Samuel Johnson Quotes

314 Quotes Sorted by Search Results (Descending)

About Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson image from Wikimedia Commons

Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709 7 September O.S. – 13 December 1784) was a British author, linguist and lexicographer. He is often referred to as simply Dr. Johnson in the history of literature and is regarded as the greatest man of letters in English history.

Born: September 18th, 1709

Died: December 13th, 1784

Categories: Lexicographers, Authors, 1780s deaths

Quotes: 314 sourced quotes total (includes 4 misattributed, 5 about)

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Words (count)282 - 178
Search Results6310 - 290
No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.
Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.
Hell is paved with good intentions.
Samuel Johnson
• April 14, 1775
• Malone added a footnote indicating this is a "proverbial sentence", quoting an earlier 1651 source. At least two other sources appear prior to Johnson. John Ray, in 1670, cited as a proverb, "Hell is paved with good intentions." Even earlier than that, it has been attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), as "Hell is full of good intentions or desires."
 • Wilson, Robert Earlier Attributions, publisher: UseNet, retrieved: 2009-01-06
 • Note that "The road to Hell…" is not part of the quotation.
• The Samuel Johnson web site suggests this entry is dated 16 April, but it appears to be part of the previous entry.
 • Samuel Johnson web site
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791): The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) by James Boswell. The following page numbers are taken from the Great Books edition (see Sources), which is fairly easy to find in U.S. public libraries., Vol II)
Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
Samuel Johnson
• April 7, 1775, p. 253
• Boswell's full mention of this statement reads:
 Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak of self-interest.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791): The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) by James Boswell. The following page numbers are taken from the Great Books edition (see Sources), which is fairly easy to find in U.S. public libraries., Vol II)
He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.
Samuel Johnson
• Quoted in "Anecdotes of the Revd. Percival Stockdale" (1809) in Johnsonian Miscellanies (1897), vol. II, p. 333, edited by George Birkbeck Hill; also quoted in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and in the Avenged Sevenfold song "Bat Country".
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
Hawkesworth said of Johnson, "You have a memory that would convict any author of plagiarism in any court of literature in the world."
"Enlarge my life with multitude of days!" In health, in sickness, thus the suppliant prays: Hides from himself his state, and shuns to know That life protracted is protracted woe.
I [Boswell] was somewhat disappointed in finding that the edition of The English Poets, for which he was to write Prefaces and Lives, was not an undertaking directed by him: but that he was to furnish a Preface and Life to any poet the booksellers pleased. I asked him if he would do this to any dunce's works, if they should ask him. JOHNSON: "Yes, Sir, and say he was a dunce."
I refute it thus.
Samuel Johnson
• August 6, 1763, p. 134
• Said as he kicked a stone, speaking of Berkeley's "ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter".
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791): The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) by James Boswell. The following page numbers are taken from the Great Books edition (see Sources), which is fairly easy to find in U.S. public libraries., Vol I)
Johnson observed, that "he did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back, but he believed the gentleman was an attorney."
Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.
Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.
Misattributed to Samuel Johnson
• "Many people believe Samuel Johnson said it, but no one seems to have found it anywhere in his works or letters, or, for that matter any of the biographies of him by his contemporaries. I'm basing that on what's been included in Primary Source Media's CD-ROM of Johnson and Boswell. The CD-ROM includes all of Johnson's writings in the canon, Boswell's Life of Johnson and Tour of the Hebrides, as well as accounts from Hester Thrale, Sir John Hawkins, Fanny Burney, plus O.M. Brack's 'Early Biographies.' In short, practically nothing from the 18th Century has been left out. In addition, I've also consulted 'The Beauties of Johnson,' an 18th Century collection of Johnson quotations."
 • “Your manuscript is both good and original. …” at The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page Retrieved 2013-07-07
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Misattributed)
What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
Samuel Johnson
• Attributed in a footnote in William Seward's Biographiana (1799), vol. I, p. 206, quoted in Johnsonian Miscellanies (1897), vol. II, p. 309, edited by George Birkbeck Hill
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
A lady once asked him how he came to define 'pastern', the knee of a horse: instead of making an elaborate defence, as might be expected, he at once answered, "Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance."
Language is the dress of thought.
Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.
It might as well be said, "Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat."
How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?
Few things are impossible to diligence and skill.
Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.
Nothing … will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.
Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords.
We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know, because they have never deceived us.
The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.
A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.
OATS — A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.
Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.
Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.
Misattributed to Samuel Johnson
• Actually said by Charles de Gaulle, on leaving his presidency, Life, May 9, 1969.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Misattributed)
"I fly from pleasure," said the prince, "because pleasure has ceased to please; I am lonely because I am miserable, and am unwilling to cloud with my presence the happiness of others."
I [Boswell] happened to say, it would be terrible if he should not find a speedy opportunity of returning to London, and be confined in so dull a place. JOHNSON: "Don't, Sir, accustom yourself to use big words for little matters. It would not be terrible, though I were to be detained some time here."
God bless you, my dear!
Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.
Nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little.
Samuel Johnson
• Letter from Johnson to John Taylor, 18 August 1763. The Yale Book of Quotations edited by Fred R. Shapiro, pg 400.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.
A man will turn over half a library to make one book.
Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured and little to be enjoyed.
Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it.
Classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world.
This is one of the disadvantages of wine, it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.
Dictionaries are like watches; the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.
LEXICOGRAPHER — A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.
Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.
The potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
Samuel Johnson
• 1780?
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language.
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.
He who praises everybody praises nobody.
Samuel Johnson
Johnson's Works (1787), vol. XI, p. 216; This set included the Life of Samuel Johnson by Sir John Hawkins.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
Trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay.
Samuel Johnson
Line added to Goldsmith's Deserted Village.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett)
A man of genius has been seldom ruined but by himself.
Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.
I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
Samuel Johnson
• Quoted in the "Apophthegms, Sentiments, Opinions and Occasional Reflections" of Sir John Hawkins (1787-1789) in Johnsonian Miscellanies (1897), vol. II, p. 6, edited by George Birkbeck Hill
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
The law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public.
A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.
No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.
Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.
I remember very well, when I was at Oxford, an old gentleman said to me, "Young man, ply your book diligently now, and acquire a stock of knowledge; for when years come upon you, you will find that poring upon books will be but an irksome task."
Example is always more efficacious than precept.
Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.
Many things difficult to design prove easy to performance.
Worth seeing? yes; but not worth going to see.
If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary, be not idle.
The endearing elegance of female friendship.
A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly.
No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library.
Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.
No oppression is so heavy or lasting as that which is inflicted by the perversion and exorbitance of legal authority.
It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time.
I would rather be attacked than unnoticed. For the worst thing you can do to an author is to be silent as to his works.
Round numbers are always false.
Samuel Johnson
• Quoted in the "Apophthegms, Sentiments, Opinions and Occasional Reflections" of Sir John Hawkins (1787-1789) in Johnsonian Miscellanies (1897), vol. II, p. 2, edited by George Birkbeck Hill
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
Let observation with extensive view Survey mankind, from China to Peru.
Samuel Johnson
• Line 1. Compare: "All human race, from China to Peru, Pleasure, howe’er disguis’d by art, pursue", Thomas Warton, Universal Love of Pleasure.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Vanity of Human Wishes (1749))
All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.
The true Genius is a mind of large general powers, accidentally determined to some particular direction.
Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue that it is always respected, even when it is associated with vice.
It is very strange, and very melancholy, that the paucity of human pleasures should persuade us ever to call hunting one of them.
No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned ... A man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company.
A man used to vicissitudes is not easily dejected.
Questioning is not the mode of conversation among gentlemen.
Samuel Johnson
• 1776.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Melancholy, indeed, should be diverted by every means but drinking.
Much may be made of a Scotchman if he be caught young.
Samuel Johnson
• 1772.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
He is no wise man that will quit a certainty for an uncertainty.
He is no wise man that will quit a certainty for an uncertainty.
That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea, and that is a wrong one.
A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.
That he delights in the misery of others no man will confess, and yet what other motive can make a father cruel?
Those writers who lay on the watch for novelty, could have little hope of greatness; for great things cannot have escaped former observation.
EXCISE — A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid.
'''I hate a fellow whom pride or cowardice or laziness drives into a corner, and who does nothing when he is there but sit and growl. Let him come out as I do, and ''bark.'''''.
Officious, innocent, sincere, Of every friendless name the friend.
Samuel Johnson
• Stanza 2.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Elegy on the Death of Mr. Robert Levet, A Practiser in Physic (1783): Published in The British Magazine and Review, Volume 3 (August 1783), p. 136-137.
The magazine notes: This gentleman, who was patronized while living, and is so elegantly praised now dead, by Dr. Samuel Johnson, had for some years an apartment assigned him in the doctor's house, and a constant place at his table. He was a native of Hull, in Yorkshire; and, though not regularly bred to physic, had acquired a considerable degree of knowledge in the healing art. The nature of his practice, as well as it's success, may be gathered from the eulogium of his, benevolent patron. He died the 17th of January 1782.
)
The applause of a single human being is of great consequence.
Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment.
Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation; you do not find it among gross people.
There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed.
I look upon it, that he who does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else.
Samuel Johnson
• 1763.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
A cow is a very good animal in the field; but we turn her out of a garden.
Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
A gentleman who had been very unhappy in marriage, married immediately after his wife died: Johnson said, it was the triumph of hope over experience.
Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.
As I know more of mankind, I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man, upon easier terms than I was formerly.
There will always be a part, and always a very large part of every community, that have no care but for themselves, and whose care for themselves reaches little further than impatience of immediate pain, and eagerness for the nearest good.
How small of all that human hearts endure, That part which laws or kings can cause or cure! Still to ourselves in every place consigned, Our own felicity we make or find. With secret course, which no loud storms annoy, Glides the smooth current of domestic joy.
Samuel Johnson
Lines added to Goldsmith's Traveller.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett)
Wretched un-idea'd girls.
Samuel Johnson
• 1752.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
He was a very good hater.
To a poet nothing can be useless.
In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath.
Samuel Johnson
• 1775.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
I am willing to love all mankind, except an American.
The first years of man must make provision for the last.
Here closed in death th' attentive eyes That saw the manners in the face.
Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate?
Wickedness is always easier than virtue; for it takes the short cut to everything.
NETWORK — Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections.
The world is not yet exhausted: let me see something to-morrow which I never saw before.
Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth, by calling imagination to the help of reason.
Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding.
The true, strong, and sound mind is the mind that can embrace equally great things and small.
Samuel Johnson
• 1778.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
He left the name at which the world grew pale, To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.
Samuel Johnson
• A Review of Soame Jenyns' A Free Enquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil, published in the first volume of Miscellaneous and Fugitive Pieces (London, 1774), p. 23.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves.
Samuel Johnson
• 1763.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Wine makes a man more pleased with himself. I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others.
No man was more foolish when he had not a pen in his hand, or more wise when he had.
The unjustifiable severity of a parent is loaded with this aggravation, that those whom he injures are always in his sight.
'Paradise Lost' is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is.
To let friendship die away by negligence and silence, is certainly not wise. It is voluntarily to throw away one of the greatest comforts of this weary pilgrimage.
Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses; whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings.
That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.
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 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.
As the Spanish proverb says, "He, who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him." So it is in travelling; a man must carry knowledge with him, if he would bring home knowledge.
I am not yet so lost in lexicography, as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. Language is only the instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas: I wish, however, that the instrument might be less apt to decay, and that signs might be permanent, like the things which they denote.
I remember a passage in Goldsmith's "Vicar of Wakefield," which he was afterwards fool enough to expunge: "I do not love a man who is zealous for nothing."… There was another fine passage too which he struck out: "When I was a young man, being anxious to distinguish myself, I was perpetually starting new propositions. But I soon gave this over; for I found that generally what was new was false."
Samuel Johnson
• 1779.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labors, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it.
A jest breaks no bones.
All this [wealth] excludes but one evil,—poverty.
Samuel Johnson
• 1777.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.
Samuel Johnson
• Quoted in Anecdotes of Johnson by Hannah More in Johnsonian Miscellanies (1897), vol. II, p. 197, edited by George Birkbeck Hill. More had quoted this remark in a letter to her sister (April 1782).
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
New things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new.
The trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth.
Come, let me know what it is that makes a Scotchman happy!
Why, Sir, it is difficult to settle the proportion of iniquity between them.
All theory is against the freedom of the will; all experience for it.
He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dullness in others.
Samuel Johnson
• 1784.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Knowledge is more than equivalent to force. The master of mechanicks laughs at strength.
Sir, you have but two topicks, yourself and me. I am sick of both.
Of all the Griefs that harrass the Distrest, Sure the most bitter is a scornful Jest
A man might write such stuff for ever, if he would abandon his mind to it.
The reciprocal civility of authors is one of the most risible scenes in the farce of life.
Frugality may be termed the daughter of Prudence, the sister of Temperance and the parent of Liberty.
Slavery is now no where more patiently endured, than in countries once inhabited by the zealots of liberty.
Books that you may carry to the fire, and hold readily in your hand, are the most useful after all.
It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.
It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying, that there is so much falsehood in the world.
Milton, Madam, was a genius that could cut a Colossus from a rock; but could not carve heads upon cherry-stones.
Samuel Johnson
• In response to Hannah More wondering why Milton could write Paradise Lost but only poor sonnets. June 13, 1784, p. 542.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791): The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) by James Boswell. The following page numbers are taken from the Great Books edition (see Sources), which is fairly easy to find in U.S. public libraries., Vol IV)
A Poet, Naturalist, and Historian, Who left scarcely any style of writing untouched, And touched nothing that he did not adorn.
In order that all men may be taught to speak truth, it is necessary that all likewise should learn to hear it.
He that thinks himself capable of astonishing may write blank verse: but those that hope only to please must condescend to rhyme.
Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.
If the man who turnips cries, Cry not when his father dies, 'Tis a proof that he had rather Have a turnip than his father.
A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still.
While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till grief be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.
I am very fond of the company of ladies. I like their beauty, I like their delicacy, I like their vivacity, and I like their silence.
But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.
Small debts are like small shot; they are rattling on every side, and can scarcely be escaped without a wound; great debts are like cannon, of loud noise but little danger.
Fly fishing may be a very pleasant amusement; but angling or float fishing I can only compare to a stick and a string, with a worm at one end and a fool at the other.
Deign on the passing world to turn thine eyes, And pause a while from learning to be wise. There mark what ills the scholar's life assail — Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail.
He that would pass the latter part of life with honour and decency, must, when he is young, consider that he shall one day be old; and remember, when he is old, that he has once been young.
Norway, too, has noble wild prospects; and Lapland is remarkable for prodigious noble wild prospects. But, Sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!
If lawyers were to undertake no causes till they were sure they were just, a man might be precluded altogether from a trial of his claim, though, were it judicially examined, it might be found a very just claim.
It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know, that it is hot or cold, bright or cloudy, windy or calm.
"Some," answered Imlac, "have indeed said that the soul is material, but I can scarcely believe that any man has thought it, who knew how to think; for all the conclusions of reason enforce the immateriality of mind, and all the notices of sense and investigations of science, concur to prove the unconsciousness of matter.
I called on Dr. Johnson one morning, when Mrs. Williams, the blind lady, was conversing with him. She was telling him where she had dined the day before. "There were several gentlemen there," said she, "and when some of them came to the tea-table, I found that there had been a good deal of hard drinking." She closed this observation with a common and trite moral reflection; which, indeed, is very ill-founded, and does great injustice to animals—"I wonder what pleasure men can take in making beasts of themselves." "I wonder, Madam," replied the Doctor, "that you have not penetration to see the strong inducement to this excess; for he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."
