and EATING and EGGS & OMELETTES and ENTERTAINING and FOOD and FRUITS and GARDENS & GARDENING and GARLIC and GOURMETS & GOURMANDS and HUNGER and MEALS and NUTRITION and RECIPES & COOKBOOKS and RESTAURANTS and SPICES & SEASONING and SOUP and SUPPER and VEGETABLES and VEGETARIANISM & VEGANISM)

  • Molded salads are best served in situations where they have little or no competition Peg Bracken, in Appendix to I Hate to Cook Book (1966)

Bracken went on to add: “Like television, gelatin is too often a vehicle for limp leftovers that couldn’t make it anywhere else.”

  • It is always wise to make too much potato salad. Even if you are cooking for two, make enough for five. Potato salad improves with age— that is, if you are lucky enough to have any left over. Laurie Colwin, in Home Cooking (1988)
  • One uncongenial guest can ruin a dinner more easily than a poor salad, and that is saying a great deal. Myrtle Reed, in Old Rose and Silver (1909)
  • If a man prepares dinner for you and the salad contains three or more types of lettuce, he is serious. Rita Rudner, from her stand-up routine
  • If food were poetry, subs would be limericks, sushi a haiku and salad a sonnet—14 lines of freshness and exquisite flavor. An antidote to winter sludge. A rainbow of colors and often a surprise. Deborah Salomon, “A Sonnet to Salad,” The Pilot (Southern Pines, NC; April 16, 2012)

This is the opening paragraph of the article. Regarding the surprises often involved in a salad, Salomon continued in the second paragraph: “Where else do sweet onions and strawberries, avocados and oranges so happily marry?” She also ended her article on a memorable note: “If dance is poetry in motion, salad is a sonnet on a plate.”

  • A husband, Monsieur Marsac, is like a lobster salad. When it is good, it is very good, and when it is bad it is intolerable. Molly Elliott Seawell, the character Madame Fleury speaking, in The Sprightly Romance of Marsac (1899)

QUOTE NOTE: Seawell is not well remembered today, but she was quite popular in her era. She burst on the scene with The Sprightly Romance of Marsac, which was awarded the first prize of $3,000 as the “best novelette” in a New York Herald competition.

  • Let first the onion flourish there,/Rose among roots, the maiden-fair,/Wine-scented and poetic soul/If the capacious salad bowl. Robert Louis Stevenson, “To a Gardener,” in Underwoods (1887)
  • It’s certain that fine women/A crazy salad with their meat. William Butler Yeats, “A Prayer for My Daughter,” in Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921)

SALES & SELLING

(see also ADVERTISING and BUSINESS & BUSINESS PEOPLE and CAPITALISM and COMMERCE and CORPORATE CULTURE and CORPORATION and CUSTOMERS and ECONOMICS and ENTREPRENEURS and EXECUTIVES and GREED and LABOR and MANAGEMENT and MARKETING and MERCHANTS and MONEY and ORGANIZATIONS and PRODUCTION & PRODUCTIVITY and PROFIT & LOSS and STOCK MARKET and WEALTH and WORK)

  • For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. Arthur Miller, the character Charley speaking, in Death of a Salesman (1949).

QUOTE NOTE: Charley is speaking to Biff about Willy Loman, who has committed suicide after losing his job and his hope. He continues: “And when they start not smiling back—that’s an earthquake. And then you get a couple of spots on your hat and you’re finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.”

  • When one has the right swing and enthusiasm, selling is not unlike hunting, a veritable sport. Carl Sandburg, quoted in North Callahan, Carl Sandburg: His Life and Works (1987)

QUOTE NOTE: In 1902, the twenty-year-old Sandburg said goodbye to Phillip Greene Wright, his poetry professor at Lombard College (Galesburg, Illinois) and made his way east. The two men corresponded as Sandburg hitched rides on rail cars and supported himself in part by door-to door selling of stereopticon photographs. This hunting metaphor came after professor Wright had asked his former student if he’d found the experience of sales discouraging. Sandburg continued:

To scare up the game by preliminary talk and to know how long to follow it, to lose your gain through poorly directed argument, to hang on to game that finally eludes, to boldly confront, to quickly circle around, to keep on the trail, tireless and keen, till you have bagged some orders, there is some satisfaction in returning at night, tired of the trail, but proud of the days work done.

[Good] SAMARITAN

(see also BENEVOLENCE and CARE & CARING and CAREGIVERS & CAREGIVING and CHARITY and [Good] DEEDS and GENEROSITY and GIFTS & GIVING and GOODNESS and HELPING and HUMANITARIANS & HUMANITARIANISM and KINDNESS & UNKINDNESS and PHILANTHROPY and [Good] SAMARITAN and SERVICE)

  • No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well. Margaret Thatcher, in interview on London Weekend Television’s Weekend World (Jan. 6, 1980)

SANCTIMONY & SANCTIMONIOUSNESS

(see also DUPLICITY and HYPOCRISY and [Righteous] INDIGNATION and PIETY)

  • Sanctimony probably engenders at least as much lying as cynicism. Wendy Kaminer, “Lies and Consequences,” in The American Prospect (May 19, 2002)

Kaminer preceded the thought by writing: “Liars—especially liars in power—often conflate their interest with the public interest. (What’s good for General Motors is good for the United States.) Or they consider their lies sanctified by the essential goodness they presume to embody, like terrorists who believe that murder is sanctified by the godliness of their aspirations.”

  • America's oldest communal passion, historically perhaps its most treacherous and subversive pleasure: the ecstasy of sanctimony. Philip Roth, a reflection of narrator Nathan Zuckerman, in The Human Stain (2000)

SAN FRANCISCO

(see also BOSTON and CHICAGO and DESCRIPTIONS—OF PLACES and HOLLYWOOD and LAS VEGAS and LONDON and LOS ANGELES and NEW ORLEANS and NEW YORK CITY and PARIS)

(see also AMERICAN CITIES)

  • San Francisco is perhaps the most European of all American cities. Cecil Beaton, in It Gives Me Great Pleasure (1955)
  • New Orleans is one of the two most ingrown, self-obsessed little cities in the United States. (The other is San Francisco.) Nora Ephron, in Scribble Scribble (1978)
  • Every man should be allowed to love two cities, his own and San Francisco. Gene Fowler, quoted in John Bernard McGloin, San Francisco: The Story of a City (1978)
  • San Francisco is a mad city—inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people whose women are of a remarkable beauty. Rudyard Kipling, in American Notes (1891)

In his book, Kipling also wrote about the city: “San Francisco has only one drawback. 'Tis hard to leave.”

  • That was old San Francisco, the gay, young, wind-swept, fog- shrouded city scattered about on seven times seven sand hills; a city ringed with dunes and with steep cobbled streets going down to wooden piers, and masts and hulls, and the blue waters of the bay. Kathleen Thompson Norris, in My San Francisco (1932)

In her loving tribute to the city Norris also wrote: “San Francisco…manages, mysteriously, through all the years, to preserve the romantic, the dramatic attitude of her younger days. She is still as surprising, as fascinating, as original as ever she was in the first days of all, when a hundred ships, deserted by gold-mad sailors, rotted in her harbor, and bells rang in the old Mission of Our Lady of Sorrows out on Dolores Street.”

SANITY

(see also CRAZY and INSANITY and (Mental) ILLNESS and MADNESS)

  • The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they’re OK, then it’s you. Rita Mae Brown, quoted in Susan Musgrave, Musgrave Landing: Musing on the Writing Life (1994)
  • It’s better to be crazy on one point and happy, than sane on all points and unhappy. Margaret Deland, “The Third Volume,” in Around Old Chester (1915)
  • Sanity, in my opinion, is an achievement. I have seen very few well-balanced people in my life who were not dunces. Corra Harris, in As A Woman Thinks (1925)
  • It’s possible to fight intolerance, stupidity, and fanaticism when they come separately. When you get all three together it’s probably wiser to get out, if only to preserve your sanity. P. D. James, the protagonist Adam Dalgliesh speaking, in Devices and Desires (1989)
  • What is sanity, after all, except the control of madness? Josephine Johnson, in Now in November (1934)
  • What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy? Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971)
  • 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)
  • Sanity is a matter of culture and convention. If it’s a crazy culture you live in, then you have to be irrational to want to conform.

Margaret Millar, in A Stranger in My Grave (1960)

Millar continued: “A completely rational person would recognize that the culture was crazy and refuse to conform. But by not conforming, he is the one who would be judged crazy by that particular society.”

  • There are certain eras which are too complex, too deafened by contradictory historical and intellectual experiences, to hear the voice of sanity. Sanity becomes compromise, evasion, a lie. Susan Sontag, in Against Interpretation (1966)
  • Sanity is a cozy lie. Susan Sontag, quoted in Charles Ruas, Conversations with American Writers (1985)
  • The most delusional fantasies can be made to masquerade as sanity if you’ve got the political power to reinforce them. Penny Skillman, “It’s a Mad, Mad World,” in San Francisco Chronicle Review (1988)
  • One of the definitions of sanity, itself, is the ability to tell real from unreal. Shall we need a new definition? Alvin Toffler, in Future Shock (1970)
  • When all the world goes mad, one must accept madness as sanity, since sanity is, in the last analysis, nothing but the madness on which the whole world happens to agree. George Bernard Shaw, referring to WWI, in letter to Maxim Gorky (Dec. 28, 1915)

SANTA CLAUS

(includes SAINT NICK; see also CHRISTMAS)

  • Bernard Shaw (I strongly suspect) began to disbelieve in Santa Claus at a discreditably early age. G. K. Chesterton, in George Bernard Shaw (1909)
  • Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows; who shares his joys with those who are sad; whose hand is never closed against the needy; whose arm is ever outstretched to aid the week; whose sympathy is quick and genuine in time of trouble; who recognizes a comrade and brother in every man he meets upon life’s common road; who lives his life throughout the entire year in the Christmas spirit. Edwin Osgood Grover, a 1912 statement, quoted in Vicky Howard, The Book of Santa Claus (2005)
  • We all ought to understand we’re on our own. Believing in Santa Claus doesn’t do kids any harm for a few years but it isn’t smart for them to continue waiting all their lives for him to come down the chimney with something wonderful. Santa Claus and God are cousins. Andy Rooney, in Sincerely, Andy Rooney (1999)

SARCASM

(see also CRITICISM and IRONY and PARODY & PARODISTS and RIDICULE and SATIRE & SATIRISTS and WIT)

  • If you can't detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood. Lily Allen, lyrics from the song “Hard Out Here,” on the album Sheezus (2014)
  • Sarcasm masquerades as the Preppy’s sense of humor. Lisa Birnbach, in The Official Preppy Handbook (1980)
  • At the best, sarcasms, bitter irony, scathing wit, are a sort of swordplay of the mind. Christian Nestell Bovee, in Intuitions and Summaries of Thought (1862)
  • Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the Devil; for which reason I have, long since, as good as renounced it. Thomas Carlyle, in Sartor Resartus (1833)
  • Her sarcasm was so quick, so fine at the point—it was like being touched by a metal so cold that one doesn’t know whether one is burned or chilled. Willa Cather, the narrator, fifteen-year-old Nellie Birdseye, describing Myra Henshawe, in My Mortal Enemy (1926)
  • The best philosophy to employ toward the world is to alloy the sarcasm of gaiety with the indulgence of contempt. Nicolas Chamfort, quoted in A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1886)
  • Neither irony nor sarcasm is argument. Rufus Choate, quoted in David George Plotkin, Dictionary of American Maxims (1955)
  • The sarcasm made a slight whistling noise as it flew over Loafers’ head. Eoin Colfer, in Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code (2001)
  • Inevitably, anytime we are too vulnerable we feel the need to protect ourselves from further wounds. So we resort to sarcasm, cutting humor, criticism—anything that will keep from exposing the tenderness within. Stephen Covey, in The Divine Center (1982)

Covey continued: “Each partner tends to wait on the initiative of the other for love, only to be disappointed but also confirmed as to the rightness of the accusations made.”

  • Petulance is not sarcasm. Benjamin Disraeli, in a speech in Parliament (December 16, 1852)

QUOTE NOTE: The phrase above came in a fuller set of remarks Disraeli made about fellow MP Sir Charles Wood: “He has to learn that petulance is not sarcasm and that insolence is not invective.”

  • It is smart to think of some sarcastic thing to say; but it is smarter still to think of it and not say it. Lillian Eichler, in The Book of Conversation, Vol. 1 (1927)
  • Blows are sarcasms turned stupid. George Eliot, in Felix Holt, the Radical (1866)

QUOTE NOTE: In an editor's note in his Dictionary of Quotations (1968), Bergen Evans wrote that sarcastic remarks “were sometimes called dry blows.”

  • It is better to sacrifice one's love of sarcasm than to indulge it at the expense of a friend. Théophile Gautier, quoted in A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness (1886)
  • Sarcastic language refers to irony that is especially bitter and caustic. Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr. in The Poetics of Mind: Figurative Thought, Language, and Understanding (1994)
  • Sarcasm and compassion are two of the qualities that make life on Earth tolerable. Nick Hornby, “Needle in a Haystack”, in Songbook (2003)
  • As I said, this was my sarcastic summer. It was only long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak. John Knowles, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Gene Forrester, in A Separate Peace (1959)

In many quotation anthologies, the observation is often presented this way: “Sarcasm is the protest of the weak.”

  • Sarcasm is when you tell someone the truth by lying on purpose. Chuck Klosterman, the character John Laidlaw speaking, in Downtown Owl: A Novel (2008)
  • Sarcasm…is antithetical to the concept of intimacy. Roger Kreuz, in Irony and Sarcasm (2020)
  • Irony isn’t a loner; it spends a lot of time in the company of a shady relative with a checkered reputation. The nature of their relationship, however, is obscure. Sarcasm could be thought of an irony’s evil twin. Roger Kreuz, in Irony and Sarcasm (2020)

Kreuz continued: “Or perhaps they are described as siblings, or simply as cousins. Sarcasm is also a bit two-faced, with a penchant for hostility as well as humor.”

  • Sarcasm is a subtle form of bullying and most bullies are angry, insecure, cowards. Clifford N. Lazarus, “Think Sarcasm is Funny? Think Again,” in Psychology Today (June 26, 2012)
  • A sarcastic person has a superiority complex that can be cured only by the honesty of humility. Lawrence G. Lovasik, in The Hidden Power of Kindness (1999)
  • He knew that women appreciated neither irony nor sarcasm, but simple jokes and funny stories. He was amply provided with both. W. Somerset Maugham, a reflection of protagonist Niccolò Machiavelli, in Then and Now (1946)
  • Sarcasm…raised blisters on her soul that smarted for months. Lucy Maud Montgomery, the narrator describing the character Katherine Brooke, in Anne of Windy Poplars (1936)
  • It’s wildly irritating to have invented something as revolutionary as sarcasm, only to have it abused by amateurs. Christopher Moore, the character Joshua [Jesus] speaking, in Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (2002)

QUOTE NOTE: Lamb is Moore’s satirical attempt to fill in the childhood years of Jesus through the eyes of his childhood pal Levi bar Alphaeus, also known as Biff. Jesus’s childhood years are often referred to as the “lost” years because his life before age twelve is not described in the New Testament.

  • We are suffering from too much sarcasm. Marianne Moore, in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore (1986; Patricia C. Willis, ed.)
  • Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food, and few things in the world are more wearying than a sarcastic attitude towards life. Agnes Repplier, “Wit and Humor,” in Essays in Idleness (1893)
  • Essentially, sarcasm is often hostility disguised as humor. Synonyms include derision, mockery, and ridicule, all less-than-humorous things to be receiving. Anthony D. Smith, “Behind the Scenes of Sarcasm,” in Psychology Today (December 14, 2020)

Smith’s article alsocontained this other memorable observation: “Sarcasm, a sort of cloak-and-dagger approach to communication”

  • Many men have withstood an argument who fell before a sarcasm. Elizabeth Elton Smith, in The Three Eras of Woman’s Life (1836)
  • A true sarcasm is like a sword-stick; it appears from under the cloak, and is pretty sure to have a thrust at something or other. Sydney Smith, “The Moral Education of the People,” in The Works of the Rev. Sydney Smith (1855)
  • Nothing sharpens the arrow of sarcasm so keenly as the courtesy that polishes it; no reproach is like that we clothe with a smile and present with a bow. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Edge-Tools of Speech (1886)
  • The talent for being sarcastic is a most dangerous one. No one ever knew a sarcastic woman who could keep friends. Helen Ekin Starrett, in The Charm of Fine Manners, Being a Series of Letters, to a Daughter (1907)
  • Sarcasm is not the rapier of wit its wielders seem to believe it to be, but merely a club: it may, by dint of brute force, occasionally raise bruises, but it never cuts or pierces. Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe), quoted in Roger Kreuz, Irony and Sarcasm (2020)

QUOTATION CAUTION: So far, I’ve been unable to confirm the authenticity of this quotation.

  • Humor does not include sarcasm, invalid irony, sardonicism, or any other form of cruelty. When these things are raised to a high point they can become wit. James Thurber, quoted in Horn Book Magazine (April, 1962)
  • Sarcasm and jokes were often the bottle in which clinical depressives sent out their most plangent screams for someone to care and help them. David Foster Wallace, in Infinite Jest (2011)
  • Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence. Oscar Wilde, widely quoted, not authenticated

SATIRE & SATIRISTS

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

  • Humor is essential to a successful tactician, for the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule. Saul D. Alinsky, in Rules for Radicals (1971)

Alinsky continued: “A sense of humor enables him to maintain his perspective and see himself for what he really is: a bit of dust that burns for a fleeting second. A sense of humor is incompatible with the complete acceptance of any dogma, any religious, political, or economic prescription for salvation. It synthesizes with curiosity, irreverence, and imagination. The organizer has a personal identity of his own that cannot be lost by absorption or acceptance of any kind of group discipline or organization.”

  • Satire is dependent on strong beliefs, and on strong beliefs wounded. Anita Brookner, quoted in The Spectator (London; March 23, 1989)
  • Satire is tragedy plus time. Lenny Bruce, “Performing and the Art of Comedy,” in The Essential Lenny Bruce (1967; John Cohen, ed.)

Bruce continued: “You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.”

  • Prepare for rhyme—I’ll publish right or wrong:/Fools are my theme, let Satire be my song. George Gordon (Lord Byron), in “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers: A Satire” (1809)
  • A man is angry at a libel because it is false, but at a satire because it is true. G. K. Chesterton, “Pope and the Art of Satire,” in Twelve Types (1903)
  • Satire well applied, is the medicine of the mind. James Cobb, in The Haunted Tower (1789)
  • What arouses the indignation of the honest satirist is not, unless the man is a prig, the fact the people in positions of power or influence behave idiotically, or even that they behave wickedly. It is that they conspire successfully to impose upon the public a picture of themselves as so very sagacious, honest and well-intentioned. Claud Cockburn, “The Worst Possible Taste,” in Cockburn Sums Up (1981)
  • By rights, satire is a lonely and introspective occupation, for nobody can describe a fool to the life without much patient self-inspection. Frank Moore Colby, “Simple Simon,” in The Colby Essays (1926)
  • The difference between satire and humor is that the satirist shoots to kill while the humorist brings his prey back alive—often to release him again for another chance. Peter De Vries, quoted in Harold Bloom, Twentieth-Century American Literature (1986)
  • Satire’s nature is to be one-sided, contemptuous of ambiguity, and so unfairly selective as to find in the purity of ridicule an inarguable moral truth. E. L. Doctorow, “Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith,” in Creationists: Selected Essays, 1993–2006 (2006)
  • A satirist is a man whose flesh creeps so at the ugly and the savage and the incongruous aspects of society that he has to express them as brutally and nakedly as possible to get relief. John Dos Passos, “Grosz Comes to America,” in Esquire magazine (Sep., 1936); reprinted as “Satire as a Way of Seeing,” in Occasions and Protests (1964)

Dos Passos continued: “He seeks to put his grisly obsession into expressive form the way a bacteriologist seeks to isolate a virus.”

  • How important are free speech and satire? Important enough that people will murder others to silence the kind of speech they don’t like. Neil Gaiman, in a Tweet (Jan 7, 2014)

QUOTE NOTE: Gaiman was referring to the mass murder of staffers at Charlie Hebdo magazine by Islamic militants.

  • Satire, like conscience, reminds us of what we often wish to forget. Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington), in Desultory Thoughts and Reflections (1839)
  • A satirist, often in danger himself, has the bravery of knowing that to withhold wit’s conjecture is to endanger the species. Penelope Gilliatt, in To Wit (1990)
  • Smart writers never understand why their satires on our town [Hollywood] are never successful. What they refuse to accept is that you can’t satirize a satire. Hedda Hopper, in From Under My Hat (1952)
  • Reality has an odd habit of catching up with satire. Walter Isaacson, in Steve Jobs (2011)
  • Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel—it’s vulgar. Molly Ivins, quoted in “The Mouth of Texas,” People magazine (Dec. 9, 1991)

QUOTE NOTE: Ivins was contrasting satire with humor. She introduced the observation by saying: “There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity—like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule—that’s what I do.” Ivins reprised the thought in a 1995 Mother Jones piece about Rush Limbaugh (“Lyin’ Bully,” May/June, 1995), writing: “Satire is a weapon, and it can be quite cruel. It has historically been the weapon of powerless people aimed at the powerful. When you use satire against powerless people, as Limbaugh does, it is not only cruel, it’s profoundly vulgar. It is like kicking a cripple.”

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites mistakenly present an abridged version of the Ivins quotation: “Satire is the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.”

  • Satire is by its nature offensive. So is much art and political discourse. The value of these expressions far outweighs their risk. Erica Jong, “Deliberate Lewdness and the Creative Imagination: Should We Censor Pornography?” in What Do Women Want (1998)

Jong preceded the observation with this observation: “If we ban whatever offends any group in our diverse society, we will soon have no art, no culture, no humor, no satire.”

  • It is hard not to write satire. Juvenal, in Satires (c. 100 A.D)
  • Satire is what closes on Saturday night. George S. Kaufman, quoted in Howard Teichmann, George S. Kaufman: An Intimate Portrait (1972)

QUOTATION CAUTION: In George S. Kaufman and His Friends (1974), Scott Meredith presented a version of the observation with one less word: “Satire is what closes Saturday night.” The meaning of both is the same—that while Broadway audiences love wit and humor, they respond far less favorably to satire.

  • Satire may be of a dozen kinds and used for a dozen purposes. It may be personal, malicious, diabolical, and colorless, just a stick to beat a dog. But humor is the very life of it. Stephen Leacock, in Hellements of Hickonomics in Hiccoughs of Verse Done in Our Social Planning Mill (1936)
  • Satirists are born when there is nothing to laugh at. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, in More Unkempt Thoughts (1964)
  • Satire died the day they gave Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize. There were no jokes after that, Tom Lehrer, quoted in London's Daily Telegraph (April 28, 1998)
  • Only a mind steeped in true love can write irony. The others write satire. James A. Michener, in Hawaii (1959)
  • Satire should, like a polish’d razor keen,/Wound with a touch, that’s scarcely felt or seen. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, “Verses Address’d to the Imitator of Horace” (1733), in The Works of the Right Honourable Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, vol. 5 (1803)

QUOTE NOTE: In The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011), Steven Pinker wrote about Lady Mary’s observation: “But satire is seldom polished that keenly, and the butts of a joke may be all too aware of the subversive power of humor. They may react with a rage that is stoked by the intentional insult to a sacred value, the deflation of their dignity, and a realization that laughter indicates common knowledge of both. The lethal riots in 2005 provoked by the editorial cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten (for example, one showing Muhammad in heaven greeting newly arrived suicide bombers with ‘Stop, we have run out of virgins!’) show that when it comes to the deliberate undermining of a sacred relational model, humor is no laughing matter.”

  • Satire is a lesson, parody is a game. Vladimir Nabokov, in Strong Opinions (1990)
  • There is parody, when you make fun of people who are smarter than you; satire, when you make fun of people who are richer than you; and burlesque, when you make fun of both while taking your clothes off. P. J. O’Rourke, in Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut (1995)
  • Satire’s my weapon, but I’m too discreet/To run amuck, and tilt at all I meet. Alexander Pope, in The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace (1733)
  • The most annoying of all public performers is the personal satirist. Though he may be considered by some few, as a useful member of society; yet he is only ranked with the hangman, whom we tolerate because he executes the judgment we abhor to do ourselves; and avoid, with a natural detestation of his office: The pen of the one and the cord of the other are inseparable in our minds. Jane Porter, in Philip Sidney and Jane Porter, Aphorisms of Sir Philip Sidney, With Remarks by Miss Porter (1807)
  • A fondness for satire indicates a mind pleased with irritating others; for myself, I never could find amusement in killing flies. Marie-Jeanne Roland, a 1776 remark, quoted in Lydia Maria Child, Memoirs of Madame de Staël and of Madame Roland (1847)
  • Satire is focused bitterness. Leo Rosten, in The Return of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N (1959)

QUOTE NOTE: Rosten’s fuller observation went this way: “Humor is the affectionate communication of insight (Satire is focused bitterness, and burlesque the skewing of proportions).”

  • Satire is moral outrage transformed into comic art. Philip Roth, “On Our Gang” (1971), in Reading Myself and Others (1975)
  • The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible. Salman Rushdie, “Defend the Right to Be Offended,” in Open Democracy (Feb. 7, 2005)
  • The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible. Salman Rushdie, “Do We Have to Fight the Battle for the Enlightenment All Over Again?” in The Independent (Jan. 22, 2005)
  • Religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. Salman Rushdie, “I Stand With Charlie Hebdo, as We All Must,” in The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 7, 2015)

QUOTE NOTE: Rushdie was writing in response to news of an attack by two masked gunman who on January 7, 2015 stormed the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and massacred a dozen staffers. The magazine had recently published a series of satirical cartoons, including one which depicted Prophet Muhammad saying, “It’s hard being loved by jerks.” Rushdie continued: “‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

  • Satire is exaggeration and distortion to make a point. Oliver Stone, remark in interview, The Charlie Rose Show (PBS: Aug. 16, 1994)

Sarcasm is not the rapier of wit its wielders seem to believe it to be, but merely a club: it may, by dint of brute force, occasionally raise bruises, but it never cuts or pierces. Rex Stout, quoted in Roger Kreuz, Irony and Sarcasm (2020)

  • Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own. Jonathan Swift, in Preface to The Battle of the Books (written 1697, published 1704)

QUOTE NOTE: In Swift’s time, glass was the common term for a mirror.

  • In modern America, anyone who attempts to write satirically about the events of the day finds it difficult to concoct a situation so bizarre that it may not actually come to pass while his article is still on the presses. Calvin Trillin, in Introduction to Uncivil Liberties (1982)
  • The satirist who writes nothing but satire should write but little—or it will seem that his satire springs rather from his own caustic nature than from the sins of the world in which he lives. Anthony Trollope, in An Autobiography (1883)

The observation was inspired by the writings of William Makepeace Thackeray, about whom Trollope wrote: “It was perhaps his chief fault as a writer that he could never abstain from that dash of satire which he felt to be demanded by the weaknesses which he saw around him.”

  • Criticizing a political satirist for being unfair is like criticizing a 260-pound noseguard for being physical. Garry Trudeau, in speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association (April 25, 1988)

Trudeau introduced the observation by saying: “Satire is supposed to be unbalanced. It’s supposed to be unfair.”

  • Satire picks a one-sided fight, and the more its intended target reacts, the more the practitioner gains the advantage. Garry Trudeau, quoted in The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 20, 1993)
  • Satire is a wrapping of exaggeration around a core of reality. Barbara W. Tuchman, in A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (1978)
  • A satirist is a man profoundly revolted by the society in which he lives. His rage takes the form of wit, ridicule, mockery. Gore Vidal, “The Satiric World of Evelyn Waugh,” in The New York Times (Jan. 7, 1962)

These were the opening words of Vidal’s article. His closing words were: “At full strength, wit is rage made bearable, and useful.”

  • Satire lies about literary men while they live and eulogy lies about them when they die. Voltaire, Lettre à Bordes (10 January 1769)
  • Satire is alive and well and living in the White House. Robin Williams, quoted in Rolling Stone magazine (Feb. 25, 1985)

SATISFACTION

(see also BLISS and CHEER & CHEERFULNESS and CONTENTMENT and DISSATISFACTION and FULFILLMENT and HAPPINESS and JOY)

  • Laziness may look inviting, but only work gives you true satisfaction. Anne Frank, diary entry (July 6, 1944), in Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1952)

Frank preceded the thought by writing: “We have many reasons to hope for great happiness, but…we have to earn it. And that’s something you can’t achieve by taking the easy way out. Earning happiness means doing good and working, not speculating and being lazy.”

  • What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree. Sigmund Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)
  • Life lived only for oneself does not truly satisfy men or women. There is a hunger in Americans today for larger purposes beyond the self. Betty Friedan, in The Second Stage (1981)
  • From the satisfaction of desire there may arise, accompanying joy and as it were sheltering behind it, something not unlike despair. André Gide, the voice of the narrator, in The Counterfeitors (1925)
  • You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you're going to go to bed with satisfaction. 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)
  • We are built to conquer environment, solve problems, achieve goals, and we find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve. Maxwell Maltz, in Psycho-Cybernetics (1960)

Maltz continued: “People who say that life is not worthwhile are really saying that they themselves have no personal goals which are worthwhile.”

  • Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life. Linus Pauling, quoted in Robert John Paradowski, The Structural Chemistry of Linus Pauling, Vol. 1 (1972)
  • Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best. Theodore Isaac Rubin, in Love Me, Love My Fool: Thoughts from a Psychoanalyst’s Notebook (1976)
  • He is well paid that is well satisfied. William Shakespeare, the character Portia speaking, in The Merchant of Venice (c. 1596)
  • As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death. George Bernard Shaw, the character Gregory Lunn speaking, in Overruled (1912)
  • Satisfaction may be the goal of the average person, but it is the enemy of greatness. Garrison Wynn, in The Real Truth About Success (2010)

SAVOR, SAVORY, & SAVORING

(see also APPRECIATION and DELECTABLE and DELICIOUS and EATING and ENJOYMENT and PLEASURE and SEASONING and TASTE)

  • We define the concept of savoring as going beyond the the experience of pleasure to encompass a higher order awareness or reflective discernment on the part of the individual. Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff, in Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience (2007)

A bit earlier, Bryant and Veroff wrote on the subject: “The word savoring also conveys metaphorically a search for the delectable, delicious, almost gustatory delights of the moment. Although the term fits more intuitively with attending to a sensory experience such as taste, we mean to extend it to attending to more complex cognitive associations.”

SAYING NOTHING

(see SILENCE)

SCAPEGOAT

(see also BLAME & BLAMING and CENSURE and COMPLAINING & COMPLAINTS and CRITICISM and EXCUSES and FINGER-POINTING)

  • The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (1967)  
  • For the last six thousand years, the Devil has been the grand scapegoat. He has had to bear the blame of every thing that has gone wrong. All the evil that gets committed is laid to his door, and he has, besides, the credit of hindering all the good that has never got done at all. If mankind were not thus one and all victims to the Devil, what an irredeemable set of scoundrels they would be obliged to confess themselves!” Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury, the voice of the narrator, in Zoë, The History of Two Lives, Vol. 2 (1845)

Jewsbury introduced the thought by writing: “What would become of the world without the Devil?”

SCARE

(see also ALARM and BRAVERY and COWARDICE and FEAR and FRIGHT)

  • If men ever discovered how tough women actually are, they would be scared to death. Edna Ferber, in A Kind of Magic (1963)
  • A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice. Edgar Watson Howe, in Country Town Sayings (1911)
  • The main thing is not a matter of wanting to win; the main thing is being scared to lose. Billie Jean King, in Billie Jean (1982; with Frank Deford)
  • What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not? Toni Morrison, the character Pilate speaking, in Song of Solomon (1977)
  • If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances. Julia Sorel, in See How She Runs (1978)
  • “Fearless” is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. Taylor Swift, quoted in a 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific issue undetermined)
  • If I ever felt inclined to be scared going into a room full of people I would say to myself, “You’re the cleverest member of one of the cleverest families in the cleverest class of the cleverest nation of the world, so what have you got to be frightened of?” Beatrice Webb, in Beatrice Webb’s American Diary (1963; David A. Shannon, ed.)

SCARS

(see also ADVERSITY and AGONY and ANGUISH and DEPRESSION and DIFFICULTY and GRIEF & GRIEVING and MISERY & WOE and MISFORTUNE and PAIN and PROBLEMS and SORROW and TEARS and TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS)

  • Scars are tattoos with better stories. Author Unknown
  • When wounds are healed by love, the scars are beautiful. Author Unknown
  • Every man has had his battle with temptations. Every man has had his scars. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs From Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • The human race…tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What’s left of kisses? Wounds however leave scars. Bertolt Brecht, in Short Stories, 1921-1946 (1983)
  • Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seamed with scars. E. H. Chapin, in Living Words (1866)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation, but with seared instead of seamed, was mistakenly attributed to Kahlil Gibran in The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran (1995). Ever since, almost all quotation anthologies have repeated the error.

  • I am a pear that has survived a hailstorm: when it does not rot, it becomes better and sweeter than the others, in spite of its little scars. Colette (pen name of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), in a 1912 letter, reprinted in Letters From Colette (1980; Robert Phelps, ed.)
  • There are deep lines on each side of his mouth and I know they are the scars from the thin blade of life. Deborah Joy Corey, “Good Intentions,” in Story (1990)
  • A sneer is like a flame; it may occasionally be curative because it cauterizes, but it leaves a bitter scar. Margaret Deland, in The Awakening of Helena Richie (1906)
  • For women, tears are the beginning of initiation into the Scar Clan, that timeless tribe of women of all colors, all nations, all languages, who down through the ages have lived through a great something, and yet who stood proud, still stand proud. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, in Women Who Run With the Wolves (1992)
  • Throughout human history people have scarred, painted, pierced, padded, stiffened, plucked, and buffed their bodies in the name of beauty. Nancy L. Etcoff, in Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty (1999)
  • One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the voice of the narrator, in Tender Is the Night (1934)

The narrator continued: “There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or of the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it.”

  • Divorce is a serious operation which leaves scars forever. Solar Forst, in Alphabet of Love (1967)
  • Scars are stories, history written on the body. Kathryn Harrison, quoted in Marilee Strong, A Bright Red Scream (1999)
  • Let no one ever say it is not those sins of omission that scar the soul and set the heart to cringing in the small hours of the night. The “why didn’t I?” knows a more hopeless regret than the committed mistake. Ann Head, in Always in August (1961)
  • Be fond of the man who jests at his scars, if you like; but never believe he is being on the level with you. Pamela Hansford Johnson, in The Holiday Friend (1972)
  • Divorce is my generation’s coming of age ceremony—a ritual scarring that makes anything that happens afterward seem bearable. Erica Jong, in Fear of Fifty (1994)
  • It has been said that time heals all wounds. I don’t agree. The wounds remain. Time—the mind, protecting its sanity—covers them with some scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone. Rose Kennedy, in Times to Remember (1974)
  • Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real. The events that cause them can never be forgotten, can they? Cormac McCarthy, the character señorita Alfonsa speaking, in All the Pretty Horses (1992)
  • Hate leaves ugly scars; love leaves beautiful ones. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook (1960)
  • That’s what a conscience is made of, scar tissue…Little strips and pieces of remorse sewn together year by year until they formed a distinctive pattern, a design for living. Margaret Millar, in Do Evil in Return (1950)
  • Suicide can be used as a very cruel weapon, you know. It can be the ultimate revenge, leaving a scar that a living person may carry to the grave. Patricia Moyes, in Johnny Under Ground (1961)
  • Age’s terms of peace, after the long interlude of war with life, have still to be concluded—Youth must be kept decently away—so many old wounds may have to be unbound, and old scars pointed to with pride, to prove to ourselves we have been brave and noble. Eugene O’Neill, in Strange Interlude (1928).
  • The pain that I carried was never validated because my scars didn’t show on the outside. In retrospect, I often wished that I had carried my scars on the outside. At least no one could have denied their existence. Catherine Oxenberg, quoted in Linda Sivertsen, Lives Charmed (1998)
  • If we could only use other folks’ experience, this here world would be heaven in about three generations, but we’re so constructed that we never believe fire’ll burn till we poke our own fingers into it to see. Other folks’ scars don't go no ways at all toward convincin’ us. Myrtle Reed, in At the Sign of the Jack-o’-Lantern (1905)
  • 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)
  • He jests at scars that never felt a wound. William Shakespeare, the character Romeo speaking, in Romeo and Juliet 1595)
  • A scar nobly got, or a noble scar, is a good livery of honor. William Shakespeare, the character Lafew speaking, in All's Well That Ends Well (1603-04)
  • Divorce is simply modern society’s version of medieval torture. Except it lasts longer and leaves deeper scars. A divorce releases the most primitive emotions; the ugliest, raw feelings. Emotionally wounded people do their best to inflict pain upon the other party, but rather than using claws they use divorce lawyers. William Shatner, in Up Till Now: The Autobiography (2008; with David Fisher)
  • Whatever doesn’t kill you leaves scars. Susan Sontag, quoted in Charles Ruas, Conversations With American Writers (1984)
  • To be alive at all is to have scars. John Steinbeck, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Ethan Hawley, in The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)
  • Scars are just another kind of memory. M. L. Stedman, in The Light Between Oceans (2012)
  • Most things break, including hearts. The lessons of a life amount not to wisdom but to scar tissue and callus. Wallace Stegner, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Joe Allston, in The Spectator Bird (1976)
  • They say the face tells all there is to know about a life, but I personally believe much can be deduced from the hands. There are lines and scars, bumps and calluses; indeed, the hands are both the sketch and the final work of art. Jacqueline Winspear, in The Mapping of Love and Death (2010)
  • Time may heal wounds, but it does not erase the scars. Jane Yolen, in Briar Rose (1992)

SCHEDULE

(see also ORGANIZATION and PLANNING and TIME MANAGEMENT)

  • A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life (1989)

Dillard continued: “A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself decades later, still living.”

SCHOLARS & SCHOLARSHIP

(includes [The] LEARNED; see also BRAIN and COLLEGE and ERUDITION and MIND and INTELLECT and INTELLECTUALS and INTELLIGENCE and KNOWLEDGE and LEARNING and PEDANTS & PEDANTRY and PROFESSORS and STUDY and THINKING & THINKERS and THOUGHT and UNIVERSITY and WISDOM)

  • A scholar’s heart is a dark well in which are buried many aborted feelings that rise to the surface as arguments. Natalie Clifford Barney, in Adventures of the Mind (1929)
  • A mechanic is driven by his work all day, but it ends at night; it has an end. But the scholar’s work has none. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an undated 1845 journal entry
  • A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (Nov. 1734)
  • A scholar is like a book written in a dead language—it is not every one that can read in it. William Hazlitt, “Common Places,” in The Literary Examiner (Sep.–Dec., 1823)
  • It is the vice of scholars to suppose that there is no knowledge in the world but that of books. William Hazlitt, “On the Conduct of Life,” in Literary Remains (1836)
  • People often become scholars for the same reason they become soldiers: simply because they are unfit for any other station. G. C. Lichtenberg, in Aphorisms: Notebook B (written between 1765–1799)

SCHOOLS & SCHOOLING

(see also COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES and EDUCATION & EDUCATORS and HIGH SCHOOL and HOMEWORK and INSTRUCTION & INSTRUCTORS and KNOWLEDGE and LEARNING and PROFESSORS and STUDENTS and STUDIES and TEACHERS & TEACHING and TUTORS & TUTORING)

  • What school is about; two parts ABCs to fifty parts Where Do I Stand in the Great Pecking Order of Humankind. Barbara Kingsolver, “Life Without Go-Go Boots” (1990), in High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never (1995)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet quotation sites mistakenly present the quotation as if it began: “School is about two parts ABCs….”

  • Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods. Neil Postman, quoting “an old aphorism,” in Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969)

[Home] SCHOOLING

(see also EDUCATION & EDUCATORS and INSTRUCTION & INSTRUCTORS and LEARNING and STUDENTS and TEACHERS & TEACHING)

  • Teaching takes skill and education and dedication. Home schooling as an idea is on a par with home dentistry. Dick Cavett, “Schooling Santorum,” in The New York Times (Feb. 24, 2012)

SCIENCE FICTION

(includes SCI-FI; see also BOOKS and FICTION and NOVELS and LITERATURE and WRITING)

  • Science fiction is the fiction of ideas. Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves. Ray Bradbury, in Paris Review interview (Spring, 2010)

Bradbury continued: “Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.”

  • Science fiction is a kind of archaeology of the future. Clifton Fadiman, in Introduction to Great Stories of Science Fiction (1951; Murray Leinster, ed.)
  • Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art. Susan Sontag, “The Imagination of Disaster,” in Against Interpretation (1966)
  • I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled “Science Fiction” ever since [publishing his first works], and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., “Science Fiction,” in Wampeters: Foma and Granfallons (1974)
  • A science fiction story is a story built around human beings, with a human problem and a human solution, which would not have happened at all without its scientific content. Theodore Sturgeon, a 1951 observation, quoted in A Touch of Sturgeon: Stories (1987; David Pringle, ed.)

SCIENCE

(see also BIOLOGY and CHEMISTRY and EVOLUTION and EXPERIMENT & EXPERIMENTATION and FACTS and GEOLOGY and MATHEMATICS and OBJECTIVITY & SUBJECTIVITY and PHYSICS and RESEARCH and SCIENTISTS and SCIENTISTS—ON THEMSELVES and SCIENTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and TECHNOLOGY and THEORY)

  • Art is meant to disturb, science reassures. Georges Braque, journal entry, in Le Jour et la nuit: Cahiers 1917–52 (1952)
  • Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. This is why science has succeeded where magic failed: because it has looked for no spell to cast over nature. Jacob Bronowski, “The Creative Mind” (lecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Feb. 26, 1953); reprinted in Science and Human Values (1961)
  • That is the essence of science: ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer. Jacob Bronowski, in The Ascent of Man (1973)
  • Experience, the universal Mother of Sciences. Miguel de Cervantes, in Don Quixote (1605)
  • There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Raymond Chandler, in The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler (1976)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation appeared under the heading “Great Thought.” Chandler continued: “Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other. Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.”

  • Scientific research was much like prospecting: you went out and you hunted, armed with your maps and your instruments, but in the end your preparations did not matter, or even your intuition. You needed your luck, and whatever benefits accrued to the diligent, through sheer, grinding hard work. Michael Crichton, the narrator quoting a favorite saying of the character Dr. Jeremy Stone, in The Andromeda Strain (1969)
  • There’s real poetry in the real world. Science is the poetry of reality. Richard Dawkins, in “Slaves to Superstition,” episode one of the Channel Four documentary film The Enemies of Reason (August 13, 2007)
  • Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. John Dewey, in The Quest for Certainty (1929)

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites mistakenly have the imagination. Dewey continued: “What are now working conceptions, employed as a matter of course because they have withstood the tests of experiment and have emerged triumphant, were once speculative hypotheses.”

  • Science is an edged tool, which men play like children, and cut their own fingers. Arthur S. Eddington, quoted in Robert L. Weber, More Random Walks in Science (1982)
  • All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking. Albert Einstein, “Physics and Reality,” in Journal of the Franklin Institute (March, 1936); reprinted in Ideas and Opinions (1954)
  • Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. Richard Feynman, “What is Science?” a talk at the 1966 annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association; later published in The Physics Teacher (1969; 7:6). Also published in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (1999)
  • In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution as Fact and Theory,” in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes (1983)
  • The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos. Stephen Jay Gould, summarizing a thought from Sigmund Freud, “Jove’s Thunderbolts,” in Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History (1995)
  • Science is a voyage of discovery, and beyond each horizon there is another. Francis Hitching, in The Neck of the Giraffe: Where Darwin Went Wrong (1982)
  • Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science. Edwin Hubble, in “The Exploration of Space,” Harper’s Magazine (May, 1929)
  • Science is the only way we have of shoving truth down the reluctant throat. Aldous Huxley, in Literature and Science (1963)
  • The great tragedy of Science—the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact. T. H. Huxley, in “Biogenesis and Abiogenesis,” his 1870 Presidential address to British Association for the Advancement of Science; reprinted in Discourses: Biological and Geological Essays (1894)
  • Science commits suicide when it adopts a creed. T. H. Huxley, in Aphorisms and Reflections; From the works of T. H. Huxley (1908; Henrietta A. Huxley, ed.)
  • Reason, Observation, and Experience—the Holy Trinity of Science. Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods” (a Jan., 1872 lecture), reprinted in The Gods, and Other Lectures (1874)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is generally presented, but it was originally the first portion of a fuller observation: “Reason, Observation, and Experience—the Holy Trinity of Science—have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us. In this belief we are content to live and die.”

  • Every science has been an outcast. Robert G. Ingersoll, in speech at Troy, New York (Dec. 17, 1877); reprinted in Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child (1903)
  • The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions. Claude Lévi-Strauss, “Overture,” in The Raw and the Cooked (1964)
  • In science, all facts, no matter how trivial or banal, enjoy democratic equality. Mary McCarthy, “The Fact in Fiction,” in On the Contrary (1961)
  • Most institutions demand unqualified faith; but the institution of science makes skepticism a virtue. Robert K. Merton, in The Sociology of Science (1973)
  • Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world. Louis Pasteur, remarks at banquet during 1876 meeting of the International Congress of Sericulture (Milan, Italy)
  • Science has made us gods before we are even worthy of being men. Jean Rostand, in Thoughts of a Biologist (1955)
  • All science is either physics or stamp collecting. Ernest Rutherford, in Rutherford at Manchester (1962; J. B. Birks, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: The distinction here is between mathematical and descriptive science.

  • Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home. Carl Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot (1994)
  • Science as a Candle in the Dark. Carl Sagan, subtitle of The Demon-Haunted World (1995)
  • Science is organized knowledge. Herbert Spencer, in Education (1861)
  • Today’s science is tomorrow’s technology. Edward Teller, in The Legacy of Hiroshima (1962; with Allen Brown, Jr.)
  • Science is bound, by the everlasting vow of honor, to face fearlessly every problem which can be fairly presented to it. William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), “On the Origin of Life,” address to British Association for the Advancement of Science (Edinburgh, Scotland; Aug., 1871)
  • Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently. Should the knife have not been developed? Werner von Braun, on his work as a German scientist during WWII, quoted in Alan F. Pater, What They Said in 1975: The Yearbook of World Opinion (1976)

QUOTE NOTE: Before heading up America’s space program in the post-WWII years, von Braun was the German scientist most responsible for developing the Nazi rocketry program. After the war, U. S. officials viewed his knowledge as so essential to the country’s future space program that they absolved him of responsibility for war crimes, granted him U.S. citizenship, and made him a leading NASA scientist.

  • Our science is like a store filled with the most subtle intellectual devices for solving the most complex problems, and yet we are almost incapable of applying the elementary principles of rational thought. Simone Weil, “The Power of Words” (1937), in Selected Essays, 1934–1943 (1957)
  • Much of good science—and perhaps all of great science—has its roots in fantasy. Edward. O. Wilson, in Letters to a Young Scientist (2013)

SCIENCE & ART

(see also ART and ARTISTS and SCIENCE and SCIENCE & RELIGION and SCIENTISTS)

  • There is an art to science, and science in art; the two are not enemies, but different aspects of the whole. Isaac Asimov, in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988; I. Asimov and J. A. Shulman, eds.)
  • Art is I; science is we. Claude Bernard, quoted in Lily Splane, Quantum Consciousness (2004)
  • It is the greatest of crimes to depress true art and science. William Blake, in letter to William Hayley (Dec. 11, 1805); reprinted in The Letters of William Blake, Vol. I (1906; A. G. Blomefield Russell, ed.)
  • Art is meant to disturb, science reassures. Georges Braque, journal entry, in Le Jour et la nuit: Cahiers 1917–52 (1952)
  • Art and science coincide insofar as both aim to improve the lives of men and women. The latter normally concerns itself with profit, the former with pleasure. Bertolt Brecht, in Little Organon for the Theater (1949)

Brecht added: “In the coming age, art will fashion our entertainment out of new means of productivity in ways that will simultaneously enhance our profit and maximize our pleasure.”

  • Art is science made clear. Jean Cocteau, in a 1926 French publication, later reprinted in Collected Works (1950)
  • Today the function of the artist is to bring imagination to science and science to imagination, where they meet, in the myth. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1944; rev. ed. 1951)
  • Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art. Will Durant, in The Story of Philosophy (1926)
  • Science and art belong to the whole world, and the barriers of nationality vanish before them. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “In a Conversation With a German Historian” (1813), reported in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1922; Kate Louise Roberts, ed.)
  • He who posseses science and art, has religion; he who possesses neither science nor art, let him get religion. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in “Gedichte,” quoted in Miguel De Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life (1913)

QUOTE NOTE: I’ve also seen this translated as a poetic quatrain: “He who possesses science and art,/Possesses religion as well;/He who possesses neither of these,/Had better have religion.”

  • The truths of Science become more meaningful and more beautiful when analyzed and explained; exactly the reverse occurs with the truths of Art. Boris Glikman, in a personal communication to the compiler (August, 2017)
  • Just as science is the intellect of the world, art is its soul. Maxim Gorky, in Untimely Thoughts (1968)

Gorky preceded the observation by writing: “The good qualities in our soul are most successfully and forcefully awakened by the power of art.”

  • Science and art, or by the same token, poetry and prose differ from one another like a journey and an excursion. The purpose of the journey is its goal, the purpose of an excursion is the process. Franz Grillparzer, in Notebooks and Diaries (1838)
  • A science or an art may be said to be “useful” if its development increases, even indirectly, the material well-being and comfort of men, it promotes happiness, using that word in a crude and commonplace way. G. W. Hardy, in A Mathematician’s Apology (1940)
  • Science and art are only too often a superior kind of dope, possessing this advantage over booze and morphia: that they can be indulged in with a good conscience and with the conviction that, in the process of indulging, one is leading the “higher life.” Aldous Huxley, “Ends and Means” (1937), in Collected Essays (1959)
  • Science and literature are not two things, but two sides of one thing. T. H. Huxley, in Aphorisms and Reflections from the Works of T. H. Huxley (1907; Henrietta A Huxley, ed.)
  • Science deals exclusively with things as they are in themselves; and art exclusively with things as they affect the human sense and human soul. John Ruskin, in Stones of Venice, Vol. III (1853)
  • Science has to do with facts, art with phenomena. To science, phenomena are of use only as they lead to facts; and to art, facts are of use only as they lead to phenomena. John Ruskin, in Stones of Venice, Vol. III (1853)
  • Imagination comes first in both artistic and scientific creations, but in science there is only one answer and that has to be correct. James Watson, quoted in “Discoverers of the Double Helix,” The Daily Telegraph (London; April 27, 1987)
  • Art was the mother of Science. William Whewell, “The General Bearing of the Great Exhibition on the Progress of Art and Science,” lecture to the London Society of Arts (Nov. 26, 1851)

Whewell introduced the thought by saying: “In general, art has preceded science. Men have executed great, and curious, and beautiful works before they had a scientific insight into the principles on which the success of their labors was founded.”

SCIENCE & RELIGION

(see also RELIGION and SCIENCE and SCIENTISTS)

  • Science and religion, religion and science, put it as I may, they are two sides of the same glass, through which we see darkly until these two, focusing together, reveal the truth. Pearl S. Buck, in A Bridge for Passing (1962)
  • Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Freeman Dyson, “Progress in Religion: A Talk by Freeman Dyson,” acceptance speechfor the Templeton Prize (Washington DC; May 9, 2000)

Dyson continued: “Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.”

  • The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide. Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry (March 4, 1831)
  • Religions tend to be hostile and divisive among themselves, while the sciences are necessarily allies—indicating there may be more of a religious core of unity in scientific investigation of the truth than in the religious exhortation of piety. Sydney J. Harris, in Pieces of Eight (1982)
  • The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief, which is at the heart of all popular religion, that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart. Walter Lippmann, in A Preface to Morals (1929)
  • What has occurred over the course of the last few centuries is a growing (but by no means universal or certain) recognition that science gets the job done, while religion makes excuses. P. Z. Myers, in a Pharyngula blog post (Sep. 12, 2009)

Myers continued: “Sometimes they are very pretty excuses that capture the imagination of the public, but ultimately, when you want to win a war or heal a dying child or get rich from a discovery or explore Antarctica, you turn to science and reason, or you fail.”

  • Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. Jonathan Sacks, in The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (2011)
  • Science tries to answer the question: “How?” How do cells act in the body? How do you design an airplane that will fly faster than sound? How is a molecule of insulin constructed? Religion, by contrast, tries to answer the question: “Why?” Why was man created? Why ought I to tell the truth? Why must there be sorrow or pain or death? Warren Weaver, in Science and Imagination (1967)

Weaver continued: “Science attempts to analyze how things and people and animals behave; it has no concern whether this behavior is good or bad, is purposeful or not. But religion is precisely the quest for such answers: whether an act is right or wrong, good or bad, and why.”

  • In science it often happens that scientists say, “You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,” and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. Carl Sagan, in a 1987 speech to the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal [CSICOP]; quoted in Judson Poling, Do Science and the Bible Conflict? (2003)

SCIENCE & WISDOM

(see also SCIENCE and SCIENTISTS and WISDOM)

  • Science is organized knowledge, wisdom is organized life. Will Durant, “Immanuel Kant and German Idealism,” in The Story of Philosophy (1926)

SCIENTISTS

(see also BIOLOGY and CHEMISTRY and EVOLUTION and EXPERIMENT & EXPERIMENTATION and FACTS and GEOLOGY and MATHEMATICS and OBJECTIVITY & SUBJECTIVITY and PHYSICS and RESEARCH and SCIENCE and SCIENTISTS—ON THEMSELVES and SCIENTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and TECHNOLOGY and THEORY)

  • Scientists have a second brain where other people have their hearts. Martha Albrand, in Nightmare in Copenhagen (1954)
  • When I find myself in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a drawing room full of dukes. W. H. Auden, “The Poet and the City,” in The Dyer’s Hand (1962)

Earlier in the piece, Auden wrote: “The true men of action in our time, those who transform the world, are not the politicians and statesmen, but the scientists. Unfortunately, poetry cannot celebrate them because their deeds are concerned with things, not persons and are, therefore speechless.”

  • To be successful, you don’t have to be right, but you do have to understand, with a scientist’s emotional detachment, why you were wrong. Kari Byron, in Crash Test Girl (2018)
  • The scientist we need most may be hidden in a little girl, or in a dark-skinned infant. Prejudice will cost us more than we can replace if we allow the prejudiced among those who make the search. Pearl S. Buck, in Pearl S. Buck and Carlos P. Romulo, Friend to Friend (1958)
  • What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on. Jacques Cousteau, quoted in The Christian Science Monitor (July 21, 1971)
  • A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale. Marie Curie, quoted in Eve Curie, Madame Curie: A Biography (1937)
  • Whatever a scientist is doing—reading, cooking, talking, playing—science thoughts are always there at the edge of the mind. They are the way the world is taken in; all that is seen is filtered through an everpresent scientific musing. Vivian Gornick, in Women in Science: Then and Now (1983)
  • Whenever I hear a scientist speak with a great air of authority, I know he isn’t a scientist, for his attitude contradicts the whole meaning of his vocation. Sydney J. Harris, in Leaving the Surface (1968)
  • The pursuit of knowledge is an intoxicant, a lure that scientists and explorers have known from ancient times; indeed, exhilaration in the pursuit of knowledge is part of what has kept our species so adaptive. Kay Redfield Jamison, in Exuberance: The Passion for Life (2004)
  • The limitations of our biological equipment may condemn us to the role of Peeping Toms at the keyhole of eternity. Arthur Koestler, on scientists, in The Roots of Coincidence (1972)

ERROR ALERT: Many quotation anthologies and almost all internet sites mistakenly present the quotation this way: “Scientists are peeping toms at the keyhole of eternity.”

  • Scientists are rarely to be counted among the fun people. Awkward at parties, shy with strangers, deficient in irony—they have had no choice but to turn their attention to the close study of everyday objects. Fran Lebowitz, in Metropolitan Life (1974)
  • It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young. Konrad Lorenz, in On Aggression (1966)
  • Among scientists are collectors, classifiers, and compulsive tidiers-up; many are detectives by temperament and many are explorers; some are artists and others artisans. There are port-scientists and philosopher-scientist and even a few mystics. Peter B. Medawar, in The Art of the Soluble (1967)
  • If a scientist were to cut his ear off, no one would take it as evidence of a heightened sensibility. Peter B. Medawar, in a reference to Van Gogh’s famous act of self mutilation, in “J. B. S.” (1968); reprinted in Memoirs of a Thinking Radish: An Autobiography (1986)
  • It is the duty of scientists to dispel ignorance. Linus Pauling, “The Social Responsibilities of Scientists and Science,” in The Science Teacher (1933)
  • I have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones. Linus Pauling, quoted in Thomas Hager, Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling (1995)

QUOTE NOTE: This was Pauling’s reply to former student David Harker, who had asked his professor, “Dr. Pauling, how do you have so many good ideas.”

  • A good part of the trick to being a first-rate scientist is in asking the right questions or asking them in ways that make it possible to find answers. Anne Roe, in The Making of a Scientist (1952)
  • One could count on one’s fingers the number of scientists throughout the world with a general idea of the history and development of their particular science: there is none who is really competent as regards sciences other than his own. Simone Weil, in Oppression and Liberty (1955)

Weil continued: “As science forms an indivisible whole, one may say that there are no longer, strictly speaking, scientists, but only drudges doing scientific work.”

  • The ideal scientist thinks like a poet and only later works like a bookkeeper. Edward O. Wilson, in Letters to a Young Scientist (2013)

Wilson, who has been both a scientist and a novelist, went on to add: “Innovators in both literature and science are basically dreamers and storytellers. In the early stages of the creation of both literature and science, everything in the mind is a story. There is an imagined ending, and usually an imagined beginning, and a selection of bits and pieces that might fit in between.”

  • Science is voiceless; it is the scientists who talk. Simone Weil, in On Science, Necessity, and the Love of God (1968)

SCIENTISTS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK

(see also SCIENCE and SCIENTISTS and SCIENTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS)

  • The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. Richard Dawkins, in Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1998)

Dawkins continued: “It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.”

  • I’m absolutely convinced that the pleasure of a real scientific insight—it doesn’t have to be a great discovery—is like an orgasm. Carl Djerassi, quoted in L. Wolpert and A. Richards, Passionate Minds: The Inner World of Scientists (1997)
  • You sit quietly gestating them, for nine months or whatever the required time may be, and then one day they are out on their own, not belonging to you any more but to the whole community of scientists. Freeman Dyson, on the formulation of scientific theories, in the Preface to From Eros to Gaia (1992)

Dyson continued: “Whatever it is that you produce—a baby, a book, or a theory—it is a piece of the magic of creation. You are producing something that you do not fully understand. As you watch it grow, it becomes part of the larger world, and fits itself into a larger design than you imagined.”

  • When a man after long years of searching chances upon a thought which discloses something of the beauty of this mysterious universe, he should not therefore be personally celebrated. He is already sufficiently paid by his experience of seeking and finding. Albert Einstein, quoted in The New York Times (Nov. 10, 1978)
  • I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. Richard Feynman, in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1999)

Feynman continued: “I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and in many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little, but if I can’t figure it out, then I go to something else. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.”

  • I have no possessions that are truly my own. I am like a stranger at a rich man’s gate. Erich Harth, in The Creative Loop: How the Brain Makes a Mind (1993)

Harth, a professor of physics at Syracuse University and an elegant science writer, added: “What I have is borrowed, and even my knowledge is nothing but hand-me-downs, and an occasional oddity I pick up by chance. I pass it on to others like me.”

  • I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. Isaac Newton, quoted in David Brewster, The Life of Sir Isaac Newton (1832)
  • I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly by little and little into a full and clear light. Isaac Newton, quoted in Robert Grant, History of Physical Astronomy (1852)
  • The scientist, if he is to be more than a plodding gatherer of bits of information, needs to exercise an active imagination. Linus Pauling, “Imagination in Science,” in Tomorrow magazine (Dec., 1943)

Pauling continued: “The scientists of the past whom we now recognize as great are those who were gifted with transcendental imaginative powers, and the part played by the imaginative faculty of his daily life is as least as important for the scientist as it is for the worker in any other field—much more important than for most.”

  • My parents were not scientists. They knew almost nothing about science. But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method. Carl Sagan, in Cosmos (1980)

SCIENTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS

(see also SCIENCE and SCIENTISTS)

  • Bronowski uses the English language—not his first language, which makes it all the more remarkable—as a painter uses his brush, with mastery all the way from broad canvas to exquisite miniature. Richard Dawkins, on Jacob Bronowski, in the Foreword to a 2011 paperback edition of Bronowski’s classic The Ascent of Man (1973)
  • Einstein was a giant. His head was in the clouds, but his feet were on the ground. But those of us who are not that tall have to choose! Richard Feynman, recalled by Carver Mead in Collective Electrodynamics: Quantum Foundations of Electromagnetism (2002),

SCREAM

(see also EMOTION and HELPLESSNESS and OUTRAGE and PASSION and PROTEST)

  • Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis. Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry (April 19, 1838)

QUOTE NOTE: In the spring of 1838, Emerson was attempting to come to grips with a powerful sense of outrage after citizens of the Cherokee Nation were forcibly removed from their ancestral home in Georgia and resettled in American Southwest land (present-day Oklahoma) that had been designated as Indian Territory. This practice—which also included the forced relocation of the Muscogee, Seminole, Chicasaw, and Choctaw nations—is commonly referred to as The Trail of Tears. About a letter of protest he sent to President Van Buren, Emerson wrote that he was fully aware that the letter was “merely a scream; but sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.”

SCRUTINY

(see also CRITICISM and DOUBT and EXAMINATION)

  • Our own political life is predicated on openness. We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. J. Robert Oppenheimer, “Encouragement of Science,” address at Science Talent Institute (March 6, 1950); reprinted in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Jan., 1951)

Oppenheimer added: “We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. We know that the wages of secrecy are corruption. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.”

SCULPTURE & SCULPTORS

(includes CARVING; see also ART and [WORK OF] ART and ARTIST and ARTISTS—ON THEMSELVES & THEIR WORK and ARTISTS—DESCRIBED BY OTHERS and PAINTING & PAINTERS)

  • Sculpture is nothing more than hundreds of different lines, profiles, silhouettes, seen from as many different angles. J. Chester Armstrong, in Artists of the Rockies and the Golden West (Spring, 1984)
  • Sculpture is a sensuous art. Jacob Bronowski, in The Ascent of Man (1972)
  • Some sculpture is warm, some forever cold. Robert Henri, in The Art Spirit (1923)
  • Carving became a harbor of safety into which I could steer my thoughts and senses, a sort of salvation by self-obliteration. Malvina Hoffman, in Sculpture Inside and Out (1939)
  • Sculpture may be almost anything: a monument, a statue, an old coin, a bas-relief, a portrait bust, a lifelong struggle against heavy odds. Malvina Hoffman, in Sculpture Inside and Out (1939)
  • Sculpture is a parable in three dimensions, a symbol of a spiritual experience, and a means of conveying truth by concentrating its essence into visible form. Malvina Hoffman, in Sculpture Inside and Out (1939)

Hoffman went on to add: “It must be the reflection of the artist who creates it and of the era in which he lives, not an echo or a memory of other days and other ways.”

  • To give life to sculpture I found it must have a pulse, a breathing quality that could change in a flash, and it must never appear static, hard, or unrevealing. All these demands formed themslves in my thoughts, and became like an endless obsession. Malvina Hoffman, in Yesterday Is Tomorrow: A Personal History (1965)
  • I am moved to say a word in favor of sculpture being a far higher art than painting. There is something in the purity of the marble, in the perfect calmness, if one may say so, of a beautiful statue, which cannot be found in painting. Harriet Hosmer, quoted in Cornelia Carr, Harriet Hosmer: Letters and Memories (1912)

A moment later Hosmer added: “I grant that the painter must be as scientific as the sculptor, and in general must possess a greater variety of knowledge, and what he produces is more easily understood by the mass, because what they see on canvas is most frequently to be observed in nature. In high sculpture it is not so. A great thought must be embodied in a great manner, and such greatness is not to find its counterpart in everyday things.”

