“I dig old books.”
Quotations about Quotations
Being obsessed with harvesting quotations, it makes sense that the largest page in my collection is quotes about quotes. I've spent hundreds of hours tracing down original works for verification as well as culling hundreds more new entries not on any other website. With the help of Google Books' digitization of so many old precious texts and my own collection of dusty books, I've added the results of these efforts to my existing quarter-century's compilation, and there are now nearly 550 entries. "All quotation dictionaries stand on the shoulders of their predecessors," according to Fred Shapiro. He is indeed correct, and I am grateful to those who came before me and left clues for where to focus some of my searches. As far as I am aware, this page is by far the world's largest collection of quotations about quotations. Please enjoy, and if you actually reach the bottom of the page then you might just be a true quote addict like I am!
I have heard that nothing gives an Author so great Pleasure, as to find his Works respectfully quoted by other learned Authors. ~Benjamin Franklin, "Preface," Poor Richard Improved, wording verified by Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations
I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically, except in narrative; grow weary of preparation, and connection, and illustration, and all those arts by which a big book is made. ~Samuel Johnson, quoted in The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. by James Boswell, 1785
My readers, who may at first be apt to consider Quotation as downright pedantry, will be surprised when I assure them, that next to the simple imitation of sounds and gestures, Quotation is the most natural and most frequent habitude of human nature. For, Quotation must not be confined to passages adduced out of authors. He who cites the opinion, or remark, or saying of another, whether it has been written or spoken, is certainly one who quotes; and this we shall find to be universally practiced. ~James Boswell, "The Hypochondriack," No.XXI, The London Magazine: Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, June 1779
There is indeed a strange prejudice against Quotation. ~James Boswell, "The Hypochondriack," No. XXII, 1779
Quotation is more universal and more ancient than one would perhaps believe. ~James Boswell, "The Hypochondriack," No.XXI, The London Magazine: Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, June 1779
He wrapped himself in quotations—as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors. ~Rudyard Kipling
I am not merely a habitual quoter but an incorrigible one. I am, I may as well face it, more quotatious than an old stock-market ticker-tape machine, except that you can’t unplug me. ~Joseph Epstein, "Quotatious," A Line Out for a Walk: Familiar Essays, 1991
[T]here is no richer treasure than a collection of the beautiful thoughts and maxims of the world's literati... ~Edward Parsons Day, Preface to Day's Collacon: An Encyclopædia of Prose Quotations, 1883
For, what though his Head be empty, provided his Common place-Book be full... ~Jonathan Swift, "A Digression in Praise of Digressions," A Tale of a Tub: Written for the Universal Improvement of Mankind. To Which is Added, An Account of a Battel Between the Antient and Modern Books in St. James’s Library, 1704
I’m discovering that everybody is a closet quotesmith. Just give them a chance. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
I am wonderfully pleased when I meet with any passage in an old Greek or Latin author, that is not blown upon, and which I have never met with in any quotation. ~Joseph Addison, Spectator, No.464
Quotologists encounter happy surprises, bright books by faded authors, treasures hidden under dust. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
A book of quotations... can never be complete. ~Robert M. Hamilton
What is all wisdom save a collection of platitudes? Take fifty of our current proverbial sayings—they are so trite, so threadbare, that we can hardly bring our lips to utter them. None the less they embody the concentrated experience of the race, and the man who orders his life according to their teaching cannot go far wrong. How easy that seems! Has any one ever done so? Never. Has any man ever attained to inner harmony by pondering the experience of others? Not since the world began! He must pass through the fire. ~Norman Douglas, South Wind, 1921
Collecting quotations is an insidious, even embarrassing habit, like ragpicking or hoarding rocks or trying on other people’s laundry. I got into it originally while trying to break an addiction to candy. I kicked candy and now seem to be stuck with quotations, which are attacking my brain instead of my teeth. ~Robert Byrne, "Sources, References, and Notes," The Other 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, 1984
I enjoy collecting quotations. When I find a choice one I pounce on it like a lepidopterist. My day is made. When I lose one because I did not copy it out at once I feel bereft. ~R.I. Fitzhenry, preface to The David & Charles Book of Quotations, September 1981
This collection is an idiosyncratic miscellany amassed during my lifetime in publishing, published with the conceit that I have reasonable discrimination and that whatever instructs, enlightens, reinforces, amuses, titillates or solaces me has some value to the general book readership. We shall see.... I think there is wisdom in these pages but I know there is nonsense too. I can't resist the flippant phrase. ~R.I. Fitzhenry, preface to The David & Charles Book of Quotations, September 1981
No claim is made here for scholarship, or for the earliest use of a quote or even, in some cases, the precise wording.... No matter: in my opinion, they are in this form graceful, compact and cogent. ~R.I. Fitzhenry, preface to The David & Charles Book of Quotations, September 1981
Fine phrases I value more than bank-notes. I have ear for no other harmony than the harmony of words. To be occasionally quoted is the only fame I care for. ~Alexander Smith
Shake was a dramatist of note;
He lived by writing things to quote...
~V. Hugo Dusenbury (pseudonym for Henry Cuyler Bunner), "The Private Pantheon of Puck’s Private Poet" ("Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe"), in Puck, 1880 January 28th, Vol. VI, No. 151
The Quoters who deserve the title, and it ought to be an honorary one, are those who trust to no one but themselves. In borrowing a passage, they carefully observe its connexion; they collect authorities, to reconcile any disparity in them before they furnish the one they adopt; they advance no fact without a witness, and they are not loose and general in their references, as I have been told is our historian Henry so frequently, that it is suspected he deals much in second-hand ware. ~Isaac D'Israeli, "Quotation," A Second Series of Curiosities of Literature, 1823
Always verify quotations! ~Martin Joseph Routh, quoted in Catholic World: A Monthly Magazine of General Literature and Science, March 1882 [in other sources sometimes quoted as "always verify your references"
Collect as precious pearls the words of the wise and virtuous. ~Abdelkader
Proverbs are potted wisdom. ~Charles Buxton
In such a case the writer is apt to have recourse to epigrams. Somewhere in this world there is an epigram for every dilemma. ~Hendrik Willem van Loon, The Liberation of Mankind, 1926
Most of the classical citations you shall hear or read in the current journals or speeches were not drawn from the originals, but from previous quotations in English books... ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality," Letters and Social Aims, 1876
Most collectors collect tangibles. As a quotation collector, I collect wisdom, life, invisible beauty, souls alive in ink. ~Terri Guillemets
I here present thee with a hive of bees, laden some with wax, and some with honey. Fear not to approach! there are no wasps, there are no hornets here. If some wanton bee chance to buzz about thine ears, stand thy ground and hold thy hands—there’s none will sting thee, if thou strike not first. If any do, she hath honey in her bag will cure thee too. ~Francis Quarles
We love quotations; they strengthen us in our own belief; they show that some other spirit, perhaps a master-spirit, has gone thus far with us: to such we cling as the ivy to the oak. ~S.J.W., "On Female Education," in The Christian Teacher (National Review), 1835
It is a rich storehouse for those who love quotations. It is as full of fine bon mots as a Christmas pudding is full of plums. ~"Fitz-Greene Halleck as a Poet," Hours at Home: A Popular Monthly of Instruction and Recreation, February 1868, about Halleck’s poem "Fanny"
Don’t you love quotations? I am immensely fond of them; a certain proof of erudition.... [I]f you should happen to write an insipid poem... send it to me, and my fiat shall crown you with immortality. ~Frances Brooke, Lady Julia Mandeville , 1763
...the curious hunter-up of rare quotations... the young and struggling scribbler... ~William Francis Henry King, "Introduction," Classical and Foreign Quotations, 1889
...the taste of the finely-worded truth rolled upon the tongue as its thought is revolved in the mind. ~William Francis Henry King, "Introduction," Classical and Foreign Quotations, 1889
It has been said that death ends all things. This is a mistake. It does not end the volume of practical quotations, and it will not until the sequence of the alphabet is so materially changed as to place D where Z now stands. ~Harper’s Bazar: Facetiæ, September 1, 1888, quoted in A Dictionary of Quotations in Prose by Anna L. Ward, 1889
Alphabetical order makes strange bedfellows. Dickens and Dibdin must get on capitally and convivially together, but what an ill-assorted couple are Mrs. Humphry Ward and the beloved Artemus of the same name! George Borrow may ask, 'Pray, who is this John Collins Bossidy?'... John Hookham Frere, singing of the mailed lobster clapping his broad wings, must feel his frivolity uncomfortably hushed for a moment by his next-door neighbour, Charles Frohman, on the point of going down with the Lusitania. And apropos of Frere, there rises before me the portentous figure of my great-great-grandfather, Erasmus Darwin. ~Bernard Darwin, May 1941, introduction to The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
Quotation is the highest compliment you can pay to an author. ~André-Marie Ampère
They have written volumes out of which a couplet of verse, a period in prose, may cling to the rock of ages, as a shell that survives a deluge. ~Edward Bulwer Lytton
Not everything that can be extracted appears in anthologies of quotations, in commonplace books, or on the back of Celestial Seasonings boxes. Only certain sorts of extracts become quotations. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
The multiplicity of facts and writings is become so great that every thing must soon be reduced to extracts and dictionaries. ~Voltaire
He picked something out of everything he read. ~Pliny
Books are the beehives of thought; laconics, the honey taken from them. ~James Ellis, quoted in Edge-Tools of Speech by Maturin M. Ballou, 1899
A case which commonly happens with us in London, as well as our Neighbours in Paris, where if a Witty Man starts a happy thought, a Million of sordid Imitators ride it to death. ~Thomas Brown, Laconics: Or, New Maxims of State and Conversation
I suppose every old scholar has had the experience of reading something in a book which was significant to him, but which he could never find again. Sure he is that he read it there; but no one else ever read it, nor can he find it again, though he buy the book, & ransack every page. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, c.1867
A well arranged scrapbook, filled with choice selections, is a most excellent companion for anyone who has the least literary taste. ~Chaning, quoted in Sayings: Proverbs, Maxims, Mottoes by Charles F. Schutz, 1915
Most of the noted literary men have indulged in the prudent habit of selecting favorite passages for future reference. ~Charles F. Schutz, Sayings: Proverbs, Maxims, Mottoes, 1915
It is bad enough to see one’s own good things fathered on other people, but it is worse to have other people’s rubbish fathered upon oneself. ~Samuel Butler
We are as much informed of a writer’s genius by what he selects as by what he originates. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality," Letters and Social Aims, 1876
[W]hen I hear or read a good line I can hardly wait to tell it to somebody else... ~Robert Byrne, The Third and Possibly the Best 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, 1986
Particles of science are often very widely scattered. Writers of extensive comprehension have incidental remarks upon topicks very remote from the principal subject, which are often more valuable than formal treatises, and which yet are not known because they are not promised in the title. He that collects those under proper heads is very laudably employed, for though he exerts no great abilities in the work, he facilitates the progress of others, and by making that easy of attainment which is already written, may give some mind, more vigorous or more adventurous than his own, leisure for new thoughts and original designs. ~Samuel Johnson, The Idler, December 1, 1759
Many moons ago dictionaries of quotations may have been less needed than they are today. In those good/bad old days, people walked around with entire poems and all the Shakespearean soliloquies in their heads.... ~Joseph Epstein, Foreword to Fred R. Shapiro’s Yale Book of Quotations, 2006
Short sentences drawn from long experience. ~Miguel de Cervantes
A proverb tells a long story. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
In phrases as brief as a breath worldly wisdom concentrates. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive. ~Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens), Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World, 1897
As by some might be saide of me: that here I have but gathered a nosegay of strange floures, and have put nothing of mine unto it, but the thred to binde them. Certes, I have given unto publike opinion, that these borrowed ornaments accompany me; but I meane not they should cover or hide me... ~Michel de Montaigne, "Of Phisiognomy," translated by John Florio; commonly modernized to "I have gathered a posy of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is my own."
A profusion of fancies and quotations is out of place in a love-letter. True feeling is always direct, and never deviates into by-ways to cull flowers of rhetoric. ~Christian Nestell Bovee, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought: Vol. II, 1862
I believe it was Gayelord Hauser, the nutritionist, who said that "you are what you eat," but if you happen to be an intellectual, you are what you quote. ~Joseph Epstein, "Quotatious," A Line Out for a Walk: Familiar Essays, 1991
Quotationality defines us. We are what we quote. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
In quoting others we cite ourselves. ~Julio Cortázar (1914–1984), Around the Day in Eighty Worlds
Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the stories and people we're quoting. ~John Green
Some lines are born quotations, some are made quotations, and some have "quotation" thrust upon them. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
Patch grief with proverbs; make misfortune drunk... ~William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, c.1598
For I am proverbed with a grandsire phrase... ~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
The devil can cite scripture for his purpose. ~William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice
Satan delights equally in statistics and in quoting Scripture. ~H.G. Wells, The Undying Fire, "Chapter the First: The Prologue in Heaven," 1919
This fellow pecks up wit, as pigeons peas;
And utters it again when God doth please:
He is wit’s pedler; and retails his wares...
~William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost (Boyet)
Our "experienced Editor" has learnt the advantages of variety in his experience. The volume before us contains a little of every thing. Sense and nonsense, sentiment and wit, pathos and merriment, short passages from different authors, a stock of anecdote, and a number of bon-mots. It is an agreeable miscellany, best characterised in the words of Shakespeare: "He has been at a great feast of languages, and stolen all the scraps." ~The London Literary Gazette; and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c., December 4, 1830, No.724, "Review of New Books," about Classic Cullings and Fugitive Gatherings by An Experienced Editor
Luminous quotations, also, atone, by their interest, for the dulness of an inferior book, and add to the value of a superior work by the variety which they lend to its style and treatment. ~Christian Nestell Bovee, "Quoters and Quoting," Institutions and Summaries of Thought, 1862
Quotation brings to many people one of the intensest joys of living.... This innocent vanity often helps us over the hard places in life; it gives us a warm little glow against the coldness of the world and keeps us snug and happy. ~Bernard Darwin, May 1941, introduction to The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
Well, a lot of people go to Shakespeare to recognize the quotations. ~James Aswell, 1936 [Popularized in 1949 by Evan Esar as "Now we sit through Shakespeare in order to recognize the quotations" attributed to Orson Welles. Thanks, Garson O’Toole! quoteinvestigator.com/2014/10/28/recognize
Anatole France frankly advised, "When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it." Yes, indeed, but do more. Copy many well-said things. Pierce them together. Assimilate them. Make the process of reading them a way to form the mind and shape the soul. As anthologies can never be complete, we will never exhaust the ways quotations can enrich our lives. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
We who are quotatious are never truly alone, but always hear the cheerful flow of remarks made by dead writers so much more intelligent than we. ~Joseph Epstein, "Quotatious," A Line Out for a Walk: Familiar Essays, 1991
The best aphorisms are.... portable wisdom, the quintessential extracts of thought and feeling. They furnish the largest amount of intellectual stimulus and nutriment in the smallest compass. About every weak point in human nature, or vicious spot in human life, there is deposited a crystallization of warning and protective proverbs. ~William Rounseville Alger, "The Utility and the Futility of Aphorisms," The Atlantic Monthly, February 1863
It is the habit of the mind to condense into diminutive, agreeable and striking forms the results of experience and observation in all the departments of life. As the carbon, disengaged by fire in its multitudinous offices, crystallizes into a diamond that flashes fire from every facet, and bears at every angle the solvent power of the mother flame; so great clouds of truth are evolved by human experience, which are crystallized at last into proverbs, that flash with the lights of history and illuminate the darkness which rests upon the track of the future. ~Timothy Titcomb (J.G. Holland), "An Exordial Essay," Gold-foil: Hammered from Popular Proverbs, 1859
The proverbs of a nation furnish the index to its spirit and the results of its civilization. ~Timothy Titcomb (J.G. Holland), "An Exordial Essay," Gold-foil: Hammered from Popular Proverbs, 1859
[T]hey are the offspring of experience... instinct with blood and breath and vitality.... They are not propositions, conceived in the understanding and addressed to life, but propositions born of life itself, and addressed to the heart. They were not conceived in the minds of the great few, but they sprang from the life of the people. ~Timothy Titcomb (J.G. Holland), "An Exordial Essay," Gold-foil: Hammered from Popular Proverbs, 1859
A single gnomic line can come to resonate with centuries of subsequent wisdom. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
Proverbs were bright shafts in the Greek and Latin quivers... ~Isaac D’Israeli, "The Philosophy of Proverbs," Curiosities of Literature, 1893
In reading Authors, when you find
Bright Passages that strike your Mind,
And which perhaps you may have Reason
To think on at another Season,
Be not contented with the Sight,
But take them down in Black and White;
Such a Respect is wisely shown
That makes another's Sense one's own.