About Samuel Johnson
Anecdotes of the Revd. Percival Stockdale; collected in "Johnsonian Miscellanies," edited by G.B. Hill Ballade of Soporific Absorption J.C. Squires.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes about Johnson)
For patience, sov'reign o'er transmuted ill.
Was ever poet so trusted before?
Samuel Johnson
• 1774.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
The insolence of wealth will creep out.
Words are men's daughters, but God's sons are things.
Samuel Johnson
Boulter's Monument. (Supposed to have been inserted by Dr. Johnson, 1745.)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett)
I am glad that he thanks God for anything.
Samuel Johnson
• 1755.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
A country governed by a despot is an inverted cone.
It is better to live rich, than to die rich.
He was so generally civil that nobody thanked him for it.
Samuel Johnson
• 1777.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
The limbs will quiver and move after the soul is gone.
Samuel Johnson
Northcote, 487.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Johnsoniana)
Here's to the next insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies.
Samuel Johnson
• September 23, 1777, p. 363
• A toast made by Johnson, as Boswell states, "when in company with some very grave men at Oxford".
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791): The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) by James Boswell. The following page numbers are taken from the Great Books edition (see Sources), which is fairly easy to find in U.S. public libraries., Vol III)
This world, where much is to be done and little to be known.
I never have sought the world; the world was not to seek me.
With these celestial Wisdom calms the mind, And makes the happiness she does not find.
It is as bad as bad can be: it is ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept, and ill-drest.
From Thee, great God: we spring, to Thee we tend, Path, motive, guide, original, and end.
Samuel Johnson
• Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 257.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
The joy of life is variety; the tenderest love requires to be renewed by intervals of absence.
Merriment is always the effect of a sudden impression. The jest which is expected is already destroyed.
A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than an eminent degree of curiosity.
Liberty is, to the lowest rank of every nation, little more than the choice of working or starving.
His [David Garrick's] death has eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the public stock of harmless pleasure.
There is in this world no real delight (excepting those of sensuality), but exchange of ideas in conversation.
Every state of society is as luxurious as it can be. Men always take the best they can get.
All censure of a man's self is oblique praise. It is in order to shew how much he can spare.
This was a good dinner enough, to be sure, but it was not a dinner to ask a man to.
Samuel Johnson
• 1763.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
I never take a nap after dinner but when I have had a bad night; and then the nap takes me.
Samuel Johnson
• 1775.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
The Churchyard abounds with images which find a mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo.
A thousand horrid Prodigies foretold it. A feeble government, eluded Laws, A factious Populace, luxurious Nobles, And all the maladies of stinking states.
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.
Sir, I think all Christians, whether Papists or Protestants, agree in the essential articles, and that their differences are trivial, and rather political than religious.
Samuel Johnson
• 1763.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
It is always observable that silence propagates itself, and that the longer talk has been suspended, the more difficult it is to find any thing to say.
Every man naturally persuades himself that he can keep his resolutions, nor is he convinced of his imbecility but by length of time and frequency of experiment.
Catch then, O! catch the transient hour, Improve each moment as it flies; Life's a short Summer — man a flower, He dies — alas! how soon he dies!
Let him go abroad to a distant country; let him go to some place where he is not known. Don't let him go to the devil, where he is known.
Samuel Johnson
• 1773.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
There is now less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but then less is learned there; so that what the boys get at one end they lose at the other.
Sherry is dull, naturally dull; but it must have taken him a great deal of pains to become what we now see him. Such an excess of stupidity, sir, is not in Nature.
Ah! let not Censure term our fate our choice, The stage but echoes back the public's voice; The drama's laws the drama's patrons give, For we that live to please must please to live.
Always, Sir, set a high value on spontaneous kindness. He whose inclination prompts him to cultivate your friendship of his own accord, will love you more than one whom you have been at pains to attach to you.
I do not know, sir, that the fellow is an infidel; but if he be an infidel, he is an infidel as a dog is an infidel; that is to say, he has never thought upon the subject.
Samuel Johnson
• 1769.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Some claim a place in the list of patriots, by an acrimonious and unremitting opposition to the court. This mark is by no means infallible. Patriotism is not necessarily included in rebellion. A man may hate his king, yet not love his country.
Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow; attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia.
To be of no church is dangerous. Religion, of which the rewards are distant, and which is animated only by faith and hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind unless it be invigorated and reimpressed by external ordinances, by stated calls to worship, and the salutary influence of example.
Let us take a patriot, where we can meet him; and, that we may not flatter ourselves by false appearances, distinguish those marks which are certain, from those which may deceive; for a man may have the external appearance of a patriot, without the constituent qualities; as false coins have often lustre, though they want weight.
A transition from an author's book to his conversation, is too often like an entrance into a large city, after a distant prospect. Remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendour, grandeur and magnificence; but when we have passed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke.
