Quotes by Thomas Carlyle

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Thomas Carlyle (December 4, 1795 - February 5, 1881) was a Scottish essayist, satirist, and historian, whose work was hugely influential during the Victorian era. Coming from a strictly Calvinist family, Carlyle was expected by ... more

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Only the person of worth can recognize the worth in others.

Show me the man you honor, and I will know what kind of a man you are. It shows me what your ideal of manhood is, and what kind of a man you long to be.
The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.
If you look deep enough you will see music; the heart of nature being everywhere music.
The heart always sees before than the head can see.
The first duty of man is to conquer fear; he must get rid of it, he cannot act till then.
Silence is as deep as eternity, speech a shallow as time.
History shows that the majority of people that have done anything great have passed their youth in seclusion.
To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not God made visible if we will open our minds and our eyes.
Everywhere in life, the true question is not what we gain, but what we do.
Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacle s, discouragement s, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.
The history of the world is but the biography of great men.
Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.
Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone.
The fearful unbelief is unbelief in yourself.
The king is the man who can.
Love is not altogether a delirium, yet it has many points in common therewith.
The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder -- waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you.
A person usually has two reasons for doing something: a good reason and the real reason.
The true university of these days is a collection of books.
A person who is gifted sees the essential point and leaves the rest as surplus.
The depth of our despair measures what capability and height of claim we have to hope.
What we become depends on what we read after all the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is the collection of books.
The battle that never ends is the battle of belief against unbelief.
The illimitable, silent, never-resting thing called Time, rolling, rushing on, swift, silent, like an all-embracing ocean-tide, on which we and all the universe swim like exhalations, like apparitions which are, and then are not: this is forever very literally a miracle; a thing to strike us dumb, for we have no word to speak about it.
There is often more spiritual force in a proverb than in whole philosophical systems.
The purpose of man is in action not thought.
The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.
For suffering and enduring there is no remedy, but striving and doing.
Weak eyes are fondest of glittering objects.
Every noble work is at first impossible.
The most unhappy of all men is the man who cannot tell what he is going to do, who has got no work cut-out for him in the world, and does not go into it. For work is the grand cure of all the maladies and miseries that ever beset mankind,honest work, which you intend getting done.
No person was every rightly understood until they had been first regarded with a certain feeling, not of tolerance, but of sympathy.
Isolation is the sum total of wretchedness to a man.
If you do not wish a man to do a thing, you had better get him to talk about it; for the more men talk, the more likely they are to do nothing else.
One is hardly sensible of fatigue while he marches to music.
Let one who wants to move and convince others, first be convinced and moved themselves. If a person speaks with genuine earnestness the thoughts, the emotion and the actual condition of their own heart, others will listen because we all are knit together by the tie of sympathy.
No good book or good thing of any kind shows it best face at first. No the most common quality of in a true work of art that has excellence and depth, is that at first sight it produces a certain disappointment.
Silence is more eloquent than words.
The person who cannot laugh is not only ready for treason, and deceptions, their whole life is already a treason and deception.
Ill-health, of body or of mind, is defeat. Health alone is victory. Let all men, if they can manage it, contrive to be healthy!
Nothing that was worthy in the past departs; no truth or goodness realized by man ever dies, or can die.
The greatest of all faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.
Let each become all that he was created capable of being.
If there be no enemy there's no fight. If no fight, no victory and if no victory there is no crown.
Do the duty which lies nearest to you, the second duty will then become clearer.
The eternal stars shine out as soon as it is dark enough.
The three great elements of modern civilization, Gun powder, Printing, and the Protestant religion.
Today is not yesterday: we ourselves change; how can our works and thoughts, if they are always to be the fittest, continue always the same? Change, indeed is painful; yet ever needful; and if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope.
By nature man hates change; seldom will he quit his old home till it has actually fallen around his ears.
The true past departs not, no truth or goodness realized by man ever dies, or can die; but all is still here, and, recognized or not, lives and works through endless change.
After all manner of professors have done their best for us, the place we are to get knowledge is in books. The true university of these days is a collection of books.
The best effect of any book, is that it excites the reader to self-activity.
The most fearful unbelief is unbelief in your self.
In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.
Men's hearts ought not to be set against one another, but set with one another, and all against evil only.
The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.
Not what I have, but what I do is my kingdom.
Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand.
Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves.
When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.
The soul gives unity to what it looks at with love.
The spiritual is the parent of the practical.
Laughter is the cipher key wherewith we decipher the whole man
For all right judgment of any man or things it is useful, nay, essential, to see his good qualities before pronouncing on his bad.
It is not a lucky word, this name impossible; no good comes of those who have it so often in their mouths.
I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
True humor springs not more from the head than from the heart. It is not contempt; its essence is love. It issues not in laughter, but in still smiles, which lie far deeper.
The whole past is the procession of the present.