  • All my life as an artist I have asked myself: What pushes me continually to make sculpture? I have found the answer—at least the answer for myself. Art is an action against death. It is a denial of death. Jacques Lipchitz, quoted in Bert Van Bork, Jacques Lipchitz: The Artist at Work (1966)
  • In my opinion, long and intense study of the human figure is the necessary foundation for a sculptor. Henry Moore, quoted in Katherine Kuh, Henry Moore: 1921-1948 (1960)
  • Patriotism is the last refuge of the sculptor. William Plomer, tweaking the famous Samuel Johnson observation (to be found in Patriotism), quoted in letter from Rupert Hart-Davis to George Lyttleton (Oct. 13, 1956); reprinted in The Lyttleton Hart-Davis Letters: 1955-56 (1978; J. Murray, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: Plomer was referring to a South African statue he had seen honoring Boer pioneers, but his observation applies to the public statuary of all countries.

  • Sculpture is the art of the hole and the lump. Auguste Rodin, quoted in Camille Mauclair, Auguste Rodin: The Man, His Ideas, His Works (1905)
  • Sculpture is more than any other art the expression of restraint.

Eleanor Rowland, in The Significance of Art: Studies in Analytical Esthetics (1913)

  • Every time I make a sculpture, it breeds ten more, and then time is too short to make them all. David Smith, in Art in America magazine (January-February, 1966)

SEA & SEAS

SEASONS

(see also AUTUMN/FALL and SPRING and SUMMER and WEATHER and WINTER)

  • 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 thing of many stages and moving parts. What we do with ease at one time of life we can hardly manage at another. What we could not fathom doing when we were young, we find great joy in when we are old. Like the seasons through which we move, life itself is a never-ending series of harvests, a different fruit for every time. Joan Chittister, in In a High Spiritual Season (1995)
  • We Californians are constantly accused of not having seasons, but we do. We have fire, flood, mud, and drought. Phyllis Diller, in Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse (2005)
  • Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons. Gretel Ehrlich, in The Solace of Open Spaces (1985)
  • I know I am but summer to your heart,/And not the full four seasons of the year…. Edna St. Vincent Millay, from the poem “I Know I Am But Summer,” in The Harp-Weaver (1923)
  • The soul’s life has seasons of its own; periods not found in any calendar, time that years and months will not scan, but which are as deftly and sharply cut off from one another as the smoothly arranged years which the earth’s motion yields us. Ralph Iron (pen name of Olive Schreiner), in The Story of an African Farm (1883)
  • Trees, unlike so many humans, always improve on acquaintance. No matter how much you like them at the start you are sure to like them much better further on, and best of all when you have known them for years and enjoyed intercourse with them in all seasons. L. M. Montgomery, in Emily Climbs (1925)
  • The seasons run with swift feet. Gene Stratton-Porter, in The White Flag (1923)
  • Here in Florida the seasons move in and out like nuns in soft clothing, making no rustle in their passing. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, in Cross Creek (1942)
  • To stay in one place and watch the seasons come and go is tantamount to constant travel: one is traveling with the earth. Marguerite Yourcenar, in With Open Eyes: Conversations With Matthieu Galey (1980)

SECOND CHANCES

(see also COMEBACKS and FAILURES and HINDSIGHT and MISTAKES and REGRETS and STUMBLES)

  • Every day is a second chance. Author Unknown
  • Life always offers you a second chance. It’s called tomorrow. Author Unknown
  • Everybody wants a second chance, but not everybody deserves one. Author Unknown
  • When People Screw Up, Give Them a Second Chance. Richard Branson, title of article, in Business 2.0 magazine (Dec. 2005)
  • Nature is a ruthless teacher. There are no second chances in Mother Nature’s Survival Course. William S. Burroughs, a reflection of protagonist Kim Carson, in The Place of Dead Roads: A Novel (1983)
  • America is the land of the second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life. George W. Bush, in State of the Union Address (Jan. 20, 2004)
  • Each one of us…has he not a Life of his own to lead? One life; a little gleam of Time between two Eternities; no second chance to us for evermore! Thomas Carlyle, “How to Save the World,” in On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841)
  • Every second a seeker can start over,/For his life’s mistakes/Are initial drafts/And not the final version. Sri Chinmoy, in Sri Chinmoy’s Heart Garden: A Book of Aphorisms for Joy and Inspiration (2005)
  • There is no going back in life. There is no return. No second chance. I cannot call back the spoken word or the accomplished deed. Daphne Du Maurier, a reflection of the narrator (Philip), in My Cousin Rachel (1951)
  • It has been said that sometimes the greatest hope in our lives is just a second chance to do what we should have done right in the first place. This is the story of my second chance. Richard Paul Evans, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Luke Crisp, in the Prologue to Lost December: A Novel (2011)
  • We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance. Harrison Ford, in a 1991 interview, quoted in Garry Jenkins, Harrison Ford: Imperfect Hero (1998)
  • As writers we live life twice, like a cow that eats its food once and then regurgitates it to chew and digest it again. We have a second chance at biting into our experience and examining it. Natalie Goldberg, quoted in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing (Writer’s Digest; 3rd ed.; 2016)

Goldberg continued: “This is our life and it’s not going to last forever. There isn’t time to talk about someday writing that short story or poem or novel. Slow down now, touch what is around you, and out of care and compassion for each moment and detail, put pen to paper and begin to write.”

  • We’re given second chances every day of our life. We don’t usually take them, but they’re there for the taking. Andrew M. Greeley, quoted in The Baltimore Sun (Jan. 7, 1992)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This has become one of Greeley’s most popular quotations, even though an original source for it has not been found. I first came across it in a 1992 Baltimore Sun article on New Year’s resolutions.

  • The past is nothing but our yearning for second chances. Dean Koontz, a reflection of the title character, in Brother Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel (2006)

QUOTE NOTE: This is a lovely thought on it's own, and it’s a shame it was was originally buried in the following larger observation: “We yearn for tomorrow and the progress that it represents. But yesterday was once tomorrow, and where was the progress in it? Or we yearn for yesterday, for what was or what might have been. But as we are yearning, the present is becoming the past, so the past is nothing but our yearning for second chances.”

  • If grandparents want to have a meaningful and constructive role, the first lesson they must learn is that becoming a grandparent is not having a second chance at parenthood! Eda Le Shan, in Grandparenting in a Changing World (1993)
  • Sometimes you don’t get a second chance. You need to take a chance when you have the opportunity. Always. Gavin MacLeod, in This is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood Faith & Life (with Mark Dagostino; 2013)
  • In books as in life, there are no second chances. On second thought: it’s the next work, still to be written, that offers the second chance. Cynthia Ozick, in interview in The Guardian (London; April 24, 2012)
  • If you have made mistakes, even serious mistakes, there is always another chance for you. And supposing you have tried and failed again and again, you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down. Mary Pickford, in Why Not Try God? (1934)

QUOTE NOTE: It’s possible that the final portion of Pickford’s observation was inspired by a famous quotation from Oliver Goldsmith: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

  • You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Proverb (American)

QUOTE NOTE: This line became a modern American proverb after it was used as the tagline for a 1989 commercial for Head & Shoulders dandruff shampoo. It is possible that the saying was inspired by an earlier observation attributed to the American clergyman Charles R. Swindoll: “First impressions never have a second chance.”

  • Remarriage to a good woman is the best of second chances. Richard Raymond III, in a personal communication to the compiler (Jan. 28, 2018)
  • Second chances are scarier than first chances, because the second time you know how much you’re risking. Nora Roberts, the character Lila Emerson speaking, in The Collector (2014)

QUOTE NOTE: Roberts also explored the topic of second chances in her 2000 novel Heart of the Sea. “No second chance?” the character Carrick says as he reflects on his situation. And then, as a wry smile appears on his face, he adds, “There might have been, had I not waited so long to take it.”

  • If you are still breathing, you have a second chance. Don’t get stuck on past mistakes. Oprah Winfrey, remark at a 2014 “The Life You Want” weekend seminar
  • There are no second chances in life, except to feel remorse. Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a refection of protagonist Daniel Sempere, in The Shadow of the Wind (2001)
  • A second chance doesn't mean anything if you haven’t learned from your first mistake. Zig Ziglar, a Facebook post (April 12, 2014)

SECRECY & SECRETS

(includes HIDING; see also BETRAYAL and CONFIDENCE & CONFIDENTIALITY and ESPIONAGE and HIDING and PRIVACY and SPYING & SPIES and RUMOR)

  • Real power begins where secrecy begins. Hannah Arendt, in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)
  • A secret is but a thing told softly. Author Unknown
  • To know that one has a secret is to know half the secret itself. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887; William Drysdale, ed.)
  • Secrecy is an instrument of conspiracy; it ought not, therefore, to be a system of a regular government. Jeremy Bentham, “On Publicity,” in Essays on Political Tactics (1791)

ERROR ALERT: All over the Internet, this quotation is mistakenly presented in the following way: “Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.”

  • A secret ceases to be a secret if it is once confided—it is like a dollar bill, once broken, it is never a dollar again. Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), “Affurisms,” in Josh Billings: His Sayings (1865)

QUOTE NOTE: This was originally presented in Shaw’s characteristic phonetic dialect form: “A sekret ceases tew be a sekret if it iz once confided—it iz like a dollar bill, once broken, it iz never a dollar again.”

  • If you tell a friend a secret, she will keep the secret by telling only one other person. Lisa Birnbach, in Lisa Birnbach, Ann Hodgman, & Patricia Marx, 1,003 Great Things About Friends (1999)
  • Secrecy is as indispensable to human beings as fire, and as greatly feared. Sissela Bok, in Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation (1983)
  • Possession of a secret is no guarantee of its truth. Rita Mae Brown, the protagonist Carole Hanratty speaking, in In Her Day: A Novel (1976)
  • I know that’s a secret, for it is whispered everywhere. William Congreve, the character Mr. Tattle speaking, in Love for Love: A Comedy (1695)
  • A man’s most open actions have a secret side to them. Joseph Conrad, the character Razumov speaking, in Under Western Eyes (1911)
  • The companionship of a secret is often corruptive to good habits, such as sleep and appetite. Better tell me this mystery. Marjorie Benton Cooke, The character James Parkhurst, speaking to his daughter Bambi, in Bambi (1914)
  • Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity. John Dalberg (Lord Acton), in letter to Richard Simpson (Jan. 23, 1861); quoted in Abbot Gasquet, Lord Acton and His Circle (1906)
  • He believed it was a natural law that men with secrets tend to be drawn to each other, not because they want to share what they know but because they need the company of the like-minded, the fellow afflicted. Don DeLillo, the narrator describing a belief of the character Walter Everett, Jr., in Libra (1988
  • Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (July, 1735)
  • If you would keep your secret from an enemy, tell it not to a friend. Benjamin Franklin, in a 1741 issue of Poor Richard’s Almanack
  • No mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore. Sigmund Freud, “The First Dream,” in Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (1905)
  • We dance in a ring and suppose,/But the Secret sits in the middle and knows. Robert Frost, “The Secret Sits” in The Witness Tree (1942)
  • If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees. Kahlil Gibran, in Sand and Foam (1926)
  • A man nearly always loves for other reasons than he thinks. A lover is apt to be as full of secrets from himself as is the object of his love from him. Ben Hecht, in A Child of the Century (1954)
  • I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy…censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Robert A. Heinlein, a reflection of protagonist John Lyle, in the novella “If This Goes On—” (1940); revised and expanded in the 1953 Heinlein anthology Revolt in 2100.

Lyle continued: “Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”

  • Secrecy is the beginning of tyranny. Robert A. Heinlein, an entry in “More From The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” in Time Enough for Love (1973)
  • The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame or blame. Thomas Hobbes, in Leviathan (1651)
  • Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall;/A mother’s secret hope outlives them all. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., “A Mother’s Secret,” in Poems of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1902)
  • The man who can keep a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep. Edgar Watson Howe, in Country Town Sayings (1911)
  • Secrets are things we give to others to keep for us. Elbert Hubbard, in A Thousand and One Epigrams (1911)
  • Look into any man’s heart you please, and you will always find, in every one, at least one black spot which he has to keep concealed. Henrik Ibsen, in Pillars of Society (1877)
  • People like to keep their little secrets to themselves. It’s like growing mushrooms in the cellar and running down to take a look at them now and then. Marjorie Kellogg, the title character speaking, in Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1968)
  • When a secret is revealed, it is the fault of the man who confided it. Jean de La Bruyère, in Characters (1688)
  • Nothing circulates so rapidly as a secret. L. E. Landon, the voice of the narrator, in Romance and Reality, Vol. 2 (1841)
  • How can we expect another to keep our secret if we have been unable to keep it ourselves? François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • Trust him not with your secrets, who, when left alone in your room, turns over your papers. Johann Kaspar Lavater, in Aphorisms on Man (1788)
  • A man is what he hides: a miserable little pile of secrets. André Malraux, the character Garine speaking, in Les Noyers de l'Altenburg [The Walnut Trees of Altenberg] (1943)

QUOTE NOTE: In the Preface to Antimémoires (1967), Malraux reprised the thought: “What is man? A miserable little pile of secrets.”

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, the observation is presented as: “Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.”

  • Everyone old enough to have a secret is entitled to have some place to keep it. Judith Martin, in Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children (1984)
  • I’ll tell you a secret. A lot of times, parents are not the best at seeing their children clearly. Celeste Ng, the character Mia Warren speaking to Izzy, in Little Fires Everywhere (2017)
  • Our own political life is predicated on openness. We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. J. Robert Oppenheimer, “Encouragement of Science,” address at Science Talent Institute (March 6, 1950); reprinted in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Jan., 1951)

Oppenheimer added: “We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. We know that the wages of secrecy are corruption. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.”

  • He who gives up the smallest part of a secret has the rest no longer in his power. Jean Paul (pen name of Jean Paul Richter), the character Gaspard speaking, in Titan: A Romance (1803)
  • The words secret and sacred are siblings. Mary Ruefle, “On Secrets,” in Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (2012)
  • A person who tells a secret, swearing the recipient to secrecy in turn, is asking of the other person a discretion which he is abrogating himself. Dorothy L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh, the voice of the narrator, in Thrones, Dominations (1998)
  • There are no secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses. George Bernard Shaw, the character Sir George Crofts speaking, in Mrs/ Warren’s Profession (1893)
  • The secret in the search for meaning is to find your passion and pursue it. Gail Sheehy, in New Passages (1995)
  • Secrets that are hidden in the darkness deep within us feed our addictions. Richard A. Singer, Jr., in The Essential Addiction Recovery Companion (2018)
  • I define secrecy as the intention to hold back some piece of information from one or more people. The information itself is the secret. Michael Slepian, in a New York Times interview with Elisabeth Egan (June 3, 2022)

Slepian, a Columbia University professor and author of The Secret Life of Secrets (2022), continued: “Even if you haven’t recently had to hide it in a conversation, it’s still a secret if you intend to keep it from others.”

QUOTE NOTE: In what can only be described as a major stroke of irony, Slepian was already deep into his research on the subject of secrecy when he learned something that his family had hidden from him his entire life. Egan wrote: “The behavioral scientist was about to learn something his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles had known for his entire life: that he had been conceived by artificial insemination from an anonymous sperm donor.” The full interview may be seen here.

  • Secrets are kept from children, a lid on top of the soup kettle, so they do not boil over with too much truth. Amy Tan, a reflection of narrator An-Mei, in “Queen Mother of the Western Skies,” The Joy Luck Club (1989)
  • Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets. Paul Tournier, in Guilt and Grace: A Psychological Study (1962)
  • But who ever yet was offered a secret and declined it? Anthony Trollope, a reflection of the narrator, in Framley Parsonage (1861)
  • It’s a general principle. If you tell someone a secret, and ask them to keep it secret, you are asking them to display a discretion you are unable to display yourself. Jill Paton Walsh, protagonist Peter Wimsey speaking, in The Attenbury Emeralds: The New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery (2011)
  • Brains are an asset, if you hide them. Mae West, in an interview Charlotte Chandler, reported in Chandler’s book The Ultimate Seduction (1984)

In the interview West continued: “Men think a gal with good lines is better than one with a good line. But if you’ve got some brains in reserve, people can’t use you”

  • I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if only one hides it. Oscar Wilde, the character Basil Hallward speaking, in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
  • It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution. Oscar Wilde, the voice of the narrator, in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
  • Repeat nothing—absolutely nothing—that is told you in confidence. There is no such thing as telling just one person. Lois Wyse, in The Six-Figure Woman (1983)
  • A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept. Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist Daniel Sempere, in The Shadow of the Wind (2001)

SECTS

(see also CULTS and DOGMA & DOGMATISM and EXTREMISM & EXTREMISTS and FANATICISM & FANATICS and IDEOLOGY & IDEOLOGUES and RADICALISM & RADICALS and RELIGION)

  • A sect, incidentally, is a religion with no political power. Tom Wolfe, “The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening,” Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine (1976).

QUOTE NOTE: Four years later, in an article on the Jonestown Massacre (“Entr’actes and Canapes,” in the 1980 book In Our Time), Wolfe tweaked this observation to craft what would become an even more famous quotation: “A cult is a religion with no political power.”

SECULARISM

(see also BELIEF and DOUBT and POLITICS & RELIGION and RELIGION)

  • Our secularism is hard-won, the product of centuries of political, intellectual, and sometimes physical courage. Secularism is the institutionalization of doubt, or more precisely of respect for doubt. It is harder to love doubt than to love freedom. So we are grudging about our secularism, and some of us are a little ashamed of it. Maybe it takes Rushdie’s nightmare and Khomeini’s rage to remind us how precious it is, and how fiercely it must be guarded. Hendrik Hertzberg, “TRB from Washington,” in The New Republic (March 20, 1989)

SECURITY

(see also CERTAINTY and DANGER and FEAR and INSECURITY and [NATIONAL] SECURITY and SAFETY)

  • The most important thing in life, without exception, is to step out of the magic circles of safety we create for ourselves. Tapping the same lever to get the same pellet day after day, safe as it is, is for the birds; security isn’t the best thing life has to offer and habit dulls both desire and imagination. Regina Barreca, in Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful
  • Too much safety is abhorrent to the nature of a human being. Agatha Christie, the protagonist Inspector Poirot speaking, in Curtain (1975)
  • We pay for security with boredom, for adventure with bother. Peter De Vries, the protagonist Chick Swallow speaking, in Comfort Me With Apples (1956)
  • Security is one of the prison walls of the affluent society; ever since the pax Romana, being safe has been an unhealthy mega-European obsession. John Fowles, “I Write Therefore I Am” (1964), in Wormholes: Essays and Occasional Writings (1998)

QUOTE NOTE: Fowles was recalling the decision he made early in his career to give up paying jobs in order to devote himself full-time to writing. He preceded the thought by writing: “To a career man, I suppose, the decision would seem lunatic; perhaps even courageous. But a bank vault is secure; an atomic shelter is secure; death is secure.”

  • The richness of living caught at her throat, and all the well-meant security with which people surrounded themselves was exposed for what it truly was: a wall to keep out life, a conceit, a mad delusion. Dorothy Gilman, in The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (1970)

The narrator, describing the title character at an important moment of understanding, preceded the observation by writing: “It was the unexpected that brought to these moments the tender, unnameable rush of understanding, this joy in being alive. It was safety following danger, it was food after hours of hunger, rest following exhaustion, it was the astonishing strangers who had become her friends. It was this and more, until the richness of living….”

  • Security is when everything is settled, when nothing can happen to you; security is the denial of life. Germaine Greer, in The Female Eunuch (1971)

Greer introduced the thought by writing: “There is no such thing as security. There never has been.”

  • Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. God himself is not secure, having given man dominion over his works! Helen Keller, in Let Us Have Faith (1940)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation was followed by some of Keller’s most famous words, including her signature daring adventure line: “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run that outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

  • Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in The wave of the Future (1940)

SEDUCTION

(see also COURTSHIP and FLIRTATION and LOVE and MALE-FEMALE DYNAMICS and SEX)

  • Jesus Christ has seduced more women than Don Juan. Gertrude Atherton, in Adventures of the Mind (1929)
  • Most virtue is a demand for greater seduction. Natalie Clifford Barney, quoted in “My Country ’tis of Thee,” Adam magazine, no. 299 (London, 1962)
  • Seduction is often difficult to distinguish from rape. In seduction, the rapist bothers to buy a bottle of wine. Andrea Dworkin, in Letters from a War Zone (1988)
  • All really great lovers are articulate, and verbal seduction is the surest road to actual seduction. Marya Mannes, in More in Anger (1958)

SEEING

(see SIGHT)

SEEKING

(see also DISCOVERY and FINDING and QUEST and QUESTIONING and SEARCHING)

  • Do not follow in the footsteps of the Ancients; seek what they sought. Matsuo Bashō, in R. H. Blyth, “Bashō,” Haiku (1951; Hokuseido Press)

QUOTE NOTE: Bashō (1644–1694) was the most celebrated Japanese poet of his time and is considered one of history’s greatest—if not the greatest—masters of haiku (in his time, called hokku). This passage has also been translated in the following ways:

“Seek not after the ancients; seek what they sought.”

“Seek not the paths of the ancients; seek that which the ancients sought.”

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of old men; seek what they sought.”

  • Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. The Bible: Matthew 7:7 KJV)
  • When a man after long years of searching chances upon a thought which discloses something of the beauty of this mysterious universe, he should not therefore be personally celebrated. He is already sufficiently paid by his experience of seeking and finding. Albert Einstein, quoted in The New York Times (Nov. 10, 1978)
  • No matter how much we seek, we never find anything but ourselves. Anatole France, quoted in a 1978 issue of Saturday Review (specific issue undetermined)
  • Let us leave every man at liberty to seek into himself and to lose himself in his ideas. Voltaire, “Soul,” in Philosophical Dictionary (1764)

SEGREGATION

(see also BIGOTRY and [Racial] DISCRIMINATION and MINORITIES and RACE and RACE RELATIONS and RACISM & RACIAL PREJUDICE and SEGREGATION and SLAVERY and STEREOTYPES)

  • Segregation is wrong because it is a system of adultery perpetuated by an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality. Martin Luther King, Jr., address at Cobo Hall civil rights rally (Detroit, Michigan; June 23, 1963)

SELF

(see also AUTHENTICITY and CONFLICT—WITHIN ONESELF and EGO and IDENTITY and INDIVIDUALISM & INDIVIDUALITY and INTEGRITY and (True to) SELF and SELF-ACCEPTANCE and SELF-ESTEEM and SELFISHNESS)

  • The center of the universe is still the self. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, entry in his Journal Intime (Feb. 1, 1853)
  • I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self. Aristotle, quoted in Johannes Stobaeus, Florilegium (5th c. A.D.)
  • Resolve to be thyself; and know, that he/Who finds himself, loses his misery. Matthew Arnold, in “Self-Dependence” (1852)
  • My inner self was a house divided against itself. St. Augustine, in Confessions (5th c. A.D.)
  • There is no such flatterer as is a man’s self. Francis Bacon, “Of Friendship,” in Essays (1625)

QUOTE NOTE: In his “On Love” essay in the same collection, Bacon further explored the topic, this time quoting an unnamed source: “It hath been well said, ‘That the arch-flatterer, with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence, is a man’s self.’” Many reference sources mistakenly attribute the quotation directly to Bacon.

  • I didn't learn for years that you generally find your Self after you quit looking for it. Peg Bracken, in On Getting Old for the First Time (1997)
  • The fundamental conflict of life is The Self versus the Self. Rita Mae Brown, in Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer’s Manual (1988)

Brown preceded the thought by writing: “For 99 percent of all novels, conflict is the core of the plot. Without it there is no tension and there’s no reason to turn the page. Essays are the place for gentle reflection. Novels are not.”

  • The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Frederick Buechner, in Telling Secrets (1991)

Buechner continued: “Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.”

  • One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. G. K. Chesterton, “The Ethics of Elfland,” in Orthodoxy (1908)
  • We are all serving a life-sentence in the dungeon of self. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1944)
  • The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action. John Dewey, in Democracy and Education (1916)
  • To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self. Joan Didion, “Jealousy: Is It a Curable Illness?” in Vogue magazine (June, 1961)
  • Every decision is like a murder, and our march forward is over the stillborn bodies of all our possible selves that we’ll never be. René Dubos, in Louis Pasteur: Free Lance of Science (1950)
  • Maybe being oneself is always an acquired taste. Patricia Hampl, “The Need to Say It,” in Janet Sternburg (ed.), The Writer on Her Work, Vol. II (1991)

Hample was writing about finding her voice—and herself—as a writer. She went on to add: “The recognition of one’s genuine material seems to involve a fall from the phony grace of good intentions and elevated expectations.”

  • You can’t change the music of your soul. Katharine Hepburn, quoted in Lee Israel, “Last of the Honest-To-God Ladies,” Esquire magazine (Nov., 1967)
  • There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. Aldous Huxley, the character Carlo quoting his friend Bruno, in Time Must Have a Stop (1944)

Carlo continued: “So you have to begin there, not outside, not on other people. That comes afterward, when you’ve worked on your own corner. You’ve got to be good before you can do good—or at any rate do good without doing harm at the same time.”

  • 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 Divided Self. R. D. Laing, title of 1960 book

QUOTE NOTE: The title of Laing’s book was considered quite provocative when it was first published, but the concept of a divided self was first advanced fifteen centuries earlier (see the St. Augustine entry above).

  • The living self has one purpose only: to come into its own fullness of being, as a tree comes into full blossom, or a bird into spring beauty, or a tiger into luster. D. H. Lawrence, “Democracy,” in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays (1925; Michael Herbert, ed.)
  • Many of our problems with anger occur when we choose between having a relationship and having a self. Harriet Lerner, in The Dance of Anger (1985)
  • Envy is stimulated by a disappointment with the self—a sense that one is lacking in some way and that all the good exists outside oneself. Nic Liberman, “Envy,” in Being Warren Buffett: Life Lessons From a Cheerful Billionaire (2014)

Liberman continued: “The good is removed from the self and transferred to the thing or person one envies; and this thing or person becomes the container of all that is desirable.”

  • The self holds both a hell and a heaven. Lewis Mumford, in The Conduct of Life (1951)
  • The self is merely the lens through which we see others and the world, and if this lens is not clear of distortions, we cannot perceive others. Anaïs Nin, in The Novel of the Future (1968)
  • This above all: to thine own self be true,/And it must follow, as the night the day,/Thou canst not then be false to any man. William Shakespeare, the character Polonius speaking to Laertes, in Hamlet (1601)
  • 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)
  • Men may rise on stepping-stones/Of their dead selves to higher things. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in “In Memoriam A. H. H.” (1850)
  • No man thinks there is much ado about nothing when the ado is about himself. Anthony Trollope, the character Mr. Bertram playing off the title of a Shakespeare play, in The Bertrams (1859)
  • I have no home but me. Anne Truitt, in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (1982)
  • A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living. Virginia Woolf, quoted in Virginia Lee (2008) by Hermione Lee

[Being True to One’s] SELF

(see also AFFECTATION and ARTIFICIALITY and AUTHENTICITY and IDENTITY and IMAGE and IMITATION and INDIVIDUALISM and INSINCERITY and INTEGRITY and PRETENSE and SELF and SELF-ACCEPTANCE and SELF-ESTEEM and SINCERITY)

  • Resolve to be thyself; and know, that he/Who finds himself, loses his misery. Matthew Arnold, in “Self-Dependence” (1852)
  • My inner self was a house divided against itself. St. Augustine, in Confessions (5th c. A.D.)
  • You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way. Richard Bach, the title character, speaking to Maynard Gull, in Jonathan Livingtson Seagull (1970)
  • You know who you are inside, but people outside see something different. You can choose to become the image, and let go of who you are, or continue as you are and feel phony when you play the image. Richard Bach, in Bridge Across Forever (1984)
  • Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you? Fanny Brice, quoted in Norman Katkov, The Fabulous Fanny (1952)
  • The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Frederick Buechner, in Telling Secrets (1991)

Buechner continued: “Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.”

  • Action is the language of the body and should harmonize with the spirit within. Marcus Tullius Cicero, in De Oratore (55 B.C.)
  • To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting. e. e. cummings, quoted in Charles Norman, The Magic Maker: E. E. Cummings (1958)

QUOTE NOTE: Cummings wrote these words in a 1955 letter to a high school student who had asked what advice he had for young people who wanted to write poetry. Cummings continued: “As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time—and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.”

  • To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s. Fyodor Dostevsky, the character Razumikhin speaking, in Crime and Punishment (1866)
  • I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence. Frederick Douglass, in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave (1845)
  • Every time I deny myself I commit a kind of suicide. Susan Griffin, in Pornography and Silence (1981)
  • Maybe being oneself is always an acquired taste. Patricia Hampl, “The Need to Say It,” in Janet Sternburg (ed.), The Writer on Her Work, Vol. II (1991)

Hampl was writing about finding her voice—and herself—as a writer. She went on to add: “The recognition of one’s genuine material seems to involve a fall from the phony grace of good intentions and elevated expectations.”

  • There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives. Those who are lucky enough to find it ease like water over a stone, onto its fluid contours, and are home. Josephine Hart, the voice of the narrator, in Damage: A Novel (1991)

A moment later, the narrator went on to explain: “We may go through our lives happy or unhappy, successful or unfulfilled, loved, without ever standing cold with the shock of recognition, without feeling the agony as the twisted iron in our soul unlocks itself and we slip at last into place.”

  • You can’t change the music of your soul. Katharine Hepburn, quoted in Lee Israel, “Last of the Honest-To-God Ladies,” Esquire magazine (Nov., 1967)
  • I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult? Hermann Hesse, the protagonist Emil Sinclair speaking, in Demian (1919)
  • What’s a man’s first duty? The answer’s brief: to be himself. Henrik Ibsen, the title character speaking, in Peer Gynt (1867)

Gynt went on to add: “But how/Can he do this if his existence/Is that of a pack-camel, laden/With some one else’s weal and woe.”

  • The best way to define a man’s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: “This is the real me!” William James, in letter to wife Alice (June, 1878)
  • Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Steve Jobs, commencement address at Stanford University (June 12, 2005)
  • To be a gentleman is to be oneself, all of a seam, on camera and off. Murray Kempton, “The Party’s Over,” in America Comes of Age (1963)
  • One should stick by one’s own soul, and by nothing else. In one’s soul, one knows the truth from the untruth, and life from death. And if one betrays one’s own soul-knowledge one is the worst of traitors. D. H. Lawrence, in letter to Cynthia Asquith (April 28, 1917)
  • Now man cannot live without some vision of himself. But still less can he live with a vision that is not true to his inner experience and inner feeling. D. H. Lawrence, “The Risen Lord,” in Everyman magazine (Oct. 3, 1929); reprinted in D. H. Lawrence: Late Essays and Articles, Vol. 2 (2004; James T. Boulton, ed.)
  • Do nothing because it is righteous or praiseworthy or noble to do so; do nothing because it seems good to do so; do only that which you must do and which you cannot do in any other way. Ursula K. Le Guin, the character Ged speaking, in The Farthest Shore (1972)
  • One cannot violate the promptings of one’s nature without having that nature recoil upon itself. Jack London, the narrator, describing the essential struggle of the protagonist, in White Fang (1906)
  • You’re Born An Original, Don’t Die a Copy! John Mason, title of 1993 book

QUOTE NOTE: Mason is probably not the original author of the saying “You were born an original, so don’t die a copy,” but he certainly helped to popularize the sentiment. Later in his book, Mason played off another famous saying (by George Bernard Shaw) by writing: “The copy adapts himself to the world, but the original tries to adapt the world to him” (see the Shaw entry in PROGRESS).

  • At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique human being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is ever be put together a second time. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Schopenhauer as Educator” (1874), in Untimely Meditations (1876)

Nietzsche continued: “He knows this, but hides it like an evil conscience—and why? From fear of his neighbor, who looks for the latest conventionalities in him, and is wrapped up in them himself.” The complete essay may be seen at ”Schopenhauer as Educator”.

  • The man who does not wish to belong to the mass needs only to cease taking himself easily; let him follow his conscience, which calls to him: “Be your self!” Friedrich Nietzsche, “Schopenhauer as Educator,” in Untimely Meditations (1876)
  • When one is pretending the entire body revolts. Anaïs Nin, the voice of the narrator, in Winter of Artifice (1939)
  • If a man can reach the latter days of his life with his soul intact, he has mastered life. Gordon Parks, citing a lesson he learned from his father, in To Smile in Autumn: A Memoir (1979)
  • This above all: to thine own self be true,/And it must follow, as the night the day,/Thou canst not then be false to any man. William Shakespeare, the character Polonius speaking to Laertes, in Hamlet (1601)
  • To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive. Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Royal Sport Nautique,” in An Inland Voyage (1877)
  • I have no home but me. Anne Truitt, in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (1982)
  • Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. Oscar Wilde, in De Profundis (pub. posthumously in 1905)

QUOTE NOTE: De Profundis, a Latin term meaning “from the depths,” was the title Robert Ross—Wilde’s former lover and a lifelong friend—gave to a lengthy 1897 letter Wilde wrote, but never actually sent, to Lord Alfred Douglass (also a former lover). Wilde, a prisoner in Reading Gaol at the time, was so deeply depressed that the prison’s new governor granted him permission to write “for medicinal purposes.” After each day’s writing, prison guards gathered up all the writing materials for safekeeping and, ultimately, the full letter was given to Wilde upon his release on May 18, 1897. Wilde entrusted the letter to Ross, who waited for five years after Wilde’s death to bring it to publication.

SELF-ABSORPTION

(see also EGO, EGOISM, & EGOTISM and EGOCENTRICITY and SELF and SELF-CENTEREDNESS and SELFISHNESS)

  • An empty man is full of himself. Edward Abbey, in A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis en Deserto): Notes from a Secret Journal (1990)
  • Never underestimate the power of self-absorption, including your parents’ self-absorption. Rita Mae Brown, in Starting From Scratch (1988)

QUOTE NOTE: This admonition came shortly after Brown had written, “Never expect your partner to understand your work” (she went on to put friends and parents in the same camp). She also advised writers against burdening friends and family with problems associated with their craft, suggesting they “probably aren’t that interested in your sufferings at the keyboard.”

  • At times…one is downright thankful for the self-absorption of other people. Gail Godwin, the character Walter Gower (the narrator’s father) speaking, in Father Melancholy’s Daughter (1991)
  • Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. Daniel Goleman, in Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships (2006)

Goleman continued: “But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection—or compassionate action.”

  • What might once have been called whining is now exalted as a process of asserting selfhood; self-absorption is regarded as a form of self-expression. Wendy Kaminer, in I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional (1992)
  • It was hard to communicate with you. You were always communicating with yourself. The line was busy. Jean Kerr, the character Mary speaking to ex-husband Bob about their marital relationship, in Mary, Mary (1961)
  • Hey, I may not be much, but I’m all I think about. Anne Lamott, quoting a voice in her imagination, in Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year (1993)
  • The next voice you hear will undoubtedly be your own. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Second Neurotic’s Notebook (1966)
  • There is no American border as perilous as the one separating self-knowledge from self-absorption. Mary McNamara, in her review of Amazon Prime’s television series “Transparent,” in the Los Angeles Times (Dec 5, 2015)

This was the opening line of McNamara’s review of Transparent, which she described as “one of the richest and most ambitious half-hour comedies ever.” She goes on to write that the show raises many important questions, including “How does one search for personal truth without collapsing into narcissism?”

  • [He} was his own world, and nothing that concerned anyone else was important to him, and nothing that touched him unimportant. Kathleen Thompson Norris, the narrator describing the character Gordon, in Walls of Gold (1933)
  • Why hope to live a long life if we’re only going to fill it with self-absorption, body maintenance, and image repair? Letty Cottin Pogrebin, in Getting Over Getting Older (1996)

Pogrebin added: “When we die, do we want people to exclaim ‘She looked ten years younger,’ or do we want them to say ‘She lived a great life’?”

  • Having a baby dragged me, kicking and screaming, from the world of self-absorption. Paul Reiser, quoted in a 1997 issue of Good Housekeeping (specific issue undetermined)
  • Every writer is a narcissist. This does not mean that he is vain; it only means that he is hopelessly self-absorbed. Leo Rosten, in The Return of H*y*m*a*n K*a*p*l*a*n (1959)
  • He talked to her of himself, always of himself. George Sand, the narrator describing the character Laurent, in She and He (1859)
  • Self-absorption is different from self-love. Diana Spechler, the narrator and protagonist Gray Lachmann speaking, in Skinny: A Novel (2011)
  • None so empty as those who are full of themselves. Benjamin Whichcote, in Moral and Religious Aphorisms (1753)

QUOTE NOTE: In this observation, Whichcote is playing off “None so blind as those that will not see,” a proverbial English saying popularized by Matthew Henry in his Commentary on the Whole Bible (1708)

SELF-ACCEPTANCE

(see also ACCEPTANCE and CONFLICT—WITHIN ONESELF and SELF and (True to) SELF and SELF-ESTEEM)

  • Self-acceptance is my refusal to be in an adversarial relationship with myself. Nathaniel Branden, in The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (1994)
  • At thirty, a man should have himself well in hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures—be what he is. And above all accept these things. Albert Camus, notebook entry (July 30, 1945), in Carnets: 1942–1951 (1963)
  • Until we can tolerate our own company, we cannot expect other people to be overjoyed by our presence. Dorothy Carnegie, in Don’t Grow Old—Grow Up! (1956)
  • During much of my life, I was anxious to be what someone else wanted me to be. Now I have given up that struggle. I am what I am. Elizabeth Coatsworth, in Personal Geography: Almost an Autobiography (1976)
  • I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK—and That’s OK. William Sloane Coffin, title of book he said he would like to write, offered in a Riverside Church sermon (July 12, 1987)
  • Accept the place the divine providence has found for you. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • There comes a time in each life like a point of fulcrum. At that time you must accept yourself. It is not any more what you will become. It is what you are and always will be. John Fowles, the character Maurice Conchis speaking, in The Magus (1965)

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

  • He who seeks for applause only from without, has all his happiness in another’s keeping. Oliver Goldsmith, the character Sir William speaking, in The Good-Natur’d Man (1768)
  • Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me. Audre Lorde, “Eye to Eye,” in Sister Outsider (1984)

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

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

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

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

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

  • We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be. May Sarton, a reflection of the protagonist Hilary Stevens, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing (1965)
  • It is not easy to be sure that being yourself is worth the trouble, but we do know it is our sacred duty. Florida Scott Maxwell, in The Measure of My Days (1968)
  • What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden (1854)
  • It is not worth the while to let our imperfections disturb us always. Henry David Thoreau, in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)
  • A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. Mark Twain, the Old Man speaking, in title essay, in What is Man? And Other Essays (1917)

SELF-ACTUALIZATION

(see also BECOMING and CHANGE and GROWTH and EVOLUTION and SELF-CREATION)

  • The living self has one purpose only: to come into its own fullness of being, as a tree comes into full blossom, or a bird into spring beauty, or a tiger into luster. D. H. Lawrence, “Democracy,” in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays (1925; Michael Herbert, ed.)

SELF-APPRAISAL

(includes SELF-ASSESSMENT; see also SELF-ESTEEM and SELF-EXAMINATION)

  • When, like me, one has nothing in oneself one hopes for everything from another. Colette (pen name of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), the narrator Annie, comparing herself to protagonist Claudine, in Claudine and Annie (1903)
  • It is the common failing of an ambitious mind to over-rate itself. Caroline Lamb, the voice of the narrator, in Glenaryon (1816)
  • Nobody holds a good opinion of a man who has a low opinion of himself. Anthony Trollope, the character Felix speaking, in Orly Farm: A Novel (1862)

Trollope returned to the theme in the 1864 novel Small House at Allington, where he had the character Lord De Guest say: “Above all things, never think that you're not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you very much at your own reckoning.”

  • One advantage of introspection is self-appraisal. Monitoring my behavior makes me behave better. When I err I’m forced to explain. Carll Tucker, in privately-circulated e-missive (Nov. 3, 2018)

SELF-ASSURANCE

(includes ASSURANCE; see also ASSERTION & ASSERTIVENESS and CONFIDENCE and SELF-CONFIDENCE and SELF-DOUBT and SELF-ESTEEM)

  • Self-assurance reassures others. Garry Wills, in Introduction to Reagan’s America (1987)

SELF-AWARENESS

(see also SELF-DECEPTION and SELF-KNOWLEDGE)

  • All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why. James Thurber, moral to the fable “The Shore and the Sea,” in Further Fables for Our Time (1956)
  • Self-awareness is not self-centeredness and spirituality is not narcissism. Know thyself is not a narcissistic pursuit. Marianne Williamson, quoted in Lynda Gorov, “Faith: Marianne Williamson is Full of It,” in Mother Jones magazine (Nov.-Dec, 1997)

SELF-BASTING

(see also INDULGENCE and PAMPERING and SELF-INDULGENCE)

  • Women who buy perfume and flowers for themselves because men don’t do it are called “self-basting.” Adair Lara, in The San Francisco Chronicle (Dec. 19, 1990)

SELF-CENTEREDNESS

(see also EGO and EGOCENTRICITY and SELF and SELF-ABSORPTION and SELFISHNESS)

  • A person completely wrapped up in himself makes a small package. Harry Emerson Fosdick, in On Being a Real Person (1943)
  • Life lived only for oneself does not truly satisfy men or women. There is a hunger in Americans today for larger purposes beyond the self. Betty Friedan, in The Second Stage (1981)
  • People are self-centered/to a nauseous degree./They will keep on about themselves/while I'm explaining me. Piet Hein, “The Egocentrics,” in Grooks (1966)
  • It was hard to communicate with you. You were always communicating with yourself. The line was busy. Jean Kerr, the character Mary speaking to ex-husband Bob about their marital relationship, in Mary, Mary (1961)
  • The next voice you hear will undoubtedly be your own. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Second Neurotic’s Notebook (1966)
  • [He} was his own world, and nothing that concerned anyone else was important to him, and nothing that touched him unimportant. Kathleen Thompson Norris, the narrator describing the character Gordon, in Walls of Gold (1933)
  • He talked to her of himself, always of himself. George Sand, the narrator describing the character Laurent, in She and He (1859)
  • None so empty as those who are full of themselves. Benjamin Whichcote, in Moral and Religious Aphorisms (1753)

QUOTE NOTE: In this observation, Whichcote is playing off “None so blind as those that will not see,” a proverbial English saying popularized by Matthew Henry in his Commentary on the Whole Bible (1708)

SELF-CONFIDENCE

(see also ASSURANCE and CERTAINTY and CONFIDENCE and COMPETENCE and OVERCONFIDENCE and SELF-ASSURANCE and SELF-DOUBT and SELF-ESTEEM)

  • Maturity is gratification delayed,/Self-confidence conveyed,/Opportunity parlayed,/Risk delayed,/Self-esteem displayed,/And self-denial repaid. Marlene Caroselli, in a personal communication to the compiler

QUOTE NOTE: This was the winning entry in a 2012 “Maturity Quotations Contest” sponsored through my weekly e-newsletter: Dr. Mardy’s Quotes of the Week. To see the other top winners and twenty “Honorable Mentions” go to Dr. Mardy Newsletter.

  • To have “It,' the fortunate possessor must have that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes. He or she must be entirely unself-conscious and full of self-confidence, indifferent to the effect he or she is producing, and uninfluenced by others. There must be physical attraction, but beauty is unnecessary. Elinor Glyn, in the title story of “It” and Other Stories (1927)
  • Self-confidence is a healthy quality when it is grounded in competence, but a disabling one when one tries to bolster ineptitude and succeeds only in compounding it. Sydney J. Harris, in his “Strictly Personal” syndicated column (Oct. 23, 1985)
  • Bragging is not merely designed to impress. Bragging is designed to produce envy and assert superiority. It is, therefore, an act of hostility. Bragging is also a transparent ploy. It reveals your lack of self-confidence. “I am not enough,” you feel. So you resort to showering me with your “achievements,” in order to mask your perceived deficiencies. Aaron Hass, in Doing the Right Thing: Cultivating Your Moral Intelligence (1998)
  • The real “haves” are they who can acquire freedom, self-confidence, and even riches without depriving others of them. They acquire all of these by developing and applying their potentialities. Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer (1951)

Hoffer continued: “On the other hand, the real ‘have nots’ are they who cannot have aught except by depriving others of it. They can feel free only by diminishing the freedom of others, self-confident by spreading fear and dependence among others, and rich by making others poor.”

  • I have confidence in fools…self-confidence is what my friends call it. Edgar Allan Poe, “Marginalia.” in Democratic Review (Nov. 1844)
  • There is a fine line between arrogance and self-confidence. Legitimate self-confidence is a winner. The true test of self-confidence is the courage to be open—to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source. Self-confident people aren’t afraid to have their views challenged. They relish the intellectual combat that enriches ideas. Jack Welch, in Jack: Straight from the Gut (2001)
  • Life for both sexes…is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle. Virginia Woolf, in A Room of One’s Own (1929)

SELF-CONTROL

(includes SELF-DISCIPLINE and SELF-RESTRAINT; see also ABSTINENCE and DISCIPLINE and SELF-DISCIPLINE and SELF-RELIANCE and VICTORY OVER SELF and WILL and WILLPOWER)

  • A little kingdom I possess,/Where thoughts and feelings dwell;/And very hard the task I find/Of governing it well. Louisa May Alcott, in the poem “My Kingdom” (1845), first published in The Sunny Side (1875)

QUOTE NOTE: Alcott said about the poem when it was finally published thirty years later: “It is the only hymn I ever wrote. It was composed at age thirteen, and as I still find the same difficulty in governing my kingdom, it still expresses my soul’s desire, and I have nothing better to offer.”

  • It is a question whether the great majority of people do not ruin their lives and mar their happiness by lack of self-control. James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh (1903)

Allen added: “How few people we meet in life who are well-balanced, who have that exquisite poise which is characteristic of the finished character!”

  • Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh (1903)

Earlier in the book, a classic in self-help literature, Allen wrote: “A man should conceive of a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it. He should make this purpose the centralizing point of his thoughts. It may take the form of a spiritual ideal, or it may be a worldly object, according to his nature at the time being; but whichever it is, he should steadily focus his thought-forces upon the object which he has set before him. He should make this purpose his supreme duty, and should devote himself to its attainment, not allowing his thoughts to wander away into ephemeral fancies, longings, and imaginings. This is the royal road to self-control and true concentration of thought.”

  • I am,/indeed,/a king,/because I know how.to rule myself. Pietro Aretino, in letter to Agostino Ricchi (May 10, 1537)
  • If, in a word, it be in our power to do what is noble and what is disgraceful, it is equally in our power not to do it. Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics (4th c. B.C.)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the classical translation of Aristotle’s thought, which is now more likely to be seen in this pithier version: “What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”

  • I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self. Aristotle, quoted in Johannes Stobaeus, Florilegium (5th c. A.D.)
  • No man is such a conqueror as the man who has defeated himself. Henry Ward Beecher, “The Temporal Advantages of Religion,” in The Original Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, Sep. 1872–March 1873 (1893)
  • He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. The Bible—Proverbs 16:32 (RSV)
  • Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian’s life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship (1937)
  • Nothing ever really sets human nature free, but self-control. Phyllis Bottome, in Not in Our Stars (1955)

QUOTE NOTE: This is a snippet from the closing words of one of Burns’s most celebrated poems. The fuller passage went this way: “Reader, attend! whether thy soul/Soars fancy’s flights beyond the pole,/Or darkling grubs this earthly hole,/In low pursuit;/Know, prudent, cautious self-control/Is wisdom’s root.”

  • Is there no danger of our self-control degenerating into tyranny? A man may lay severe rules on himself as truly as another may. William Ellery Channing, in Dr. Channing’s Note-Book: Passages from the Unpublished Manuscripts of William Ellery Channing (1887; Grace Ellery Channing, ed.)
  • The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our own thoughts. Charles Darwin, in The Descent of Man (1871)
  • You can have neither a greater nor a less dominion than over yourself. Leonardo da Vinci, a circa 1500 entry, in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (1957; Robert Newton Linscott, ed.)
  • The discipline of desire is the backbone of character. Will Durant & Ariel Durant, in The Story of Civilization: The Age of Louis XIV, Vol. VIII (1963)

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, this observation is mistakenly attributed to John Locke. In truth, the Durants were summarizing Locke’s approach to the education of children. They continued by writing: “This discipline is to be made as pleasant as possible, but it is to be insisted upon throughout [childhood].”

  • As far as your self-control goes, as far goes your freedom. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880–93)
  • Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society. Tryon Edwards, in A Dictionary of Thoughts (1891)

ERROR ALERT: On almost all internet sites, this quotation is mistakenly attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

  • Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire. Epictetus, in Discourses (2nd c. A.D.)
  • Self-discipline is the free man’s yoke. Either he is his own master or he will be his own slave—not merely as slave to his passions, as an earlier generation might have feared, but a slave to his unbounded ego. John W. Gardner, in The Recovery of Confidence (1970)

Gardner introduced the thought by writing: “Every step toward removal of arbitrary constraints on individual behavior must be accompanied by increments in self-imposed controls.”

  • Everything that frees our spirit without giving us control of ourselves is ruinous. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1892; T. Bailey Saunders, ed.)
  • Self-control, in every station and to every individual, is indispensable, if people would retain that equanimity of mind, which, depending on self-respect, is the essential of contentment and happiness. Sarah Josepha Hale, in Sketches of American Character (1929)
  • Self-discipline without talent can often achieve astounding results, whereas talent without self-discipline inevitably dooms itself to failure. Sydney J. Harris, in Pieces of Eight (1982)
  • Discipline comes through self-control. If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self. You may see at one and the same time both your best friend and your greatest enemy, by stepping in front of a mirror. Napoleon Hill, in Think and Grow Rich (1937)
  • The control of our being is not unlike the combination of a safe. One turn of the know rarely unlocks the safe. Each advance and retreat is a step toward one’s goal. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
  • Rule your mind, which, if it is not your servant, is your master. Horace, in Odes (1st c. B.C.)

QUOTE NOTE: These days, this observation is almost always presented in a leaner translation: “Rule your mind, or it will rule you.”

  • He who overcomes others is strong, but he who overcomes himself is mightier still. Lao-Tzu, in Tao-te Ching (6th c. B.C.)
  • The middle gear of any man is self-discipline. John le Carré, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Bruno Salvador, in The Mission Song: A Novel (2006)
  • I cannot consent to place in the control of others one who cannot control himself. Robert E. Lee, quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875; John William Jones, ed.)

QUOTE NOTE: According to his biographers, Lee made this remark after refusing to promote several Confederate officers who were unable to control their fondness for hard liquor.

  • Such power there is in clear-eyed self-restraint. James Russell Lowell, in “Under the Old Elm” (1875)
  • Self-control is at the root of all the virtues. Let a man yield to his impulses and passions, and from that moment he gives up his moral freedom. Orison Swett Marden, in Rising in the World: Or, Architects of Fate (1895)
  • He that would govern others, first should be/The master of himself. Phillip Massinger, the character Timoleon speaking, in The Bondman (1624)
  • Self-control might be as passionate and as active as the surrender to passion. W. Somerset Maugham, a reflection of protagonist Philip Carey, in Of Human Bondage (1915)

QUOTE NOTE: This thought comes to Philip as he is reflecting on where he’s going with his life and career, and feeling “strangely that he was on the threshold of some new discovery in life.” Here’s the full passage from which this snippet was taken: “He saw what looked like the truth as by flashes of lightning on a dark, stormy night you might see a mountain range. He seemed to see that a man need not leave his life to chance, but that his will was powerful; he seemed to see that self-control might be as passionate and as active as the surrender to passion; he seemed to see that the inward life might be as manifold, as varied, as rich with experience, as the life of one who conquered realms and explored unknown lands.”

  • He who reigns within himself, and rules/Passions, desires, and fears, is more than a king. John Milton, in Paradise Regained (1671)
  • Not being able to govern events, I govern myself, and apply myself to them, if they will not apply themselves to me. Michel de Montaigne, “Of Presumption,” in Essays (1580–88)
  • The success of life, the formation of character, is in proportion to the courage one has to say to one’s ownself: “Thou shalt not.” Carry Nation, in The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation (1905)
  • The poorest education that teaches self-control is better than the best that neglects it. Dorothy Nevill, in My Own Times (1912)
  • He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Of Self-Overcoming,” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883)
  • No man is fit to command another that cannot command himself. William Penn, in No Cross, No Crown (1669)
  • What self is employed to control the self that is out of control? Hart Pomerantz, in personal communication to the compiler (Sep. 12, 2018)
  • It is a new road to happiness, if you have strength enough to castigate a little the various impulses that sway you in turn. George Santayana, in Winds of Doctrine (1913)
  • Man who man would be,/Must rule the empire of himself. Percy Bysshe Shelley, in the poem “Political Greatness” (1821)
  • A little self-control at the right moment may prevent much subsequent compulsion at the hands of others. Arthur Schopenhauer, “Counsels and Maxims,” in Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer (1851; T. Bailey Saunders, ed.)
  • What now is the most important attribute of man as a moral being? May we not answer—the faculty of self-control? This it is which forms a chief distinction between the human being and the brute. Herbert Spencer, in Social Statics: Or, the Conditions Essential to Human Happiness (1850)
  • Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,/These three alone lead life to sovereign power. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in “Oenone” (1832)
  • Who has a fiercer struggle than he who strives to conquer himself? Thomas à Kempis, in The Imitation of Christ (c. 1420)
  • Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage. Thucydides, in History of the Pelopennesian War (5th c. B.C.)
  • There never has been, and cannot be, a good life without self-control. Apart from self-control, no good life is imaginable. The attainment of goodness must begin with that. Leo Tolstoy, “The First Step” (1892) in Essays and Letters (1904)
  • I cannot conceive of a good life which isn’t, in some sense, a self-disciplined life. Philip Toynbee, in The Distant Drum: Reflections on the Spanish Civil War (1976)
  • In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves and their carnal urges. Self-discipline with all of them came first. Harry S Truman, in The Autobiography of Harry S Truman (pub. posthumously in 1980; Robert H. Ferrell, ed).
  • I have observed that those who have accomplished the greatest results are those…who never grow excited or lose self-control, but are always calm, self-possessed, patient, and polite. Booker T. Washington, in Up From Slavery (1901)
  • There is no liberty, save wisdom and self-control. Liberty is within—not without. It is each man’s own affair. H. G. Wells, the character Ostrog speaking, in When the Sleeper Wakes (1910)
  • Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself. Elie Wiesel, in All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs (1995)
  • A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. Oscar Wilde, the title character speaking, in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

Speaking to his friend Basil, Dorian continues: “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoiy them, to dominate them.”

  • If you lose self-control everything will fall. You cannot function physically or mentally or in any other way unless your emotions are under control. John Wooden, in They Call Me Coach (2003; with Jack Tobin).

SELF-CREATION

(see also BECOMING and PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT and SELF-ACTUALIZATION and SELF-HELP)

  • Everyone gets to be something by starting as something else—either that or he stays unevolved. John Ciardi, quoted in Vince Clemente, “‘A Man is What He Does with His Attention’: A Conversation with John Ciardi,’ in Vince Clemente, John Ciardi: Measure of the Man (1987)
  • 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.”

  • Up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and movements and changes in the world about him; then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Louis L’Amour, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Mathurin Kerbouchard, in The Walking Drum (1984)

Kerbouchard continued: “Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, this I am today, that I will be tomorrow. The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.”

SELF-CRITICISM

(see also ABUSE and CRITICISM and SELF-REPROACH)

  • What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but absence of self-criticism. G. K. Chesterton, “On Bright Old Things—And Other Things,” in Sidelights on New London and Newer New York: And Other Essays (1932)

Chesterton continued: “It is comparatively of little consequence that you occasionally break out and abuse other people, so long as you do not absolve yourself. The former is a natural collapse of human weakness; the latter is a blasphemous assumption of divine power.”

SELF-DECEPTION

(includes FOOLING OURSELFES; see also DECEPTION and DUPES & DUPING and ERROR and FALSEHOOD & HONESTY and ILLUSION and RATIONALIZATION and SELF-KNOWLEDGE and TRUTH)

  • The fly sat upon the axel-tree of the chariot wheel and said, “What a dust do I raise!” Aesop, “The Fly on the Wheel,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • The man who suspects his own tediousness is yet to be born. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, in “Leaves From a Notebook,” in Ponkapog Papers (1903)
  • His mistaken belief in his own superiority cut him off from reality as completely as if he were living in a colored glass jar. Margery Allingham, protagonist Albert Campion’s reflection the character Lee Aubrey, a brilliant, but sinister megalomaniac, in Traitor’s Purse (1941)
  • The human mind has an infinite capacity for self-deception. Gertrude Atherton, in The Adventures of a Novelist (1932)
  • There is no such flatterer as is a man’s self. Francis Bacon, “Of Friendship,” in Essays (1625)

QUOTE NOTE: In his “On Love” essay in the same collection, Bacon further explored the topic, this time quoting an unnamed source: “It hath been well said, ‘That the arch-flatterer, with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence, is a man’s self.’” Many reference sources mistakenly attribute the quotation directly to Bacon.

  • 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)
  • Self-esteem, n. An erroneous appraisement. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • In all of history, we have found just one cure for error—a partial antidote against making and repeating grand, foolish mistakes, a remedy against self-deception. That antidote is criticism. David Brin, in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? (1998)
  • 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.)
  • O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us/To see oursels as others see us!/It would frae mony a blunder free us,/And foolish notion. Robert Burns, in “To a Louse” (1786)

QUOTE NOTE: This legendary quatrain is the source of the popular expression to see ourselves as other see us. In the poem, Burns is suggesting that God would be giving us a great gift indeed if he granted us such a power—for if we could only see ourselves as others do, we would be far less likely to blunder or hold foolish notions.

  • The easiest person to deceive is one’s own self. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
  • Self-deception once yielded to, all other deceptions follow naturally more and more. Thomas Carlyle, “The Hero as King,” in On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841)

QUOTE NOTE: Carlyle was writing this about Napoleon I after he had ascended to power. He introduced the thought by writing that Napoleon began to renounce “his old faith in Facts, took to believing in Semblances; strove to connect himself with Austrian Dynasties, Popedoms, with the old false Feudalities, which he once saw clearly to be false.” He continued about the French emperor near the end of his reign: “He did not know true from false now when he looked at them—the fearfulest (sic) penalty a man pays for yielding to untruth of heart. Self and false ambition had now become his god.”

  • No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self-deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind. Miguel de Cervantes, the title character speaking, in Don Quixote (1605)
  • The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions. Leonardo da Vinci, in Notebooks (1508–18)
  • When we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something…but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen…and then is when we are in bad trouble. Joan Didion, “On Morality,” in Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)
  • Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself. Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect,” in Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)

QUOTE NOTE: Metaphors often clarify, but they sometimes confuse—and that appears to be the case with this otherwise wonderful observation. The concept of self-deception suggests that we are in the dark about something, so the notion of a very well-lit back alley simply doesn’t work here.

  • We are most deeply asleep at the switch when we fancy we control any switches at all. Annie Dillard, in Holy the Firm (1977)
  • 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.”

  • No man is wise at all times, or is without his blind side. Desiderius Erasmus, in Colloquies of Erasmus (1518)
  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. Richard Feynman, in a 1974 commencement address at the California Institute of Technology; later published in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (1985)
  • Self-deception, n. The low road to peace of mind. Leonard Roy Frank, a Tweet (Aug., 1, 2013)
  • Who has deceiv’d thee so oft as thyself? Benjamin Franklin, in a 1738 issue of Poor Richard’s Almanack
  • Until the Donkey tried to clear/The Fence, he thought himself a Deer. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)
  • There is no delusion more fatal, no folly more profound, than a man’s belief that he can kick and gouge and scheme his way to the top—and then afford the luxury of being a good person; for no consequence is more certain than that we become what we do. Sydney J. Harris, in Last Things First (1961)
  • Everyone admits that “the truth hurts” but no one applies this adage to himself—and as soon as it begins to hurt us, we quickly repudiate it and call it a lie. Sydney J. Harris, in On the Contrary (1964).

Harris continued: “It is this tendency toward self-deception (more than any active sin) that makes human progress slow and almost imperceptible.”

  • Self-deception is sometimes as necessary a tool as a crowbar. Moss Hart, in Act One (1959)
  • If tempted by something that feels “altruistic,” examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it! Robert A. Heinlein, an entry in “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” in Time Enough for Love (1973)

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

  • We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
  • Rationalization may be defined as self-deception by reasoning. Karen Horney, in Our Inner Conflicts (1945)
  • I’m interested in memory because it’s a filter through which we see our lives, and because it’s foggy and obscure, the opportunities for self-deception are there. In the end, as a writer, I'm more interested in what people tell themselves happened rather than what actually happened. Kazuo Ishiguro, quoted in “In the Land of Memory,” a 2001 CNN “Book News” broadcast by Adam Dunn (specific date undetermined)
  • No estimate is more in danger of erroneous calculation than those by which a man computes the force of his own genius. Samuel Johnson, in The Rambler (Sep. 7, 1751)
  • It is the common failing of an ambitious mind to over-rate itself. Caroline Lamb, the voice of the narrator, in Glenaryon (1816)
  • It is as easy to deceive ourselves without noticing as it is hard to deceive others without their noticing. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • Our enemies come nearer the truth in the opinions they form of us than we do in our opinion of ourselves. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)

This observation has also been popularly translated this way: “Our enemies come nearer the truth in their judgment of us than we do ourselves.”

  • Every stink that fights the ventilator thinks it is Don Quixote. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, in Unkempt Thoughts (1957)
  • Men have an extraordinarily erroneous opinion of their position in nature; and the error is ineradicable. W. Somerset Maugham, an 1896 journal entry, in A Writer’s Notebook (1949)
  • Man is the yokel par excellence, the booby unmatchable, the king dupe of the cosmos. He is chronically and unescapably deceived, not only by the other animals and by the delusive face of nature herself,but also and more particularly by himself—by his incomparable talent for searching out and embracing what is false, and for overlooking and denying what is true. H. L. Mencken, in Prejudices: Third Series (1922)
  • 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)
  • While every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable. John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty (1859)
  • The ingenuity of self-deception is inexhaustible. Hannah More, “Self-Love,” in Practical Piety (1811)
  • There are certain faults which press too near our self-love to be even perceptible to us. Hannah More, in Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great to General Society (1788)

More preceded the thought by writing: “It may be in morals as it is in optics, the eye and the object may come too close to each other, to answer the end of vision.”

  • It is amazing how people deceive themselves and others when it is in their interest to do so. Jawaharlal Nehru, in letter to daughter Indira (Sep. 27, 1932); reprinted in Glimpses of World History (1934)
  • 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 worst of all deceptions is self-deception. Plato, quoted in Victorino Tejera, Plato’s Dialogues One by One: A Structural Interpretation (1984)
  • Things are as they are, and no amount of self-deception makes them otherwise. Agnes Repplier, “The Cheerful Clan,” in Points of Friction (1920)
  • Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. Bertrand Russell, “Dreams and Facts,” in Sceptical Essays (1928)
  • No satisfaction based upon self-deception is solid, and, however unpleasant the truth may be, it is better to face it once for all, to get used to it, and to proceed to build your life in accordance with it. Bertrand Russell, in The Conquest of Happiness (1930)
  • Where we have strong emotions, we’re liable to fool ourselves. Carl Sagan, in Cosmos (1980)
  • Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self-deception when their emotions are stirred. Carl Sagan, in Cosmos (1980)
  • For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Carl Sagan, in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995)
  • Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world. Arthur Schopenhauer, “Psychological Observations,” in Studies in Pessimism (1851)
  • We all have our little illusions about our own mental capacities. Cornelia Otis Skinner, “The Sea-Tossed Muse,” in Bottoms Up! (1955)
  • It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes. It may even lie on the surface; but we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions—especially selfish ones. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Record (1974; Leopold Labedz, ed.)
  • The coward regards himself as cautious, the miser as thrifty. Publilius Syrus, in Sententiae (1st c. B.C.)
  • Man persuades himself that he is emancipated every time that he decorates a new servitude with the name of liberty. Achille Tournier, in Autumn Thoughts (1888)
  • Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts. Barbara W. Tuchman, in The March of Folly (1984)
  • We do not deal much in fact when we are contemplating ourselves. Mark Twain, “Does the Race of Man Love a Lord?” in The North American Review (April, 1902)
  • What we believe to be the motives of our conduct are usually but the pretexts for it. Miguel de Unamuno, in The Tragic Sense of Life (1912)
  • If there were a verb meaning “to believe falsely,” it would not have any significant first-person, present indicative. Ludwig Wittgenstein, in Philosophical Investigations (1953)

QUOTE NOTE: In plain English, this means that it is virtually impossible for people to say “I am currently believing falsely” when they’re in the middle of falsely believing something. Of course, they might—and often do—say in the past tense, “I have believed falsely.” But when people believe something, at the very moment they express the belief, they invariably conclude that it is true.

