Reference > Quotations > C.N. Douglas, comp. > Forty Thousand Quotations > Primary Author Index
C.N. Douglas, comp.  Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical.  1917.
        And how can man die better
  Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers
  And the temple of his gods?
        But thou, through good and evil, praise and blame,
  Wilt not thou love me for myself alone?
Yes, thou wilt love me with exceeding love,
  And I will tenfold all that love repay;
Still smiling, though the tender may reprove,
  Still faithful, though the trusted may betray.
  A Grecian history, perfectly written should be a complete record of the rise and progress of poetry, philosophy, and the arts.  3
  A perfect historian must possess an imagination sufficiently powerful to make his narrative affecting and picturesque; yet he must control it so absolutely as to content himself with the materials which he finds, and to refrain from supplying deficiencies by additions of his own. He must be a profound and ingenious reasoner; yet he must possess sufficient self-command to abstain from casting his facts in the mould of his hypothesis.  4
  A politician must often talk and act before he has thought and read. He may be very ill informed respecting a question: all his notions about it may be vague and inaccurate; but speak he must. And if he is a man of ability, of tact, and of intrepidity, he soon finds that, even under such circumstances, it is possible to speak successfully.  5
  A tact which surpassed the tact of her sex as much as the tact of her sex surpasses the tact of ours.  6
  A vice sanctioned by the general opinion is merely a vice. The evil terminates in itself. A vice condemned by the general opinion produces a pernicious effect on the whole character. The former is a local malady; the latter, constitutional taint. When the reputation of the offender is lost, he too often flings the remainder of his virtue after it in despair.  7
  Admirable as he was in all parts of his art, we most admire him for this, that while he has left us a greater number of striking portraits than all other dramatists put together, he has scarcely left us a single caricature.  8
  Alas, for human nature that the wounds of vanity should smart and bleed so much longer than the wounds of affection!  9
  All the walks of literature are infested with mendicants for fame, who attempt to excite our interest by exhibiting all the distortions of their intellects and stripping the covering from all the putrid sores of their feelings.  10
  And she (the Roman Catholic Church) may still exist in undiminished vigor, when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.  11
  As freedom is the only safeguard of governments, so are order and moderation generally necessary to preserve freedom.  12
  At present, the novels which we owe to English ladies form no small part of the literary glory of our country. No class of works is more honorably distinguished for fine observation, by grace, by delicate wit, by pure moral feeling.  13
  At the time when that odious style which deforms the writings of Hall and of Lord Bacon was almost universal, had appeared that stupendous work, the English Bible,—a book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power.  14
  Beards, in olden times, were the emblems of wisdom and piety.  15
  Both in individuals and in masses violent excitement is always followed by remission, and often by reaction. We are all inclined to depreciate whatever we have overpraised, and, on the other hand, to show undue indulgence where we have shown undue rigor.  16
  Byron owed the vast influence which he exercised over his contemporaries at least as much to his gloomy egotism as to the real power of his poetry.  17
  Complete self-devotion is woman’s part.  18
  Even Holland and Spain have been positively, though not relatively, advancing.  19
  Every age and every nation has certain characteristic vices, which prevail almost universally, which scarcely any person scruples to avow, and which even rigid moralists but faintly censure. Succeeding generations change the fashion of their morals with the fashion of their hats and their coaches; take some other kind of wickedness under their patronage, and wonder at the depravity of their ancestors.  20
  Every generation enjoys the use of a vast hoard bequeathed to it by antiquity, and transmits that hoard, augmented by fresh acquisitions, to future ages.  21
  Every political sect has its esoteric and its exoteric school—its abstract doctrines for the initiated; its visible symbols, its imposing forms, its mythological fables, for the vulgar.  22
  Every sect clamors for toleration when it is down.  23
  Facts are the mere dross of history. It is from the abstract truth which interpenetrates them, and lies latent among them, like gold in the ore, that the mass derives its whole value; and the precious particles are generally combined with the baser in such a manner that the separation is a task of the utmost difficulty.  24
  Few of the many wise apothegms which have been uttered, from the time of the seven sages of Greece to that of poor Richard, have prevented a single foolish action.  25
  Finesse is the best adaptation of means to circumstances.  26
  Footprints of history on the pages of time.  27
  Free trade, one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is in almost every country unpopular.  28
  Genius is subject to the same laws which regulate the production of cotton and molasses.  29
  Good by reason of its exceeding badness.  30
  Great minds do indeed react on the society which has made them what they are; but they only pay with interest what they have received.  31
  Grief, which disposes gentle natures to retirement, to inaction, and to meditation, only makes restless spirits more restless.  32
  Half-knowledge is worse than ignorance.  33
  He had a head which statuaries loved to copy, and a foot the deformity of which the beggars in the streets mimicked.  34
  He who, in an enlightened and literary society, aspires to be a great poet, must first become a little child.  35
  Highest among those who have exhibited human nature by means of dialogue stands Shakespeare. His variety is like the variety of nature,—endless diversity, scarcely any monstrosity.  36
  “I am always nearest to myself,” says the Latin proverb.  37
  If ever Shakespeare rants, it is not when his imagination is hurrying him along, but when he is hurrying his imagination along.  38