~John Byrom (1692–1763), "A Hint to a Young Person, for His Better Improvement by Reading or Conversation" [Inventor of the Universal English Short-Hand.
In Conversation, when you meet
With Persons chearful, and discreet,
That speak, or quote, in Prose, or Rhime,
Things or facetious, or sublime,
Observe what passes, and anon,
When you come Home think thereupon;
Write what occurs, forget it not,
A good Thing sav'd 's a good Thing got.
~John Byrom (1692–1763), "A Hint to a Young Person, for His Better Improvement by Reading or Conversation"
The ancients, who in these matters were not perhaps such blockheads as some may conceive, considered poetical quotation as one of the requisite ornaments of oratory. ~Isaac D’Israeli, "Quotation," A Second Series of Curiosities of Literature, Volume I, second edition, 1824
All this is labour which never meets the eye.... But too open and generous a revelation of the chapter and the page of the original quoted, has often proved detrimental to the legitimate honours of the quoter. They are unfairly appropriated by the next comer; the quoter is never quoted, but the authority he has afforded is produced by his successor with the air of an original research. ~Isaac D’Israeli, "Quotation," A Second Series of Curiosities of Literature, Volume I, second edition, 1824
Whatever is felicitously expressed risks being worse expressed: it is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us. We quote, to save proving what has been demonstrated, referring to where the proofs may be found. We quote, to screen ourselves from the odium of doubtful opinions, which the world would not willingly accept from ourselves; and we may quote from the curiosity which only a quotation itself can give, when in our own words it would be divested of that tint of ancient phrase, that detail of narrative, and that naïveté, which we have for ever lost, and which we like to recollect once had an existence. ~Isaac D’Israeli, "Quotation," A Second Series of Curiosities of Literature, Volume I, second edition, 1824
No people are more conceited than those who depict their own feelings, especially if they happen to have a little prose at their command for the occasion. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Norman Alliston, 1908
A well-read writer, with good taste, is one who has the command of the wit of other men; he searches where knowledge is to be found; and though he may not himself excel in invention, his ingenuity may compose one of those agreeable books, the deliciæ of literature, that will out-last the fading meteors of his day. ~Isaac D'Israeli, "Quotation"
"Wal'r, my boy," replied the Captain, "in the Proverbs of Solomon you will find the following words, 'May we never want a friend in need, nor a bottle to give him!' When found, make a note of." ~Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son, 1846–1848
One day some years ago while reading Dombey and Son I came to Chapter 15, where, in the midst of the story, there were six words of exhortation and command: "When found, make a note of." I reached for my notebook and made a note of Dicken's note to make a note of what I had just found. ~Helen Smith Bevington (1906–2001), When Found, Make a Verse Of, 1961
One must be a wise reader to quote wisely and well. ~A. Bronson Alcott, "Quotation," Table-Talk, 1877
The art of quotation requires more delicacy in the practice than those conceive who can see nothing more in a quotation than an extract. Whenever the mind of a writer is saturated with the full inspiration of a great author, a quotation gives completeness to the whole; it seals his feelings with undisputed authority. ~Isaac D’Israeli, "Quotation," A Second Series of Curiosities of Literature, Volume I, second edition, 1824
The brilliant passages of the most eminent writers, the wise sayings of the great philosophers, and the sparkling phrases of celebrated orators—among which many fine intellectual gems, and many noble and useful truths are found — have been accumulating for ages; and in this book-making generation, and among so large a number of collectors, have become so colossal in mass by accretion, as to almost bewilder a compiler in making his selections; consequently, it is only by large experience, great mental labor, and years of tedious research, that one is able to acquire that adequate skill, judgment, and taste, requisite for a task of this character and magnitude. ~Edward Parsons Day, Preface to Day's Collacon: An Encyclopædia of Prose Quotations, 1883
Centuries have not worm-eaten the solidity of this ancient furniture of the mind. ~Isaac D’Israeli
Nor must you find fault with me if I often give you what I have borrowed from my various reading, in the very words of the authors themselves. ~Macrobius, translated from Latin
Swedenborg threw a formidable theory into the world, that every soul existed in a society of souls, from which all its thoughts passed into it, as the blood of the mother circulates in her unborn child.... does it not look as if we men were thinking and talking out of an enormous antiquity, as if we stood, not in a coterie of prompters that filled a sitting-room, but in a circle of intelligences that reached through all thinkers, poets, inventors, and wits, men and women.... Language is a city, to the building of which every human being brought a stone; yet he is no more to be credited with the grand result than the acaleph which adds a cell to the coral reef which is the basis of the continent. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality"
If you would the truth oppose
By quotations, you will find
Plenty; but, when all is done,
Though they’re many, truth is one.
~Tomas de Iriarte, Fabulas Literarias, translated from Spanish
Unless created as freestanding works, quotations resemble "found" art. They are analogous, say, to a piece of driftwood identified as formally interesting enough to be displayed in an art museum or to a weapon moved from an anthropological to an artistic display.... The presenter of found art, whether material or verbal, has become a sort of artist. He has not made the object, but he has made it as art. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
You complain, Velox, that the epigrams which I write are long. You yourself write nothing; your attempts are shorter. ~Marcus Valerius Martialis, translated from Latin
Most of those who make collections of verse or epigram are like men eating cherries or oysters: they choose out the best at first, and end by eating all. ~Sébastien-Roch Nicolas
A photograph could also be described as a quotation, which makes a book of photographs like a book of quotations. ~Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1973
Photographs—and quotations—seem, because they are taken to be pieces of reality, more authentic than extended literary narratives. ~Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1973
A wise word is not a substitute for a piece of herring. ~Sholom Aleichem
I wonder if "an" ever occurs before "haughty" except in a quotation, or whether you can make anything sound like a quotation by adding a word like "goeth"? ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
There is hardly a mistake which in the course of our lives we have committed, but some proverb, had we known and attended to its lesson, might have saved us from it. ~Richard Chenevix Trench, Proverbs and Their Lessons, 1905
Language would be tolerable without spicy, epigrammatic sayings, and life could no doubt be carried on by means of plain language wholly bereft of ornament. But if we wish to relish language, if we wish to give it point and piquancy, and if we want to drive home a truth, to whip up the flagging attention of our listener, to point a moral or adorn a tale, we must flavour our speech with proverbs. ~John Christian, "Introduction," Behar Proverbs, 1891
Aphorism or maxim, let us remember that this wisdom of life is the true salt of literature; that those books, at least in prose, are most nourishing which are most richly stored with it; and that it is one of the great objects, apart from the mere acquisition of knowledge, which men ought to seek in the reading of books. ~John Morley, Aphorisms: An Address Delivered Before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, November 11, 1887
Proverbs accordingly are somewhat analogous to those medical Formulas which, being in frequent use, are kept ready-made-up in the chemists’ shops, and which often save the framing of a distinct Prescription. ~Richard Whately, Elements of Rhetoric
You may get a large amount of truth into a brief space. ~Attributed to Beecher in Edge-Tools of Speech by Maturin M. Ballou, 1899
All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. We quote not only books and proverbs, but arts, sciences, religion, customs, and laws; nay, we quote temples and houses, tables and chairs, by imitation. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality," Letters and Social Aims, 1876
I said that I loved the wise proverb,
Brief, simple and deep;
For it I’d exchange the great poem
That sends us to sleep.
~Bryan Waller Procter
Who knows but that all the men to whom reference has been made, and a multitude of others who lived in by-gone ages borrowed their wise sayings from the talk of the firesides and the conversations of the market places; so that the origin of many proverbs now flippantly quoted in the converse of men is lost in the mists of forgotten centuries. ~Dwight Edwards Marvin, The Antiquity of Proverbs, 1922
The teachings of elegant sayings
Should be collected when one can.
For the supreme gift of words of wisdom,
Any price will be paid.
Meanwhile, to return to myself—from which dear little person, I very seldom, even in imagination, digress—I found Lord Vincent at Galignani's, carefully looking over "Choice Extracts from the best English Authors."
"Ah, my good fellow!" said he, "I am delighted to see you: I made such a capital quotation just now..." ~Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873), Pelham; or, The Adventures of a Gentleman, 1828
The lips of the wise are as the doors of a cabinet; no sooner are they opened, but treasures are poured out before thee. Like unto trees of gold arranged in beds of silver, are wise sentences uttered in due season. ~The Economy of Human Life, Translated from an Indian Manuscript, Written by an Ancient Bramin
Miss Amesbury is especially happy in the use of quotations—and an apt quotation is like a lamp which flings its light over the whole sentence. ~L.E. Landon, Romance and Reality, 1832
All quotation dictionaries stand on the shoulders of their predecessors, which must be consulted as part of the effort to make sure that no famous quotations are missed. ~Fred R. Shapiro, "Acknowledgements," The Yale Book of Quotations, 2006
The Bible is a book of holy aphorisms. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
According to Benjamin Franklin himself, many of the proverbs and aphorisms found in "Poor Richard's Almanack" were gleaned from the "wisdom of the ages and nations." In the dictums and maxims that follow, one hears echoes of the Bible, the ancients, and collections of proverbs readily available in Franklin's own time. Yet, in recrafting many older sayings, Franklin, who was among other things an inventor and musician, brought new design and melody to timeworn truisms.... One thing that makes these aphorisms so compelling is that Franklin, while divine in apprehension, was in action very much a mortal. Take these morsels in moderation — Franklin would have it no other way. ~Introduction to The Quotable Franklin page at The Electric Ben Franklin Project by The Independence Hall Association (Philadelphia, PA), ushistory.org/franklin
People will accept your idea more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first. ~David H. Comins, quoted in The Washingtonian, Volume 14, 1978
I’ve compiled a book from the Internet. It’s a book of quotations attributed to the wrong people. ~Jerry Seinfeld
The greatest thing about the internet is that you can quote something and just totally make up the source. ~Benjamin Franklin ;)
The problem with internet quotes is that you cannot always depend on their accuracy. ~Abraham Lincoln ;)
I never said half the crap people said I did. ~Albert Einstein ;)
The attribution of a speaker is in fact a part of the quotation. Some statements simply are better if a certain famous person said them. ~Gary Saul Morson, "Bakhtin, The Genres of Quotation, and The Aphoristic Consciousness," The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 50, No. 1, 2006
[D]ifferent people have different quotational gravity. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other well. ~Elias Canetti
Our live experiences fixed in aphorisms stiffen into cold epigram. Our heart’s blood, as we write with it, darkens into ink. ~F.H. Bradley (1846–1924)
APHORISM, n. Predigested wisdom.
The flabby wine-skin of his brain
Yields to some pathologic strain,
And voids from its unstored abysm
The driblet of an aphorism.
"The Mad Philosopher," 1697
~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
In hours of high mental activity we sometimes do the book too much honor, reading out of it better things than the author wrote.... You have had the like experience in conversation: the wit was in what you heard, not in what the speakers said. Our best thought came from others. We heard in their words a deeper sense than the speakers put into them, and could express ourselves in other people's phrases to finer purpose than they knew. In Moore's Diary, Mr. Hallam is reported as mentioning at dinner one of his friends who had said, "I don't know how it is, a thing that falls flat from me seems quite an excellent joke when given at second-hand by Sheridan. I never like my own bon-mots until he adopts them." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality"
Whatever we think and say is wonderfully better for our spirits and trust in another mouth. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality," Letters and Social Aims, 1876
QUOTATION, n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. The words erroneously repeated. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
I feel a reassuring oneness with other people when I find that even my most intimate, anguished, socially inadmissible emotions and desires are known to others.... Kindred souls—indeed, my selves otherwise costumed—turn up in books in the most unexpected places. Discovering them is one of the great rewards of a liberal education. If I quote liberally, it is not to show off book learning, which at my stage of life can only invite ridicule, but rather to bathe in this kinship of strangers. ~Yi-fu Tuan, "Intimate: From Justice to Love," Who Am I?: An Autobiography of Emotion, Mind, and Spirit, 1999
An aphorism is never exactly true.
It is either a half-truth or a truth and a half.
Someone who can write aphorisms should not fritter away his time writing essays. ~Karl Kraus, translated from German by Harry Zohn
Aphorism, n.: A concise, clever statement you don’t think of until too late. ~James Alexander Thom
You could compile, I should think, the worst book in the world entirely out of selecting passages from the best writers in the world. ~G.K. Chesterton, "On Writing Badly"
Major —, a great traveller, entered into a dispute with Parr about Babylon; the Doctor got into a violent passion, and poured out such a heap of quotations on his unfortunate antagonist, that the latter, stunned by the clamour, and terrified by the Greek, was obliged to succumb. ~Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873), Pelham; or, The Adventures of a Gentleman, 1828
I am fully conscious of the fact, that aphorisms are like wandering Gypsies. They must always be published without guarantee of the authenticity. ~Erkki Melartin
It’s such a pleasure to write down splendid words—almost as though one were inventing them. ~Rupert Hart-Davis
Reframing an extract as a quotation constitutes a kind of coauthorship. With no change in wording, the cited passage becomes different. I imagine that the thrill of making an anthology includes the opportunity to become such a coauthor. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
The man who writes a single line,
And hears it often quoted,
Will in his life time surely shine,
And be hereafter noted.