Such is the common process of marriage. A youth and maiden meeting by chance, or brought together by artifice, exchange glances, reciprocate civilities, go home, and dream of one another. Having little to divert attention, or diversify thought, they find themselves uneasy when they are apart, and therefore conclude that they shall be happy together. They marry, and discover what nothing but voluntary blindness had before concealed; they wear out life in altercations, and charge nature with cruelty.
Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, of sickness, or captivity, would, without this comfort, be insupportable; nor does it appear that the happiest lot of terrestrial existence can set us above the want of this general blessing; or that life, when the gifts of nature and of fortune are accumulated upon it, would not still be wretched, were it not elevated and delighted by the expectation of some new possession, of some enjoyment yet behind, by which the wish shall at last be satisfied, and the heart filled up to its utmost extent.
A very unclubable man.
Samuel Johnson
• 1764.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Declamation roared, while Passion slept.
Gloomy calm of idle vacancy.
Samuel Johnson
• Letter to Boswell. Dec. 8, 1763.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett)
Towering is the confidence of twenty-one.
Employment, sir, and hardships prevent melancholy.
Samuel Johnson
• 1777.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Superfluous lags the vet'ran on the stage.
Pleasure of itself is not a vice.
Blown about with every wind of criticism.
Samuel Johnson
• 1784.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
I will be conquered; I will not capitulate.
He delighted to tread upon the brink of meaning.
You see they'd have fitted him to a T.
Samuel Johnson
• 1784.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
The richest author that ever grazed the common of literature.
CLUB — An assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain conditions.
And sure th' Eternal Master found His single talent well employ'd.
Samuel Johnson
• Stanza 7.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Elegy on the Death of Mr. Robert Levet, A Practiser in Physic (1783): Published in The British Magazine and Review, Volume 3 (August 1783), p. 136-137.
The magazine notes: This gentleman, who was patronized while living, and is so elegantly praised now dead, by Dr. Samuel Johnson, had for some years an apartment assigned him in the doctor's house, and a constant place at his table. He was a native of Hull, in Yorkshire; and, though not regularly bred to physic, had acquired a considerable degree of knowledge in the healing art. The nature of his practice, as well as it's success, may be gathered from the eulogium of his, benevolent patron. He died the 17th of January 1782.
)
Nothing is little to him that feels it with great sensibility.
This mournful truth is ev'rywhere confessed — Slow rises worth, by poverty depressed.
An age that melts in unperceiv'd decay, And glides in modest innocence away.
There Poetry shall tune her sacred voice, And wake from ignorance the Western World.
Attack is the reaction; I never think I have hit hard unless it rebounds.
I am a great friend to public amusements; for they keep people from vice.
Samuel Johnson
• 1772.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
His conversation does not show the minute-hand, but he strikes the hour very correctly.
Indeed, the freedom with which Dr. Johnson condemns whatever he disapproves of is astonishing.
Cold approbation gave the ling'ring bays, For those who durst not censure, scarce could praise.
But, scarce observ'd, the knowing and the bold Fall in the gen'ral massacre of gold.
Greek, sir, is like lace; every man gets as much of it as he can.
Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea.
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire, No dangers fright him, and no labors tire.
A man who exposes himself when he is intoxicated, has not the art of getting drunk.
A man may be so much of every thing, that he is nothing of any thing.
I live in the crowd of jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself.
ESSAY — A loose sally of the mind; an irregular indigested piece; not a regular and orderly composition.
Sir, I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance.
Goldsmith, however, was a man who whatever he wrote, did it better than any other man could do.
Samuel Johnson
• 1778.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
Hunting was the labour of the savages of North America, but the amusement of the gentlemen of England.
No man is much pleased with a companion, who does not increase, in some respect, his fondness for himself.
It is man's own fault, it is from want of use, if his mind grows torpid in old age.
PATRON, n. One who countenances, supports or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is repaid in flattery.
A fellow that makes no figure in company, and has a mind as narrow as the neck of a vinegar-cruet.
Samuel Johnson
Tour to the Hebrides, Sept. 30, 1773.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett)
GRUBSTREET — The name of a street near Moorsfield, London, much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems.
The act of writing itself distracts the thoughts, and what is read twice is commonly better remembered than what is transcribed.
A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.
Samuel Johnson
• Quoted in the "Apophthegms, Sentiments, Opinions and Occasional Reflections" of Sir John Hawkins (1787-1789) in Johnsonian Miscellanies (1897), vol. II, p. 11, edited by George Birkbeck Hill
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
Shakspeare never has six lines together without a fault. Perhaps you may find seven: but this does not refute my general assertion.
Were it not for imagination, Sir, a man would be as happy in the arms of a chambermaid as of a Duchess.
In misery's darkest cavern known, His useful care was ever nigh Where hopeless anguish pour'd his groan, And lonely want retir'd to die.
Samuel Johnson
• Stanza 5.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Elegy on the Death of Mr. Robert Levet, A Practiser in Physic (1783): Published in The British Magazine and Review, Volume 3 (August 1783), p. 136-137.
The magazine notes: This gentleman, who was patronized while living, and is so elegantly praised now dead, by Dr. Samuel Johnson, had for some years an apartment assigned him in the doctor's house, and a constant place at his table. He was a native of Hull, in Yorkshire; and, though not regularly bred to physic, had acquired a considerable degree of knowledge in the healing art. The nature of his practice, as well as it's success, may be gathered from the eulogium of his, benevolent patron. He died the 17th of January 1782.