Stern accuracy in inquiring, bold imagination in describing, these are the cogs on which history soars or flutters and wobbles.
No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.
A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.
Conclusive facts are inseparable from inconclusive except by a head that already understands and knows.
The courage we desire and prize is not the courage to die decently, but to live manfully.
All great peoples are conservative.
One must verify or expel his doubts, and convert them into the certainty of Yes or NO.
If a book comes from the heart it will contrive to reach other hearts. All art and author craft are of small account to that.
No iron chain, or outward force of any kind, can ever compel the soul of a person to believe or to disbelieve.
It is the unseen and the spiritual in people that determines the outward and the actual.
In every phenomenon the beginning remains always the most notable moment.
Show me the person you honor, for I know better by that the kind of person you are. For you show me what your idea of humanity is.
Old age is not a matter for sorrow. It is matter for thanks if we have left our work done behind us.
The outer passes away; the innermost is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Talk that does not end in any kind of action is better suppressed altogether.
Virtue is like health: the harmony of the whole man.
Work alone is noble.
Writing is a dreadful labor, yet not so dreadful as Idleness.
Youth is to all the glad season of life; but often only by what it hopes, not by what it attains, or what it escapes.
No conquest can ever become permanent which does not show itself beneficial to the conquered as well as to the conquerors.
Variety is the condition of harmony.
Real good breeding, as the people have it here, is one of the finest things now going in the world. The careful avoidance of all discussion, the swift hopping from topic to topic, does not agree with me; but the graceful style they do it with is beyond that of minuets!
Good breeding differs, if at all, from high breeding only as it gracefully remembers the rights of others, rather than gracefully insists on its own rights.
I don't pretend to understand the Universe -- it's a great deal bigger than I am.
Man's unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite.
A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that Fortune's inequality exhibits under this sun.
Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.
If time is precious, no book that will not improve by repeated reading deserves to be read at all.
Thought is the parent of the deed.
Thought once awakened does not again slumber; unfolds itself into a System of Thought; grows, in man after man, generation after generation, --till its full stature is reached, and such System of Thought can grow no farther, but must give place to another.
The cut of a garment speaks of intellect and talent and the color of temperament and heart.
When we can drain the Ocean into mill-ponds, and bottle up the Force of Gravity, to be sold by retail, in gas jars; then may we hope to comprehend the infinitudes of man's soul under formulas of Profit and Loss; and rule over this too, as over a patent engine, by checks, and valves, and balances.
In private life I never knew anyone interfere with other people's disputes but he heartily repented of it.
Life is a little gleam of time between two eternity s.
We have our little theory on all human and divine things. Poetry, the workings of genius itself, which, in all times, with one or another meaning, has been called Inspiration, and held to be mysterious and inscrutable, is no longer without its scientific exposition. The building of the lofty rhyme is like any other masonry or bricklaying: we have theories of its rise, height, decline and fall -- which latter, it would seem, is now near, among all people.
There is a great discovery still to be made in literature, that of paying literary men by the quantity they do not write.
For man is not the creature and product of Mechanism; but, in a far truer sense, its creator and producer.
The world is a republic of mediocrities, and always was.
Cash-payment never was, or could except for a few years be, the union-bond of man to man. Cash never yet paid one man fully his deserts to another; nor could it, nor can it, now or henceforth to the end of the world.
For the superior morality, of which we hear so much, we too would desire to be thankful: at the same time, it were but blindness to deny that this superior morality is properly rather an inferior criminality, produced not by greater love of Virtue, but by greater perfection of Police; and of that far subtler and stronger Police, called Public Opinion.
Song is the heroics of speech.
Music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the infinite.
Secrecy is the element of all goodness; even virtue, even beauty is mysterious.
Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one.
The past is all holy to us; the dead are all holy; even they that were wicked when alive.
Cash-payment is not the sole nexus of man with man.
Imperfection clings to a person, and if they wait till they are brushed off entirely, they would spin for ever on their axis, advancing nowhere.
Not brute force but only persuasion and faith are the kings of this world.
It is a vain hope to make people happy by politics.
Little other than a red tape Talking-machine, and unhappy Bag of Parliamentary Eloquence.
Popular opinion is the greatest lie in the world.
Culture is the process by which a person becomes all that they were created capable of being.
We were wise indeed, could we discern truly the signs of our own time; and by knowledge of its wants and advantages, wisely adjust our own position in it. Let us, instead of gazing idly into the obscure distance, look calmly around us, for a little, on the perplexed scene where we stand. Perhaps, on a more serious inspection, something of its perplexity will disappear, some of its distinctive characters and deeper tendencies more clearly reveal themselves; whereby our own relations to it, our own true aims and endeavors in it, may also become clearer.