~Frederic Swartwout Cozzens, "Phrases and Filberts," Sayings, Wise and Otherwise
A few of these phrases, usually found floating in the currents of ordinary conversation, will be sufficient to consider in a paper like this: if we were to include those embraced in literature and oratory, it would require foolscap enough to cover the sands of Egypt, and an inkstand as large as one of the pyramids. Not being disposed to make such an investment in stationery at present, we shall only play the literary chiffonier and hook a few scraps from the heaps of talk we meet with every day. ~Frederic Swartwout Cozzens, "Phrases and Filberts," Sayings, Wise and Otherwise
Proverbs often contradict one another, as any reader soon discovers. The sagacity that advises us to look before we leap promptly warns us that if we hesitate we are lost; that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but out of sight, out of mind. ~Leo Calvin Rosten
It’s a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water. ~Franklin P. Jones
Gnomic wisdom, however, is notoriously polychrome, and proverbs depend for their truth entirely on the occasion they are applied to. Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it... ~George Santayana, "Chapter VIII: Prerational Morality," The Life of Reason: Volume Five, Reason in Science, 1906
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. ~Niels Bohr
When two seemingly conflicting thoughts have made it to proverb or aphorism status, usually, in the ambivalence of life, both are true. ~Robert Irvine Fitzhenry (1918–2008), The Harper Book of Quotations
The truest sayings are paradoxical. ~Laozi, as quoted in The Wisdom of the East: The Sayings of Lao Tzŭ, translated from the Chinese by Lionel Giles, 1904
Many are the sayings of Elia... scattered about in obscure periodicals and forgotten miscellanies. From the dust of some of these it is our intention occasionally to revive a tract or two that shall seem worthy of a better fate.... seeing that Messieurs the Quarterly Reviewers have chosen to embellish their last dry pages with fruitful quotations therefrom... ~Charles Lamb, "Confessions of a Drunkard," The London Magazine, August 1822
But I have long thought that if you knew a column of advertisements by heart, you could achieve unexpected felicities with them. You can get a happy quotation anywhere if you have the eye. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1923, quoted in Holmes-Laski Letters: The Correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Harold J. Laski, 1916-1935, Volume 1, Harvard University Press, 1953
To be amused by what you read — that is the great spring of happy quotations. ~C.E. Montague (1867–1928), "Quotation"
The adventitious beauty of poetry may be felt in the greater delight which a verse gives in happy quotation than in the poem. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Art"
An anthology of quotations is a museum of utterances. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
All of us encounter, at least once in our life, some individual who utters words that make us think forever. There are men whose phrases are oracles; who can condense in one sentence the secrets of life; who blurt out an aphorism that forms a character, or illustrates an existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli
A vast meaning is unfolded in each line, with such power that a sentence only a line long would suffice for a whole life’s training. ~Rufinus (translated from Latin), about The Sentences of Sextus
A picture, it is said, is worth a thousand words, but cannot a few well-spoken words convey as many pictures? ~Author Unknown
...culling a large garland of flowers from the wide garden of the world's literature, and select from them those that have been made beautiful by age, and those which are still beautiful by youth, and form them into a bouquet lasting in its fragrance and glorious in prismatic hues—from the wild-woods and hedge-rows of literature, of every nation and of every clime, some of the rarest and some of the sweetest blossoms... ~Edward Parsons Day, Preface to Day's Collacon: An Encyclopædia of Prose Quotations, 1883 [a little altered
I like a writer who is original enough to water his garden with quotations, without fear of being drowned out. ~"The Art of Quoting," Book News, May 1906
To me, novels are just quotations with a bunch of filler. ~Terri Guillemets
And, for the learned Bishop, it is observable, that at that time, there fell to be a modest debate about Predestination, and Sanctity of life; of both which, the Orator did not long after send the Bishop some safe and useful Aphorisms, in a long Letter written in Greek; which, was so remarkable for the language, and matter, that after the reading of it, the Bishop put it into his bosom, and did often shew it to Scholars, both of this, and forreign Nations; but did alwayes return it back to the place where he first lodg’d it, and continu’d it so near his heart, till the last day of his life. ~Izaack Walton, The Life of Mr. George Herbert, 1670 [Bishop being Dr. Andrews Bishop of Winchester and Orator being Mr. George Herbert
The hunter for aphorisms on human nature has to fish in muddy water, and he is even condemned to find much of his own mind. ~Francis H. Bradley, Aphorisms, 1930
Misquotations are the only quotations that are never misquoted. ~Hesketh Pearson
Miss Print is a devotee of literary efforts. Whether it be that her manuscript is illegible, or the typo at fault, her articles never appear well. Miss Quote is of poetic temperament, emulates rhapsody, and is fond of reciting classics and poems of high order, but her recitations are incorrect. ~Angeline E. Alexander, "A Sisterhood of Spinsters," 1885 [a little altered
Miss Spell will always write my letters;
Miss Manage lets off all my debtors.
Miss Print is wont to spoil my rhyme—
A very wicked habit is hers:
And if they quote me any time,
Miss Quote's the girl to use the scissors.
~"Misses," in Echoes from the Clubs, 1867 September 11th
Miss Quote is so inaccurate
She never gets it right
Miss Attribute and Miss Date
do too forever wrongly cite
and spread literary blight!
Misquotation is, in fact, the pride and privilege of the learned. A widely-read man never quotes accurately, for the rather obvious reason that he has read too widely. ~Hesketh Pearson
Misquotation is quotology’s swamp. Amateur quoters mix and mangle Shakespeare and Scripture. Professors gaffe and printers bungle. It’s a mess we must wade into. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
Interviewer: Why didn't you get another interviewer? Someone with a name?
Mailer: Well, you always manage to get my remarks right.
~Norman Mailer, "Mr. Mailer Interviews Himself," in The New York Times Book Review, 1967 September 17th #misquotation
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What remains therefore, but that our last Recourse must be had to large Indexes, and little Compendiums; Quotations must be plentifully gathered, and bookt in Alphabet; To this End, tho’ Authors need be little consulted, yet Criticks, and Commentators, and Lexicons carefully must. But above all, those judicious Collectors of bright Parts, and Flowers, and Observanda’s, are to be nicely dwelt on; by some called the Sieves and Boulters of Learning; tho’ it is left undetermined, whether they dealt in Pearls or Meal; and consequently, whether we are more to value that which passed thro’, or what staid behind. ~Jonathan Swift, "A Digression In Praise of Digressions," A Tale of a Tub: Written for the Universal Improvement of Mankind. To Which is Added, An Account of a Battel Between the Antient and Modern Books in St. James’s Library, 1704
[A]s if it were not the masterful will which subjugates the forces of nature to be the genii of the lamp... that forces a life-thought into a pregnant word or phrase, and sends it ringing through the ages! ~William Mathews, "Self-Reliance," Getting on in the World; Or, Hints on Success in Life, 1873
As the highly colored birds do not fly around in the dull, leaden plains of a sandy desert, but amid all the settings of nature’s leaves and blossoms, and lights and shades—nature’s framework of their picture—so there are truths which do not appear well in arid fields of philosophic inquiry, but which demand the colored air and the bowers of poetry to be the setting of their charms. ~David Swing
Collecting quotations seems a similar occupation to the one practiced by those birds and animals who pick up shiny pebbles, pieces of glass and paper to line their nests and burrows. They discard one, pick up another, apparently at random, but all with a particular spot in mind. The result is a living place that conforms to their own sensibility and shape. ~James Charlton (b.1939), The Writer's Quotation Book: A Literary Companion, 1986
Authors are magpies, echoing each other's words and seizing avidly on anything that glitters. ~Bergen Evans (1904–1978), Dictionary of Quotations, 1968
The epigram is a handy weapon, having the keenness of the stiletto, and its glitter. ~William Watson, "A Note on Epigram," 1883 [a little altered
What gems of painting or statuary are in the world of art, or what flowers are in the world of nature, are gems of thought to the cultivated and thinking. ~Attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes in Excellent Quotations for Home and School by Julia B. Hoitt, 1890
Stronger than an army is a quotation whose time has come. ~W.I.E. Gates, quoted in Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Times by Laurence J. Peter, 1977
Every so often, a quotation sweeps through the world like an epidemic. Hemingway must have cursed the day when he unearthed "for whom the bell tolls," which began as a reflection on mortality and ended as a facetious crack about the telephone. A caution to all leader-writers and speechmakers: there is nothing so powerless as a quotation whose time has come and gone. ~From The Listener (London), quoted in Encounter, 1982
They never get ahead an inch, because they are always hugging some coward maxim, which they can only interpret literally.... Of what use is it "to be sawing about a set of maxims to which there is a complete set of antagonist maxims"? Proverbs, it has been well said, should be sold in pairs, a single one being but a half-truth. ~William Mathews, "Decision," Getting On In The World; Or, Hints on Success in Life, 1873
Do not shun this maxim because it is common-place. On the contrary, take the closest heed of what observant men, who would probably like to show originality, are yet constrained to repeat. Therein lies the marrow of the wisdom of the world. ~Arthur Helps, "Chapter IV," Companions of My Solitude, 1851
Montaigne also comes in for a large share of the scholar's regard. Opened anywhere, his page is sensible, marrowy, quotable. ~A. Bronson Alcott, "Books," June 1869
Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests and mines and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Plato; Or, The Philosopher"
"Nobilis ornatur lauro collega secundâ," as Juvenal says: au revoir, and away went Lord Vincent, half forgetting all his late anxiety for my life, in his paternal pleasure for the delivery of his quotation. ~Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873), Pelham; or, The Adventures of a Gentleman, 1828 [Juvenal's Satire VIII, l.253
The surest way to make a monkey of a man is to quote him. That remark in itself wouldn’t make any sense if quoted as it stands. The average man ought to be allowed a quotation of no less than three sentences, one to make his statement and two to explain what he meant. Ralph Waldo Emerson was about the only one who could stand having his utterances broken up into sentence quotations, and every once in a while even he doesn’t sound so sensible in short snatches. ~Robert Benchley, My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew, 1951
Writing with Scissors (collecting, note-keeping, remaking) ~Peter Stillman
One would think that a scissors and pastepot collection like this would require little help. Not true. A tribe of hunters and gatherers is required: there is so much to be seen for so little selected. ~Robert Irvine Fitzhenry (1918–2008), The Harper Book of Quotations
I like to think that for some this BARTLETT can be the journal of another self, continuing over some six or seven hundred years. Not just a work of reference, but a work of conference; a nest egg for the mind. I have occasionally imagined the editors as Huck and Tom on the raft, floating down the big river and trying to pull aboard, from so much miscellaneous jetsam, what would be enduringly useful. ~Christopher Morley, preface to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 1937 ("Literature through a Keyhole")
I have drag-netted the ocean, as well as the numerous narrow streams and wide rivers of literature... ~Frank J. Wilstach, A Dictionary of Similes, 1916
The quotation-business is booming. No subdivision of the culture seems too narrow to have a quotation book of its own.... It would be an understatement to say that these books lean on one another. To compare them is to stroll through a glorious jungle of incestuous mutual plagiarism. ~James Gleick, 1993
We should manage our Thoughts... as Shepherds do their Flowers in making a Garland; first select the choicest, and then dispose them in the most proper Places, where they give a Lustre to each other... ~Alexander Pope, "Thoughts on Various Subjects," 1727 [Shhh, I did a dirty thing and quoted this out of context. The original is "our Thoughts in composing a Poem," but the ellipsis version describes quotation compiling so perfectly! About 1872, in various quotation books, this started going around attributed to Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "We should manage our thoughts as shepherds do their flowers in making a garland; first select the choicest, and then dispose them in the most proper places, that every one may reflect a part of its color and brightness on the next." E.P. Day states in his preface to Collacon, 1883, one of the books where this is quoted, that "these are not taken from the gleanings of others, but have been gathered from the original works of the writers." But I cannot find this anywhere in Coleridge's works and even if it were there, it would clearly be—how shall we say politely—"borrowed."
A good conversationalist is not one who remembers what was said, but says what someone wants to remember. ~John Mason Brown
But 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 the classics, now it’s lyric verse. ~Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy, 1948
When you see yourself quoted in print and you’re sorry you said it, it suddenly becomes a misquotation. ~Laurence J. Peter, Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Times, 1977
Quotation mistakes, inadvertency, expedition, and human lapses, may make not only moles but warts in learned authors... ~Thomas Browne, Christian Morals, 1716 (Part the Second, sect. ii)
It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations is an admirable work, and I studied it intently. The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more. ~Winston Churchill, Roving Commission: My Early Life, 1930
The present volume is the result of a taste for collecting poetical quotations, which beset me in the days of my nonage, now more than half a century ago.... I read the poets diligently, and registered, in a portable form, whatever I thought apposite and striking. ~Henry G. Bohn, A Dictionary of Quotations from the English Poets, 1881
It's easier to quote poets than to read them. ~Allison Barrows
A quoting author is just as ridiculous as a country girl upon her first coming to town; who being decked up by the help of her friends, should make public acknowledgement from whom she received her stockings, her shirt, her stays, &c. so that if every person was there to claim their own, she would be left as naked as the jay in the fable; or as such a pye-bald author, say writer rather, say compiler, say publisher, say second-hand cook, who gives you a beggar’s dish out of fragments; or say printer’s sign-post, upon which are pasted the heterogeneous scraps of many authors. ~"Thoughts on Quotations," The Town and Country Magazine; Or, Universal Repository of Knowledge, Instruction, and Entertainment, February 1776
[A]lthough Solomon made a book of proverbs, a book of proverbs never made a Solomon. ~"When I Was in the Legion: A Memoir of Military Life," in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, April 1841
Reader, Now I send thee like a Bee to gather honey out of flowers and weeds; every garden is furnished with either, and so is ours. Read and meditate; thy profit shall be little in any book, unless thou read alone, and unless thou read all and record after. ~Henry Smith
Thus have I, as well as I could, gathered a posey of observations as they grew; and if some rue and wormwood be found among the sweeter herbs, their wholesomeness will make amends for their bitterness. ~Lord Lyttleton
He lik’d those literary cooks
Who skim the cream of others’ books;
And ruin half an author’s graces,
By plucking bon-mots from their places...
~Hannah More, Florio, 1786
In literary composition a well-chosen quotation lights up the page like a fine engraving... ~William Francis Henry King, "Introduction," Classical and Foreign Quotations, 1889
It is in fact one of the charms of the book, that it has gathered its contents from almost every latitude and longitude, and sometimes from the opposite poles of thought. Jew, Pagan, and Christian—classic and patristic—primitive and recent authors—furnish each his quota to the design. Men are here found standing side by side who were wide apart in time, space, and character—agreeing in nothing, except that they thought on the same subject, and thought well. ~James Elmes, Classic Quotations: A Thought-Book of the Wise Spirits of All Ages and All Countries, Fit for All Men and All Hours, 1863
To such as these we offer, with some confidence, and with no little sympathy, our collection of choice flowers, culled from the gardens of Poesy: may they refresh the mind, and gladden the heart, and beautify the path, of many a careworn toiler in the fields of labour, of whatsoever kind. ~H.G. Adams, A Cyclopædia of Poetical Quotations; Consisting of Choice Passages from the Poets of Every Age and Country, 1853
...a book which hath been culled from the flowers of all books... [And here is its fuller excerpt
A writer can get into a vast deal of trouble through misquotation. If you ever want to receive lots of mail, I recommend you get a Shakespeare quote wrong in a magazine or newspaper." ~Joseph Epstein, Foreward to Fred Shapiro’s Yale Book of Quotations, 2006
After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations. ~H.L. Mencken, about Shakespeare
The genius of quotation is abroad. Public speakers, preachers, pleaders, and teachers are wont to enrich their addresses with the bright utterances of brilliant men. If this practice be managed deftly and honestly, there is good in it. The long processes of many years of study are often concentrated into a single paragraph, and often delivered in a figure of surpassing force.... Even if the purpose be no higher than mere ornamentation, the practice need not be despised. Beauty and utility are not necessarily and always to be divorced. ~Charles S. Robinson, introduction to Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers: A Cyclopædia of Quotations from the Literature of All Ages by Josiah H. Gilbert, 1895
An apt quotation is as good as an original remark. ~Author Unknown
The man whose book is filled with quotations, may be said to creep along the shore of authors, as if he were afraid to trust himself to the free compass of reasoning. ~Quoted unattributed in The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, April 1794; has since been attributed to Anonymous, Johann Peter Friedrich Ancillon, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The wise men of old have sent most of their morality down the stream of time in the light skiff of apothegm or epigram; and the proverbs of nations, which embody the commonsense of nations, have the brisk concussion of the most sparkling wit. ~Edwin P. Whipple, lecture delivered before the Boston Mercantile Library Association, December 1845
In the Bodleian Library at Oxford, there is an English Translation of Saint Paul’s Epistles, printed in the black letter, which the Princess used while she was here imprisoned; in a blank leaf of which, the following paragraph, written with her own hand, and in the pedantry of the times, yet remains: "I walke many times into the pleasant fieldes of the Holye Scriptures; where I plucke up the goodlisome herbs of sentences by pruning, eate them by reading, chawe them by musing, and laie them up at length in the high seate of memorie, by gathering them together. That so having tasted the sweetnes, I maye the lesse perceave the bitternesse of this miserable life." ... Another volume in the Bodleian Library contains "Sentences and Phrases collected by Queen Elizabeth in the 13th and 14th years of her age." ~John Nichols, "The Princess Elizabeth at Woodstock, 1554," The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, 1788
A box, where sweets compacted lie... ~George Herbert [Context note: William Watson, 1883, uses this phrase to describe epigrams, but in Herbert's original, 1600s, it refers to Spring. Herbert's theme in the poem, "Vertue," is that everything must eventually die, whereas virtuous souls live on. And to carry Watson's analogy, so do quotations!
Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure. ~Agnes Sybil Thorndike (1882–1976)
Immortality. I notice that as soon as writers broach this question they begin to quote. I hate quotation. Tell me what you know. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal, May 1849
Whatever we may say against collections, which present authors in a disjointed form, they nevertheless bring about many excellent results. We are not always so composed, so full of wisdom, that we are able to take in at once the whole scope of a work according to its merits. Do we not mark in a book passages which seem to have a direct reference to ourselves? Young people especially, who have failed in acquiring a complete cultivation of mind, are roused in a praiseworthy way by brilliant passages... ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, translated from German
Perish the men who said our good things before us! ~Aelius Donatus, quoted in Edge-Tools of Speech by Maturin M. Ballou, 1886
Whoever reads only to transcribe or quote shining remarks without entering into the genius and spirit of the author, will be apt to be misled out of a regular way of thinking, and the product of all this will be found to be a manifest incoherent piece of patchwork. ~Attributed to Swift in A Dictionary of Thoughts, Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors, Both Ancient and Modern by Tryon Edwards, 1891
An epigram often flashes light into regions where reason shines but dimly. ~Edwin P. Whipple, lecture delivered before the Boston Mercantile Library Association, October 1846, quoted in Lectures on Subjects Connected with Literature and Life
A proverb is much light condensed in one flash. ~Charles Simmons
To some students a detached thought is often the portal through which they enter the temple of an author's mind, by them hitherto unstudied; it comes as a revelation, and offers a new region to be explored, another phase of the truth to be investigated. ~Jeanne G. Pennington, Preface to Don't-Worry Nuggets, 1899
Quotation is suggestive. It is an incentive to the acquirement of knowledge; it opens up new paths of reading, introduces authors hitherto unknown, and therefore unappreciated. ~"The Art of Quoting," Book News, May 1906 [a little altered
Quoter's curiosity is a disease whose only cure is more reading. ~Terri Guillemets, 2009
One of the best exercises for readers who have not had the time nor opportunity to pasture leisurely in ancient and modern fields of literature, is to make a point of looking up the original works from which quotations, which they may chance upon from time to time, are derived. A lover of the classics will understand the pleasure which such an exercise would afford—with all its delightful possibilities and surprises, and its wonderful effect in opening up new lands, hitherto unknown and unloved only because unknown. ~"The Art of Quoting," Book News, May 1906
A maxim is sometimes like the seed of a plant which the soil it is thrown into must expand into leaves, and flowers, and fruit; so that the great part of it must sometimes be written as it were by the reader. ~Fulke Greville (1554–1628)
Books of quotation are not only of importance to the reader for what they contain of matured thought, but also for what they suggest. Our brains receive the spark and become luminous, like inflammable material by the contact of flint and steel. ~Maturin M. Ballou, January 1886, preface to Edge-Tools of Speech
What counts is not the person's politics or pedigree or predilections. What counts is what they say, and to make the cut in Bob's book the quotation must have germinating power. There are enough of those that the book might even measure up to what Emerson, Bob's favourite author and the most quoted, says in praise of dictionaries: "There is no cant in it, no excess of explanation, and it is full of suggestions, the raw material of possible poems and histories." ~Jack Chambers, introduction to the fortieth anniversary edition of The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations ["Bob" referring to Robert I. Fitzhenry (1918–2008)
[S]ources are not too reliable. The words and thoughts are the thing. "The best words in the best order" is the object of all quotations. Who made the order and when is of interest, but not vital as the many quotations by "Anon." testify. ~Robert Irvine Fitzhenry (1918–2008), The Harper Book of Quotations
And now let us go out on the terrace, where 'the milk-white peacock glimmers like a ghost,' while the evening star 'washes the dusk with silver.' At twilight nature becomes a wonderfully suggestive effect and is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets. ~Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying: A Dialogue," in The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review (London), January 1889 (Vivian) [The quoted peacock phrase is from Tennyson's "The Princess: A Medley" —
"Deep in the night I woke: she, near me, held
A volume of the Poets of her land:
There to herself, all in low tones, she read....
'Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me....
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.'"
And "washes the dusk" is from William Blake's "To the Evening Star" —
"...speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver."
If the grain were separated from the chaff which fills the Works of our National Poets, what is truly valuable would be to what is useless in the proportion of a mole-hill to a mountain. ~Edmund Burke
The point of all this is that quotation marks stick like cockleburrs in the public mind, especially when they are attached to catchy words. So it is well to count 10 before using. ~Marvin Creager, "You Can't Count on Famous Words," 1949
In using phrases not our own—
Words spoken by some other one—
We quote their words you know.
Thus, when we quote from Solomon
"A father should chastise his son,"
These marks are put to show.
~Mrs. Lovegood, "The Quotation or Inverted Comma," The Heart's-Ease, or, Grammar in Verse with Easy Exercises in Prose for Very Young Children, by a Lady Teacher, 1854 [Quotation marks used to be referred to as inverted commas.
The Grecian’s maxim would indeed be a sweeping clause in Literature; it would reduce many a giant to a pygmy; many a speech to a sentence; and many a folio to a primer. ~C.C. Colton, "Preface," Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words: Addressed To Those Who Think, 1820
I will therefore spend this Preface, rather about those, from whom I have gathered my knowledge; For I am but a gatherer and disposer of other mens stuffe, at my best value. ~Henry Wotton, The Elements of Architecture, 1624, commonly modernized to "I am but a gatherer and disposer of other men’s stuff."
...It is joy
Ineffable to dwell upon the lines
That register our feelings...
~James G. Percival, "Love of Study," c.1822
And if these little sparks of holy fire, which I have heaped together, do not give life to your prepared and already enkindled spirit, yet they will sometimes help to entertain a thought, to actuate a passion, to employ and hallow a fancy, and put the body of your piety into fermentation, by presenting you with the circumstances and parts of such meditations.... I have known and felt comfort by reading, or hearing from other persons, what I knew myself; and it was unactive upon my spirit, till it was made vigorous and effective from without. ~Jeremy Taylor, to Christopher Lord Hatton
Apothegms are the wisdom of the past condensed for the instruction and guidance of the present. ~Tryon Edwards
The short sayings of the wise and good men are of great value, like the dust of gold, or the sparks of diamonds. ~Attributed to Tillotson in A Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern by Tryon Edwards, 1908
We were conversing upon literary matters, and, in illustrating one of my own remarks, I repeated the admirable advice of Polonius to his son Lærtes, commencing "And these few precepts in thy memory," &c. The gentleman alluded to was struck with the beauty and power of the lines, and inquired who was the author of them. I satisfied his curiosity, and the following sensible remark was the result:—"You don't say! Why! I thought they sounded like my friend John Smith!"... How mortifying must this be to every deserving literary man... ~Charles Lanman, "Thoughts on Literature," 1840
My quarrel with him is, that his works contain nothing worth quoting; and a book that furnishes no quotations, is me judice, no book,—it is a plaything. ~Thomas Love Peacock, Crotchet Castle, 1831 (The Rev. Dr. Folliott)
Wise sayings are the light-towers along the journey of life. ~Attributed to Johnson in Sayings: Proverbs, Maxims, Mottoes by Charles F. Schutz, 1915
Maxims are texts to which we turn in danger or sorrow, and we often find what seems to have been expressly written for our use. ~Attributed to George Eliot in Sayings: Proverbs, Maxims, Mottoes by Charles F. Schutz, 1915
He repeated to himself an old French proverb that he had made up that morning. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), quoted by Edmund Wilson in The Crack-Up, 1945
It's an old proverb I just made up. ~Criminal Minds, "Internal Affairs" [S11, E9, 2015] written by Sharon Lee Watson, spoken by the character David Rossi
The mind will quote whether the tongue does or not. ~Attributed to Emerson in Edge-Tools of Speech by Maturin M. Ballou, 1886
Why lift aphorisms from a novel at all? [Geoffrey] Bennington speculates that one’s chief motivation for taking such a course... has been (and he quotes Derrida) to "monumentalize inscriptions now made lapidary: ’the rest’ in peace." In other words, the anthologizer sets out to rescue the essence, the "surplus" of a novelistic text and to create a monument to it. In this connection Bennington appropriates a notion from Freudian psychoanalysis to make his point. He sees the drive to anthologize as a "manifestation of repressed anality; the precious metal of the maxim is easily enough identified with the faeces, a ’reste’ detached from the body. The ’orderliness’ of the anthology can also be linked to Freud’s description of anal eroticism. ~Mark Bell, Aphorism in the Francophone Novel of the Twentieth Century, 1997
It has a constant tendency to the aphorism—the ripe fruit hanging on the tree of knowledge—noticeable in the writings of the higher order of men of genius; the great dramatists, the poets generally, Bacon, Burke, Franklin, Landor, and indeed most of the classic authors who pass current in the world in quotation. ~Evert A. Duyckinck, "Biographical Memoir," Wit and Wisdom of the Rev. Sydney Smith, 1856
There are plenty of good maxims in the world; we fail only in applying them. ~Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), translated from the French by an unnamed translator, 1845
I am now to offer some thoughts upon that sameness or familiarity which we frequently find between passages in different authors without quotation. This may be one of three things either what is called Plagiarism, or Imitation, or Coincidence. ~James Boswell, "The Hypochondriack," No. XXII, 1779
Is all literature eavesdropping, and all art Chinese imitation? our life a custom, and our body borrowed, like a beggar’s dinner, from a hundred charities? ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality," Letters and Social Aims, 1876
It hardly needs explaining at length, I think, how much authority or beauty is added to style by the timely use of proverbs. In the first place who does not see what dignity they confer on style by their antiquity alone?... And so to interweave adages deftly and appropriately is to make the language as a whole glitter with sparkles from Antiquity, please us with the colours of the art of rhetoric, gleam with jewel-like words of wisdom, and charm us with titbits of wit and humour. ~Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536), Adages
General observations drawn from particulars are the jewels of knowledge, comprehending great store in a little room; but they are therefore to be made with the greater care and caution, lest, if we take counterfeit for true, our loss and shame be the greater when our stock comes to a severe scrutiny. ~John Locke (1632–1704), "Of the Conduct of the Understanding"
....whether your jewel was got from the mine or from an auctioneer. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), "Quotation and Originality," Letters and Social Aims, 1876
A classic lecture, rich in sentiment,
With scraps of thundrous Epic lilted out
By violet-hooded Doctors, elegies
And quoted odes, and jewels five-words-long
That on the stretch’d forefinger of all Time
Sparkle for ever...
~Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892), The Princess: A Medley, 1847
A fine quotation is a diamond on the finger of a man of wit, and a pebble in the hand of a fool. ~Joseph Roux (1834–1905), Meditations of a Parish Priest, 1886, translated from French by Isabel F. Hapgood
Caution in Quotation.— Young authors do not know that a good expression or idea only looks well among its peers; that an excellent quotation may spoil whole pages, nay the whole book; for it seems to cry warningly to the reader, "Mark you, I am the precious stone, and round about me is lead—pale, worthless lead!" Every word, every idea only desires to live in its own company—that is the moral of a choice style. ~Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), "The Wanderer and His Shadow" (#111, 1880), Human, all-too-Human, translated from German by Paul V. Cohn, 1913 [There is another translation of this passage, by R.J. Hollingdale, that is a bit more colorful and animated: "An excellent quotation can annihilate entire pages, indeed an entire book, in that it warns the reader and seems to cry out to him: 'Beware, I am the jewel and around me there is lead, pallid, ignominious lead!'"
The words that enlighten the soul are more precious than jewels. ~Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882–1927)
Sharp! yes, her tongue is like a new-set razor. She’s quite original in her talk too; one of those untaught wits that help to stock a country with proverbs. I told you that capital thing I heard her say about Craig—that he was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow. Now that’s an Æsop’s fable in a sentence. ~George Eliot, Adam Bede, 1859
[G]enerally a fable is a proverb put into action... ~"Proverbs," in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, October 1860
I fancy you are good at capping Verses. ~Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749 [Jones says to the barber, the entire exchange of which is quite humorous, or at least as a quotation addict I find it so, as the barber is continually spouting Latin and proverbs — to Jones' rushed disgust — and is self-admittedly "too much addicted to the Study of Philosophy."
She popped aphorisms as if they were bubble gum. She sounded like a yelling edition of "Bartlett's Quotations." ~David Smothers, "Controversial Teacher Marva Collins: Educational Wonder Woman or Fraud?" Schenectady Gazette (New York), 1982 April 7th
Angelo: Why do you put these sayings upon me?
Isabella: Because authority, though it err like others,
Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself,
That skins the vice o' the top.
~William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure [II, 2]
To be useful, a quotation must reflect a point of view, even if it's one that the reader opposes. ~James Charlton (b.1939), introduction to The Military Quotation Book
But, perhaps, the excellence of aphorisms consists not so much in the expression of some rare or abstruse sentiment, as in the comprehension of some obvious and useful truth in a few words. ~Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, November 19, 1751
Not that "the middle" is precisely true,
Or else I should not tax your patience long:
If I had said 'beginning,' it might do;
But I have a dislike to quoting wrong...
~Charles Stuart Calverley, "Beer," Verses and Translations, 1862
When I first collected these authorities, I was desirous that every quotation should be useful to some other end than the illustration of a word; I therefore extracted from philosophers principles of science; from historians remarkable facts; from chymists complete processes; from divines striking exhortations; and from poets beautiful descriptions. ~Samuel Johnson, "Preface," A Dictionary of the English Language, Volume I, 1755
In procuring the material for this work, the Compiler has met with many publications whose antiquated style and quaintness of character have invested them with more than ordinary interest, and of which no mention is made in any dictionary of authors.... on looking over the vast field of literature... it was found that a number of excellent writers... had been almost entirely forgotten by our bibliographers; these works were carefully examined, and many beautiful extracts obtained, and it is hoped a further service rendered in the endeavor to resuscitate the names of their authors. ~Edward Parsons Day, Preface to Day's Collacon: An Encyclopædia of Prose Quotations, 1883 [Just like The Quote Garden, 115 years later!
The long-suspected meanings
of rustlings, chirps, and growls!
Soliloquies of forests!
The epic hoots of owls!
Those crafty hedgehogs drafting
aphorisms after dark,
while we blindly believe
they're sleeping in the park!
~Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), "I'm Working on the World," Calling Out to Yeti (1957), translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh
Say what you want without saying it yourself: quote. Very useful, this, sometimes lovely, and versatile, too: big thoughts in small pieces, neatly wrapped and bundled in bulk, in different flavors for different tastes. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
No, Sir, it is a good thing; there is a community of mind in it. Classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world. ~Samuel Johnson, quoted in The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell, Volume III, 1807
Quotations are the backbone of much of literature, and of the transmission of art and thought more generally.... Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote." The delight is our natural response to the monuments of creativity and wisdom, kept alive by quotations, a communal bond uniting us with past culture and with other lovers of words and ideas in our own time. ~Fred R. Shapiro, The Yale Book of Quotations, 2006 (Introduction)
Why, I have sometimes burned a book,
First cutting out and making mine
A word, that most would overlook,
A terse and comprehensive line!
Stray sentences that shall endure,
Like rare stones in mosaic set;
Stray hints of grander literature
That only lives in hints as yet.
~Hannah R. Hudson, "Word-Painting," Poems, 1874
He is always chopping words in to a bit of good advice. ~Octave Mirbeau, 1900, and Terri Guillemets, 2016, The Diary of a Chambermaid altered prose
"But quotation is useless when all is so excellent..." ~Review of Poems by William Watson, "Books of the Month," The Welsh Review, edited by Ernest Bowen-Rowlands, April 1892 [How true! It's always difficult, and perhaps downright impossible, to quote well from a work that's so great as a whole.
