Quotes by Samuel Johnson

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Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was an English critic, poet and essayist. more

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A short letter to a distant friend is, in my opinion, an insult like that of a slight bow or cursory salutation -- a proof of unwillingness to do much, even where there is a necessity of doing something.

In a man's letters you know, Madam, his soul lies naked, his letters are only the mirror of his breast, whatever passes within him is shown undisguised in its natural process. Nothing is inverted, nothing distorted, you see systems in their elements, you discover actions in their motives.
Money and time are the heaviest burdens of life, and the unhappiest of all mortals are those who have more of either than they know how to use.
Their learning is like bread in a besieged town: every man gets a little, but no man gets a full meal.
Turn on the prudent ant thy heedful eyes. Observe her labors, sluggard, and be wise.
I would be loath to speak ill of any person who I do not know deserves it, but I am afraid he is an attorney.
Lawyers know life practically. A bookish man should always have them to converse with.
What provokes your risibility, Sir? Have I said anything that you understand? Then I ask pardon of the rest of the company.
Language is only the instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas.
Labor, if it were not necessary for existence, would be indispensable for the happiness of man.
Excellence in any department can be attained only by the labor of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price.
Knowledge is more than equivalent to force.
Knowledge always demands increase; it is like fire, which must first be kindled by some external agent, but will afterwards always propagate itself.
Knowledge is of two kinds: We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information about it.
More knowledge may be gained of a man's real character by a short conversation with one of his servants than from a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedigree and ended with his funeral.
I have found men to be more kind than I expected, and less just.
To act from pure benevolence is not possible for finite human beings, Human benevolence is mingled with vanity, interest, or some other motive.
To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.
A Judge may be a farmer; but he is not to geld his own pigs. A Judge may play a little at cards for his own amusement; but he is not to play at marbles, or chuck farthing in the Piazza.
I gleaned jests at home from obsolete farces.
It is easy to talk of sitting at home contented, when others are seeing or making shows. But not to have been where it is supposed, and seldom supposed falsely, that all would go if they could; to be able to say nothing when everyone is talking; to have no opinion when everyone is judging; to hear exclamations of rapture without power to depress; to listen to falsehoods without right to contradict, is, after all, a state of temporary inferiority, in which the mind is rather hardened by stubbornness, than supported by fortitude. If the world be worth winning let us enjoy it, if it is to be despised let us despise it by conviction. But the world is not to be despised but as it is compared with something better.
No man is much regarded by the rest of the world. He that considers how little he dwells upon the condition of others, will learn how little the attention of others is attracted by himself. While we see multitudes passing before us, of whom perhaps not one appears to deserve our notice or excites our sympathy, we should remember, that we likewise are lost in the same throng, that the eye which happens to glance upon us is turned in a moment on him that follows us, and that the utmost which we can reasonably hope or fear is to fill a vacant hour with prattle, and be forgotten.
So far is it from being true that men are naturally equal, that no two people can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other.
I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds: I therefore dismiss it with frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from censure or from praise.
No man was ever great by imitation.
Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble.
Were it not for imagination a man would be as happy in arms of a chambermaid as of a duchess.
Perhaps man is the only being that can properly be called idle.
As peace is the end of war, so to be idle is the ultimate purpose of the busy.
It is very strange, and very melancholy, that the paucity of human pleasures should persuade us ever to call hunting one of them.
It is, indeed, at home that every man must be known by those who would make a just estimate either of his virtue or felicity; for smiles and embroidery are alike occasional, and the mind is often dressed for show in painted honor, and fictitious benevolence.
Great abilities are not requisite for an Historian; for in historical composition, all the greatest powers of the human mind are quiescent. He has facts ready to his hand; so there is no exercise of invention. Imagination is not required in any degree; only about as much as is used in the lowest kinds of poetry. Some penetration, accuracy, and coloring, will fit a man for the task, if he can give the application which is necessary.
Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.
For who is pleased with himself.
Happiness is not a state to arrive at, rather, a manner of traveling.
We are long before we are convinced that happiness is never to be found; and each believes it possessed by others, to keep alive the hope of obtaining it for himself.
To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity.
Sir, that all who are happy, are equally happy, is not true. A peasant and a philosopher may be equally satisfied, but not equally happy. Happiness consists in the multiplicity of agreeable consciousness.
The habit of looking on the best side of every event is worth more than a thousand pounds a years.
We are inclined to believe those whom we don not know because they have never deceived us.
Where grief is fresh, any attempt to divert it only irritates.
Avarice is generally the last passion of those lives of which the first part has been squandered in pleasure, and the second devoted to ambition. He that sinks under the fatigue of getting wealth, lulls his age with the milder business of saving it.
The superiority of some men is merely local. They are great because their associates are little.
He was dull in a new way, and that made many think him great.
I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government rather than another. It is of no moment to the happiness of an individual.
The Supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things -- the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and the counterfeit.
The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.
Sir, he throws away his money without thought and without merit. I do not call a tree generous that sheds its fruit at every breeze.
Our tastes greatly alter. The lad does not care for the child's rattle, and the old man does not care for the young man's whore.
Sir, I do not call a gamester a dishonest man; but I call him an unsociable man, an unprofitable man. Gaming is a mode of transferring property without producing any intermediate good.
Tomorrow is an old deceiver, and his cheat never grows stale.
The endearing elegance of female friendship.
Never, my dear Sir, do you take it into your head that I do not love you; you may settle yourself in full confidence both of my love and my esteem; I love you as a kind man, I value you as a worthy man, and hope in time to reverence you as a man of exemplary piety.
I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance.
If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone; one should keep his friendships in constant repair.
Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test.
All theory is against freedom of the will; all experience for it.
A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner.
Extended empires are like expanded gold, exchanging solid strength for feeble splendor.
When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.