)
I'll come no more behind your scenes, David [Garrick]; for the silk stockings and white bosoms of your actresses excite my amorous propensities.
[Of Lord Chesterfield] This man, I thought, had been a Lord among wits; but, I find, he is only a wit among Lords!
I am inclined to believe that few attacks either of ridicule or invective make much noise, but by the help of those they provoke.
As with my hat upon my head I walk'd along the Strand, I there did meet another man With his hat in his hand.
Samuel Johnson
George Steevens, 310.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Johnsoniana)
Fears of the brave, and follies of the wise! From Marlb'rough's eyes the streams of dotage flow, And Swift expires, a driv'ler and a show.
Then with no throbs of fiery pain, No cold gradations of decay, Death broke at once the vital chain, And freed his soul the nearest way.
Samuel Johnson
• Stanza 9.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Elegy on the Death of Mr. Robert Levet, A Practiser in Physic (1783): Published in The British Magazine and Review, Volume 3 (August 1783), p. 136-137.
The magazine notes: This gentleman, who was patronized while living, and is so elegantly praised now dead, by Dr. Samuel Johnson, had for some years an apartment assigned him in the doctor's house, and a constant place at his table. He was a native of Hull, in Yorkshire; and, though not regularly bred to physic, had acquired a considerable degree of knowledge in the healing art. The nature of his practice, as well as it's success, may be gathered from the eulogium of his, benevolent patron. He died the 17th of January 1782.
)
Mrs. Montagu has dropt me. Now, Sir, there are people whom one should like very well to drop, but would not wish to be dropped by.
My friend was of opinion that when a man of rank appeared in that character [as an author], he deserved to have his merit handsomely allowed.
There is no wisdom in useless and hopeless sorrow; but there is something in it so like virtue, that he who is wholly without it cannot be loved.
Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.
A Frenchman must be always talking, whether he knows anything of the matter or not; an Englishman is content to say nothing, when he has nothing to say.
By Numbers here from Shame or Censure free, All Crimes are safe, but hated Poverty. This, only this, the rigid Law persues, This, only this, provokes the snarling Muse.
To convince any man against his will is hard, but to please him against his will is justly pronounced by Dryden to be above the reach of human abilities.
A desire for knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind; and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to give all he has to get knowledge.
I have always suspected that the reading is right, which requires many words to prove it wrong; and the emendation wrong, that cannot without so much labour appear to he right.
If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in a constant repair.
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 few words.
I have two very cogent reasons for not printing any list of subscribers; — one, that I have lost all the names, — the other, that I have spent all the money.
Samuel Johnson
• 1781, p. 477, Referring to subscribers to his edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare, with Notes (1765).
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791): The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) by James Boswell. The following page numbers are taken from the Great Books edition (see Sources), which is fairly easy to find in U.S. public libraries., Vol IV)
Tom Birch is as brisk as a bee in conversation; but no sooner does he take a pen in his hand than it becomes a torpedo to him, and benumbs all his faculties.
I have, all my life long, been lying till noon; yet I tell all young men, and tell them with great sincerity, that nobody who does not rise early will ever do any good.
It is strange that there should be so little reading in the world, and so much writing. People in general do not willingly read, if they can have any thing else to amuse them.
[The poet] must write as the interpreter of nature and the legislator of mankind, and consider himself as presiding over the thoughts and manners of future generations, as a being superior to time and place.
Life admits not of delays; when pleasure can be had, it is fit to catch it. Every hour takes away part of the things that please us, and perhaps part of our disposition to be pleased.
Let me rejoice in the light which Thou hast imparted; let me serve Thee with active zeal, humbled confidence, and wait with patient expectation for the time in which the soul which Thou receivest shall be satisfied with knowledge.
Samuel Johnson
• Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 613.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes)
As it is necessary not to invite robbery by supineness, so it is our duty not to suppress tenderness by suspicion; it is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.
When learning's triumph o'er her barb'rous foes First reared the stage, immortal Shakespeare rose; Each change of many-colored life he drew, Exhausted worlds, and then imagined new: Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign, And panting Time toiled after him in vain.
Johnson said that he could repeat a complete chapter of "The Natural History of Iceland" from the Danish of Horrebow, the whole of which was exactly thus: "There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island." 62 [Chap. lxxii.]
Samuel Johnson
• 1778.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
It is seldom that we find either men or places such as we expect them. ... Yet it is necessary to hope, though hope should always be deluded, for hope itself is happiness, and its frustrations, however frequent, are yet less dreadful than its extinction.
Philips, whose touch harmonious could remove The pangs of guilty power and hapless love! Rest here, distress'd by poverty no more; Here find that calm thou gav'st so oft before; Sleep undisturb'd within this peaceful shrine, Till angels wake thee with a note like thine!
Samuel Johnson
Epitaph on Claudius Philips, the Musician.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett)
Unmoved though Witlings sneer and Rivals rail, Studious to please, yet not ashamed to fail. He scorns the meek address, the suppliant strain. With merit needless, and without it vain. In Reason, Nature, Truth, he dares to trust: Ye Fops, be silent: and ye Wits, be just.