He who trains his tongue to quote the learned sages will be known, far and wide, as a smart-ass. ~Howard Kandel, The Power of Positive Pessimism: Proverbs for Our Times, 1964
Attend to me, Sancho, I do not say a proverb is amiss when aptly and seasonably applied; but to be for ever discharging them, right or wrong, hit or miss, renders conversation insipid and vulgar. ~Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated from Spanish
Life is like quotations. Sometimes it makes you laugh. Sometimes it makes you cry. Most of the time, you just don’t get it. ~Author unknown
There are but few proverbial sayings that are not true, for they are all drawn from experience itself, which is the mother of all sciences. ~Miguel de Cervantes
When you write something down to preserve it, you also absorb it. Each of the quotations in these journals, from sources as diverse as Socrates and the Pennsylvania Dutch, had given him pause—first when he came across it and then when he transcribed it. Each was meaningful to him. Each shaped him. Each, in some small way, was him.... For a while, as a sort of prayer before my family's evening meal, I would have my children pick a quotation from his books and read it aloud. With hands joined, we'd ponder what was said and remind ourselves that it was only Pop Pop's body that was dead. ~Joe Kita, "Everything Else," Wisdom of Our Fathers, 1999
The proper proportions of a maxim: a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense. ~Mark Twain
I came at last to meet with a piece that was lofty, rich, and elevated to the very Clouds... If I should set out my Discourses with such rich Spoils as these, the Plagiary would be too manifest in his own Defects, and I should too much discover the imperfection of my own Writing.... I know very well how imprudently I my self at every turn attempt to equal my self to my thefts...To cover a Man's self (as I have seen some do) with another Man's Arms, so as not to discover so much as their fingers ends; to carry on a Design(as it is not hard for a Man that has any thing of a Scholar in him, in an ordinary Subject to do) under old Inventions, patcht up here and there with his own Trumpery.... neither in this do I in the least glance at the Composers of Cento's, who declare themselves for such; of which sort of Writers, I have in my time known many very ingenious, and have their Rhapsodies in very great Esteem... ~Michel de Montaigne, "Of the Education of Children" To Madam Diana of Foix, Countess of Gurson, translated by Charles Cotton ("made English by")
To cover a man’s self, as I have seen some do, with another man’s armour, so as not to discover so much as their fingers’ ends; to carry on his design, as it is not hard for a man that has any thing of a scholar in him, in an ordinary subject, to do, under old inventions, patched up here and there; and then to endeavour to conceal the theft... of discovering their insufficiency to men of understanding... who will soon smell out and trace them under their borrowed crust. For my own part there is nothing I would not sooner do than that; I quote others only in order the better to express myself. ~Michel de Montaigne, "Of the Education of Children," translated by William Hazlitt
And as hearbes and trees are bettered and fortified by being transplanted, so formes of speach are embellished and graced by variation.... As in our ordinary language, we shall sometimes meete with excellent phrases, and quaint metaphors, whose blithnesse fadeth through age, and colour is tarnish by to common using them.... ~Michel de Montaigne, "Upon some Verses of Virgill," translated by John Florio
Quotations calcify into clichés. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
Nor do apophthegms only serve for ornament and delight, but also for action and civil use, as being the edge-tools of speech which cut and penetrate the knots of business and affairs: for occasions have their revolutions, and what has once been advantageously used may be so again, either as an old thing or a new one. ~Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning, translated from Latin ("secures aut mucrones verborum")
But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature, so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth: but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance, be further polished and illustrate and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance. ~Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning
Antiquities, or remnants of history, are, as was said, tanquam tabula naufragii: when industrious persons, by an exact and scrupulous diligence and observation, out of monuments, names, words, proverbs, traditions, private records and evidences, fragments of stories, passages of books that concern not story, and the like, do save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time. ~Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning
He presents me with what is always an acceptable gift who brings me news of a great thought before unknown. He enriches me without impoverishing himself. The judicious quoter, too, helps on what is much needed in the world, a freer circulation of good thoughts, pure feelings, and pleasant fancies. ~Christian Nestell Bovee, "Quoters and Quoting," Institutions and Summaries of Thought, 1862
At all events, the next best thing to being witty one’s self, is to be able to quote another’s wit. ~Christian Nestell Bovee, "Quoters and Quoting," Institutions and Summaries of Thought, 1862
A good proverb, like a pinch of snuff, tickles the mind into a sneeze. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
We may like well to know what is Plato’s and what is Montesquieu’s or Goethe’s part, and what thought was always dear to the writer himself; but the worth of the sentences consists in their radiancy and equal aptitude to all intelligence. They fit all our facts like a charm. We respect ourselves the more that we know them. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality," Letters and Social Aims, 1876
It is safer to quote what is written than what is spoken. What a man writes it is fair to presume he believes as a matter of general conviction, but it is not so with what he utters in the freedom of conversation. In that he may only express the feeling of the moment, and not his settled judgment, or matured opinion. ~Christian Nestell Bovee, "Quoters and Quoting," Institutions and Summaries of Thought, 1862
Many lines, and groups of lines, which we are in the habit of quoting from a body of continuous verse, are essentially Epigrams. Sometimes a couplet thus detached and exhibited is made all the more impressive by isolation. Taken together with its context, we see what has led up to it, and what grows out of it. Set it apart, and it seems a thing self-generated, self-sustinent, individually whole. We feel that in each case a thought has been presented, metaphorically, in utmost completeness; not that it is incapable of amplification, only we have an instinct which tells us that any addition of metaphorical detail would be an incumbrance. By the author not leaving it alone there, a fine epigram is thus made and marred. ~William Watson, "A Note on Epigram," 1883 [a little altered
A good thought is indeed a great boon, for which God is to be first thanked; next he who is the first to utter it, and then, in a lesser, but still in a considerable degree, the friend who is the first to quote it to us. Whoever adopts and circulates a just thought, participates in the merit that originated it. ~Christian Nestell Bovee, "Thought," Institutions and Summaries of Thought, 1862
To quote copiously and well, requires taste, judgment, and erudition, a feeling for the beautiful, an appreciation of the noble, and a sense of the profound. ~Christian Nestell Bovee, "Thought," Institutions and Summaries of Thought, 1862
A good maxim is never out of season. ~English Proverb
What flowers are to gardens, spices to food, gems to a garment, and stars to heaven; such are proverbs interwoven in speech. ~Hebrew Proverb
A proverb is to speech what salt is to food. ~Arabic Proverb
The healthiest herbs in literature are prov‑erbs. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897
A quotation at the right moment is like bread in a famine. ~Yiddish Proverb
Nibble at proverbs, the cheese of literature. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897
Proverbs are the literature of reason. ~French Proverb
Don’t quote your proverb till you bring your ship into port. ~Gaelic Proverb
Good sayings are like pearls strung together. ~Chinese Proverb
Proverbs are the daughters of daily experience. ~Dutch Proverb [Quoted in P.J. Harrebomée, Spreekwoordenboek der Nederlandsche taal, c.1853, and in English: Henry G. Bohn, A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs comprising French, Italian, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Danish, with English Translations, 1857.
Proverbs are the lamps to words. ~Arabian Proverb
Every proverb speaketh sooth;
Dreams and omens mask the truth.
~Welsh Proverb, quoted in British Reason in English Rhyme by Henry Halford Vaughan, 1889
Epigrams succeed where epics fail. ~Persian Proverb
Proverbs bear age and he who should do well may view himself in them as in a looking-glass. ~Italian Proverb
The common sayings of the multitude are too true to be laughed at. ~Welsh Proverb
A man’s life is often builded on a proverb. ~Hebrew Proverb
A proverb is an ornament to language. ~Persian Proverb
The fox has a hundred proverbs; ninety-nine are about poultry. ~Osmanli Proverb
The maxims of men disclose their hearts. ~French Proverb
As the country so the proverb. ~German Proverb
The common people of all countries have usually a stock of proverbial wisdom in current circulation, embodying, in a curt and pithy manner, the beliefs and convictions, the manners and morals, and sometimes the prejudices and follies, of those who adopt them. Generally speaking, however, the morality of proverbs is unexceptionable; and that they are, for the most part, founded on a genuine experience of life, is attested by the fact, that the best proverbs are common to nearly all countries. ~"French Proverbs," Eliza Cook's Journal, 1853 May 28th
[Shakespeare's] solid masses of knowledge are meted out in morsels and proverbs; and thus distributed, there is scarcely a corner which does not illuminate, or a cottage which he does not enrich. ~"The Poetical Works of William Shakespeare," The Retrospective Review, 1823
Besides, it happens (how, I cannot tell) that an idea launched like a javelin in proverbial form strikes with sharper point on the hearer’s mind and leaves implanted barbs for meditation... ~Desiderius Erasmus, Adages
[A]s I wandered round the bookstall, thinking, I came across a little book, sixpence in cloth, a shilling in leather, called Proverbs and Maxims. It contained some thousands of the best thoughts in all languages, such as have guided men along the path of truth since the beginning of the world.... The thought occurred to me that an interesting article might be extracted from it, so I bought the book. ~A.A. Milne (1882–1956), "At the Bookstall," Not That It Matters
A wise man who knows proverbs reconciles difficulties. ~Yoruba Proverb, quoted in Curiosities in Proverbs: A Collection of Unusual Adages, Maxims, Aphorisms, Phrases and Other Popular Dicta from Many Lands by Dwight Edwards Marvin, 1916
To appreciate and use correctly a valuable maxim requires a genius, a vital appropriating exercise of mind, closely allied to that which first created it. ~William Rounseville Alger, "The Utility and the Futility of Aphorisms," The Atlantic Monthly, February 1863
...though many a gatherer has carried his basket through these diamond districts of the mind... ~William Rounseville Alger, "The Utility and the Futility of Aphorisms," The Atlantic Monthly, February 1863, commonly quoted as "Proverbs are mental gems gathered in the diamond districts of the mind."
Cunning authors cut to be quoted. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
A silly remark from a great speaker is often published in large type, while wisdom from the humble and unpretentious is crowded into the smallest space. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
A false assertion often passes for a wise saying. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
This will stand as an uncontestable Argument, that our Modern Wits are not to reckon upon the Infinity of Matter, for a constant Supply. What remains therefore, but that our last Recourse must be had to large Indexes, and little Compendiums, Quotations must be plentifully gathered, and booked in Alphabet; to this End, tho' Authors need be little consulted, yet Critics, and Commentators, and Lexicons carefully must. But above all, those judicious Collectors of bright Parts, and Flowers, and Observanda's, are to be nicely dwelt on; by some called the Sieves and Boulters of Learning; tho' it is left undetermined, whether they dealt in Pearls or Meal; and consequently, whether we are more to value that which passed thro', or what staid behind. ~Jonathan Swift, "A Digression in Praise of Digressions, " A Tale of a Tub, Written for the Universal Improvement of Mankind (composed between 1694 and 1697)
Proverbs are the echoes of experience. ~Charles Irenée Castel (l'Abbé de Saint Pierre) (1658–1743)
Proverbs embrace the wide sphere of human existence, they take all the colours of life, they are often exquisite strokes of genius, they delight by their airy sarcasm or their caustic satire, the luxuriance of their humour, the playfulness of their turn, and even by the elegance of their imagery, and the tenderness of their sentiment. They give a deep insight into domestic life, and open for us the heart of man, in all the various states which he may occupy—a frequent review of Proverbs should enter into our readings; and although they are no longer the ornaments of conversation, they have not ceased to be the treasures of Thought! ~Isaac D’Israeli, "The Philosophy of Proverbs," Curiosities of Literature: Volume V
It is generally supposed that where there is no QUOTATION, there will be found most originality; and as people like to lay out their money according to their notions, our writers usually furnish their pages rapidly with the productions of their own soil: they run up a quickset hedge, or plant a poplar, and get trees and hedges of this fashion much faster than the former landlords procured their timber. The greater part of our writers, in consequence, have become so original, that no one cares to imitate them; and those who never quote, in return are never quoted! ~Isaac D’Israeli, "Quotation," A Second Series of Curiosities of Literature, Volume I, second edition, 1824
This is one of the results of that adventurous spirit which is now stalking forth and raging for its own innovations. We have not only rejected AUTHORITY, but have also cast away EXPERIENCE; and often the unburthened vessel is driving to all points of the compass, and the passengers no longer know whither they are going. The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by QUOTATION. ~Isaac D’Israeli, "Quotation," A Second Series of Curiosities of Literature, Volume I, second edition, 1824
It is inevitable that you are indebted to the past. You are fed and formed by it. The old forest is decomposed for the composition of the new forest. The old animals have given their bodies to the earth to furnish through chemistry the forming race, and every individual is only a momentary fixation of what was yesterday another's, is to‑day his, and will belong to a third to‑morrow. So it is in thought. Our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of innumerable minds: our language, our science, our religion, our opinions, our fancies we inherited. Our country, customs, laws, our ambitions, and our notions of fit and fair—all these we never made; we found them ready-made; we but quote them. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality"
Quotation, like much better things, has its abuses. One may quote till one compiles.... Such do not always understand the authors whose names adorn their barren pages, taken, too, from the third or the thirtieth hand. Those who trust to such false quoters will often learn how contrary this transmission is to the sense and application of the original. Every transplantation has altered the fruit of the tree; every new channel, the quality of the stream in its remove from the spring-head. ~Isaac D'Israeli, "Quotation"
Quoting shows a knowledge of literature. Artistic quotation means familiarity with many, many authors, poets and prose-writers alike. ~"The Art of Quoting," Book News, May 1906 [a little altered
[T]hinking, thinking, remembering, biding her time, uttering extensive dreamy theories and troubling witticisms, with an occasional incorrectness of folk-songs in her speech. ~Glenway Wescott, December 1929 [Referring to Elizabeth Madox Roberts (1881–1941)
Proverbs are in the world of thought what gold coin is in the world of business—great value in small compass, and equally current among all people. Sometimes the proverb may be false, the coin counterfeit, but in both cases the false proves the value of the true. ~Attributed to D. March in A Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern by Tryon Edwards, 1908
It is perfectly delightful to take advantage of the conscientious labors of those who go through and through volume after volume, divide with infinite patience the gold from the dross, and present us with the pure and shining coin. Such men may be likened to bees who save us numberless journeys by giving us the fruit of their own. ~Robert G. Ingersoll, introduction to Modern Thinkers by Van Buren Denslow, 1884
Quotable quotes are coins rubbed smooth by circulation. ~Louis Menand, "Notable Quotables: Is there anything that is not a quotation?" 2007 February 19th, The New Yorker
Bayle, when writing on "Comets," discovered this; for having collected many things applicable to his work, as they stood quoted in some modern writers, when he came to compare them with their originals, he was surprised to find that they were nothing for his purpose! the originals conveyed a quite contrary sense to that of the pretended quoters, who often, from innocent blundering, and sometimes from purposed deception, had falsified their quotations. This is an useful story for second-hand authorities! ~Isaac D’Israeli, "Quotation," A Second Series of Curiosities of Literature, Volume I, second edition, 1824
A learned historian declared to me of a contemporary, that the latter had appropriated his researches; he might, indeed, and he had a right to refer to the same originals; but if his predecessor had opened the sources for him, gratitude is not a silent virtue. ~Isaac D’Israeli, "Quotation," A Second Series of Curiosities of Literature, Volume I, second edition, 1824
Whenever the mind of a writer is saturated with the full inspiration of a great author, a quotation gives completeness to the whole; it seals his feelings with undisputed authority. Or whenever we would prepare the mind by a forcible appeal, an opening quotation is a symphony preluding on the chords whose tones we are about to harmonise. ~Isaac D'Israeli, "Quotation"
Quotes are nothing but inspiration for the uninspired. ~Attributed to Richard Kemph
George Bush wins the grand prize for best aphorism of the year. Last January, during his last week in office, he tried to quote a familiar line about poker from a Kenny Rogers song, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." But it came out like this: "There's a time to go, a time to stay, a time to fold 'em." He thus became the first outgoing president to combine Kenny Rogers and Ecclesiastes into one pop-biblical aphoristic farewell. ~John Leo, "For aphorisms, check another era," The Tuscaloosa News, 1993 December 28th, distributed by Universal Press Syndicate [This article was also published in other newspapers as "1993 Lacking Memorable Quotes, Unless You Can Top Any Of These," "1993 suffered from low bon mot quota," "In search of aphorisms, it was not a very good year," "Best '93 Aphorism Mixes Kenny Rogers And Bible," etc.
"He is a well-read man. That is, he quotes Horace.... And the young lady is... [q]uite fitted to discharge the function assigned by Iago to her 'that was ever fair and never proud.'"