  • The instinct for self-deception in human beings makes them try to banish from their minds dangers of which at bottom they are perfectly aware by declaring them non-existent. Stefan Zweig, in Beware of Pity (1939).

SELF-DESTRUCTIVENESS

(see also DESTRUCTION and ENEMIES and FOLLY and [Self-Inflicted] WOUNDS)

  • We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction. Aesop, “The Eagle and the Arrow,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • Yet is every man his own greatest enemy, and as if were his own executioner. Sir Thomas Browne, in Religio Medici (1643)

QUOTE NOTE: The first portion of this observation is also commonly translated: “Every man is his own greatest enemy.”

  • All men that are ruined are ruined on the side of their natural propensities. Edmund Burke, in Two Letters on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory (9th ed.; 1796)
  • Our greatest foes, and whom we must chiefly combat, are within. Miguel de Cervantes, the title character speaking, in Don Quixote (1605)
  • When the beginnings of self-destruction enter the heart it seems no bigger than a grain of sand. John Cheever, a 1952 diary entry, in John Cheever: The Journals (1991; Robert Gottlieb, ed.)
  • Self-destructive patterns cause as much suffering as outer catastrophes. Anaïs Nin, a 1961 diary entry, in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 6 (1976)
  • Misfortunes one can endure—they come from outside, they are accidents. But to suffer for one’s own faults—ah! There is the sting of life. Oscar Wilde, the character Lord Windermere speaking, in Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892)

SELF-DEVELOPMENT

(see also BECOMING and RESPONSIBILITY and SELF-ACTUALIZATION and SELF-CONTROL and SELF-HELP and SELF-RELIANCE and SELF-SACRIFICE and SELF-SUFFICIENCY)

  • My first duty is to develop all the powers given to me and to make the most of myself and my own life. Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in The Woman’s Bible (1895)

QUOTE NOTE: Almost all reference sources attribute this quotation directly to Stanton, and it certainly captures one of her core beliefs. In the book, however, Stanton is wishing that the biblical character known as Jephthah’s daughter—who had willingly accepted a life of total self-sacrifice to her father—had made the foregoing statement as a rebuke to her father. In fact, here’s the full version of what Stanton wished the daughter had said (note how modern-sounding the words are):

“I will not consent to such a sacrifice. Your vow must be disallowed. You may sacrifice your own life as you please, but you have no right over mine. I am on the threshold of life, the joys of youth and of middle age are all before me. You are in the sunset; you have had your blessings and your triumphs; but mine are yet to come. Life is to me full of hope and of happiness. Better that you die than I, if the God whom you worship is pleased with the sacrifice of human life. I consider that God has made me the arbiter of my own fate and all my possibilities. My first duty is to develop all the powers given to me and to make the most of myself and my own life. Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.”

SELF-DISCIPLINE

(see also ABSTINENCE and CHARACTER and DISCIPLINE and RESPONSIBILITY and SELF-CONTROL and VICTORY OVER SELF)

  • Self-discipline is the free man’s yoke. Either he is his own master or he will be his own slave—not merely as slave to his passions, as an earlier generation might have feared, but a slave to his unbounded ego. John W. Gardner, in The Recovery of Confidence (1970)

Gardner introduced the thought by writing: “Every step toward removal of arbitrary constraints on individual behavior must be accompanied by increments in self-imposed controls.”

  • Self-discipline without talent can often achieve astounding results, whereas talent without self-discipline inevitably dooms itself to failure. Sydney J. Harris, in Pieces of Eight (1982)
  • The middle gear of any man is self-discipline. John le Carré, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Bruno Salvador, in The Mission Song: A Novel (2006)
  • I cannot conceive of a good life which isn’t, in some sense, a self-disciplined life. Philip Toynbee, in The Distant Drum: Reflections on the Spanish Civil War (1976)
  • In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves and their carnal urges. Self-discipline with all of them came first. Harry S Truman, in The Autobiography of Harry S Truman (pub. posthumously in 1980; Robert H. Ferrell, ed).

SELF-DISCOVERY

(see also SELF-AWARENESS and SELF-EXAMINATION and SELF-KNOWLEDGE)

  • There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storm. George Eliot, the voice of the narrator, in Daniel Deronda (1874)

SELF-DOUBT

(see also CONFIDENCE and DOUBT and SELF-APPRAISAL and SELF-CONFIDENCE and SELF-ESTEEM)

  • Doubt comes to the door in darkness, pretending to be alone and in need of your compassionate ear. But if you let him in, he’ll bring his friends, and doubt can be very persuasive in getting in. Julia Cameron, in Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity (2002)

Writing about self-doubt, Cameron continued: “Doubt is a great seducer. ‘I just want you to think about this,’ it whispers. Out comes the artist’s ears. Out comes the dagger. ‘Maybe you didn’t and don’t have enough talent after al. . . .’ Feel the sharp piercing? It might be your creative lung collapsing around the table.”

  • The only virtue on which I pride myself is my self-doubt. If every day I find myself more circumspect toward my work, and more uncertain as to whether I should continue, my only self-assurance comes from my fear itself. For when a writer loses his self-doubt, the time has come to lay aside his pen. Colette, in a letter to Francis Carco, reprinted in Belles Saisons: A Colette Scrapbook (1978; Robert Phelps, ed.)

In that same letter, Colette wrote: “It’s terrible to think, as I do every time I begin a book, that I no longer have, and never have had, any talent.”

  • The future has a way of embarrassing the present, and…a pinch of self-doubt is never more needful than at just the moment when any doubt is deemed heretical. Jeff Jacoby, “The House of Tudor Didn’t Get the Last Word,” in The Boston Globe (March 26, 2015)

Jacoby added: “To err is human, to be human is to err. Don’t be too sure that history, or the moral arc of the universe, will approve of your preferences and convictions.”

  • Self-doubt is insidious, and gnaws away at the self-image as cancer eats away at the body’s organs. Maxwell Maltz, in The New Psycho-Cybernetics (2001; Dan S. Kennedy, ed.)
  • Our doubts are traitors/And make us lose the good we oft might win/By fearing to attempt. William Shakespeare, in Measure for Measure (1604-05)

SELF-ESTEEM

(see also CONFIDENCE and ESTEEM and SELF-APPRAISAL and SELF-CONFIDENCE and SELF-REGARD and SELF-RESPECT)

  • Self-esteem, n. An erroneous appraisement. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves. Nathaniel Branden, in The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (1994)

Later in the book, Branden wrote: “When it comes to matters of self-esteem, I have more to fear from my own judgment than from anyone else’s. In the inner courtroom of my mind, mine is the only judgment that counts (italics in original).

  • When we see people acting in an abusive, arrogant, or demeaning manner toward others, their behavior almost always is a symptom of their lack of self-esteem. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves. Clayton M. Christensen, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” Harvard Business Review (July-August 2010)
  • The world is terribly apt to take people at their own valuation. Amelila B. Edwards, the voice of the narrator, in Half a Million of Money (1865)
  • The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others. Sonya Friedman, in On a Clear Day You Can See Yourself: Turning the Life You Have Into the Life You Want (1994)
  • People take you at your own valuation; might as well set it high. Alice Walworth Graham, in The Natchez Woman (1950)
  • Self-esteem = Success divided by Pretensions. William James, in The Principles of Psychology (1890)

QUOTE NOTE: In his classic text, James presented the observation as if it were a mathematical formula (see at Self-Esteem). He introduced the thought by writing: “Our self-feeling in this world…is determined by the ratio of our actualities to our supposed potentialities.” And he concluded by writing: “Such a fraction may be increased as well by diminishing the denominator as by increasing the numerator.”

  • Learning to deal with setbacks, and maintaining the persistence and optimism necessary for childhood's long road to mastery are the real foundations of lasting self-esteem. Lilian G. Katz, “Reading, Writing, Narcissism,” in The New York Times (July 15, 1993)
  • Of all traps and pitfalls in life, self-disesteem is the deadliest, and the hardest to overcome; for it is a pit designed and dug by our own hands, summed up in the phrase, “It’s no use—I can’t do it.” Maxwell Maltz, in The New Psycho-Cybernetics (2001; Dan S. Kennedy, ed.)
  • You can be pleased with nothing when you are not pleased with yourself. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, from a 1712 letter, in The Best Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1901; Octave Thanet, ed.)
  • Nothing enhances self-esteem so much as the ability to do something well. Susan Ohanian, in Ask Ms. Class (1996)
  • Honor is self-esteem made visible in action. Ayn Rand, in the title essay of Philosophy: Who Needs It? (1982)

QUOTE NOTE: The title essay is a reprint of a March 6, 1974 speech Rand gave to the graduating class of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. In the speech, she argued that philosophy can and should play a pivotal role in human life. In particular, she further argued that people needed to occasionally examine the assumptions that undergird their thoughts and actions if they are to live a productive and meaningful life.

  • Self-esteem isn’t everything; it’s just that there’s nothing without it. Gloria Steinem, in Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (1992)
  • As the internal-combustion engine runs on gasoline, so the person runs on self-esteem. Thomas Szasz, in The Second Sin (1973)

Szasz continued: “If he is full of it, he is good for a long run; if he is partly filled, he will soon need to be refueled; and if he is empty, he will come to a stop.”

  • 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.”

  • Nobody holds a good opinion of a man who has a low opinion of himself. Anthony Trollope, the character Felix speaking, in Orley Farm: A Novel (1862)

Trollope returned to the theme in the 1864 novel Small House at Allington, where he had the character Lord De Guest say: “Above all things, never think that you're not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you very much at your own reckoning.”

  • lack of self-esteem is what causes wars because people who really love themselves don't go out and try to fight other people. Oprah Winfrey, quoted in Nellie Bly, Oprah: Up Close and Down Home (1993)

Winfrey went on to add about self-esteem: “It’s the root of all the problems.”

SELF-EXAMINATION

(see also SELF-APPRAISAL)

  • Introspection is the process of self-examination. It occurs naturally over the life span, although some people are naturally more introspective than others. James Thorson, in Aging in a Changing Society (2000)
  • 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.”

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY

(see also BELIEF and DELUSION and ERROR and SELF-DECEPTION and PROPHECY and TRUTH & FALSEHOOD)

  • Those who imagine that the world is against them have generally conspired to make it true. Sydney J. Harris, in his “Strictly Personal” syndicated column (May 16, 1974)
  • This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. Robert K. Merton, “The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” in The Antioch Review (Summer, 1948)

QUOTE NOTE: In this 1948 article, Merton, a prominent American sociologist, coined the term self-fulfilling prophecy to describe false or mistaken notions that, because are believed, cause themselves to become true (note how he cleverly tweaks the concept of a reign of terror in the process). Citing numerous historical examples of the phenomenon, Merton more fully expressed the thought this way:

“The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.”

SELF-GLORIFICATION

(see also GLORY and EGOCENTRICITY and INSECURITY and NARCISSISM & NARCISSISTS and SELF-ABSORPTION and SELF-CENTEREDNESS and SELF-PROMOTION and SELFISHNESS)

  • No estimate is more in danger of erroneous calculation than those by which a man computes the force of his own genius. Samuel Johnson, in The Rambler (Sep. 7, 1751)
  • Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster. Robert M. Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974)

Pirsig went on to add: “When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do it’s a hollow victory. In order to sustain the victory you have to prove yourself again and again in some other way, and again and again and again, driven forever to fill a false image, haunted by the fear that the image is not true and someone will find out.”

  • It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help. Judith Martin (“Miss Manners”), in a 1991 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • If you want people to think well of you, do not speak well of yourself. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670)
  • Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid. Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar,” in Following the Equator (1897)

SELF-HELP

(including SELF-HELP BOOKS; see also BECOMING and PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT and SELF-ACTUALIZATION and SELF-CREATION and SELF-RELIANCE)

  • Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” in Essays: First Series (1841)

Emerson continued: “Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it. We solicitously and apologetically caress and celebrate him, because he held on his way and scorned our disapprobation. The gods love him because men hated him.”

  • The buying of a self-help book is the most desperate of all human acts. It means you’ve lost your mind completely: You’ve entrusted your mental health to a self-aggrandizing twit with a psychology degree and a yen for a yacht. Cynthia Heimel, in Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I’m Kissing You Good-Bye (1993)

SELF-IMAGE

(see also SELF and SELF-APPRAISAL and SELF-CONFIDENCE and SELF-ESTEEM and SELF-REGARD and SELF-RESPECT)

  • Hair is sexy. Hair brings one’s self-image into focus; it is vanity’s proving ground. Shana Alexander, “Hair Is Terribly Personal,” in Life magazine (1966)

Alexander went on to add: “Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices.”

  • The past is not simply the past, but a prism through which the subject filters his own changing self-image. Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Angles of Vision,” in Marc Patcher, Telling Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography (1979)
  • It is terrible to destroy a person’s picture of himself in the interests of truth or some other abstraction. Doris Lessing, a reflection of protagonist Mary Turner, in The Grass is Singing (1950)

Turner continued: “How can one know he will be able to create another to enable him to go on living?”

  • Nobody holds a good opinion of a man who has a low opinion of himself. Anthony Trollope, the character Felix speaking, in Orly Farm: A Novel (1862)

Trollope returned to the theme in the 1864 novel Small House at Allington, where he had the character Lord De Guest say: “Above all things, never think that you're not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you very much at your own reckoning.”

  • You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself. Your self-image will lead you to the top of the stairway or put you on an escalator to the basement. Zig Ziglar, in See You at the Top (1975)

SELF-INTEREST

(includes INTEREST; see also EGO and EGOCENTRICITY and SELF and SELF-ABSORPTION and SELFISHNESS and STINGINESS)

  • Men are not against you; they are merely for themselves. Gene Fowler, in Skyline: A Reporter’s Reminiscence of The 1920s (1961)
  • Never appeal to a man’s “better nature.” He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. Robert A. Heinlein, a passage from “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” in Time Enough for Love (1973)
  • Love is the most subtle form of self-interest. Holbrook Jackson, in Platitudes in the Making (1911)
  • Every man’s affairs, however little, are important to himself. Samuel Johnson, in letter to the Earl of Bute (Nov. 3, 1762); reprinted in James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
  • We talk on principle, but we act on interest. Walter Savage Landor, Lopez Baños speaking, in “Baños and Alpuente,” Imaginary Conversations, Fourth Series (1829)

Baños preceded the thought by writing: “Principles do not mainly influence even the principled.”

  • Interest speaks all sorts of tongues, and plays all sorts of parts, even that of disinterestedness. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665). Also an example of oxymoronica.
  • 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)

SELF-KNOWLEDGE

(see also DECEPTION and ERROR and KNOWLEDGE and SELF-DECEPTION and TRUTH and WISDOM)

  • There’s a period of life when we swallow a knowledge of ourselves, and it becomes either good or sour inside. Pearl Bailey, in The Raw Pearl (1968)
  • When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)
  • You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself. Beryl Markham, in West With the Night (1942)
  • Men resemble great deserted palaces: the owner occupies only a few rooms and has closed off wings where he never ventures. François Mauriac, in Second Thoughts: Reflections on Literature and on Life (1961)
  • Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,/These three alone lead life to sovereign power. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in the poem “Oenone” (1832)

SELF-LOATHING

(includes SELF-HATRED; see also SELF-APPRAISAL and SELF CONCEPT and SELF IMAGE)

  • Insecurity breeds treachery: if you are kind to people who hate themselves, they will hate you as well. Florence King, in With Charity Toward None (1992)

SELF-LOVE

(see also SELF-ABSORPTION and EGOCENTRICITY and LOVE and NARCISSISM)

  • Service is love made visible. If you love friends, you will serve your friends. If you love community, you will serve your community. If you love money, you will serve your money. And if you love only yourself, you will serve only yourself. And you will have only yourself. Stephen Colbert, in 2011 Commencement Address at Northwestern University (his alma mater)
  • Self-love, so sensitive in its own cause, has rarely any sympathy to spare for others. Germaine de Staël, the voice of the narrator, in Corinne (1807)
  • We cease loving ourselves when no one loves us. Germaine de Staël, quoted in C. A. Sainte-Beuve, “Madame de Staël” (1835), in Portraits of Women (1891)
  • As to memory, it is known that this frail faculty naturally lets drop the facts which are less flattering to our self-love—when it does not retain them carefully as subjects not to be approached, marshy spots with a warning flag over them. George Eliot, “The Wasp Credited with the Honey-Comb,” in Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879)

QUOTE NOTE: There are two complete thoughts in this observation, and both are interesting. The first is an intrapersonal one: we often tend to forget things that are inconsistent with (or worse, unflattering to) the way we view ourselves. The second is interpersonal: when we do remember these less flattering things about ourselves, other people can only mention them at some risk to themselves.

  • 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)
  • Self-love is the greatest of all flatterers. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • In jealousy there is more of self-love than love. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • There are certain faults which press too near our self-love to be even perceptible to us. Hannah More, in Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great to General Society (1788)

More preceded the thought by writing: “It may be in morals as it is in optics, the eye and the object may come too close to each other, to answer the end of vision.”

  • Self-absorption is different from self-love. Diana Spechler, the narrator and protagonist Gray Lachmann speaking, in Skinny: A Novel (2011)
  • Our own self-love draws a thick veil between us and our faults. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to his son (June 21, 1748)

SELF-OBSERVATION

(see also INTROSPECTION)

  • Association with human beings lures one into self-observation. Franz Kafka, notebook entry #77 (written 1917-18), in The Zürau Aphorisms (original published posthumously in 1931 by Kafka friend Max Brod under the title Reflections of Sin, Hope, Suffering, and the True Way)

SELF-TRUST

(see also CONFIDENCE and SELF-CONFIDENCE and SELF-DOUBT and SELF-ESTEEM and TRUST & DISTRUST)

  • It is well known that those who do not trust themselves never trust others. Alfred Adler, in Understanding Human Nature (1928)

QUOTE NOTE: This maxim about self-trust has been well known for centuries. In his Memoirs (1717), the French clergyman known to history as Cardinal de Retz (formally, Jean-François Paul de Gondi) expressed it this way: “A man who does not trust himself will never really trust anybody.”

  • Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below your conscious level. Joyce Brothers, in How to Get Whatever You Want Out of Life (1978)
  • In self-trust all the virtues are comprehended. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in The American Scholar (1837)
  • Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” in Essays: First Series (1841)

Emerson went on to add: “Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being.”

  • Self-trust is the essence of heroism. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Heroism,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • Self-trust, we know is the first secret of success. Lady Jane Francesca Wilde, in Notes on Men, Women, and Books (1891)

AUTHOR NOTE: Lady Jane, a linguist, poet, and outspoken Irish nationalist, was the wife of eminent eye surgeon William Wilde and mother of Oscar Wilde. Many of her works appeared under the pen name Speranza, the Italian word for hope. After Sir William’s death in 1879, she moved from Dublin to London, where she joined her son Oscar and befriended other Irish writers, including George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats.

SELF-PITY

(see also DESPAIR and MISERY and PITY and SORROW)

  • Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable. Maya Angelou, in Gather Together in My Name (1974)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet quotation collections mistakenly have early stages.

  • Self-pity is, perhaps, the least becoming of all emotions, and we often indulge in it only because we are too exhausted to resist. Ivy Baker Priest, in Green Grows Ivy (1958)
  • Self-pity is the simplest luxury. Peg Bracken, in Bingo (1988)
  • Self-sacrifice is one of a woman’s seven deadly sins (along with self-abuse, self-loathing, self-deception, self-pity, self-serving, and self-immolation). Sarah Ban Breathnach, in Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self (1998)
  • Self-pity dries up our sympathy for others. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 9th Selection (1992)
  • Optimism and self-pity are the positive and negative poles of modern cowardice. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1944)
  • Self-pity is better than none. Phyllis Diller, in Phyllis Diller’s Marriage Manual (1967)
  • Her own misery filled her heart; there was no room in it for other people's sorrow. George Eliot, the narrator describing the character Hetty, in Adam Bede (1859)
  • Self-pity is a death that has no resurrection, a sinkhole from which no rescuing hand can drag you because you have chosen to sink. Elisabeth Elliot, quoted in Leslie Ann Gibson, The Woman's Book of Positive Quotations (2002)
  • Never feel self-pity, the most destructive emotion there is. How awful to be caught up in the terrible squirrel cage of self. Millicent Fenwick

QUOTATION CAUTION: Even though no formal documentation has ever been provided for this quotation, it is enormously popular on internet quotation sites and may even be regarded as the single best thing ever said on the subject of self-pity. It also comes from one of my all-time favorite politicians (see Millicent Fenwick).

  • “You’ve totally taken all the charm and romance out of self-pity for me, I’ll tell you that for nothing,” Suzanne’s best friend Lucy told her one day. Carrie Fisher, in The Best Awful (2003)
  • Self-pity gets you nowhere. But insight to see that something can be done with the second-bests and adventurous daring to try might be a handle to take hold of. Harry Emerson Fosdick, in Riverside Sermons (1958)
  • It was strange that self-pity wasn’t on the list of deadly sins; none was deadlier. Jonathan Franzen, a reflection of protagonist Russ Hildebrandt, in Crossroads (2021)
  • Certainly the most destructive vice, if you like, that a person can have, more than pride, which is supposedly the number one of the cardinal sins, is self-pity. I think self-pity is the worst possible emotion anyone can have. And the most destructive. Stephen Fry, in BBC interview with Mark Lawson (September, 2008)

Fry went on to add: “It destroys everything around it, except itself. Self-pity will destroy relationships, it’ll destroy anything that’s good, it will fulfill all the prophecies it makes, and leave only itself.” To see full observation, go to Fry on Self-Pity.

  • Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality. John W. Gardner, in The Recovery of Confidence (1970)
  • The teeth of self-pity had gnawed away her essential self. Willa Gibbs, in Seed of Mischief (1953)
  • 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)
  • Self-pity, while it should be accorded due respect, is the greatest of all acids to the human soul. Feeling sorry for yourself is a universal solvent of salvation. Paul Hoffman, the narrator speaking, in The Last Four Things (2011)
  • I never saw a wild thing/Sorry for itself./A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough/Without ever having felt sorry for itself. D. H. Lawrence, “Self-Pity” (1929), in The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence (1994; David Ellis, ed.)
  • You can never win when you wear the ugly cloak of self-pity, and the sour sound of whining will certainly frighten away any opportunity for success. Og Mandino, in A Better Way to Live (1990)

Mandino began by writing: “While life may not always be fair, you must never allow the pains, hurdles, and handicaps of the moment to poison your attitude and plans for yourself and your future.”

  • Self-pity comes so naturally to all of us, that the most solid happiness can be shaken by the compassion of a fool. Andrè Maurois, in Ariel (1924)
  • Laughter is the great antidote for self-pity, maybe a specific for the malady, yet probably 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)
  • All pity is self-pity. Cynthia Ozick, “Envy; Or, Yiddish in America,” in The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories (1969)
  • There are few human emotions as warm, comforting, and enveloping as self-pity. And nothing is more corrosive and destructive. There is only one answer: turn away from it and move on. Megan Reik, quoted in Richard Shea, The Book of Success (1993)
  • Self-sacrifice is a boomerang; it comes back as self-pity. Henrietta Sperry Ripperger, in A Home of Your Own and How to Run It (1940)
  • Self-pity shortens your life. Joan Rivers, in Bouncing Back (1997)
  • All depression has its roots in self-pity, and all self-pity is rooted in people taking themselves too seriously. Tom Robbins, a favorite saying from the character Maestra, recalled by her grandson Switters, in Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates (2000)
  • Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can? Henry David Thoreau, “Conclusion,” in Walden (1854)
  • 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)

SELF-PRAISE

(includes SELF-PROMOTION; see also BOASTING and PRAISE and SELF-GLORIFICATION)

  • Boldly sound your own praises, and some of them will stick. Francis Bacon, in De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the observation is commonly presented, but it was initially offered as the concluding line of a longer passage: “For as it is said of calumny, ‘calumniate boldly, for some of it will stick’ so it may be said of ostentation (except it be in a ridiculous degree of deformity), ‘boldly sound your own praises, and some of them will stick.’” De Augmentis Scientiarum, originally written in Latin, was an expanded version of Bacon’s 1605 classic The Advancement of Learning.

  • Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips. The Bible—Book of Proverbs 27:2 (KJV)
  • The advantage of doing one’s praising for oneself is that one can lay it on so thick and exactly in the right places. Samuel Butler, in The Way of All Flesh (1903)
  • If I do not praise myself, it is because, as is commonly said, self-praise depreciates. Miguel de Cervantes, the title character speaking, in Don Quixote (1605)
  • The praise you take, altho’ it be your due,/Will be suspected if it come from you. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack (Sep., 1757)
  • Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble. John Madden, widely quoted (specific source not yet determined)
  • It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help. Judith Martin (“Miss Manners”), in a 1991 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • A man’s accusations of himself are always believed; his praises never. Michel de Montaigne, “Of the Art of Conference,” in Essays (1580–88)
  • If you want people to think well of you, do not speak well of yourself. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670)
  • Self-praise is no praise. Proverb (English)

QUOTE NOTE: This saying has been proverbial since the early eighteenth century, and is often expressed in such variant forms as “Self-praise is no commendation” and “Self-praise is no recommendation”(Charles Dickens used this latter phrasing in Bleak House, (1853), where he had the character Mr. Guppy say, “Self-praise is no recommendation; but I may say for myself that I am not so bad a man of business neither”). The idea behind the proverb is ancient (see the Bible’s Book of Proverbs entry above and the Latin proverb below).

  • Praise from one’s own mouth is offensive (laus in proprio ore sordescit. Proverb (Latin)

QUOTE NOTE: The saying literally translates as: “Praise in its own foul mouth”

  • There’s not one wise man among twenty will praise himself. William Shakespeare, the character Beatrice speaking, in Much Ado About Nothing (1598)
  • This is the only country where failure to promote yourself is widely considered arrogant. Garry Trudeau, on America, quoted in Newsweek magazine (Oct. 15, 1990)

SELF-PROMOTION

(see SELF-PRAISE)

SELF-RELIANCE

(includes SELF-DETERMINATION and SELF-SUFFICIENCY; see also AUTONOMY and DEPENDENCY & CO-DEPENDENCY and INDEPENDENCE and RESPONSIBILITY and SELF-CREATION and SELF-IMPROVEMENT)

  • The gods help them that help themselves. Aesop, “Hercules and the Wagoner,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • 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)
  • It is hard work to control the workings of inclination and turn the bent of nature; but that it may be done, I know from experience. God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate. Charlotte Brontë, the character St. John speaking , in Jane Eyre (1847)
  • If you would have a faithful servant, and one that you like, serve yourself. Benjamin Franklin, in The Way to Wealth (1758)
  • God has placed in each soul an apostle to lead us upon the illumined path. Yet many seek life from without, unaware that it is within them. Kahlil Gibran, in Kahlil Gibran: Wings of Thought (1973; J. P. Ghougassian, ed.)
  • As one goes through life one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move. Katharine Hepburn, in Me: Stories of My Life (1991)
  • God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest. P. D. James, the character Jonah, quoting a saying he'd seen on a church pulpit, in Devices and Desires (1989)
  • Poetry is to be found nowhere unless we carry it within us. Joseph Joubert, in Pensées (1842)
  • It was on my fifth birthday that Papa put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Remember, my son, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.” Sam Levenson, the opening line of In One Era and Out the Other (1973)
  • I think it’s a mistake to ever look for hope outside of one’s help. Arthur Miller, the character Holga speaking, in After the Fall (1964)
  • Should you fail to pilot your own ship, don’t be surprised at what inappropriate port you find yourself docked. Tom Robbins, the voice of the narrator, in Jitterbug Perfume (1984)

ERROR ALERT: Numerous anthologies mistakenly present this observation as if it began “If you fail to pilot….”

  • Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,/Which we ascribe to heaven. William Shakespeare, the character Helena speaking, in All’s Well That Ends Well (1603-04)

SELF-RESPECT

(see also ESTEEM and DIGNITY and HONOR and RESPECT and PRIDE and SELF-CONFIDENCE and SELF-DOUBT and SELF-ESTEEM and SELF-WORTH)

  • The more we learn to love and respect ourselves, the more we will become attracted to people who will love and respect us and who we can safely love and respect. Melody Beattie, in The Language of Letting Go (1990)
  • Most of the excellence we see in the world is the product not of talent or genius but of self-respect. Robert Brault, in The Second Collection (2015)
  • To free ourselves from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, singular power of self-respect. Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect” (1961), in Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)

In that same essay, Didion also wrote: “To have the sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love, and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself , paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference.”

  • Character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs. Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect” (1961), in Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)
  • If you want to be respected by others the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you. Fyodor Dostoevsky, the character Alyosha speaking, in The Insulted and Injured (1861)
  • Deal with yourself as an individual worthy of respect, and make everyone else deal with you the same way. Nikki Giovanni, in Racism 101 (1994)
  • Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself. Abraham Joshua Heschel, in The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence (1967)
  • He that respects himself is safe from others;/He wears a coat of mail that none can pierce. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the title character speaking, in “Michael Angelo: A Fragment” (pub. posthumously; 1883)
  • True self-respect, being very different from false pride, leads inevitably to respecting others. Virginia Moore, in Virginia Is a State of Mind (1942)
  • The need to treat ourselves as well as we treat others. It’s women’s version of the Golden Rule. Gloria Steinem, in Moving Beyond Words (1994)
  • Self-respect is to the soul as oxygen is to the body. Deprive a person of oxygen, and you kill his body; deprive him of self-respect, and you kill his spirit. Thomas Szasz, in The Second Sin (1973)

SELF-RESTRAINT

(see SELF-CONTROL)

SELF-SACRIFICE

(see also DUTY and SACRIFICE)

  • self-sacrifice is one of a woman’s seven deadly sins (along with self-abuse, self-loathing, self-deception, self-pity, self-serving, and self-immolation). Sarah Ban Breathnach, in Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self (1998)
  • I never know why self-sacrifice is noble. Why is it better to sacrifice oneself than someone else? Ivy Compton-Burnett, in Mother and Son (1955)
  • self-sacrifice which denies common sense isn’t virtue; it’s spiritual dissipation! Margaret Deland, in The Rising Tide (1916)
  • Self-sacrifice is a boomerang; it comes back as self-pity. Henrietta Sperry Ripperger, in A Home of Your Own and How to Run It (1940)
  • My first duty is to develop all the powers given to me and to make the most of myself and my own life. Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in The Woman’s Bible (1895)

QUOTE NOTE: Almost all reference sources attribute this quotation directly to Stanton, and it certainly captures one of her core beliefs. In the book, however, Stanton is wishing that the biblical character known as Jephthah’s daughter—who had willingly accepted a life of total self-sacrifice to her father—had made the foregoing statement as a rebuke to her father. In fact, here’s the full version of what Stanton wished the daughter had said (note how modern-sounding the words are):

“I will not consent to such a sacrifice. Your vow must be disallowed. You may sacrifice your own life as you please, but you have no right over mine. I am on the threshold of life, the joys of youth and of middle age are all before me. You are in the sunset; you have had your blessings and your triumphs; but mine are yet to come. Life is to me full of hope and of happiness. Better that you die than I, if the God whom you worship is pleased with the sacrifice of human life. I consider that God has made me the arbiter of my own fate and all my possibilities. My first duty is to develop all the powers given to me and to make the most of myself and my own life. Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.”

  • It is a sign of feeble character to seek for a shortcut to fulfillment through the favor of those whose interest lies in keeping it barred—the one path to fulfillment is the difficult path of suffering and self-sacrifice. Rabindranath Tagore, in Letters to a Friend (1928)

SELF-SATISFACTION

(see also COMPLACENCY and CONCEIT and SMUGNESS)

  • There is such a thing as tempting the gods. Talking too much, too soon, and with too much self-satisfaction has always seemed to me a sure way to court disaster…. The forces of retribution are always listening. They never sleep. Meg Greenfield, “The Rope and the Rack,” in Newsweek (March 17, 1991)

SELF-SUFFICIENCY

(see also INDEPENDENCE and INDIVIDUALISM)

  • We in the West seem to have made a fetish out of complete individual self-sufficiency, of not needing help, of being completely private except in a very few selected relationships. Carl Rogers, in A Way of Being (1980)

SELFIE

(see also PHOTOGRAPHY SELF-PORTRAIT)

  • The selfie is the narcissistic mugshot of privilege. Dan Brooks, in Brook’s Book (2017)

SELFISHNESS

(see also EGO and GENEROSITY and GREED and SELF-INTEREST and SERVICE and STINGINESS)

  • I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. Jane Austen, the character Mr. Darcy speaking, in Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure. Jane Austen, the character Miss Crawford speaking, in Mansfield Park (1814)
  • Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully. Richard Bach, in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977)
  • Selfishness is that detestable vice which no one will forgive in others, and no one is without in himself. Henry Ward Beecher, in Life Thoughts (1858)
  • There is a benevolence in all wise selfishness. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • Selfish, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • You have no idea how promising the world begins to look once you have decided to have it all for yourself. And how much healthier your decisions are once they become entirely selfish. Anita Brookner, the character Mr. Neville in Hotel du Lac (1984)

QUOTE NOTE: Mr. Neville is giving advice to the protagonist, Edith Hope. He continues: “It is the simplest thing in the world to decide what you want to do—or, rather, what you don’t want to do—and just to act on that.”

  • We are all selfish and I no more trust myself than others with a good motive. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), in letter to Lady Melbourne (Sep. 28, 1813)
  • That we are selfish gives us the opportunity to gain the power so that, in time, we might be selfless. To give back what we have learned. To teach what we know, and shorten the journey for those who will come after us. Margaret Cho, in I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight (2005)
  • Posthumous charities are the very essence of selfishness when bequeathed by those who, when alive, would part with nothing. Charles Caleb Colton, in Lacon (1820)
  • Once you are thought selfish, not only are you forgiven a life designed mainly to suit yourself, which in anyone else would appear monstrous, but if an impulse to generosity should by chance overpower you, you will get five times the credit of some poor selfless soul who has been oozing kindness for years. Amanda Cross, the title character speaking to protagonist Kate Fansler, in The Question of Max (1976)
  • Man hoards himself when he has nothing to give away. Edward Dahlberg, “On Love and Friendship,” in Reasons of the Heart (1965)
  • Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs. Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene (1976)
  • Love is the most selfish of all the passions. Alexandre Dumas, the voice of the narrator, in The Three Musketeers (1844)
  • Life lived only for oneself does not truly satisfy men or women. There is a hunger in Americans today for larger purposes beyond the self. Betty Friedan, in The Second Stage (1981)
  • Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either. Erich Fromm, in The Art of Loving (1956)
  • He was really quite a selfish person—I think most unhappy people are, don’t you? Dorothy Gilman, in Incident at Badamyâ (1989)
  • The so-called selfishness of moderns is partly due to the tremendous amount of stimulation received. They are aroused and drawn into experience by theaters, books, automobiles, great cities. The current is quick and strong. Katharine Butler Hathaway, in The Journals and Letters of the Little Locksmith (1946)
  • The greatest productive force is human selfishness. Robert A. Heinlein, entry in “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” in Time Enough for Love (1973)
  • If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? Hillel, in The Talmud—Pirkei Avot 1:14
  • The same people who can deny others everything are famous for refusing themselves nothing. Leigh Hunt, in Table Talk (1851)
  • Even generous actions can be selfish if the motive is to gain bragging rights or receive a reward. Almost every sinful action can be traced back to a selfish motive. Stephen & Alex Kendrick, in The Love Dare (2008)
  • Selfishness is like a disease that suffocates our capacity to love. Stephen & Alex Kendrick, in The Love Dare (2008)

The Kendrick’s preceded the thought by writing: “Selfishness and love are in constant opposition to one another. While love asks us to deny ourselves for the sake of someone else, selfishness compels us to focus on ourselves at their expense.”

  • At the heart of every vice sits selfishness, yawning. Yahia Lababidi, “Aphorisms on Art, Morality & Spirit,” Elephant Journal Nov. 3, 2013)
  • Maybe selflessness was only selfishness on another level. Margaret Landon, the voice of the narrator, in Anna and the King of Siam (1944)
  • No people complain so much of selfishness as the selfish. Hannah Farnham Lee, a reflection of narrator Henry Green, in The Log-Cabin (1844)
  • A selfish love of ourselves makes us incapable of loving others. Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island (1955)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation was originally part of the following fuller thought: “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.”

  • Perhaps evil isn’t a cosmological riddle, only just selfish human behavior, and this behavior the result of conscious, accountable choice. Joyce Carol Oates, “Crime and Punishment” (a review of Why They Kill by Richard Rhodes), in The New York Times (Sep. 19, 1999)
  • Intensely selfish people are always very decided as to what they wish. That is in itself a great force: they do not waste their energies in considering the good of others. Ouida, the character Sabran speaking, in Wanda, Countess von Szalras: A Novel (1883)
  • The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Selfishness. Ayn Rand, title of 1964 book
  • Need drives men to envy as fullness drives them to selfishness. Agnes Repplier, “Allies,” in Under Dispute (1924)
  • The fun, joy, and humor dry up in a relationship when one of the partners is swimming in gin. To my way of thinking, it is selfishness personified to see life through the bottom of a liquor bottle. Ginger Rogers, in Ginger: My Story (1991)
  • Nothing resembles selfishness more closely than self-respect. George Sand, a reflection of the title character, in Indiana (1832)
  • This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. George Bernard Shaw, “Epistle Dedicatory,” in Man and Superman (1903)

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

  • It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes. It may even lie on the surface; but we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions—especially selfish ones. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Record (1974; Leopold Labedz, ed.)
  • What a cage is to the wild beast, law is to the selfish man. Herbert Spencer, in Social Statics (1850)
  • Charity, to be fruitful, must cost us. Give until it hurts. To love it is necessary to give; to give it is necessary to be free from selfishness. Mother Teresa, in The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living (1996; Jaya Chalila & Edward Le Joly, eds.)
  • Next to the very young, I suspect the very old are the most selfish. William Makepeace Thackeray, the voice of the narrator, in The Virginians (1857-59)
  • Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. Oscar Wilde, in The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)

Wilde continued: “And unselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them.”

  • Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. Oscar Wilde, in The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)

A bit later in the piece, Wilde went on to write: “A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.”

  • If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig. Woodrow Wilson, in speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Oct. 24, 1914)

SENSE & THE SENSES

(see also EARS and EYES and HEARING and PERCEPTION and SMELL and TASTE and TOUCH and VISION)

  • Our sense of safety depends on predictability, so anything living outside the usual rules we suspect to be an outlaw, a ghoul. Diane Ackerman, in The Moon by Whale Light: And Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians, and Whales (1991)
  • Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science. Edwin Hubble, “The Exploration of Space,” in Harper’s Magazine (May, 1929)
  • I found that of the senses, the eye is the most superficial, the ear the most arrogant, smell the most voluptuous, taste the most superstitious and fickle, touch the most profound and the most philosophical. Helen Keller, “Sense and Sensibility,” in a 1908 issue of Century magazine (specific issue undetermined)

SENTENCE [as in WRITING]

(see also AUTHORS and EDITING & EDITORS and GRAMMAR and LANGUAGE and PARAGRAPH and PUNCTUATION and REVISION & REWRITING and WRITERS and WRITING)

  • He talked as if every sentence had been carefully rehearsed; every semicolon, every comma , was in exactly the right place, and his rounded periods dropped to the floor and bounced about like tiny rubber balls. Gertrude Atherton, on Henry James, in The Adventures of a Novelist (1932)
  • If you can’t write your message in a sentence, you can’t say it in an hour. Dianne Booher, in Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader (2011)
  • To hurry through the rise and fall of a fine, full sentence is like defying the role of time in human life. Anatole Broyard, in a 1985 issue of The New York Times Book Review (specific issue undetermined)
  • It has taken me years of struggle, hard work and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realize that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple beautiful sentence. Isadora Duncan, in My Life (1927)
  • I keep going over a sentence. I nag it, gnaw it, pat it and flatter it. Janet Flanner, in Lost General Journal (1979)
  • Almost all American writers tend to overwrite, to tell too much. I get the disillusioned feeling that novels, today, are sold by the pound, like groceries. It actually takes a great deal more discipline to be able to leave out rather than to throw in everything. This means that you have to say in one sentence precisely what you mean, instead of saying sort of what you kind of mean in hundreds of sentences and hoping the sum total will add up. Rona Jaffe, quoted in Roy Newquist, Conversations (1967)
  • Short sentences put me in a good mood. Wayne Kostenban, “Punctuation” in

The Iowa Review (Spring 2018)

  • I like to use as few commas as possible so that sentences will go down in one swallow without touching the sides. Florence King, in Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye (1989)
  • If an essayist can not only charm but write the unforgettable sentence, one that reveals the heart in a few words, I’m her slave. Cyra McFadden, in a 1995 issue of The Boston Sunday Globe (specific issue undetermined)

McFadden continued: “Essayists must not only be succinct but have original ideas and, even harder to come by, or to fake, likable voices. Consciously or not, they endeavor to win us over by charm.”

  • One should be able to return to the first sentence of a novel and find the resonances of the entire work. Gloria Naylor, in a 1985 issue of The New York Times Book Review (specific issue undetermined)
  • Begin your story with a sentence that will immediately grab hold of your listener’s ears like a surly nun in a Catholic school. Amy Sedaris, in Simple Times: Crafts For Poor People (2010)
  • The unit of the poet is the word, the unit of the prose writer is the sentence. Susan Sontag, a 1980 observation, quoted in David Rieff, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh (2012)
  • A perfectly healthy sentence is extremely rare. Henry David Thoreau, journal entry (Jan. 10, 1841)
  • A sentence should read as if its author, had he held a plough instead of a pen, could have drawn a furrow deep and straight to the end. Henry David Thoreau, in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)
  • I very seldom, during my whole stay in the country, heard a sentence elegantly turned, and correctly pronounced from the lips of an American. Frances Trollope, in Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832)
  • To survive, each sentence must have, at its heart, a little spark of fire, and this, whatever the risk, the novelist must pluck with his own hands from the blaze. Virginia Woolf, “Life and the Novelist,” in The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)
  • What a labor writing is…making one sentence do the work of a page; that’s what I call hard work. Virginia Woolf, in a 1935 letter, quoted in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. V, 1932-1935 (1979)
  • 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)

SENTIMENT [as in THOUGHT]

(see also ACTION and INACTION and DEED and EMOTION and FEELINGS and IDEAS and INTENTION and MIND and REASON and SENTIMENTALITY and THOUGHT and THOUGHT & ACTION and THINKING & THINKERS and WORD & DEED)

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

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites mistakenly present this quotation as follows: “Belief without action is the ruin of the soul.”

  • No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one’s sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one’s character may remain entirely unaffected for the better. With mere good intentions, hell is proverbially paved. William James, “Habit,” in The Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1 (1890)

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

  • Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action. James Russell Lowell, in North American Review (July, 1867)
  • There is nothing which spreads more contagiously from teacher to pupil than elevation of sentiment. John Stuart Mill, in inaugural address (Feb. 1, 1867) after being installed as rector, University of St Andrews (Scotland)

Mill continued: “Often and often have students caught from the living influence of a professor a contempt for mean and selfish objects, and a noble ambition to leave the world better than they found it; which they have carried with them throughout life.”

SENTIMENTALITY

(see also EMOTION and FEELINGS)

  • Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment. Norman Mailer, “My Hope for America,” in Cannibals and Christians (1966)
  • Sentimentality is superficial, easy listening that does nothing to expand our understanding. Compassion is quite different. Risky and exigent, it puts you inside someone else. This is one of literature’s greatest strengths. Roxana Robinson, “The Writer’s Life”, in The Author’s Guild Bulletin (April 8, 2015)

QUOTE NOTE: Robinson, the Author’s Guild president at the time of the article, began the article by suggesting that compassion is often confused with sentimentality, and, as a result, has become somewhat unfashionable. She introduced the thought by writing: “Sentimentality is emotion without responsibility; compassion is the recognition of shared humanity. Chalk and cheese.”

SEQUEL

(see also BOOKS and FILMS and MOVIES)

  • A sequel is an admission that you’ve been reduced to imitating yourself. Don Marquis, quoted in Edward Anthony, O Rare Don Marquis (1962)
  • 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. Ethel Smyth, in Impressions That Remained (1919)

SERIOUS & SERIOUSNESS

(see also FRIVOLITY and GRAVITY and SINCERITY and SOLEMN and SOMBER)

  • Seriousness is the refuge of the shallow. There are events and personal experiences that call forth seriousness but they are fewer than most of us think. Rita Mae Brown, in Starting From Scratch (1988)
  • It is not so important to be serious as it is to be serious about the important things. Robert M. Hutchins, in Quote magazine (Aug. 3, 1958). An example of chiasmus.

Hutchins added: “The monkey wears an expression of seriousness which would do credit to any college student, but the monkey is serious because he itches.”

  • Human affairs are not serious, but they have to be taken seriously. Iris Murdoch, in Henry and Cato (1976)
  • Just as we are often moved to merriment for no other reason than that the occasion calls for seriousness, so we are correspondingly serious when invited too freely to be amused. Agnes Repplier, “The American Laughs,” in Under Dispute (1924)
  • Sometimes we must make a serious effort to be frivolous. Theodore Isaac Rubin, an oxymoronic observation from Love Me, Love My Fool (1976)
  • Even when I’m being funny, I’m deadly serious. Lily Tomlin, quoted in Jeff Sorensen, Lily Tomlin (1989)
  • We are always afraid to start something that we want to make very good, true, and serious Brenda Ueland, in If You Want to Write (1938)

SERMON

(see also CHURCH and CLERGY and PREACHERS & PREACHING and RELIGION)

  • A good sermon should have a good beginning and a good ending, and they should be as close together as possible. Author Unknown

QUOTATION CAUTION: All over the internet, this quotation is attributed to George Burns, but without source information.

  • A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted—it also must afflict the comfortable! Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, in Macy’s, Gimbels, and Me (1967). An example of chiasmus.
  • It would be difficult to determine whether the age is growing better or worse; for I think our plays are growing like sermons, and our sermons like plays. Anna Laetitia Barbauld, in 1771 letter; reprinted in The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Vol. 2 (1825). Yet another example of chiasmus.
  • That’s all one asks of a sermon. No possible relevance to anything but itself. P. D. James, the character Ivo Whittingham speaking to Cordelia Gray, in The Skull Beneath the Skin (1982)
  • I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;/I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way. Edgar A. Guest, the opening lines of the poem “Sermons We See” (1881) reprinted in The Mentor (Sep., 1919)
  • You’ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body’s sermon on how to behave. Billie Holiday, in Lady Sings the Blues (1956; with William Dufty)
  • Most sermons sound to me like commercials—but I can’t make out whether God is the Sponsor or the Product. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Second Neurotic’s Notebook (1966)
  • Art is never didactic, does not take kindly to facts, is helpless to grapple with theories, and is killed outright by a sermon. Agnes Repplier, “Fiction in the Pulpit,” in Points of View (1891)
  • There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilized and free countries, than the necessity of listening to sermons. Anthony Trollope, the voice of the narrator, in Barchester Towers (1857)

The narrator continued: “No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent, and be tormented. No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, and yet receive, as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanor as though words of impassioned eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips.”

  • Every time I meet a tree, if I am truly awake, I stand in awe before it. I listen to its voice, a silent sermon moving me to the depths, touching my heart, and stirring up within my soul a yearning to give my all. Macrina Wiederkehr, in A Tree Full of Angels: Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary (1988)

SERVICE

(see also ALTRUISM and COMPASSION and GIVING and HELPING & HELPERS and SELFISHNESS and VIRTUE and VOLUNTEERS & VOLUNTEERISM)

  • Service is the rent we pay for a room on earth. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: According to quotation researcher Barry Popik, this saying was first seen in 1917, inscribed over the doorway in a hospital in India. As the years passed, it went on to be used as a slogan for many nonprofit service organizations (often with volunteerism replacing the word service). Versions of the saying have been offered by a number of famous people. In 1976, after donating $150,000 to a New York old age center to keep it from closing, Muhammad Ali said: “Service to others is the rent I pay for my room here on earth.” Others, including Shirley Chisholm and Wilfred Grenfell, have also offered versions of the saying.

  • Service is nothing but love in work clothes. Author Unknown
  • The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites mistakenly attribute this saying to Mohandas Gandhi, but there is no evidence he ever said anything like it. According to quotation sleuth Barry Popik, the saying “Lose yourself in the service of others” first appeared in print in 1908, and “Find yourself by losing yourself in the service of others” in 1932. In a 1971 syndicated column, Ann Landers offered this variation on the thought: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in something bigger than yourself.”

  • Service is indeed the gift that keeps on giving. Joan Borysenko, in A Woman’s Book of Life (1994)

Borysenko preceded the thought by writing: “Every act of kindness and compassion toward others gets multiplied when they, in turn, pass it on. One by one the world becomes a better place.”

  • To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind. Pearl S. Buck, “Men and Women,” in To My Daughters, With Love (1967)
  • 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.”

  • Service is love made visible. If you love friends, you will serve your friends. If you love community, you will serve your community. If you love money, you will serve your money. And if you love only yourself, you will serve only yourself. And you will have only yourself. Stephen Colbert, in 2011 Commencement Address at Northwestern University (his alma mater)
  • No one is useless in this world, retorted the Secretary, who lightens the burden of it for any one else. Charles Dickens, the protagonist John Harmon speaking (in the assumed role of a secretary named John Rokesmith), in Our Mutual Friend (serialized 1864-65; book form 1865)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all Internet sites mistakenly present the quotation this way: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

  • Human service is the highest form of self-interest. Elbert Hubbard, in The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927)
  • There is nothing to make you like other human beings so much as doing things for them. Zora Neale Hurston, in Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography (1942)
  • We live in a society which salves its conscience more by helping the interestingly unfortunate than the dull deserving. P. D. James, protagonist Adam Dalgliesh speaking, in Cover Her Face (1962)
  • I don’t know what your destiny will be. Some of you will perhaps occupy remarkable positions. Perhaps some of you will become famous by your pens, or as artists. But I know one thing: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. Albert Schweitzer, in “The Meaning of Ideals in Life,” an address to students at Silcoates School, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England (Dec. 3, 1935); full text of speech in The Silcoatian (Dec. 1935)

This is one of Dr. Schweitzer’s most famous quotations. He preceded the observation by saying: “Learn to serve; and then only will you begin to find true happiness.”

  • Love in action is service. Mother Teresa, in No Greater Love (1997)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is typically presented, but it was originally part of this larger thought: “In order for us to be able to love, we need to have faith because faith is love in action; and love in action is service.

[Public] SERVICE

(includes [Public] SERVANTS; see also BUREAUCRATS and CIVIL SERVICE and GOVERNMENT and POLITICIANS)

  • What we need most to know about public servants is the identity of their masters. John Ciardi, in his regular “Manner of Speaking” column, Saturday Review (Sep. 24, 1966)

SERVITUDE

(see also CAPTIVITY and FREEDOM and LIBERTY and SLAVERY and TYRANTS & TYRANNY)

  • Better to die on your feet than live on your knees. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: This observation is often attributed to the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919), but never with any supporting evidence. According to the Yale Book of Quotations editor Fred Shapiro, the first published appearance of the quotation was June 4, 1925, when a Wisconsin newspaper (The Appleton Post Crescent) offered it as a saying of Mexican origin. Most quotation anthologies attribute it to Dolores Ibárruri, the Republican heroine of the Spanish Civil War. In a July 18, 1936 radio broadcast, she said, “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” The saying has been advanced many times by revolutionary figures and those fighting against oppression. A few years before his 2015 death at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists in the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, the satirical caricaturist know as Charb (pen name of Stéphane Charbonnier) was quoted as saying: “I am not afraid of reprisals, I have no children, no wife, no car, no debt. It might sound a bit pompous, but I’d prefer to die on my feet than to live on my knees.”

  • Servitude debases men to the point where they end up liking it. Luc de Clapiers (Marquis de Vauvenargues), in Reflections and Maxims (1746)
  • 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.”

  • The arbitrary separation of citizens, on the basis of race, while they are on a public highway, is a badge of servitude wholly inconsistent with the civil freedom and the equality before the law established by the constitution. John M. Harlan (1833–1911), in a dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

QUOTE NOTE: In his blistering dissent to one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most wrong-headed decisions (allowing “separate but equal” accommodations), Judge Harlan went on to write: “We boast of the freedom enjoyed by our people above all other peoples. But it is difficult to reconcile that boast with a state of the law which, practically, puts the brand of servitude and degradation upon a large class of our fellow-citizens, our equals before the law.” The Plessy decision, which permitted state-sponsored segregation, was ultimately overturned in the Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

  • The people resemble a wild beast, which, naturally fierce and accustomed to living in the woods, had been brought up, as it were, in a prison and in servitude, and having by accident got its liberty, not being accustomed to search for its food, and not knowing where to conceal itself, easily becomes the prey of the first who seeks to incarcerate it again. Niccolò Machiavelli, in Discourses on Livy (1513–1517)
  • This is servitude,/To serve the unwise. John Milton, in Paradise Lost (1667)

SETTLING

(see also AIMS & AIMING and ASPIRATION and DREAMS—ASPIRATIONAL and GOALS & GOAL-SETTING)

  • The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for. Maureen Dowd, “Pucci, Yes! Prawns, No!” The New York Times (Dec. 26, 1999)
  • The biggest human temptation is…to settle for too little. Thomas Merton, quoted in Forbes magazine (Aug. 4, 1980)

QUOTATION CAUTION: An original source for this observation has not been found.

SEX

(see also EROS & EROTICISM and INTERCOURSE and KISSES & KISSING and LOVE and LUST and MALE-FEMALE DYMANICS and NUDITY and ORGASM and PASSION and PORNOGRAPHY and PROSTITUTION & PROSTITUTES and ROMANCE and SENSUALITY and SEXISM & SEXIST STATEMENTS)

  • Sex is like having dinner: sometimes you joke about the dishes, sometimes you take the meal seriously. Woody Allen, quoted in Evening Standard (London, 1965)
  • Love is music, and sex is only the instrument. Isabel Allende, the protagonist and narrator Gregory Reeves recalling a comment from another character, in The Infinite Plan (1991)
  • With women the best aphrodisiac is words. Isabel Allende, in Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses (1998)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is commonly presented, but it was originally the concluding line of a larger observation:

“We women have a better developed sense of the ridiculous, and besides, our sensuality is tied to our imagination and our auditory nerves. It may be that the only way we will listen is if someone whispers in our ear. The G spot is in the ears, and anyone who goofs around looking for it farther down is wasting his time and ours. Professional lovers, and I am referring not just to lotharios like Casanova, Valentino, and Julio Iglesias, but to the quantities of men who collect amorous conquests to prove their virility with quantity—since quality is a question of luck—know that with women the best aphrodisiac is words.”

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites mistakenly presented the Allende quotation this way: “For women, the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time.”

  • The price of shallow sex may be a corresponding loss of capacity for deep love. Shana Alexander, in Talking Woman (1982)
  • It’s pitch, sex is. Once you touch it, it clings to you. Margery Allingham, in The Fashion in Shrouds (1938)

QUOTE NOTE: Except for its appearance in the expression “pitch-black,” pitch is a word that is now rarely used, replaced by terms like tar or asphalt or black-top. To learn more, go to: Pitch.

  • Sex is a sideshow in the world of the animal, for the dominant color of that world is fear. Robert Ardrey, in African Genesis (1961)
  • Sex as something beautiful may soon disappear. Once it was a knife so finely honed the edge was invisible until it touched and then it cut deep. Now it is so blunt that it merely bruises and leaves ugly marks. Mary Astor, in her autobiography A Life on Film (1967)
  • 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)
  • As I vaguely recalled from my own experience, adolescence was a time when you firmly believed that sex hadn’t been invented until the year you started high school, when the very idea that anything interesting might have happened during your parents’ lifetime was unthinkable. Russell Baker, “Life with Mother,” in William Zinsser, Inventing the Truth (1987)
  • Sexuality is the lyricism of the masses. Charles Baudelaire, in Intimate Journals (1887)
  • Sex pleasure in woman…is a kind of magic spell; it demands complete abandon; if words or movements oppose the magic of caresses, the spell is broken. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Second Sex (1953)
  • The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money usually costs a lot less. Brendan Behan, quoted in Jon Winokur, The Return of the Portable Curmudgeon (1992)
  • Genitals are a great distraction to scholarship. Malcolm Bradbury, in Cuts (1987)
  • Sexual intercourse is kicking death in the ass while singing. Charles Bukowski, in Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969)
  • Sex after ninety is like trying to shoot pool with a rope. George Burns, a signature line

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

  • My mom always said men are like linoleum floors: Lay ‘em right and you can walk all over them for 30 years. Brett Butler, quoted in Entertainment Weekly (March 31, 1995)
  • Male sexual response is far brisker and more automatic: it is triggered easily by things, like putting a quarter in a vending machine. Alex Comfort, comparing male and female sexual response, in The Joy of Sex (1972)
  • Sex is only the liquid centre of the great Newberry Fruit of friendship. Jilly Cooper, in Super-Jilly (1977)
  • Sex is the great amateur art. David Cort, in Social Astonishments (1963)

Cort added: “The professional, male or female, is frowned upon. He or she misses the whole point and spoils the show.”

  • Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you’re not good at them. Kevin Costner, as golf pro Roy McAvoy, in the 1996 film Tin Cup (screenplay by John Norville and Ron Shelton)
  • Sex is the last refuge of the miserable. Quentin Crisp, in The Naked Civil Servant (1968)

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

  • For flavor, Instant Sex will never supersede the stuff you had to peel and cook. Quentin Crisp, quoted in Sunday Telegraph (London, Sep.28, 1999)
  • Sex is a short cut to everything. Anne Cumming, the opening line of her autobiography, The Love Quest (1991)
  • The act of sex, gratifying as it may be, is God’s joke on humanity. Bette Davis, in her autobiography, The Lonely Life (1962)
  • Sex finds us out. Sex sees through us. That’s why it’s so shattering. It strips us of appearances. Don DeLillo, the character Eric Packer speaking, in Cosmopolis: A Novel (2003)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites begin the quotation with Sex finds us, omitting the key final word of the thought.

  • Sex in marriage is like medicine. Three times a day for the first week. Then once a day for another week. Then once every three or four days until the condition clears up. Peter De Vries, quoted in Ned Sherrin, Cutting Edge (1984)
  • Sex is identical to comedy in that it involves timing. Phyllis Diller, in Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy (2005; written with Richard Buskin)
  • Warren could handle women as smoothly as operating an elevator. He knew exactly where to locate the top button. One flick and we were on the way. Britt Eklund, on Warren Beatty, quoted in Ellis Amburn, The Sexiest Man Alive: A Biography of Warren Beatty (2002)

QUOTE NOTE: In this classic double entendre observation, the “top button” is not only a building floor designation in an elevator, it is also sexual slang for the clitoris. In yet another tribute to Beatty’s magic touch with women, Woody Allen once quipped: “If I could come back in another life, I want to be Warren Beatty’s fingertips.”

  • The sexual embrace can only be compared with music and with prayer. Havelock Ellis, in On Life and Sex: Essays of Love and Virtue (1937)
  • Physics is to mathematics what sex is to masturbation. Richard Feynman, quoted in Lawrence M. Krauss, Fear of Physics: A Guide for the Perplexed (1993)
  • Men want a woman whom they can turn on and off like a light switch. Ian Fleming, a notebook entry, quoted in John Pearson, The Life of Ian Fleming (1966)
  • The main problem in marriage is that, for a man, sex is a hunger—like eating. If a man is hungry and can’t get to a fancy French restaurant, he’ll go to a hot dog stand. For a woman, what’s important is love and romance. Joan Fontaine, in People magazine (Nov. 20, 1978)

QUOTE NOTE: This was Fontaine’s answer to interviewer Christopher P. Anderson’s question, “What is the toughest part of marriage?” Later in the interview, talking about men she had loved but never married, she said, “Aly Khan was a marvelous fairy-tale prince and he knew it.” And then, in a clear reference to his promiscuous ways, she added: “He was a butterfly covering as many flowers as he could.” For more, see the full 1978 Joan Fontaine interview.

  • Sexuality is the great field of battle between biology and society. Nancy Friday, in My Mother/My Self (1977)
  • Sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love. Gabriel García Márquez, the unnamed protagonist speaking, in Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004)

QUOTE NOTE: This is a reflection of the unnamed narrator and protagonist, a ninety-year-old Columbian journalist who has never married or even come close to experiencing love. After a lifetime of sex with prostitutes—over 500 such encounters when he stops counting in his fifties—his world is transformed when he decides at age ninety “to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.” Don’t be turned off by the premise. Of the book, John Updike wrote in a New Yorker review: “García Márquez has composed, with his usual sensual gravity and Olympian humor, a love letter to the dying light.”

  • The cry of flesh calling to flesh must be the strongest thing in the world. William Gay, the voice of the narrator, in Provinces of Night: A Novel (2000)
  • It is a crossing of a Rubicon in life history. Paul H. Gephard, on losing one’s virginity, quoted in Jane E. Brody, “More Coeds Find Less Guilt in Sex,” The New York Times (Dec.30, 1967)

QUOTE NOTE: There may be no more significant event in a person’s life than the first experience of sexual intercourse, and Gephard, the director of the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research at the time, chose an appropriate metaphor to describe it. The Rubicon is a river that, in ancient times, divided Italy and Gaul. In 49 B.C., Julius Caesar crossed the river in a military march against Pompey. Acting in complete defiance of the Roman Senate’s orders not to engage in any military action, Caesar famously said “the die is cast” as he ordered his troops across the river. The event gave birth to the saying Crossing the Rubicon, now a popular metaphor for taking a step in which there is no turning back.

  • Food, sex, and liquor create their own appetite. Sheila Graham, in A State of Heat (1972)
  • Despite a lifetime of service to the cause of sexual liberation, I have never caught a venereal disease, which makes me feel rather like an arctic explorer who has never had frostbite. Germaine Greer, quoted in Observer (London, March 4, 1973)
  • In a business society, the role of sex can be summed up in five pitiful little words. There is money in it. Margaret Halsey, in The Folks at Home (1952)
  • Good lovers have known for centuries that the hand is probably the primary sex organ. Eleanor Hamilton, quoted in “Hue & Cry,” The San Francisco Chronicle (Oct. 29, 1978)
  • Sex is the gateway to life. Frank Harris, quoted by Enid Bagnold in Enid Bagnold’s Autobiography (1969)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation has become very popular, but few know the story behind it. Bagnold was an aspiring writer in her early twenties when she landed a job at the London magazine Modern Society. The magazine’s editor was Frank Harris, later to achieve notoriety for his sexually explicit autobiography My Life and Loves (four volumes, 1922–27). Harris was thirty-three years her senior, but Bagnold found him so fascinating that she surrendered her virginity to him. It happened one day after lunch at London’s Café Royal. Here’s her charming version of the event:

“The great and terrible step was taken. What else could you expect from a girl so expectant? ‘Sex,’ said Frank Harris, ‘is the gateway to life.’ So I went through the gateway in an upper room in the Café Royal. That afternoon at the end of the session I walked back to Uncle Lexy’s at Warrington Crescent, reflecting on my rise. Like a corporal made sergeant. As I sat at dinner with Aunt Clara and Uncle Lexy I couldn’t believe that my skull wasn’t chanting aloud: ‘I’m not a virgin! I’m not a virgin’.”

