Reference > Quotations > C.N. Douglas, comp. > Forty Thousand Quotations > Primary Author Index
C.N. Douglas, comp.  Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical.  1917.
  A composition which dazzles at first sight by gaudy epithets, or brilliant turns or expression, or glittering trains of imagery, may fade gradually from the mind, leaving no enduring impression; but words which flow fresh and warm from a full heart, and which are instinct with the life and breath of human feeling, pass into household memories, and partake of the immortality of the affections from which they spring.  1
  A large portion of human beings live not so much in themselves as in what they desire to be. They create what is called an ideal character, in an ideal form, whose perfections compensate in some degree for the imperfections of their own.  2
  A man of letters is often a man with two natures,—one a book nature, the other a human nature, often clash sadly.  3
  A nation may be in a tumult to-day for a thought which the timid Erasmus placidly penned in his study more than two centuries ago.  4
  “A person with a bad name is already half hanged,” saith the old proverb.  5
  A politician weakly and amiably in the right is no match for a politician tenaciously and pugnaciously in the wrong. You cannot, by tying an opinion, to a man’s tongue, make him the representative of that opinion; and at the close of any battle for principles, his name will be found neither among the dead nor among the wounded, but among the missing.  6
  A thought embodied and embrained in fit words walks the earth a living being.  7
  A true teacher should penetrate, to whatever is vital in his pupil, and develop that by the light and heat of his own intelligence.  8
  A writer who attempts to live on the manufacture of his imagination is continually coquetting with starvation.  9
  An epigram often flashes light into regions where reason shines but dimly. Holmes disposed of a bigot at once, when he compared his mind to the pupil of the eye,—the more light you let into it the more it contracts.  10
  An imposing air should always be taken as an evidence of imposition. Dignity is often a veil between us and the truth of things.  11
  As men neither fear nor respect what has been made contemptible, all honor to him who makes oppression laughable as well as detestable. Armies cannot protect it then; and walls which have remained impenetrable to cannon have fallen before a roar of laughter or a hiss of contempt.  12
  Books,—lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.  13
  But the conceit of one’s self and the conceit of one’s hobby are hardly more prolific of eccentricity than the conceit of one’s money. Avarice, the most hateful and wolfish of all the hard, cool, callous dispositions of selfishness, has its own peculiar caprices and crotchets. The ingenuities of its meanness defy all the calculations of reason, and reach the miraculous in subtlety.  14
  Cervantes shrewdly advises to lay a bridge of silver for a flying enemy.  15
  Character is the spiritual body of the person, and represents the individualization of vital experience, the conversion of unconscious things into self-conscious men.  16
  Conservatism is a very good thing; but how many conservatives announce principles which might have shocked Dick Turpin, or nonsensicalities flat enough to have raised contempt in Jerry Sneak!  17
  Dignity is often a veil between us and the real truth of things.  18
  Do we, mad as we all are after riches, hear often enough from the pulpit the spirit of those words in which Dean Swift, in his epitaph on the affluent and profligate Colonel Chartres, announces the small esteem of wealth in the eyes of God, from the fact of His thus lavishing it upon the meanest and basest of His creatures?  19
  Even in social life, it is persistency which attracts confidence, more than talents and accomplishments.  20
  Every author, indeed, who really influences the mind, who plants in it thoughts and sentiments which take root and grow, communicates his character. Error and immorality—two words for one thing, for error is the immorality of the intellect, and immorality the error of the heart—these escape from him if they are in him, and pass into the recipient mind through subtle avenues invisible to consciousness.  21
  Every style formed elaborately on any model must be affected and straight-laced.  22
  Everybody knows that fanaticism is religion caricatured; bears, indeed, about the same relation to it that a monkey bears to a man; yet, with many, contempt of fanaticism is received as a sure sign of hostility to religion.  23
  Felicity, not fluency, of language is a merit.  24