"I don't quite remember at this moment what function he did assign to her."
"Well, get the book and see by and by. Shakespeare quotations that do not occur in leading articles are thrown away on you, I'm afraid."
~John Hill, The Waters of Marah, 1883
"Remember it is written, 'Eros the oldest and the youngest of the gods.'"
"Though it be not written, remember that you are an ass."
"You quote wrong. It's the other way."
"What is it, then?"
"Remember that I am an ass."
"Quite so. Good night."
~John Hill, The Waters of Marah, 1883
The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit. ~Attributed to W. Somerset Maugham
A man, groundly learned already, may take much profit himself in using by epitome to draw other men’s works, for his own memory sake, into short room. ~Roger Ascham
Great quotation collections glean the millennia, distill essences, and battle for bragging rights about who’s bigger, who’s smarter, who’s best. Who-knows-who-said-what has a market, a history, and a hall of fame. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
I have made up my mind to keep a Kalendar of my own, and write therein what comes to me with flowers, and song of birds, and treasures I find in books which fill shelves on the green walls. Old books, with musty covers, and time-worn pages. I like the words and expressions of “olden-day” writers.... I have spent hours, days, weeks, in searching among books which are rare, and not easily read, so that to those who have not time, nor inclination to search for themselves, I may reveal hidden delights and buried joys.... In my study I have learnt much; it is a labour of love, and ungrudgingly I give it to the world. ~Helen Rose Anne Milman Crofton, My Kalendar of Country Delights, “Prelude,” 1903
Epigram: 1. A vividly expressed truth that is so, or not, as the case may be. 2. A dash of wit and a jigger of wisdom, flavored with surprise. ~Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Dictionary Concocted by Ali Baba and the Bunch on Rainy Days, 1914
A beautiful verse, an apt remark, or a well-turned phrase, appropriately quoted, is always effective and charming. ~Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamrond du Deffand
I never have found the perfect quote. At best I have been able to find a string of quotations which merely circle the ineffable idea I seek to express. ~Attributed to Caldwell O’Keefe in The Trademark Reporter, Vol. 93, 2003
Imperfectly expressed sayings are often more pleasing and quotable than many of the more learned type. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
In ancient days, tradition says,
When knowledge was much stinted—
When few could teach and fewer preach,
And books were not yet printed—
What wise men thought, by prudence taught,
They pithily expounded;
And proverbs sage, from age to age,
In every mouth abounded.
O Blessings on the men of yore,
Whom wisdom thus augmented,
And left a store of easy lore
For human use invented.
~Blackwood’s Magazine, 1864, quoted in Curiosities in Proverbs: A Collection of Unusual Adages, Maxims, Aphorisms, Phrases and Other Popular Dicta from Many Lands by Dwight Edwards Marvin, 1916
In a world in which men write thousands of books and one million scientific papers a year, the mythic bricoleur is the man who plays with all that information and hears a music inside the noise. ~William Irwin Thompson
The study of proverbs may be more instructive and comprehensive than the most elaborate scheme of philosophy. ~Attributed to Motherwell in Pearls of Thought by Maturin M. Ballou, 1882
Modern paremiology is an absolutely open-ended phenomenon with many new challenges lying ahead. There is no doubt that proverbs, those old gems of generationally-tested wisdom, help us in our everyday life and communication to cope with the complexities of the modern human condition. The traditional proverbs and their value system give us some basic structure, and if their worldview does not fit a particular situation, they are quickly changed into revealing and liberating anti-proverbs. And there are, of course, the new proverbs of our time, such as «Different strokes for different folks», that express a liberated worldview. Proverbs don’t always have to be didactic and prescriptive; they can also be full of satire, irony, and humor. As such, the thousands of proverbs that make up the stock of proverbial wisdom of all cultures represent not a universally valid but certainly a pragmatically useful treasure. In retrospect, paremiologists have amassed a truly impressive body of proverb scholarship upon which prospective paremiology can build in good faith. Modern theoretical and empirical paremiology will doubtlessly lead to new insights about human behavior and communication, and by comparing these research results on an international basis, paremiologists might add their bit to a humane and enlightened world order based on experienced wisdom. ~Wolfgang Mieder (b.1944), “Modern Paremiology in Retrospect and Prospect,” in Paremia [The First Spanish Journal on Proverbs], número 6, 1997
How many of us have been first attracted to reason, first learned to think, to draw conclusions, to extract a moral from the follies of life, by some dazzling aphorism from Rochefoucauld or La Bruyere. ~Edward Lytton Bulwer
The proverbial wisdom of the populace in the street, on the roads, and in the markets instructs the ear of him who studies man more fully than a thousand rules ostentatiously displayed. ~Johann Lavater
The more an idea is developed, the more concise becomes its expression: the more a tree is pruned, the better is the fruit. ~Alfred Bougeart, quoted in A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness collected and translated by J. De Finod, 1880
Nevertheless, a maxim does not necessarily become a proverb. Many grubs never grow to butterflies; and a maxim is only a proverb in its caterpillar stage—a candidate for a wider sphere and longer flight than most are destined to attain. ~"Proverbs Secular and Sacred," The North British Review, February 1858
As proverbs are meant to be portable, it is essential that they should be packed up in few words... ~"Proverbs Secular and Sacred," The North British Review, February 1858
A proverb is an exploding atom of wisdom. ~Gaston Kaboré
King Magnet. What is the subject?
Queen Christmas Cheer. "Aye! there's the rub."
King Magnet. Rubbish!
Queen Christmas Cheer. Don't my quotations treat in manner snubbish! Can't you suggest a subject for our scene?
King Magnet. You should have lots of subjects being a Queen.
~George Thorne and F. Grove Palmer, Peter Wilkins, or Harlequin Harlokin and the Flying Islanders, 1883
Of course, talking only in proverbs would be impossible. Proverbs are full of poetry and twists. They are made up of words that have been molded for centuries, if not milleniums, until a minimum of words carry an extraordinary potential for meaning. ~Gaston Kaboré
People who rarely read long books, or even short stories, still appreciate the greatest examples of the shortest literary genres. I have long been fascinated by these short genres. They seem to lie just where my heart is, somewhere between literature and philosophy. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Long and Short of It: From Aphorism to Novel, 2012
Give your ears, hear the sayings,
Give your heart to understand them;
It profits to put them in your heart;
Woe to him who neglects them!
...have the same Use with Burning-Glasses, to collect the diffus’d Rays of Wit and Learning in Authors, and make them point with Warmth and Quickness upon the Reader’s Imagination. ~Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet: Together With a Proposal for the Encouragement of Poetry in this Kingdom," 1721
Grammarians, ye children of Stygian Momus, ye book-worms feeding on thorny passages of authors, demon foes of books, dogs of Zenodotus, soldiers of Callimachus from whom, though you hold him out as a shield, you do not refrain your tongue, hunters of melancholy conjunctions who take delight in min and sphin... ~Philippus of Thessalonica, in The Greek Anthology, Volume IV, "Book XI: The Convivial and Satirical Epigrams," epigram 321, translated by W.R. Paton, 1918
Idly curious race of grammarians, ye who dig up by the roots the poetry of others; unhappy bookworms that walk on thorns, defilers of the great... away with you, bugs that bite secretly the eloquent. ~Antiphanes of Macedonia, in The Greek Anthology, Volume IV, "Book XI: The Convivial and Satirical Epigrams," epigram 322, translated by W.R. Paton, 1918
You serve me a slice of raw beef, Heliodorus, and pour me out three cups of wine rawer than the beef, and then you wash me out at once with epigrams. ~Lucilius, in The Greek Anthology, Volume IV, "Book XI: The Convivial and Satirical Epigrams," epigram 137, translated by W.R. Paton, 1918
Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced—even a Proverb is no proverb to you till your Life has illustrated it. ~John Keats, letter to George and Georgiana Keats, February 24, 1819
An inveterate quote plucker is what I have become. ~Elaine Bernstein Partnow, preface to The Quotable Woman: From Eve to 1799, 1985 [Partnow began research for her well-known Quotable Woman in 1973, which all began with a mid-night vision of the book.
I do not know a more difficult character to describe than Lord Vincent's.... I should only have to present to the reader a man, whose conversation was nothing but alternate jest and quotation—a due union of Yorick and Partridge.... There were times when Vincent was earnestly engrossed in discussion in which a jest rarely escaped him, and quotation was introduced only as a serious illustration, not as a humorous peculiarity. He possessed great miscellaneous erudition, and a memory perfectly surprising for its fidelity and extent. He was a severe critic, and had a peculiar art of quoting from each author he reviewed, some part that particularly told against him. Like most men, in the theory of philosophy he was tolerably rigid; in its practice, more than tolerably loose. By his tenets you would have considered him a very Cato for stubbornness and sternness; yet he was a very child in his concession to the whim of the moment. Fond of meditation and research, he was still fonder of mirth and amusement... ~Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873), Pelham; or, The Adventures of a Gentleman, 1828
[T]hose who quote so frequently they become compilers.... frequently the vice of writers who, conscious of their own intellectual poverty, lard their lean books with the fat of other men's: who, like the old Romans, that robbed all the other cities of the world to decorate their own, employ the fine thoughts and illustrations of older writers to beautify their pages. ~William Mathews, "Quotation and Misquotation," in North American Review, January 1890
The indiscreet Scriblers of our Times, who amongst their laborious Nothings, insert whole Sections, Paragraphs, and Pages, out of Ancient Authors, with a Design by that means to illustrate their own Writings, do quite contrary; for this infinite Dissimilitude of Ornaments renders the Complexions of their own Compositions, so pale, sallow, and deform'd, that they lose much more than they get. The Philosophers Chrysippus and Epicurus were, in this, of too quite contrary Humours; for the first did not only in his Books mix the Passages and Sayings of other Authors, but entire Pieces, and in one the whole Medea of Euripides; which gave Apollodorus occasion to say, That should a Man pick out of his Writings all that was none of his, he would leave him nothing but blank Paper: whereas the latter, quite contrary, in three hundred Volumes that he left behind him, has not so much as any one Quotation. ~Michel de Montaigne, "Of the Education of Children" To Madam Diana of Foix, Countess of Gurson
Wisdom is meaningless until your own experience has given it meaning... and there is wisdom in the selection of wisdom. ~Bergen Evans
The aphorism is cultivated only by those who have known fear in the midst of words, that fear of collapsing with all the words. ~E.M. Cioran, "Atrophy of Utterance," All Gall Is Divided: Gnomes and Apothegms, translated from French by Richard Howard
If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.
~Dorothy Parker, referring to Oscar Wilde
Quotations cause all kinds of trouble. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
The difference between my quotations and those of the next man is that I leave out the inverted commas. ~George Moore, quoted in Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Times by Laurence J. Peter, 1977
I'm a quotation anthologist. I write with other people's words. As all writers do. ~Terri Guillemets
Hush, little bright line, don’t you cry
You’ll be a cliché by and by.
What a good thing Adam had — when he said a good thing, he knew nobody had said it before. ~Mark Twain, 1867
How do people go to sleep? I’m afraid I’ve lost the knack. I might try busting myself smartly over the temple with the night-light. I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things. ~Dorothy Parker, Here Lies, 1939
He was also a first-rate aphorist—a minor skill, but one that can outlast whole books' worth of prose. ~Jim Lewis, "The Pugilist at Rest: Norman Mailer's Performance Comes to a Close," 2007 November 12th
As a good housewife out of divers fleeces weaves one piece of cloth, a bee gathers wax and honey out of many flowers, and makes a new bundle of all... I have laboriously collected this Cento out of divers writers, and... I have wronged no authors, but given every man his own.... I can say of myself, Whom have I injured? The matter is theirs most part, and yet mine... ~Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
My life’s entwined by curly quote marks
Clever phrases and profound remarks....
Unraveling proverbs is a suitable puzzle for an old man. I put pieces in order and build up a kind of Utopian castle. ~Matti Kuusi
Quotation lovers love rare words. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
I don’t mind citing a bad author if the line is good. ~Seneca, "On Tranquility of Mind," translated by Moses Hadas
Some for renown on scraps of learning dote,
And think they grow immortal as they quote.
To patch-work learned quotations are allied;
Both strive to make our poverty our pride.
~Edward Young, Love of Fame
I doubt whether Cromwell or Milton could have rivaled [William Lloyd] Garrison in this field of quotation; and the power of quotation is as dreadful a weapon as any which the human intellect can forge. ~John Jay Chapman
[T]he governess... looked upon him [Mr. Swiveller] as a literary gentleman of eccentric habits, and of a most prodigious talent in quotation. ~Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, 1841
In the mountains the shortest route is from peak to peak but for that you must have long legs. Aphorisms should be peaks, and those to whom they are spoken should be big and tall of stature. ~Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), "Of Reading and Writing," Thus Spake Zarathustra
Someone — Cyril Connolly? Ezra Pound? — once said that anything that can be read twice is literature; I would say that anything that bears saying twice is quotable. ~Joseph Epstein, "Quotatious," A Line Out for a Walk: Familiar Essays, 1991
Let’s have some new clichés! ~Attributed to Samuel Goldwyn
One man’s wit, and all men’s wisdom. ~John Russell, definition of a proverb
Seek not to know who said this or that, but take note of what has been said. ~Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, translated from Latin
Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again. ~Andre Gide, Le traite du Narcisse, 1891
When a man thinks happily, he finds no foot-track in the field he traverses. All spontaneous thought is irrespective of all else. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Quotation and Originality," Letters and Social Aims, 1876
A garbled quotation is equivalent to a betrayal, an insult, a prejudice. ~E.M. Cioran
The little honesty that exists among authors is discernible in the unconscionable way they misquote from the writings of others. ~Arthur Schopenhauer, "On Authorship and Style," translated from German by Mrs. Rudolf Dircks
What is an Epigram? A dwarfish Whole,
Its Body brevity, and wit its Soul.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Epigrams"
Brevities are the golden formations in the quartz of literature. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882
Precepts or maxims are of great weight; and a few useful ones at hand do more toward a happy life than whole volumes that we know not where to find. ~Seneca
We prefer to think that the absence of inverted commas guarantees the originality of a thought, whereas it may be merely that the utterer has forgotten its source. ~Clifton Fadiman, The American Treasury, 1455-1955, 1955
Walter Benjamin... was a passionate collector of quotations. [N]othing was more characteristic of him in the thirties than the little notebooks with black covers which he always carried with him and in which he tirelessly entered in the form of quotations what daily living and reading netted him in the way of "pearls" and "coral." On occasion he read from them aloud, showed them around like items from a choice and precious collection. And in this collection, which by then was anything but whimsical, it was easy to find next to an obscure love poem from the eighteenth century the latest newspaper item... ~Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1973, and Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times, 1968 [This is a mash-up quotation. First sentence is Sontag's, the remaining are Arendt's.