Sir, he [Bolingbroke] was a scoundrel and a coward: a scoundrel for charging a blunderbuss against religion and morality; a coward, because he had not resolution to fire it off himself, but left half a crown to a beggarly Scotchman to draw the trigger at his death.
Samuel Johnson
• 1754.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett, Life of Johnson (Boswell))
The greater, far the greater number of those who rave and rail, and inquire and accuse, neither suspect nor fear, nor care for the publick; but hope to force their way to riches, by virulence and invective, and are vehement and clamorous, only that they may be sooner hired to be silent.
Pleasure is very seldom found where it is sought. Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks. The flowers which scatter their odours from time to time in the paths of life, grow up without culture from seeds scattered by chance. Nothing is more hopeless than a scheme of merriment.
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 high degree; only about as much as is used in the lower kinds of poetry.
The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honourable gentleman has with such spirit and decency charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny; but content myself with wishing that I may be one of those whose follies may cease with their youth, and not of that number who are ignorant in spite of experience.
Samuel Johnson
Pitt's Reply to Walpole, Speech, March 6, 1741. This is the composition of Johnson, founded on some note or statement of the actual speech. Johnson said, "That speech I wrote in a garret, in Exeter Street." Boswell: Life of Johnson, 1741.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919): John R. Bartlett)
There is a wicked inclination in most people to suppose an old man decayed in his intellects. If a young or middle-aged man, when leaving a company, does not remember where he laid his hat, it is nothing; but if the same inattention is discovered in an old man, people will shrug up their shoulders, and say, "His memory is going."
But it is evident, that these bursts of universal distress are more dreaded than felt; thousands and ten thousands flourish in youth, and wither in age, without the knowledge of any other than domestic evils, and share the same pleasures and vexa­tions, whether their kings are mild or cruel, whether the armies of their country pursue their enemies or retreat before them.
Every man is rich or poor according to the proportion between his desires and his enjoyments; any enlargement of wishes is therefore equally destructive to happiness with the diminution of possession, and he that teaches another to long for what he never shall obtain is no less an enemy to his quiet than if he had robbed him of part of his patrimony.
Dr. Johnson was observed by a musical friend of his to be extremely inattentive at a concert, whilst a celebrated solo player was running up and down the divisions and subdivisions of notes upon his violin. His friend, to induce him to take greater notice of what was going on, told him how extremely difficult it was. 'Difficult, do you call it, Sir?' replied the Doctor; 'I wish it were impossible.'
About Samuel Johnson
Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. printed in Johnsonian Miscellanies, (1897), vol. II, page 308, edited by George Birkbeck Hill
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes about Johnson)
Hume, and other sceptical innovators, are vain men, and will gratify themselves at any expence. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they have betaken themselves to errour. Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull. If I could have allowed myself to gratify my vanity at the expence of truth, what fame might I have acquired.
It ought to be deeply impressed on the minds of all who have voices in this national deliberation, that no man can deserve a seat in parliament, who is not a patriot. No other man will protect our rights: no other man can merit our confidence. A patriot is he whose publick conduct is regulated by one single motive, the love of his country; who, as an agent in parliament, has, for himself, neither hope nor fear, neither kindness nor resentment, but refers every thing to the common interest.
It must be agreed that in most ages many countries have had part of their inhabitants in a state of slavery; yet it may be doubted whether slavery can ever be supposed the natural condition of man. It is impossible not to conceive that men in their original state were equal; and very difficult to imagine how one would be subjected to another but by violent compulsion. An individual may, indeed, forfeit his liberty by a crime; but he cannot by that crime forfeit the liberty of his children.
Mrs. Digby told me that when she lived in London with her sister, Mrs. Brooke, they were every now and then honoured by the visits of Dr. Johnson. He called on them one day soon after the publication of his immortal dictionary. The two ladies paid him due compliments on the occasion. Amongst other topics of praise they very much commended the omission of all naughty words. 'What! my dears! then you have been looking for them?' said the moralist. The ladies, confused at being thus caught, dropped the subject of the dictionary.
About Samuel Johnson
• H.D. Best, Personal and Literary Memorials, London, 1829, printed in Johnsonian Miscellanies, (1897) vol. II, page 390, edited by George Birkbeck Hill
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Quotes about Johnson)
The student who would build his knowledge on solid foundations, and proceed by just degrees to the pinnacles of truth, is directed by the great philosopher of France to begin by doubting of his own existence. In like manner, whoever would complete any arduous and intricate enterprise, should, as soon as his imagination can cool after the first blaze of hope, place before his own eyes every possible embarrassment that may retard or defeat him. He should first question the probability of success, and then endeavour to remove the objections that he has raised.
He that thinks with more extent than another will want words of larger meaning; he that thinks with more subtilty will seek for terms of more nice discrimination; and where is the wonder, since words are but the images of things, that he who never knew the original should not know the copies? Yet vanity inclines us to find faults any where rather than in ourselves. He that reads and grows no wiser, seldom suspects his own deficiency; but complains of hard words and obscure sentences, and asks why books are written which cannot be understood?
A man is very apt to complain of the ingratitude of those who have risen far above him. A man when he gets into a higher sphere, into other habits of life, cannot keep up all his former connections. Then, Sir, those who knew him formerly upon a level with themselves, may think that they ought still to be treated as on a level, which cannot be; and an acquaintance in a former situation may bring out things which it would be very disagreeable to have mentioned before higher company, though, perhaps, everybody knows of them.