  From Lucifer to Jerry Sneak there is not an aspect of evil, imperfection, and littleness which can elude the lights of humor or the lightning of wit.  25
  From the hour of the invention of printing, books, and not kings, were to rule the world. Weapons forged in the mind, keen-edged, and brighter than a sunbeam, were to supplant the sword and battle-axe.  26
  Genius is not a single power, but a combination of great powers. It reasons, but it is not reasoning; it judges, but it is not judgment; it imagines, but it is not imagination; it feels deeply and fiercely, but it is not passion. It is neither, because it is all.  27
  Genius may be almost defined as the faculty of acquiring poverty.  28
  God is glorified, not by our groans, but our thanksgivings; and all good thought and good action claim a natural alliance with good cheer.  29
  God, in His wrath, has not left this world to the mercy of the subtlest dialectician; and all arguments are happily transitory in their effect when they contradict the primal intuitions of conscience and the inborn sentiments of the heart.  30
  Grit is the grain of character. It may generally be described as heroism materialized,—spirit and will thrust into heart, brain, and backbone, so as to form part of the physical substance of the man.  31
  Heroism is no extempore work of transient impulse—a rocket rushing fretfully up to disturb the darkness by which, after a moment’s insulting radiance, it is ruthlessly swallowed up,—but a steady fire, which darts forth tongues of flame. It is no sparkling epigram of action, but a luminous epic of character.  32
  Humor implies a sure conception of the beautiful, the majestic, and the true, by whose light it surveys and shapes their opposites. It is an humane influence, softening with mirth the ragged inequalities of existence, prompting tolerant views of life, bridging over the spaces which separate the lofty from the lowly, the great from the humble.  33
  Humor, warm and all-embracing as the sunshine, bathes its objects in a genial and abiding light.  34
  In most old communities there is a common sense even in sensuality. Vice itself gets gradually digested into a system, is amenable to certain laws of conventional propriety and honor, has for its object simply the gratification of its appetites, and frowns with quite a conservative air on all new inventions, all untried experiments in iniquity.  35
  Irony is an insult conveyed in the form of a compliment  *  *  *  placing its victim naked on a bed of briars and bristles, thinly covered with rose-leaves; adorning his brow with a crown of gold, which burns into his brain; teasing, and fretting, and riddling him through and through with incessant discharges of hot shot from a masked battery; laying bare the most sensitive and shrinking nerves of his mind, and then blandly touching them with ice, or smilingly pricking them with needles.  36
  It is at once the thinnest and most effective of all the coverings under which duncedom sneaks and skulks.  37
  It marries ideas lying wide apart, by a sudden jerk of the understanding.  38
  Lord Chatham and Napoleon were as much actors as Garrick or Talma. Now, an imposing air should always be taken as evidence of imposition. Dignity is often a veil between us and the real truth of things.  39
  Man, being essentially active, must find in activity his joy, as well as his beauty and glory; and labor, like everything else that is good, is its own reward.  40
  Men educate each other in reason by contact or collision, and keep each other sane by the very conflict of their separate hobbies. Society as a whole is the deadly enemy of the particular crotchet of each, and solitude is almost the only condition in which the acorn of conceit can grow to the oak of perfect self-delusion.  41
  Mirth is a Proteus, changing its shape and manner with the thousand diversities of individual character, from the most superfluous gayety to the deepest, most earnest humor.  42
  My Lord Anson, at the Admiralty, sends word to Chatham, then confined to his chamber by one of his most violent attacks of the gout, that it is impossible for him to fit out a naval expedition within the period to which he is limited. “Impossible!” cried Chatham, glaring at the messenger; “who talks to me of impossibilities?” Then starting to his feet, and forcing out great drops of agony on his brow with the excruciating torment of the effort, he exclaimed, “Tell Lord Anson that he serves under a minister who treads on impossibilities!”  43
  Nature and society are so replete with startling contrasts that wit often consists in the mere statement and comparison of facts, as when Hume says that the ancient Muscovites wedded their wives with a whip instead of a ring.  44