Though collecting quotations could be considered as merely an ironic mimetism—victimless collecting, as it were—this should not be taken to mean that Benjamin disapproved of, or did not indulge in, the real thing. For it was Benjamin's conviction that reality itself invited—and vindicated—the once heedless, inevitably destructive ministrations of the collector. In a world that is well on its way to becoming one vast quarry, the collector becomes someone engaged in a pious work of salvage. The course of modern history having already sapped the traditions and shattered the living wholes in which precious objects once found their place, the collector may now in good conscience go about excavating the choicer, more emblematic fragments. ~Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1973
[L]ike the later notebooks, this collection was not an accumulation of excerpts intended to facilitate the writing of the study but constituted the main work.... The main work consisted in tearing fragments out of their context and arranging them afresh in such a way that they illustrated one another and were able to prove their raison d'être in a free-floating state, as it were. It definitely was a sort of surrealistic montage. Benjamin's ideal of producing a work consisting entirely of quotations, one that was mounted so masterfully that it could dispense with any accompanying text, may strike one as whimsical in the extreme and self-destructive to boot, but it was not... ~Hannah Arendt, "Walter Benjamin," Men in Dark Times, 1968
In so doing Benjamin was quite aware that this new method of "drilling" resulted in a certain "forcing of insights…whose inelegant pedantry, however, is preferable to today's almost universal habit of falsifying them"...~Hannah Arendt, "Walter Benjamin," Men in Dark Times, 1968
In the quotation that both saves and chastises, language proves the matrix of justice. It summons the word by its name, wrenches it destructively from its context, but precisely thereby calls it back to its origin. It appears, now with rhyme and reason, sonorously, congruously, in the structure of a new text. As rhyme it gathers the similar into its aura; as name it stands alone and expressionless. In quotation the two realms — of origin and destruction — justify themselves before language. And conversely, only where they interpenetrate — in quotation — is language consummated. In it is mirrored the angelic tongue in which all words, startled from the idyllic context of meaning, have become mottoes in the the book of Creation. ~Walter Benjamin ["Benjamin makes much the same claim for quotation that he makes for translation.... Like translation, quotation 'transplants' a text into a new context, and in so doing both destroys and saves it.... In this passage Benjamin says explicitly that language is perfectly realized, consummated — vollendet — only in quotation, a claim he also makes for translation in The Translator's Task.... indicating the intimate relation between quotation and translation.... The 'origin' toward which quotation calls the word back is not its original meaning in the quoted text, but rather its essence or nature as pure language. The 'angelic language' mirrored in quotation is thus the true language alluded to in The Translator's Task, language set free from the all-too-human context of meaning..." ~Steven Rendall, "Translation, Quotation, Iterability," 1997
When a thing has been said and well said, have no scruple: take it and copy it. ~Anatole France, "The Creed"
I can get myself awfully worked up, just as a fine sentence or paragraph can send me into shivery rapture. ~Steve Almond, "Night of the Living Freak," Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, 2004
Take my advice, dear reader, don’t talk epigrams even if you have the gift. I know, to those have, the temptation is almost irresistible. But resist it. Epigram and truth are rarely commensurate. Truth has to be somewhat chiselled, as it were, before it will quite fit into an epigram. ~Joseph Farrell, "About Conversation," The Lectures of a Certain Professor, 1877
Bobby Baccalieri: "To the victor belongs the spoils."
Tony Soprano: "Why don't you get... out of here before I shove your quotation book up your... ass."
~Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, and Frank Renzulli, The Sopranos, "Do Not Resuscitate," original airdate 2000 January 23rd
Thus it is with the jewels of literature... among the writings of the most obscure may be found, at least, one thought that is worth preserving for its purity and beauty. ~Edward Parsons Day, Preface to Day's Collacon: An Encyclopædia of Prose Quotations, 1883
The chief ingredients which go to make a true proverb are: sense, shortness, and salt. ~James Howell, Paroimiografia, 1659
There are single thoughts that contain the essence of a whole volume, single sentences that have the beauties of a large work, a simplicity so finished and so perfect that it equals in merit and in excellence a large and glorious composition. ~Joseph Joubert (1754–1824), translated from French by George H. Calvert, 1866
Often we were rescued by that ever-present help in time of trouble, the beloved benefactor known only as "Anonymous." ~Frank Spencer Mead (1898–1982), preface to 12,000 Religious Quotations, 1989 printing, originally published 1965, The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations
Why are not more gems from our great authors scattered over the country? Great books are not in everybody’s reach; and though it is better to know them thoroughly than to know them only here and there, yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither the time nor the means to get more. Let every bookworm, when in any fragrant, scarce old tome he discovers a sentence, a story, an illustration, that does his heart good, hasten to give it. ~David Hartley Coleridge
It has not been compiled, like many others, at moments of leisure, nor has it been gathered together during several years of desultory reading; but it has been the result of research of an entire lifetime, devoted to the avowed purpose of giving to the public an encyclopædia of prose quotations... forming a rich casket of literary pearls—the best impressions of the best minds—the lustre of which will never grow dim... ~Edward Parsons Day, Preface to Day's Collacon: An Encyclopædia of Prose Quotations, 1883
Platitude. An idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true. ~H.L. Mencken, "The Jazz Webster," A Book of Burlesques, 1920
But proverbs are always platitudes until you have personally experienced the truth of them. ~Aldous Huxley, Jesting Pilate: The Diary of a Journey, 1926
I love quotes because good quotes are vitamins for the brain! ~Patrick Driessen
Books of quotations are an elemental model of how culture is perpetuated, the wisdom of the tribe passed on to posterity, to be added to, edited, and modified by subsequent generations. But whereas many anthologies remain content to recycle inventories of ancestral wisdom, cataloguing our cultural waymarks according to the gnomic pronouncements of our forebears, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is a book intended for our own times; its keynote is not familiarity, but aptness. It embraces the past in order to illustrate the present. ~Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, "Introduction"
A true quotation cannot be divorced from the character who uttered or scribbled it; it should say as much about the person quoted as about the particular subject referred to, and for this reason an anthology of quotations should be a kind of portrait gallery. ~Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, "Introduction"
In German, great sayings and quotations are geflügelte Worte, or "winged words," because they outdistance everything else. They are the currency of history, evoking personalities in high-contrast cameo, training spotlights on moments of soaring grandeur or intense pathos, high farce and raw grief, retelling tales, distilling the pith of bygone debates and meditations. ~Robert Andrews, A Columbia Dictionary of Familiar Quotations, "Introduction," 1997
[Q]uotations, like the words of our language itself, change in relevance and currency. ~Robert Irvine Fitzhenry (1918–2008), The Harper Book of Quotations
When Elbert Hubbard was storing up in his Scrap Book the fruits of other men's genius, he did not contemplate a volume for publication. He was merely gathering spiritual provisions for his own refreshment and delectation. To glance at the pages of his Scrap Book is to realize how far and wide he pursued the quest, into what scented rose gardens of Poetry, and up what steep slopes of Thought. To Alpine Valleys of classical literature it led him, and through forests and swamps of contemporary writing. For him it was the quest that mattered, it was the quest he loved.
His lifelong labor has placed in our hands the power to realize Keats' dream of "a very pleasant life." Let the reader browse but a moment through the "full Poesy" and "distilled Prose," and—to use Keats' image—he will find the sails of his soul set for one of those high voyages of the spirit which give to life its most exalted meaning. What inspired Hubbard should set other pulses to beating; what stimulated and uplifted him should furnish others with strength for the struggle against the eroding sameness of the workaday world. Such at least is the purpose to which the book is dedicated; such is the pious hope of Elbert Hubbard's literary executors.
~Publisher's foreword to Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book: Containing the Inspired and Inspiring Selections Gathered During a Life Time of Discriminating Reading for His Own Use, copyright 1923 by The Roycrofters, printed by the American Book-Stratford Press at their shops in New York City, Wm. H. Wise & Co., wording slightly altered
An aphorism is a single sentence that totally exhausts its subject. ~Robert Brault
But further, in order to embellish it with flowers of language and gems of thought, it is not necessary for this ornamentation to be spread evenly over the entire speech, but it must be so distributed that there may be brilliant jewels placed at various points as a sort of decoration. ~Cicero, De oratore
There are gems of thought that are ageless and eternal. ~Cicero, quoted in Lillian Eichler Watson, Light from Many Lamps, 1951
That which distinguishes us from the other animals is our ability to quote. ~Terri Guillemets [a little fun based on the Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais quotation "Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at any time, madam, is all that distinguishes us from the other animals."
One is more apt to become wise by doing fool things than by reading wise sayings. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
Great speeches have always had great soundbites. The problem now is that the young technicians who put together speeches are paying attention only to the soundbite, not to the text as a whole, not realizing that all great soundbites happen by accident, which is to say, all great soundbites are yielded up inevitably, as part of the natural expression of the text. They are part of the tapestry, they aren’t a little flower somebody sewed on. ~Peggy Noonan, 1990
An epigram is a gag that’s played Carnegie Hall. ~Oscar Levant (Thanks, Garson O’Toole of quoteinvestigator.com!)
Next to the simile is the quotation. But this is a science by itself, on which some ingenious person has composed a large volume, by the aid of which, and an index, the most unfurnished head is able to cope with the most learned. The Dictionary of Quotations, however, is a very wicked book, as the infidelity of its interpretations often betrays the confidence reposed in them. The beauty of this essential part of fine writing consists mainly in quoting from the older English poets, and a few of those of our day who are pretty generally unread. Shakspeare, however, is the great storehouse of quotation; not for his sentiment, or imagery, or delineation of character or poetry; but for some quaint phrase, some obsolete and fantastic expression, or some ludicrous combination of words. An article gemmed off with bits in this way is "like a frosty night studded with stars"—or it reminds one of Indian hangings,—a dark ground, spotted with bits of yellow foil, flung on without order, measure or object, except to dazzle and spangle. For my own part, I detest this trade of work, and never quote, except to show the deformity as a warning to others, as the Spartans taught their children sobriety by making their slaves drunk. ~"On Magazine Writers," The London Magazine, July 1822, No XXXI, Vol VI
How mean you, sir? I pretty, and my saying apt? or I apt, and my saying pretty? ~William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost [I, 2, Moth]
I swim across a sea of quotes, splashing in the words and riding the waves of wisdom. ~Terri Guillemets
Twitter as a personalized graffiti wall; pithy aphorisms simmer in the subconscious, bubble up in a new blaze of dayglow calligraphy. ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), 2007 December 10th
Laying in bed this morning contemplating how amazing it would be if somehow Oscar Wilde and Mae West could twitter from the grave.... ~Dita Von Teese, tweet, 2009 May 7th
Write a wise saying and your name will live forever. ~Author unknown
Those thoughts that wander through eternity... ~John Milton, Paradise Lost (Book II), originally published 1667 [Kinda sorta out of context. I'm not sure if this line is in the original; I've quoted here from the 1725 edition.
Of incorrect quotation... the most fruitful cause is citing a passage at second-hand. Hundreds of familiar quotations, however, which are continually dropping from men's lips and pens, have not even the advantage of being taken literally at second, but are taken from the third or thirtieth hand. ~William Mathews, "Quotation and Misquotation," in North American Review, January 1890
It is probably to Talleyrand, that Receiver-General of waif wit and estray epigram, that more sayings have been wrongly attributed than to any other modern. ~William Mathews, "Quotation and Misquotation," in North American Review, January 1890
One of the great attractions of quotations is that they are rich in ideas which can be tailored to specific purposes. ~Robert Irvine Fitzhenry (1918–2008), The Harper Book of Quotations
A proper collection of quotations is the whole world digested. ~Terri Guillemets
The aphorist sees in every truth a wise saying, and in every contradiction, two wise sayings. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
If you don’t quote yourself, nobody else will. And you can quote me on that. ~Scott Ginsberg, www.hellomynameisscott.com
Some Places in the following Sheets will perhaps appear too much crowded with Quotations; which, I confess, is a Fault: But a Fault that cannot be avoided, deserves to be excus’d. The Nature of the Subject oblig’d me to make use of the Authorities of several Authors, both ancient and modern, whom I have made speak their natural Language, when I despair’d of preserving in French the Graces and Beauties of the Original. The Urbanity of the Romans, and the Atticism of the Greeks, are nice and tender Things, that are easily spoil’d by a Translation; and a Man must be Master of as great a Genius as Mr. d’Ablancourt was, to undertake to naturalize the Apophthegms of the Ancients. When I begun the following Sheets, I did not intend ever to be either upon the jocular, or ferious Strain: And therefore I hope the Reader will find in them an agreeable Variety. ~André-François Deslandes, A Philological Essay: Or, Reflections on the Death of Free-Thinkers, translated from French by Mr. B—, 1713
If I have a thought necessary to my piece of writing, yet a thought so felicitously expressed by another and greater author that I know I cannot frame it in better or more beautiful language, why may I not use his language, giving him the credit, bringing him to my readers as I would bring a skilled pianist to perform for a circle of friends, rather than bore them to death by an exhibition of my own inferior talent? ~"The Art of Quoting," Book News, May 1906
One has to secrete a jelly in which to slip quotations down people’s throats—and one always secretes too much jelly. ~Virginia Woolf
You might not be able to answer a question with a question but you can always answer a question with a quote! ~Hunter Brinkmeier
A Common-place-Book is what a provident Poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial Reason, that great Wits have short Memories; and whereas, on the other Hand, Poets being LYARS by Profession, ought to have good Memories; to reconcile these, a Book of this sort is in the Nature of a Supplemental Memory; or a Record of what occurs remarkable in every Day’s Reading or Conversation: There you enter not only your own Original Thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other Men as you think fit to make your own by entering them there. For take this for a Rule, when an Author is in your Books, you have the same Demand upon him for his Wit, as a Merchant has for your Money, when you are in his. ~Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet: Together With a Proposal for the Encouragement of Poetry in this Kingdom," 1721
[T]here are aphorisms that, like airplanes, stay up only while they are in motion. ~Vladimir Nabokov, The Gift, 1963, translated from Russian by Michael Scammell
Clichés are static, the emotion behind them long spent. If you are tempted to use them, here is a saying of my mother’s: Fang pi bu-cho, cho pi bu-fang. Basically that translates to: "Loud farts don’t stink, and the really smelly ones don’t make a sound." In other words: When you’re full of beans, you just blow a lot of hot air. If you want to have a real impact, be deadly but silent. Oh, also recognize the difference between a bad cliché and a good quotation. My mother’s saying is a good quotation. You should use it often. ~Amy Tan, The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings, 2003, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Good quotations, like good thoughts, are true wealth. ~Annie E. Lancaster, quoted in Day’s Collacon: An Encyclopædia of Prose Quotations Consisting of Beautiful Thoughts, Choice Extracts, and Sayings of the Most Eminent Writers of All Nations from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time compiled by Edward Parsons Day, 1883
Those laconics or paragraphs which occasionally appear over the Compiler's name, have been inserted more to fill a vacant space than with any intention of obtruding his own writings upon the public. ~Edward Parsons Day, Preface to Day's Collacon: An Encyclopædia of Prose Quotations, 1883 [Ditto. Blush, simper.
You will find professed quotations from authors, of the correctness of which you will not be satisfied; and how important is it to be able to satisfy yourself by examining the originals! ~Theodore Dwight, quoted in President Dwight’s Decisions of Questions Discussed by the Senior Class in Yale College in 1813 and 1814
There are many famous, sometimes brilliant and often very great quotations attributed to notable persons, which though false or incorrect, are usually improvements by anonymous requoters. ~George Seldes
Proverbs generalize the verdicts of the world. ~Terri Guillemets
A knowledge of general literature is one of the evidences of an enlightened mind; and to give an apt quotation at a fitting time, proves that the mind is stored with sentential lore that can always be used to great advantage by its possessor. ~James Ellis, quoted in Day’s Collacon: An Encyclopædia of Prose Quotations Consisting of Beautiful Thoughts, Choice Extracts, and Sayings of the Most Eminent Writers of All Nations from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time compiled by Edward Parsons Day, 1883
Apothegms form a short cut to much knowledge. ~Thomas Hood
To select well among old things is almost equal to inventing new ones. ~Nicolas Charles Joseph Trublet
[B]ut in literature, it should be remembered, a thing always becomes his at last who says it best, and thus makes it his own. ~James Russell Lowell
Though old the thought and oft exprest,
'T is his at last who says it best...
~James Russell Lowell, "For an Autograph"
Collections of gnomes, adages, sayings, and parables have been made from times immemorial in all countries and in all languages possessing some kind of literature. ~E.H. Michelsen, A Manual of Quotations from the Ancient, Modern, and Oriental Languages, 1856
In these circumstances I think we must take the bull by the horns... and, making due allowances, quote whenever we feel that the allusion is interesting or helpful or amusing. ~Clifton Fadiman, c.1955
And in spite of his practical ability, some of his experience had petrified into maxims and quotations. ~George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Daniel Deronda (Book II, Meeting Streams), 1876
I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation. ~George Bernard Shaw
It's no easy task to put one's personality into a book of quotations... ~Jack Chambers, introduction to the fortieth anniversary edition of The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations [But Robert I. Fitzhenry has done this, per Chambers. Personally, I disagree; I believe that without even trying, one's personality comes through in one's choice of quotations, if one collects enough of them. Guilty here on my part, it is true.