Wonderful Force of Public Opinion! We must act and walk in all points as it prescribes; follow the traffic it bids us, realize the sum of money, the degree of influence it expects of us, or we shall be lightly esteemed; certain mouthfuls of articulate wind will be blown at us, and this what mortal courage can front?
Reality, if rightly interpreted, is grander than fiction.
To reform a world, to reform a nation, no wise man will undertake; and all but foolish men know, that the only solid, though a far slower reformation, is what each begins and perfects on himself.
Reform is not pleasant, but grievous; no person can reform themselves without suffering and hard work, how much less a nation.
Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.
All men, if they work not as in the great taskmaster's eye, will work wrong, and work unhappily for themselves and for you.
No age seemed the age of romance to itself.
Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it.
Science must have originated in the feeling that something was wrong.
The barrenest of all mortals is the sentimentalist.
Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.
Speech is of time, silence is of eternity.
The first sin in our universe was Lucifer's self conceit.
Skepticism, as I said, is not intellectual only; it is moral also; a chronic atrophy and disease of the whole soul. A man lives by believing something; not by debating and arguing about many things. A sad case for him when all that he can manage to believe is something he can button in his pocket, and with one or the other organ eat and digest! Lower than that he will not get.
We call it a Society; and go about professing openly the totalest separation, isolation. Our life is not a mutual helpfulness; but rather, cloaked under due laws-of-war, named fair competition and so forth, it is a mutual hostility.
If an eloquent speaker speak not the truth, is there a more horrid kind of object in creation?
Speech is human, silence is divine, yet also brutish and dead: therefore we must learn both arts.
No ghost was every seen by two pair of eyes.
It were a real increase of human happiness, could all young men from the age of nineteen be covered under barrels, or rendered otherwise invisible; and there left to follow their lawful studies and callings, till they emerged, sadder and wiser, at the age of twenty-five.
If what you have done is unjust, you have not succeeded.
In a symbol there is concealment and yet revelation: here therefore, by silence and by speech acting together, comes a double significance. In the symbol proper, what we can call a symbol, there is ever, more or less distinctly and directly, some embodiment and revelation of the Infinite; the Infinite is made to blend itself with the Finite, to stand visible, and as it were, attainable there. By symbols, accordingly, is man guided and commanded, made happy, made wretched.
Tell a person they are brave and you help them become so.
No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad.
Even in the meanest sorts of labor, the whole soul of a man is composed into a kind of real harmony the instant he sets himself to work.
He that can work is born to be king of something.
Foolish men imagine that because judgment for an evil thing is delayed, there is no justice; but only accident here below. Judgment for an evil thing is many times delayed some day or two, some century or two, but it is sure as life, it is sure as death.
The real use of gunpowder is to make all men tall.
Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.
It is a strange trade that of advocacy. Your intellect, your highest heavenly gift is hung up in the shop window like a loaded pistol for sale.
Pin your faith to no ones sleeves, haven't you two eyes of your own.
Not our logical faculty, but our imaginative one is king over us. I might say, priest and prophet to lead us to heaven-ward, or magician and wizard to lead us hellward.
Imagination is a poor matter when it has to part company with understanding.
The actual well seen is ideal.
Painful for a person is rebellious independence, only in loving companionship with his associates does a person feel safe: Only in reverently bowing down before the higher does a person feel exalted.
Man is emphatically a proselytizing creature.
Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world.
History is the distillation of rumor.
Heroism is the divine relation which, in all times, unites a great man to other men.
The hell of these days is the fear of not getting along, especially of not making money.
But the whim we have of happiness is somewhat thus. By certain valuations, and averages, of our own striking, we come upon some sort of average terrestrial lot; this we fancy belongs to us by nature, and of indefeasible rights. It is simple payment of our wages, of our deserts; requires neither thanks nor complaint. Foolish soul! What act of legislature was there that thou shouldst be happy? A little while ago thou hadst no right to be at all.
The only happiness a brave person ever troubles themselves in asking about, is happiness enough to get their work done.
The difference between Socrates and Jesus? The great conscious and the immeasurably great unconscious.
In the long-run every Government is the exact symbol of its People, with their wisdom and unwisdom; we have to say, Like People like Government.
Men are to be guided only by their self-interests. Good government is a good balancing of these; and, except a keen eye and appetite for self-interest, requires no virtue in any quarter. To both parties it is emphatically a machine: to the discontented, a taxing-machine; to the contented, a machine for securing property. Its duties and its faults are not those of a father, but of an active parish-constable.
If the cut of the costume indicates intellect and talent, then the color indicates temper and heart.
Society is founded upon cloth.
Fame, we may understand, is no sure test of merit, but only a probability of such; it is an accident, not a property of man.
I grow daily to honor facts more and more, and theory less and less. A fact, it seems to me, is a great thing -- a sentence printed, if not by God, then at least by the Devil.