  Nature does not capriciously scatter her secrets as golden gifts to lazy pets and luxurious darlings, but imposes tasks when she presents opportunities, and uplifts him whom she would inform. The apple that she drops at the feet of Newton is but a coy invitation to follow her to the stars.  45
  No education deserves the name unless it develops thought, unless it pierces down to the mysterious spiritual principle of mind, and starts that into activity and growth.  46
  No language can fitly express the meanness, the baseness, the brutality, with which the world has ever treated its victims of one age and boasts of the next. Dante is worshipped at that grave to which he was hurried by persecution. Milton, in his own day, was “Mr. Milton, the blind adder, that spit his venom on the king’s person”; and soon after, “the mighty orb of song.” These absurd transitions from hatred to apotheosis, this recognition just at the moment when it becomes a mockery, saddens all intellectual history.  47
  Nothing is rarer than the use of a word in its exact meaning.  48
  Nothing really succeeds which is not based on reality; sham, in a large sense, is never successful; in the life of the individual, as in the more comprehensive life of the state, pretention is nothing and power is everything.  49
  Of the three requisitions of genius, the first is soul, and the second, soul, and the third, soul.  50
  Pretension is nothing; power is everything.  51
  Sin, every day, takes out a patent for some new invention.  52
  Some men find happiness in gluttony and in drunkenness, but no delicate viands can touch their taste with the thrill of pleasure, and what generosity there is in wine steadily refuses to impart its glow to their shriveled hearts.  53
  Sydney Smith playfully says that common sense was invented by Socrates, that philosopher having been one of its most conspicuous exemplars in conducting the contest of practical sagacity against stupid prejudice and illusory beliefs.  54
  Talent is a cistern; genius, a fountain.  55
  Talent repeats; genius creates. Talent is a cistern; genius a fountain. Talent deals with the actual, with discovered and realized truths, analyzing, arranging, combining, applying positive knowledge, and in action looking to precedents; genius deals with the possible, creates new combinations, discovers new laws, and acts from an insight into principles. Talent jogs to conclusions to which genius takes giant leaps. Talent accumulates knowledge, and has it packed up in the memory; genius assimilates it with its own substance, grows with every new accession, and converts knowledge into power. Talent gives out what it has taken in; genius what has risen from its unsounded wells of living thought. Talent, in difficult situations, strives to untie knots, which genius instantly cuts with one swift decision. Talent is full of thoughts, genius of thought; one has definite acquisitions, the other indefinite power.  56
  Tears are copiously showered over frailties the discoverer takes a malicious delight in circulating; and thus, all granite on one side of the heart, and all milk on the other, the unsexed scandal-monger hies from house to house, pouring balm from its weeping eyes on the wounds it inflicts with its stabbing tongue.  57
  The bitterest satires and noblest eulogies on married life have come from poets.  58
  The contemplation of beauty in nature, in art, in literature, in human character, diffuses through our being a soothing and subtle joy, by which the heart’s anxious and aching cares are softly smiled away.  59
  The essence of the ludicrous consists in surprise,—in unexpected terms of feeling and explosions of thought,—often bringing dissimilar things together with a shock; as when some wit called Boyle, the celebrated philosopher, the father of chemistry and brother of the Earl of Cork.  60
  The eye observes only what the mind, the heart, and the imagination are gifted to see; and sight must be reinforced by insight before souls can be discerned as well as manners, ideas as well as objects, realities and relations as well as appearances and accidental connections.  61
  The familiar writer is apt to be his own satirist. Out of his own mouth is he judged.  62
  The great characteristic of men of active genius is a sublime self-confidence, springing not from self-conceit, but from an intense identification of the man with his object, which lifts him altogether above the fear of danger and death, which gives to his enterprise a character of insanity to the common eye, and which communicates an almost superhuman audacity to his will.  63
  The greatness of action includes immoral as well as moral greatness—Cortes and Napoleon, as well as Luther and Washington.  64
  The inborn geniality of some people amounts to genius.  65
