Quotes by Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Every library should try to be complete on something, if it were only the history of pinheads.

Our dead brothers still live for us and bid us think of life, not death -- of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and glory of Spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil, our trumpets, sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.
In walking, the will and the muscles are so accustomed to working together and performing their task with so little expenditure of force that the intellect is left comparatively free.
The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.
A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used.
I always say, as you know, that if my fellow citizens want to go to Hell I will help them. Its my job.
A new untruth is better than an old truth.
The greatest tragedy in America is not the destruction of our natural resources, though that tragedy is great. The truly great tragedy is the destruction of our human resources by our failure to fully utilize our abilities, which means that most men and women go to their graves with their music still in them.
Every event that a man would master must be mounted on the run, and no man ever caught the reins of a thought except as it galloped past him.
Even for practical purposes theory generally turns out the most important thing in the end.
To live is to function. That is all there is in living.
I should like to see any kind of a man, distinguishable from a gorilla that some good and even pretty woman could not shape a husband out of.
I firmly believe that if the whole material medical could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind, and all the worse for the sea.
Our brains our seventy year clocks, the angel of life winds them up once and for all, then closes the case, and gives the key into the hands of the angel of resurrection.
People talk fundamentals and superlatives and then make some changes of detail.
A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times.
Simple people... are very quick to see the live facts which are going on about them.
You commit a sin of omission if you do not utilize all the power that is within you. All men have claims on man, and to the man with special talents, this is a very special claim. It is required that a man take part in the actions and clashes of his time that the peril of being judged not to have lived at all.
Sweet is the scene where genial friendship plays the pleasing game of interchanging praise.
The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour on it, the more it will contract.
People who make puns are like wanton boys that put coppers on the railroad tracks. They amuse themselves and other children, but their little trick may upset a freight train of conversation for the sake of a battered witticism.
Don't you stay at home of evenings? Don you love a cushioned seat in a corner, by the fireside, with your slippers on your feet?
Revolutions are not made by men in spectacles.
Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.
God's plan made a hopeful beginning. But man spoiled his chances by sinning. We trust that the story will end in God's glory. But, at present, the other side's winning.
Society is always trying in some way to grind us down to a single flat surface.
A good soldier, like a good horse, cannot be of a bad color.
Stupidity often saves a man from going mad.
Life and language are alike sacred. Homicide and verbicide --that is, violent treatment of a word with fatal results to its legitimate meaning, which is its life --are alike forbidden.
Knowledge like timber shouldn't be mush use till they are seasoned.
A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were given for such cause, and death ensued, the jury would be judges both of the facts and of the pun, and might, if the latter were of an aggravated character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide.
A goose flies by a chart which the Royal Geographical Society could not mend.
A new and valid idea is worth more than a regiment and fewer men can furnish the former than command the latter.
Unpretending mediocrity is good, and genius is glorious; but a weak flavor of genius in an essentially common person is detestable. It spoils the grand neutrality of a commonplace character, as the rinsings of an unwashed wine-glass spoil a draught of fair water.
The very aim and end of our institutions is just this: that we may thing what we like and say what we think.
Fame usually comes to those who are thinking about something else.
All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called facts. They are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain. Who does not know fellows that always have an ill-conditioned fact or two that they lead after them into decent company like so many bull-dogs, ready to let them slip at every ingenious suggestion, or convenient generalization, or pleasant fancy? I allow no facts at this table.
What a comfort a dull but kindly person is, to be sure, at times! A ground-glass shade over a gas-lamp does not bring more solace to our dazzled eyes than such a one to our minds.
A great calamity is as old as the trilobites an hour after it has happened.
The freeman, casting with unpurchased hand the vote that shakes the turrets of the land.
Nature, when she invented, manufactured, and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left.
And when you stick on conversation's burrs, don't strew your pathway with those dreadful urs.
Why can't somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks.
... the hydrostatic paradox of controversy. Don't you know what that means? Well, I will tell you. You know that, if you had a bent tube, one arm of which was of the size of a pipe-stem, and the other big enough to hold the ocean, water would stand at the same height in one as in the other. Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way. And the fools know it.
Every real thought on every real subject knocks the wind out of somebody or other.
Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.
Nothing is so commonplace has the wish to be remarkable.
Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man's upper chamber, if it has common sense on the ground floor.
A child's education should begin at least one hundred years before he is born.
Grow we must, if we outgrow all that loves us.
Speak not too well of one who scarce will know himself transfigured in its roseate glow; Say kindly of him what is, chiefly, true, remembering always he belongs to you; Deal with him as a truant, if you will, But claim him, keep him, call him brother still!
The most foolish kind of a book is a kind of leaky boat on the sea of wisdom; some of the wisdom will get in anyhow.
Beauty is the index of a larger fact than wisdom.
Stillness and steadiness of features are signal marks of good breeding. Vulgar persons can't sit still, or at least must always work their limbs and features.
Several years before birth, advertise for a couple of parents belonging to long-lived families.
It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
I wouldn't give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity but I'd give my right arm for simplicity on the other side of complexity.
Man has will, but woman has her way.
The world has to learn that the actual pleasure derived from material things is of rather low quality on the whole and less even in quantity than it looks to those who have not tried it.
The older author is constantly rediscovering himself in the more or less fossilized productions of his earlier years.