A good aphorism is too hard for the tooth of time, and is not worn away by all the centuries, although it serves as food for every epoch. Hence it is the greatest paradox in literature, the imperishable in the midst of change, the nourishment which always remains highly valued, as salt does, and never becomes stupid like salt. ~Friedrich Nietzsche, "Praise of the Aphorism," Human All-Too-Human: A Book for Free Spirits (Part II: Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions), 1879, translated from German by Paul V. Cohn
I mention this only to shew that the citations of the most judicious authors frequently deceive us, and consequently that prudence obliges us to examine quotations, by whomsoever alleged. ~Peter Bayle
They are the abridgments of wisdom. ~Sumner Ellis, Hints on Preaching: A Cloud of Witnesses, 1879
All which he understood by rote,
And, as occasion served, would quote;
No matter whether right or wrong;
They might be either said or sung.
~Samuel Butler, Hudibras
I protest, for about the hundredth time, against the slipshod method of quoting a mere author’s name, without any indication of the work of that author in which the alleged quotation may be found. Let us have accurate quotations and exact references, wherever such are to be found. A quotation without a reference is like a geological specimen of unknown locality. ~Walter William Skeat, Notes and Queries, 6th ser., vol. ix., p. 499, quoted by William Francis Henry King in Classical and Foreign Quotations, 1889
As I have found previously when tracing quotations, once you get drawn into an area of linguistic research like this, it becomes addictive. James Boswell in his Life of Johnson talked of being obliged to 'run half over London in order to fix a date correctly'. Something of that obsessive urge has gone into this book... ~Nigel Rees, Why Do We Say…?, 1987
In these pages the novelist should be able to find a striking verse to head his chapter, the raconteur add to his bon mots, the man of the world enrich his stock of maxims, the divine obtain some deep thought drawn from the wells of ancient learning. ~William Francis Henry King, "Introduction," Classical and Foreign Quotations, 1889
Indeed a good quotation hardly ever comes amiss. It is a pleasing break in the thread of a speech or writing, allowing the speaker or writer to retire for an instant while another and greater makes himself heard. And this calling-up of the deathless dead implies also a community of mind with them, which the reader will not grudge the author lest he should seem to deny it to himself. ~William Francis Henry King, "Introduction," Classical and Foreign Quotations, 1889
This is what gives birth to the motto of a speculation, which I rather choose to take out of the poets than the prose-writers, as the former generally give a finer turn to a thought then the latter, and by couching it in few words, and in harmonious numbers, make it more portable to the memory. My reader is therefore sure to meet with at least one good line in every paper, and very often finds his imagination entertained by a hint that awakens in his memory some beautiful passage of a classic author.... A handsome motto has the same effect. Besides that, it always gives a supernumerary beauty to a paper, and is sometimes in a manner necessary, when the writer is engaged in what may appear a paradox to vulgar minds, as it shows that he is supported by good authorities, and is not singular in his opinion. ~Joseph Addison, Spectator, No.221, November 13, 1711
This little book is not put forth to supply an imperative demand, but rather with the hope of creating one. So far as is known to the writer, no such compilation is in existence, but the custom of using appropriate quotations on dinner menus, cards, invitations, etc., is growing, and of the many who desire to use such citations, not all know just where to find them. ~Katharine B. Wood, "Preface," Quotations for Occasions, 1896
The reader, however, is warned not to be too sure that the author of any quotation had in mind the subject to which it is applied here. ~Katharine B. Wood, "Preface," Quotations for Occasions, 1896 [Confessional disclaimer from a fellow occasional and hopefully unintentional out-of-context quoter :)
These fruit-thoughts of a student’s learned leisure, may aptly become the seed-thoughts for many vacant and desultory hours of other men. Our American mind, although so often strained to the top of its bent, refuses a total relaxation. "Studious of change, and pleased with novelty," it carries somewhat of its spontaneous activity even into its vacations, and finds, as Sir William Jones said of himself, sufficient repose in a change of occupation. For such periods of remitted toil our book is designed, engaging the mind with suggestions rather than taxing it with problems. ~James Elmes, Classic Quotations: A Thought-Book of the Wise Spirits of All Ages and All Countries, Fit for All Men and All Hours, 1863
Whether any of the following thoughts or remarks have been conceived by others, before me, or no, I cannot pretend to say; for, as they spontaneously occurred to my mind, I minuted them down, without ever taking the trouble of inquiring into their origin or derivation. And in truth, a labour of this kind would have been infinite and uncertain—for it is almost impossible, after all, for any person who reads much, and reflects a good deal, to be able, upon every occasion, to determinine whether a thought was another’s, or his own. Nay, I declare, that I have several times quoted sentences out of my own writings, in aid of my own arguments in conversation; thinking that I was supporting them by some better authority. ~Laurence Sterne
Quotations can be a comedy or a drama, tell of the whole world or just a small portion of it. ~Terri Guillemets
The obscurest sayings of the truly great are often those which contain the germ of the profoundest and most useful truths. Genius rapidly traverses the living present to bury itself in the deepest mysteries of the universe; often making the grandest discoveries at a single glance. ~Joseph Mazzini
The apothegm is the most portable form of Truth.... It is thus that the proverb answers where the sermon fails, as a well-charged pistol will do more execution than a whole barrel of gunpowder idly expended in the air. ~William Gilmore Simms, Egeria: Or, Voices of Thought and Counsel for the Woods and Wayside, 1853
A verse may find him whom a sermon flies,
And turn delight into a sacrifice...
~George Herbert, "Church Porch," The Temple
Anthologies of aphorisms are usually arranged according to themes.... This is not the best method for the aphorism, because it often has several themes and interpretations. ~Markku Envall
We sometimes think of quotations as extracts from larger texts, but some quotations originated complete unto themselves. ~Gary Saul Morson, The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture, 2011
I would fain coin wisdom,—mould it, I mean, into maxims, proverbs, sentences, that can easily be retained and transmitted. Would that I could denounce and banish from the language of men—as base money—the words by which they cheat and are cheated! ~Joseph Joubert, translated from French
Maria Edgeworth grumbled against vandals who ruined immortal works by quoting the life out of them. "How far our literature may in future suffer from these blighting swarms, will best be conceived by a glance at what they have already withered and blasted of the favourite productions of our most popular poets." Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden, scissored, patched, and frayed. ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010 (quoting Edgeworth from "Thoughts on Bores," Tales and Novels)
I know the fashion of our time affects disdain of borrowing. But who is rich enough to refuse, or plead honorably for his exclusiveness? Somehow the printer happens to forget his quotation marks, and the credit of originality goes to the writer none the less. ~A. Bronson Alcott, "Quotation," Table-Talk, 1877
Ancient and modern languages teem with happily expressed sentiments of more or less force and beauty, sufficiently individualized and excellent to warrant their reproduction and classification. ~Maturin M. Ballou, January 1886, Preface to Edge-Tools of Speech
The editor of the choicest examples of a poet may well be allowed more liberty in all respects than an editor of a poet's complete works, for, in venturing to omit, he has already taken a freedom in comparison with which all others are trifling. He is thus permitted to enhance the charm of his writer by varying the arrangement of his compositions. ~Richard Garnett, April 1897, Introduction to The Poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
It should be a pleasure to the appreciative reader, while recognizing their beauty, to cull these flowers of thought for the benefit of those who, less fortunate than himself, have not the time to indulge in literary pleasures. ~Maturin M. Ballou, January 1886, Preface to Edge-Tools of Speech
Short isolated sentences were the mode in which ancient Wisdom delighted to convey its precepts, for the regulation of life and manners. ~William Warburton, "Sermon IV"
Others, again, give us the mere carcass of another man’s thoughts, but deprived of all their life and spirit, and this is to add murder to robbery. I have somewhere seen it observed, that we should make the same use of a book, as a bee does of a flower; she steals sweets from it, but does not injure it; and those sweets she herself improves and concocts into honey. But most plagiarists, like the drone, have neither taste to select, nor industry to acquire, nor skill to improve, but impudently pilfer the honey ready prepared from the hive. ~Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think, 1820
We ought never to be afraid to repeat an ancient truth, when we feel that we can make it more striking by a neater turn, or bring it alongside of another truth, which may make it clearer, and thereby accumulate evidence. It belongs to the inventive faculty to see clearly the relative state of things, and to be able to place them in connection; but the discoveries of ages gone by belong less to their first authors than to those who make them practically useful to the world. ~Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues, translated from French, quoted in Treasury of Thought: An Encyclopædia of Quotations from Ancient and Modern Authors by Maturin M. Ballou, 15th edition, 1894
When we footnote, we do not simply "review the literature," or demonstrate that we have read a certain work, although these pragmatic functions are also fulfilled. But we also place ourself in a lineage of past scholars, and we make public statement that our ancestors are not forgotten. In most cases, of course, our memories are all too short, and no more than a few scholars continue to be cited for more than a generation or two. Yet the fact that they continue to be noted, to be honored after death for any time at all does hold forth a form of salvation and immortality to many. Ultimately, the citers themselves are cited, and research in some sense consists of working back through the footnotes, probing back to ever more distant generations of scholars. A chain is thus built up that links the living and the dead in a theoretically infinite series, much as the Mende, Ngaing and others are linked to their ancestors through their invocations. ~Bruce Lincoln (b.1948), "Two Notes on Modern Rituals" ("Invoking the Ancestors, or the Sacred Footnote"), Journal of the American Academy of Religion, June 1977
Only the use of footnotes enables historians to make their texts not monologues but conversations, in which modern scholars, their predecessors, and their subjects all take part. ~Anthony Grafton (b.1950), The Footnote: A Curious History, "Epilogue: Some Concluding Footnotes," 1997
There is a homely directness about these rustic apothegms which makes them far more palatable than the strained and sophisticated epigrams of the characters of Oscar Wilde’s plays, who are ever striving strenuously to dazzle us with verbal pyrotechnics. ~Brander Matthews, "American Aphorisms," Harper’s Magazine, November 1915, Vol. CXXXI
Only roam on, therefore, all fearless, in the many garden of romantic chivalrous poesy, which drawing within its circle all that is glorious and inspiring, gave itself but little concern as to where its flowers originally grew. ~C.O. Müller (Karl Otfried Müller), Introduction to a Scientific System of Mythology, 1825, translated from German by John Leitch
That part of a work of one author found in another is not of itself piracy, or sufficient to support an action; a man may adopt part of the work of another; he may so make use of another’s labors for the promotion of science and the benefit of the public. ~Lord Ellenborough, quoted in Bouvier’s Law Dictionary by John Bouvier, 8th edition, 3rd revision by Francis Rawle, Vol III, 1914
Dr. [Richard] Bentley’s son reading a novel, the Doctor said, "Why read a book which you cannot quote?" ~Walpoliana (Horace Walpole, John Pinkerton), "Useless Reading," January 1800
Dr. Richard Bentley (1662-1742)... is said one day, on finding his son reading a novel, to have remarked—’Why read a book that you cannot quote?’— a saying which affords an amusing illustration of the nature and object of his literary studies. ~Cyclopædia of English Literature edited by Robert Chambers, 1844
Mr. [Thomas] Gray the poet has often observed to me that if a man were to form a Book of what he had seen and heard himself it must in whatever hands prove a most useful and entertaining one. ~Horace Walpole, quoted in Walpoliana, 1800
To the editor, the author, and the public speaker, it is believed that a great convenience will hereby be afforded; for nothing adorns a composition or a speech more than appropriate quotations—endorsing, as it were, our own sentiments with the sanction of other minds—unless the habit of quoting is too often indulged, when it degenerates into pedantry, and becomes unpleasing. ~John T. Watson, "Preface," Dictionary of Poetical Quotations; Or, Elegant Extracts on every Subject, 1856
Then your words of abuse today may turn into a universally valid principle of denigration, for words are magical formulae. They leave fingermarks behind on the brain, which in the twinkling of an eye becomes the footprints of history. One ought to watch one’s every word. ~Franz Kafka, quoted by Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka
Apothegms to thinking minds are the seeds from which spring vast fields of new thought, that may be further cultivated, beautified, and enlarged. ~Ramsay, as quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern by Tryon Edwards, 1908
Apothegms are in history, the same as pearls in the sand, or gold in the mine. ~Desiderius Erasmus
A man of maxims only is like a Cyclops with one eye, and that in the back of his head. ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as quoted in Leigh Hunt’s London Journal and The Printing Machine, June 6, 1835
Sensible men show their sense by saying much in few words. Noble actions are the substance of life; good sayings its ornament and guide. ~Charles Simmons, "Aphorisms Introductory," Laconic Manual and Brief Remarker, 1852
Euphonic and harmonious expressions, forcible and just expressions, profound and comprehensive expressions, and especially apt and witty expressions, each have their specific influence upon different minds, and their common influence upon all minds.... It is therefore high time our most valuable aphorisms and paragraphs were put in order for frequent perusal, and for handy reference, as the circumstances of life call up subjects. ~Charles Simmons, "Aphorisms Introductory," Laconic Manual and Brief Remarker, 1852
Every man who has seen the world knows that nothing is so useless as a general maxim.... If, like those of Rochefoucault, it be sparkling and whimsical, it may make an excellent motto for an essay. But few, indeed, of the many wise apophthegms which have been uttered from the time of the Seven Sages of Greece to that of Poor Richard have prevented a single foolish action. ~Thomas Babington Macaulay, Machiavelli, 1825
...I didn’t do anything that can properly be called research; rather, I proceeded by the methodless method of "determined browsing"— ~Rudolf Flesch, on collecting excerpts for The Book of Unusual Quotations, 1957
The one promise of the digital data base is that eventually all quotations will be available online.... The problems are numerous, from copyright clearance to authentication of quotations, but it is possible, even probable that in a short time it will no longer be necessary to go from quotation book to quotation book in quest of the lost words of a great or near great. A few key words at a computer keyboard will bring the ubiquitous needle in the quotation haystack to the monitor. Obviously more efficient; yet something will be lost. Gone will be the days of the delights of wending through quote after quote, the thoughtful pause, the joy of discovery.” ~Bill Katz, “Commonplace Books to Books of Quotations,” Cuneiform to Computer: A History of Reference Sources, 1998
Collecting and researching quotations is the perfect hobby.... There is no need to dedicate a room in the house for a model railroad layout. No need to keep a precious collection of stamps or coins in a bank vault. Quotation collectors don't even need to invest heavily in books of quotations anymore, thanks to the Internet. An impressive collection fits in a few kilobytes of computer memory. ~Mike Hall, "Many quotations aren't original, and you can quote me on that," 2015 February 17th (Topeka Capital-Journal)
Aphorisms are essentially an aristocratic genre of writing. The aphorist does not argue or explain, he asserts; and implicit in his assertion is a conviction that he is wiser or more intelligent than his readers. For this reason the aphorist who adopts a folksy style with "democratic" diction and grammar is a cowardly and insufferable hypocrite. ~W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger, The Viking Book of Aphorisms, 1962
It’s amazing how much funny stuff there is.... [A] river of rich comedic milk is flowing across the land, and as fast as I skim off the cream more cream appears.... I may be doomed to wade around forever in other people’s pith. Not that it’s such a bad life. ~Robert Byrne, The Third and Possibly the Best 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, 1986
I had continued jotting down good lines—once the eyes and ears are awakened to the possibilities they can’t be put back to sleep... ~Robert Byrne, The Third and Possibly the Best 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, 1986
We’re a compulsive but amiable crew, those of us who feel, or have felt, the compulsion to re-record the bright thoughts of other men and women. ~Joseph Epstein, "Quotatious," A Line Out for a Walk: Familiar Essays, 1991
Oh, to say something so fine, so memorable, that it carries across time, oceans, and languages! ~Willis Goth Regier, Quotology, 2010
So our student will flit like a busy bee through the entire garden of literature, light on every blossom, collect a little nectar from each, and carry it to his hive... ~Desiderius Erasmus, De Copia, 1512, translated
I really didn’t say everything I said. ~Yogi Berra
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