  The invention of printing added a new element of power to the race. From that hour, in a most especial sense, the brain and not the arm, the thinker and not the soldier, books and not kings, were to rule the world; and weapons, forged in the mind, keen-edged and brighter than the sunbeam, were to supplant the sword and the battle-axe.  66
  The laughter which it creates is impish and devilish, the very mirth of fiends, and its wit the gleam and glare of infernal light.  67
  The minister’s brain is often the “poor-box” of the church.  68
  The purity of the critical ermine, like that of the judicial, is often soiled by contact with politics.  69
  The saddest failures in life are those that come from the not putting forth of power and will to succeed.  70
  The strife of politics tends to unsettle the calmest understanding, and ulcerate the most benevolent heart. There are no bigotries or absurdities too gross for parties to create or adopt under the stimulus of political passions.  71
  The very large, very respectable, and very knowing class of misanthropes who rejoice in the name of grumblers,—persons who are so sure that the world is going to ruin, that they resent every attempt to comfort them as an insult to their sagacity, and accordingly seek their chief consolation in being inconsolable, their chief pleasure in being displeased.  72
  The wise men of old have sent most of their morality down to the stream of time in the light skiff of apothegm or epigram; and the proverbs of nations, which embody the common sense of nations, have the brisk concussion of the most sparkling wit.  73
  There is a natural disposition with us to judge an author’s personal character by the character of his works. We find it difficult to understand the common antithesis of a good writer and a bad man.  74
  There is a serious and resolute egotism that makes a man interesting to his friends and formidable to his opponents.  75
  “There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight,” says Goethe. “I would open every one of Argus’ hundred eyes before I used one of Briareus’ hundred hands,” says Lord Bacon. “Look before you leap,” says John Smith, all over the world.  76
  There seem to be some persons, the favorites of fortune and darlings of nature, who are born cheerful. ”A star danced” at their birth. It is no superficial visibility, but a bountiful and beneficent soul that sparkles in their eyes and smiles on their lips. Their inborn geniality amounts to genius,—the rare and difficult genius which creates sweet and wholesome character, and radiates cheer.  77
  True wisdom, indeed, springs from the wide brain which is fed from the deep heart; and it is only when age warms its withering conceptions at the memory of its youthful fire, when it makes experience serve aspiration, and knowledge illumine the difficult paths through which thoughts thread their way into facts,—it is only then that age becomes broadly and nobly wise.  78
  We all originally came from the woods! it is hard to eradicate from any of us the old taste for the tattoo and the war-paint; and the moment that money gets into our pockets, it somehow or another breaks out in ornaments on our person, without always giving refinement to our manners.  79
  We like the fine extravagance of that philosopher who declared that no man was as rich as all men ought to be.  80
  What a lesson, indeed, is all history and all life to the folly and fruitlessness of pride! The Egyptian kings had their embalmed bodies preserved in massive pyramids, to obtain an earthly immortality. In the seventeenth century they were sold as quack medicines, and now they are burnt for fuel! The Egyptian mummies, which Cambyses or time hath spared, avarice now consumeth. Mummy is become merchandise.  81
  What a man does with his wealth depends upon his idea of happiness. Those who draw prizes in life are apt to spend tastelessly, if not viciously; not knowing that it requires as much talent to spend as to make.  82
  What does competency in the long run mean? It means to all reasonable beings, cleanliness of person, decency of dress, courtesy of manners, opportunities for education, the delights of leisure, and the bliss of giving.  83
  Whenever you find Humor, you find Pathos close by its side.  84
  Wit implies hatred or contempt of folly and crime, produces its effects by brisk shocks of surprise, uses the whip of scorpions and the branding-iron, stabs, stings, pinches, tortures, goads, teases, corrodes, undermines.  85
  Wit is an unexpected explosion of thought.  86
  Wit, bright, rapid, and blasting as the lightning, flashes, strikes, and vanishes, in an instant; humor, warm and all-embracing as the sunshine, bathes its object in a genial and abiding light.  87

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