What are your historical Facts; still more your biographical? Wilt thou know a man by stringing-together beadrolls of what thou namest Facts?
No violent extreme endures.
All evil is like a nightmare; the instant you stir under it, the evil is gone.
The condition of the most passionate enthusiast is to be preferred over the individual who, because of the fear of making a mistake, won't in the end affirm or deny anything.
Egotism is the source and summary of all faults and miseries.
No sooner is your ocean filled, than he grumbles that it might have been of better vintage. Try him with half of a Universe, of an Omnipotence, he sets to quarrelling with the proprietor of the other half, and declares himself the most maltreated of men. Always there is a black spot in our sunshine: it is even as I said, the Shadow of Ourselves.
The devil has his elect.
There are but two ways of paying debt: Increase of industry in raising income, increase of thrift in laying out.
No sadder proof can be given of a person's own tiny stature, than their disbelief in great people.
A man cannot make a pair of shoes rightly unless he do it in a devout manner.
Not on morality, but on cookery, let us build our stronghold: there brandishing our frying-pan, as censer, let us offer sweet incense to the Devil, and live at ease on the fat things he has provided for his elect!
The dust of controversy is merely the falsehood flying off.
The archenemy is the arch stupid!
Our life is not really a mutual helpfulness; but rather, it's fair competition cloaked under due laws of war; it's a mutual hostility.
A person with half volition goes backwards and forwards, but makes no progress on even the smoothest of roads.
Clever men are good, but they are not the best.
The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better.
Oh, give us the man who sings at his work.
Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness, and its power of endurance -- the cheerful man will do more in the same time, will do it ;better, will preserve it longer, than the sad or sullen.
No sooner does a great man depart, and leave his character as public property, than a crowd of little men rushes towards it. There they are gathered together, blinking up to it with such vision as they have, scanning it from afar, hovering round it this way and that, each cunningly endeavoring, by all arts, to catch some reflex of it in the little mirror of himself.
If those gentlemen would let me alone I should be much obliged to them. I would say, as Shakespeare would say... Sweet Friend, for Jesus sake forbear.
A well-written life is almost as rare as a well-spent one.
History is the essence of innumerable biographies.
Conviction never so excellent, is worthless until it coverts itself into conduct.
A man lives by believing something: not by debating and arguing about many things.
Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.
No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offence.
Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
Narrative is linear, but action has breadth and depth as well as height and is solid.
The end of man is action, and not thought, though it be of the noblest.
Action hangs, as it were, dissolved in speech, in thoughts whereof speech is the shadow; and precipitates itself therefrom. The kind of speech in a man betokens the kind of action you will get from him.
What you see, but can't see over is as good as infinite.
The greatest event for the world is the arrival of a new and wise person.
Great men are the commissioned guides of mankind, who rule their fellows because they are wiser.
No man sees far, most see no farther than their noses.
I have seen gleams in the face and eyes of the man that have let you look into a higher country.
It is the first of all problems for a man to find out what kind of work he is to do in this universe.
A fair day's wages for a fair day's work.
Wonder is the basis of worship.
A man perfects himself by working. Foul jungles are cleared away, fair seed-fields rise instead, and stately cities; and with the man himself first ceases to be a jungle, and foul unwholesome desert thereby. The man is now a man.
Our works are the mirror wherein the spirit first sees its natural lineaments, Hence, too, the folly of that impossible precept, Know thyself; till it be translated into this partially possible one, know what thou canst work at.
Worship is transcendent wonder.
Parliament will train you to talk; and above all things to hear, with patience, unlimited quantities of foolish talk.
That a Parliament, especially a Parliament with Newspaper Reporters firmly established in it, is an entity which by its very nature cannot do work, but can do talk only.
Manhood begins when we have in any way made truce with Necessity; begins even when we have surrendered to Necessity, as the most part only do; but begins joyfully and hopefully only when we have reconciled ourselves to Necessity; and thus, in reality, triumphed over it, and felt that in Necessity we are free.
Democracy will prevail when men believe the vote of Judas as good as that of Jesus Christ.
Of America it would ill beseem any Englishman, and me perhaps as little as another, to speak unkindly, to speak unpatriotically, if any of us even felt so. Sure enough, America is a great, and in many respects a blessed and hopeful phenomenon. Sure enough, these hardy millions of Anglosaxon men prove themselves worthy of their genealogy. But as to a Model Republic, or a model anything, the wise among themselves know too well that there is nothing to be said. Their Constitution, such as it may be, was made here, not there. Cease to brag to me of America, and its model institutions and constitutions.
Twenty-seven millions, mostly fools.
Only perhaps in the United States, which alone of countries can do without governing,every man being at least able to live, and move off into the wilderness, let Congress jargon as it will,can such a form of so-called Government continue for any length of time to torment men with the semblance, when the indispensable substance is not there.
The Mystic Bond of Brotherhood makes all men one.