  • The major civilizing force in the world is not religion, it’s sex. Hugh Hefner, quoted in John Heilpern, “To The Mansion Born,” Vanity Fair (Aug., 2010)

In the Vanity Fair interview, Hefner went on to say: “I believed that sex, when properly understood, could be the best of who we are. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be exploited or abused. It can be. But sex itself is the fire around which we warm ourselves. It is the heart of civilization and the family.”

  • Sex is not some sort of pristine, reverent ritual. You want reverent and pristine, go to church. Cynthia Heimel, in Sex Tips for Girls (1983)
  • Sex is the salt of life. James Huneker, the voice of the narrator, in Painted Veils (1920)
  • Sex is a discovery. Fannie Hurst, in Anatomy of Me (1958)
  • Sex is God’s joke on the human race. Erica Jong, the narrator describing what the protagonist Isadora Wing is thinking, in Parachutes & Kisses (1984)
  • Sexual intercourse: always disappointing and often repulsive, like asking someone else to blow your own nose for you. Philip Larkin, a notebook entry, quoted in Andrew Motion, Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life (1993)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is often mistakenly presented as: “Sexual intercourse is like having someone else blow your nose.”

  • Sex is really only touch, the closest of all touch. And it’s touch we’re afraid of. D. H. Lawrence, the character Oliver Mellors speaking, in Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)
  • Sex is just another form of talk, where you act the words instead of saying them. D. H. Lawrence, the character Tommy Dukes speaking, in Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928)
  • Sex is the root of which intuition is the foliage and beauty is the flower. D. H. Lawrence, “Sex Appeal,” in Vanity Fair (July, 1929)

Lawrence added: “Why is a woman lovely, if ever, in her twenties? It is the time when sex rises softly to her face, as a rose to the top of a rose-bush.” Just below the title of the article, the magazine’s editors inserted this tease: “An Enlightening Essay Concerning a Phrase Which Everybody Knows and Nobody Understands.”

  • What sex is, we don’t know, but it must be some sort of fire. For it always communicates a sense of warmth, of glow. And when this glow becomes a pure shine, then we feel the sense of beauty. D. H. Lawrence, “Sex Appeal,” in Vanity Fair (July, 1929)

Lawrence went on to write: “We all have the fire of sex slumbering or burning inside us. If we live to be ninety, it is still there. Or, if it dies, we become one of those ghastly living corpses which are unfortunately becoming more numerous in the world.”

  • The safest sex is on the shore of abstinence. The next is with one faithful partner. If you insist on wading out into the turbulent waters of multiple sex partners—wear a life jacket. Joseph Lowery, quoted in Jet magazine (March, 1989)
  • I was wondering today what the religion of the country is—and all I could come up with was sex. Clare Booth Luce, in The Washington Post (April 9, 1982)
  • There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be. Norman Mailer, quoted in The International Herald Tribune (Jan. 24, 1992)
  • Hickeys are like PG-13 movies. You think they’re pretty hot stuff after being limited to G and PG, but you never bother with them once you’re seriously into R. Judy Markey, in You Only Get Married for the First Time Once (1988)
  • The sexual act has no resemblance to any other act: its demands are frenzied and participate in infinity. It is a tidal wave able to cover everything and bear away everything. François Mauriac, in What I Believe (1963)
  • 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.
  • In the duel of sex woman fights from a dreadnaught, and man from an open raft. H. L. Mencken, in A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)

QUOTE NOTE: A dreadnaught (also spelled dreadnought) is a class of battleship that was first introduced by the British Royal Navy in 1906. The ship was so technically advanced and, with its huge guns, so deadly that it immediately made all previous battleships obsolete. By comparison, a raft is a pretty flimsy craft, so it is clear in Mencken’s view who has the upper hand.

  • It is the sex instinct that makes women seem beautiful, which they are only once in a blue moon, and men seem wise and brave, which they never are at all. Throttle it, denaturize it, take it away, and human existence would be reduced to the prosaic, laborious, boresome, imbecile level of life in an anthill. H. L. Mencken, in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (pub. posthumously in 1994)

Mencken introduced the observation by writing: “Life without sex might be safer, but it would be unbearably dull. There would be very little hazard in it and even less joy.”

  • To talk about adults without talking about their sex drives is like talking about a window without glass. Grace Metalious, defending the prominent role of sex in her bestselling novel Peyton Place (1956), in The New York Mirror (Feb. 6, 1958)
  • It is true I swim in a perpetual sea of sex but the actual excursions are fairly limited. Henry Miller, in letter to Anaïs Nin (Feb. 1, 1932); reprinted in Letters to Anaïs Nin (1965)
  • The sex organ has a poetic power, like a comet. Joan Miró, quoted in A. T. Baker, “Art: Voyager Into Indeterminate Space,” Time magazine (April 28,1980)
  • That’s the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing. Marilyn Monroe, in interview in Life magazine (July, 1962)
  • Sex. If you want it badly that’s how you’re going to get it. Simon Munnery, in How to Live (2005)
  • Sex—in actual life—touches the heavens only when it simultaneously touches the gutter and the mud. George Jean Nathan, in Monks are Monks: A Diagnostic Scherzo (1929)
  • There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Porsche 911 Cabriolet. P. J. O’Rourke, in Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People (1983)

ERROR ALERT: On numerous internet sites and in many published quotation anthologies, this observation is mistakenly presented as if it ended with Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible.

  • Sexual union is a holy moment in which a part of Heaven flows into the Earth. James Redfield, the character Wil speaking, in The Tenth Insight (1996)

Wil preceded this thought by saying: “Sexual culmination creates an opening into the Afterlife, and what we experience as orgasm is just a glimpse of the Afterlife level of love and vibration as the portal is opened and the energy rushes through, potentially bringing in a new soul.”

  • Sex is like art. Most of it is pretty bad, and the good stuff is out of your price range. Scott Roeben, a “Thought of the Day” (circa 1999) for the website www.dribbleglass.com (specific date undetermined)
  • That pathetic short-cut suggested by Nature the supreme joker as a remedy for our loneliness. Vita Sackville-West, on sex, in No Signposts in the Sea (1961)

Sackville continued by writing that sex was “that ephemeral communion which we persuade ourselves to be of the spirit when it is in fact only of the body—durable not even in memory!”

  • Sex is every man’s loco spot. Dorothy L. Sayers, the character Lord Peter Wimsey speaking, in Whose Body? (1923)

Wimsey, describing the motivation of a man who had committed a brutal crime of revenge, went on to observe: “He’ll take a disappointment, but not a humiliation.”

  • Sex itself must always, it seems to me, come to us as a sacrament and be so used or it is meaningless. May Sarton, in Recovering (1980)

Sarton continued: “The flesh is suffused by the spirit, and it is forgetting this in the act of love-making that creates cynicism and despair.”

  • Sex is the only form of entertainment where the performers are allowed to write their own reviews. Edgar R. Schneider, in Discovering My Autism (1999)
  • Graze on my lips; and if those hills be dry/Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie. William Shakespeare, Venus speaking provocatively to Adonis, in Venus and Adonis (1593)

QUOTE NOTE: In this passage—and indeed in the entire poem—Shakespeare proves himself to be the master of sexual allusion, shrouding many erotically-charged lines in presentable language. In the poem, which is all about the lustful Venus attempting to seduce Adonis, she preceded the passage above by saying: “I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;/Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale.”

  • Sexuality is something, like nuclear energy, which may prove amenable to domestication, through scruple, but then again it may not. Susan Sontag, in Styles of Radical Will (1969)
  • Sex is like kissing with your entire body. Jason Sudeikis, as the character Jake, in the 2015 film Sleeping with Other People (screenplay by Leslye Headland)
  • Sex is a body-contact sport. It is safe to watch but more fun to play. Thomas Szasz, in Sex by Prescription: The Startling Truth About Today’s Sex Therapy (1980)

Szasz continued: “Although sex is a risky game, one is supposed to pretend that it is not. Yet it is the dangerousness, rather than the mysteriousness, of the game that provides sex “experts” their many followers. Promising to teach people how to play the sex game well, sexologists seduce them into believing that they can teach them how to play it safely— which, of course, no one can do. Why? Because the dangerousness of human sexuality lies in the fact that sexual acts are so very personal. Behaving sexually toward another person is risky because doing so is profoundly self-revealing and because the needs of the participants are constantly changing and are rarely fully complementary.”

  • Of the delights of this world man cares most for sexual intercourse. He will go any length for it—risk fortune, character, reputation, life itself. Mark Twain, a 1906 notebook entry, in Mark Twain’s Notebook (1935; A. B. Paine, ed.)

Twain added: “And what do you think he has done? He has left it out of his heaven! Prayer takes its place.”

  • Sex is like money; only too much is enough. John Updike, the character Piet speaking, in Couples (1968)
  • Sex is a conversation carried out by other means. Peter Ustinov, quoted in Wendy Leigh, Speaking Frankly (1978)

Ustinov added: “If you get on well out of bed, half the problems of bed are solved.” The by other means portion of the remark is an allusion to a famous observation from the legendary Prussian military theorist Karl von Clausewitz, which may be found in WAR.

  • Sex and religion are bordering states. They use the same vocabulary, share like ecstasies, and often serve as a substitute for one another. Jessamyn West, in Hide and Seek (1973)
  • Sex is an emotion in motion. Mae West, quoted in Diane Arbus, “Mae West: Emotion in Motion,” Show (1965)
  • 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)
  • Sex gives us a glimpse or a concentration of the mind that would make us godlike if we could command it in other spheres. Colin Wilson, in The Hedonists (1970; pub. in England under the title The God of the Labyrinth)

The observation comes from the novel’s protagonist, who goes on to explain that human beings are like grandfather clocks that are driven by springs better suited to wrist-watches. He explains: “The body is too heavy for the tiny spring of will-power. Only in sex do we seem to develop a spring powerful enough for a grandfather clock.”

  • Sex is the tabasco sauce which an adolescent national palate sprinkles on every course in the menu. Mary Day Winn, in Adam’s Rib (1931)

SEX & LOVE

(see LOVE & SEX)

SEX DISCRIMINATION

(see also DISCRIMINATION and PREJUDICE and STEREOTYPES & STEREOTYPING)

  • Our nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination . . . rationalized by an attitude of “romantic paternalism” which, in practical effect, put women not on a pedestal, but in a cage. William J. Brennan, from plurality opinion in Frontiero v. Richardson (1973)
  • You cannot help being a female, and I should be something of a fool were I to discount your talents merely because of their housing. Laurie R. King, the character Sherlock Holmes, speaking to protagonist Mary Russell, his newfound sleuth-in-training, in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994)

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

(see also HARASSMENT and MEN & WOMEN and SEXISM)

  • The only women who don’t believe that sexual harassment is a real problem in this country are women who have never been in the workplace. Cynthia Heimel, in Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I’m Kissing You Good-Bye (1993)

SHADOW

(see also SHADE and LIGHT and SUN)

  • Shadow owes its birth to Light. John Gay, in Fifty-one Fables in Verse (1727)

SHAME

(see also CONSCIENCE and GUILT and HONOR and SIN and VICE & VIRTUE)

  • Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. Brené Brown, in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (2010)
  • Shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability,” a TED Talk (Jan. 3, 2011 )

On the topic of shame, Brown added: “It’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it.”

  • Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change. Brené Brown, in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (2012)
  • Whilst shame keeps its watch, virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart. Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
  • Shame can be self-indulgence too. Eleanor Clark, in Eyes, Etc.: A Memoir (1977)
  • One of the misfortunes of our time is that in getting rid of false shame we have killed off so much real shame as well. Louis Kronenberger, in Company Manners: A Cultural Inquiry Into American Life (1954)
  • Shame is the proper reaction when one has purposefully violated the accepted behavior of society. Inflicting it is etiquette’s response when its rules are disobeyed. Judith Martin, in Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

Martin continued: “The law has all kinds of nasty ways of retaliating when it is disregarded, but etiquette has only a sense of social shame to deter people from treating others in ways they know are wrong. So naturally Miss Manners wants to maintain the sense of shame. Some forms of discomfort are fully justified, and the person who feels shame ought to be dealing with removing its causes rather than seeking to relieve the symptoms.”

  • Waves of shame ran through her, like savage internal blushes. Mary McCarthy, the narrator describing the emotional state of protagonist Margaret Sargent, in The Company She Keeps (1942)
  • A sense of shame is not a bad moral compass. Colin Powell, in My American Journey (1995; with Joseph E. Persico)

Powell continued: “I remember how easy it was for my mother to snap me back into line with a simple rebuke: ‘I’m ashamed of you. You embarrassed the family.’ I would have preferred a beating to hearing those words. I wonder where our national sense of shame has gone.”

  • Bravado is just shame in a big, loud hat. Karen Weese, in Real Simple (2016)

SHARING

(see also ALTRUISM and CHARITY and GENEROSITY and GIVING and and PHILANTHROPY and RECEIVING and SELFISHNESS and TAKING and VIRTUE)

  • Sharing is sometimes more demanding than giving. Mary Catherine Bateson, in Composing a Life (1989)
  • The miracle is this—the more we share, the more we have. Leonard Nimoy, quoted in a 1992 issue of Reader’s Digest (specific date undetermined)
  • He shared their sorrow, and they became a part of his, and the sharing spread their grief a little, by thinning it. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, the narrator describing Pa Forrester, in The Yearling (1938)
  • There is an invariable law that the only way to keep the real things of life is by sharing them or giving them away. Alice Hegan Rice, in My Pillow Book (1937)
  • Sharing is a habit; it improves with practice. Alexandra Stoddard, in Living a Beautiful Life (1986)

SHEEP & SHEPHERDS

(see also AGRICULTURE and ANIMALS and ANIMAL METAPHORS and CONFORMITY and FARMS & FARMING and WOOL)

  • Taxation: how the sheep are shorn. Edward Abbey, in A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989)

QUOTE NOTE: In offering this thought, Abbey might have been inspired by a sheep metaphor in Austin O’Malley’s Keystones of Thought (1914): “In levying taxes and in shearing sheep it is well to stop when you get down to the skin.”

  • Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Aesop, in “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • 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)
  • It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion. W. R. Inge, in Outspoken Essays; First Series (1919)
  • People are sheep. TV is the shepherd. Jess C. Scott, the character Stephen speaking, in Literary Heroin (Gluttony): A Twilight Parody (2012)
  • The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same. Stendhal (penname of Marie-Henri Beyle), in letter to a friend, quoted in Matthew Josephson, Stendhal: Or the Pursuit of Happiness (1948)
  • He who has daughters is always a shepherd. Proverb (Spanish)

SHEEPSKIN

(see DIPLOMAS)

SHIPS & BOATS

(see also OCEAN & SEA VOYAGES and OCEANS & SEAS and SAILING & NAUTICAL METAPHORS and SAILING & YACHTING and TRAVELING & TRAVELERS)

  • A modern fleet of ships does not so much make use of the sea as exploit a highway. Joseph Conrad, in The Mirror of the Sea (1906)
  • Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. Zora Neale Hurston, in Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  • Being in a ship is being in jail, with the chance of being drowned. Samuel Johnson, a March 16, 1759 remark, quoted by James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
  • Ha, ha, my ship! Thou mightest well be taken now for the sea-chariot of the sun. Herman Melville, Captain Ahab speaking, in Moby-Dick (1851)
  • A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. John A. Shedd, in Salt from My Attic (1928)

QUOTE NOTE: Many Internet sites attribute a very similar saying to U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper, who offered a similar thought in a profile in The San Diego Union (Feb. 3, 1981): “A motto that has stuck with me is: A ship in port is safe. But that’s not what ships are for.” While Mr. Shedd, a completely unknown author at the time, should be regarded as the author of the saying, the essential idea had been in currency for some time. In a 2013 Quote Investigator post, Garson O’Tooole found a 1901 article in the Duluth News-Tribune [Minnesota] that attributed the underlying sentiment to Theodore Roosevelt: “President Roosevelt thinks that warships are not built to rust and rot in harbor. He wants them kept moving so that crews can keep in full practice at their seamanship, gunnery, etc. That sounds like hard sense.”

SHIT [as in PROFANITY]

  • Shit is the tofu of cursing and can be molded to whichever condition the speaker desires. Hot as shit. Windy as shit. I myself was confounded as shit. David Sedaris, in When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008)

SHOES

(including HIGH HEELS; see also APPAREL and CLOTHES & CLOTHING and DRESSES and ELEGANCE and GLAMOUR and HATS & HEADWEAR and SHOPPING and STYLE)

  • it is a shoe designer’s job to be a year ahead of our collective unconscious. Cynthia Heimel, in Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I’m Kissing You Good-Bye (1993)
  • It is an amazing thing, the difference to one’s powers of concentration a pair of comfortable shoes can make. Laurie R. King, a reflection of protagonist Mary Russell, in O Jerusalem (1999)

SHOOTING

(see also FIREARMS and GUNS and HUNTING)

  • The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun. P. G. Wodehouse, a reflection of the narrator, Mr. Mulliner, in the short story “Unpleasantness at Bludleigh Court,” in Mr. Mulliner Speaking (1925)

SHOPPING

(includes SHOPAHOLICS; see also ADVERTISING and ACQUISITION and BUYING and BUYING & SELLING and CLOTHES & CLOTHING and CONSUMERS & CONSUMPTION and RETAILERS & RETAILING and SALES & SELLING and SHOPPING MALLS and SUPERMARKETS)

  • Wouldn’t it be great if retail therapy was covered by health insurance? Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: This popular shopping metaphor first emerged in America in the mid-1980s. See the Mary T. Schmich entry below.

  • Men go shopping just as men go out fishing or hunting, to see how large a fish may be caught with the smallest hook. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • A man shopping with his wife is like a dog line-dancing. He can do it, but he doesn’t enjoy it. Erma Bombeck, “Men Are Out of Their Element At the Mall,” syndicated newspaper column in Tallahassee (Florida) Democrat (Dec. 15, 1995)

Bombeck continued: “Spending $35 an hour is a woman thing. It’s a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death and the ecstasy of the purchase. Men see it as a plastic frenzy.”

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly present this quotation as if it began: “Shopping is a woman thing. It’s a contact sport like football.” Thanks to Garson O’Toole for his help in researching this quotation.

  • If a woman gets nervous, she’ll eat or go shopping. A man will attack a country—it’s a whole other way of thinking. Elayne Boosler, quoted in Gloria J. Kaufman, In Stitches: A Patchwork of Feminist Humor and Satire (1991)
  • Don’t think of shopping for clothes as shopping. Think of it as hunting. Jane Hall, quoted in Robert Byrne, The 2,548 Wittiest Things Ever Said (2012)
  • Americans are fascinated by their own love of shopping. This does not make them unique. It’s just that they have more to buy than most other people on the planet. And it's also an affirmation of faith in their country, its prosperity and limitless bounty. They have shops the way that lesser countries have statues. Simon Hoggart, in America: A User’s Guide (1990)
  • Shopping is dependable: You can do it alone, if you lose your heart to something that is wrong for you, you can return it; it’s instant gratification and yet something you buy may well last for years. Judith Krantz, in “Judith Krantz: Life is Even Better Than Fiction” (interview with Sandy Huseby), BookPage (May, 2000)

QUOTE NOTE: Krantz was answering the question, “Which is better, sex or shopping?” She went on to add: “Sex generally—certainly at its best—requires a willing partner; it’s not particularly dependable because it’s always different. Once you’ve done it with the wrong person you can’t take it back. It’s become your personal history.”

  • Shopping, true feminine felicity! L. E. Landon, the voice of the narrator, in Romance and Reality, Vol. 1 (1831)
  • The main thing today is—shopping. Years ago a person was unhappy, didn’t know what to do with himself—he’d go to church, start a revolution—something. Today you’re unhappy? Can’t figure it out? What is the salvation? Go shopping. Arthur Miller, the character Gregory Solomon speaking, in The Price (1968)
  • If men liked shopping, they’d call it research. Cynthia Nelms, quoted in Robert Byrne, The Fifth and Far Finer Than the First Four 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1993)
  • Shopping is my cardio. Sarah Jessica Parker, as lead character Carrie Bradshaw, in HBO’s Sex and the City (July 1, 2001; written by Cindy Chupack)

QUOTE NOTE: Shortly after Bradshaw offered this quip on the “Baby, Talk is Cheap” episode in Season Four, this saying began to gain traction in American culture—especially among young adult women—and it is now approaching the status of a modern proverb. Thanks to quotation sleuth Barry Popik for alerting me to this quotation.

  • Everybody knows that Americans have become shopaholics, right? We’ve become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy. Mary T. Schmich, “A Stopwatch on Shopping,” in The Chicago Tribune (Dec. 24, 1986)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of the earliest—and possibly the earliest—use of retail therapy as a metaphor for shopping. The full article may be seen at Chicago Tribune. Arthur Miller may have planted the seed for the shopping-as-therapy metaphor in his 1968 play The Price (see the Miller entry above).

SHOUTING & YELLING

(see also ADVERSARIES & ANTAGONISTS and ANGER and ARGUMENTS & DISPUTES and CONFLICT and DISAGREEMENTS and ENEMIES and OPPOSITION QUARRELS and SCREAMS & SCREAMING)

  • The fool shouts loudly, thinking to impress the world. Marie de France, in Medieval Fables of Marie de France (1981; Jeanette Beer, ed.)
  • In saying what is obvious, never choose cunning. Yelling works better. Cynthia Ozick, “We Are the Crazy Lady and Other Feisty Feminist Fables,”

 in a 1972 issue of Ms. magazine
  • Shouting has never made me understand anything. Susan Sontag, the narrator and protagonist Hippolyte speaking, in The Benefactor (1963)

SHOW BUSINESS

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

  • Show business offers more solid promises than Catholicism. John Guare, quoted in the Independent (London; April 25, 1992)
  • That’s what show business is—sincere insincerity. Benny Hill, quoted in the Observer (London; June 12, 1977)

SHYNESS

(see also BASHFULNESS and BOLDNESS and CAUTION and FEAR and INTROVERSION and INTROVERSION & EXTROVERSION TIMIDITY & THE TIMID)

  • I cured myself of my shyness when it finally occurred to me that people didn’t think about me nearly as much as I gave them credit for. The truth was, nobody really gave a damn. Lucille Ball, in Love, Lucy (1996; with Betty Hannah Hoffman)
  • Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Susan Cain, in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012)
  • Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people. Andre Dubus, “Under the Lights,” in Broken Vessels: Essays (1994)
  • I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth. Daphne Du Maurier, a reflection of the unnamed narrator and protagonist, in Rebecca (1938)

She continued: “This was what I had done. I had built up false pictures in my mind and sat before them. I had never had the courage to demand the truth.”

  • We in the theater are paradoxes. Our agonizing shyness is equalled only by the tremendous need for acceptance. Helen Hayes, in On Reflection: An Autobiography (1968; with Sandford Dody)
  • Shyness is just egotism out of its depth. Penelope Keith, quoted in a 1988 issue of London’s The Daily Mail (specific issue undetermined)
  • A deal of the world’s sound happiness is lost through Shyness. Vernon Lee, title essay, in Limbo (1908)
  • A struggle with shyness is in every actor more than anyone can imagine. Marilyn Monroe, quoted in Richard Meryman, “Marilyn Lets Her Hair Down About Being Famous,” Life magazine (Aug. 3, 1962)
  • Shyness is I-ness. Shyness is really wondering if you have other people’s approval. Dorothy Sarnoff, in Never Be Nervous Again (1987)
  • Shyness is a very curious thing, because, like quicksand, it can strike people at any time, and also, like quicksand, it usually makes its victims look down. Lemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler), the voice of the narrator, in The Austere Academy (2000)

SIBLINGS

(see also BROTHERS and BROTHERS & SISTERS and CHILDREN & CHILDHOOD and FAMILY and FRIENDS & FRIENDSHIP and HOME and RELATIVES and SISTERS)

  • Home is that youthful region where a child is the only real living inhabitant. Parents, siblings, and neighbors are mysterious apparitions who come, go, and do strange unfathomable thing in and around the child, the region’s only enfranchised citizen. Maya Angelou, in A Letter to My Daughter (2008)
  • Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply. Jane Austen, the voice of the narrator, in Mansfield Park (1814)
  • Our siblings can be allies against our parents whenever we, as children, wage our silent, secret, but unavoidable wars against them. Siblings also assuage feelings of loneliness, which is one of the main reasons an only child will wish for a brother or sister. Lillian S. Hawthorne, in Sisters and Brothers All These Years: Taking Another Look at the Longest Relationship in Your Life (2003)

QUOTE NOTE: In the book’s opening paragraph, Hawthorne laid out her essential premise: “This book is about sibling relationships in our older years. Sibling relationships in general are among the earliest and the most lasting relationships in our lives, but they are also among the least understood and the most underestimated.”

  • Anyone who has raised more than one child knows full well that kids turn out the way they turn out—astonishingly, for the most part, and usually quite unlike their siblings, even their twins, raised under the same flawed rooftree. Barbara Holland, in Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences (1995)

Holland continued: “Little we have done or said, or left undone and unsaid, seems to have made much mark. It’s hubris to suppose ourselves so influential; a casual remark on the playground is as likely to change their lives as any dedicated campaign of ours. They come with much of their own software already in place, waiting, and none of the keys we press will override it.”

  • A sibling is the lens through which you see your childhood. Ann Hood, in Do Not Go Gentle: My Search for Miracles in a Cynical Time (2000)
  • Siblings either learn to accept one another as independent individuals with their own sets of values and behaviors or cling to the shadow of the brother and sister they once knew. Jane Mersky Leder, in Brothers & Sisters (1991)

Leder introduced the thought by writing: “Whether changes in the sibling relationship during adolescence create long-term rifts that spill over into adulthood depends upon the ability of brothers and sisters to constantly redefine their connection.”

  • I don’t understand how people learn to live in the world if they haven’t had siblings. Everything I learned about negotiation, territoriality, coexistence, dislike, inbred differences and love despite knowledge I learned from my four younger siblings. Anna Quindlen, in Nick Kelsh and Anna Quindlen, Siblings (1998)
  • Changing schools and friends is hard on children and can often make them desperate and lonely enough to form closer ties with a sibling. Linda Sunshine, in “Mom Loves Me Best” (And Other Lies You Told Your Sister) (1990)

In the book, Sunshine also wrote: “Every one of us possesses a gene predisposing us toward rivalry, competition, and fits of envy with any past, present, or future siblings.”

SICKNESS

(see ILLNESS)

SIDEKICK

(see also COMPANION and [BEST] FRIEND and FRIENDS & FRIENDSHIP)

  • To play the role of sidekick, to accept the status of second banana, however substantial the rewards, nonetheless requires certain gifts of temperament: one must be prepared to subsume one’s interest to those of another, to settle for less in the way of attention and glory and other of those prizes that men and women, in their well-advertised vanity, have always striven for. One must, in short, be ready to let go one’s ego. Joseph Epstein, “You Probably Don’t Know Me,” in A Line Out for a Walk: Familiar Essays (1991)

SIGHT

(includes EYESIGHT and SEEING; see also BLINDNESS and EYES and HEARING and PERCEPTION and SENSE & THE SENSES and SMELL and TASTE and TOUCH and VISION)

  • Our sight is the most perfect and delightful of all our senses. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (London; June 21, 1712)

Addison continued: “It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas, converses with its objects at the greatest distance, and continues the longest in action without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments.

  • I found that of the senses, the eye is the most superficial, the ear the most arrogant, smell the most voluptuous, taste the most superstitious and fickle, touch the most profound and the most philosophical. Helen Keller, “Sense and Sensibility,” in a 1908 issue of Century magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • If a man has his eyes bound, you can encourage him as much as you like to stare through the bandage, but he'll never see anything. He’ll be able to see only when the bandage is removed. Franz Kafka, a reflection of the narrator and protagonist (known only as K.), in The Castle (1926)

SILENCE

(includes SAYING NOTHING; see also COMMUNICATION and CONVERSATION and LISTENING and NOISE and SILENCE [Lack of Courage] and SOLITUDE and SPEECH & SPEAKING and TALK & TALKING)

  • Silence is the sleep which nourishes wisdom. Francis Bacon, in De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623)

De Augmentis Scientiarum, originally written in Latin, was an expanded version of Bacon’s classic The Advancement of Learning (1605). This observation was one of a set of arguments “against” loquacity. Others included:

“Silence is the style of wisdom” “Silence is the fermentation of thought.” “Silence gives to words both grace and authority.”

In some of his arguments “for” loquacity, Bacon wrote:

“Silence is a kind of solitude.” “Silence is the virtue of fools.” “Silence, like the night, is fit for treacheries.”

  • Silence too can be indiscreet. Natalie Clifford Barney, in her 1910 poem “Scatterings,” reprinted in Anna Livia, A Perilous Advantage: The Best of Natalie Clifford Barney (1992)
  • There are times when nothing a man can say is nearly so powerful as saying nothing. Bruce Barton, the voice of the narrator, in The Man Nobody Knows (1952)

The narrator continued: “A business executive can understand that. To argue brings him down to the level of those with whom he argues; silence convicts them of their folly; they wish they had not spoken so quickly; they wonder what he thinks.”

  • Silences have a climax, when you have got to speak. Elizabeth Bowen, the voice of the narrator, in The House in Paris (1935)
  • Thought works in silence, so does virtue. One might erect statues to silence. Thomas Carlyle, a diary entry (Sep., 1830)
  • Silence is more eloquent than words. Thomas Carlyle, “The Hero as Poet: Dante, Shakespeare,” a London lecture (May 12, 1840); reprinted in Heroes and Hero-Worship (1840)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation appears in almost all current quotation anthologies, but Carlyle originally wrote (in an observation on Dante): “His silence is more eloquent than words.”

  • Silence is the unbearable repartee. G. K. Chesterton, in Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1917)
  • Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact. George Eliot, the voice of the title character, in The Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879)
  • The silence that accepts merit as the most natural thing in the world is the highest applause. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in speech at Harvard University Divinity School (July 15, 1838); reprinted in Addresses and Lectures (1849)
  • Silence was the first prayer I learned to trust. Patricia Hampl, in Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life (1992)
  • Silence is one great art of conversation. William Hazlitt, in Characteristics (1823)

QUOTE NOTE: Hazlitt, who was clearly inspired by an observation made a half century earlier by Hannah More (see below), continued: “He is not a fool who knows when to hold his tongue; and a person may gain credit for sense, eloquence, wit, who merely says nothing.”

  • Sometimes I feel that every word spoken and every gesture made merely serve to exacerbate misunderstandings. Then what I would really like is to escape into a great silence and impose that silence on everyone else. Etty Hillesum, in An Interrupted Life (1983)
  • And silence, like a poultice, comes/To heal the blows of sound. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., “The Music-Grinders,” in The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1895; E. M. Tilton, ed.)
  • The highest applause is silence. Elbert Hubbard, in Selected Writing of Elbert Hubbard (1922)

QUOTE NOTE: The observation originally appeared in a 1908 issue of Fra magazine, where it was written this way: “We flatter only those we fear—the highest applause is silence.” Hubbard was almost certainly inspired by the Emerson observation above. See also the Jarry entry below.

  • Silence is all the genius a fool has and it is one of the things a smart man knows how to use when he needs it. Zora Neale Hurston, the character Joshua speaking to Moses, in Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939)
  • The applause of silence is the only kind that counts. Alfred Jarry, from a 1960 French publication, reprinted in The Selected Works of Alfred Jarry (1965; R. Shattuck & S. W. Taylors, eds.)
  • Silence is the bluntest of blunt instruments. It seems to hammer you into the ground. Erica Jong, in Fear of Flying: A Novel (1973)

QUOTE NOTE: This thought comes to the protagonist Isadora Wing as she recalls a long drive from Heidelberg to Paris in which her husband gave her the silent treatment. She continued: “It drives you deeper and deeper into your own guilt. It makes the voices inside your head accuse you more viciously than any outside voices ever could.”

  • There is an eloquent silence: it serves sometimes to approve, sometimes to condemn; there is a mocking silence; there is a respectful silence. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • Sometimes you have to be silent to be heard. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, in Unkempt Thoughts (1957)
  • Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves. Maurice Maeterlinck, “Silence,” in The Treasure of the Humble (1896)
  • Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact—it is silence which isolates. Thomas Mann, the character Herr Settembrini speaking, in The Magic Mountain (1924)

QUOTE NOTE: The passage has also been translated this way: “Language is civilization itself. The Word, even the most contradictory word, binds us together. Wordlessness isolates.”

  • Sticks and stones are hard on bones./Aimed with angry art,/Words can sting like anything./But silence breaks the heart. Phyllis McGinley, “A Choice of Weapons,” in The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley (1954)
  • To keep the mind empty is a feat, a very healthful feat too. To be silent the whole day long, see no newspaper, hear no radio, listen to no gossip, be thoroughly and completely lazy, thoroughly and completely indifferent to the fate of the world is the finest medicine a man can give himself. Henry Miller, in The Colossus of Maroussi (1941)
  • There is no reply so sharp as silent contempt. Michel de Montaigne, in Essays (1580–88)
  • Silence is one of the great arts of conversation. Hannah More, “Thoughts on Conversation,” in Essays on Various Subjects (1777)

QUOTE NOTE: In offering her thought, More was inspired by an observation from Cicero. Here’s her complete observation: “That silence is one of the great arts of conversation, is allowed by Cicero himself, who says, there is not only an art but an eloquence in it.”

  • There are times when I have to take, I call it a “silence bath,” where I shut off all of the external gadgets. Patton Oswalt, quoted in Aaron Hillis, “Patton Oswalt Was Once a Young Adult, Has Aged, Reflects,” in The Village Voice (Dec. 11, 2011)
  • Silence is a figure of speech, unanswerable, short, cold, but terribly severe. Theodore Parker, “Of Justice and the Conscience,” in Sermons of Religion (1853)
  • Silence can be of many different volumes. Hart Pomerantz, in personal communication to the compiler (June 9, 2019)
  • True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. William Penn, “Advice to Children,” in The Select Works of William Penn, Vol. 5 (1792)
  • Great souls endure in silence. Johann Friedrich von Schiller, the Marquis speaking, in Don Carlos (1787)
  • Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn. George Bernard Shaw, the character Ecrasia speaking, in Back to Methuselah (1921)
  • Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech. Susan Sontag, “The Aesthetics of Silence,” in Styles of Radical Will (1966)
  • A part of all art is to make silence speak. The things left out in painting, the note withheld in music, the void in architecture—all are as necessary and as active as the utterance itself. Freya Stark, “On Silence,” in The Cornhill Magazine (Autumn, 1966); reprinted in The Zodiac Arch (1968)
  • The pause—that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, howsoever felicitous, could accomplish it. Mark Twain, autobiographical dictation (Oct. 11, 1907), in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3 (2015; B. Griffin & H. E. Smith, eds.)
  • Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech. Martin F. Tupper, “Of Discretion,” in Proverbial Philosophy (1838–42)

SILENCE [Lack of Courage]

(see also COMMUNICATION and COURAGE and SILENCE and SPEECH & SPEAKING and TALK & TALKING)

  • Certainly she had not spoken false words, but truth can be outraged by silence quite as cruelly as by speech. Amelia E. Barr, the narrator, referring to the daughter of a character named Joris, in The Bow of Orange Ribbon: A Romance of New York (1886)
  • But silences have a climax, when you have got to speak. Elizabeth Bowen, the voice of the narrator, in The House in Paris (1935)
  • 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.

  • Silence gives consent. Oliver Goldsmith, the character Croaker speaking, in The Good-Natur'd Man (1768)
  • It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.” Martin Luther King, Jr. “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” sermon at National Cathedral, Washington, DC (March 31, 1968)
  • There are times when you have to speak because silence is betrayal. Ursula K. Le Guin, in BookWomen (2004)
  • Silence becomes a kind of crime when it operates as a cover or an encouragement to the guilty. Thomas Paine, in Pennsylvania Packet (Jan. 23, 1779)
  • Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph. Haile Selassie, in remarks at meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Jan. 28, 1972)

Selassie continued: “The glorious pages of human history have been written only in those moments when men have been able to act in concert to prevent impending tragedies. By the actions you take, you can also illuminate the pages of history.”

  • There can be nothing more baffling in a human relationship than silence, the dark loom of doubts and questions unexpressed. Wallis Warfield Simpson, in The Heart Has Its Reasons: The Memoirs of the Duchess of Windsor (1956)
  • The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny. Wole Soyinka, “The Man Died,” in The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka (1971)

QUOTE NOTE: The poem appeared in a powerful autobiographical work written while Soyinka was a political prisoner during the civil war in Nigeria in the mid-1960s. In 1986, Soyinka became the first African writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

  • 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?”

  • What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander. Elie Wiesel, in Harry J. Cargas, “An Interview with Elie Wiesel,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies (Jan., 1986)
  • I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometime we must interfere. Elie Wiesel, in Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway (Dec. 11, 1986)

Wiesel continued: “When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

  • To sin by silence when we should protest,/Makes cowards out of men. The human race/Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised/Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,/ The inquisition yet would serve the law,/And guillotines decide our least dispute. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Protest,” in Poems of Problems (1914)

ERROR ALERT: A very similar version of the first line is often mistakenly attributed to Abraham Lincoln. The problem appeared to originate in a July 25, 1951 speech to the Massachusetts legislature, in which General Douglas MacArthur—then under heat from President Truman—quoted Lincoln as saying: “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” To see Wilcox’s full poem, go to ”Protest”.

SIMILE

(see also FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE and ANALOGY and METAPHOR)

  • A simile is just a metaphor with the scaffolding still up. James Geary, in I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor (2011)
  • It’s the most familiar of all literary embellishments, in a class with a wedge of lemon or a sprig of parsley. It can raise a cupcake to the level of a petit four. James J. Kilpatrick, in “The Writer’s Art” syndicated column (August 27, 2006)
  • A simile is like a pair of eyeglasses, one side sees this, one side sees that, the device brings them together. George McWhirter, remark to his University of British Columbia poetry class (circa 1990), quoted by Luanne Armstrong, in “Tribute to George McWhirter,” The Poet’s Corner (Vol. 9, No. 2, 2005)
  • One Simile, that solitary shines/In the dry desert of a thousand lines,/Or lengthen’d Thought that gleams through many a page,/Has sanctify’d whole poems for an age. Alexander Pope, in “The First Epistle of the Second Book of Homer” (1737)
  • Metaphors and similes (puns, too, I might add) extend the dimensions and expand the possibilities of the world. When both innovative and relevant, they can wake up a reader, make him or her aware, through elasticity of verbiage, that reality—in our daily lives as well as in our stories—is less prescribed than tradition has led us to believe. Tom Robbins, “What Is the Function of Metaphor?” in Wild Ducks Flying Backward (2005)
  • One has to regard a man as a Master who can produce on average three uniquely brilliant and entirely original similes to every page. Evelyn Waugh, on P. G. Wodehouse, in Frances Donaldson, Evelyn Waugh: Portrait of a Country Neighbor (1967)
  • A simile committing suicide is always a depressing spectacle. Oscar Wilde, “The Poets’ Corner III,” in The Pall Mall Gazette (May 30, 1887)

SIMPLICITY

(includes SIMPLE and SIMPLIFY and SIMPLIFICATION; see also INNOCENCE and PLAIN and SOPHISTICATION)

  • Simplicity is the most deceitful mistress that ever betrayed man. Henry Adams, in The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
  • To get to the simplicity of a thing, you have to go through the complexity, and only once you've gone into and through the complexity can you state the simplicity. What never rings true is the person who states the simplicity without understanding the complexity. Susan Slater Blythe, quoted in Christina Baldwin, Life’s Companion (1990)
  • Quickly or gradually the man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without. Phillips Brooks, in The Candle of the Lord and Other Sermons (1881)

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, this quotation is mistakenly attributed to Ernest Hemingway.

  • There is a loving way with words and an unloving way. And it is only with the loving way that the simplicity of language becomes beautiful. Margaret Wise Brown, quoted in Leonard S. Marcus, Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon (1992)
  • 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.

  • Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance. Coco Chanel, in a 1923 interview in Harper’s Bazaar (specific date undetermined).
  • It does not matter whether one paints a picture, writes a poem, or carves a statue—simplicity is the mark of a master-hand. Elsie de Wolfe, in Elsie de Wolfe’s Recipes for Successful Dining (1934)
  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication today. William Gaddis, the character Anselm speaking, in The Recognitions: A Novel (1955)

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, but Clare Booth Luce is the original author of the sentiment (see her entry below).

  • Simplicity is an acquired taste. Mankind, left free, instinctively complicates life. Katharine Fullerton Gerould, in Modes and Morals (1920)

In her book, Geroud also wrote: “The real drawback to ‘the simple life’ is that it is not simple. If you are living it, you positively can do nothing else. There is not time. For the simple life demands virtually that there shall be no specialization.”

  • Simplicity is indeed often the first sign of truth and a criterion of beauty. Mahlon Hoagland, in Toward the Habit of Truth (1990)
  • True simplicity is elegant. E. L. Konigsburg, the character Eleanor of Aquitaine speaking, in A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (1973)
  • Affected simplicity is an elegant imposture. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • The height of sophistication is simplicity. Clare Boothe Luce, the character Mrs. Gunn speaking, in Stuffed Shirts (1931)

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, but Luce is the original author of the sentiment.

  • Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement: a sanded floor and whitewashed walls, and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside; or a grimy palace amid the smoke with a regiment of housemaids always working to smear the dirt together so that it may be unnoticed; which, think you, is the most refined, the most fit for a gentleman of those two dwellings? William Morris,

“The Prospects of Architecture in Civilization,” in a London speech (March 10, 1880)

  • Poverty denotes a lack of necessities and simplicity a lack of needs. Dervla Murphy, in Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle (1965)
  • I find that my life constantly threatens to become complex and divisive. A life of prayer is basically a very simple life. This simplicity, however, is the result of asceticism and effort: it is not a spontaneous simplicity. Henri J. M. Nouwen, in The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery (1989)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Thomas Merton.

  • The path to simplicity is littered with complexities. Susan Ohanian, in Who’s in Charge? A Teacher Speaks Her Mind (1994)
  • There is a secret to investing that cuts a path directly to the profits that you’re looking for. The secret is simplicity. The more elementary your investment style, the more confident you can be of making money in the long run. Jane Bryant Quinn, in Making the Most of Your Money (1991)
  • A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think. Eleanor Roosevelt, in My Days (1938)
  • It’s dishonest to simplify anything that isn’t simple. Florence Sabin, quoted in Elinor Bluemel, Florence Sabin (1959)
  • Simplicity is light, carefree, neat, and loving—not a self-punishing ascetic trip. Gary Snyder, in Place in Space (1995)
  • Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! Henry David Thoreau, in Walden (1854)

A moment later, Thoreau continued: “Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary, eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.”

  • No weapons are more potent than brevity and simplicity. Katherine Cecil Thurston, the voice of the narrator, in Max: A Novel (1910)
  • Simplicity is the most difficult thing in the world to ape. Patricia Wentworth, a reflection of Scotland Yard Inspector Frank Abbott, in The Fingerprint (1960)
  • The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, Seek simplicity and distrust it. Alfred North Whitehead, the closing words of The Concept of Nature (1920)
  • The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity. Walt Whitman, in Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855)
  • It is the simple things of life that make living worthwhile, the sweet fundamental things such as love and duty, work and rest, and living close to nature. Laura Ingalls Wilder, a 1917 observation, in Little House in the Ozarks: A Laura Ingalls Wilder Sampler, The Rediscovered Writings (1991; Stephen W. Hines, ed.)
  • Simplicity of heart is just as necessary for an architect as for a farmer or a minister if the architect is going to build great buildings. Anna Wright, advice to her son Frank, quoted Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright, An Autobiography (1943)
  • Simplicity is a thing beautiful in itself, like clear light. Julia McNair Wright, in The Complete Home (1879)

SIN & SINNERS

(see also DARKNESS METAPHORS and DEVIL and EVIL and FORBIDDEN and FORGIVENESS and GOOD & BAD and GOOD & EVIL and MORALITY & IMMORALITY and SAINTS & SINNERS and TEMPTATION and VICE and VICE & VIRTUE and WICKEDNESS and WRONGDOING)

  • All sin tends to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is what is called damnation. W. H. Auden, in A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (1970)
  • Sins cut boldly up through every class in society, but mere misdemeanors show a certain level in life. Elizabeth Bowen, the voice of the narrator, in The Death of the Heart (1938)
  • One leak will sink a ship: and one sin will destroy a sinner. John Bunyan, the Interpreter speaking, in The Pilgrim’s Progress (1684)
  • It is a human thing to sin, but perseverance in sin is a thing of the devil. Catherine of Siena, from a 1378 letter, in St. Catherine of Siena As Seen in Her Letters (1905; Vida D. Scudder, ed.)
  • some of our sins are so honestly the expression of nature that justification breaks through them. Mary H. Catherwood, the narrator and protagonist Eagle de Ferrier speaking, in Lazarre (1901)
  • Without the spice of guilt, sin cannot be fully savored. Alexander Chase, in Perspectives (1966)
  • I believe no man was ever scolded out of his sins. William Cowper, in letter to John Newton (June 17, 1783)
  • Mankind thinks either too much or too little of sin. Mary Baker Eddy, in Science and Health (1875)

In Miscellaneous Writings, 1883-1896 (1896), Eddy also offered this similar thought: “Two points of danger beset mankind; namely, making sin seem either too large or too little.”

  • That which we call sin in others, is experiment for us. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience,” in Essays: Second Series (1844)
  • Sin is whatever obscures the soul. André Gide, in La Symphonie Pastorale (1919)
  • The foulest sinner of all is the hypocrite who makes a racket of religion. Robert A. Heinlein, the character Jubal speaking, in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
  • Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other “sins” are invented nonsense. Robert A. Heinlein, an entry in “More From The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” in Time Enough for Love (1973)
  • Fashions in sin change. Lillian Hellman, in Watch on the Rhine (1941)
  • Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858)
  • We are not punished for our sins, but by them. Elbert Hubbard, in The Philosophy of Elbert Hubbard (1916)

QUOTE NOTE: Hubbard returned to the theme in The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927): “It is true that we are punished by our sins and not for them; it is true also that we are blessed and benefited by our sins. Having tasted the bitterness of error, we can avoid it.”

  • If you are proposing to commit a sin it is as well to commit it with intelligence. Otherwise you are insulting God as well as defying Him, don’t you think? P. D. James, the character Nurse Goodale speaking, in Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)
  • Sin is a queer thing. It isn’t the breaking of divine commandments. It is the breaking of one’s own integrity. D. H. Lawrence, in Studies in Classic American Literature (1923)
  • The rouge of sin is often applied with virtue as a mirror. JonArno Lawson, in Love is an Observant Traveller (1997)
  • A sinner can reform, but stupid is forever. Alan Jay Lerner, quoted in The Washington Post (Dec. 19, 1969)

QUOTE NOTE: According to The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012), this is the first appearance the stupid is forever saying, now considered a modern proverb. The Post article, a review of the stage musical Coco, more fully said: “Lerner has fashioned a score of tight epigrams: ‘A sinner can reform, but stupid is forever.’”

  • There’s only one real sin, and that is to persuade oneself that the second-best is anything but the second-best. Doris Lessing, a reflection of protagonist Anna Wulf, in The Golden Notebook (1962)

QUOTE NOTE: Earlier in the book—and earlier in her life—Anna had expressed a similar thought: “What’s terrible is to pretend that the second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don’t need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you’re capable of better.”

  • The mind sins, not the body; if there is no intention, there is no blame. Livy, in Ab Urbe Condita (1st. c. B.C.)
  • Sin has always been an ugly word, but it has been made so in a new sense over the last half-century. It has been made not only ugly but passé. People are no longer sinful, they are only immature or underprivileged or frightened or, more particularly, sick. Phyllis McGinley, “In Defense of Sin,” in The Province of the Heart (1959)
  • Many are saved from sin by being so inept at it. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook (1963)
  • Sin is a dangerous toy in the hands of the virtuous. It should be left to the congenitally sinful, who know when to play with it and when to let it alone. H. L. Mencken, “A Good Man Gone Wrong,” in The American Mercury (Feb., 1929)
  • Sin, guilt, neurosis—they are one and the same, the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Henry Miller, “Creative Death,” in The Wisdom of the Heart (1947)
  • 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)
  • 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.”

  • I’m getting very old and my bones ache. My sins are deserting me, and if I could only have my time over again I’d take care to commit more of them. Dorothy L. Sayers, a diary entry from the character Honoria Lucasta, in Busman’s Honeymoon (1937)
  • Sin looks much more terrible to those who look at it than to those who do it. Olive Schreiner, an observation from the character Waldo, in a letter to the protagonist, Lyndall, in The Story of an African Farm (1883; originally published under Schreiner’s pen name, Ralph Iron)

Waldo continued: “A convict, or a man who drinks, seems something so far off and horrible when we see him; but to himself he seems quite near to us, and like us. We wonder what kind of of creature he is; but he is just we, ourselves. We are only the wood, the knife that carves on us is the circumstance.”

  • Sometimes the sins you haven’t committed are all you have to hold on to. If you’re really desperate, you might find yourself groping, saying, for example, “I’ve never killed anyone with a hammer” or “I’ve never stolen from anyone who didn’t deserve it.” But, whatever his faults, my dad did not have to stoop quite that low. David Sedaris, “Old Faithful,” in The New Yorker (Nov. 29, 2004)

QUOTE NOTE: Sedaris offered this thought after recalling an incident from his childhood when his father, out of the blue, looked over at him and said, “I want you to know that I’ve never once cheated on your mother.”

  • Sin arrived as a passerby, next lingered for a moment, then came as a visitor, and finally became master of the house. Israel Shenker, in Coat of Many Colors (1985)

Shenker introduced the thought by writing: “At first sin was as fragile as a spider’s thread, and finally as stout as a ship’s hawser.” (NOTE: hawser is a nautical term for a thick and heavy rope used to tow boats and ships).

  • Sins cannot be undone, only forgiven. Igor Stravinsky, in Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (1959; Robert Craft, ed.)
  • When a house is on fire and you know that there are people in it, it is a sin to straighten pictures in that house. When the world about you is in great danger, works that are in themselves not sinful can be quite wrong. Corrie ten Boom, in Each New Day (1977)
  • We cannot well do without our sins; they are the highways of our virtue. Henry David Thoreau, journal entry (March 22, 1842)
  • After the first blush of sin comes its indifference. Henry David Thoreau, in On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849)
  • Sin travels faster than they that ride in chariots. Charles Dudley Warner, in My Summer in a Garden (1871)
  • All sins are attempts to fill voids. Simone Weil, in Gravity and Grace (1948)
  • Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction. Simone Weil, in Waiting for God (1950)
  • When it comes to finances, remember that there are no withholding taxes on the wages of sin. Mae West, in On Sex, Health and E.S.P. (1975)
  • There is no sin except stupidity. Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist,” in Intentions (1891)
  • I discovered an important rule that I’m going to pass on to you. Never support two weaknesses at the same time. It’s your combination sinners—your lecherous liars and your miserly drunkards—who dishonor the vices and bring them into bad repute. Thornton Wilder, the character Malachi Stack speaking, in The Matchmaker (1954)

A moment earlier, Stack said: “Nurse one vice in your bosom. Give it the attention it deserves and let your virtues spring up modestly around it. Then you’ll have the miser who’s no liar; and the drunkard who’s the benefactor of the whole city.”

  • I value more than I despise/My tendency to sin,/Because it helps me sympathize/With all my tempted kin. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Understood,” in New Thought Pastels (1906)

SINCERITY

(includes INSINCERITY); see also AUTHENTICITY and CANDOR and EARNESTNESS and FRANKNESS and GRAVITY and HONESTY and HYPOCRISY and INSINCERITY and INTEGRITY and TRUTHFULNESS)

  • It is precisely the stupidest people who are most sincere in their mistaken beliefs. Norman Angell, quoted in Louis Bisceglia, Norman Angell and Liberal Internationalism in Britain, 1931–35 (1982)
  • Men are always sincere. They change sincerities, that’s all. Tristan Bernard, in Ce Que l’On Dit aux Femmes (1923)
  • I should say sincerity, a deep, great, genuine sincerity, is the first characteristic of all men in any way heroic. Thomas Carlyle, in On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History (1841)
  • The sincerity of feeling that is possible between a writer and a reader is one of the finest things I know. Willa Cather, from a 1931 interview; in L. Brent Bohlke, Willa Cather in Person (1986)
  • Sincerity is the highest compliment you can pay. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an 1836 journal entry
  • A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Friendship,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Friendship,” in Essays: First Series (1841)

Emerson continued: “We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds.”

  • Sincerity that thinks it is the sole possessor of the truth is a deadlier sin than hypocrisy, which knows better. Sydney J. Harris, “Sincerity Can Be Dangerous,” in Clearing the Ground (1986)
  • No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the narrator describing the hypocritical Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale, in The Scarlet Letter (1850)
  • That’s what show business is—sincere insincerity. Benny Hill, quoted in the Observer (London; June 12, 1977)
  • Politeness, my dear, is sometimes a great tax upon sincerity. Charlotte Lennox, the character Lady Meadows speaking, in Henrietta (1758)
  • The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)

QUOTE NOTE: In her mid-forties, Lindbergh was feeling overwhelmed by social obligations and energy-consuming distractions. Her desire to simplify her life resulted in the renting of a beach home on Florida’s Captiva Island. Her reflections during that period of her life resulted in the book Gift from the Sea, which became the bestselling nonfiction book in America in 1955 (it went on to sell over three million copies worldwide, and ultimately translated into dozens of languages). She introduced the thought above by writing: “I shall ask into my shell only those friends with whom I can be completely honest. I find I am shedding hypocrisy in human relationships.”

  • No sincere prayer leaves us where it finds us. Stella Terrill Mann, in Change Your Life Through Prayer (1945)
  • All this you should know by now,/The model has been clear:/It’s never what you say, but how/You make it sound sincere. Marya Mannes (1964), quatrain from “Controverse,” in But Will it Sell 1964)

QUOTE NOTE: “Controverse” is a satirical look at political handlers instructing politicians on how to come across to voters as sincere. It began: “Look the camera in the eye/Keep the chin line firm,/Sit with nonchalance and try/Not to shift or squirm.”

  • You don’t have to be sincere yourself to recognize sincerity when you see it. Any more than you have to be insane to recognize insanity. Susan Moody, a reflection of protagonist Fran Brett, in Mosaic (1991)
  • Originality is in any case a by-product of sincerity. Marianne Moore, “Humility, Concentration, and Gusto,” lecture at the Grolier Club (New York City; Dec. 21, 1948); reprinted in Predilections: Literary Essays (1955)

QUOTE NOTE: Moore was talking about originality in writing. She continued: “That is to say, of feeling that is honest and accordingly rejects anything that might cloud the impression, such as unnecessary commas, modifying clauses, or delayed predicates.”

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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)
  • The primary condition for being sincere is the same as for being humble: not to boast of it, and probably not even to be aware of it. Henri Peyre, in Literature and Sincerity (1963)
  • I only desire sincere relations with the worthiest of my acquaintance, that they may give me an opportunity once in a year to speak the truth. Henry David Thoreau, journal entry (Aug. 24, 1851)
  • A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. Oscar Wilde, in The Critic as Artist (1891)

SINGING & SINGERS

(see also BLUES and CONCERTS and JAZZ and MUSIC & MUSICIANS and OPERA and PERFORMANCE & PERFORMERS and RAP MUSIC and ROCK ’N ROLL and RHYTHYM and RHYTHYM & BLUES and SONGS & SONGWRITERS and SOUND and VOICE)

  • Precisely because we do not communicate by singing, a song can be out of place but not out of character. W. H. Auden, “Notes on Music and Opera,” in The Dyer’s Hand (1962)

Auden continued: “It is just as credible that a stupid person should sing beautifully as that a clever person should do so.”

  • You can cage the singer, but not the song. Harry Belafonte, quoted in International Herald Tribune (Paris; Oct. 3, 1988)
  • It is the best of all trades, to make songs, and the second best to sing them. Hilaire Belloc, “On Song”, in On Everything (1909)
  • Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust. The Bible—Isaiah 26:19 (KJV)
  • I sing as the bird sings/That lives in the boughs. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795–96)
  • She poured out the liquid music of her voice to quench the thirst of his spirit. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the narrator describing Georgiana’s singing to her husband Aylmer, “The Birth-Mark” (1843), in Mosses from an Old Manse (1846)
  • Being a blues singer is like being black two times. B. B. King, in Tom Wheeler, “B. B. King: ‘Playing the Guitar Is Like Telling the Truth,’” Guitar Player magazine (Sep., 1980 cover story)
  • God sent his singers upon earth/With songs of sadness and of mirth. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in “The Singers” (1849)
  • When you have nothing to say, sing it. David Ogilvy, in Ogilvy on Advertising (1983)
  • Singing lessons are like body building for your larynx. Bernadette Peters, in Dena Kleiman, “Bernadette Peters Trains Voice Like a Muscle, in The New York Times (Sep. 20, 1985)
  • Those who wish to sing always find a song. Proverb (Swedish)
  • I do but sing because I must. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in “In Memoriam A. H. H.” 1850)

SINGERS—ON THEMSELVES

SINS OF OMISSION

(see INACTION

SISTERS

(see also BROTHERS and BROTHERS & SISTERS and CHILDREN & CHILDHOOD and FAMILY and FRIENDS & FRIENDSHIP and HOME and RELATIVES and SIBLINGS)

  • Sisters are different flowers from the same garden. Author Unknown
  • Between sisters, often, the child’s cry never dies down. “Never leave me,” it says; “do not abandon me.” Louise Bernikow, in Among Women (1980)
  • Sisterly love is one of the few boons in this life. Jane Bowles, “A Quarreling Pair,” in The Collected Works of Jane Bowles (1966)
  • You know full as well as I do the value of sisters’ affections to each other; there is nothing like it in this world. Charlotte Brontë, quoted in in Clement King Shorter, The Brontës: Life and Letters, Vol. 1 (1908)
  • I have a very hyper-sensitive sister, and when she saw in the papers the next day that I had proclaimed myself the daughter of an immigrant, she didn’t like it at all, and was with difficulty deterred from writing to the press that my father might be an immigrant, but not hers. Margaret Case Harriman, in From Pinafores to Politics (1923)
  • If you don't annoy your big sister for no good reason from time to time, she thinks you don’t love her anymore. Pearl Cleage, in What Looks Like Crazy On an Ordinary Day (1997)
  • We were a club, a society, a civilization all our own. Annette, Cécile, Marie, and Yvonne Dionne, in We Were Five (1965; with James Brough)
  • Sweet is the voice of a sister in the season of sorrow, and wise is the counsel of those who love us. Benjamin Disraeli, the character David Alroy, speaking to his sister Miriam, in The Wondrous Tale of Alroy (1833)
  • A sister is both your mirror—and your opposite. Elizabeth Fishel, in Sisters: Love and Rivalry Inside the Family and Beyond (1979)

In her book, Fishel also offered these additional thoughts on the subject:

“We are each other’s reference point at our turning points.”

“What surprised me was that within a family, the voices of sisters as they’re talking are virtually always the same.”

“For both within the family and without, our sisters hold up our mirrors: our images of who we are and of who we can dare to become.”

“The desire to be and have a sister is a primitive and profound one that may have everything or nothing to do with the family a woman is born to. It is a desire to know and be known by someone who shares blood and body, history and dreams, common ground and the unknown adventures of the future, darkest secrets and the glassiest beads of truth.”

“Sisters define their rivalry in terms of competition for the gold cup of parental love. It is never perceived as a cup which runneth over, rather a finite vessel from which the more one sister drinks, the less is left for the others.”

  • By now we know and anticipate one another so easily, so deeply, we unthinkingly finish each other’s sentences, and often speak in code. No one else knows what I mean so exquisitely, painfully well; no one else knows so exactly what to say to fix me. Joan Frank, “Womb Mates,” in Desperate Women Need to Talk to You (1994)
  • Sisters are a setup. Shot from the same cannon, you’re sent on a blind date for the rest of your lives. Helen Fremont, the opening words of The Escape Artist: A Memoir (2020)

QUOTE NOTE: I only recently happened upon Fremont’s book (her second memoir, following up on her bestselling After Long Silence in 2011). If I’d come across it shortly after it was published, her first sentence would have made my end-of-year list of “The Twenty Best Opening Lines of 2020.”

  • Of two sisters/one is always the watcher,/one the dancer. Louise Glück, “Tango,” in Descending Figure (1980)
  • Jealousy is the weed that seems to shoot up in the garden where sisters grow. Jeanne Hendricks, in A Woman for All Seasons (1977)
  • Never praise a sister to a sister, in the hope of your compliments reaching the proper ears. Rudyard Kipling, the voice of the narrator, in the short story “The False Dawn,” Plain Tales from the Hills (1888)

The narrator continued: “Sisters are women first, and sisters afterwards; and you will find that you do yourself harm.”

  • My sister and I may have been crafted of the same genetic clay, baked in the same uterine kiln, but we were disparate species, doomed never to love each other except blindly. Judith Kelman, in Where Shadows Fall (1987)
  • Sisters, while they are growing up, tend to be very rivalrous and as young mothers they are given to continual rivalrous comparisons of their several children. But once the children grow older, sisters draw closer together and often, in old age, they become each other’s chosen and most happy companions. Margaret Mead, in Blackberry Winter (1972)

Mead continued: “In addition to their shared memories of childhood and of their relationship to each other’s children, they share memories of the same home, the same homemaking style, and the same small prejudices about housekeeping that carry the echoes of their mother’s voice.”

  • Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship. On the whole, sisters would rather live with each other than anyone else in their old age. Margaret Mead, quoted in Elizabeth Fishel, Sisters: Love and Rivalry Inside the Family and Beyond (1979)
  • I think the important thing about sisters is that they share the same minute, familiar life-style, the same little sets of rules. Therefore they can keep house with each other late in life, because they share the same bunch of housewifely prejudices. The important thing about women today is, as they get older, they still keep house. It's one reason they don’t die, but men die when they retire. Women just polish the teacups. Margaret Mead, quoted in Elizabeth Fishel, Sisters: Love and Rivalry Inside the Family and Beyond (1979)
  • We were like ill-assorted animals tied to a common tethering post. Jessica Mitford, on she and her five sisters, in Daughters and Rebels (1960)
  • Sisters are a shield against life’s cruel adversity. Nancy Mitford, quoted in Mary S. Lovell, The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family (2001)

QUOTE NOTE: When Mitford's sister Jessica was told about what her sister Nancy had written, she quipped, “But sisters are life’s cruel adversity!”

  • Friendship between sisters is one of the most satisfying that life can afford. Our sister understands us thoroughly; she does not expect more than we can give. Lily H. Montagu, a 1916 observation, quoted in Ellen M. Umansky, Lily Montagu: Sermons, Addresses, Letters and Prayers (1985)
  • There can be no situation in life in which the conversation of my dear sister will not administer some comfort to me. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in a 1747 letter, reprinted in The Best Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1901; Octave Thanet, ed.)
  • For there is no friend like a sister/In calm or stormy weather;/To cheer one on the tedious way,/To fetch one if one goes astray,/To lift one if one totters down,/To strengthen whilst one stands. Christina G. Rossetti, the title poem (1859) of Goblin Market (1862)
  • Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life. Charles Schulz, Linus speaking, in Peanuts cartoon strip ((June 17, 1961). To see the original cartoon, go to 1961 Peanuts Cartoon.
  • They were like two trees with buried roots so tangled that they inevitably leaned on each other, and also strangled each other a bit. Sonia Sotomayer, on her mother and her mother’s younger sister, Titi Aurora, in My Beloved World (2012)

Justice Sotomayer introduced the thought by writing; “They were an odd couple, those two sisters. Neither of them showed affection, and Titi could be austere and forbidding, but it was also clear that they were bound to each other in a way that I didn’t entirely understand.”