  If the Sunday had not been observed as a day of rest during the last three centuries, I have not the slightest doubt that we should have been at this moment a poorer people and less civilized.  39
  In after-life you may have friends—fond, dear friends; but never will you have again the inexpressible love and gentleness lavished upon you which none but a mother bestows.  40
  In employing fiction to make truth clear and goodness attractive, we are only following the example which every Christian ought to propose to himself.  41
  In taste and imagination, in the graces of style, in the arts of persuasion, in the magnificence of public works, the ancients were at least our equals.  42
  In the modern languages there was not, six hundred years ago, a single volume which is now read. The library of our profound scholar must have consisted entirely of Latin books.  43
  In the plays of Shakespeare man appears as he is, made up of a crowd of passions which contend for the mastery over him, and govern him in turn.  44
  In truth it may be laid down as an almost universal rule that good poets are bad critics.  45
  It is certain that satirical poems were common at Rome from a very early period. The rustics, who lived at a distance from the seat of government, and took little part in the strife of factions, gave vent to their petty local animosities in coarse Fescennine verse.  46
  It is possible to be below flattery as well as above it. One who trusts nobody will not trust sycophants. One who does not value real glory will not value its counterfeit.  47
  It is the age that forms the man, not the man that forms the age.  48
  It was before Deity embodied in a human form, walking among men, partaking of their infirmities, leaning on their bosoms, weeping over their graves, slumbering in the manger, bleeding on the cross, that the prejudices of the synagogue, and the doubts of the academy, and the pride of the portico, and the fasces of the lictor, and the swords of thirty legions were humbled in the dust.  49
  Knowledge advances by steps, and not by leaps.  50
  Language is the machine of the poet.  51
  Many politicians are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim.  52
  Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely.  53
  Men naturally sympathize with the calamities of individuals; but they are inclined to look on a fallen party with contempt rather than with pity.  54
  Men of great conversational powers almost universally practice a sort of lively sophistry and exaggeration which deceives for the moment both themselves and their auditors.  55
  Mere negation, mere Epicurean infidelity, as Lord Bacon most justly observes, has never disturbed the peace of the world. It furnishes no motive for action; it inspires no enthusiasm; it has no missionaries, no crusades, no martyrs.  56
  Office of itself does much to equalize politicians. It by no means brings all characters to a level; but it does bring high characters down and low characters up towards a common standard.  57
  Only imagine a man acting for one single day on the supposition that all his neighbors believe all that they profess, and act up to all that they believe!  58
  Our estimate of a character always depends much on the manner in which that character affects our own interests and passions.  59
  Out of his surname they have coined an epithet for a knave, and out of his Christian name a synonyme for the Devil.  60
  People who take no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants.  61
  Politeness has been well defined as benevolence in small things.  62
  Popularity is power.  63
  Power, safely defied, touches its downfall.  64
  Propriety of thought and propriety of diction are commonly found together. Obscurity and affectation are the two great faults of style. Obscurity of expression generally springs from confusion of ideas; and the same wish to dazzle, at any cost, which produces affectation in the manner of a writer, is likely to produce sophistry in his reasoning.  65
  Queen Mary had a way of interrupting tattle about elopements, duels, and play debts, by asking the tattlers, very quietly yet significantly, whether they had ever read her favorite sermon—Dr. Tillotson on Evil Speaking.  66
  Satire is, indeed, the only sort of composition in which the Latin poets whose works have come down to us were not mere imitators of foreign models; and it is therefore the sort of composition in which they have never been excelled.  67
  Scotland by no means escaped the fate ordained for every country which is connected, but not incorporated, with another country of greater resources.  68
  Sense can support herself handsomely in most countries on some eighteen pence a day; but for fantasy, planets and solar systems, will not suffice.  69
  Sir Anthony Absolute, two or three years before Evelina appeared, spoke the sense of the great body of sober fathers and husbands when he pronounced the circulating library an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge.  70
  So true it is, that nature has caprices which art cannot imitate.  71
  That is the best government which desires to make the people happy, and knows how to make them happy. Neither the Inclination nor the knowledge will suffice alone; and it is difficult to find them together. Pure democracy, and pure democracy alone, satisfies the former condition of this great problem.  72
  That wonderful book, while it obtains admiration from the most fastidious critics, is loved by those who are too simple to admire it.  73
  The art of making much show with little substance.  74
  The ascendency of the sacerdotal order was long the ascendency which naturally and properly belonged to intellectual superiority.  75
  The business of the dramatist is to keep himself out of sight, and to let nothing appear but his characters. As soon as he attracts notice to his personal feelings, the illusion is broken.  76
  The desire of posthumous fame and the dread of posthumous reproach and execration are feelings from the influence of which scarcely any man is perfectly free, and which in many men are powerful and constant motives of action.  77
  The doctrine which, from the very first origin of religious dissensions, has been held by bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words and stripped of rhetorical disguise, is simply this: I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me, for it is your duty to tolerate truth; but when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you, for it is my duty to persecute error.  78