[Imlac continues] "It was never supposed that cogitation is inherent in matter, or that every particle is a thinking being. Yet, if any part of matter be devoid of thought, what part can we suppose to think? Matter can differ from matter only in form, density, bulk, motion, and direction of motion: to which of these, however varied or combined, can consciousness be annexed? To be round or square, to be solid or fluid, to be great or little, to be moved slowly or swiftly one way or another, are modes of material existence, all equally alien from the nature of cogitation. If matter be once without thought, it can only be made to think by some new modification, but all the modifications which it can admit are equally unconnected with cogitative powers."
referencesmark sv:Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
• Source: Wikiquote: "Samuel Johnson" (Sources: Boswell. Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Great Books of the Western World, vol. 44. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1952. (Reprinted in the 1990 edition as vol. 41.))
To-morrow's action! Can that hoary wisdom, Borne down with years, still doat upon tomorrow! That fatal mistress of the young, the lazy, The coward, and the fool, condemn'd to lose A useless life in waiting for to-morrow, To gaze with longing eyes upon to-morrow, Till interposing death destroys the prospect Strange! that this general fraud from day to day Should fill the world with wretches undetected. The soldier, labouring through a winter's march, Still sees to-morrow drest in robes of triumph; Still to the lover's long-expecting arms To-morrow brings the visionary bride. But thou, too old to hear another cheat, Learn, that the present hour alone is man's.
A man sometimes starts up a patriot, only by disseminating discontent, and propagating reports of secret influence, of dangerous counsels, of violated rights, and encroaching usurpation. This practice is no certain note of patriotism. To instigate the populace with rage beyond the provocation, is to suspend publick happiness, if not to destroy it. He is no lover of his country, that unnecessarily disturbs its peace. Few errours and few faults of government, can justify an appeal to the rabble; who ought not to judge of what they cannot understand, and whose opinions are not propagated by reason, but caught by contagion. The fallaciousness of this note of patriotism is particularly apparent, when the clamour continues after the evil is past.
...I never knew any man who relished good eating more than he did. When at table, he was totally absorbed in the business of the moment; his looks seemed riveted to his plate; nor would he, unless when in very high company, say one word, or even pay the least attention to what was said by others, till he had satisfied his appetite; which was so fierce, and indulged with such intenseness, that while in the act of eating, the veins of his forehead swelled, and generally a strong perspiration was visible. To those whose sensations were delicate, this could not but be disgusting; and it was doubtless not very suitable to the character of a philosopher, who should be distinguished by self-command.
A lawyer has no business with the justice or injustice of the cause which he undertakes, unless his client asks his opinion, and then he is bound to give it honestly. The justice or injustice of the cause is to be decided by the judge. Consider, sir; what is the purpose of courts of justice? It is, that every man may have his cause fairly tried, by men appointed to try causes. A lawyer is not to tell what he knows to be a lie: he is not to produce what he knows to be a false deed; but he is not to usurp the province of the jury and of the judge, and determine what shall be the effect of evidence — what shall be the result of legal argument.
It is the fate of those, who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward. Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries, whom mankind have considered, not as the pupil, but the slave of science, the pioneer of literature, doomed only to remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths through which Learning and Genius press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach, and even this negative recompense has been yet granted to very few.
It is not by comparing line with line, that the merit of great works is to be estimated, but by their general effects and ultimate result. It is easy to note a weak line, and write one more vigorous in its place; to find a happiness of expression in the original, and transplant it by force into the version: but what is given to the parts may be subducted from the whole, and the reader may be weary, though the critick may commend. Works of imagination excel by their allurement and delight; by their power of attracting and detaining the attention. That book is good in vain, which the reader throws away. He only is the master, who keeps the mind in pleasing captivity; whose pages are perused with eagerness, and in hope of new pleasure are perused again; and whose conclusion is perceived with an eye of sorrow, such as the traveller casts upon departing day.
All the performances of human art, at which we look with praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance: it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united with canals. If a man was to compare the effect of a single stroke of the pick-axe, or of one impression of the spade, with the general design and last result, he would be overwhelmed by the sense of their disproportion; yet those petty operations, incessantly continued, in time surmount the greatest difficulties, and mountains are levelled, and oceans bounded, by the slender force of human beings. It is therefore of the utmost importance that those, who have any intention of deviating from the beaten roads of life, and acquiring a reputation superior to names hourly swept away by time among the refuse of fame, should add to their reason, and their spirit, the power of persisting in their purposes; acquire the art of sapping what they cannot batter, and the habit of vanquishing obstinate resistance by obstinate attacks.
“That the dead are seen no more,” said Imlac, “I will not undertake to maintain against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages and of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion, which perhaps prevails as far as human nature is diffused, could become universal only by its truth: those that never heard of one another would not have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers can very little weaken the general evidence, and some who deny it with their tongues confess it by their fears. “Yet I do not mean to add new terrors to those which have already seized upon Pekuah. There can be no reason why spectres should haunt the Pyramid more than other places, or why they should have power or will to hurt innocence and purity. Our entrance is no violation of their privileges: we can take nothing from them; how, then, can we offend them?”

End Samuel Johnson Quotes