  • My sister four years older simply existed for me because I had to sleep in the same room with her. Besides, it is natural not to care about a sister, certainly not when she is four years older and grinds her teeth at night. Gertrude Stein, in Everybody’s Autobiography (1937)
  • If you don’t understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child. Linda Sunshine, in “Mom Loves Me Best” (And Other Lies You Told Your Sister) (1990)

In her book, Sunshine also offered these additional thoughts on the subject:

“More than Santa Claus, your sister knows when you’ve been bad or good.”

“Your sister is the only creature on earth who shares your heritage, history, environment, DNA, bone structure, and contempt for stupid Aunt Gertie.”

“Some sisters are better at pretending to share than others, but for the majority, if any sibling had her way, she would get everything and her sister would be allowed bread and water and maybe one of the Raggedy Ann dolls with the button eyes. If sisters were free to express how they really feel, parents would hear this: ‘Give me all the attention and all the toys and send Rebecca to live with Grandma.’”

  • Is solace anywhere/more comforting/than in the arms/of sisters? Alice Walker, “Telling,” in Her Blue Body Everything We Know (1991)
  • Near or far, there are burdens and terrors in sisterhood, and perhaps the nearer, the more complicated. Helen Yglesias, in Family Feeling (1976)
  • Elder sisters never can do younger ones justice! Charlotte M. Yonge, in The Pillars of the House, Vol. 2 (1889)

SKEPTICISM & SKEPTICS

(see also ATHEISM & AGNOSTICISM and BELIEF and CERTAINTY and DOUBT and FAITH and HERESY & HERETICS and QUESTIONING and RELIGION and SCIENCE and SCIENCE & RELIGION)

  • At the age of five I had become a skeptic and began to sense that any happiness that came my way might be the prelude to some grim cosmic joke. Russell Baker, in Growing Up (1982)

QUOTE NOTE: Baker was five years old when his father died (of complications related to diabetes).

  • The capacity to combine commitment with skepticism is essential to democracy. Mary Catherine Bateson, in Composing a Life (1989)
  • It is assumed that the skeptic has no bias; whereas he has a very obvious bias in favor of skepticism. G. K. Chesterton, “The Error of Impartiality,” in All Things Considered (1908)
  • What has not been examined impartially has not been well examined. Skepticism is therefore the first step toward truth. Denis Diderot, in Pensées philosophiques (1746)
  • The crucial disadvantage of aggression, competitiveness, and skepticism as national characteristics is that these qualities cannot be turned off at five o'clock. Margaret Halsey, in The Folks at Home (1952)
  • Every theory in medicine, if medicine is to remain healthy, must be beaten out on the anvil of skepticism. So do we weed out charlatanism. Alice Tisdale Hobart, in The Serpent-Wreathed Staff (1951)
  • A wise skepticism is the first attribute of a good critic. James Russell Lowell, “Shakespeare Once More,” in Among My Books (1870)
  • Most institutions demand unqualified faith; but the institution of science makes skepticism a virtue. Robert K. Merton, in The Sociology of Science (1973)
  • There is nothing more effectual in showing us the weakness of any habitual fallacy or assumption than to hear it sympathetically through the ears, as it were, of a skeptic. Margaret Oliphant, in Phoebe Junior: A Last Chronicle of Carlingford, Vol II (1876)
  • Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense. Carl Sagan, in interview in The Times (London; Oct. 20, 1980)
  • Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer. George Santayana, in Skepticism and Animal Faith (1923)
  • Cop shops bred skeptics. Skeptics cherished few illusions about human nature, and therefore were seldom disappointed. Dana Stabenow, a reflection of the narrator, in Better to Rest: A Liam Campbell Mystery (2002)

He preceded the thought by writing: “Cops never took anything on faith, and disbelieved every story that was told them on principle until and unless they could confirm that the story was fact in all its essentials, and even then remained wary and unconvinced.”

  • The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found. Miguel de Unamuno, “My Religion,” in Essays and Soliloquies (1924)

SKILL

(includes UNSKILLED; see also ABILITY and COMPETENCE and EXCELLENCE and TALENT and VIRTUOSITY)

  • In art as in lovemaking, heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and so does heartless skill, but what you want is passionate virtuosity. John Barth, quoted in Charles B. Harris, Passionate Virtuosity: The Fiction of John Barth (1983)

QUOTE NOTE: The phrase passionate virtuosity, which Barth offered on a number of occasions over the years, became so singularly associated with him that Charles B. Harris selected it as the title of his 1983 critical study of Barth’s work (the Harris book also presented Barth’s most quotable version of the sentiment). Barth introduced the idea in an August, 1967 Atlantic Monthly article (“The Literature of Exhaustion”), in which he wrote: “My feeling about technique in art is that it has about the same value as technique in love-making. That is to say, on the one hand, heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal and, on the other hand, so does heartless skill; but what you want is passionate virtuosity.” He reprised the sentiment in his 1972 novel Chimera, where he had The Genie say to another character: “Heartfelt ineptitude has its appeal, Dunyazade; so does heartless skill. But what you want is passionate virtuosity.”

  • The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skill. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better. Jacob Bronowski, in The Ascent of Man (1973)

Bronowski added: “You see it in his science. You see it in the magnificence with which he carves and builds, the loving care, the gaiety, the effrontery. The monuments are supposed to commemorate kings and religions, heroes, dogmas, but in the end the man they commemorate is the builder.”

  • He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
  • Early to bed and early to rise probably indicates unskilled employment. John Ciardi, tweaking the familiar proverb, in his “Manner of Speaking” column, Saturday Review (May 26, 1962)
  • It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage. George William Curtis, “The Public Duty of Educated Men,” Commencement address at Union College (Schenectady, NY; June 27, 1877); reprinted in Opinions and Addresses of George William Curtis (1894)
  • When a workman knows the use of his tools, he can make a door as well as a window. George Eliot, in The Mill on the Floss (1860)
  • Skill and confidence are an unconquered army. George Herbert, in Jacula Prudentum (1651)
  • The woodcutter is far better for skill than he is for brute strength./It is by skill that the sea captain holds his rapid ship/on its course, though torn by winds, over the wine-blue water./By skill charioteer outpasses charioteer. Homer, in The Iliad (9th c. B.C.)
  • In old age our bodies are worn-out instruments, on which the soul tries in vain to play the melodies of youth. But because the instrument has lost its strings, or is out of tune, it does not follow that the musician has lost his skill. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner. Proverb (English)
  • Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art. Tom Stoppard, the character Donner speaking, in Artist Descending a Staircase (1972)

[Thick] SKIN

  • A thick skin is a gift from God. Konrad Adenauer, quoted in The New York Times (Dec. 30, 1959)

SKY

(see also ASTRONOMY and CLOUDS and EARTH and ENVIRONMENT and [The] HEAVENS and NATURE and SPACE and STARS and STORMS and WEATHER)

  • The beauty of our sky is really just a nice way for the earth to protect us from the terror of what’s so vast and unknowable beyond. Nadia Bolz-Weber, in Pastrix (2013)
  • Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. Willa Cather, the narrator describing the Arizona desert, in Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

The narrator preceded the thought by writing: “The sky was as full of motion and change as the desert beneath it was monotonous and still—and there was so much sky, more than at sea, more than anywhere else in the world. The plain was there, under one’s feet, but what one saw when one looked about was that brilliant blue world of stinging air and moving club. Even the mountains were mere ant-hills under it.”

  • The sky is the daily bread of the eyes. Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal entry (May 25, 1843)
  • Our passionate preoccupation with the sky, the stars, and a God somewhere in outer space is a homing impulse. We are drawn back to where we came from. Eric Hoffer, on the first moon landing, quoted in The New York Times (July 21, 1969)
  • Fortunately the sky is beautiful everywhere. Simone Weil, quoted in Simone Petrément, Simone Weil: A Life (1976)
  • There is no greater joy for me than looking at the sky on a clear night with an attention so concentrated that all my other thoughts disappear; then one can think that the stars enter into one’s soul. Simone Weil, quoted in Simone Petrément, Simone Weil: A Life (1976)

SKYSCRAPER

(see also ARCHITECTURE and CITIES and DESIGN and HOUSE)

  • A skyscraper is a boast in glass and steel. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 8th Selection (1991)

SLANDER

(see also ACCUSATION and CALUMNY and [Throwing] DIRT and GOSSIP and LIES & LYING and LIBEL and REPUTATION and SMEARS & SMEARING and SCANDAL)

  • There is nothing that more betrays a base, ungenerous spirit than the giving of secret stabs to a man’s reputation. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (March 27, 1711)

Addison continued: “Lampoons and satires that are written with wit and spirit are like poisoned darts, which not only inflict a wound, but make it incurable.”

  • When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: This observation is widely attributed to Socrates, but nothing close to it has been found in his works.

  • A slander is like a hornet; if you cannot kill it dead the first blow, better not strike at it. Josh Billings (pen name of Henry Wheeler Shaw), “Lobstir Sallad,” in Everybody’s Friend (1874)

QUOTE NOTE: this observation was originally written in Shaw’s characteristic dialect form: “A slander iz like a hornet, if yu kant kill it dead the fust blo, yu better not strike at it.”

  • Every one in a crowd has the power to throw dirt: nine out of ten have the inclination. William Hazlitt, “On Reading New Books,” in Sketches and Essays (1839)
  • Into the space of one little hour sins enough may be conjured up by evil tongues to blast the fame of a whole life of virtue. Washington Irving, the voice of the narrator, in “The Widow’s Ordeal,” Wolfert’s Roost (1855)
  • Folk whose own behavior is most ridiculous are always to the fore in slandering others. Molière (Jean Baptiste Poquelin), the character Dorine speaking about the slanderous tongue of her rival, Daphne, in Tartuffe (1664)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation has also been beautifully translated in verse form by Richard Wilbur. Here’s the full passage: “If there is talk against us, I know the source:/It’s Daphne and her little husband, of course./Those who have greatest cause for guilt and shame/Are quickest to besmirch a neighbor’s name./When there’s a chance for libel, they never miss it;/When something can be made to seem illicit/They’re off at once to spread the joyous news,/Adding to fact what fantasies they choose./By talking up their neighbor’s indiscretions/They seek to camouflage their own transgressions.”

  • People are more slanderous from vanity than from malice. François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in Maximes (1665)
  • It doesn’t start as a story; it starts as an inflection of the voice, a question asked in a certain tone and not answered with “no”; a prolonged little silence, a twinkle in the eye, a long-drawn “w-e-e-ell—I don’t know.” These are the fine roots of the tree whose poisonous fruits are gossip and slander. Maria Augusta Trapp, in The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (1949)

SLANG

(see also ARGOT and COMMUNICATION and DIALECT and ENGLISH—THE LANGUAGE and LANGUAGE and SPEECH & SPEAKING and TALK & TALKING and WORDS)

  • What is slang in one age sometimes goes into the vocabulary of the purist in the next. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, “Leaves From a Notebook,” in Ponkapog Papers (1903)
  • Slang is the speech of him who robs the literary garbage carts on their way to the dumps. Ambrose Bierce, “Epigrams of a Cynic,” in A Cynic Looks at Life (1912)
  • The word “slang” is vague and its etymology obscure. It suggests the slinging of odd stones or dollops of mud at the windows of the stately home of linguistic decorum. Anthony Burgess, in A Mouthful of Air (1992)
  • All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor poetry. G. K. Chesterton, “Defense of Slang,” in The Defendant (1901)
  • Correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets. George Eliot, the character Fred Vincy speaking, in Middlemarch (1871-72)
  • Slang is vigorous and apt. Probably most of our vital words were once slang. John Galsworthy, in Castles in Spain and Other Screeds (1927)
  • Slang is a linguistic luxury, it is a sport, and, like any other sport, something that belongs to the young. Otto Jespersen, “Slang,” in Mankind, Nation and Individual (1946)
  • Slang is a token of man’s lively spirit ever at work in unexpected places. John C. Moore, in You English Words (1962)
  • Slang is a poor-man’s poetry. John C. Moore, in You English Words (1962)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the way the quotation is generally presented, but it was originally the conclusion of a larger observation about slang (one that was almost certainly inspired by the earlier Chesterton quotation): “Slang . . . is a kind of metaphor and metaphor, we have agreed, is a kind of poetry; you might say indeed that slang is a poor man’s poetry.”

  • Slang, the acme and quintessence of spoken and informal language. Eric Partridge, “Slang,” in Society for Pure English, Tract 55 (1940)
  • Some people worry that slang will somehow “corrupt” the language. We should be so lucky. Steven Pinker, in The Language Instinct (1994)

Pinker continued: “Most slang lexicons are preciously guarded by their subcultures as membership badges.”

  • Slang is language that takes off its coat, spits on its hands, and goes to work. Carl Sandburg, quoted in Maurice H. Weseen, The Dictionary of American Slang (1934)

QUOTE NOTE: In The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), Fred Shapiro cites Weseen’s book as the first appearance of the saying in print (an original source was not provided). In a Feb. 13, 1959 New York Times article (“Minstrel of America: Carl Sandburg”), a slightly different version of the saying appeared, also without mention of an original source: “Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work.” The most recent editions of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations feature the 1959 version.

  • If you use a colloquialism or a slang word or phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better. William Strunk, Jr. & E. B White, in The Elements of Style (1959)
  • Slang in a woman’s mouth is not obscene, it only sounds so. Mark Twain, in Mark Johnson, More Maxims of Mark (1927)

SLAVERY

(also includes ENSLAVEMENT and SLAVES; see also ABOLITIONISM & ABOLITIONISTS and AFRICAN-AMERICANS and CAPTIVITY and DESPOTS & DESPOTISM and EMANCIPATION and EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION and FREEDOM and PLANTATIONS and SERVITUDE and TYRANTS & TYRANNY)

  • I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province. It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me—to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind upon this subject. Abigail Adams, in letter to husband John (Sep. 24, 1774); reprinted in The Letters of John and Abigail Adams (2003; Frank Shuffelton, ed.)
  • Of all the tyrannies which have usurped power over humanity, few have been able to enslave the mind and body as imperiously as drug addiction. Freda Adler, in Sisters in Crime (1975)
  • Better starve free than be a fat slave. Aesop, “The Dog and the Wolf,” in Fables (6th c. B.C.)
  • My people had used music to soothe slavery’s torment or to propitiate God, or to describe the sweetness of love and the distress of lovelessness, but I knew no race could sing and dance its way to freedom. Maya Angelou, in The Heart of a Woman (1981)
  • Slavery’s crime against humanity did not begin when one people defeated and enslaved its enemies (though of course this was bad enough), but when slavery became an institution in which some men were “born” free and others slave, when it was forgotten that it was man who had deprived his fellow-men of freedom, and when the sanction for the crime was attributed to nature. Hannah Arendt, in Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)
  • Who is by nature not his own but another’s man, is by nature a slave. Aristotle, in Politics (4th c. BC)
  • Slavery is so intolerable a condition that the slave can hardly escape deluding himself into thinking the he is choosing to obey his masters commands when, in fact, he is obliged too. W. H. Auden, “Writing,” in The Dyer’s Hand (1962

Auden continued: “Most slaves of habit suffer from this delusion and so do some writers.”

  • There is no slave out of heaven like a loving woman; and of all loving women, there is no such slave as a mother. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • Ah! the curse of slavery, as the common phrase goes, has fallen not merely on the black but perhaps at this moment still more upon the white, because it has warped his sense of truth and has degraded his moral nature. Fredrika Bremer, in a letter to her sister Agatha (April 1, 1850), in America of the Fifties: Letters of Fredrika Bremer (1924; A. B. Benson, ed.)

Bremer continued: “The position and the treatment of the blacks, however, really improve from year to year; while the whites do not seem to advance in enlightenment.”

  • Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. Edmund Burke, in “On Conciliation with the American Colonies” (March 22, 1775)
  • The future is the only kind of property that the masters willingly concede to the slaves. Albert Camus, in The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt (1951)

Camus preceded the observation by writing: “The slave and those whose present life is miserable and who can find no consolation in the heavens are assured that at least the future belongs to them.”

  • They have stabbed themselves for freedom—jumped into the waves for freedom—starved for freedom—fought like very tigers for freedom! But they have been hung, and burned, and shot—and their tyrants have been their historians! Lydia Maria Child, in An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans (1833)
  • “Oh, slavery, slavery,” my Daddy would say. “It ain’t something in a book, Lue. Even the good parts was awful.” Lucille Clifton, in Generations: A Memoir (1976)
  • Freedom has a thousand charms to show,/That slaves, howe’er contented, never know. William Cowper, in in Table Talk (1782)

ERROR ALERT: For more than a century, the first line of this couplet has been mistakenly presented as Freedom hath a thousand charms.

  • The art of being a slave is to rule one's master. Diogenes of Sinope (aka Diogenes the Cynic), in Herakleitos and Diogenes (4th c. BC).

QUOTE NOTE: Later in his life, Diogenes unexpectedly found a great deal of meaning in his own words. Captured by pirates and sold as a slave to Corinthian nobleman, he eventually became tutor to his master’s children. One ancient source even quoted his master—a philosopher named Exeniades—as saying about Diogenes, “A good spirit has entered my house.”

  • You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man. Frederick Douglass, in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845). An example of chiasmus.
  • I didn't know I was a slave until I found out I couldn't do the things I wanted. Frederick Douglass, in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)
  • No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at least finding the other end fastened about his own neck. Frederick Douglass, in speech at Civil Rights Mass Meeting; Washington, DC (Oct. 22, 1883)
  • This is what it means/to be a slave: to be abused and bear it,/compelled by violence to suffer wrong. Euripides, in Hecuba (5th c. BC)
  • The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall. He frees himself and shows the way to others. Freedom and slavery are mental states. Mohandas K. Gandhi, in Non-Violence in Peace and War (1949)
  • Self-discipline is the free man’s yoke. Either he is his own master or he will be his own slave—not merely as slave to his passions, as an earlier generation might have feared, but a slave to his unbounded ego. John W. Gardner, in The Recovery of Confidence (1970)
  • Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation. William Lloyd Garrison, on abandoning moderation in the fight against slavery, in The Liberator (Jan. 1, 1830)

Garrison introduced the thought by writing: “I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation.”

QUOTE NOTE: These stirring words appeared in the inaugural issue of The Liberator, which went on to become America’s most influential abolitionist publication. The magazine continued for thirty-five years, ending with a valedictory issue at the end of 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified. It continued to be published as The Nation, which now describes itself as America’s oldest continuously published weekly magazine.

  • Stardom can be a gilded slavery. Helen Hayes, in On Reflection: An Autobiography (1968)
  • You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation. Billie Holiday, in Lady Sings the Blues (1956; rev 1975; with William Duffy)
  • All forms of slavery had their inception in some kind of economic dependence, but the slavery often exists long after the dependent condition has passed away. A thing, once established, once made an institution, is very apt to outlast the economic phase which determined its existence, and become a very troublesome matter. Lizzie M. Holmes, “Woman’s Future Position in the World,” in The Arena (1898)
  • Whatever day/Makes man a slave, takes half his worth away. Homer, in Odyssey (9th c. BC; trans. by Alexander Pope)
  • We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form. W. R. Inge, “The Idea of Progress,” in Outspoken Essays (1922)
  • I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched. Harriet A. Jacobs, in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself (1861)

Jacobs continued: “And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.”

  • The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it. Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia (written 1781; pub. 1784)
  • Ambition makes more trusty slaves than need. Ben Jonson, the title character speaking, in Sejanus His Fall (1603)
  • Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. John F. Kennedy, in speech in West Berlin (June 26, 1963)
  • A slave has but one master; an ambitious man has as many masters as there are people who may be useful in bettering his position. Jean de La Bruyère, in Characters (1688)
  • I would never have drawn my sword in the cause of America, if I could have conceived that thereby I was founding a land of slavery. Marquis de Lafayette (Gilbert du Motier), quoted by English abolitionist Thomas Clarkson in a letter dated Oct. 3 1845; later published in an 1846 issue of The Liberty Bell magazine.

QUOTE NOTE: A lifelong opponent of slavery, Lafayette had numerous conversations about the institution with a number of America’s Founding Fathers (according to some sources, he even believed George Washington would end slavery in America after he became the new nation’s first president). The quotation above is believed to have come later in Lafayettee’s life (he died at age 76 in 1834) as he became increasingly distraught over the flourishing practice of slavery in the American South.

  • No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. Abraham Lincoln, in debate with Stephen Douglas (Peoria, Illinois; Oct. 16, 1854)

In that same debate, Lincoln also said: “Slavery is founded on the selfishness of man’s nature—opposition to it on the love of justice. These principles are in eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely as slavery extension brings them, shocks and throes and convulsions must ceaselessly follow.”

  • The Autocrat of all the Russias will resign his crown, and proclaim his subjects free republicans sooner than will our American masters voluntarily give up their slaves. Abraham Lincoln, in letter to George Robertson (Aug. 15, 1855)
  • As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy. Abraham Lincoln, a handwritten observation scrawled on a scrap of paper, circa 1858; in Roy P. Basler, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. 2 (1953)
  • What kills the skunk is the publicity it gives itself. Abraham Lincoln, in an 1859 interview, quoted in A. T. Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln (1896)

QUOTE NOTE: Lincoln was referring to slavery, but his words can be applied to anything that gives off a foul odor. He offered the thought in an interview with journalist David R. Locke, prefacing his words by saying: “Slavery is doomed, and that within a few years. Even Judge Douglas admits it to be an evil, and an evil can’t stand discussion. In discussing it we have taught a great many thousands of people to hate it who had never given it a thought before.”

  • I am not blind to the possibility that it may require a long war to lower the arrogance and tame the aggressive ambition of the slave-owners. John Stuart Mill, “The Contest in America,” in Fraser’s magazine (Feb, 1862)

QUOTE NOTE: Mill, a strong supporter of the Abolitionist cause, continued: “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.”

  • Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in The Social Contract (1762)
  • 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.”

  • Slavery holds few men fast; the greater number hold fast to their slavery. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger), in Letters to Lucilius (c. 65 A.D.). An example of chiasmus.
  • Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. Oscar Wilde, in The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)

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

SLEEP

(see also DREAMS—NOCTURNAL and INSOMNIA and NIGHT)

  • The repose of sleep refreshes only the body. It rarely sets the soul at rest. Gaston Bachelard, in The Poetics of Reverie (1960)

Bachelard continued: “The repose of the night does not belong to us. It is not the possession of our being. Sleep opens within us an inn for phantoms. In the morning we must sweep out the shadows.”

  • God has made sleep to be a sponge by which to rub out fatigue. A man’s roots are planted in night, as in a soil, and out of it he comes every day with fresh growth and bloom. Henry Ward Beecher, “Relative Duties,” in Lectures to Young Men, On Various Important Subjects (3rd ed.;1856)
  • Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking. Frederick Buechner, in The Alphabet of Grace (1970)
  • Sleep is sweet to the laboring man. John Bunyan, Hope speaking, “Atheist Meets the Pilgrims,” in The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)
  • Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. Thomas Dekker, in The Gull’s Hornbook (1609)

Dekker continued: “Who complains of want, of wounds, of cares, of great men’s oppressions, of captivity, whilst he sleepeth? Beggars in their beds take as much pleasure as kings.”

  • Sleep and waking states are like separate countries with a common border. We cross over twice daily, remembering one world and forgetting the other, inadvertently tracking invisible residues from one into the other. Kat Duff, in Prologue to The Secret Life of Sleep (2014)

Earlier in the Prologue, Duff had written: “Sleep is more than a creature comfort. It is a requirement for life on this planet.”

  • Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a diary entry (Jan. 26, 1844)

QUOTE NOTE: The actual entry was written in the following way: “Finish each day before you begin the next, (one) and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two.”

  • When every inch of the world is known, sleep may be the only wilderness that we have left. In sleep’s preserve, the body repairs itself, talks to itself, leads a separate life we cannot know. Louise Erdrich, in The Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year (1995)

Erdrich went on to add about sleep: “Unhampered by the beams of my thoughts, it performs its necessary tasks and by morning usually manages to have accomplished an active rest. While I am not there to impede its work, the body takes lessons on how to save me.”

  • You can wake a man only if he is really asleep ; no effort that you may make will produce any effect upon him if he is merely pretending sleep. Mohandas K. Gandhi, in An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth (1927; new English edition in 1957)
  • Sleep is when all the unsorted stuff comes flying out as from a dustbin upset in a high wind. William Golding, the voice of the narrator, in Pincher Martin (1956)

QUOTE NOTE: In the book, the narrator introduced the thought by saying: “Sleep is a relaxation of the conscious guard, the sorter.”

  • It is better to sleep on things beforehand than to lie awake about them afterward. Baltasar Gracián, in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)
  • Sleep is the best meditation. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, quoted in People magazine (Sep. 10, 1979)
  • To sleep is an act of faith. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, in Foreign Bodies (1984)
  • We are not hypocrites in our sleep. William Hazlitt, “On Dreams,” in The Plain Speaker (1826)
  • Sleep and his twin brother Death. Homer, in The Illiad (8th c. B.C.)
  • That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep. Aldous Huxley, “Variations on a Philosopher,” in Themes and Variations (1943)
  • And if tonight my soul may find her peace/In sleep, and sink in good oblivion,/And in the morning wake like a new-opened flower/Then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created. D. H. Lawrence, in “Shadows” (1932)
  • I love sleep because it is both pleasant and safe to use. Fran Lebowitz, in Metropolitan Life (1978)

In the book, Lebowitz also offered this thought on the subject: “Sleep is death without the responsibility.”

  • For sleep, one needs endless depths of blackness to sink into; daylight is too shallow, it will not cover one. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in North to the Orient (1935)
  • Sleep is the most moronic fraternity in the world, with the heaviest dues and the crudest rituals. It is a mental torture I find debasing. Vladimir Nabokov, in Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (1966)

QUOTE NOTE: Confessing that he had been “a poor go-to-sleeper” his entire life, Nabokov went on to write: “I simply cannot get used to the nightly betrayal of reason, humanity, genius. No matter how great my weariness, the wrench of parting with consciousness is unspeakably repulsive to me. I loathe Somnus, that black-masked headsman binding me to the block.”

  • All men whilst they are awake are in one common world: but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own. Plutarch, “Of Superstition,” in Moralia (1st. c. A.D.)
  • Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death. Arthur Schopenhauer, “Counsels and Maxims,” in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)
  • Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,/The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,/Balm of hurt minds, great natures second course,/Chief nourisher in life’s feast. William Shakespeare, the title character speaking to Lady Macbeth, in Macbeth (1606)
  • It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it. John Steinbeck, the voice of the narrator, in Sweet Thursday (1954)
  • Sleep, Death’s twin-brother, knows not Death,/Nor can I dream of thee as dead. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in “In Memoriam A. H. H” (1850)
  • I had forgotten what sleep is like—a kingdom all its own. Anne Truitt, in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (1982)
  • Oh, to those bereft of hope/Sleep is the only blessing left—the last/Asylum of the weary, the one sign/Of pity from impenetrable heaven. Henry Van Dyke, in the verse drama The House of Rimmon (1908)
  • Sleeplessness is a desert without vegetation or inhabitants. Jessamyn West, in The Woman Said Yes: Encounters with Life and Death (1976)

West preceded the thought by writing: “But sleeplessness without pain is like death without dying. You are suspended in space; the world you knew far behind you, no other in sight.”

  • Tired Nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep! Edward Young, in Night Thoughts (1742–45)

QUOTE NOTE: The full title of Young’s long blank verse poem, originally published in nine parts over three years, was: The Complaint: Or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality.

  • Of all the things a man may do, sleep probably contributes most to keeping him sane. It puts brackets about each day. Roger Zelazny, a reflection of the protagonist and narrator, Francis Sandow, in Isle of the Dead (1969)

Sandow continued: “If you do something foolish or painful today, you get irritated if somebody mentions it, today. If it happened yesterday, though, you can nod or chuckle, as the case may be. You’ve crossed through nothingness or dream to another island in Time.”

SLUMS

(see also CITIES and [Lower] CLASS and COMMUNITY and GHETTO and NEIGHBORHOOD and POVERTY & THE POOR)

  • I’ve been in many of them [poor neighborhoods] and to some extent I would have to say this: I you've seen one city slum, you've seen them all. Spiro Agnew, in a campaign speech in Detroit (Oct. 18, 1968)
  • Slums may well be breeding-grounds of crime, but middle-class suburbs are incubators of apathy and delirium. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1945)
  • One person’s slum is another person’s community. May Hobbs, in the Prelude to Born to Struggle (1973)

Hobbs began by asking the question “What is a slum?” and then answering it this way: “It is something that mostly exists in the imaginations of middle-class do-gooders and bureaucrats: people who do not have to live in them in the first place and do not have to live in what they put up afterwards once they have pulled them all down.”

SMALL TALK

SMELL

(see also AROMA and HEARING and NOSE and ODOR and SCENT and SENSES and TASTE and TOUCH & TOUCHING)

  • Smell is the mute sense, the one without words. Diane Ackerman, in A Natural History of the Senses (1990)
  • The sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it is a pity that we use it so little. Rachel Carson, in The Sense of Wonder (1965)
  • As the sense of smell is so intimately connected with that of taste, it is not surprising that an excessively bad odor should excite wretching or vomitting in some persons. Charles Darwin, in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872)
  • Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across a thousand miles and all the years we have lived. Helen Keller, “Sense and Sensibility,” in a 1908 issue of Century magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Smell is the closest thing human beings have to a time machine. Caryl Rivers, “Growing Up Catholic in Midcentury America,” in The New York Times Magazine (Oct. 10, 1971)
  • The sense of smell is the hair-trigger of memory. Mary Stewart, in Rose Cottage (1997)
  • The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one center after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection. Lewis Thomas, in Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony (1983)
  • It seems that scientists are often attracted to beautiful theories in the way that insects are attracted to flowers not by logical deduction, but by something like a sense of smell. Steven Weinberg, “Einstein’s Mistakes,” in Physics Today (Nov. 1, 2005)

SMILES & SMILING

(see also CHARM and KINDNESS and JOY and LAUGHTER and MIRTH and WARMTH)

  • Sometimes when you smile, it’s not because you’re happy. It’s because you’re strong. Pamela Anderson, in prepared remarks at the launch of the Pamela Anderson Foundation (May 16, 2014)
  • Smiles are the soul’s kisses. Minna Thomas Antrim, in Naked Truth and Veiled Illusions (1901)
  • What’s the use of worrying?/It never was worthwhile, so/Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,/And smile, smile, smile.

George Asaf, lyrics to the song “Smile, Smile, Smile” (1915)

  • A smile is the shortest distance between two people. Victor Borge, quoted in Douglas Watt, “Let’s Keep Borge Right Here,” New York Daily News (Oct. 4, 1977)

ERROR ALERT: This is an early appearance of a saying that is popularly reported as “Laughter [and sometimes humor] is the shortest distance between two people.”

  • Smiles form the channels of a future tear. Lord Byron (George Gordon), in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812)
  • Something of a person’s character may be discovered by observing when and how he smiles. Some people never smile; they grin. Christian Nestell Bovee, in Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Vol. 2 (1862)
  • Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo F. Buscaglia, in Born for Love: Reflections of Loving (1992)
  • She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket. Raymond Chandler, the protagonist Philip Marlowe speaking, in Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
  • “When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles with You),” title of 1928 song by Joe Goodwin (written with Mark Fisher and Larry Shay)
  • Harvey Schoenberg flashed that smile at him, piratical, conspiratorial, like a man with a knife between his teeth. Martha Grimes, in The Dirty Duck (1984)
  • The smile you give is the smile you get back. Goldie Hawn, in A Lotus Grows in the Mud (2006)
  • City girls just seem to find out early/How to open doors with just a smile. Don Henley and Glenn Frey, lyric from the song “Lyin’ Eyes,” on the album One of These Nights (1975)
  • The smile was heavy firepower in the battle to be noticed. Jonathan Kellerman, a reflection of protagonist Alex Delaware, in Gone (2006)
  • He hid a scornful smile under his mustache, which is not a good hiding place. Barbara Kingsolver, in The Lacuna (2009)
  • There’s room at the top they are telling you still/But first you must learn how to smile as you kill. John Lennon, lyric to the song “Working Class Hero” (1970)
  • A smile is the chosen vehicle for all ambiguities. Herman Melville, the voice of the narrator, in Pierre (1852)
  • One may smile, and smile, and be a villain. William Shakespeare, the title character speaking, in Hamlet (1601)
  • The smile that flickers on baby's lips when he sleeps—does anybody know where it was born? Yes, there is a rumor that a young pale beam of a crescent moon touched the edge of a vanishing autumn cloud, and there the smile was first born in the dream of a dew-washed morning. Rabindranath Tagore, in Gitanjali (1910)
  • And so let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. Mother Teresa, quoted in Barbara Shiels, Women and the Nobel Prize (1985)
  • If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. Thich Nhat Hanh, in Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life (1992)

Nhat Hanh continued: “If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.”

  • Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been. Mark Twain, an epigraph, in Following the Equator (1897)
  • His smile bore the same relation to a real smile as false teeth do to real teeth; it performed the function of indicating good-will, but the organism had failed in its normal spontaneous action. Rebecca West, on a Serbian poet named Constantine, in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

QUOTE NOTE: The character called “Constantine” in the book is believed to have been Stanislav Vinaver, a popular Serbia poet and writer.

SNOBS

(includes SNOBBERY and SNOBBISHNESS; see also CLASS and [Social] CLASS and RANK and [Polite] SOCIETY)

  • He who meanly admires mean things is a snob. William Makepeace Thackeray, in The Book of Snobs (1848)
  • Laughter would be bereaved if snobbery died. Peter Ustinov, quoted in The Observer (London; March 13, 1955)

SNOW

(includes SNOWFLAKES and SNOWDRIFTS; see also BLIZZARD and COLD and FREEZING and ICE and SNOW and WINTER)

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

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

  • A snowdrift is a beautiful thing—if it doesn’t lie across the path you have to shovel or block the road that leads to your destination. Hall Borland, “Snowdrifts—January 26,” in Sundial of the Seasons (1964)
  • Oh, the weather outside is frightful/But the fire is so delightful/And since we've no place to go/Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Sammy Cahn, opening lyrics to the 1945 song “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (music by June Stein)
  • A snow may come as quietly/as cats can walk across a floor./It hangs its curtains in the air,/and piles its weight against the door. Elizabeth Coatsworth, “January,” in a 1942 issue of The Horn Book Magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Rain is no respecter of persons/the snow doesn’t give a soft white/ damn whom it touches. e. e. cummings, “i will cultivate within,” in Viva (1980)
  • Each human is uniquely different. Like snowflakes, the human pattern is never cast twice. Alice Childress, “A Candle in a Gale Wind,“ in Black Women Writers (1950-1980) (1984; Mari Evans, ed.)
  • The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty. It fell and fell, lacing day and night together in a milky haze, making everything quieter as it fell, so that winter seemed to partake of religion in a way no other season did, hushed, solemn. Patricia Hampl, in A Romantic Education (1981)
  • Snow sets us dreaming on vast plains, trackless, colorless/Keep vigil my heart, the snow sets us on saddled racers of white foam. Anne Hébert, “Snow,” in Poems (1960)
  • All the trees are furred with it, the smallest branches bearing their precious ermine carefully against the wind. Now and then glinting veils of it come cascading down, and the trees become graceful dancers, half-hidden, half-revealed through wheeling draperies. Marjorie Holmes, in Love and Laughter (1967)
  • Snow is…like a bed over the land.  Mattress thick and layered with soft cotton sheets and rumpled comforters.  But this bed sleeps on us. Sean Hurley, “Twenty Ways to Think About…Christmas,” on a “Marketplace” broadcast of New Hampshire Public Radio (Dec. 16, 2016)

In the same broadcast, Hurley also offered these additional thoughts:

“Snow is…the once upon a time of weather.”

“Snow is…one part moonlight, one part wind.”

  • the large white snow-flakes as they flutter down, softly, one by one, whisper soothingly, “Rest, poor heart, rest!” It is as though our mother smoothed our hair, and we are comforted. Ralph Iron, in The Story of an African Farm (1883)
  • Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together. Verna M. Kelly, in Young Children (1964)
  • The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only. Joseph Wood Krutch, “December,” in The Twelve Seasons (1949)
  • “The snow is beautiful. It’s always such a relief to see the landscape smoothed out, simplified, made whole. Leslie Land, in Leslie Land and Roger Phillips, The 3,000 Mile Garden: An Exchange of Letters on Gardening, Food, and the Good Life (1996)

Land continued: “Went skiing over last weekend and found the woods very calm and harmonious in their white cladding. Spiders evidently as surprised by the weather as the rest of us: their webs were still everywhere—little silken laundry lines with perfect snowflakes hung out in rows to dry.”

  • No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, in More Unkempt Thoughts (1964)
  • Out of the bosom of the Air,/Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,/Over the woodlands brown and bare,/Over the harvest-fields forsaken,/Silent, and soft, and slow/Descends the snow. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, opening stanza of the 1863 poem “Snow-Flakes”
  • Winds are birds; snow is a feather;/Wild white swans are wind and weather. Mother Mary Madeleva, “Snow Storm,” in Collected Poems (1947)
  • Snow is to water what poetry is to prose. Bernard Mergen, in Snow in America (1997)
  • Somehow grasping at vanishing snowflakes is like grasping at happiness: an act of possession that instantly gives way to nothing. Alex Michaelides, a reflection of the character Theo, in The Silent Patient (2019)

QUOTE NOTE: The thought occurs to Theo shortly after he sneaks outside in the middle of a snowstorm.

  • Outside, snow solidified itself into graceful forms. The peace of winter stars seemed permanent. Toni Morrison, in Beloved (1987)
  • Snow is all right while it is snowing;/It is like inebriation because it is very pleasant when it is coming, but very unpleasing when it is going. Ogden Nash, “Jangle Bells,” in I’m a Stranger Here Myself (1938)
  • Snow is what you are up to your neck in when people/send you post cards from Florida saint they wish/you were there. Ogden Nash, “Jangle Bells,” in I’m a Stranger Here Myself (1938)
  • The snow again. White, white net of beauty, net of dream, trapping the earth, trapping the helpless heart of life Martha Ostenso, the voice of the narrator, in The Dark Dawn (1926)
  • A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. Carl Reiner, quoted in Robert Byrne, The Third and Possibly the Best 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1987)
  • I am younger each year at the first snow. When I see it, suddenly, in the air, all little and white and moving; then I am in love again and very young and I believe everything. Anne Sexton, in letter to W. D. Snodgrass (Nov. 28, 1958), in Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters (1977; L. G. Sexton and L. Ames, eds.)
  • The ground has on its clothes./The trees poke out of sheets/and each branch wears the sock of God. Anne Sexton, “Snow,” in The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975)
  • A little snow, tumbled about,/Anon becomes a mountain. William Shakespeare, the character Cardinal Pandulph speaking, in King John (1591-98)
  • I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden (1854)
  • The heaviest mountain of snow is sometimes toppled by the lightest touch of a single snowflake. John D. Walker, M.D., in a personal communication to the author (Aug. 4, 2019)
  • There is salvation in snow. Elizabeth Weber, “Winter,” in Iowa Woman (1992)
  • Snow brings a special quality with it, the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks. There is nothing you can do but give in to the moment at hand—what I call the Zen of snow. Nancy Hatch Woodward, “Southern Snow,” in Southern Cultures magazine (Spring 2012)

In the same essay, Woodward wrote: “Waking up to a blanket of snow is like a morning lullaby, a soft dreamlike state that is almost magical.”

SNEERS & SNEERING

(see also CYNICISM & CYNICS and DISPOSITION and IDEALISM & IDEALISTS and OPTIMISM & PESSIMISM and REALISM & REALISTS)

Roosevelt continued: “There are many men who feel a kind of twisted pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is not more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief towards all that is great and lofty,”

SOBRIETY

(includes SOBER and SOBERNESS; see also ALCOHOLICS & ALCOHOLISM and DRINKING)

  • There is nothing wrong with sobriety in moderation. John Ciardi, tweaking the common saying about “drinking in moderation,” in “Manner of Speaking” column, Saturday Review (Sep. 24, 1966)

Thanks to Garson O’Toole, the Quote Investigator, for helping source this observation.

SOCCER

(see also ATHLETES & ATHLETICISM and BASEBALL and BASKETBALL and BOXING and FISHING and FOOTBALL and GOLF and HOCKEY and MOUNTAINEERING & ROCK-CLIMBING and POOL & BILLIARDS and RUNNING & JOGGING and SAILING & YACHTING and SOCCER and SPORT and SPORTS—SPECIFIC TYPES and SWIMMING & DIVING and TEAM and TENNIS and TRACK & FIELD and WALKING)

  • Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen. Soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by beasts. Football is a beastly game played by beasts. Henry Blaha, a 1972 remark, quoted in David Pickering, Cassell's Sports Quotations (2000)

SOCIALISM & SOCIALISTS

(see also BUSINESS and CAPITALISM & CAPITALISTS and CAPITALISM & COMMUNISM and CAPITALISM & SOCIALISM and COMMUNISM & COMMUNISTS and ECONOMICS and FREEDOM and GOVERNMENT and IDEALISM & IDEALISTS and IDEOLOGY and MARKETS and POLITICS and STOCK MARKET and WALL STREET)

  • In a socialist country you can get rich by providing necessities, while in a capitalist country you can get rich by providing luxuries. Nora Ephron, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Rachel Samstat, in Heartburn (1983)
  • The fundamental point that democratic socialists have always made remains as true today and as relevant as ever: That human needs must come first, that people are more important than profits, and that some things—health, housing, food, education — which are essential to human survival and dignity must be guaranteed as human rights. Barbara Ehrenreich, “Whose Socialism?” in Z Magazine (Jan. 1990)
  • Marriage is socialism among two people. Barbara Ehrenreich, “Socialism in One Household,” in The Worst Years of Our Lives (1990)
  • Scratch a socialist and you find a snob. Mary McCarthy, a reflection of protagonist Meg Sargent, in The Company She Keeps (1942)
  • What socialism, fascism, and other ideologies of the left have in common is an assumption that some very wise people—like themselves—need to take decisions out of the hands of lesser people, like the rest of us, and impose those decisions by government fiat. Thomas Sowell, “Socialist or Fascist?” in Jewish World Review (June 12, 2012)
  • Socialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it will probably always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric, and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster. Thomas Sowell, “Socialism for the Uninformed,” in Townhall.com (May 31, 2016)

QUOTE NOTE: A little later in the article, Sowell added: “The great promise of socialism is something for nothing. It is one of the signs of today's dumbed-down education that so many college students seem to think that the cost of their education should—and will—be paid by raising taxes on on ‘the rich’.”

  • The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. Margaret Thatcher, quoted in The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations (2012; Iain Dale and Grant Tucker, eds.)

ERROR ALERT: This has become one of Thatcher's most oft-cited quotations, but she never said it in this way. The closest she came was when she said the following in a speech at the Conservative Party Conference (Oct. 10, 1975): “It’s the Labour Government that have [sic] brought us record peace-time taxation. They’ve got the usual Socialist disease—they’ve run out of other people’s money.”

  • Many people consider the things government does for them to be social progress but they regard the things government does for others as socialism. Earl Warren, quoted by Herb Caen in a 1951 issue of the San Francisco Examiner; later reported in a 1951 issue of The Reader’s Digest.

QUOTE NOTE: Warren was the governor of California when he made the observation in remarks at the National Press Club in Washington,

SOCIETY

(see also CIVILIZATION and CULTURE and ENVIRONMENT and HUMAN BEINGS and MAN [as in Human Being] and MANKIND and PEOPLE)

  • Society is like a stew. If you don’t keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top. Edward Abbey, in A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989)

ERROR ALERT: Most internet sites mistakenly present the quotation this way: “Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.”

  • The greater the stress within society the stronger the comic antidote required. Ralph Ellison, “An Extravagance of Laughter,” in Going to the Territory (1986)
  • In the mouth of Society are many diseased teeth, decayed to the bones of the jaws. But Society makes no effort to have them extracted and be rid of the affliction. It contents itself with gold fillings. Kahlil Gibran, “Decayed Teeth,” in Thoughts and Meditations (1960)
  • Society is always trying in some way or other to grind us down to a single flat surface. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in The Professor at the Breakfast-Table (1860)
  • Society attacks early, when the individual is helpless. B. F. Skinner, the character T. E. Frazier speaking, in Walden Two (1948)

SOLDIERS

(see also ARMY and MILITARY and VETERANS and WAR and WAR & PEACE)

  • Soldiers in peace are like chimneys in summer. William Cecil (Lord Burghley), quoted in W. H. Charlton, Burghley: The Life of William Cecil, Lord Burghley (1847)
  • Every soldier in the course of time, exists only in the breath of written words. Ivan Doig, the voice of the narrator, in The Eleventh Man (2008)
  • People often become scholars for the same reason they become soldiers: simply because they are unfit for any other station. G. C. Lichtenberg, in Aphorisms: Notebook B (written between 1765–1799)
  • The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason for his being. Douglas MacArthur, quoted in Arthur Herman, Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior (2016)

QUOTE NOTE: General MacArthur made these remarks in connection with the conviction of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita of war crimes at a trial in the Philippines in 1945. He added: “When he violates that sacred trust, he not only profanes his entire cult but threatens the very fabric of international society.”

SOLITUDE

(see also [BEING] ALONE and CONTEMPLATION and INDIVIDUALITY & INDIVIDUALISM and ISOLATION and LONELINESS and MEDITATION and SILENCE and SOLITARINESS)

  • Solitude is that human situation in which I keep myself company. Hannah Arendt, in The Life of the Mind, Vol. One (1978)

Arendt was comparing solitude to loneliness, which she described this way: “Loneliness comes about when I am alone without being able…to keep myself company.”

  • Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god. Francis Bacon, “On Friendship,” in Essays (1625)

QUOTE NOTE: Bacon was paraphrasing the following observation from Aristotle, wrote in his Politics (4th c. B.C.): “He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.”

  • We hear voices in solitude, we never hear in the hurry and turmoil of life; we receive counsels and comforts, we get under no other condition. Amelia Barr, in All the Days of My Life: An Autobiography (1913)
  • She never is alone that is accompanied with noble thoughts. Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, the character Malroda speaking, in Love's Cure 1647)

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

  • I love solitude, but I prize it most when plenty of company is available. Saul Bellow, in letter to Albert Glotzer (April 19, 1996); reprinted in Saul Bellow: Letters (2010)
  • Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you, because it is, at least in my experience, the most healing of pleasures. Harold Bloom, in Preface to How to Read and Why (2000)
  • Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude, and the society of thyself. Sir Thomas Browne, in Christian Morals (1716; pub. posthumously)

QUOTE NOTE: The phrase society of thyself is an early example of oxymoronic phrasing.

  • Who hears music, feels his solitude/Peopled at once. Robert Browning, in “Balaustion’s Adventure” (1871)
  • Solitude is the place of purification. Martin Buber, in I and Thou (1923)
  • I love people. I love my family, my children . . . but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up. Pearl S. Buck, quoted in The New York Post (April 26, 1959)

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

  • To a heart formed for friendship and affection the charms of solitude are very short-lived. Fanny Burney, in Cecilia: Or Memoirs of an Heiress (1782)
  • If from society we learn to live,/’Tis solitude should teach us how to die. George Noel Gordon (Lord Byron), in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812–18)
  • That’s what fame is: solitude. Coco Chanel, quoted in Marcel Haedrich, Coco Chanel (1972)
  • There are days when solitude, for someone of my age, is a heady wine which intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall. Colette (pen name of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), the narrator and protagonist Renée Néré speaking, in The Vagabond (1910)
  • O Solitude, the soul’s best friend. Charles Cotton, in “The Retirement,” in Lyrical Poems (1689)

In the poem, subtitled “Irregular Stanzas to Mr. Isaak Walton,” Cotton went on to add about solitude: “For it is thou alone that keep’st the soul awake.”

  • Work cannot convey the almost voluptuous sweetness of the feelings experienced…in solitude. Alexandra David-Neel, in With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet (1936)
  • I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity. Albert Einstein, in Georges Schreiber, Portraits and Self-Portraits (1936)

Einstein’s preference for a life of solitude was not only productive of fertile thinking (see his observation after the Freud quote below), but it also shielded him from some of life’s ugly realities. He preceded this observation by writing: “Arrows of hate have been shot at me, too; but they never hit me, because somehow they belonged to another world, with which I have no connection whatsoever.”

  • These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” in Essays: First Series (1841)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly present this quotation as if it began There are voices which we hear in solitude…. The voices Emerson is referring to here are the voices from deep within that remind us to be independent, self-reliant, and true to ourselves.

  • Great decisions in the realms of thought and momentous discoveries and solutions of problems are only possible to an individual working in solitude. Sigmund Freud, in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921)

QUOTE NOTE: In a 1936 speech at London’s Albert Hall, Albert Einstein supported Freud’s contention when he said: “I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

  • If any individual live too much in relations, so that he becomes a stranger to the resources of his own nature, he falls, after a while, into a distraction, or imbecility, from which he can only be cured by a time of isolation, which gives the renovating fountains time to rise up. Margaret Fuller, in Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845)
  • Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius. Edward Gibbon, in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88)
  • 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)
  • There are times when solitude, like starvation, is necessary to get rid of one’s poisons. Katharine Butler Hathaway, in The Journals and Letters of the Little Locksmith (1946)
  • In this state there are more different kinds of religion than in any other, I believe. These long cold solitudes incline one to meditation. Katharine Butler Hathaway, a 1936 entry on Maine, in The Journals and Letters of the Little Locksmith (1946)
  • We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart as if by centrifugal force and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together…. I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude. Helen Hayes, in A Gift of Joy (1965; with Lewis Funke)
  • No doubt about it, solitude is improved by being voluntary. Barbara Holland, in One’s Company: Reflections on Living Alone (1992)
  • Solitude either develops the mental power, or renders men dull and vicious. Victor Hugo, the voice of the narrator, in The Toilers of the Sea (1866)
  • The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude. Aldous Huxley, “The Essence of Religion: Solitaries and Sociables,” in Proper Studies (1927)
  • Solitude was still essential to him. He couldn’t tolerate twenty-four hours in which the greater part wasn't spent entirely alone. P. D. James, the narrator describing protagonist Adam Dalgliesh, in Devices and Desires (1989)
  • Solitude is un-American. Erica Jong, in Fear of Flying (1973)
  • A solitude is the audience-chamber of God. Walter Savage Landor, “Lord Brooke and Sir Philip Sidney,” in Imaginary Conversations, Vol. I (1824)
  • Solitude is to feel the presence in oneself of a power that cannot act, but which, as soon as it is able to, obliges me to realize myself by multiplying my relations with myself and with all human beings. Louis Lavelle, in Evil and Suffering (1940)
  • As a writer you are free. You are about the freest person that ever was. Your freedom is what you have bought with your solitude, your loneliness. Ursula K. Le Guin, in Language of the Night (1979)

Le Guin continued: “You are in the country where you make up the rules, the laws. You are both dictator and obedient populace. It is a country nobody has ever explored before. It is up to you to make the maps, to build the cities. Nobody else in the world can do it, or ever could do it, or ever will be able to do it again.”

  • Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in The Gift From the Sea (1955)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is often mistakenly presented with the phrase one’s inner core instead of one’s own core.

  • Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)
  • The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone. How inexplicable it seems. Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)

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

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

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

  • Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character. James Russell Lowell, “Dryden,” in Among My Books (1870)
  • Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous—to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd. Thomas Mann, in Death in Venice (1912)

QUOTE NOTE: The narrator of the novella began by comparing solitary to gregarious people: “A solitary, unused to speaking of what he sees and feels, has mental experiences which are at once more intense and less articulate than those of a gregarious man. They are sluggish, yet more wayward, and never without a melancholy tinge. Sights and impressions which others brush aside with a glance, a light comment, a smile, occupy him more than their due; they sink slightly in, they take on meaning, they become experience, emotion, and adventure.”

  • There is nothing harder to come by than detachment and solitude; and nothing more important. Marya Mannes, in More in Anger (1958)
  • The great omission in American life is solitude…that zone of time and space, free from the outside pressures, which is the incinerator of the spirit. Marya Mannes, “To Save the Life of ‘I,’” in Vogue magazine (Sep., 1964)

Mannes preceded the observation by writing: “For every five well-adjusted and smoothly functioning Americans, there are two who never had the chance to discover themselves. It may well be because they have never been alone with themselves.”

  • The secret of a good old age is simply an honorable pact with solitude. Gabriel García Márquez, in One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
  • Society is all but rude/To this delicious solitude. Andrew Marvell, “The Garden,” in Miscellaneous Poems (1681; pub. posthumously)
  • Solitude is separate experience. Alice Meynell, “Solitudes,” in The Spirit of Place (1898)
  • For solitude sometimes is best society,/And short retirement urges sweet return. John Milton, in Paradise Lost (1667)

ERROR ALERT: For well over a century, many quotation anthologies have mistakenly rendered the first line as solitude is sometimes rather than solitude sometimes is.

  • “No one can help us to achieve the intimate isolation by which we find our secret worlds, so mysterious, rich and full. If others intervene, it is destroyed. Maria Montessori, IN The Child in the Family (1929)

Montessori continued: “This degree of thought, which we attain by freeing ourselves from the external world, must be fed by the inner spirit, and our surroundings cannot influence us in any way other than to leave us in peace.”

  • One of the marks of maturity is the need for solitude: a city should not merely draw men together in many varied activities, but should permit each person to find, near at hand, moments of seclusion and peace. Lewis Mumford, “Planning for the Phases of Life,” in The Urban Prospect: Essays (1968)
  • There is nothing like the bootless solitude of those who are caged together. Those outside the cage can, to their own taste, satisfy their need for society by more or less organized dashes in the direction of society. But the unit of two can scarcely communicate with others, and is fortunate, as the years go by, if it can communicate within itself. Iris Murdoch, the narrator and protagonist Bradley Pearson’s reflection on the “curious institution” of marriage, in The Black Prince (1973)

Pearson introduced the thought by saying: “The human soul is not framed for continued proximity, and the result of this enforced neighborhood is often an appalling loneliness for which the rules of the game forbid assuagement.”

  • There is no solitude in the world like that of the big city. Kathleen Thompson Norris, in Hands Full of Living (1931)
  • Loneliness hurts, solitude heals. Peter A. Olsson, M.D. in a personal communication to the compiler (Sep., 2016)
  • To do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself, was always slightly dangerous. George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

The narrator continued: “There was a word for it in Newspeak: ownlife, it was called, meaning individualism and eccentricity.”

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

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

  • Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone, and the only one who seeks out another. Octavio Paz, in The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950)
  • Marriage is lonelier than solitude. Adrienne Rich, “Paula Becker to Clare Westhoff,” in The Dream of a Common Language (1978)
  • Funny how we think of romance as always involving two, when the romance of solitude can be ever so much more delicious and intense. Alone, the world offers itself freely to us. Tom Robbins, the voice of the narrator, in Still Life with Woodpecker (1980)
  • Marriage is the only thing that affords a woman the pleasure of company and the perfect sensation of solitude at the same time. Helen Rowland, quoted in Franklin P. Adams, et. al., The Book of Diversion (1925)
  • In giving, you throw a bridge across the chasm of your solitude. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the voice of the narrator, in The Wisdom of the Sands (pub. posthumously in 1948)
  • Solitude is one thing and loneliness is another. May Sarton, in I Knew a Phoenix: Sketches for an Autobiography (1959)
  • 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)
  • There is a wilder solitude in winter/When every sense is pricked alive and keen. May Sarton, “The House in Winter,” in A Private Mythology (1966)
  • At any moment solitude may put on the face of loneliness. May Sarton, in Plant Dreaming Deep: A Journal (1968)
  • Life comes in clusters, clusters of solitude, then a cluster when there is hardly time to breathe. May Sarton, in Journal of a Solitude (1973)
  • Solitude is the salt of personhood. It brings out the authentic flavor of every experience. May Sarton, “The Rewards of Living a Solitary Life,” in The New York Times (April 8, 1974)
  • Solitude/Is not all exaltation, inner space/Where the soul breathes and work can be done./Solitude exposes the nerve,/Raises up ghosts./The past, never at rest, flows through it. May Sarton, “Gestalt at Sixty,” in Selected Poems of May Sarton (1978)

In that same poem, Sarton also wrote: “Solitude swells the inner space/Like a balloon./We are wafted hither and thither/On the air currents./How to land it?”

  • One can acquire everything in solitude except character. Stendhal (penname of Marie-Henri Beyle), “Miscellaneous Fragments,” in On Love (1822)
  • For there is a fellowship more quiet even than solitude, and which, rightly understood, is solitude made perfect. Robert Louis Stevenson, “A Night Among the Pines,” in Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879)

QUOTE NOTE: To be precise, the fellowship Stevenson was thinking about here did not involve a fellow, but rather a female. While on a twelve-day solo hike with his donkey Modestine in the mountains of south-central France, Stevenson found himself longing for the presence of a woman. He introduced the quotation above by writing: “And yet even while I was exulting in my solitude I became aware of a strange lack. I wished a companion to lie near me in the starlight, silent and not moving, but ever within reach.”

  • In solitude, we'’re liberated to be the persons we truly are. Alexandra Stoddard, in Gracious Living in a New World (1996)
  • It is a means by which you can attain many valuable hours of solitude without being thought unsociable. Jan Struther, on gardening, “Upside-Down Reflections,” in A Pocketful of Pebbles (1946)
  • I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. Henry David Thoreau, “Solitude,” in Walden (1854)
  • Our language has wisely sensed these two sides of man’s being alone. It has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone. Paul Tillich, “Loneliness and Solitude.” in The Eternal Now (1963)

Tillich added: “Although, in daily life, we do not always distinguish these words, we should do so consistently and thus deepen our understanding of the human predicament.”

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

  • Solitude, like some unsounded bell,/Hangs full of secrets that it cannot tell. Mary Ashley Townsend, “Down the Bayou,” in Edmund Clarence Stedman, An American Anthology 1787-1900 (1900)
  • God created man and, finding him not sufficiently alone, gave him a companion to make him feel his solitude more keenly. Paul Valéry, “Moralités,” in Tel Quel (1941)
  • Solitude, like a drug, can be addictive. The more you have it, the more you want it. Jessamyn West, in Hide and Seek: A Continuing Journey (1973)

In her memoir, West also wrote: “When the opportunity for solitude must be stolen, as for the most part it must in large families or even in small families of one husband and one wife, it is, like stolen fruits, very sweet.”

  • That inward eye/Which is the bliss of solitude. William Wordsworth, in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (1807)
  • In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us. Virginia Woolf, in A Room of One’s Own (1929)

SONGS & SONGWRITERS

(see also BLUES and CONCERTS and JAZZ and MUSIC & MUSICIANS and MUSICIANS—DESCRIBING THEMSELVES and OPERA and PERFORMANCE & PERFORMERS and RAP MUSIC and ROCK ’N ROLL and RHYTHYM and RHYTHYM & BLUES and SINGING & SINGERS and SOUND and VOICE)

  • A bird doesn’t sing because he has an answer, he sings because he has a song. Joan Walsh Anglund, in A Cup of Sun: A Book of Poems (1964)
  • You can cage the singer, but not the song. Harry Belafonte, quoted in International Herald Tribune (Paris; Oct. 3, 1988)
  • The popular song is America’s greatest ambassador. Sammy Cahn, quoted in The New York Times (April 17, 1984)
  • If you want to understand a nation, look at its dances and listen to its folk songs—don’t pay any attention to its politicians. Agnes de Mille, quoted in Alan F. Pater and Jason R. Pater, What They Said in 1977 (1978)
  • Pain can be washed out with a song./Pain can become jazz digested and transformed. Alexis De Veaux, in Don’t Explain: A Song of Billie Holiday (1980)
  • The Irish aren’t great singers, but they have great songs. Bernadette Devlin, in The Price of My Soul (1969)
  • It’s not me. It’s the songs. I’m just the postman. I deliver the songs. Bob Dylan, quoted in Robert Shelton, No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan (1986)
  • It’s not like you see songs approaching and invite them in. It’s not that easy. You want to write songs that are bigger than life. You want to say something about strange things that have happened to you, strange things you have seen. You have to know and understand something and then go past the vernacular. Bob Dylan, in Chronicles (2004)
  • A song without music is a lot like H2 without the O. Ira Gershwin, quoted in Connoisseur magazine (Feb., 1986)
  • Songs are the pulse of a nation’s heart. A fever chart of its health. E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, quoted in Harold Myerson & Ernie Harburg, Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz? (1995)

Harburg went on to ask rhetorically, “Are we at peace? Are we in trouble? Are we floundering? Do we feel beautiful?” And then he answered: “Listen to our songs.”

  • What is the voice of song, when the world lacks the ear of taste? Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Canterbury Pilgrims,” in The Snow Image (1851)
  • Blues are the songs of despair, but gospel songs are the songs of hope. Mahalia Jackson, in Movin’ On Up (1966; with Evan McLeod Wylie)
  • The grandeur of man lies in song, not in thought. François Mauriac, in “The Poet’s Pride,” in Second Thoughts (1961)
  • Music-hall songs provide the dull with wit, just as proverbs provide them with wisdom. W. Somerset Maugham, in A Writer’s Notebook (1949)
  • For me, singing sad songs often has a way of healing a situation. It gets the hurt out in the open—into the light, out of the darkness. Reba McEntire, quoted in Michael McCall, Dave Hoekstra, and Janet Williams, Country Music Stars: The Legends and the New Breed (1992)
  • I care not who writes the laws of a country so long as I may listen to its songs. George Jean Nathan, in The World in Falseface (1923)
  • Whenever new ideas emerge, songs soon follow, and before long the songs are leading. Holly Near, in Fire in the Rain…Singer in the Storm (1990; with Derk Richardson)
  • Those who wish to sing always find a song. Proverb (Swedish)
  • Every sorrow suggests a thousand songs, and every song recalls a thousand sorrows, and so they are infinite in number, and all the same. Marilynne Robinson, the voice of the narrator, in Housekeeping: A Novel (1980)
  • Silence more musical than any song Christina G. Rossetti, “Rest” (1849), in Goblin Market (1862)
  • To those who built a song from the inside out, who constructed it note by note and layer by layer from a near-infinity of choices, every song was a vast canvas, a fresh invention, a chance to do something never done before. Laurence Shames, a reflection of the character Sarge LeRoi, in The Paradise Gig (2020)
  • As oil will find its way into crevices where water cannot penetrate, so song will find its way where speech can no longer enter. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the narrator, describing a Negro spiritual, in Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856)
  • Our lives are songs. God writes the words,/And we set them to music at pleasure;/And the song grows glad, or sweet, or sad,/As we choose to fashion the measure. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Our Lives,” in Shells (1873)

SONGWRITERS—ON THEMSELVES AND THEIR WORK

SORROW

(see also AGONY and ANGUISH and DEPRESSION and GRIEF & GRIEVING and MISERY and MISFORTUNE and PAIN and SADNESS and SUFFERING and TEARS)

  • It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it. Amelia Barr, the voice of the narrator, in Jan Vedder’s Wife (1885)
  • Can I see another’s woe,/And not be in sorrow too?/Can I see another’s grief./and not seek for kind relief? William Blake, “On Another’s Sorrow,” in Songs of Innocence (1789)
  • Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps. William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell,” in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)
  • There is something pleasurable in calm remembrance of a past sorrow. Marcus Tullius Cicero, in Ad Familiares (1st c. B.C.)
  • Many people misjudge the permanent effect of sorrow, and their capacity to live in the past. And it is not a course to be wished for them. Ivy Compton-Burnett, the character Mr. Pettigrew speaking, in Mother and Son (1955)
  • It is not always sorrow that opens the fountains of the eyes. Marie de Rabutin-Chantal (Madame de Sévigné), in Letters of Madame de Sévigné to her Daughter and Her Friends, Vol. 6 (1811)
  • All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them. Isak Dinesen, quoted in Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1959)
  • Sorrow has its reward. It never leaves us where it found us. Mary Baker Eddy, in Science and Health (1875)
  • No one can ever state the exact measure of his needs, nor his ideas nor his sorrows. Gustave Flaubert, the voice of the narrator, in Madame Bovary (1857; Raymond N. MacKenzie, trans.)