  The effective strength of sects is not to be ascertained merely by counting heads.  79
  The end of government is the happiness of the people.  80
  The good-humor of a man elated with success often displays itself towards enemies.  81
  The hearts of men are their books, events are their tutors, great actions are their eloquence.  82
  The knowledge of the theory of logic has no tendency whatever to make men good reasoners.  83
  The memory of other authors is kept alive by their works, but the memory of Johnson keeps many of his works alive.  84
  The most beautiful object in the world, it will be allowed, is a beautiful woman. But who that can analyze his feelings is not sensible that she owes her fascination less to grace of outline and delicacy of color than to a thousand associations which, often unperceived by ourselves, connect these qualities with the source of our existence, with the nourishment of our infancy, with the passions of our youth, with the hopes of our age,—with elegance, with vivacity, with tenderness, with the strongest natural instincts, with the dearest of social ties?  85
  The object of oratory alone is not truth, but persuasion.  86
  The opinion of the great body of the reading public is very materially influenced even by the unsupported assertions of those who assume a right to criticise.  87
  The Orientals have another word for accident; it is “kismet,”—fate.  88
  The passages in which Milton has alluded to his own circumstances are perhaps read more frequently, and with more interest, than any other lines in his poems.  89
  The perfect disinterestedness and self-devotion of which men seem incapable, but which is sometimes found in women.  90
  The real object of the drama is the exhibition of the human character.  91
  The real security of Christianity is to be found in its benevolent morality, in its exquisite adaptation to the human heart, in the facility with which its scheme accommodates itself to the capacity of every human intellect, in the consolation which it bears to every house of mourning, in the light with which it brightens the great mystery of the grave.  92
  The Saviour of mankind Himself, in whose blameless life malice could find no act to impeach, has been called in question for words spoken.  93
  The study of the properties of numbers, Plato tells us, habituates the mind to the contemplation of pure truth, and raises us above the material universe. He would have his disciples apply themselves to this study, not that they may be able to buy or sell, not that they may qualify themselves to be shopkeepers or travelling merchants, but that they may learn to withdraw their minds from the ever-shifting spectacle of this visible and tangible world, and to fix them on the immutable essences of things.  94
  The temple of silence and reconciliation.  95
  The upper current of society presents no certain criterion by which we can judge of the direction in which the under current flows.  96
  The whole history of Christianity proves that she has indeed little to fear from persecution as a foe, but much to fear from persecution as an ally.  97
  There are countries in which it would be as absurd to establish popular governments as to abolish all the restraints in a school or to unite all the strait-waistcoats in a madhouse.  98
  “There is no difficulty,” says the steward of Molière’s miser, “in giving a fine dinner with plenty of money; the really great cook is he who can set out a banquet with no money at all.”  99
  There was, it is said, a criminal in Italy who was suffered to make his choice between Guicciardini and the galleys. He chose the history. But the war of Pisa was too much for him; he changed his mind, and went to the oars.  100
  This is the highest miracle of genius, that things which are not should be as though they were, that the imaginations of one mind should become the personal recollections of another.  101
  Those who have read history with discrimination know the fallacy of those panegyrics and invectives which represent individuals as effecting great moral and intellectual revolutions, subverting established systems, and imprinting a new character on their age. The difference between one man and another is by no means so great as the superstitious crowd suppose.  102
  Those who seem to lead the public taste are, in general, merely outrunning it in the direction which it is spontaneously pursuing.  103
  To be a really good historian is perhaps the rarest of intellectual distinctions.  104
  War is never lenient but where it is wanton; where men are compelled to fight in self-defence, they must hate and avenge. This may be bad, but it is human nature; it is the clay as it came from the hands of the Potter.  105
  We deplore the outrages which accompany revolutions. But the more violent the outrages, the more assured we feel that a revolution was necessary.  106
  We do not think it necessary to prove that a quack medicine is poison; let the vender prove it to be sanative.  107
  We hold that the most wonderful and splendid proof of genius is a great poem produced in a civilized age.  108
  We must judge of a form of government by its general tendency, not by happy accidents. Every form of government has its happy accidents. Despotism has its happy accidents. Yet we are not disposed to abolish all constitutional checks, to place an absolute master over us, and to take our chances whether he may be a Caligula or a Marcus Aurelius.  109
  We must succumb to the general influence of the times. No man can be of the tenth century, if he would; be must be a man of the nineteenth century.  110
  We never could clearly understand how it is that egotism, so unpopular in conversation, should be so popular in writing.  111
  What proposition is there respecting human nature which is absolutely and universally true? We know of only one,—and that is not only true, but identical,—that men always act from self-interest.  112
  What society wants is a new motive, not a new cant.  113
  When the great Kepler had at length discovered the harmonic laws that regulate the motions of the heavenly bodies, he exclaimed: “Whether my discoveries will be read by posterity or by my contemporaries is a matter that concerns them more than me. I may well be contented to wait one century for a reader, when God Himself, during so many thousand years, has waited for an observer like myself.”  114

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