Welcome to my page of quotations about being 40 years old — that is, forty years young!
…they hear the nail of doom in the number forty… ~Michael McCabe, “40th Birthday,” Beyond Midnight, original airdate 1969 March 7th [OTR. Episode a.k.a. “Eloise’s Whereabouts.”
Nobody feels well after his fortieth birthday
But the convalescence is touched by glory…
~Peter Porter (1929–2010), “Returning,” English Subtitles, 1981
Neither old nor young. That generally means forty. Is she forty? ~Margaret Wolfe Hamilton Argles Hungerford (1855–1897), “Clarissa’s Choice,” in The Argosy, September 1879 [Her pseudonym was The Duchess.
At 20 years of age the will reigns; at 30 the wit; at 40 the judgment. ~Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1741 (June)
I am forty years old, I have already passed through four professions… I have obeyed and I have commanded; I have had moments of wealth and years of poverty. I have been loved and I have been hated; I have been applauded and I have been ridiculed. I have been a son and a father, a lover and a husband; I have passed through the season of flowers and through the season of fruits, as the poets say… ~Claude Tillier (1801–1844), My Uncle Benjamin: A Humorous, Satirical, and Philosophical Novel, 1843, translated from the French by Benjamin R. Tucker, 1890
A thing that is excusable in youth, that seems then to be very pretty and delightful, is degrading at forty. ~Honoré de Balzac, 1833, The Muse of the Department, translated from the French by George Burnham Ives, 1909
“Nearly twenty years since I set out to seek my fortune. It has been a long search, but I think I have found it at last. I only asked to be a useful, happy woman, and my wish is granted: for, I believe I am useful; I know I am happy.”
Christie looked so as she sat alone in the flowery parlor one September afternoon, thinking over her life with a grateful, cheery spirit. Forty to‑day, and pausing at that half‑way house between youth and age, she looked back into the past without bitter regret or unsubmissive grief, and forward into the future with courageous patience; for three good angels attended her, and with faith, hope, and charity to brighten life, no woman need lament lost youth or fear approaching age. Christie did not, and though her eyes filled with quiet tears… none fell; and in a moment tender sorrow changed to still tenderer joy… ~Louisa May Alcott, “At Forty,” Work: A Story of Experience, 1873
…and the fact that I was no longer young (that’s the modern formula for forty)… ~Lloyd Osbourne, “The Golden Castaways,” Love, the Fiddler, 1903
Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.
At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle…
~Donald Justice (1925–2004), “Men at Forty,” Night Light, 1967
Any man of forty who is endowed with moderate intelligence has seen — in the light of the uniformity of nature — the entire past and future. ~Marcus Aurelius (121–180 CE)
Better one bite, at forty, of Truth’s bitter rind,
Than the hot wine that gushed from the vintage of twenty!
~James Russell Lowell, “Two Scenes from the Life of Blondel” [Written at age forty-four, in Autumn 1863.
While I a Moment name, a Moment’s past,
I’m nearer Death in this Verse than the last;
What then is to be done? be wise with speed,
A Fool at forty is a Fool indeed.
~Edward Young, “The Universal Passion: Satire II,” 1726
I’m not 40, I’m eighteen with 22 years experience. ~Author unknown
If we had breathing space, we should take the occasion to modify and adjust; but at this breakneck hurry, we are no sooner boys than we are adult, no sooner in love than married or jilted, no sooner one age than we begin to be another, and no sooner in the fulness of our manhood than we begin to decline towards the grave. It is in vain to seek for consistency or expect clear and stable views in a medium so perturbed and fleeting…. we cannot even regard ourselves as a constant; in this flux of things, our identity itself seems in a perpetual variation; and not infrequently we find our own disguise the strangest in the masquerade. In the course of time, we grow to love things we hated and hate things we loved… It is decidedly harder to climb trees, and not nearly so hard to sit still… All our attributes are modified or changed; and it will be a poor account of us if our views do not modify and change in a proportion. To hold the same views at forty as we held at twenty, is to have been stupified for a score of years, and take rank, not as a prophet, but as an unteachable brat, well birched and none the wiser. ~Robert Louis Stevenson, “Crabbed Age and Youth,” in The Cornhill Magazine, March 1878 [Credited R.L.S.
To say that Mrs. Wentworth was “fair, fat, and forty” would have been to malign her, and give the impression of a caricature in words. She was fair — full-made, as became a matron — she was, if not forty, verging on that age. In fact, she was a handsome woman of a “certain age,” eminently lady-like. She had in her face that expression of kindly feeling which is perhaps the greatest charm of the true lady. ~J. Palgrave Simpson, For Ever and Never, 1884 [a little altered
That’s the trouble with us. We number everything. Take women, for example. I think they deserve to have more than twelve years between the ages of twenty-eight and forty. ~James Thurber, 1960
What most persons consider as virtue, after the age of 40 is simply a loss of energy. ~Voltaire, unverified, quoted in Reader’s Digest, 1978
And on passing his fortieth year, any man of the slightest power of mind — any man, that is, who has more than the sorry share of intellect with which Nature has endowed five-sixths of mankind — will hardly fail to show some trace of misanthropy. ~Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), “The Ages of Life,” Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit, translated by T. Bailey Saunders, 1891
No one becomes forty without incredulity and a sense of outrage. ~Clifford Bax (1886–1962) [Written at age 39, in 1925.
When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.
~William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
Age Quotations: Forty Years Old
Original post date: 2000 June 27
1st major revision: 2016 May 4