In an attempt to capture the difficulty in turning our deepest thoughts and feelings into words, the narrator continued: “Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to, when what we want is to bring the stars themselves to tears.”

  • I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands. Zora Neale Hurston, in Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)

QUOTE NOTE: Two metaphors in this observation have become so associated with Hurston that they’ve been used to title separate biographies of her. The first was a 1993 work by Mary E. Lyons: Sorrow’s Kitchen: The Life and Folklore of Zora Neale Hurston. The second was Valerie Boyd’s Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston (2003). Dust Tracks on a Road was Hurston’s autobiography, so the sentiment expresses her personal triumph over sorrow. But in her 1934 novel Jonah’s Gourd Vine, she put virtually the same sentiment into the mouth of the character Lucy: “Ah done been in sorrow's kitchen and Ah done licked out all de pots. Ah done died in grief and been buried in de bitter waters, and Ah done rose agin from de dead lak Lazarus.”

  • The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound, we seek to heal—every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open—this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude. Washington Irving, in The Sketch Book (1819–20)
  • Sorrow comes in great waves—no one can know that better than you—but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves us on the spot, and we know that if it is strong we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain. It wears us, uses us, but we wear it and use it in return; and it is blind, whereas we after a manner see. Henry James, in letter to Grace Norton (July 28, 1883)

QUOTE NOTE: Norton, the sister of Charles Eliot Norton, had recently written to James about her travails, and this was part of his consolatory response. A bit earlier he had written: “Life is the most valuable thing we know anything about, and it is therefore presumptively a great mistake to surrender it while there is any yet left in the cup.”

  • Nothing lasts. Not even a great sorrow. Storm Jameson, a reflection of protagonist Hervey Russell, in Company Parade (1934)
  • The sorrows of beautiful women draw tears from our purses. Alphonse Karr, quoted in Maturin Murray Ballou, Notable Thoughts About Women: A Literary Mosaic (1882)
  • In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. Abraham Lincoln, in letter to Fanny McCullough (Dec. 23, 1862)
  • Believe me, every heart has his secret sorrows which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the protagonist Paul Flemming speaking, in Hyperion (1839)

ERROR ALERT: Countless books and internet sites mistakenly present this quotation with every man rather than every heart. The problem originated in The Longfellow Birthday Book, a commemorative quotation anthology published in England shortly after Longfellow’s death in 1882. The mistake stubbornly continues to be made, showing up on numerous internet sites and even in such respected quotation anthologies as H. L. Mencken’s A New Dictionary of Quotations (1942) and, more recently, in Hugh Rawson and Margaret Miner’s The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations (2008).

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Drift-Wood (1857)
  • Take this sorrow to thy heart, and make it a part of thee, and it shall nourish thee till thou art strong again. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the voice of the narrator, in Hyperion (1839)
  • The first pressure of sorrow crushes out from our hearts the best wine; afterwards the constant weight of it brings forth bitterness—the taste and stain from the lees of the vat. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • The sorrowing are nomads, on a plain with few landmarks and no boundaries; sorrow’s horizons are vague and its demands are few. Larry McMurtry, the protagonist Danny Deck reflecting on his recent break-up, in Some Can Whistle, (1989)

Deck preceded the observation with this thought: “The rules of happiness are as strict as the rules of sorrow; indeed, perhaps more strict. The two states have different densities, I’ve come to think. The lives of happy people are dense with their own doings—crowded, active, thick—urban, I would almost say.” And then, in a concluding thought about how differently he and his recent girlfriend were coping, he said: “Jeanie and I had not become strangers; it was just that she lived in the city and I lived on the plain.”

  • Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell. Joni Mitchell, quoted in Gerald Astor, “Joni Mitchell, Songs for Aging Children,” Look magazine (Jan. 27, 1970)
  • Sorrows remembered sweeten present joy. Robert Pollock, in The Course of Time (1827)

Pollock, a Scottish clergyman and poet, was almost certainly inspired by a popular 1st century B.C. thought from Cicero, seen above.

  • Two in distress make sorrow less. Proverb (English)
  • Great sorrows are silent. Proverb (Italian)
  • Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow. Proverb (Swedish)
  • Grief can sometimes only be expressed in platitudes. We are original in our happy moments. Sorrow has only one voice, one cry. Ruth Rendell, the protagonist Chief Inspector Wexford reflecting on the words of a grieving husband, in Shake Hands Forever (1975)
  • Good night. Good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow. William Shakespeare, Juliet speaking to Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet (1595)
  • When sorrows come, they come not single spies,/But in battalions. William Shakespeare, Claudius speaking to Gertrude, in Hamlet (1601)
  • A sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier times. Alfred, Lord Tennysson, in “Locksley Hall” (1842)
  • A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. Oscar Wilde, the title character speaking, in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

Speaking to his friend Basil, Dorian continues: “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoiy them, to dominate them.”

  • Where there is sorrow there is holy ground. Oscar Wilde, in De Profundis (1905)

SOUL

(see also SPIRIT and [Soul] MUSIC)

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

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

  • What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to an human soul. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (Nov. 6, 1711)
  • The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities. James Allen, in As a Man Thinketh (1903)
  • The eyes are the windows of the soul. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: According to The Yale Book of Quotations, this saying—in exactly this form—appeared in print for the first time in a Feb. 14, 1891 issue of the Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois). Observations linking the eyes to the soul and the mind had appeared before (one of the earliest was “The eyes…are the wyndowes of the mind,” which first emerged in England in the mid-sixteenth century). Other predecessors of the saying may be seen below (especially note the Gautier entry). Within a few decades of appearing in the Decatur Review, the saying had become proverbial (see the Beerbohm entry below).

  • It is not that we have a soul, we are a soul. Amelia E. Barr, in All the Days of My Life (1913)
  • It needs no dictionary of quotations to remind me that the eyes are the windows of the soul. Max Beerbohm, the Duke of Dorset speaking, in Zuleika Dobson (1911)
  • The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul. The Bible: Proverbs 13:19
  • Adolescence is the time when even the dullest clod knows that he possesses a soul and the genius that he lives in a perpetual adolescence. Raymond B. Cattell, in An Introduction to Personality (1950)
  • The power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged. God has kept that good wine until now. G. K. Chesterton, “The Boyhood of Dickens,” in Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906)

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

  • Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. G. K. Chesterton, quoted in The Observer (London; July 6, 1924)
  • Ecstasy, I think, is a soul’s response to the waves holiness makes as it nears. Annie Dillard, in For the Time Being (1999)
  • Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Montaigne, or the Skeptic,” in Representative Men (1850)
  • The purpose of life on earth is that the soul should grow—So grow! By doing what is right. Zelda Fitzgerald, in a 1944 letter, quoted in Nancy Milford, Zelda (1970)
  • Envy is a littleness of soul, which cannot see beyond a certain point, and if it does not occupy the whole space, feels itself excluded. William Hazlitt, in Characteristics (1823)
  • To dispose a soul to action, we must upset its equilibrium. Eric Hoffer, in The Ordeal of Change (1964)

Hoffer preceded the thought by writing: “Action is basically a reaction against loss of balance—a flailing of the arms to to regain one’s balance.”

  • A Soul is partly given, partly wrought; remember always that you are the Maker of your own Soul. Erica Jong, a reflection of the title character, in Fanny: Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones (1980)
  • There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives. Josephine Hart, in Damage (1991)
  • The inner chambers of the soul are like the photographer’s darkroom. Like a laboratory. One cannot stay there all the time or it becomes the solitary cell of the neurotic. Anaïs Nin, a 1944 diary entry, in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4 (1971)
  • For what is man’s soul but a flame? It flickers in and around the body of a man as does the flame around the rough log. Selma Lagerlöf, in The General’s Ring (1928)
  • There is no eloquence which does not agitate the soul. Walter Savage Landor, “Chesterfield and Chatham” (the voice of Chatham), in Imaginary Conversations, Vol. II (1824)
  • In old age our bodies are worn-out instruments, on which the soul tries in vain to play the melodies of youth. But because the instrument has lost its strings, or is out of tune, it does not follow that the musician has lost his skill. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Driftwood (1857)
  • To me life means the growing of a soul. I do not know why this duty is imposed upon us. I merely know that it is, and I feel that we are given much latitude of free will. Alice Foote MacDougall, in The Autobiography of a Business Woman (1928)
  • The soul can split the sky in two,/And let the face of God shine through. Edna St. Vincent Millay, the title poem, in Renascence (1917)
  • We set the treatment of bodies so high above the treatment of souls, that the physician occupies a higher place in society than the school-master Florence Nightingale, in “Cassandra” (1852)
  • If they tell you that she died of sleeping pills you must know that she died of a wasting grief, of a slow bleeding at the soul. Clifford Odets, on Marilyn Monroe, in Show magazine (Oct., 1962)
  • Doing “wrong” things now and then is “right” for the soul. Theodore Isaac Rubin, in Love Me, Love My Fool (1976)
  • The soul’s life has seasons of its own; periods not found in any calendar, time that years and months will not scan, but which are as deftly and sharply cut off from one another as the smoothly arranged years which the earth's motion yields us. Olive Schreiner (writing under the pen name Ralph Iron), in The Story of an African Farm (1883)
  • I want to save my soul, that timid wind. Susan Sontag, in I, Etcetera (1978)
  • To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul. Muriel Spark, in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

Miss Brodie continues by comparing her teaching approach with a colleague’s: “To Miss McKay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education, I call it intrusion.”

  • Every act alters the soul of the doer. Oswald Spengler, in The Decline of the West (1918-22)
  • I will not ask that you nor you shall teach my soul the way, but I will trust my soul. Muriel Strode, in My Little Book of Prayer (1905)
  • Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Samuel Ullman, from the poem “Youth” (c. 1900), in From the Summit of Years, Four Score (1922)

Ullman preceded the thought by writing: “Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.”

  • My soul is a broken field/Ploughed by pain. Sara Teasdale, “The Broken Field,” in Flame and Shadow (1920)
  • Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Samuel Ullman, from the poem “Youth” (c. 1900), in From the Summit of Years, Four Score (1922)

Ullman preceded the thought by writing: “Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.”

  • One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul, and yet no one ever comes to sit by it. Vincent Van Gogh, in July 1880 letter to Theo Van Gogh
  • Who we shall become we are already in our souls. Christin Lore Weber, in Blessings: A Womanchrist Reflection on the Beatitudes (1989)
  • So life ought to be a struggle of desire towards adventures whose nobility will fertilize the soul. Rebecca West, in “The Gospel According to Granville-Barker,” in The Freewoman (March 7, 1912)
  • All empty souls tend to extreme opinion. It is only in those who have built up a rich world of memories and habits of thought that extreme opinions affront the sense of probability. William Butler Yeats, in The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats (1935)

SOUNDBITES

(see also APHORISMS and EPIGRAMS and MAXIMS and PROVERBS and QUOTATIONS)

  • A soundbite is an engineered quotation. Nigel Rees, in The “Quote-Unquote” Newsletter (April, 2016)
  • Television needs excitement, it needs an angle, it needs a “sound bite.” Paul Theroux, “Travel Writing: Why I Bother”, in The New York Times Book Review (July 30, 1989)
  • You call this news?! This isn’t informative! This is a sound bite! This is entertainment! This is sensationalism! Fortunately, that’s all I have the patience for. Bill Watterson, the character Calvin speaking, in Calvin and Hobbes syndicated comic strip (June 19, 1992)

SOUP

(including SOUPS–SPECIFIC TYPES; see also BROTH and EATING and FOOD)

  • Soup not only warms you and is easy to swallow and to digest, it also creates the illusion in the back of your mind that Mother is there. Marlene Dietrich, in Marlene Dietrich’s ABC (1962)
  • Probably the most satisfying soup in the world for people who are hungry, as well as for those who are tired or worried or cross or in debt or in a moderate amount of pain or in love or in robust health or in any kind of business huggermuggery, is minestrone. M. F. K. Fisher, in How to Cook a Wolf (1951)
  • Cold soup is a very tricky thing and it is a rare hostess who can carry it off. More often than not the dinner guest is left with the impression that had he only come a little earlier he could have gotten it while it was still hot. Fran Lebowitz, in Metropolitan Life (1974)

SOUTH CAROLINA

SOUTH DAKOTA

SPACE (as in UNIVERSE)

(includes SPACE EXPLORATION and [Outer] SPACE; see also ASTRONOMY and EARTH and MOON and PLANETS and SOLAR SYSTEM and STARS and SUN and UNIVERSE)

  • I believe that space travel will one day become as common as airline travel is today. Buzz Aldrin, in Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon (2009; with Ken Abraham)

Aldrin continued: “I’m convinced, however, that the true future of space travel does not lie with government agencies—NASA is still obsessed with the idea that the primary purpose of the space program is science—but real progress will come from private companies competing to provide the ultimate adventure ride, and NASA will receive the trickle-down benefits.”

  • Houston. Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. Neil A. Armstrong, radio transmission from Apollo XI lunar lander announcing the first moon landing (July 20, 1969)

QUOTE NOTE: In that same transmission, Armstrong famously said: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

  • Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
  • The crossing of space…may do much to turn men's minds outwards and away from their present tribal squabbles. In this sense, the rocket, far from being one of the destroyers of civilization, may provide the safety-value that is needed to preserve it. Arthur C. Clarke, in The Exploration of Space (1951)
  • Space can be mapped and crossed and occupied without definable limit; but it can never be conquered. When our race has reached its ultimate achievements, and the stars themselves are scattered no more widely than the seed of Adam, even then we shall still be like ants crawling on the face of the Earth. Arthur C. Clarke, in We’ll Never Conquer Space (1960)

Clarke continued: “The ants have covered the world, but have they conquered it—for what do their countless colonies know of it, or of each other?”

  • I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars. Stephen Hawking, quoted in the Daily Telegraph (London; Oct. 16, 2001)
  • I am convinced that of all the people on the two sides of the great curtain, the space pilots are the least likely to hate each other. Konrad Lorenz, in On Aggression (1963)

Lorenz sent on to add: “I believe that the tremendous and otherwise not quite explicable public interest in space flight arises from the subconscious realization that it helps to preserve peace. May it continue to do so!”

  • Space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there, and it’s everybody's business to know about space. Christa McAuliffe, in remarks to the press (Dec. 6, 1985)
  • Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Gene Roddenberry, words spoken by Captain James T. Kirk in the opening credits of the original Star Trek television series (1966-68)
  • All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct. Carl Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994)

In the book, Sagan also wrote: “Since, in the long run, every planetary society will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring—not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive.”

  • When man, Apollo man, rockets into space, it isn’t in order to find his brother, I’m quite sure of that. It’s to confirm that he hasn’t any brothers. Françoise Sagan, in Scars on the Soul (1972)
  • Life, forever dying to be born afresh, forever young and eager, will presently stand upon this earth as upon a footstool, and stretch out its realm amidst the stars. H. G. Wells, in The Outline of History (1920)

SPECIALISTS

  • Human knowledge had become too great for the human mind. All that remained was the scientific specialist, who knew more and more about less and less, and the philosophical speculator, who knew less and less about more and more. The specialist put on blinders in order to shut out from his vision all the world but one little spot, to which he glued his nose. Will Durant, in Preface to The Story of Philosophy (1926)

SPEECH & SPEAKING

(see also COMMUNICATION and ELOQUENCE and FREEDOM OF SPEECH and LANGUAGE and SILENCE and SLANG and SPEECHES & SPEECHMAKING and TALK & TALKING and TONGUE and WORDS)

  • The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh; but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones. Many have fallen by the edge of the sword: but not so many as have fallen by the tongue. Apocrypha—Ecclesiasticus 28:17–18
  • Whenever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being. Hannah Arendt, in Prologue to The Human Condition (1958)
  • Thinking beings have an urge to speak, speaking beings have an urge to think. Hannah Arendt, in The Life of the Mind (1978). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • The speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but love. Francis Bacon, “Of Love,” in Essays (1625)
  • My observation is that, generally speaking, poverty of speech is the outward evidence of poverty of mind. Bruce Barton, in It’s a Good Old World: Being a Collection of Little Essays on Various Subjects of Human Interest (1920)

Barton continued: “The individual whose communication is confined to half a dozen worn expressions has a mind that is not working. It is merely sliding along in well-oiled grooves. A mind constantly reaching out along new paths of thought will of necessity find new language with which to clothe that thought.”

  • Every time you open your mouth you let men look into your mind. Bruce Barton, in It’s a Good Old World: Being a Collection of Little Essays on Various Subjects of Human Interest (1920)

Barton continued: “Do they see it well clothed, neat, businesslike? Or is it slouching along in shows run down at the heel, with soiled linen and frazzled trousers, shabbily seeking to avoid real work?”

  • Sometimes speech is no more than a device for saying nothing—and a neater one than silence. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Prime of Life: The Autobiography of Simone De Beauvoir (1960)
  • Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. The Bible—Colossians 4:6
  • Eloquent speech is not from lip to ear, but rather from heart to heart. William Jennings Bryan, “Oratory,” in The Homiletic Review (Dec. 1906)
  • Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent. Dionysius the Elder, a fragment (4th c. B.C.)
  • I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”, address to Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard University (August 31, 1837)
  • Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Social Aims,” in Letters and Social Aims (1876)
  • Speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the narrator and protagonist, Nick Carroway, speaking, in The Great Gatsby (1925)

QUOTE NOTE: Carroway was describing Daisy Buchanan’s “low, thrilling voice.” In the full passage, he said: “It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.”

  • Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars. Gustave Flaubert, the voice of the narrator, in Madame Bovary (1857; Francis Steegmuller, trans.)

QUOTE NOTE: In another translation (from Raymond N. MacKenzie), the passage reads: “Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to, when what we want is to bring the stars themselves to tears.” Both translations speak to the immense difficulty in turning our deepest thoughts and feelings into words. In the MacKenzie translation, the narrator’s thought is preceded by this assertion: “No one can ever state the exact measure of his needs, nor his ideas nor his sorrows.”

  • The true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them. Oliver Goldsmith, “The Use of Language,” in The Bee (Oct. 20, 1759); reprinted in Essays (1765)
  • He knows the Truest Way to Teach/Who puts Great Thoughts in Simple Speech. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)
  • That words are like Sunbeams all Speakers should Learn:/The more you Condense them the Deeper they Burn. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)
  • True and False are attributes of speech, not of things. Thomas Hobbes, in Leviathan (1651)

Hobbes added: “And where speech is not, there is neither Truth nor Falsehood.”

  • Speak clearly, if you speak at all;/Carve every word before you let it fall. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in “Urania: A Rhymed Lesson” (1846)
  • Speech is the only benefit man hath to express his excellency of mind above other creatures. Ben Jonson, in Timber (1641)

Jonson introduced the thought by writing: “Talking and eloquence are not the same: to speak, and to speak well, are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.”

  • It is amazing how much a thought expands and refines by being put into speech: I should think it could hardly know itself. L. E. Landon, the voice of the narrator, in Romance and Reality (1831)
  • 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)
  • Lucidity of speech is unquestionably one of the surest tests of mental precision. David Lloyd George, quoted in John Terraine, “Field-Marshal The Earl Haig,” in The War Lords (1967; Michael Ward, ed.) Q:811 (but expanded after G-Book search)

QUOTE NOTE: Lloyd George’s remark was made a century ago, but might well be applied to many current public figures. The observation came as the British Prime Minister reflected on the inarticulateness of Field Marshal Douglas Haig, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force in WWI. Lloyd George, who regarded Lord Haig as a fool, went on to add: “In my experience a confused talker is never a clear thinker.”

  • A man’s character is revealed by his speech. Menander, a fragment (4th c. B.C.), quoted in Menander, The Principal Fragments (1921; Francis G. Allinson, trans.)
  • Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact—it is silence which isolates. Thomas Mann, the character Herr Settembrini speaking, in The Magic Mountain (1924)

QUOTE NOTE: The passage has also been translated this way: “Language is civilization itself. The Word, even the most contradictory word, binds us together. Wordlessness isolates.”

  • Speech belongs half to him who speaks and half to him who hears. Michel de Montaigne, in Essays (1580–88)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of Montaigne’s most famous observations, which I’ve also seen translated in this pithier fashion: “Speech belongs half to the speaker, half to the listener.”

  • In the faculty of speech man excels the brute; but if thou utterest what is improper, the brute is thy superior. Saadi, in Gulistan (1258)
  • Speech is a kind of action. Socrates, quoted in Plato’s Cratylus (4th c. B.C.)
  • All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer. Robert Louis Stevenson, in Reflections and Remarks on Human Life (1878)
  • Speech is a mirror of the soul: as a man speaks, so is he. Publilius Syrus, in Sententiae (1st c. B.C.)

[Figures of] SPEECH

[Freedom of] SPEECH

(includes [Free] speech; see also CENSORSHIP and DEMOCRACY and DISSENT and FREEDOM and LIBERTY and NEWSPAPERS and [Freedom of the] PRESS and RIGHTS and TYRANTS & TYRANNY)

  • It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears. Louis Brandeis, concurring opinion, in Whitney v. California (1927)
  • Money is not free speech. Money is the volume control on the speech that is not free. Mark Holmboe, “Letter to the Editor,” in The Rockford [Illinois] Register Star (Jan. 31, 2010)
  • 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)
  • Gossip is one of the great luxuries of a democracy. It is the tawdry jewel in the crown of free speech and free expression. You don’t read gossip columns in dictatorships. Liz Smith, in Natural Blonde (2000)

Smith continued: “Gossip is for leisure, for fun, for entertainment, for relaxation. Should the day come when we are enduring big, black headlines about war, famine, terrorism, and natural disaster—then that kind of news will drive gossip underground and out of sight. Then, we won’t have gossip to kick around any longer.”

  • It is also the function of free speech to allow people to say foolish things so that, through a process of questioning, challenge and revision, they may in time come to say smarter things. Bret Stephens, “Our Best University President,” in The New York Times (Oct. 20, 2017)

Stephens, who was honoring the University of Chicago’s Robert Zimmer for his uncompromising support of free speech on college campuses, continued: “If you can’t speak freely, you’ll quickly lose the ability to think clearly. Your ideas will be built on a pile of assumptions you’ve never examined for yourself and may thus be unable to defend from radical challenges. You will be unable to test an original thought for fear that it might be labeled an offensive one.”

SPEECHES & SPEECHMAKING

(includes PUBLIC SPEAKING; see also COMMUNICATION and ELOQUENCE and FREEDOM OF SPEECH and LANGUAGE and ORATION & ORATORY and SILENCE and SLANG and SPEECH & SPEAKING and TALK & TALKING and TONGUE and WORDS)

  • An after dinner speech should be like a lady’s dress; long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting. Author Unknown
  • I dreamt that I was making a speech in the House [of Lords]. I woke up, and by Jove I was! Spencer Compton Cavendish (Lord Devonshire), quoted in Winston Churchill, Thoughts and Adventures (1932)
  • That wasn’t a maiden speech—it was a brazen hussy of a speech—a painted tart of a speech. Winston Churchill, on A. P. Herbert’s maiden speech in the House of Commons; the words recalled by Collin Brooks in a diary entry (Dec. 9, 1935)
  • I can think of nothing more agreeable to the brain and the ear than a speech adorned and embellished with wise thoughts and fine language. Marcus Tullius Cicero, in De Oratore (55 B.C.)
  • In private conversation he tries on speeches like a man trying on ties in his bedroom to see how he would look in them. Lionel Curtis, on Winston Churchill, in 1912 letter to Nancy Astor (specific date undetermined)
  • Condense some daily experience into a glowing symbol, and an audience is electrified. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Eloquence,” in The Atlantic Monthly (Sep. 1858)

Emerson introduced this sage piece of speaking advice by writing: “The orator must be, to some extent, a poet. We are such imaginative creatures, that nothing so works on the human mind, barbarous or civil, as a trope.” The full essay may be seen at “Eloquence”.

  • A good indignation makes an excellent speech. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Eloquence,” in Letters and Social Aims (1876)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is commonly remembered, but the underlying sentiment was inspired by Horace and originally expressed this way: “If ‘indignation makes verses,’ as Horace says, it is not less true that a good indignation makes an excellent speech.”

  • Speeches measured by the hour die with the hour. Thomas Jefferson, in letter to David Harding (April 20, 1824)
  • If you haven’t struck oil in five minutes, stop boring! George Jessel, advice on speechmaking, quoted in Cleveland Amory, Celebrity Register: An Irreverent Compendium of American Quotable Notables (1959)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is almost always presented: “If you haven’t struck oil in the first three minutes, stop boring!” However, the version in Amory’s book—which looks like the first to feature the quotation in print—takes precedence.

  • Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else. Lyndon Johnson, to John Kenneth Galbraith; quoted in Galbraith’s A Life in Our Times (1981)
  • A speech is like a love affair: any fool can start one but to end one requires considerable skill. Stormont Samuel Mancroft (Lord Mancroft), attributed in Gyles Brandreth, Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (2013)
  • A speech is poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep! Peggy Noonan, in What I Saw at the Revolution (1990)

Noonan continued: “A speech reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart.”

  • There is one golden rule [of public speaking]: Stick to topics you deeply care about, and don’t keep your passion buttoned inside your vest. An audience’s biggest turn-on is the speaker’s obvious enthusiasm. If you are lukewarm about the issue, forget it! Tom Peters, in The Power of Wow! (1994)
  • A flowery discourse is more replete with agreeable than with strong thoughts, with images more sparkling than sublime, and terms more curious than forcible. This metaphor is correctly taken from flowers, which are showy without strength or stability. Voltaire, in Philosophical Dictionary (1764)

QUOTE NOTE: The concept of a flowery style in speaking and writing originated with this passage. Voltaire continued: “The flowery style is not unsuitable to public speeches or addresses, which amount only to compliment. The lighter beauties are in their place when there is nothing more solid to say; but the flowery style ought to be banished from a pleading, a sermon, or a didactic work.” The entire essay may be read at “Flowery Style”.

  • In the dying world I come from, quotation is a national vice. No one would think of making an after-dinner speech without the help of poetry. It used to be classics, now it’s lyric verse. Evelyn Waugh, in The Loved Ones (1948)
  • If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now. Woodrow Wilson, quoted in Josephus Daniels, The Wilson Era: Years of War and After (1946)

QUOTE NOTE: Wilson’s observation is part of a grand oxymoronic theme that might be titled: “Short things take a long time.” The earliest thought on the subject came from Blaise Pascal (see his entry in LETTERS & LETTER-WRITING)

SPELLING

(includes MISSPELLING; see also EDITORS & EDITING and GRAMMAR and PARTS OF SPEECH and LANGUAGE USAGE and PUNCTUATION and PUNCTUATION METAPHORS and ENGLISH—THE LANGUAGE)

  • The English language is full of words that are just waiting to be misspelled, and the world is full of sticklers, ready to pounce. Mary Norris, in Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (2015)
  • I don’t see any use in having a uniform and arbitrary way of spelling words. We might as well make all clothes alike and cook all dishes alike. Sameness is tiresome; variety is pleasing. Mark Twain, in speech at a spelling match, Hartford, Connecticut, May 12, 1875; reported in the Hartford Courant (May 13, 1875)

Twain continued: “I have a correspondent whose letters are always a refreshment to me, there is such a breezy unfettered originality about his orthography. He always spells Kow with a large K. Now that is just as good as to spell it with a small one. It is better. It gives the imagination a broader field, a wider scope. It suggests to the mind a grand, vague, impressive new kind of a cow.”

SPICES & SEASONINGS

(including SPECIFIC SPICES; see also APPETITE and BREAKFAST and BUTTER & MARGARINE and COOKERY & COOKING and DESCRIPTIONS—OF FOODS & PREPARED DISHES and DINNER & DINING and EATING and EPICUREANISM & EPICURES and FOOD and GARLIC and GASTRONOMY and GOURMETS & GOURMANDS and HUNGER and MEALS and MEAT and RECIPES & COOKBOOKS and SAUCES and SOUPS & SALADS and SUPPER)

  • If ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around. James Beard, quoted in The New York Times (Jan. 25, 1985)
  • Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good. Alice May Brock, in Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook (1969)
  • In Europe, spices were the jewels and furs and brocades of the kitchen and the still-room. Elizabeth David, in Spices, Salt, and Aromatics in the English Kitchen (1970)

SPIN

(see also CHEATING & CHEATERS and DECEPTION & DECEIPT and DISSEMBLING & DISSIMULATION and FALSEHOOD AND HONESTY and LIES & LYING and TRICKERY and TRUTH)

  • “Spin” is a polite word for deception. Spinners mislead by means that range from subtle omissions to outright lies. Spin paints a false picture of reality by bending facts, mischaracterizing the words of others, ignoring or denying crucial evidence, or just “spinning a yarn”—by making things up. Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, in Introduction to UnSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation (2007)

QUOTE NOTE: The practice of spinning is performed by Spin Doctors, a term that first emerged in a 1984 New York Times editorial about the Ronald Reagan/Walter Mondale presidential debates. For more, see This Day in Quotes.

  • It is part of politics to make things look better than they really are. What is a spin doctor but a serial euphemiser [sic]? Nigel Rees, quoted in “The Art of Political Euphemisms,” BBC Today (Aug. 5, 2008)

SPIRIT

(see also MATTER and MIND and SPIRITUALITY)

  • Spirit is an invisible force made visible in all life. Maya Angelou, “In the Spirit,” in Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993)

SPIRITUALITY

(see also BELIEF and CONTEMPLATION and DIVINITY and ENLIGHTENMENT and MATERIALISM and MEDITATION and METAPHYSICS and MIND & BODY and MYSTICISM and RELIGION and THEOLOGY)

  • We live in an age of instant gratification. Spirituality represents the opposite to this in giving no immediate feedback but requiring, instead, a disciplined approach leading to long and silent growth. Sarah Anderson, in Heaven’s Face Thinly Veiled: A Book of Spiritual Writing by Women (1988)
  • Show me a man who lives alone and has a perpetually clean kitchen, and 8 times out of 9 I’ll show you a man with detestable spiritual qualities. Charles Bukowski, “Too Sensitive,” in Tales of Ordinary Madness (1967)
  • The essence of a theater is elegance, just as the essence of a church is spirituality. Philip Johnson, on designing Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater, quoted in Newsweek magazine (May 4, 1964)
  • A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community? (1967)
  • One can become as intellectually arrogant about spirituality as about empirical science. Shirley MacLaine, in Going Within (1989)
  • 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)

QUOTE NOTE: M. Scott Peck was almost certainly influenced by this famous Merton passage when he wrote in The Road Less Traveled (1978): “We are most often in the dark when we are the most certain, and the most enlightened when we are the most confused.”

  • A large part of the popularity and persuasiveness of psychology comes from its being a sublimated spiritualism: a secular, ostensibly scientific way of affirming the primacy of “spirit” over matter. Susan Sontag, in Illness as a Metaphor (1978)
  • Pressed, I would define spirituality as the shadow of light humanity casts as it moves through the darkness of everything that can be explained. John Updike, “Spirituality,” in Odd Jobs: Essays and Criticism (1991)
  • The spiritual life is not a special career, involving abstraction from the world of things. It is a part of every man’s life; and until he has realized it he is not a complete human being, has not entered into possession of all his powers. Evelyn Underhill, in Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (1911)

Underhill added: “It is therefore the function of a practical mysticism to increase, not diminish, the total efficiency, the wisdom and steadfastness, of those who try to practice it.”

  • As the social self can only be developed by contact with society, so the spiritual self can only be developed by contact with the spiritual world. Evelyn Underhill, quoted in Alice Hegan Rice, My Pillow Book (1937)
  • Zen…does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes. Alan Watts, in The Way of Zen (1957)
  • Spirituality is an inner fire, a mystical sustenance that feeds our souls. The mystical journey drives us into ourselves, to a sacred flame at our center. Marianne Williamson, in Illuminata: A Return to Prayer (1994)

Williamson continued: “The purpose of the religious experience is to develop the eyes by which we see this inner flame, and our capacity to live its mystery. In its presence, we are warmed and ignited. When too far from the blaze, we are cold and spiritually lifeless.”

  • Self-awareness is not self-centeredness and spirituality is not narcissism. Know thyself is not a narcissistic pursuit. Marianne Williamson, quoted in Lynda Gorov, “Faith: Marianne Williamson is Full of It,” in Mother Jones magazine (Nov.-Dec, 1997)

SPITE

(see also ANIMOSITY and ENVY and JEALOUSY and RESENTMENT)

  • Spite is never lonely; envy always tags along. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook (1963)

SPORT & SPORTS

(see also ATHLETES & ATHLETICISM and COMPETITION and DEFEAT and EXERCISE & FITNESS and GAMES and OLYMPICS and SPORTSMANSHIP and SPORTSWRITERS and TEAM and VICTORY and WINNING & LOSING)

(see also the specific sports: BASEBALL and BASKETBALL and BOXING and FISHING and FOOTBALL and GOLF and HOCKEY and HUNTING and MOUNTAINEERING & ROCK-CLIMBING and POOL & BILLIARDS and RUNNING & JOGGING and SAILING & YACHTING and SOCCER and SPORT—SPECIFIC TYPES N.E.C. and SWIMMING and TENNIS and TRACK & FIELD and WALKING and WRESTLING)

  • Exercise/In disguise. Richard Armour, “Short Definition of Most Sports,” in Nights with Armour: Lighthearted Light Verse (1958)
  • In America, it is sport that is the opiate of the masses. Russell Baker, tweaking the familiar Karl Marx saying about religion, in “The Muscular Opiate,” The New York Times (Oct. 3, 1967)
  • Sport is something that does not matter, but is performed as if it did. In that contradiction lies its beauty. Simon Barnes, “Spectator Sport,” in The Spectator (May 17, 1996)
  • It is difficult to single out one sport over another, but if I have to name one in my separation suit, it will undoubtedly be football. Erma Bombeck, in Erma Bombeck and Bil Keane, Just Wait Til You Have Children of Your Own (1971)
  • Sports do not build character. They reveal it. Heywood Hale Broun, quoted in James A. Michener, Sports in America (1976)
  • Sport strips away personality, letting the white bone of character shine through. Rita Mae Brown, in Sudden Death (1983)

The words come from the novel’s narrator, who continued: “Sport gives players an opportunity to know and test themselves. The great difference between sport and art is that sport, like a sonnet, forces beauty within its own system. Art, on the other hand, cyclically destroys boundaries and breaks free.”

  • What I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport. Albert Camus, quoted in Herbert R. Lottman, Albert Camus: A Biography (1979)

ERROR ALERT: Many sources mistakenly replace sport with football or soccer.

  • Sports is the toy department of life. Jimmy Cannon

ERROR ALERT: Quotation researchers are virtually unanimous in believing that Cannon is the author of this famous line, even though a specific source has never been found. The quotation is commonly misattributed to sportswriter Howard Cosell, who repeated it many times early in his career, but distanced himself from it at the end. In his autobiography I Never Played the Game (1985), Cosell wrote: “Once I bought the Jimmy Cannon dictum that ‘Sports is the Toy Department of Life.’ I don’t now and never will again.” For more on the quotation’s history, see the research of quotation sleuth Barry Popik.

  • Giving your body a chance to exult, however you choose to do it, is the essence of sport. Robin Chotzinoff, in the Introduction to People Who Sweat: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Pursuits (1999)
  • The thing about sport, any sport, is that swearing is very much a part of it. Jimmy Greaves, quoted in The Observer (London; Jan. 1, 1989)
  • Coaches and headmasters praise sport as a preparation for the great game of life, but this is absurd. Nothing could be more different from life. For one thing sports, unlike life, are played according to rules. Indeed, the rules are the sport: life may behave bizarrely and still be life, but if the runner circles the bases clockwise it’s no longer baseball. Barbara Holland, in Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences (1995)

In her book, Holland also offered this observation: “Life, after we’d had a few millennia to observe it, turned out to be dreadfully unfair, so we invented sports.”

  • Competition provides spice in life as well as in sports; it’s only when the spice becomes the entire diet that the player gets sick. George Leonard, in Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment (1991)
  • I…hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense. H. L. Mencken, in Heathen Days: Mencken’s Autobiography, 1890–1936 (1941)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is almost always presented without the ellipsis. In the full passage, Mencken traced his “ineradicable distaste” for exercise to his youthful experiences at the West Baltimore Y.M.C.A. He wrote: “I still begrudge the trifling exertion needed to climb in and out of a bathtub, and hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense.”

  • Everything about sport is derived from the hunt: there is no sport in existence that does not base itself either on the chase or on aiming, the two key elements of primeval hunting. Desmond Morris, in The Animal Contract (1990)
  • Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words, it is war minus the shooting. George Orwell, “The Sporting Spirit,” in Shooting an Elephant (1950)
  • Like alcohol, sports doesn’t lie. What it reveals about a person under its influence was just hiding. Bill Russell, in Second Wind (1979)
  • Upon the fields of friendly strife/Are sown the seeds/That, upon other fields, on other days/Will bear the fruits of victory. Douglas MacArthur, verse written c. 1920, repeated in MacArthur’s memoir Reminiscences (1964)

QUOTE NOTE: MacArthur, who wrote the verse while serving as superintendent of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point (1919-22), had the words engraved over the entrance to the school’s sports gymnasium. He was almost certainly inspired by a legendary—but apocryphal—quotation attributed to the Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley): “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”

  • Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war. David Foster Wallace, “Federer as Religious Experience,” in The New York Times (Aug. 20, 2006)

Wallace continued: “The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.”

  • Sports figures are to the ’70s what movie stars were to the ’60s. Andy Warhol, quoted in Time magazine (Nov. 21, 1977)
  • I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures. Earl Warren, quoted in Sports Illustrated (July 22, 1968)
  • Greek philosophers considered sport a religious and civic—in a word, moral—undertaking. George F. Will, in Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball (1990)

Will added: “Sport, they said, is morally serious because mankind’s noblest aim is the loving contemplation of worthy things, such as beauty or courage.”

  • Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence. George F. Will, in Bunts (1999)

SPORTSMEN & SPORTSWOMEN

(see also COMPETITION and GAMES and HUNTING and FISHING and SPORT)

  • The ancient and deeply true distinction between enthusiastic sportsmen and merely loutish spectators is between those who want the best man to win cleanly, and those who think the winner is always the best man, no matter how or why he wins. Sydney J. Harris, in a July, 1980 “Strictly Personal” column.
  • When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him Vandal. When he wantonly destroys one of the works of God we call him Sportsman. Joseph Wood Krutch, “The Vandal and the Sportsman,” in The Great Chain of Life (1956)
  • A sportsman is a man who, every now and then, simply has to get out and kill something. Stephen Leacock, in My Remarkable Uncle (1924)

Leacock continued: “Not that he’s cruel. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. It’s not big enough.”

SPORTSMANSHIP

(see also COMPETITION and CHARACTER and FAIR PLAY and GAMESMANSHIP and RULES and SPORT)

  • Good sportsmanship we hail, we sing,/It’s always pleasant when you spot it,/There’s only one unhappy thing:/You have to lose to prove you’ve got it. Richard Armour, “Good Sportsmanship,” in Nights with Armour: Lighthearted Light Verse (1958)
  • To be a good sportsman, one must be a stoic and never show rancor in defeat, or triumph in victory, or irritation, no matter what annoyance is encountered. Emily Post, in Etiquette: In Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home (1922)

Post continued: “One who can not help sulking, or explaining, or protesting when the loser, or exulting when the winner, has no right to take part in games or contests.”

  • For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name,/He marks—not that you won or lost—but how you played the game. Grantland Rice, in “Alumnus Football” (1908)

SPRING (as in SEASONS)

(includes SPRINGTIME; see also AUTUMN/FALL and MONTHS OF THE YEAR and SEASONS and SPRING [as in FLOWING WATER] SUMMER and WINTER)

  • Tantarrara! the joyous Book of Spring/Lies open, writ in blossoms. William Allingham, from the poem “Daffodil,” in Flower Pieces and Other Poems (1888)
  • In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. Margaret Atwood, “Unearthing Suite,” in Bluebeard’s Egg (1986)
  • When lonely feelings chill/The meadows of your mind/Just think if Winter comes/Can Spring be far behind?/Beneath the deepest snows/The secret of a rose/Is merely that it knows/You must believe in Spring! Alan and Marilyn Bergman, lyrics to the song “You Must Believe in Spring” (1967; music by Michel Legrand)
  • Autumn arrives in the early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day. Elizabeth Bowen, the voice of the narrator, in The Death of the Heart (1938)
  • If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet, in Meditations Divine and Moral (1664)

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

  • The year’s at the spring,/And day’s at the morn;/Morning’s at seven;/The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;/The lark’s on the wing;/The snail’s on the thorn;/God’s in His heaven—/All’s right with the world! Robert Browning, in Pippa Passes (1841)
  • The Spring is generally fertile in new acquaintances. Fanny Burney, a 1774 diary entry, in The Early Diary of Frances Burney, Vol. 1 (1889; Annie Raine Ellis, ed.)
  • Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song. Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring (1962)
  • Spring never comes abruptly; it makes promises in a longer twilight or a day of warmer sunshine, and then takes them back in a dark week of storm. Bertha Damon, in A Sense of Humus (1943)

Damon continued: “It gives presages—a thaw, a swelling of maple buds, a greening of grass, a flash of bird wing; then snow falls and winter returns. Again and again spring is here and not here. But fall comes in one day, and stays.”

  • The older I grow the more do I love spring and spring flowers. Is it so with you? Emily Dickinson, in letter to Mrs. Strong (May 16, 1848); in The Letters of Emily Dickinson, 1845-1886 (1906; Mabel Loomis Todd, ed.)
  • A little Madness in the Spring/Is wholesome even for the King. Emily Dickinson, in Poem No 1333 (c. 1875), in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1960; Thomas H. Johnson, ed.)
  • Spring’s first conviction is a wealth beyond its whole experience. Emily Dickinson, in an 1884 letter to Louise and Fannie Norcross; in Letters of Emily Dickinson, Vol. 2 (1894; Mabel Loomis Todd, ed.)
  • In spring, nature like a thrifty housewife sets the earth in order…taking up the white carpets and putting down the green ones. Mary Baker Eddy, “Voices of Spring,” in Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896 (1896)

In that same essay, Eddy wrote:“Spring is my sweetheart.”

  • In our spring-time every day has its hidden growths in the mind, as it has in the earth when the little folded blades are getting ready to pierce the ground. George Eliot, the voice of the narrator, in Felix Holt, the Radical (1866)
  • Spring, in Connecticut, made fair false promises which summer was called upon to keep. Edna Ferber, the voice of the narrator, in American Beauty (1931)
  • Spring is the season of hope, and autumn is that of memory. Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington), in Desultory Thoughts and Reflections (1839)
  • It was a perfect spring afternoon, and the air was filled with vague, roving scents, as if the earth exhaled the sweetness of hidden flowers. Ellen Glasgow, the voice of the narrator, in The Miller of Old Church (1911)
  • At last the spring came, when Nature and Hope wake up together. Constance Cary Harrison, the voice of the narrator, in The Story of Helen Troy (1881)
  • When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. Ernest Hemingway, in A Moveable Feast (1964)
  • However long we have to live, there are never enough springs. P. D. James, in Time to Be in Earnest (1999)
  • I am thankful that in a troubled world no calamity can prevent the return of spring. Helen Keller, in a letter to Carrie Fuld (May 10, 1933); in To Love This Life: Quotations by Helen Keller (2000)
  • Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. Doug Larson, in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (specific date undetermined)
  • Today I went out. It smelled, it felt, it sensed spring. I had for the first time faith—not intellectual belief, but a sudden feeling of turning tide. “Yes there will be spring.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Bring Me a Unicorn: Diaries and Letters 1922-28 (1971)
  • Spring is here—and I could be very happy, except that I am broke. Edna St. Vincent Millay, in letter to Harriet Monroe (March 1, 1918)

QUOTE NOTE: Monroe was the founder and long-time editor of Poetry magazine, Millar continued: “Would you mind paying me now instead of on publication for those so stunning verses of mine which you have? I am become very, very thin, and have taken to smoking Virginia tobacco.”

  • Birds that cannot even sing—/Dare to come again in spring! Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Doubt No More That Oberon,” in Second April (1921)
  • Everything is new in the spring. Springs themselves are always so new, too. No spring is ever just like any other spring. It always has something of its own to be its own peculiar sweetness. L. M. Montgomery, the title character speaking, in Anne of Green Gables (1908)
  • Nothing ever seems impossible in spring, you know. L. M. Montgomery, the title character speaking, in Anne of Ingleside (1939)
  • Spring cold is like the poverty of a poor man who has had a fortune left him—better days are coming. Margaret Oliphant, in Innocent: A Tale of Modern Life (1874)
  • Every year, back Spring comes, with the nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off, and the ground all mucked up with arbutus. Dorothy Parker, “Ethereal Mildness,” in The New Yorker (March 24, 1928)
  • Crocuses. They come/by stealth, spreading the rumor of spring. Linda Pastan, “Crocuses,” in Heroes in Disguise (1992)
  • Every Spring is the only Spring, a perpetual astonishment. It bursts upon a man every year. Ellis Peters, a reflection of the protagonist, Brother Cadfael, in The Summer of the Danes (1991)
  • Despite the forecast, live like it’s Spring. Lilly Pulitzer, in a FaceBook post (March 3, 2015)
  • Everything is blooming most recklessly: if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. Rainer Maria Rilke, on the arrival of spring in Capri, in letter to Clara Rilke (April 8, 1907)

Rilke continued: “But in spite of the days with much rain, the air keeps letting the scent fall as if its hands were still too cold for it. Most spacious of all are the starry nights that blossom out moonless in the dark and scatter shooting stars out of sheer exuberance.”

  • Spring has come again. The earth is like a child who knows poems by heart. Rainer Maria Rilke, in Sonnets to Orpheus (1922)
  • With the spring a sort of inspiration is wakened in the most prosaic of us. The same spirit of change that thrills the saplings with fresh vitality sends through human veins a creeping ecstasy of new life. Marah Ellis Ryan, the voice of the narrator, in Told in the Hills (1891)
  • If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Percy Bysshe Shelley, in “Ode to the West Wind” (1819)
  • Blossom by blossom, sweet Spring skipped through the landscape, flinging fragrances and scattering petals everywhere. Barbara B. Slater, the voice of the narrator, in When Wishes Come True (2009)
  • I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. Ruth Stout, in How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back (1955)
  • In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a line from the poem “Locksley Hall” (1842)

QUOTE NOTE: These are among history’s most famous lines—and the inspiration for many tweaks and parodies, including these:

“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to what he’s been thinking about all winter.” Cary Grant, as the character Jerry Warriner, in the 1937 film The Awful Truth (screenplay by Vina Delmar)

“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,/And in summer,/and in autumn,/and in winter—/See above.” E. Y. Harburg, “Organization Man,” in Rhymes for the Irreverent (1965)

“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to love, but a family man’s duties turn heavily towards the household chores that need doing by never get done.” Max Lerner, in The Unfinished Country (1956)

“We approach that season of the year when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of baseball—or love—depending upon what fancy of young man he may be.” Timothy Burr Thrift, in Tim Thoughts (1922). This is the first tweak of the saying that mentions baseball.

“In the Spring a Young Man’s Fancy Lightly Turns to Thoughts of…BIG WALLEYE.” Bill Viet, title of 1972 article in Field and Stream magazine.

  • Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!” Robin Williams, in his stand-up routine
  • It was one of the first days of spring: the spring had come late, with a magical northern suddenness. It seemed to have burst out of the earth overnight, the air was lyrical and sang with it. Thomas Wolfe, the voice of the narrator, in Of Time and the River (1935)

The narrator continued: “Spring came that year like a triumph and like a prophecy—it sang and shifted like a moth of light before the youth.”

SPRING [as in FLOWING WATER]

(see also AUTUMN/FALL and MONTHS OF THE YEAR and SEASONS and SPRING [as in SEASON OF THE YEAR]SUMMER and WINTER)

  • Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)

A bit earlier, Lindbergh had written: “Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.”

SPRING [as in TO SPRING FORTH]

(see also )

  • For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Locked Rooms and Open Doors (1974)
  • One of the springs of poetry is joy. May Sarton, in Writings on Writing (1980)

STAGE

(see also ACTING and ACTORS and CINEMA & FILM and DIRECTING & DIRECTORS and DRAMA & DRAMATISTS and PLAYS & PLAYWRIGHTS and STORIES & STORYTELLING and THEATER)

  • The stage is actor’s country. You have to get your passport stamped every so often or they take away your citizenship. Vanessa Redgrave, in Newsweek magazine (Feb. 10, 1975)
  • As everyone knows who has anything to do with it—the stage is not a profession but a virus, and I had it. Mary Stewart, a reflection of protagonist and narrator Lucy Waring, in This Rough Magic (1964)
  • On the stage it is always now: the personages are standing on that razor-edge, between the past and the future, which is the essential character of conscious being; the words are rising to their lips in immediate spontaneity. Thornton Wilder, in Paris Review interview (Winter, 1956)

Wilder introduced the thought by saying: “A dramatist is one who believes that the pure event, an action involving human beings, is more arresting than any comment that can be made upon it.”

STAGNATION

  • A little alarm now and then keeps life from stagnation. Fanny Burney, the character Mrs. Arlbery speaking, in Camilla, or A Picture of Youth (1796)
  • What threatens our security is not change but the inability to change; what threatens progress is not revolution but stagnation; what threatens our survival is not novel or dangerous ideas but the absence of ideas. Henry Steele Commager,“The University and the Community of Learning,” speech at Kent State University (April 10, 1971)
  • There was no crime like the crime of stagnation—unproductiveness. With a creative trinity, mind, body and spirit, one must yield something back to the generous earth. Eleanor Dark, in Return to Coolami (1936)
  • Happiness, to some, elation;/Is, to others, mere stagnation. Amy Lowell, “Happiness,” in Sword Blades and Poppy Seeds (1914)

[Taking a] STAND

  • It’s still easier to take a blow from outside than it is to be disgusted with myself for not taking a stand. I don’t know how people can live and not fight back but apparently millions do. They must hate themselves. Rita Mae Brown, in Poems (1987)

STANDARDS

  • If, for any reason whatsoever, moral standards are conspicuously and unprecedentedly breached in one area of society, such as the political, it will follow as the night the day that those standards will start collapsing all down the line. Margaret Halsey, in No Laughing Matter (1977)

STARS

(see also COMETS and EARTH and GALAXIES [The] HEAVENS and PLANETS [The] SKY and SPACE)

  • Our passionate preoccupation with the sky, the stars, and a God somewhere in outer space is a homing impulse. We are drawn back to where we came from. Eric Hoffer, on the first moon landing, quoted in The New York Times (July 21, 1969)
  • We walk up the beach under the stars. And when we are tired of walking, we lie flat on the sand under a bowl of stars. We feel stretched, expanded to take in their compass. They pour into us until we are filled with stars, up to the brim. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift From the Sea (1955)
  • There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for Mankind. Hannah Senesh, a 1940 diary entry, in Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary (1966)
  • Twinkle, twinkle, little star,/How I wonder what you are!/Up above the world so high,/Like a diamond in the sky. Jane Taylor, “The Star,” in Rhymes for the Nursery (1806)
  • There is no greater joy for me than looking at the sky on a clear night with an attention so concentrated that all my other thoughts disappear; then one can think that the stars enter into one's soul. Simone Weil, quoted in Simone Petrément, Simone Weil: A Life (1976)

STARS & STARDOM

(includes SUPERSTARS; see also CELEBRITY and EMINENCE and FAME and GLORY and HONORS and OBSCURITY and PUBLICITY and PUBLIC OPINION and REPUTATION and SUCCESS)

  • He whose face gives no light shall never become a star. William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell,” in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–93)
  • No memory of having starred/Atones for later disregard/Or keeps the end from being hard. Robert Frost, from “Provide, Provide,” in A Further Range (1936)
  • Never underestimate the insecurity of a star. William Goldman, in Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983)
  • As far as the filmmaking process is concerned, stars are essentially worthless—and absolutely essential. William Goldman, in Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983). Also an example of oxymoronica.
  • Stardom can be a gilded slavery. Helen Hayes, in On Reflection: An Autobiography (1968)
  • To be a star is to own the world and all the people in it. After a taste of stardom, everything else is poverty. Hedy Lamarr, in Ecstasy and Me: My Life as a Woman (1966)
  • Stardom is just an uneasy seat on top of a tricky toboggan. Being a star is merely perching at the head of the downgrade. Frederic March, quoted in Deborah C. Peterson, Fredric March: Craftsman First, Star Second (1996)

March added: “A competent featured player can last a lifetime. A star, a year or two. There’s all that agony of finding suitable stories, keeping in character, maintaining illusion.”

  • There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for Mankind. Hannah Senesh, a 1940 diary entry, in Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary (1966)
  • The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team. John Wooden, in They Call Me Coach (1972)

STATES OF THE U.S.A.

(see: U. S. States)

STATESMEN/STATESWOMEN

(see also GOVERNING and GOVERNMENT & THE STATE and LEADERS & LEADERSHIP and POLITICIANS and POLITICS and PRESIDENTS & THE PRESIDENCY and WASHINGTON, D.C.)

  • The first requirement of a statesman is that he be dull. This is not always easy to achieve. Dean Acheson, quoted in the Observer (June 21, 1970)
  • In the era of imperialism, businessmen became politicians and were acclaimed as statesmen, while statesmen were taken seriously only if they talked the language of succcessful businessmen. Hannah Arendt, in Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)
  • There is a wide difference between the politician and the statesman. A politician, for example, is a man who thinks of the next election; while the statesman thinks of the next generation. James Freeman Clarke, “Wanted, A Statesman,” in Old and New magazine (Dec., 1870)

QUOTE NOTE: This looks like the first appearance of the now-popular next election/next generation distinction between politicians and statesmen. Clarke, a prominent Unitarian minister, abolitionist, and exponent of what went on to be called the Social Gospel, continued: “The politician thinks about the success of his party, the statesman of the good of his country. The politician wishes to carry this or that measure, the statesman to establish this or that principle. Finally, the statesman wishes to steer; while the politician is contented to drift.”

  • The less a statesman amounts to, the more he loves the flag. Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard, in Abe Martin’s Sayings (1915)
  • Nature abhors a vacuum, even in the heads of statesmen. Clare Boothe Luce, in a 1943 speech to the U.S. House of Representatives (specific date undetermined)

STATUE OF LIBERTY

STATURE

(see also EMINENCE and MERIT and POSITION and PRESTIGE and RANK and STATION and REPUTATION and WORTH)

  • Men grow to the stature to which they are stretched when they are young. Antony Jay, in Management and Machiavelli (1967)
  • The beauty of stature is the only beauty of men. Michel de Montaigne, “Of Presumption,” in Essays (1580–88)

STATUS QUO

(see also CHANGE and CIRCUMSTANCES and STATUS)

  • Certainly none of the advances made in civilization has been due to counterrevolutionaries and advocates of the status quo. Bill Mauldin, in Back Home (1947)

STEREOTYPES & STEREOTYPING

(see also BIGOTRY and PREJUDICE and LABELS and MINORITIES and RACE and RACISM & RACIAL PREJUDICE and SEGREGATION and SEXISM and TOKENISM)

  • The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in “The Danger of a Single Story,” a TED interview (July 2009)/
  • A stereotype becomes a stereotype when a significant percentage of the population appears to conform to it. Kelley Armstrong, in Dime Store Magic: Women of the Otherworld (2009)
  • To some extent we are all the prisoners of stereotypes; we see each other in terms of distorted and oversimplified images. Better communication in the realm of ideas, of the arts, and of science can help refashion these false images. And by seeing more clearly we may act more wisely. Chester Bowles, in The Conscience of a Liberal (1962)
  • The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: “It’s a girl.” Shirley Chisholm, in a 2012 issue of O: The Oprah Magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Tokenism does not change stereotypes of social systems but works to preserve them, since it dulls the revolutionary impulse. Mary Daly, in Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation (1973)
  • The problem with labels is that they lead to stereotypes and stereotypes lead to generalizations and generalizations lead to assumptions and assumptions lead back to stereotypes. It’s a vicious cycle, and after you go around and around a bunch of times you end up believing that all vegans only eat cabbage and all gay people love musicals. Ellen DeGeneres, in Seriously…I’m Kidding (2011)
  • Belying the stereotype of the cat as a finicky, careful eater, ours was a Hoover in a cat suit with no culinary standards. Amy Dickinson, in The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them (2009)
  • Stereotypes are fabricated from fragments of reality, and it is these fragments that give life, continuity, and availability for manipulation. Ralph Ellison, “If the Twain Shall Meet,” in Going to the Territory (1986)
  • Both women and computer science are the losers when a geeky stereotype serves as an unnecessary gatekeeper to the profession. Cordelia Fine, in Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences (2005)
  • When people rely on surface appearances and false racial stereotypes, rather than in-depth knowledge of others at the level of the heart, mind and spirit, their ability to assess and understand people accurately is compromised. James A. Forbes, in Whose Gospel?: A Concise Guide to Progressive Protestantism (2010)
  • But our ways of learning about the world are strongly influenced by the social preconceptions and biased modes of thinking that each scientist must apply to any problem. The stereotype of a fully rational and objective scientific method, with individual scientists as logical (and interchangeable) robots, is self-serving mythology. Stephen Jay Gould, in Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History (1995)
  • The names that do the serious damage are the ones we call ourselves. The stereotypes we give ourselves are the ones that matter in the long run, not the ones imposed on us by other people. Judith Rich Harris, in The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do (1999)
  • Racial prejudice is thus a generalized set of stereotypes of a high degree of consistency which includes emotional responses to race names, a belief in typical characteristics associated with race names, and an evaluation of such traits. Daniel Katz and K. W. Braly, “Racial Prejudice and Racial Stereotypes,” in The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology ((1935)
  • You cannot help being a female, and I should be something of a fool were I to discount your talents merely because of their housing. Laurie R. King, the character Sherlock Holmes, speaking to protagonist Mary Russell, his newfound sleuth-in-training, in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994)
  • We slaughter one another in our words and attitudes. We slaughter one another in the stereotypes and mistrust that linger in our heads, and the words of hate we spew from our lips. Nelson Mandela, in Nelson Mandela: from Freedom to the Future: Tributes and Speeches (2003)
  • Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful. Margaret Mead, in Twentieth Century Faith: Hope and Survival (1972)
  • That’s what religion does. It points a finger. It causes wars. It breaks apart countries. It’s a petri dish for stereotypes to grow in. Religion’s not about being holy…just holier-than-thou. Jodi Picoult, the character Shay Bourne speaking, in Change of Heart (2008)
  • Stereotypes fall in the face of humanity. We human beings are best understood one at a time. Anna Quindlen, in a 1993 column in The New York Times (specific issue undetermined)
  • Stereotypes fall in the face of humanity. You toodle along, thinking that all gay men wear leather after dark and should never, ever be permitted around a Little League field. And then one day your best friend from college, the one your kids adore, comes out to you. Anna Quindlen, in Loud and Clear (2004)
  • Ethnic stereotypes are misshapen pearls, sometimes with a sandy grain of truth at their center. Anna Quindlen, “Erin Go Brawl,” in Thinking Out Loud (1993)

About stereotypes, Quindlen went on to add that “They ignore complexity, change, and individuality.”

  • We can no longer oversimplify. We can no longer build lazy and false stereotypes. Eleanor Roosevelt, in Tomorrow Is Now (1963)

Mrs. Roosevelt continued: “Americans are like this, Russians are like that, a Jew behaves in such a way, a Negro thinks in a different way. The lazy generalities—‘You know how women are…Isn’t that just like a man?’ The world cannot be understood from a single point of view.”

  • Shattering stereotypes is a fundamentally subversive activity. Bill Shore, in The Cathedral Within: Transforming Your Life by Giving Something Back (2001)
  • I have always felt one of the things dance should do—its business being so clearly physical—is challenge the culture’s gender stereotypes. Twyla Tharp, in Push Comes to Shove (1992)
  • Culture stereotypes women to fit the myth by flattening the feminine into beauty-without-intelligence or intelligence-without-beauty; women are allowed a mind or a body but not both. Naomi Wolf, in The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women (1990)

STINGINESS

(see also GENEROSITY and GREED and SELFISHNESS)

  • I’m not stingy. I’m just afraid of being an easy mark. People wouldn’t have money long if they didn’t ask how much things cost. Doris Duke, quoted in Sheilah Graham, How to Marry Super Rich (1974)
  • The lazy man and the stingy man end up walking their road twice. Laura Esquivel, in Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies (1992)
  • There is an ordinary proverb for this: “Stinginess does not enrich; charity does not impoverish.” Glückel of Hameln, in Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln (1724)
  • The same people who can deny others everything are famous for refusing themselves nothing. Leigh Hunt, in Table Talk (1851)
  • Stinginess seemed instinctive to him. Darwinian even. He hadn’t gotten to his current size by sharing. Laura Lippman, the protagonist Tess Monaghan describing a male character, in Big Trouble (1999)
  • I am confounded at the stinginess of some institutions and some people. I’m bewildered by it. You can only put away so much stuff in your closet. In 1987, the average CEO against someone who was working in his factory was 70 times. It’s now 410 times. Paul Newman, in “Paul Newman’s Road To Glory,” an interview with Paul Fischer, Film Monthly magazine (July 1, 2001)

STOMACH

(includes BELLY; see also APPETITE and COOKS & COOKING and DIETS & DIETING and DINNERS & DINING and EATING and GLUTTONY and HUNGER and MEALS and OBESITY and SUPPER)

  • The healthy stomach is nothing if not conservative. Few radicals have good digestion. Samuel Butler, in The Notebooks of Samuel Butler (1912)
  • I can reason down or deny everything, except this perpetual Belly: feed he must and will, and I cannot make him respectable. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Montaigne, or the Skeptic,” in Representative Men (1850)
  • A poor man defended himself when charged with stealing food to appease the cravings of hunger, saying, the cries of the stomach silenced those of the conscience. Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington), quoted in R. R. Madden, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, Vol. 1 (1855)
  • Mr. Richards is a tall man with what must have been a magnificent build before his stomach went in for a career of its own. Margaret Halsey, the voice of the narrator, in Some of My Best Friends Are Soldiers (1944)
  • The stomach is near the heart and one appetite pricks on another. Storm Jameson, in Three Kingdoms (1926)
  • The belly is the reason why man does not mistake himself for a god. Friedrich Nietzsche, in Beyond Good and Evil (1886)
  • The brain can be hoodwinked but not the stomach. Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe speaking, in Blood Will Tell (1963)

[Short] STORY

(see also AUTHORS and BOOKS and READERS & READING and STORIES & STORYTELLING and WRITING and WRITERS)

  • Writing a poem is like a short love affair, writing a short story like a long love affair, writing a novel like a marriage. Amos Oz, quoted in The Observer (London; July 21, 1985)

STORIES & STORYTELLING

(includes STORYTELLERS; see also AUTHORS and BOOKS and FABLES and FAIRYTALES and READERS & READING and TALES and WRITING and WRITERS)

  • From the beginning of the human race stories have been used—by priests, by bards, by medicine men—as magic instruments of healing, of teaching. Joan Aiken, in The Way to Write for Children (1982)

Stories, Aiken added, are “a means of helping people come to terms with the fact that they continually have to face insoluble problems and unbearable realities.”

  • Story, finally, is humanity’s autobiography. Lloyd Alexander, “The Grammar of the Story,” in Celebrating Children’s Books (1981)

A bit earlier in the essay, Alexander had written: “The raw materials of story are the raw materials of all human cultures. Story deals with the same questions as theology, philosophy, psychology. It is concerned with polarities: love and hate, birth and death, joy and sorrow, loss and recovery.”

  • Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it. Hannah Arendt, “Isak Dinesen 1885-1963,” in Men in Dark Times (1970)
  • My stories have led me through my life. They shout, I follow. They run up and bite me on the leg—I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off. Ray Bradbury, “Drunk and in Charge of a Bicycle,” The Stories of Ray Bradbury (1980)
  • Maybe stories are just data with a soul. Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability,” a TED Talk (Jan. 3, 2011 )
  • There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before. Willa Cather, in O Pioneers! (1913)
  • A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled. Raymond Chandler, in letter to Mrs. Robert Hogan (March 8, 1947); quoted in Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler (1981; Frank MacShane, ed.)
  • Stories don’t have to be true. They just have to help. Pat Conroy, the protagonist Jack McCall speaking to his daughter Leah, in Beach Music: A Novel (1995)
  • The most powerful words in English are “tell me a story,” words that are intimately related to the complexity of history, the origins of language, the continuity of the species, the taproot of our humanity, our singularity, and art itself. Pat Conroy, in My Reading Life (2010)

Conroy continued: “I was born into the century in which novels lost their stories, poems their rhymes, paintings their form, and music its beauty, but that does not mean I had to like that trend or go along with it. I fight against these movements with every book I write.”

  • If you’re a writer, a real writer, you’re a descendant of those medieval storytellers who used to go into the square of a town and spread a little mat on the ground and sit on it and beat on a bowl and say, “If you give me a copper coin I will tell you a golden tale.” Robertson Davies, in Paris Review interview (Spring, 1989 )

Robertson said this was a standard line he offered to students when he was invited to speak at schools. Continuing with the image, he added: “If the storyteller had what it took, he collected a little group and told them a golden tale until it got to the most exciting point and then he passed the bowl again. That was the way he made his living, and if he failed to hold his audience, he was through and had to take up some other line of work. Now this is what a writer must do.”

  • We tell ourselves stories in order to live. Joan Didion, opening line of The White Album (1979)
  • The divine art is the story. Isak Dinesen, “The Cardinal’s First Tale,” in Last Tales (1957)

The words come from the Cardinal, who is explaining the power of storytelling to the lady in black. He goes on to say: “For within our whole universe the story only has authority to answer that cry of heart of its characters, that one cry of heart of each of them: ‘Who am I?’”

  • All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them. Isak Dinesen, quoted in Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1959)
  • If loneliness is the disease, then the story is the cure. Richard Ford, in Elinor Ann Walker, “An Interview with Richard Ford,” The South Carolina Review (1999, Vol. 31, No. 2)
  • A lie hides the truth, a story tries to find it. Paula Fox, in A Servant’s Tale (1984)
  • I am not a theologian or a philosopher. I am a story teller. William Golding, quoted in his New York Times obituary (June 20, 1993)
  • The storyteller is a pale metaphor, I have often thought, for God who creates our world and us, falls in love with his creatures, even obsesses over us because we don’t act right, and always reserves the right to say the final word. Andrew Greeley, in “Writers on Writing; They Leap From Your Brain Then Take Over Your Heart,” in The New York Times (Dec. 3, 2001)
  • A story with a moral appended is like the bill of a mosquito. It bores you, and then injects a stinging drop to irritate your conscience. O. Henry, “The Gold that Glittered,” in Strictly Business (1910)
  • There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you. Zora Neale Hurston, in Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography (1942)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Maya Angelou.

  • Every good story is of course both a picture and an idea, and the more they are interfused the better. Henry James, “Guy de Maupassant,” in The Fortnightly Review (March, 1888)
  • The honest nonfiction storyteller is a restrained illusionist. Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd, in Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction (2013)

Earlier, Kidder and Todd had written: “We want to imagine that we know why characters do what they do and feel as they do. We want to understand characters in a story better than we understand ourselves. This, of course, is an illusion available only in fiction. The writer of factual stories is constrained by what the subject is willing and able to reveal.”

  • The story—from Rumplestiltskin to War and Peace—is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind, for the purpose of gaining understanding. Ursula K. Le Guin, “Prophets and Mirrors: Science Fiction as a Way of Seeing,” in The Living Light (Fall, 1970); reprinted in Language of the Night (1979

Le Guin preceded the observation by writing: “A person who had never listened to nor read a tale or myth or parable or story, would remain ignorant of his own emotional and spiritual heights and depths, would not know quite fully what it is to be human.”

  • The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. Ursula K. Le Guin, in Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989)
  • We are story animals. Yann Martel, in Beatrice and Virgil: A Novel (2010)

Martel introduced the metaphor by writing: “Stories—individual stories, family stories, national stories—are what stitch together the disparate elements of human existence into a coherent whole.” And when it comes to stories, they don’t get much better than Martel’s Life of Pi (2002). Shortly after it was released, a Los Angeles Times review of the book said of it: “A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction.”

  • A story is not like a road to follow, I said, it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. Alice Munro, in Introduction to Selected Stories, 1969–1994 (1996)

QUOTE NOTE: A few years earlier, Munro surprised her fans when she reported that, as a reader, she didn’t usually start at the beginning and work her way to the end. Rather, she would begin anywhere in the book “and proceed in any direction.” Viewing a book as a habitable structure rather than a road to walk down had this additional benefit: “You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself, of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you. To deliver a story like that, durable and freestanding, is what I’m always hoping for.”

  • A story has to have muscle as well as meaning, and the meaning has to be in the muscle. Flannery O’Connor, in letter to a friend (Dec., 1959); reprinted in Sally Fitzgerald, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor (1979)
  • I have learned in my thirty-odd years of serious writing only one sure lesson: stories, like whiskey, must be allowed to mature in the cask. Sean O’Fáolain, in The Atlantic Monthly (Dec., 1956)
  • It is easy to forget how mysterious and mighty stories are. They do their work in silence, invisibly. They work with all the internal materials of the mind and self. They become part of you while changing you. Ben Okri, in Birds of Heaven (1995)

Okri continued; “Beware the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.”

  • If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story. Terry Pratchett, the character Malicia speaking, in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001)
  • Thou Shalt Not is soon forgotten, but Once Upon a Time lasts forever. Phillip Pullman, in his Carnegie Medal acceptance Speech (1966; specific date undetermined)

Pullman introduced the thought this way: “All stories teach, whether the storyteller intends them to or not. They teach the world we create. They teach the morality we live by. They teach it much more effectively than moral perceptions and instructions… We don’t need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of do’s and don’ts. We need books, time, and silence.”

  • The universe is made of stories,/not of atoms. Muriel Rukeyser, “The Speed of Darkness,” in Out of Silence: Selected Poems (1992)
  • No story comes from nowhere; new stories are born from old. Salmon Rushdie, in Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990)
  • A good storyteller is the conscience-keeper of a nation. Sunjoy Shekhar, in Introduction to Gulzar (pen name of Sampooran Singh Kaira), Half a Rupee: Stories (2013)

ERROR ALERT: Many internet sites attribute this quotation directly to Gulzar, one of contemporary India’s most popular cultural figures (a poet, lyricist, screenwriter, and film director). Shekhar, who translated Gulzar’s stories from the original Urdu, preceded the thought by writing: “The magic of storytelling is derived from our ability to summon up all our thoughts about who we are and where we are going, by our ability to take lives that are lived in halves and make them whole.”

  • If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. John Steinbeck, in Paris Review interview (Fall, 1975)

Steinbeck continued: “The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader.” The full interview may be seen at: Paris Review

  • The ideal story is that of two people who go into love step for step, with a fluttered consciousness, like a pair of children venturing together in a dark room. Robert Louis Stevenson, “El Dorado,” in Virginibus Puerisque (1881)
  • Sometimes the Universe neglects to explain itself, and we need to tell ourselves stories so that it continues to appear predictable. Howard Tayler, in Schlock Mercenary blog post (Nov. 21, 2012)
  • Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told. Henry David Thoreau, journal entry (March 18, 1861)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the observation is commonly presented, but it was originally part of this larger entry: “Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told, and it depends chiefly on the storyteller or historian whether that is interesting or not. You are simply a witness on the stand to tell what you know about your neighbors and neighborhood.”

  • Who are we…but the stories we tell about ourselves, particularly if we accept them? Scott Turow, the character Gita Lodz speaking, in Ordinary Heroes (2007)
  • The inner spaces that a good short story lets us enter are the old apartments of religion. John Updike, in Introduction to The Year’s Best American Short Stories, 1985 (1985)
  • It’s not enough for a story to flow. It has to kind of trickle and glint as it crosses over the stones of the bare facts. John Updike, quoted in Susan Stamberg, Talk (1993)
  • When you’re writing stories, you take pieces of reality and pieces of imagination and you put them all in a container like a kaleidoscope and you shake them up, and then you turn the bottom the way you do in a kaleidoscope until its the pattern that you want. Judith Viorst, in Rutgers University YouTube interview (Jan 18, 2012)
  • Storytelling is the oldest form of education. Terry Tempest Williams, in Prologue to Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland (1984)
  • Story is a sacred visualization, a way of echoing experience. There are lessons along the way Terry Tempest Williams, in Epilogue to Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland (1984)
  • The bearers of stories are very welcome. Monique Wittig, in Les Guérillères (1969)

STRENGTH

(see also POWER and STRENGTH & WEAKNESS and WEAKNESS)

  • Everything nourishes what is strong already. Jane Austen, the protagonist Elizabeth Bennett speaking, in Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • The strength of a man consists in finding out the way God is going, and going in that way too. Henry Ward Beecher, in Life Thoughts (1858)
  • Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used. Richard E. Byrd, in Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure (1938)
  • Consciousness of our strength increases it. Luc de Clapiers (Marquis de Vauvenargues), in Reflections and Maxims (1746)
  • Charm is a woman’s strength, just as strength is a man’s charm. Havelock Ellis, in The Task of Social Hygiene (1912). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • We acquire the strength we have overcome. Without war, no soldiers; without enemies, no hero. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Considerations by the Way,” in The Conduct of Life (1860)

QUOTE NOTE: To grow strong, we must subdue enemies and overcome obstacles, according to Emerson. He went on to add: “The glory in character is in affronting the horrors of depravity to draw thence new nobilities of power.”

  • Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade, in short, in all management of human affairs. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Power” in The Conduct of Life (1860)
  • If you’re strong enough, there are no precedents. F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Notebook O,” in The Crack-Up (1945; Edmund Wilson, ed.)
  • Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men. Rollo May, in Man’s Search for Himself (1953)
  • What does not kill me makes me stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Maxims and Arrows,” in Twilight of the Idols (1889)
  • True strength is delicate. Louise Nevelson, quoted in Arnold B. Glimcher, Louise Nevelson (1972)
  • Willingness to explore everything is a sign of strength. The weak ones have prejudices. Prejudices are a protection. Anaïs Nin, a 1933 diary entry, in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1 (1966)
  • Having been unable to strengthen justice, we have justified strength. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670. Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Nothing is so strong as gentleness , and nothing is so gentle as real strength. Ralph W. Sockman, quoted in The New York Mirror (Jun 8, 1952). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • He who has the most friends and the fewest enemies is the strongest. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to his son (Nov. 11, 1752)

STRENGTH & WEAKNESS

(see also POWER and STRENGTH and WEAKNESS)

  • The weakest living creature, by concentrating his powers on a single object, can accomplish something. The strongest, by dispensing his over many, may fail to accomplish anything. The drop, by continually falling, bores its passage through the hardest rock. The hasty torrent rushes over it with hideous uproar, and leaves no trace behind. Thomas Carlyle, in The Life of Friedrich Schiller (1825)

Carlyle continued: “Few men have applied more steadfastly to the business of their life, or been more resolutely diligent, than Schiller.”

  • Women are never stronger than when they arm themselves with their weaknesses. Marie du Deffand, from a letter to Voltaire (c. 1750), in Lettres à Voltaire (1922; Joseph Trabucco, ed.). Also an example of Oxymoronica.
  • Not to discover weakness is/The Artifice of strength. Emily Dickinson, in a c. 1865 poem; reprinted in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1960; Thomas H. Johnson, ed.)
  • It is as easy for the strong man to be strong as it is for the weak to be weak. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • Our strength grows out of our weakness. The indignation which arms itself with secret forces does not awaken until we are pricked and stung and sorely assailed. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Compensation,” in Essays: First Series (1841)

QUOTE NOTE: Reflecting on what makes for greatness in a man, Emerson went on to write: “When he is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put on his wits, on his manhood; he has gained facts; learns his ignorance; is cured of the insanity of conceit; has got moderation and real skill.”

  • The strength of weak people constantly appalls me. Have you ever seen a vine kill an oak tree? Deadly. Rae Foley, in Back Door to Death (1963)
  • Strong men can always afford to be gentle. Only the weak are intent on “giving as good as they get.” Elbert Hubbard, in The Note Book (1927)
  • So long as some are strong and some are weak, the weak will be driven to the wall. W. Somerset Maugham, in The Summing Up (1938)
  • Strength that goes wrong is even more dangerous than weakness that goes wrong. Eleanor Roosevelt, a 1959 remark, in My Day, Vol. 3 (1991)
  • Our greatest weaknesses are always the flip side of our greatest strengths. Judith Sills, in Excess Baggage: Getting Out of Your Own Way (1993)
  • The weak can be terrible/because they try furiously to be strong. Rabindranath Tagore, in Fireflies (1928)

STRESS

(see also ANXIETY and WORRY)

  • Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Natalie Goldberg, in Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life (1990)

STRIVING

(see also ACHIEVEMENT & ACCOMPLISHMENT and AIMS & AIMING and AMBITION and ASPIRATION and DREAMS—ASPIRATIONAL and GOALS & GOAL-SETTING)

  • What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. Victor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning (1946)

Frankl continued: “What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

  • Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure. George Eliot, the character Dorothea speaking, in Middlemarch (serialized 1871–72; published as stand-alone novel in 1874)
  • For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out. Theodore Roosevelt, in an 1898 speech in New York City

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

  • Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt, “The Strenuous Life,” speech at The Hamilton Club, Chicago, Illinois (April 10, 1899); later reprinted, with other writings and speeches in the book The Strenuous Life (1900)

ERROR ALERT: Numerous internet sites mistakenly present the final words as “knows neither victory nor defeat.”

  • It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic,” speech at the Sorbonne (Paris; April 23, 1910)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the most widely quoted portion of Roosevelt’s “in the arena” speech, one of history’s most celebrated pieces of political oratory. As you can see by comparing this entry with the one immediately preceding it, some elements of the Paris address were expressed in Roosevelt’s 1899 “The Strenuous Life” speech.

STRUGGLE

(see also CRISIS and DANGER and DIFFICULTY and MISERY and MISFORTUNE and OBSTACLES and PROBLEMS and TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS and TROUBLE and SUFFERING and SORROW and WOE)

  • Success is sweet, the sweeter if long delayed and attained through manifold struggles and defeats. A. Bronson Alcott, in Table-Talk (1877)

ERROR ALERT: Numerous internet sites present a mistaken version of the quotation: “Success is sweet and sweeter if long delayed and gotten through many struggles and defeats.”

  • I have always fought for ideas — until I learned that it isn’t ideas but grief, struggle, and flashes of vision which enlighten. Margaret Anderson, in The Strange Necessity: The Autobiography (1969)
  • Religion is really an art form and a struggle to find value and meaning amid the ghastly tragedy of human life. Karen Armstrong, in interview with Michael Brunton, “The Reason of Faith,” Ode magazine (Sep.-Oct., 2009)
  • You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoevsky. This is a very great liberation to the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. James Baldwin, in 1961 interview with Studs Terkel; reprinted in Conversations with James Baldwin (1989; F. L. Standley & L. H. Pratt, eds.)
  • I pick up favorite quotations, and store them in my mind as ready armor, offensive or defensive, amid the struggle of this turbulent existence. Robert Burns, in letter to Frances Anna Dunlop (Dec. 6, 1792), reprinted in The Works of Robert Burns (1800; James Currie, ed.)
  • All struggles/Are essentially/power struggles./Who will rule,/Who will lead,/Who will define,/refine,/confine,/design,/Who will dominate./All struggles/Are essentially/power struggles,/And most/are no more intellectual/than two rams/knocking their heads together. Octavia E. Butler, a poem written by the protagonist Lauren Olmina in the fictional book Earthseed, in Parable of the Sower (1993)
  • The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. Albert Camus, the final words of the essay The Myth of Sisyphus (1942; first Eng. trans., 1955)
  • This struggle of people against their conditions, this is where you find the meaning in life. Rose Chernin, quoted in Kim Chernin, In My Mother’s House (1983)
  • It’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for. Paulo Coelho, an unnamed character speaking, in By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept: A Novel of Forgiveness (1994)
  • If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Frederick Douglass, “West India Emancipation,” a speech in Canandaigua, NY (August 3, 1857); reprinted in The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass (1975; P. S. Foner, ed)
  • Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare. John Dryden, in “To My Honoured Kinsman, John Driden” (1699), in Fables (1700)

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

  • Do not feel entitled to anything you do not sweat or struggle for. Marian Wright Edelman, in The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours (1992)
  • What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. Victor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning (1946)

Frankl continued: “What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

  • One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful. Sigmund Freud, in letter to Carl Jung (Sep. 19, 1907); reprinted in The Letters of Sigmund Freud (1960; Ernst L. Freud)
  • To win one’s joy through struggle is better than to yield to melancholy. André Gide, journal entry (May 12, 1927)
  • The greatest things in the world come from suffering. It ought to give us solace. A lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle. Malcolm Gladwell, “RD Interview: Malcolm Gladwell Explains the Truth About Underdogs” (interview with Barbara O’Dair), Reader’s Digest (Nov. 2013)

QUOTE NOTE: This was Gladwell’s answer when he was asked “What’s the one thing you’d like us to take away from your book” David and Goliath (2013).

  • The struggle which is not joyous is the wrong struggle. The joy of the struggle is not hedonism and hilarity, but the sense of purpose, achievement and dignity. Germaine Greer, in The Female Eunuch (1970)
  • A work of art is the trace of a magnificent struggle. Robert Henri, in The Art Spirit (1951)
  • I would never wish anyone a life of prosperity and security. These are bound to betray. I would wish instead for adventure, struggle, and challenge. Dr. Marion Hilliard, in A Woman Doctor Looks at Love and Life (1957)
  • There is no escape from anxiety and struggle. Christopher Hitchens, in Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays (2004)
  • To win one's joy through struggle is better than to yield to melancholy. André Gide, journal entry (May 12, 1927)
  • The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is a hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. Rudyard Kipling, quoted in Arthur Gordon, “Interview with an Immortal,” Reader’s Digest (June, 1935)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is often misattributed to Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Need and struggle are what excite and inspire us; our hour of triumph is what brings the void. William James, “Is Life Worth Living?” in The Will to Believe: And Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897)
  • In the struggle between yourself and the world, second the world. Franz Kafka, notebook entry #52 (written 1917-18), in The Zürau Aphorisms (original published posthumously in 1931 by Kafka friend Max Brod under the title Reflections of Sin, Hope, Suffering, and the True Way)

QUOTE NOTE: Most internet sites now use the phrasing “back the world,” even though Kafka clearly intended to mean “second the world” (in the original German, he wrote sekunderir der welt).

  • 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
  • Strength only grows from struggle. Louis L’Amour, the protagonist Johannes Verne speaking, in The Lonesome Gods (1983)

QUOTE NOTE: This is how the quotation is often presented, but it was originally the conclusion to a larger observation about enemies: “Men strive for peace, but it is their enemies that give them strength, and I think if man no longer had enemies, he would have to invent them, for his strength only grows from struggle.”

  • [No] struggles are ever easy, and even the smallest victory is never to be taken for granted. Each victory must be applauded, because it is so easy not to battle at all, to just accept and call that acceptance inevitable. Audre Lorde, in A Burst of Light: And Other Essays (1988)
  • Life is one long struggle in the dark. Lucretius, in On the Nature of Things (1st c. B.C.)
  • Thousands of men of great native ability have been lost to the world because they have not had to wrestle with obstacles, and to struggle under difficulties sufficient to stimulate into activity their dormant powers. Orison Swett Marden, in Architects of Fate (1895)

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

  • The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in The Communist Manifesto (1847)
  • 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)
  • I was never so naïve or foolish to think that if you merely believe in something it happens. You must struggle for it. Golda Meir, quoted in As Good as Golda: The Warmth and Wisdom of Israel’s Prime Minister (1970; Israel & Mary Shenker, eds.)
  • The struggle is to synchronize the potential being with the actual being, to make a fruitful liaison between the man of yesterday and the man of tomorrow. Henry Miller, in The Cosmological Eye (1939)

Miller continued: “It is the process of growth which is painful, but unavoidable. We either grow or we die, and to die while alive is a thousand times worse than to ‘shuffle off this mortal coil.’”

  • It is wrong to expect a reward for your struggles. The reward is the act of struggle itself, not what you win. Phil Ochs, in The Complete Phil Ochs: Chords of Fame (1978)

Ochs continued: “Even though you can’t expect to defeat the absurdity of the world, you must make that attempt. That’s morality, that’s religion. That’s art. That’s life.”

  • The struggle alone pleases us, not the victory. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670)
  • All our life passes in this way: we seek rest by struggling against certain obstacles, and once they are overcome, rest proves intolerable because of the boredom it produces. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670)
  • The constant struggle in mature life, I think, is to accept the necessity of tragedy and conflict, and not to try to escape to some falsely simple solution which does not include these more somber complexities. Sylvia Plath, in letter to Olive Higgins Prouty (Dec. 13, 1955); reprinted in Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963 (1975; Aurelia Schober Plath, ed.)
  • One time you smash a bug with no mercy. Another time you find one helpless on his back with his legs flailing the air, and you flip him over and let him go on his way. The struggle that touches the heart. Charles Portis, a reflection of the protagonist Jimmy Burns, in Gringos (1991)
  • The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you, have not been shaped by a father or a schoolmaster, they have sprung from very different beginnings…. They represent a struggle and a victory. Marcel Proust, the voice of the narrator, in In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (1919; also often translated as Within a Budding Grove; volume II of In Search of Lost Time, formerly titled Remembrance of Things Past)
  • Growth occurs when individuals confront problems, struggle to master them, and through that struggle develop new aspects of their skills, capacities, views about life. Carl Rogers, in A Way of Being (1980)
  • The reward is not so great without the struggle…. The triumph can’t be had without the struggle. Wilma Rudolph, quoted in Ebony magazine (March, 1997)
  • The human animal, like others, is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life, and when by means of great wealth homo sapiens can gratify all his whims without effort, the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness. Bertrand Russell, in The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

A bit later, Russell went on to offer one of his most popular oxymoronic observations: “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

  • We take no delight in existence except when we are struggling for something. Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Vanity of Existence,” in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)
  • Hope is renewed each time that you see a person you know, who is deeply involved in the struggle of life, helping another person. You are the unaffected witness and must agree that there is hope for mankind. Albert Schweitzer, in Albert Schweitzer: Thoughts for Our Times (1975; Erica Anderson, ed.)
  • 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 (1859)

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)
  • Who has a fiercer struggle than he who strives to conquer himself? Thomas à Kempis, in The Imitation of Christ (c. 1420)
  • When you don’t come from struggle, gaining appreciation is a quality that’s difficult to come by. Shania Twain, in interview with Holly George Warren, Redbook magazine (Nov. 6, 2007)

QUOTE NOTE: Twain, the Country & Western music superstar who grew up in poverty in rural Ontario, was thinking about how different life was going to be for her six-year-old son Eja. She added: “We go out of our way to try to keep him appreciative.”

  • Great souls are grown through struggles and storms and seasons of suffering. Be patient with the process. Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Life (2002)
  • Life ought to be a struggle of desire towards adventures whose nobility will fertilize the soul. Rebecca West, in “The Gospel According to Granville-Barker,” in The Freewoman (March 7, 1912)
  • I’ve never forgotten for long at a time that living is struggle. I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for—whether it’s a field, or a home, or a country. Thornton Wilder, the character George Antrobus speaking, in The Skin of Our Teeth (1942)
  • Once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle you are equipped with the basic means of salvation. Tennessee Williams, “On a Streetcar Named Success,” in The New York Times (Nov. 30, 1947)

QUOTE NOTE: In the article, published several days before A Streetcar Named Desire was about to open on Broadway, Williams wrote about how his life had changed in the three years since his earlier play The Glass Menagerie had opened to rave reviews in Chicago in 1944. “I was snatched out of virtual oblivion,” he wrote, “and thrust into sudden prominence.” In 1945, the play moved to Broadway, where it went on to commercial success and critical acclaim (including the winning of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award). Prior to the overnight success, Williams wrote that his was “a life clawing and scratching along a sheer surface and holding on tight with raw fingers to every inch of rock higher than the one caught hold of before, but it was a good life because it was the sort of life for which the human organism is created.” The full article, a metaphorical tour de force that should be required reading for anyone who’s ever been skyrocketed to success, may be seen at: ”The Catastrophe of Success”.

  • Without deprivation and struggle there is no salvation and I am just a sword cutting daisies. Tennessee Williams, quoted in in Rex Reed, “Tennessee Williams Turns Sixty,” Esquire magazine (Sep., 1971)

Williams introduced the thought by saying: “The heart of man, his body and his brain, are forged in a white-hot furnace for the purpose of conflict. That struggle for me is creation. I cannot live without it. Luxury is the wolf at the door and its fangs are the vanities and conceits germinated by success. When an artist learns this, he knows where the dangers lie.”

QUOTE NOTE: In an April, 1973 Playboy magazine interview, Williams essentially recycled this entire observation, thus accounting for the slightly differing versions you will find of the same sentiment.

  • Nothing, I am sure, calls forth the faculties so much as the being obliged to struggle with the world. Mary Wollstonecraft, in Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787)

STUBBORNNESS

(see also OBSTINACY and PERSEVERANCE and TENACITY)

  • In the face of an obstacle which it is impossible to overcome, stubbornness is stupid. Simone de Beauvoir, in The Ethics of Ambiguity (1948)
  • He had the terrific stubbornness of an essentially weak nature. Elizabeth Corbett, in Eve and Christopher (1949)
  • A man will do more for his stubbornness than for his religion or his country. Edgar Watson Howe, in Country Town Sayings (1911)
  • I know of no higher fortitude than stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds. Louis Nizer, in My Life in Court (1961)
  • The world doesn't come to the clever folks, it comes to the stubborn, obstinate, one-idea-at-a-time people. Mary Roberts Rinehart, “The Family Friend,” Affinities (1920)
  • Stubbornness and stupidity are twins. Sophocles, in Antigone (5th c. B.C.)
  • Weak people can be very stubborn. Josephine Tey, the character Meg Hindler speaking, in A Shilling for Candles (1936)

STUDENTS

(see also EDUCATION & EDUCATORS and INSTRUCTION & INSTRUCTORS and KNOWLEDGE and LEARNING and SCHOLARS & SCHOLARSHIP and SCHOOLS & SCHOOLCHILDREN and TEACHERS & TEACHING and UNDERSTANDING)

  • It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it. Jacob Bronowski, in The Ascent of Man (1973)

STUDY & STUDIES

(see also CURIOSITY and DISCOVERY and EDUCATION & EDUCATORS and IGNORANCE and INSTRUCTION & INSTRUCTORS and KNOWLEDGE and LEARNING and SCHOLARS & SCHOLARSHIP and SCHOOLS & SCHOOLCHILDREN and STUDENTS and TEACHERS & TEACHING and UNDERSTANDING)

  • Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Francis Bacon, “Of Studies,” in Essays (1625)

Bacon added: “Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament is in discourse; and for ability is in the judgment and disposition of business.”

  • A single hour in the day, steadily given to the study of an interesting subject, brings unexpected accumulations of knowledge. William Ellery Channing, in address on “Self-Culture,” American Unitarian Conference, Boston, MA (Sep., 1838)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is often inaccurately reported. The errors are slight (A single hour a day and some interesting subject), but they are errors nonetheless.

  • Active minds that think and study,/Like Swift Brooks are seldom muddy. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)
  • Study has been my sovereign remedy against the worries of life. I have never had a care that an hour’s reading could not dispel. Charles de Montesquieu, in My Thoughts, 1720-55 (1899)

QUOTE NOTE: This lovely tribute to reading has been translated in a number of interesting ways:

“Study has been to me a sovereign remedy against the vexations of life, having never had an annoyance that one hour’s reading did not dissipate.”

“Study has been for me the sovereign remedy against all the disappointments of life. I have never known any trouble that an hour’s reading would not dissipate.”

STUFF

  • The opposite of junk is stuff/Which someone thinks is good enough. Richard Wilbur, in Opposites (1973)

STUMBLES & STUMBLING

(see also ADVERSITY and CRISIS and DANGER and DEFEAT and DIFFICULTIES and MISFORTUNE and OBSTACLES and PROBLEMS and TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS and TROUBLE and STRUGGLE and SUFFERING)

  • One cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty. Jane Austen, the character Lizzy speaking, in Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • People have to have permission to write, and they have to be given space to breathe and stumble. They have to be given time to develop and to reveal what they can do. Toni Cade Bambara, in interview with Claudia Tate, in Tate's Black Women Writers at Work (1983)
  • Men stumble over pebbles, never over mountains. Earl Derr Biggers, the protagonist Charlie Chan speaking, in Beyond That Curtain (1928)

QUOTE NOTE: In the mystery novel, the legendary Chinese detective is speaking about the importance of paying attention to what others might regard as small or trifling matters, for not doing so might eventually trip up an investigation (according to The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012), the saying went on to become proverbial). Chan preceded the thought by saying” “But it is wise in our work, Miss Morrow, that even the smallest improbabilities be studied.”

  • Where you stumble,/there lies your treasure. Joseph Campbell, in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living (1991)

QUOTE NOTE: Campbell introduced the observation by writing: “It is by going down into the abyss/that we recover the treasures of life.” And he followed it with: “The very cave you are afraid to enter/turns out to be the source of/what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave/that was so dreaded/has become the center.”

  • One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame. Willa Cather, “Le Lavandou,” in Willa Cather in Europe (1956)
  • Anybody who is stupid enough often stumbles on an effect that could never be thought up by the most brilliant. I suspect that there is a thing which you might call the genius of stupidity. Elizabeth Corbett, Eve and Christopher (1949)
  • A stumble can turn into a headfirst somersault which becomes terrifying if you’re riding a galloping horse. William A. Cummins, in King and the Cowboy (2011)
  • That we arrived at fifty years together is due as much to luck as to love, and a talent for knowing, when we stumble, where to fall, and how to get up again. Ossie Davis, in With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together (1998)
  • The humble stumble, the proud fall. Jim DeKornfeld, in a personal communication to the compiler (May 28, 2018)
  • 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)

ERROR ALERT: This observation is commonly misattributed to Anaïs Nin

  • Keep on going and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down. Charles F. Kettering, quoted in a 1947 issue of Coronet magazine (specific issue undetermined)

ERROR ALERT: Countless internet sites mistakenly attribute this observation to Ann Landers

  • And remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand. Emily Kimbrough, in her memoir The Innocents from Indiana (1950)
  • We are ourselves the stumbling-blocks in the way of our happiness. Place a common individual—by common, I mean with the common share of stupidity, custom, and discontent—place him in the garden of Eden, and he would not find it out unless he were told, and when told, he would not believe it. L. E. Landon, the character Edward Lorraine speaking, in Romance and Reality (1831)
  • One stumble is enough to deface the character of an honorable life. Roger L’Estrange, in Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists (1692)
  • A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble. C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity (1952)
  • Stumbling is not falling. Malcolm X, widely attributed, but not verified.
  • 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)

QUOTE NOTE: M. Scott Peck was almost certainly influenced by this famous Merton passage when he wrote in The Road Less Traveled (1978): “We are most often in the dark when we are the most certain, and the most enlightened when we are the most confused.”

  • I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and of little value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them. Boris Pasternak, the title character speaking, in Doctor Zhivago (1957)
  • The best horse stumbles sometime. Proverb (Dutch)
  • A stumble may prevent a fall. Proverb (English)
  • He that is too much in haste, may stumble on a good road. Proverb (French)
  • A stumble is not a fall. Proverb (Haitian)
  • A fool stumbles twice at the same stone. Proverb (Hungarian)
  • If you stumble more than once over the same stump, you have no one to blame but yourself. Proverb (Italian)
  • Who stumbles without falling makes a bigger step. Proverb (Spanish)
  • Better to stumble with toe than tongue. Proverb (Swahili)
  • It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic,” speech at the Sorbonne (Paris; April 23, 1910)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the most widely quoted portion of Roosevelt’s “in the arena” speech, one of history’s most celebrated pieces of political oratory. Roosevelt continued: “But who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

  • Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast. William Shakespeare, the character Friar Laurence speaking to Romeo, advising him to slow things down in his romantic pursuit of Juliet, in Romeo and Juliet (1595)
  • And he that strives to touch the stars/Oft stumbles at a straw. Edmund Spenser, “July,” in The Shepherd’s Calendar (1579)
  • Everybody knows if you are too careful you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something. Gertrude Stein, in Everybody’s Autobiography (1937)

STUPIDITY

(see also BLUNDERS and FOLLY and FOOLS & FOOLISHNESS and IDIOTS & IDIOCY and IGNORANCE and INCOMPETENCE and INTELLIGENCE and LUNATICS & LUNACY)

  • You can never underestimate the stupidity of the general public. Scott Adams, in The Dilbert Future: Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century (1997)

QUOTE NOTE: The best strategy for dealing with idiots, according to Adams, was: “Harness the stupidity of Induhviduals [sic] for your own financial gain.” In-duh-viduals was the term Adams preferred for idiots, in large part because he could use it to describe idiotic people without offending them (as in “You’re quite an induhvidual, Tim”).

  • A man must be excessively stupid, as well as uncharitable, who believes there is no virtue but on his own side, and that there are not men as honest as himself who may differ from him in political principles. Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (Dec. 8, 1711)
  • How improvident of the Almighty to limit man’s intelligence without limiting his stupidity. Konrad Adenauer, recycling a familiar sentiment (see the Dumas entry below) in a remark to U. S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, quoted in David C. Acheson, Acheson Country: A Memoir (1993)
  • One of the frightening things about our time is the number of people who think it is a form of intellectual audacity to be stupid. A whole generation seems to be taking on an easy distrust of thought. Renata Adler, in A Year in the Dark (1969)
  • It is precisely the stupidest people who are most sincere in their mistaken beliefs. Norman Angell, quoted in Louis Bisceglia, Norman Angell and Liberal Internationalism in Britain, 1931–35 (1982)
  • Stupidity is the same as evil if you judge by the results. Margaret Atwood, the unnamed protagonist speaking, in Surfacing (1972)
  • Never argue with stupid people; they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience. Author Unknown, but widely misattributed to Mark Twain
  • Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Author Unknown, but widely misattributed to George Carlin
  • What we opprobriously call “stupidity,” though not an enlivening quality in common society, is nature’s favorite resource for preserving steadiness of conduct and consistency of opinion. Walter Bagehot, in a post from Paris to the London Inquirer (Jan. 20, 1852)

QUOTE NOTE: Writing just after the French Revolution and the adoption of a new French constitution, Bagehot was arguing—satirically—that the French national character of stupidity was essential to keep the new government going. Contrasting the genius of the Greeks and the dullness of the Romans as he asked rhetorically: “Why do the stupid people always win and the clever people always lose?” He went on to conclude about the value of stupidity: “It enforces concentration; people who learn slowly, learn only what they must. The best security for people’s doing their duty is, that they should not know anything else to do; the best security for fixedness of opinion is, that people should be incapable of comprehending what is to be said on the other side.”

  • Too many of our countrymen rejoice in stupidity, look upon ignorance as a badge of honor. They condemn everything they don’t understand. Tallulah Bankhead, in Tallulah: My Autobiography (1952)
  • Readiness to answer all questions is the infallible sign of stupidity. Saul Bellow, the title character speaking, in Herzog (1964)
  • Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from the essay “After Ten Years” (1942), in Letters and Papers from Prison (1952)

Bonhoeffer continued: “Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed–in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical–and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.”

  • It is against Stupidity in every shape and form that we have to wage our eternal battle. William Booth, in In Darkest England, and the Way Out (1890)

Booth, a British revivalist preacher who founded the Salvation Army in 1878, witnessed stupidity at all social levels. He continued: “But how can we wonder at the want of sense on the part of those who have had no advantages, when we see such plentiful absence of that commodity on the part of those who have had all the advantages?”

  • There is no adequate defense, except stupidity, against the impact of a new idea. Percy Williams Bridgman, quoted in Darryl J. Leiter, A to Z of Physicists (2003)
  • The difference between genius and stupidity is that even genius has its limits. Rita Mae Brown, the protagonist Nickel Smith speaking, in Bingo (1987)

QUOTE NOTE: Here, Smith is rehashing a familiar theme (see the Dumas entry below),

  • If you know that the average person is stupid, then realize that half are stupider than that. George Carlin, from his stand-up comedy routine; quoted in Judy Brown, The Comedy Thesaurus (2005)
  • Stupidity is a fact of life, but unmentionable. The new Prudery. Mason Cooley, in City Aphorisms, 4th Selection (1985)
  • Anybody who is stupid enough often stumbles on an effect that could never be thought up by the most brilliant. I suspect that there is a thing which you might call the genius of stupidity. Elizabeth Corbett, in Eve and Christopher (1949)
  • I am on the side of those who believe that vice comes from stupidity and consequently that the nearer one draws to wisdom the farther one gets from vice. Marie de Gournay, in Preface to Essais by Michel de Montaigne (Book III; 1595)

QUOTE NOTE: Marie de Gournay was an aspiring young intellectual—and an early feminist—when, at age 23, she first met Montaigne in 1588 (he was 55 and already famous for his Essais, the first volume of which appeared in 1580). Women were denied formal education at the time, but de Gournay was fluent in both Latin and Greek, and already well acquainted with the classical writers of antiquity. Montaigne greatly admired her, clearly viewed her as a protégé, and even described “a fatherly love” for her in one of his essays (although he rendered her name as Marie Gournay le Jars). After Montaigne’s death in 1592, his widow made the young woman a literary executor. In 1595, she put together the first posthumous edition of Montaigne’s essays, introduced by a lengthy Preface in praise of the man and his works.

  • It is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you. Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes speaking, “The Final Problem,” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1892)
  • Throughout my life, I have seen narrow-shouldered men, without a single exception, committing innumerable stupid acts, brutalizing their fellows, and perverting souls by all means. They call the motive for their actions fame. Isidore Lucien Ducasse, writing under the pen name Comte de Lautréamont, in Les Chants de Maldoror (1870)
  • What distresses me is to see that human genius has limits and human stupidity none. Alexandre Dumas, fils, attributed to “Alex. Dum.” in Larousse’s Great Universal Dictionary of the Nineteenth Century, Vol. 2 (c. 1865); later presented in English in The Travelers Record (Feb., 1890)

QUOTE NOTE: This appears to be history’s first observation suggesting that genius (or intelligence) is limited while stupidity has no limits. The idea has since been repeated many times over the years (you’ll see a number of other examples in this section). For more, see this 2014 post from Garson O’Toole, The Quote Investigator

  • Have patience with the quarrelsomeness of the stupid. It is not easy to comprehend that one does not comprehend. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, in Aphorisms (1880)
  • It always seemed to me a sort of clever stupidity only to have one sort of talent—like a carrier-pigeon. George Eliot, the character Maggie speaking, in The Mill on the Floss (1860)
  • Everyone has to sacrifice at the altar of stupidity from time to time, to please the Deity and the human race. Albert Einstein, on an article he had recently written, in letter to Max and Hedi Born (Sep. 9, 1920); reprinted in Max Born, The Born-Einstein Letters (1971)
  • Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not yet completely sure about the universe. Albert Einstein, attributed in Frederick S. Perls, In and Out of the Garbage Pail (1969)

QUOTATION CAUTION: While this quotation is widely cited, it is listed as “Probably Not By Einstein” in Alice Calaprice’s authoritative The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2010). Perls offered several slightly different versions of the quotation over the years, which contributed to questions about its authenticity. For more, see this 2010 post by Garson O’Toole, The Quote Investigator.

  • Apart from hydrogen, the most common thing in the universe is stupidity. Harlan Ellison, “Interim Memo,” in An Edge in My Voice (1985)

QUOTE NOTE: In a short piece originally written in 1981, Ellison was thinking about creationists and evolution deniers. About them, he added: “If they aren’t after John T. Scopes scalp, they’re after ours; and their mission is to keep us as imbecilic as they are. So, no, we never finish fighting them. It’s a holding battle. But if they win the foray, books get burned, and we go back to the Flat Earth.” For a similar observation about stupidity, see the Frank Zappa entry below.

  • Nature delights in punishing stupid people. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a journal entry (July 9, 1839)
  • If the hive be disturbed by rash and stupid hands, instead of honey, it will yield us bees. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Prudence,” in Essays: First Series (1841)
  • To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost. Gustave Flaubert, in letter to Louise Colet (Aug. 13, 1846)
  • Stupidity is something unshakable; nothing attacks it without breaking itself against it; it is of the nature of granite, hard and resistant. Gustave Flaubert, in Pensées de Gustave Flaubert (1915; Louis Conard, ed.)
  • Stupidity’s the deliberate cultivation of ignorance. William Gaddis, the character Paul McCandless speaking, in Carpenter’s Gothic (1985)
  • We never really know what stupidity is until we have experimented on ourselves. Paul Gauguin, a 1903 journal entry, in Paul Gauguin’s Intimate Journals (1921)
  • There is only one force stronger than selfishness, and that is stupidity. Ellen Glasgow, the Grandfather speaking to his grandson Ranny, in Vein of Iron (1935)
  • We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity. Stephen Hawking, in Cambridge University speech, reported in The Guardian (London; Oct. 19, 2016)
  • Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Robert J. Hanlon, quoted in Arthur Bloch, Murphy’s Law, Book Two: More Reasons Why Things Go Wrong (1980)

QUOTE NOTE: In Bloch’s book, this observation was simply referred to as “Hanlon’s Razor,” and for many years people thought Hanlon was a fictional creation of Bloch’s. After all, the observation bears a close resemblance to a famous line from Robert Heinlein’s 1941 sci-fi story “Logic of Empire” (see below). While doing the research for my 2011 Neverisms book, I discovered there is indeed a real person behind the quotation. You can read the complete backstory in my Neverisms book, but here are the essentials: After reading Bloch’s first Murphy’s Law book in 1977, Hanlon, a Pennsylvania computer programmer, accepted the publisher’s invitation for readers to submit “laws” of their own creation. Several months later, Hanlon was delighted to learn that his creation would be appearing in Murphy’s Law, Book Two. Hanlon received ten copies of the sequel when it was published in 1980, and there are friends and family members who still treasure the copies that he autographed for them.

  • You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity. Robert A. Heinlein, the character Doc speaking to Wingate about a political manuscript he had recently written, “Logic of Empire” in Astounding Science Fiction (March, 1941); reprinted in The Green Hills of Earth (1951)
  • Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can’t help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity. Robert A. Heinlein, passage from “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” in Time Enough for Love (1973)
  • This life’s hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid. George V. Higgins, the character Jackie Brown speaking, in The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970)

ERROR ALERT: This appears to be the first published appearance of a sentiment that is often attributed to John Wayne in the form “Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid.” Those citing Wayne often say it appeared in the 1949 film Sands of Iwo Jima, but it did not.

  • Naïveté in grownups is often charming; but when coupled with vanity it is indistinguishable from stupidity. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
  • The hardest thing to cope with is not selfishness or vanity or deceitfulness, but sheer stupidity. Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
  • A weak mind does not accumulate force enough to hurt itself. Stupidity often saves a man from going mad. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858)

QUOTE NOTE: Holmes introduced the thought with this well known observation: “ “Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.”

  • Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped. Elbert Hubbard, in The Philistine (Sep., 1906)

QUOTE NOTE: Hubbard may have been inspired by a similar thought originally offered by Alexandre Dumas, fils (see his entry above).

  • Stupidity talks, vanity acts. Victor Hugo, “Thoughts,” in Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography (1907; Lorenzo O’Rourke, trans.)
  • They’re talking about things of which they don’t have the slightest understanding, anyway. It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves. Franz Kafka, a reflection of protagonist Josef K., in The Trial (1920)
  • Always pretend to be stupid; then when you have to show yourself smart, the display has the additional effect of surprise. Murray Kempton, “The Underestimation of Dwight D. Eisenhower,” in Rebellions, Perversities, and Main Events (1994)
  • You can be sincere and still be stupid. Charles F. Kettering, in Prophet of Progress: Selections from the Speeches of Charles F. Kettering (1961; T. A. Boyd, ed.)
  • Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Strength to Love (1963). Also an example of Oxymoronica.
  • Ignorance is temporary. Stupidity, unfortunately, is permanent. Patricia King, in Never Work for a Jerk (1987)
  • Stupid was a prison they never let you out of, no time off for good behavior, you were in for life. Steven King (writing under the pen name Richard Bachman), the narrator describing the stupidity of the protagonist, Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., in Blaze (2007)
  • Ambition and stupidity are a dangerous combination. Dean Koontz, a reflection of protagonist Odd Thomas, in Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel (2012)
  • Human beings can always be relied upon to exert, with vigor, their God-given right to be stupid. Dean Koontz, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Christopher Snow, in Seize the Night (2012)
  • Stupidity gets up early; that is why events are accustomed to happening in the morning. Karl Kraus, in In These Great Times: A Karl Kraus Reader (1976; Harry Zohn, ed.)
  • Incivility is not a vice of the soul, but the effect of several vices; of vanity, ignorance of duty, laziness, stupidity, distraction, contempt of others, and jealousy. Jean de La Bruyère, in The Characters (1688)
  • Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity. Frank Leahy, quoted in Look magazine (Jan. 10, 1955)
  • A sinner can reform, but stupid is forever. Alan Jay Lerner, quoted in The Washington Post (Dec. 19, 1969)

QUOTE NOTE: According to The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012), this is the first appearance the stupid is forever saying, now considered a modern proverb. The Post article, a review of the stage musical Coco, more fully said: “Lerner has fashioned a score of tight epigrams: ‘A sinner can reform, but stupid is forever.’”

  • Capable people do not understand incapacity; clever people do not understand stupidity. Doris Lessing, in Under My Skin: My Autobiography to 1949 (1994)
  • There are so many different kinds of stupidity, and cleverness is one of the worst. Thomas Mann, the character Hans Castorp speaking, in The Magic Mountain (1924)
  • A stupid person’s notions and feelings may confidently be inferred from those which prevail in the circle by which the person is surrounded. John Stuart Mill, in The Subjection of Women (1869)
  • One can fight evil but against stupidity one is helpless. Henry Miller, in On Turning Eighty (1972)
  • Among many reasons for being stupid it may be urged, it is being like other people, and living like one's neighbours, and indeed without it, it may be difficult to love some neighbours as oneself. Elizabeth Montagu, a 1741 observation, quoted in Vicesimus Knox, Elegant Epistles: or, Useful and Entertaining Pieces of Poetry, Selected for the Improvement of Young Persons, Vol. 2 (1814)
  • Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power. P. J. O’Rourke, in Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind’s Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice, and Alcohol-Free Beer (1992)
  • Refuse not to be informed: for that shows pride or stupidity. William Penn, in Some Fruits of Solitude (1693)
  • No intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed in with it. 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).

  • One of the unvarying characteristics of Stupidity is the utter inability of its possessor to recognize it in himself. Richard Raymond III, in personal communication to the compiler (June 3, 2018)
  • The American people are a very generous people and will forgive almost any weakness, with the possible exception of stupidity. Will Rogers, in The Illiterate Digest (1924)
  • Much of the most important evils that mankind have to consider are those which they inflict upon each other through stupidity or malevolence or both. Bertrand Russell, in Unpopular Essays (1950)
  • The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell, “The Triumph of Stupidity” (a May 10, 1933 essay); reprinted in Mortals and Others: American Essays, 1931-1935 (1975)

QUOTE NOTE: In making this observation, Russell may have been inspired by two earlier observations. The first, offered in 1918 by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., may be found in the CERTAINTY section. The second, made in 1919 by W. B. Yeats in his “The Second Coming” poem may be seen in CONVICTIONS.

  • A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says is never accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something that he can understand. Bertrand Russell, in A History of Western Philosophy (1945)
  • Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them. Bertrand Russell, in New Hopes for a Changing World (1951)
  • Against stupidity the gods/Themselves contend in vain. Johann Friedrich von Schiller, in The Maid of Orleans (1801)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation, which has achieved a kind of quotation immortality, has been translated in a number of different ways, including: “With folly, even the gods contend in vain.” It is also commonly presented as if it ended with the phrase “struggle in vain.”

  • It is a wise thing to be polite; consequently, it is a stupid thing to be rude. To make enemies by unnecessary and willful incivility is just as insane a proceeding as to set your house on fire. Arthur Schopenhauer, in Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)
  • Stupidity is the petri dish of bigotry. Jamie Seagle, in a personal communication to the compiler (June 2, 2018)
  • Stupidity has a price and it always gets paid. Dan Simmons, a favorite saying of the father of protagonist Natalie Preston, in Carrion Comfort (1989)
  • When we think of cruelty, we must try to remember the stupidity, the envy, the frustration from which it has arisen. Edith Sitwell, in Taken Care Of (1965)
  • I am patient with stupidity, but not with those who are proud of it. Edith Sitwell, quoted in Elizabeth Salter, The Last Years of a Rebel (1967)
  • Stubbornness and stupidity are twins. Sophocles, in Antigone (5th c. B.C.)
  • Don’t you know, there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. Mark Twain, the protagonist Hank Morgan speaking, in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)

Morgan explained: “The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.”

  • One cannot overestimate the power of a good rancorous hatred on the part of the stupid. The stupid have so much more industry and energy to expend on hating. They build it up like coral insects. Sylvia Townsend Warner, a 1954 entry, in The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1995; Claire Harman, ed.)
  • There is no sin except stupidity. Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist,” in Intentions (1891)
  • In public affairs stupidity is more dangerous than knavery, because [it is] harder to fight and dislodge. If a man does not know enough to know what the consequences are going to be to the country, then he cannot govern the country in a way that is for its benefit. Woodrow Wilson, in The New Freedom (1913)

Wilson preceded the thought by writing: “I am very much more afraid of the man who does a bad thing and does not know it is bad than of the man who does a bad thing and knows it is bad.”

  • It seems that in the advanced stages of stupidity, a lack of ideas is compensated for by an excess of ideologies. Carlos Ruiz Zafón, an unnamed character speaking to protagonist David Martin, in The Angel’s Game (2008)
  • Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe. Frank Zappa, in The Real Frank Zappa Book (1989; with Peter Occhiogrosso)

QUOTE NOTE: Zappa might have been inspired by the Harlan Ellison observation above.

STYLE

(see also CHIC and ELEGANCE and FASHION and TASTE and WRITERS and WRITERS—ADVICE ON WRITING and WRITING)

  • Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style. Matthew Arnold, quoted in G. W. E. Russell, Collections and Recollections (1898)
  • The higher your position, the more mistakes you’re allowed. In fact, if you make enough of them, it’s considered your style. Fred Astaire, as the character Franklyn Ambruster, in the 1962 film The Notorious Landlady (screenplay by Blake Edwards and Larry Gilbert).

ERROR ALERT: Almost all Internet sites attribute this quotation directly to Astaire, but he was in fact delivering a scripted line. To compound the error, almost every site also presents a wrongly phrased version of the quotation (“The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it’s considered to be your style”). In the film, Astaire plays the boss of an American diplomat (Jack Lemmon) who falls in love with a beautiful young woman (Kim Novak) who is suspected of killing her husband.

  • In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites attribute this observation to Thomas Jefferson, but there is no evidence he ever said anything like it. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation includes the saying in a section of “Spurious Quotations” on its official website.

  • A man’s style in any art should be like his dress—it should attract as little attention as possible. Samuel Butler, in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)

Butler added: “I never knew a writer yet who took the smallest pains with his style and was at the same time readable.”

  • In the long run, however little you talk or even think about it, the most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. Raymond Chandler, in letter to Mrs. Robert Hogan (March 8, 1947); in Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler (1981; Frank MacShane, ed).

Chandler added: “It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off. He can’t do it by trying, because the kind of style I am thinking about is a projection of personality and you have to have a personality before you can project it. But granted that you have one, you can only project it on paper by thinking of something else…Preoccupation with style will not produce it.”

  • Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess. Edna Woolman Chase, in Always in Vogue (1954; an autobiography co-authored with Ilka Chase)

Later in the work, Chase wrote: “Fashion is general; style is individual.”

  • An author arrives at a good style when his language performs what is required of it without shyness. Cyril Connolly, in Enemies of Promise (1938)
  • Style is being yourself, but on purpose. Quentin Crisp, in How to Have a Lifestyle (1979)
  • Style consists in maintaining a convincing reality all through a piece. It’s like wearing a garment that looks as if it might have been made for you even it it wasn’t. Arlene Croce, in Afterimages (1976)
  • My philosophy is fashion says “me, too,” while style says “only me.” Lynn Dell, quoted in Ari Seth Cohen, Advanced Style (2012)
  • Style is the perfection of a point of view. Richard Eberhart, “Meditation Two,” in Selected Poems, 1930–1965 (1965)
  • The great writer finds style as the mystic finds God, in his own soul. Havelock Ellis, in The Dance of Life (1923)
  • Style is life! It is the very life-blood of thought! Gustave Flaubert, in letter to Louise Colet (Sep. 7, 1853)
  • I might say that what amateurs call a style is usually only the unavoidable awkwardnesses in first trying to make something that has not heretofore been made. Ernest Hemingway, in Paris Review interview (Spring, 1958)

QUOTE NOTE: Hemingway was answering George Plimpton’s question about how much thought went into his style. Hemingway added: “Almost no new classics resemble other previous classics. At first people see only the awkwardness. Then they are not so perceptible. When they show so very awkwardly people think these awkwardnesses are the style and many copy them. This is regrettable.” See full interview at Paris Review

  • Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over Windows versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi or boxers versus briefs. Jack Lynch, in The English Language: A User’s Guide (2008)

Lynch continued: “Pedantic and vicious debates over knotty matters such as PREPOSITIONS AT THE END, THAT VERSUS WHICH, and SPLIT INFINITIVES may be entertaining to those who enjoy cockfights, but do little to improve writing.”

  • Style that is not the outgrowth of a man’s individuality, is, of course, without significance or value in the expression of his thoughts. It is never thoroughly formed until character is formed, and until the expression of thought has become habitual. J. G. [Josiah Gilbert] Holland, in Every-Day Topics: A Book of Briefs (1876)
  • Even if a thing is not beautiful, it is living art if it is someone’s experience. To do a thing as nobody else could have done it—if you can wrench that out of yourself—is style. Madge Jenison, in Sunwise Turn: A Human Comedy of Bookselling (1923)

QUOTE NOTE: Jenison, a well-known Manhattan personality in the early 1900s and the proprietor of Sunwise Turn, a popular Fifth Avenue bookshop, continued: “Beauty is well enough, but I think I have found out that truth is greater than that, and any room or shop window or business letter that is honestly drawn from the burning center of someone’s belief and not from the general vat of what everybody else does and thinks, has magic in it.”

  • Style is visual currency. Stacy London, in The Truth About Style (2012)
  • Every man will have his own style which will distinguish him as much as his gait. Cotton Mather, “Of Style,” in Manuductio ad Ministerium (1726)
  • A good style should show no sign of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident. W. Somerset Maugham, in The Summing Up (1938)
  • Style is the hallmark of a temperament stamped upon the material at hand. André Maurois, “The Writer’s Craft,” in The Art of Writing (1960)
  • When we see a natural style, we are quite surprised and delighted, for we expected to see an author and we find a man. Blaise Pascal, in Pensées (1670)
  • One cannot know one’s own style and consciously employ it. One always uses a pre-existent style, unconsciously molding it into something fresh. Cesare Pavese, diary entry (Nov. 10, 1938), in This Business of Living: Diaries, 1935-1950 (1952)

While writing, according to Pavese, writers do not know their own style. He added: “One discovers what one’s style is at any given moment only when it is past and clearly defined, when one reviews it and can interpret its meaning, deciding how it has come about.”

  • You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being. Katherine Anne Porter, in Paris Review interview (Winter-Spring, 1963)

Porter introduced the thought by saying: “A cultivated style would be like a mask. Everybody knows it’s a mask, and sooner or later you must show yourself—or at least, you show yourself as someone who could not afford to show himself, and so created something to hide behind.” To see the full interview, go to Paris Review

  • Essentially style resembles good manners. It comes of endeavoring to understand others, of thinking for them rather than yourself—of thinking, that is, with the heart as well as the head. Arthur Quiller-Couch, in The Art of Writing (1916)
  • The writer who develops a beautiful style, but has nothing to say, represents a kind of arrested esthetic development; he is like a pianist who acquires a brilliant technique by playing finger-exercises, but never gives a concert. Ayn Rand, “Basic Principles of Literature,” in The Romantic Manifesto (1971)

Rand preceded the observation by writing: “But style is not an end in itself, it is only a means to an end—the means of telling a story.”

  • Fashions fade, style is eternal. Yves Saint Laurent, quoted in Andy Warhol’s Interview (April 13, 1975)
  • Effectiveness of assertion is the alpha and omega of style. George Bernard Shaw, in Preface to Man and Superman (1903)
  • In the final analysis, “style” is art. And art is nothing more or less than various modes of stylized, dehumanized representation. Susan Sontag, “On Style,” in Against Interpretation (1966)
  • Style is the dress of thoughts; and let them be ever so just. Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield), in letter to his son (Nov. 24, 1749)

QUOTE NOTE: In offering this thought, Chesterfield was clearly inspired by a line from a 1700 poem by the English poet Samuel Wesley (see below). In the letter to his son, Chesterfield continued: “If your style is homely, coarse, and vulgar, they will appear to as much disadvantage, and be as ill received as your person, though ever so well proportioned, would, if dressed in rags, dirt, and tatters.”

  • Style is something peculiar to one person; it expresses one personality and one only; it cannot be shared. Freya Stark, “A Note on Style,” in The Arch of the Zodiac (1968)
  • Style is not something applied. It is something that permeates. Wallace Stevens, “Two or Three Ideas,” in Opus Posthumous (1951)

Stevens added: “It is of the nature of that in which it is found, whether the poem, the manner of a god, the bearing of a man. It is not a dress.”

  • Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style. Jonathan Swift, in Letter to a Young Gentleman Lately Entered Into Holy Orders (Jan. 9, 1720)
  • Style, like the human body, is specially beautiful when the veins are not prominent and the bones cannot be counted. Tacitus, in A Dialogue on Oratory (1st c. A.D.)
  • As for style of writing—if one has anything to say, it drops from him simply and directly, as a stone falls to the ground. Henry David Thoreau, in letter to Daniel Ricketson (Aug. 18, 1857)
  • A man’s style is intrinsic and private with him like his voice or his gesture, partly a matter of inheritance, partly of cultivation. It is more than a pattern of expression. It is the pattern of the soul. Maurice Valency, “Giraudoux: An Introduction,” in Jean Giraudoux: Four Plays (1958)

Valency introduced the thought by writing: “No man can establish title to an idea—at most he can only claim possession. The stream of thought that irrigates the mind of each of us is a confluent of the intellectual river that drains the whole of the living universe.” According to Valency, Giraudoux was preoccupied with the ideas of his time, “but the style of Giraudoux is Giraudoux.”

  • All styles are good except the tiresome kind. Voltaire, in Preface to L’Enfant Prodigue (1736)
  • Properly understood, style is not a seductive decoration added to a functional structure; it is of the essence of a work of art. Evelyn Waugh, quoted in David Lodge, “The Fugitive Art of Letters,” in David Pryce-Jones, Evelyn Waugh and His World (1973)

Waugh continued: “The necessary elements of style are lucidity, elegance, and individuality; these three qualities combine to form a preservative which ensures the nearest approximation to permanence in the fugitive art of letters.”

  • Style is the dress of thought; a modest dress,/Neat, but not gaudy, will true critics please. Samuel Wesley, in “An Epistle to a Friend Concerning Poetry” (1700)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the original version of a thought often misattributed to Lord Chesterfied (see the Philip Dormer Stanhope entry above).

  • The breezy style is often the work of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that pops into his head is of general interest and that uninhibited prose creates high spirits and carries the day. E. B. White, in William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style (1959)
  • Young writers often suppose that style is a garnish for the meat of prose, a sauce by which a dull dish is made palatable. Style has no such separate entity; is nondetachable, unfilterable. E. B. White, in William Strunk & E. B. White, The Elements of Style (rev. ed.; 1999)

QUOTE NOTE: White wrote this in his preface to twenty-one “suggestions and cautionary hints” about developing an effective writing style. He continued: “The beginner should approach style warily, realizing that it is himself he is approaching, no other; and he should begin by turning resolutely away from all devices that are popularly believed to indicate style—all mannerisms, tricks, adornments. The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.”

  • He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher. Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” in Leaves of Grass (1855)
  • One’s style is one’s signature always. Oscar Wilde, in letter to London’s Daily Telegraph (Feb. 2, 1891)

QUOTE NOTE: This was the letter’s concluding line, preceded by these words: “I don’t wish to sign my name, though I am afraid everybody will know who the writer is.”

  • One forges one’s style on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines. Émile Zola, in Le Figaro (1881)

SUBLIME

(see also INDIRECT and UNDERSTATEMENT)

  • From the sublime to the ridiculous it is only one step. Bernard de Fontenelle, quoted in Pensees Nouvelles et Philosophiques (1777)
  • There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous. Napoleon I (Napoleon Bonaparte), quoted in D. G. De Pradt, in Histoire de l'Ambassade dans le Grande Duché de Varsovie en 1812 (1815

QUOTE NOTE: De Pradt was the Polish ambassador to France when Napoleon made this remark to him after the French army's retreat from Moscow in 1812. The sentiment was not original to Napoleon, however, and he was likely inspired by an observation made several decades earlier from the French philosopher Bernard de Fontenelle (see his entry above). The original sentiment that something ridiculous lies just beyond the sublime goes back many centuries, though, with the earliest thought on the subject first offered by the 1st century AD Greek philosopher Longinus (see his entry above). Napoleon may has have been inspired by a 1795 observation from the English philosopher Thomas Paine (see his entry below).

  • The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous, makes the sublime again. Thomas Paine, in The Age of Reason (1795)
  • Whatever brings out the deepest unconscious state is called sublime. Kurtay Ogunc, in Cosmic Maxims (2023)
  • Art is the most sublime mission of Man, since it is the expression of thought seeking to understand the world and to make it understood. Auguste Rodin, in L’Art: Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell [Art: Interviews Brought Together by Paul Gsell] (1911; trans. in 1912 by Romilly Fedden

SUBTLETY

(see also INDIRECT and UNDERSTATEMENT)

  • The courts are an easy scapegoat because at a time when everything has to boiled down to easy slogans, we speak in subtleties. Rose Elizabeth Bird, quoted in a 1982 issue of Newsweek magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Words are the most subtle symbols which we possess and our human fabric depends on them. Iris Murdoch, in The Sovereignty of Good (1970)
  • Subtlety is wasted in Hollywood. Lynda Obst, in Hello he Lied—And Other Truths From the Hollywood Trenches (1996)

Obst preceded the thought by writing: “Subtext here is text. Don't be shy about it; embrace the vulgar in your clothes and in your speech.”

  • Subtlety being an intellectual asset, film directors rightly conceive that it would be lost upon their audiences. Agnes Repplier, “The Unconscious Humor of the Movies,” in Times and Tendencies (1931)

SUBURBS

(see also CITIES and COMMUNITIES and COMMUTERS and COUNTRY and RURAL)

  • Slums may well be breeding-grounds of crime, but middle-class suburbs are incubators of apathy and delirium. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1945)

SUCCESS

(see also DEFEAT and FAILURE and LOSS and [Secrets of] SUCCESS and SUCCESS & FAILURE and TRIUMPH and VICTORY)

  • Success has made failures of many men. Cindy Adams, quoted in Joey Adams, Cindy and I (1957)
  • Obedience is the mother of success, and success the parent of salvation. Aeschylus, in The Seven Against Thebes (5th c. B.C.)
  • Success is sweet, the sweeter if long delayed and attained through manifold struggles and defeats. A. Bronson Alcott, in Table-Talk (1877)

ERROR ALERT: Numerous internet sites present a mistaken version of the quotation: “Success is sweet and sweeter if long delayed and gotten through many struggles and defeats.”

  • All successful men are men of purpose. They hold fast to an idea, a project, a plan, and will not let it go; they cherish it, brood upon it, tend and develop it; and when assailed by difficulties, they refuse to be beguiled into surrender; indeed, the intensity of the purpose increases with the growing magnitude of the obstacles encountered.  James Allen, in The Master of Destiny (1909)
  • Eighty percent of success is showing up. Woody Allen, widely attributed

ERROR ALERT: The quotation is commonly presented in this way, but Allen was originally quoted in The New York Times (Aug. 21, 1977) as saying: “Showing up is 80 percent of life.”

  • The penalty of success is to be bored by people who used to snub you. Nancy Astor, quoted in Sunday Express (Montreal; Jan. 12, 1956)
  • Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: This sentiment, in a variety of slightly different forms, is commonly misattributed to Winston Churchill—and sometimes to Abraham Lincoln. For more, see this Quote Investigator post.

  • One’s religion is whatever he is most interested in, and yours is—Success. J. M. Barrie, Kate speaking to Sir Harry, in The Twelve-Pound Look (1910)

QUOTE NOTE: To see how Sir Harry responded to this charge—a reply that also went on to become a familiar quotation—see the Barrie entry under AMBITION.

  • You have reached the pinnacle of success as soon as you become uninterested in money, compliments, or publicity. O. A. Battista, in Quotoons: A Speaker’s Dictionary (1981)

ERROR ALERT: This observation has been commonly misattributed to Thomas Wolfe. For more on the quotation, see this 2011 QUOTE INVESTIGATOR post.

  • 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)

A bit later in the novel, Grusinskaya, an aging Russian ballerina, has a different thought on the subject, reflecting “A woman who is loved always has success.”

  • Success is full of promise till men get it; and then it is a last year’s nest from which the bird has flown. Henry Ward Beecher, in Life Thoughts (1858)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites present the quotation as if it read simply it is last year’s nest.

  • The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success…. Someday I’ll reach for it and it won’t be there. Irving Berlin, quoted in Theatre Arts magazine (Feb. 1958)
  • Success, n. The one unpardonable sin against one’s fellows. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
  • To the eye of failure, success is an accident with a presumption of crime. Ambrose Bierce, “Some Negligible Epigrams” in The Cosmopolitan magazine (Feb., 1907); reprinted in The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, Vol VIII (1911)
  • Success is a man who has the love and trust of a woman, a job he likes, and an abiding sense of humor. Success is a man whose children love him and have made him proud of them. Success is a man who dies at home in his sleep after a good life. David Brown, in Esquire: The Meaning of Life (2004, Brendan Vaughan, ed.)

Even though Brown was an acclaimed stage and film producer, his wife was even more famous, leading him to say: “Marriage to a woman more successful than you can work, provided you take pride in her achievements and are secure in your own. For years I was known as Helen Gurley Brown’s husband, and, frankly, I loved it.”

  • A minute’s success pays the failure of years. Robert Browning, in “Apollo and the Fates” (1886)
  • The only infallible criterion of wisdom to vulgar minds—success. Edmund Burke, in “A Letter from Mr. Burke to a Member of the National Assembly” (April, 1791)
  • Success is the space one occupies in the newspaper. Success is one day’s insolence. Elias Canetti, in The Secret Heart of the Clock (1991)
  • Success is having to worry about every damned thing in the world except money. Johnny Cash, quoted in Tom Dearmore, “First Angry Man of Country Singers,” The New York Times magazine (Sep. 21, 1969)

Cash continued: “I still don’t understand it. If you don’t have any time for yourself, any time to hunt or fish, that’s success?”

  • The great north-east migration. Clayton M. Chesterton, referring to a positively-accelerating revenue graph line for a successful company, in The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997)
  • Success took me to her bosom like a maternal boa constrictor. Noël Coward, quoted in Sheridan Morley, A Talent to Amuse: A Biography of Noël Coward (1969). Also an example of Oxymoronica.
  • No set goal achieved satisfies. Success only breeds a new goal. The golden apple devoured has seeds. It is endless. Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life (1962)

Davis introduced the observation by writing: “I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work.”

  • Success is counted sweetest/By those who ne’er succeed./To comprehend a nectar/Requires sorest need. Emily Dickinson, opening quatrain of poem no. 112 (c. 1859). Yet another example of Oxymoronica.
  • Success is the child of audacity. Benjamin Disraeli, the character Iskander speaking, in The Wondrous Tale of Alroy: The Rise of Iskander, Vol. 2 (1833)
  • A man is a success if he gets up in the mornin’ and gets to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do. Bob Dylan, in a May 1967 interview, quoted in Jerome L. Rodnitzky, Minstrels of the Dawn: The Folk-Protest Singer as a Cultural Hero (1976)
  • If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut. Albert Einstein, quoted in The Observer (London; Jan. 14, 1950)

QUOTE NOTE: After many years of wondering about the authenticity of this quotation, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Alice Calaprice, longtime editor of Princeton University’s Einstein Papers, considered it genuine enough to include in The New Quotable Einstein (2005).

  • Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. Albert Einstein, quoted in William Miller, “Death of a Genius: His Fourth Dimension, Time, Overtakes Einstein,” Life magazine (May 2, 1955)

Einstein continued: “He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.”

  • We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single over-riding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that objective. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in address to the Advertising Council, Washington, D.C. (April 2, 1957)
  • There is nothing so humiliating as to see blockheads succeed in undertakings in which we fail. Gustave Flaubert, the voice of the narrator, in Sentimental Education (1869)

The observation has also been translated this way: “Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in.”

  • What is success? It is a toy balloon among children armed with pins. Gene Fowler, in Skyline: A Reporter’s Reminiscence of the 1920s (1961)
  • Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. Viktor Frankl, in Preface to the 1992 edition of Man’s Search for Meaning (orig. pub. in 1946)

Frankl continued: “I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run—in the long run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”

  • Success has ruined many a man. Benjamin Franklin, in a 1752 issue of Poor Richard’s Almanack
  • Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. Bill Gates, in The Road Ahead (1995)
  • Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. Arnold H. Glasow, quoted in Forbes magazine (Nov. 1, 1971)
  • Success is more dangerous than failure, the ripples break over a wider coastline. Graham Greene, quoted in The Independent (London; April 4, 1991).
  • Success…is little more than a chemical compound of man with moment. Philip Guedalla, in Fathers of the Revolution (1926); published in England as Independence Day: A Sketchbook (1926)

Guedalla continued: “Combined, they are irresistible. But the man without the moment is as futile as the moment without the man.”

  • True Success is that which makes/Building Stones of Old Mistakes. Arthur Guiterman, in A Poet’s Proverbs (1924)
  • Success does not implant bad characteristics in people. It merely steps up the growth rate of the bad characteristics they already had. Margaret Halsey, in No Laughing Matter (1977)
  • I have always understood the unbelieving look in the eyes of those whom success touches early—it is a look half fearful, as though the dream were still in the process of being dreamed and to move or to speak would shatter it. Moss Hart, in Act One: An Autobiography (1959)
  • He was a self-made man man who owed his lack of success to nobody. Joseph Heller, the narrator describing Colonel Cargil, in Catch-22 (1961)
  • Success isn’t everything but it makes a man stand straight. Lillian Hellman, the character Julian speaking, in Toys in the Attic (1959)
  • Success is like reaching an important birthday and finding you’re exactly the same. Audrey Hepburn, quoted in Yann-Brice Dherbier and Pierre-Henri Verlhac, Audrey Hepburn : A Life in Pictures (2007)
  • Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success. Napoleon Hill, in Think and Grow Rich (1937)
  • The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it; so fine that we are often on the line and don’t know it. Elbert Hubbard, in The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927)
  • Isn’t success ridiculously easy, once it begins to succeed? Fannie Hurst, the character Virginia Eden speaking to Bea Pullman, in Imitation of Life (1933)

The narrator then says of Eden, a self-made millionaire: “She had thought so a thousand times. Yes, after the strain and sweat and pushing until the very groins of your being shrieked protest, something like momentum happened. It took your wits and your concentration and your continued willing sweat, of course, to keep it going, but the success of success had ball bearings. You steered, but in time your energy was strung with nerves along which flowed the mysterious generating currents you had somehow got started back in days when success had not yet been born.”

  • Once we find the fruits of success, the taste is nothing like what we had anticipated. William Inge, in Foreword to Four Plays (1958)
  • The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That—with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success—is our national disease. William James, in letter to H. G. Wells (Sep. 11, 1906); reprinted in The Letters of William James, Vol. 2 (1920)
  • Think of all the really successful men and women you know. Do you know a single one who didn’t learn very young the trick of calling attention to himself in the right quarters? Storm Jameson, the College Master speaking, in A Cup of Tea for Mr. Thorgill (1957)
  • Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get. Charles F. Kettering, quoted in a 1964 issue of Show magazine

QUOTATION CAUTION: An original source for this observation has never been provided, so use with that in mind. So far, this is the earliest citation I’ve found. Also an example of chiasmus.

  • Charity may cover a multitude of sins, but success transmutes them into virtues. Hugh Kingsmill, “Rudyard Kipling,” in The Progess of a Biographer (1949)
  • Every success is usually an admission ticket to a new set of decisions. Henry Kissinger, in Years of Renewal (1999)
  • In America, success has always been easy to measure. It is the distance between one’s origins and one’s final achievement that matters. Michael Korda, in Success! (1977)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites and scores of books mistakenly present the quotation this way: “Success has always been easy to measure. It is the distance between one’s origins and one’s final achievement.”

  • One definition of success might be refining our appetites, while deepening our hunger. Yahia Lababidi, “Aphorisms on Art, Morality & Spirit,” Elephant Journal Nov. 3, 2013)
  • Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved. Success is the lurking place of failure; but who can tell when the turning-point will come? Lao-Tzu, in Tao Te Ching (6th c. B.C.); also to be found in Lionel Giles, The Sayings of Lao Tzu (1904)
  • Sweet Smell of Success. Ernest Lehman, original title of 1950 novella and the 1957 film adaptation

QUOTE NOTE: When Cosmopolitan magazine published Lehman’s novella in 1950, the title was changed to “Tell Me About It Tomorrow” (apparently because the magazine’s editor didn’t want the word smell to appear in print in the publication).

  • Success makes men rigid and they tend to exalt stability over all the other virtues; tired of the effort of willing they become fanatics about conservatism. Walter Lippmann, in A Preface to Politics (1913)
  • The penalty of success is to be bored by the attentions of people who formerly snubbed you. Mary Wilson Little, in A Paragrapher’s Reveries (1904)
  • If you want to succeed in life, the saying goes, you must pick three bones to carry with you at all times: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funnybone. Reba McEntire, in Comfort From a Country Quilt (2000)

McEntire introduced the thought by writing: “We’ve all used that expression, ‘I’ve got a bone to pick with you.’ Somewhere along the way I learned an old folk saying that always seemed to me to be an interesting variation on that expression, but one which I think packs a lot of truth.”

  • No illusion is more crucial than the illusion that great success and huge money buy you immunity from the common ills of mankind. Larry McMurtry, a reflection of protagonist Danny Deck, in Some Can Whistle (1989)
  • I personally measure success in terms of the contributions an individual makes to her or his fellow human beings. Margaret Mead, in Redbook magazine (Nov., 1978); reprinted in Some Personal Views (1979
  • Success is like a liberation or the first phase of a love affair. Jeanne Moreau, quoted in Oriana Fallaci, “Jeanne Moreau: Femme Fatale,” The Limelighters (1968)
  • There is only one success…to be able to spend your own life in your own way, and not to give others absurd maddening claims upon it. Christopher Morley, the voice of the narrator, in Where the Blue Begins (1922)
  • Success is like the sunshine—it brings the rattlesnakes out. Paul Morton, quoted in Edwin Lefèvre, “Paul Morton—Human Dynamo,” The Cosmopolitan Magazine (Oct., 1905)

AUTHOR NOTE: Morton was a prominent American businessman who served as Secretary of the Navy in president Theodore Roosevelt’s administration. To see the original article, a classic piece of “puff-piece” journalism, go to: The Cosmopolitan.

  • It is only the cynicism that is born of success that is penetrating and valid. George Jean Nathan, “Cynicism,” in Monks are Monks (1929)
  • I attribute my success to this. I never gave or took an excuse. Florence Nightingale, quoted in Cecil Woodham-Smith, Florence Nightingale (1950)
  • Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success. Annie Oakley, quoted in Brenda Haugen, Annie Oakley: American Sharpshooter (2006)
  • Success is a lot like a bright, white tuxedo. You feel terrific when you get it, but then you’re desperately afraid of getting it dirty, of spoiling it in any way. Conan O’Brien, in 2000 address to graduating seniors at Harvard University

O’Brien preceded the observation by saying: “I took a lot of criticism, some of it deserved, some of it excessive, and, to be honest with you, it hurt like you would not believe. But I’m telling you all this for a reason. I’ve had a lot of success. I’ve had a lot of failure. I’ve looked good. I’ve looked bad. I’ve been praised. And I’ve been criticized. But my mistakes have been necessary. I’ve dwelled on my failures today because, as graduates of Harvard, your biggest liability is your need to succeed, your need to always find yourself on the sweet side of the bell curve.” For the full transcript, go to: Text of Speech. To view the first ten minutes of the speech, go to: YouTube Video of Speech.

  • Success means being heard and don’t stand there and tell me you are indifferent to being heard. Everything about you screams to be heard. Flannery O’Connor, in letter to “A” (Dec. 9, 1961); reprinted in The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor (1979; Sally Fitzgerald. ed.)

O’Connor continued: “You may write for the joy of it, but the act of writing is not complete in itself. It has its end in its audience.”

  • To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. Walter Pater, in Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873)

Pater introduced this thought by writing: “Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?”

  • Integrity is so perishable in the summer months of success. Vanessa Redgrave, quoted in Dan Callahan, Vanessa: A Life of Vanessa Redgrave (2014)
  • In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it; they must not do too much of it; and they must have sense of success in it. John Ruskin, in On the Old Road (1882)
  • Success is a public affair. Failure is a private funeral. Rosalind Russell, in Life is a Banquet (1977)
  • Success and failure—we think of them as opposites, but they’re really not. They’re companions—the hero and the sidekick. Laurence Shames, in The Hunger for More: Searching for Values in an Age of Greed (1989)

QUOTE NOTE: It’s always nice to see authors expressing genuine affection for something they’ve written—especially something written decades earlier—and that’s exactly what I discovered when I was attempting to track down the source of this quotation. From the millions of words Shames penned in a career spanning over four decades, he selected this remarkable metaphor as one of the things he was glad to have written. Go to: Laurence Shames.

  • To freely bloom—that is my definition of success. Gerry Spence, in How to Argue & Win Every Time (1995)
  • Success to me is having ten honeydew melons, and eating only the top half of each of them. Barbra Streisand, quoted in Life magazine (Sep. 20, 1963)
  • People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved. Anne Sullivan, on Helen Keller's progress, in an 1887 letter; reprinted in The Story of My Life (1903)
  • There is no deodorant like success. Elizabeth Taylor, in Elizabeth Taylor: An Informal Memoir (1965)

QUOTE NOTE: The full passage in the book was: “I learned in New York that there is no deodorant like success.” Taylor was essentially reprising a sentiment she had previously offered in a Life magazine piece (Dec. 18, 1964): “I have learned, however, that there’s no deodorant like success.” I had a devil of a time authenticating this quotation because almost all collections of Elizabeth Taylor quotations have it phrased: “Success is a great deodorant.” My heartfelt thanks to the inestimable quotation sleuth Barry Popik for providing the proper citation.

  • If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal—that is your success. Henry David Thoreau, “Higher Laws,” in Walden (1854)

Thoreau concluded: “All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself.”

  • I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Henry David Thoreau, “Conclusion,” in Walden (1854)

QUOTE NOTE: The full passage, which is widely quoted, may be seen at: Walden

  • All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. Mark Twain, in letter to Mrs. Foote (Dec. 2, 1887)
  • Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies. Gore Vidal, quoted in The Sunday Times Magazine (London; Sep. 16, 1973)
  • Success can make you go one of two ways. It can make you a prima donna, or it can smooth the edges, take away the insecurities, let the nice things come out. Barbara Walters, quoted in Newsweek magazine (May 6, 1974)
  • I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. Booker T. Washington, in Up From Slavery (1901)

Washington continued: “Looked at from this standpoint, I almost reach the conclusion that often the Negro boy’s birth and connection with an unpopular race is an advantage, so far as real life is concerned. With few exceptions, the Negro youth must work harder and must perform his tasks even better than a white youth in order to secure recognition.”

  • One day you are a signature, next day, you are an autograph. Billy Wilder, quoted in Charlotte Chandler, Nobody’s Perfect: Billy Wilder: A Personal Biography (2002)

Wilder preceded the observation by saying, “One day it happens. Success happens and it catches you by surprise.” About the circumstances of Wilder’s pivotal moment of success, Chandler wrote: “For Billy Wilder, that day came in March 1946, when The Lost Weekend was nominated for eight Oscars and won four. It was voted best picture and Wilder was voted the best director. He and Charles Brackett shared best screenplay.”

  • Nothing recedes like success. Walter Winchell, tweaking the proverb, “Nothing succeeds like success,” in 1930 “On Broadway” column in the New York Daily Mirror (specific date undetermined)
  • If people are highly successful in their professions they lose their senses. Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures. Sound goes. They have no time to listen to music. Speech goes. They have no time for conversation. They lose their sense of proportion—the relations between one thing and another. Humanity goes. Virginia Woolf, in Three Guineas (1938)

Woolf continued: “Money making becomes so important that they must work by night as well as by day. Health goes. And so competitive do they become that they will not share their work with others though they have more than they can do themselves. What then remains of a human being who has lost sight sound, and sense of proportion? Only a cripple in a cave?”

  • Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation. Zig Ziglar, in See You at the Top (1975)

Ziglar added: “Many times it is just over the hill or around the corner. Sometimes it takes that extra push to climb that hill or round that curve.”

QUOTE NOTE: The opportunity meets preparation phrase was already well established when Ziglar wrote these words. For more, go to Luck.

[Secrets of] SUCCESS

(see also DEFEAT and FAILURE and [Secrets of] LIFE and LOSS and SUCCESS and SUCCESS & FAILURE and TRIUMPH and VICTORY)

  • You must act as if everything depended on your individual efforts. The secret of success is constancy of purpose. Benjamin Disraeli, in speech at Crystal Palace (London; June 24, 1872), cited in “Mr. Disraeli at Sydenham,” The Times June 25, 1872)

QUOTE NOTE: There is some debate as to whether Disraeli originally said constancy of purpose or constancy to purpose. Both sides have some evidence to support their positions, but the foregoing version is the most favored.

  • To tend, unfailingly, unflinchingly, towards a goal is the secret of success. But success? What exactly is success? For me it is to be found not in applause, but in the satisfaction of feeling that one is realizing one's ideal. Anna Pavlova, “Pages of My Life,” in A. H. Franks, Pavlova: A Biography (1956)
  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure. Colin Powell, quoted in Oren Harari, The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell (2003)
  • Know your aim, and live for that one thing. We have only one life. The secret of success is concentration; wherever there has been a great life, or a great work, that [concentration] has gone before. Taste everything a little, look at everything a little; but live for one thing. Olive Schreiner, the character Lyndal speaking to her friend Waldo, in The Story of an African Farm (1883; orig. published under the pen name Ralph Iron)
  • Self-trust, we know is the first secret of success. Lady Jane Francesca Wilde, who wrote under the nom de plume “Speranza,” in Notes on Men, Women and Books (1891)

AUTHOR NOTE: Lady Wilde, a linguist, poet, and prominent Irish nationalist, was the wife of the eminent eye surgeon, William Wilde, and mother of Oscar Wilde. Many of her works appeared under the pen name Speranza, the Italian word for hope. After Sir William’s death in 1879, she moved from Dublin to London, where she joined her son Oscar and became an integral member of a group of Irish writers that included George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats.

SUCCESS & FAILURE

(includes VICTORY & DEFEAT; see also DEFEAT and FAILURE and LOSS and SUCCESS and SUCCESS & HAPPINESS and TRIUMPH and VICTORY)

  • Success has made failures of many men. Cindy Adams, quoted in Joey Adams, Cindy and I (1957)
  • We mount to heaven mostly on the ruins of our cherished schemes, finding our failures were successes. A. Bronson Alcott, “Counsels,” in Tablets (1868). Also an example of Oxymoronica.
  • Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. Author Unknown

ERROR ALERT: The original author of this quotation has never been identified, but it is common for variations of the sentiment to be attributed to Winston Churchill, and sometimes even to Abraham Lincoln. For more on the quotation, see this post from Garson O'Toole, better known as the Quote Investigator.

  • To the eye of failure,success is an accident with a presumption of crime. Ambrose Bierce, “Some Negligible Epigrams” in The Cosmopolitan magazine (Feb., 1907); reprinted in The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, Vol VIII (1911)
  • Nothing fails like success because we don’t learn from it. We learn only from failure. Kenneth E. Boulding, “The Diminshing Returns of Science,” in New Scientist and Science Journal (March 25, 1971). An example of Oxymoronica.
  • A minute’s success pays the failure of years. Robert Browning, in “Apollo and the Fates” (1886)
  • I’d rather be a failure at something I love than successful at something I hated. George Burns, in a 1980s appearance on The Merv Griffin Show (specific date undetermined), quoted in Eda J. LeShan, Oh To Be 50 Again (1986)

Burns continued: “I love it more now than ever. You have to fall in love with what you are doing.”

  • If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success. James Cameron, quoted in Dana Goodyear, “Man of Extremes: The Return of James Cameron,” in The New Yorker (Oct. 26, 2009)
  • It takes a god to distinguish between our successes and failures in life. Still, one can at least chart some of the forces at work and recall a few of the turning points. Michael Dirda, in the Preface to An Open Book: Chapters from a Reader’s Life (2003)
  • The man who has done his level best, and who is conscious that he has done his best, is a success, even though the world may write him down as a failure. B. C. Forbes, quoted in “Thoughts on the Business of Life,” in 1989 issue of Forbes magazine (specific issue undetermined)
  • Failure is success if we learn from it. Malcolm Forbes, in 1992 issue of Forbes magazine
  • Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently. Henry Ford, quoted in F. T. Haner, Stephen K Keiser, & Donald J. Puglisi, in Introduction to Business: Concepts and Careers (1976)
  • Those who succeed can’t forgive a fellow for being a failure, and those who fail can’t forgive him for being a success. 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). Also an example of chiasmus.
  • Those who lose visualize the penalties of failure. Those who win visualize the rewards of success. Rob Gilbert, quoted in John C. Maxwell, Put Your Dream to the Test (2009)
  • Success is more dangerous than failure, the ripples break over a wider coastline. Graham Greene, quoted in The Independent (London, April 4, 1991)
  • One of the ingredients most necessary for success is failure. F. T. Haner, Stephen K. Keiser, & Donald J. Puglisi, in Introduction to Business: Concepts and Careers (1976)
  • Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success. Napoleon Hill, in Think and Grow Rich (1937)
  • The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it; so fine that we are often on the line and don’t know it. Elbert Hubbard, in The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927)
  • Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true. John Keats, attributed

ERROR ALERT: This quotation has become extremely popular, but it is in error in two ways. First, it has not been found in the writings of Keats, or reported in biographies or other accounts of his life. Second, the popular version above is a slight abridgment of the original phrasing that was attributed to Keats—but without source information—in Elon Foster’s New Cyclopaedia of Prose Illustrations (1877):

Albeit failure in any cause produces a correspondent misery in the soul, yet it is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterward carefully eschew.

This attributed quotation from Foster's quotation anthology was given legitimacy when it appeared in a 1936 article in the “Saturday Review of Books and Art” in the New York Times.

  • There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan. John F. Kennedy, in a press conference (April 21, 1961)

QUOTE NOTE: In a press conference held three months after his inauguration as president, JFK said this about the failed Bay of Pigs invasion (over the years, he employed variations of the saying, sometimes replacing victory/defeat with success/failure). If JFK had known more, he might have chosen not to use the metaphor, for it was a popular saying with Italian and German military officers in WWII. The inspiration for the sentiment came from Mussolini’s foreign minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano, who had written in a 1942 diary entry: “Victory has a hundred fathers, but no one wants to recognize defeat as his own.”

  • I think success has no rules, but you can learn a great deal from failure. Jean Kerr, the character Bob speaking, in Mary, Mary (1963)
  • Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved. Success is the lurking place of failure; but who can tell when the turning-point will come? Lao-Tzu, in Tao Te Ching (6th c. B.C.)
  • The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary, it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant, and kind. Failure makes people cruel and bitter. W. Somerset Maugham, in The Summing Up (1938)
  • Nothing fails like success; nothing is so defeated as yesterday’s triumphant Cause. Phyllis McGinley, “How to Get Along With Men,” in The Province of the Heart (1959)
  • A strong and well-constituted man digests his experiences (deeds and misdeeds all included) just as he digests his meats, even when he has some tough morsels to swallow. Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Genealogy of Morals (1887)
  • Pursue failure. Failure is success’s only launching pad. Tom Peters, in Liberation Management (1992)
  • 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.)
  • Success teaches us nothing; only failure teaches. Hyman G. Rickover, in address at U. S. Navy Postgraduate School (March 16, 1954)
  • Success is a public affair. Failure is a private funeral. Rosalind Russell, in Life is a Banquet (1977)
  • Success and failure—we think of them as opposites, but they’re really not. They’re companions—the hero and the sidekick. Laurence Shames, in The Hunger for More: Searching for Values in an Age of Greed (1989)

QUOTE NOTE: It’s always nice to see authors expressing genuine affection for something they’ve written—especially something written decades earlier—and that’s exactly what I discovered when I was attempting to track down the source of this quotation. From the millions of words Shames penned in a career spanning over four decades, he selected this remarkable metaphor as one of the things he was glad to have written. Go to: Laurence Shames.

  • We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success; we often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery. Samuel Smiles, in Self-Help (1859)
  • Human nature is the same everywhere; it deifies success, it has nothing but scorn for defeat. Mark Twain, the voice of the narrator, in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)
  • I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: Try to please everybody. Herbert Bayard Swope, a signature saying, quoted in Ely Jacques Swope, The World of Swope (1956)

ERROR ALERT: All over the internet, and even in many published quotation anthologies, this quotation is mistakenly attributed to Bill Cosby. For more on Swopes and his signature saying, see this 2010 post by Barry Popik.

  • Success is never final and failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts. George F. Tilton, quoted in Coronet magazine (July, 1954)

SUCCESS & HAPPINESS

(includes VICTORY & DEFEAT; see also DEFEAT and FAILURE and LOSS and SUCCESS and SUCCESS & FAILURE and TRIUMPH and VICTORY)

  • Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. Viktor Frankl, in Preface to the 1992 edition of Man’s Search for Meaning (orig. pub. in 1946)

Frankl continued: “I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run—in the long run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”

QUOTE NOTE: In The Will to Meaning (1969), Frank expressed the thought more succinctly: “If there is a reason for happiness, happiness ensues, automatically and spontaneously, as it were. And that is why one need not pursue happiness, one need not care for it once there is a reason for it.”

  • Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get. Charles F. Kettering, quoted in a 1964 issue of Show magazine

QUOTATION CAUTION: An original source for this observation has never been provided, so use with that in mind. So far, this is the earliest citation I’ve found. Also an example of chiasmus.

  • When a small child…I thought that success spelled happiness. I was wrong. Happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away. Anna Pavlova, “Pages of my life,” in A. H. Franks, Pavlova: A Biography (1956)
  • Success is getting what you go after; happiness is liking it after you get it. Mary Pettibone Poole, in A Glass Eye at a Keyhole (1938)
  • In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it; they must not do too much of it; and they must have sense of success in it. John Ruskin, in On the Old Road (1882)
  • Those who pursue happiness conceived merely in the abstract and conventional terms, as money, success, or respectability, often miss that real and fundamental part of happiness which flows from the senses and imagination. George Santayana, in The Sense of Beauty (1896)

Santayana continued: “This element is what aesthetics supplies to life; for beauty also can be a cause and a factor of happiness. Yet the happiness of loving beauty is either too sensuous to be stable, or else too ultimate, too sacramental, to be accounted happiness by the worldly mind.” Santayana’s thought leads to an inescapable conclusion—people who seek happiness in such worldly pursuits as success or money will never fully understand people who derive great happiness from, say, an absorption in great literature or art.

SUFFERING

(see also ADVERSITY and AGONY and ANGUISH and DEPRESSION and DIFFICULTY and GRIEF & GRIEVING and MISERY & WOE and MISFORTUNE and PAIN and PROBLEMS and SORROW and TEARS and TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS)

  • When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool. Chinua Achebe, the character Moses Unachukwu speaking, in Arrow of God (1967)
  • Wisdom comes alone through suffering. Aeschylus, in Agamemnon (5th c. B.C.)
  • To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. If there is any purpose to life at all there must be a purpose in suffering and in dying. Gordon W. Allport, who described this as “the central theme of existentialism,” in the Preface to Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning (1946; English version, 1959)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is often mistakenly attributed directly to Frankl.

  • You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering. Henri-Frédéric Amiel, entry in his Journal Intime (1882)
  • The capacity to suffer varies more than anything that I have observed in human nature. Margot Asquith, in More or Less About Myself (1934)
  • When pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering…. Jane Austen, the character Anne Elliot speaking, in Persuasion (1818)
  • You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoevsky. This is a very great liberation to the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. James Baldwin, in 1961 interview with Studs Terkel; reprinted in Conversations with James Baldwin (1989; F. L. Standley & L. H. Pratt, eds.)
  • Many men are deeply moved by the mere semblance of suffering in a woman; they take the look of pain for a sign of constancy or of love. Honoré de Balzac, the voice of the narrator, in A Woman of Thirty (1842)
  • Suffering isn’t ennobling, recovery is. Christiaan Barnard, quoted in Patricia T. O’Conner, “Recovery is Ennobling, Suffering is Not,” The New York Times (April, 28, 1985)
  • Suffering is a part of the Divine idea. Henry Ward Beecher, in Life Thoughts (1858)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet quotation sites mistakenly omit the “a” in the middle of the observation, presenting it as if it read Suffering is part of the divine idea.

  • Anxiety destroys scale, and suffering makes us lose perspective. Saul Bellow, “The Sealed Treasure” (1960), in There Is Simply Too Much to Think About: Collected Nonfiction (2015; Benjamin Taylor, ed.)
  • We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. The Bible—Romans 5:3–5 (RSV)

QUOTE NOTE: The King James Version of the passage goes this way: “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

  • Knowledge by suffering entereth,/And Life is perfected by Death. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from “A Vision of Poets,” in Poems, Vol. II (1844)

QUOTATION CAUTION: This looks like the original source for an observation widely attributed to Browning (“True knowledge comes only through suffering”), but never, as far as I know, actually found in her works.

  • Man must remake himself. And he cannot remake himself without suffering. For he is both the marble and the sculptor. Alexis Carrel, in Man, The Unknown (1935)

ERROR ALERT: This quotation is often mistakenly presented as: Man cannot remake himself without suffering.

  • Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. M. Kathleen Casey, quoted in Karen Casey and Martha Vanceburg, The Promise of a New Day (1983)
  • What we suffer for is enriched by our suffering until it becomes priceless. Mary H. Catherwood, the voice of the narrator, in Lazarre (1901)
  • A certain combination of incompetence and indifference can cause almost as much suffering as the most acute malevolence. Bruce Catton, in A Stillness at Appomattox (1953)
  • Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. E. H. Chapin, in Living Words (1866)

ERROR ALERT: This exact quotation, but with seared instead of seamed, was mistakenly attributed to Kahlil Gibran in The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran (1995). Ever since, almost all quotation anthologies have repeated the error.

  • Nuts to the educational value of suffering. Robert Christgau, quoted in Joanna Scutts review of his 2015 book Going Into the City, The Guardian (London; Feb. 20, 2015)
  • 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.”

  • You don’t have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone. John Ciardi, in Saturday Review (Fall, 1962)
  • 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.

  • I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth. Daphne Du Maurier, a reflection of the unnamed narrator and protagonist, in Rebecca (1938)

She continued: “This was what I had done. I had built up false pictures in my mind and sat before them. I had never had the courage to demand the truth.”

  • I believe there is a theory that men and women emerge finer and stronger after suffering, and that to advance in this or any world we must endure ordeal by fire. This we have done in full measure, ironic though it seems. We have both known fear, and loneliness, and very great distress. Daphne Du Maurier, a reflection of the unnamed narrator and protagonist, in Rebecca (1938)

She continued: “I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”

  • The quickest horse that carries you to perfection is suffering. Meister Eckhart, quoted by Thomas Mann in 1939 Princeton University address; reprinted in The Princeton Alumni Weekly (May 26, 1939)

For the full article, and a fascinating quotation from Mann about being grateful for suffering, go to: Mann on Suffering.

  • There is only one road to true human greatness: the road through suffering. Albert Einstein, a comment on W. White’s article “Why I Remain a Negro,” in Saturday Review (Nov. 11, 1947); reported in The New Quotable Einstein (2005; Alice Calaprice, ed.)
  • Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state. George Eliot, the narrator speaking, in Adam Bede (1859)
  • Suffering—how divine it is, how misunderstood! We owe to it all that is good in us, all that gives value to life; we owe to it pity, we owe to it courage, we owe to it all the virtues. Anatole France, in The Garden of Epicurus (1894)
  • If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search For Meaning (1946; English version, 1959)
  • The greatest things in the world come from suffering. It ought to give us solace. A lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle. Malcolm Gladwell, “RD Interview: Malcolm Gladwell Explains the Truth About Underdogs” (interview with Barbara O’Dair), Reader’s Digest (Nov. 2013)

QUOTE NOTE: This was Gladwell’s answer when he was asked “What’s the one thing you’d like us to take away from your book” David and Goliath (2013).

  • That was one of the worst things about suffering; it made one indifferent and insincere. Ellen Glasgow, “The Difference,” in The Shadowy Third (1923)
  • Experience is the extract of suffering. Arthur Helps, quoted in Charles Buxton, Notes of Thought (1873)
  • Suffering has always been with us, does it really matter in what form it comes? All that matters is how we bear it and how we fit it into our lives. Etty Hillesum, in An Interrupted Life (1983)
  • We need not only a purpose in life to give meaning to our existence but also something to give meaning to our suffering. We need as much something to suffer for as something to live for. Eric Hoffer, in Reflections on the Human Condition (1973)
  • Let us suffer if we must, but let us suffer on the heights. Victor Hugo, in Contemplations (1856)
  • Whenever evil befalls us, we ought to ask ourselves, after the first suffering, how we can turn it into good. So shall we take occasion, from one bitter root, to raise perhaps many flowers. Leigh Hunt, in The Religion of the Heart: A Manual of Faith and Duty (1853)
  • Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering. Carl Jung, in 1937 Terry Lecture at Yale University; reprinted in Psychology and Religion (1938)
  • 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)
  • The task is to use our suffering and to use it so well that we can use it up. Alfred Kazin, journal entry (Aug. 12, 1946), in Alfred Kazin’s Journals (2011; Richard M. Cook, ed.)
  • we could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world. Helen Keller, in Atlantic Monthly (May, 1890)
  • Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. Helen Keller, in Optimism (1903)
  • Instead of being satisfied to alleviate suffering, we shall labor hard and continually to prevent it. Helen Keller, in “Facing the Future,” a 1916 speech
  • The civilization of a state should be measured by the amount of suffering it prevents and the degree of happiness it makes possible for its citizens. Helen Keller, in a 1927 speech to Iowa state legislature (specific date undetermined)
  • Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved. Helen Keller, in Helen Keller’s Journal (1938)
  • I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in a letter to her mother-in-law (March, 1932); reprinted in Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1929–1932 (1973)
  • Know how sublime a thing it is/To suffer and be strong. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Light of the Stars,” in Voices of the Night (1839)
  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Table-Talk,” in Drift-Wood (1857)
  • Suffering, on the other hand, is the nightmare reliving of unscrutinized and unmetabolized pain. When I live through pain without recognizing it, self-consciously, I rob myself of the power that can come from using that pain, the power to fuel some movement beyond it. Audre Lorde, “Eye to Eye,” in Sister Outsider (1984)

In making her well-known distinction between pain and suffering, Lorde began by writing: “Pain is an event, an experience that must be recognized, named, and then used in some way in order for the experience to change, to be transformed into something else, strength or knowledge or action.”

  • To be grateful for all life’s blessings…is the best condition for a happy life. A joke, a good meal, a fine spring day, a work of art, a human personality, a voice, a glance—but this is not all. For there is another kind of gratitude…the feeling that makes us thankful for suffering, for the hard and heavy things of life, for the deepening of our natures which perhaps only suffering can bring. Thomas Mann, in address at Princeton University (May 18, 1939); reported in “Princeton Honors Thomas Mann,” The Princeton Alumni Weekly (May 26, 1939)

QUOTE NOTE: Gratitude is generally associated with “counting your blessings,” but Mann makes a strong case for being grateful for everything that results in our growth as human beings, including the suffering. Mann’s full remarks may be seen at Princeton Alumni Weekly.

  • Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become Love. That is the mystery. Katherine Mansfield, journal entry (Dec. 19, 1920), in The Journal of Katherine Mansfield (1927)
  • It is the worst humiliation and grievance of the suffering, that they cause suffering. Harriet Martineau, in Life in the Sick-Room (1844)
  • It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive. W. Somerset Maugham, the voice of the narrator, in The Moon and Sixpence (1919)
  • The scene of suffering is a scene of joy when the suffering is past; and the silent reminiscence of hardships departed, is sweeter than the presence of delight. Herman Melville, the protagonist Wellingborough Redburn speaking, in Redburn (1849)
  • Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. Thomas Merton, in The Seven Storey Mountain (1948)

Merton continued: “The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers the most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture.”

  • A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears. Michel de Montaigne, in Essais (1580)
  • What actually fills you with indignation as regards suffering is not suffering in itself but the pointlessness of suffering. Friedrich Nietzsche, in On the Genealogy of Morals (1881)
  • 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)
  • One does not ask of one who suffers: What is your country and what is your religion? One merely says: You suffer, that is enough for me. Louis Pasteur, in 1886 speech to the French Philanthropic Society; quoted in René Jules Dubos, Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science (1950)
  • You cannot insult a man more atrociously than by refusing to believe he is suffering. Cesare Pavese, diary entry (Oct. 5, 1938), in This Business of Living: Diaries, 1935-1950 (1952)
  • It is in the quiet crucible of our personal private sufferings that our noblest dreams are born, and God’s greatest gifts are given, and often given in compensation for what you’ve been through. Wintley Phipps, in Your Best Destiny (2015; with James Lund)
  • Man never reasons so much and becomes so introspective as when he suffers; since he is anxious to get at the cause of his sufferings, to learn who has produced them, and whether it is just or unjust that he should have to bear them. Luigi Pirandello, in Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921)
  • All the arguments to prove man’s superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: that in suffering the animals are our equals. Dallas Pratt, M.D., in Painful Experiments on Animals (1976)

ERROR ALERT: Almost all internet sites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Peter Singer, the “Animal Liberation” pioneer. Pratt was discussing Singer’s viewpoint when he wrote this, but he was expressing his own though and not quoting Singer.

  • We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full. Marcel Proust, in Remembrance of Things Past (1927)
  • Suffering of sentient beings is like decay; it fertilizes the growth of their souls. Anne Rice, the title character speaking, in Memnoch the Devil (1995)
  • The hardest thing we are asked to do in this world is to remain aware of suffering, suffering about which we can do nothing. May Sarton, in At Seventy (1984)
  • There are deeds/Which have no form, sufferings/which have no tongue. Percy Bysshe Shelley, the character Beatrice speaking, in The Cenci: A Tragedy in Five Acts (1819)

QUOTE NOTE: The full remark, which Beatrice makes to Orsino is as follows: “Welcome, Friend!/I have to tell you that, since we last met,/I have endured a wrong so great and strange,/That neither life nor death can give me rest./Ask me not what it is, for there are deeds/Which have no form, sufferings/which have no tongue.”

  • The artist’s business is to take sorrow when it comes. The depth and capacity of his reception is the measure of his art; and when he turns his back on his own suffering, he denies the very laws of his being and closes the door on everything that can ever make him great. Freya Stark, the voice of the narrator, in Perseus in the Wind (1948)
  • Perhaps the worst thing about suffering is that it finally hardens the hearts of those around it. Gloria Steinem, “Ruth’s Song,” in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983)

QUOTE NOTE: It’s possible that Steinem was influenced by a similar 1923 observation from Ellen Glasgow (to be seen above)

  • It is a sign of feeble character to seek for a shortcut to fulfillment through the favor of those whose interest lies in keeping it barred—the one path to fulfillment is the difficult path of suffering and self-sacrifice. Rabindranath Tagore, in Letters to a Friend (1928)
  • Suffering is universal, suffering is that which unites all us living beings together; it is the universal or divine blood that flows through us all. Miguel de Unamuno, in The Tragic Sense of Life (1913)

Unamuno preceded the observation by writing: “Suffering is the substance of life and the root of personality, for it is only suffering that makes us persons.”

  • I love the majesty of human suffering. Alfred de Vigny, in The Shepherd's House (1844)
  • Suffering is also one of the ways of knowing you’re alive. Jessamyn West, in To See the Dream (1957)
  • I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometime we must interfere. Elie Wiesel, in Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway (Dec. 11, 1986)

Wiesel continued: “When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

  • Suffering is the companion of every man from birth onward. Simon Wiesenthal, quoting a fellow concentration camp prisoner named Josek, in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (1969)
  • Clergyman and people who use phrases without wisdom sometimes talk of suffering as a mystery. It is really a revelation. Oscar Wilde, in De Profundis (pub. posthumously in 1905)

QUOTE NOTE: De Profundis, a Latin term meaning “from the depths,” was the title Robert Ross—Wilde’s former lover and a lifelong friend—gave to a lengthy 1897 letter Wilde wrote, but never actually sent, to Lord Alfred Douglass (also a former lover). Wilde, a prisoner in Reading Gaol at the time, was so deeply depressed that the prison’s new governor granted him permission to write “for medicinal purposes.” After each day’s writing, prison guards gathered up all the writing materials for safekeeping and, ultimately, the full letter was given to Wilde upon his release on May 18, 1897. Wilde entrusted the letter to Ross, who waited for five years after Wilde’s death to bring it to publication.

SUFFRAGE

SUICIDE

(includes PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE; see also DEATH and DEPRESSION and DESPAIR and DESPERATION and KILLING and MISERY and SELF-DESTRUCTION)

  • A suicide is both a rebuke to the living and a puzzle that defies them to solve it. Like a poem, suicide is finished and refuses to answer questions as to its final cause. Margaret Atwood, “Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters” (1977), in Second Words: Selected Critical Prose 1960-1982 (1982)
  • Fame is no sanctuary from the passing of youth. Suicide is much easier and more acceptable in Hollywood than growing old gracefully. Julie Burchill, in Damaged Gods: Cults and Heroes Reappraised (1986)
  • There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Albert Camus, the opening line of the essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” (1942; Eng. trans., 1955)

Camus continued: “Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.”

  • When even despair ceases to serve any creative purpose, then surely we are justified in suicide. Cyril Connolly, in The Unquiet Grave (1945)
  • Comedians are the nearest to suicide. Lawrence Durrell, the voice of the narrator, in Monsieur: Or, The Prince of Darkness (1974)
  • The question is whether it is the way out, or the way in. Ralph Waldo Emerson, on suicide, a journal entry (Nov. 17, 1839)
  • If life’s a joke, then suicide’s a bad punch line. Louise Erdrich, “Religious Wars,” in The Bingo Palace (1994)
  • He who saves a man against his will as good as murders him. Horace, in Ars Poetica (1st c. B.C.)
  • Suicide is the most private and mysterious of acts, inexplicable because the chief actor is never there to explain it. P. D. James, the character Dr. Miles Kynaston speaking, in A Taste for Death (1986)
  • If you are of the opinion that the contemplation of suicide is sufficient evidence of a poetic nature, do not forget that actions speak louder than words. Fran Lebowitz, in Metropolitan Life (1974)
  • Suicide is our way of saying to God, “You can’t fire me. I quit!” Bill Maher, in “Politically Incorrect” broadcast on Comedy Central (July 25, 1993)

QUOTE NOTE: Maher said this on the show’s inaugural broadcast, in a discussion of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the American physician who was in the news for advocating physician-assisted suicide. Maher’s complete remark went this way: “I believe Dr. Kevorkian is onto something. I think he’s great because suicide is our way of saying to God, “You can’t fire me. I quit!’” Most internet sites present slightly incorrect phrasings of the remark, and many wrongly suggest he made it in an HBO broadcast of the show. Thanks to quotation researcher Barry Popik for tracking down the original source of the quotation.

  • A suicide kills two people, Maggi. That’s what it’s for! Arthur Miller, the character Quentin speaking, in After the Fall (1964)
  • The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night. Friedrich Nietzsche, in Beyond Good and Evil (1886)
  • Razors pain you;/Rivers are damp;/Acids stain you;/And drugs cause cramp./Guns aren’t lawful;/Nooses give;/Gas smells awful;/You might as well live. Dorothy Parker, “Résumé,” in Enough Rope (1926)
  • But suicides have a special language./Like carpenters they want to know which tools./They never ask why build. Anne Sexton, in the poem “Wanting to Die” (1966)
  • Suicide itself is about life, being in fact the sincerest form of criticism life gets. Wilfrid Sheed, “The Suicide’s Home Companion,” in The New York Times Book Review (1972); reprinted in The Good Word & Other Words (1978)

QUOTE NOTE: This quotation, which has become quite popular, was originally part of a larger observation. Here is Sheed’s complete thought: “Books about suicide make lousy gifts, and many people think it’s unlucky to have them around the house as well: so A. Alvarez’s excellent The Savage God may wind up being more talked about than bought. A pity, because the book is also about life, just as suicide itself is about life, being in fact the sincerest form of criticism life gets.”

  • The man who, in a fit of melancholy, kills himself today, would have wished to live had he waited a week. Voltaire, “Cato,” in Philosophical Dictionary (1764)
  • Every invalid is a prisoner. Marguerite Yourcenar, a reflection of the title character, in Memoirs of Hadrian (1951)

QUOTE NOTE: Gravely ill, under “constant surveillance” from friends, and too weak to take his own life, Hadrian continues: “I no longer have the force which it would take to drive the dagger in at the exact place, marked at one time with red ink under my left breast.” Unable to end his own life, he comes to a realization: “To prepare a suicide I needed to take the same precautions as would an assassin to plan his crime.”

SUMMER

(see also FALL/AUTUMN and MONTHS OF THE YEAR and SEASONS and SPRING and SUMMER METAPHORS and WINTER)

  • Summer—the time when parents realize how underpaid teachers actually are. Author Unknown
  • Come to Arizona, where summer spends the winter. Author Unknown

QUOTE NOTE: This booster slogan has been around since the mid-1930s. In A New Dictionary of Quotations (1942), H. L. Mencken noted that local wags quickly added the tag line: “And hell spends the summer.”

  • One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter. Author Unknown, but commonly misattributed to Henry David Thoreau
  • Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it. Russell Baker, in The New York Times (June 27, 1965)
  • Summer is a verb. Lisa Birnbach, in The Official Preppy Handbook (1980)
  • Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January. Hal Borland, in Sundials of the Seasons (1964)
  • Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds. Regina Brett, “Summer Fun Doesn’t Have to Fade Away Just Yet,” in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio; Aug. 17, 2013)

Brett continued: “To do absolutely nothing but listen to life as it unfolds in the buzz of the bees, the slam of screen doors, the squeak of porch swings, the scream of ‘All-ee, all-ee in free!’”

  • He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter. John Burroughs, in Winter Sunshine (1875)

A moment later, Burroughs went on to write: “In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity. Summer is more wooing and seductive, more versatile and human, appeals to the affections and the sentiments, and fosters inquiry and the art impulse. Winter is of a more heroic cast, and addresses the intellect.”

  • Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come. Thomas Carlyle, in Chartism (1840)
  • It was a splendid summer morning and it seemed as if nothing could go wrong. John Cheever, the voice of the narrator, “The Common Day,” in The New Yorker magazine (Aug. 2, 1947); reprinted in The Stories of John Cheever (1978)
  • People who don’t even notice whether it’s summer or winter are lucky. Anton Chekhov, the character Masha speaking, in The Three Sisters (1901)

QUOTE NOTE: This passage has also been translated in the following way: “People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.”

  • Summer has set in with its usual severity. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, quoted by Charles Lamb, in a letter to Vincent Novello (May 9, 1826)

QUOTE NOTE: In the letter, Lamb formally wrote: “Summer, as my friend Coleridge waggishly writes, has set in with its usual severity.”

  • Oh, the summer night,/Has a smile of light,/And she sits on a sapphire throne. Barry Cornwall (pen name of Bryan W. Procter), from the poem “The Nights,” in English Songs, And Other Small Poems (1832)
  • This is summer, unmistakably. One can always tell when one sees schoolteachers hanging about the streets idly, looking like cannibals during a shortage of missionaries. Robertson Davies, a reflection of the title character, in The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks (1949)
  • Our summer made her light escape/Into the Beautiful. Emily Dickinson, poem no. 1540 (c. 1865)
  • And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer. F. Scott Fitzgerald, a reflection of narrator Nick Carraway, in The Great Gatsby (1925)
  • Summer-induced stupidity. That was the diagnosis. Aimee Friedman, a reflection of narrator and protagonist Miranda Merchant, in Sea Change (2009)
  • Summer is not obligatory. We can start an infernally hard jigsaw puzzle in June with the knowledge that, if there are enough rainy days, we may just finish it by Labor Day, but if not, there’s no harm, no penalty. We may have better things to do. Nancy Gibbs, “The Sweet Surprise of Summer Freedom,” in Time magazine (Aug. 4, 2006)
  • Aaah, summer—that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends. Darell Hammond, “Summer Vacation Hurts Poor children—But is Year-Round School the Answer?” in Huffington Post (Dec. 6, 2017)

Hammond continued: “In short, summer is a time for unstructured play, bringing with it all the rich developmental benefits that make play such a vital part of our children’s lives.”

  • Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days, and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world. Ada Louise Huxtable, in On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change (2008)
  • Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. Henry James, quoted in Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance (1934)
  • Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. Sam Keen, widely attributed, original source not yet found (I’ve e-mailed the author)
  • No price is set on the lavish summer;/June may be had by the poorest comer. James Russell Lowell, in the poem “The Vision of Sir Launfal” (1848)
  • Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means a waste of time. John Lubbock, in The Use of Life (1894)
  • Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/Thou art more lovely and more temperate:/Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,/And summer’s lease hath all too short a date. William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18, in Sonnets (1609)

QUOTE NOTE: It comes as a surprise to many when they first learn that this famous romantic sentiment was addressed to a man! In fact, the first 126 (out of the total of 154) sonnets are addressed to a beautiful and charming young nobleman—never formally identified—who Shakespeare clearly loved. Norrie Epstein says in The Friendly Shakespeare (1993): “No other straight poet has ever written such ardent poems to a man.” Was Shakespeare gay? Or bisexual (since he was, after all, married and a father)? The question has intrigued Shakespeare fans for centuries. Nowadays, most scholars would probably agree with Epstein, who concluded: “We’ll probably never know Shakespeare’s sexual preferences, though it’s likely he was bisexual.”

  • In summer, when doorstep life dominates, the natural quality of the neighborhood comes out. Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, in Neighborhood: My Story of Greenwich House (1938)
  • Why is summer mist romantic and autumn mist just sad? Dodie Smith, a reflection of narrator Cassandra Mortmain, in I Capture the Castle (1949)
  • The summer night is like a perfection of thought. Wallace Stevens, “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm,” in Transport to Summer (1947)
  • Steep thyself in a bowl of summertime. Virgil, in Minor Poems (1st. c. BC)
  • The way to ensure summer in England is to have it framed and glazed in a comfortable room. Horace Walpole, in letter to Rev. William Cole (May 28, 1774)
  • It’s a cruel season that makes you get ready for bed while it’s light out. Bill Watterson, caption in 1995 Calvin and Hobbes cartoon (specific date undetermined)
  • In summer the song/sings itself. William Carlos Williams, in “The Botticellian Trees” (1930)
  • It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do. Walter Winchell, quoted in Fun Fare: A Treasury of Reader’s Digest Wit and Humor (1948)

SUMMER METAPHORS

(see also FALL/AUTUMN and MONTHS OF THE YEAR and SEASONS and SPRING and SUMMER and WINTER)

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

  • The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and infinite in wealth and depth of tone—but never hustled. Henry Brooks Adams, in The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
  • Happy domestic life is like a beautiful summer’s evening; the heart is filled with peace; and everything around derives a peculiar glory. The full heart says, “It is good to be here.” Hans Christian Andersen, in The True Story of My Life: A Sketch (1847)
  • One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly, one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy. Aristotle, in Nichomachean Ethics (4th c. B.C.)

QUOTE NOTE: This is the origin of the proverb one swallow doesn’t make a summer, meaning that it is foolish to generalize from a single occurrence.

  • Tears are summer showers to the soul. Alfred Austin, in Savonarola (1881)
  • Beauty is as summer fruits, which are easy to corrupt, and cannot last. Francis Bacon, “Of Beauty,” in Essays (1625)
  • The lovely thing about real happiness is that it is there all of a sudden, unexpected, weightless as a little summer cloud and just as radiant and intangible. Vicki Baum, in I Know What I’m Worth (1964)
  • A man who cannot get angry is like a stream that cannot overflow, that is always turbid. Sometimes indignation is as good as a thunder-storm in summer, clearing and cooling the air. Henry Ward Beecher, in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
  • Dandelion wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered. Ray Bradbury, in Dandelion Wine (1957)

QUOTE NOTE: The narrator is describing protagonist Daniel Spaulding’s strong emotional reaction to his grandfather’s summer pressing of dandelion wine. The experience of making wine on a hot summer day made twelve-year-old Daniel feel alive, and the narrator goes on to say about him: “Some of this special vintage day would be sealed away for opening on a January day with snow falling fast and the sun unseen for weeks or months and perhaps some of the miracle by then forgotten and in need of renewal.”

  • In the depths of the winter, I finally learned that there lay in me an invincible summer. Albert Camus, “Return to Tipasa,” originally published in the French literary magazine Combat (August 28, 1952); reprinted in Lyrical and Critical Essays (1968)

QUOTE NOTE: This is one of Camus’s most popular observations. You may have seen several other varying translations, but this is how it was presented in the 1968 book. A bit earlier in the essay, Camus wrote: “In order to prevent justice from shrivelling [sic] up, from becoming a magnificent orange containing only a dry and bitter pulp, we have to keep a freshness and a source of joy intact within ourselves, loving the daylight which injustice leaves unscathed, and returning to the fray with this reconquered light.”

  • No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace,/As I have seen in one autumnal face.

John Donne, “The Autumnal,” in Elegies (1600)

  • Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air, and you. Langston Hughes, “A Note on Humor”, in The Book of Negro Humor (1966)

Hughes preceded the thought by writing: “Humor is laughing at what you haven’t got when you ought to have it…what you wish in your secret heart were not funny, but it is, and you must laugh. Humor is your own unconscious therapy.”

  • Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, nor for how long she will stay. Grace Metalious, the opening words of Peyton Place (1956)

QUOTE NOTE: These are the opening words of a novel that quickly became the publishing sensation of 1956, selling 100,000 copies within the first ten days of publication (it was on the New York Times Best-Seller List for 59 consecutive weeks). It went on to sell more than 12 million copies and is one of a limited number of books to become deeply embedded in American pop culture. To illustrate, whenever people share dark and sordid secrets—especially of a sexual nature—about their family or work life, there’s a good chance they’ll conclude by saying something like, “Welcome to Peyton Place!”

  • I know I am but summer to your heart,/And not the full four seasons of the year. Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Two Seasons.” In Vanity Fair (Nov.,1922); reprinted as “I Know I Am But Summer,” in The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems (1923)
  • Integrity is so perishable in the summer months of success. Vanessa Redgrave, quoted in David Bailey & Peter Evans, Goodbye Baby and Amen: A Saraband for the Sixties (1969)
  • Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. Bertrand Russell, “Dreams and Facts,” in Skeptical Essays (1928)

SUN

(see also EARTH and MOON and PLANETS and SOLAR SYSTEM and SPACE and UNIVERSE)

  • The sun is pure communism everywhere except in cities, where it is private property. Malcolm de Chazal, in Sens-Plastique (1948)
  • Thus indeed, as though seated on a royal throne, the sun governs the family of planets revolving around it. Nicholas Copernicus, in Copernicus on the Revolutions (1978; Jerzy Dobrzycki, ed.)

SUPERIORITY

(see also ALOOFNESS and ARROGANCE and CONCEIT and DISDAIN and HAUGHTINESS and INFERIORITY and POMPOSITY and PRIDE and SUPERCILIOUSNESS and SUPERIORITY)

  • Nobody who is Somebody looks down on anybody. Margaret Deland, the Captain speaking, in Captain Archer’s Daughter (1932)

SUPERNATURAL

(see also AGNOSTICISM and ATHEISM and BELIEF and GOD and GODS and NATURAL and RATIONALISM and RELIGION)

  • Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? Douglas Adams, a reflection of the character Ford Prefect, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

SUPERSTITION

(see also BELIEF and COINCIDENCE and IRRATIONALITY and LEGEND and MYTH and RELIGION and SHIBBOLETH)

  • A genuine coincidence always means bad luck for me; it's my only superstition. Margery Allingham, in Police at the Funeral (1931)
  • Superstition is the religion of feeble minds. Edmund Burke in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
  • A little superstition is a good thing to keep in one’s bag of precautions. Gertrude Atherton, in Black Oxen (1923)
  • He didn’t make light of superstition. He knew it’s the first and most natural of religions. Anthony Gilbert, in He Came by Night (1945)
  • Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. God himself is not secure, having given man dominion over his works! Helen Keller, in Let Us Have Faith (1940)

QUOTE NOTE: This observation was followed by some of Keller’s most famous words, including her signature daring adventure line: “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run that outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

  • No one is so thoroughly superstitious as the godless man. Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1856)

SUPREME BEING

(see GOD)

SUPREME COURT

(see also COURTS & COURTROOMS and CRIME and GOVERNMENT and JAILS & PRISONS and JUDGES and JUSTICE and LAW & ORDER and LAWS & LEGISLATION and LAWSUITS and LAWYERS and JUDGES and LIBERTY and LITIGATION and PUNISHMENT and TRIALS)

  • The Court’s great power is its ability to educate, to provide moral leadership. William O. Douglas, in a Time magazine interview, (Nov. 12, 1973)
  • We are not final because we are infallible; but we are infallible only because we are final. Robert H. Jackson, in Brown v. Allen (1953), a U.S. Supreme Court Decision. Also an example of chiasmus.
  • And as I say to you, whenever you put a man on the Supreme Court, he ceases to be your friend, you can be sure of that. Harry S Truman, in Truman Speaks (1960)

SURGERY & SURGEONS

(see also DOCTORS and DISEASE and HEALTH and HOSPITALS and ILLNESS and MEDICINE and PAIN and PATIENTS and PHYSICIANS)

  • 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)
  • Surgery is the red flower that blooms among the leaves and thorns that are the rest of Medicine. Dr. Richard Selzer, in Letters to a Young Doctor (1982)

SURVIVORS & SURVIVING

(see also CRISIS and DEATH & DYING and SURRENDER and TENACITY and VICTIMS & VICTIMHOOD)

  • Survival is an art. It requires the dulling of the mind and the senses, and a delicate attunement to waiting, without insisting on precision about just what it is you are waiting for. Marilyn French, in The Women’s Room (1977)
  • Surviving meant being born over and over. Erica Jong, in Fear of Flying (1973)
  • Old age is not a disease—it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses. Maggie Kuhn, quoted in D. Hessel, Maggie Kuhn on Aging (1977)
  • O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Where, indeed. Many a badly stung survivor, faced with the aftermath of some relative’s funeral, has ruefully concluded that the victory has been won hands down by a funeral establishment—in a disastrously unequal battle. Jessica Mitford, in The American Way of Death (1963)
  • In each age there is a series of pressing questions which must be asked and answered. On the correctness of the questions depends the survival of those who ask; on the quality of the answers depends the quality of the life those survivors will lead. Margaret Mead, in New Lives for Old (1956)
  • We who write are survivors. Tillie Olsen, quoted in Sara Ruddick and Pamela Daniels, Working It Out (1977)
  • Man’s unique reward…is that while animals survive by adjusting themselves to their background, man survives by adjusting his background to himself. Ayn Rand, in For the New Intellectual (1961)
  • Just remember: Surviving is the best revenge, no matter what the disaster has been. Joan Rivers, in Bouncing Back (1997)

In the book, Rivers also wrote: “The first rule of survival is: Make your own rules. The hell anyone thinks about the way you’re acting; listen only to yourself.”

  • Children may need challenges and high-risk conditions in order to develop the self-generated immunity to trauma that characterizes survivors. To be tested is good. The challenged life may be the best therapist. Gail Sheehy, in Spirit of Survival (1986)
  • It is astonishing how the human animal survives its misfortunes. Rebecca West, “The Dutch Exhibition,” in Ending in Earnest (1931)
  • Survivors should be like seismographs…. They should sense danger before others do, identify its outlines and reveal them. They are not entitled to be wrong a second time or regard as harmless something that might lead to catastrophe. Simon Wiesenthal, quoted in New York Times obituary (Sep. 20, 2005)

SUSPENSE

(see also FEAR and FRIGHT and PANIC and TERROR)

  • Terror is a matter of surprise; suspense of forewarning. Alfred Hitchcock, quoted in Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Filmgoer’s Companion (1984)
  • I do not think that life has a suspense more sickening than that of expecting a letter which does not come. L. E. Landon, in Ethel Churchill, or, The Two Brides (1837)
  • Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense. Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook (1963)

SUSPICION

(includes SUSPICIOUSNESS; see also BETRAYAL and DECEPTION & DECEIT and JEALOUSY and LIES & LYING and MISTRUST and SKEPTICISM & SKEPTICS and SPIES & SPYING and TRUST & DISTRUST)

  • There is nothing makes a man suspect much, more than to know little. Francis Bacon, “Of Suspicion,” in Essays (1597-1625)
  • When once suspicion is aroused, every thing feeds it. Amelia E. Barr, the voice of the narrator, in Jan Vedder’s Wife (1895)
  • Suspicion is a permanent condition. Marcus Buckingham, in First, Break All the Rules (1999)

Buckingham preceded the thought by writing: “If you are innately skeptical of other people’s motives, then no amount of good behavior in the past will ever truly convince you that they are not just about to disappoint you.”

  • Suspicion is a thing very few people can entertain without letting the hypothesis turn, in their minds, into fact. David Cort, in Social Astonishment (1963)
  • There is no killing the suspicion that deceit has once begotten. George Eliot, the title character speaking, in Romola (1863)
  • At the gate which suspicion enters, love goes out. Thomas Fuller, M.D., in Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs (1732)
  • The finger of suspicion never forgets the way it has once pointed. Anna Katharine Green, the character Mary Leavenworth speaking, in The Leavenworth Case: A Lawyer’s Story (1878)
  • It is a matter of regret that many low, mean suspicions turn out to be well founded. Edgar Watson Howe, in Ventures in Common Sense (1919)
  • When you grow suspicious of a person and begin a system of espionage upon him, your punishment will be that you will find your suspicions true. Elbert Hubbard, in The Note Book (1927)
  • Suspicion is like the rain. It falls on the just and on the unjust. Mary Roberts Rinehart, the protagonist Agnes Blakiston speaking, in The Confession (1921)

SWEARING

(see PROFANITY)

SWEAT

(see also DETERMINATION and EFFORT and PERSPIRATION and PERSISTENCE and [Hard] WORK)

  • I don’t feel right unless I have a sport to play or at least a way to work up a sweat. Hank Aaron, widely attributed, but not confirmed
  • Dancing is a sweat job. You can’t just sit down and do it, you have to get up on your feet. Fred Astaire, in 1965 Life magazine