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There is something that is much more scarce, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability.
They are able because they think they are able.
Natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study.
Speak no evil of an absent friend. (Non male loquare absenti amico.)
Seldom seen, soon forgotten.
The pain without the peace of death.
The absent are as good as dead.
The absent and the dead have no friends.
Absence makes the heart go wander.
Abstemiousness And Gluttony
To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.
If you find honey, eat just enough—
too much of it, and you will vomit.
Nothing under the sun is ever accidental.
If someone accuses you for something you haven't done he either has done it himself or he would do it if he were you.
No man has lived to much purpose unless he has built a house, begotten a son, or written a book.
Never mistake activity for achievement.
Accomplishing something provides the only real satisfaction in life.
The wisest man I have ever known once said to me: "Nine out of every ten people improve on acquaintance," and I have found his words true.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min'?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?
If a man is worth knowing at all, he is worth knowing well.
Acquaintance, n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.
A wise man knows everything; a shrewd one, everybody.
There are two kinds of people: those who don't do what they want to do, so they write down in a diary about what they haven't done, and those who haven't time to write about it because they're out doing it.
I plow, but I do not write about plowing.
It seems to me that man is made to act rather than to know: the principles of things escape our most persevering researches.
Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.
The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in times of moral crisis, do nothing.
To an active mind, indolence is more painful than labor.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
"He means well" is useless unless he does well.
The inactivity of a conqueror betrays the loss of strength and blood …
No matter how big and tough a problem may be, get rid of confusion by taking one little step toward solution. Do something.
Colonel Brighton: Look, sir, we can't just do nothing.
General Allenby: Why not? It's usually best.
No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
This world, where much is to be done and little to be known.
Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes.
We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.
I never worry about action, but only about inaction.
Actors are a nuisance in the earth, the very offal of society.
[Studio official's assessment of Fred Astaire:] Can't act. Slightly bald. Also dances.
In the Garden of Eden sat Adam,
Massaging the bust of his madam,
He chuckled with mirth,
For he knew that on earth,
There were only two boobs and he had 'em.
What could Adam have done to God that made Him put Eve in the garden?
The tomb of Adam! How touching it was, here in a land of strangers, far away from home, and friends, and all who cared for me, thus to discover the grave of a blood relation. True, a distant one, but still a relation.
It's like I have a shotgun in my mouth, and I've got my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal.
As to the adjective, when in doubt strike it out.
The adjective is the enemy of the noun.
Admiration is a very short-lived passion, that immediately decays upon growing familiar with its object.
Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.
Admonish your friends in private; praise them in public.
For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.
All at once he followed her [the adulteress] like an ox going to the slaughter
If a married woman shall be caught lying with another man, both shall be bound and thrown into the river.
But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment;
whoever does so destroys himself.
Between a man and his wife a husband's infidelity is nothing. The man imposes no bastards on his wife.
The adverb is the enemy of the verb.
In time of prosperity friends will be plenty;
In time of adversity not one in twenty.
In prosperity, caution; in adversity, patience.
By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.
While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.
Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.
You can't adjust the winds, but you can adjust your sails.
Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.
Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark: you know what you are doing, but nobody else does.
Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
I always hated those testimonials on TV … [where the actress says,] "If I can do it, you can do it." How the hell does she know what I can and cannot do?
When we ask advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.
Whatever your advice, make it brief.
Advice is least heeded when most needed.
You may give him good advice, but who can give him wit to take it?
The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.
Beware the advice of a poor man.
Never advise anyone to go to war or to marry.
Years ago, my mother used to say to me, "In this world, Elwood, you must be be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.
Ask advice only of your equals.
Many receive advice, few profit by it.
Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example.
[But] if the royal ear [of Theodoric] was open to the voice of truth, a saint and a philosopher are not always to be found at the ear of kings.
If you've ever taken advice from a cartoonist, there's a good chance it didn't end well.
We may give Advice, but we cannot give Conduct.
The qualities we have do not make us so ridiculous as those we affect to have.
One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell that would tell anything.
I'm very pleased with each advancing year. It stems back to when I was forty. I was a bit upset about reaching that milestone, but an older friend consoled me. 'Don't complain about growing old—many, many people do not have that privilege.'
Old age is not so bad when you consider the alternatives.
As for me, except for an occasional heart attack, I feel as young as I ever did.
You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.
Nothing so dates a man as decrying the younger generation.
There are three categories of age: youth, middle age, and "Gee, you're looking well."
Aggression unchallenged is aggression unleashed.
In every unbeliever's heart there is an uneasy feeling that, after all, he may awake after death and find himself immortal. This is his punishment for his unbelief. This is the agnostic's Hell.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth
I can do one of two things. I can be president of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.
It is better to be alone than in ill company.
A man is never alone, not only because he is with himself and his own thoughts, but because he is with the Devil, who ever consorts with our solitude.
Vain the ambition of kings
Who seek by trophies and dead things
To leave a living name behind,
And weave but nets to catch the wind.
It seems that ambition makes most people wish to be loved rather than to love others.
Be content with your lot; one cannot be first in everything.
I would to God there were more ambition in the country … ambition of that laudable kind, to excel.
Men are generally idle, and ready to satisfy themselves, and intimidate the industry of others, by calling that impossible which is only difficult.
In England I would rather be a man, a horse, a dog, or a woman, in that order. In America I think the order would be reversed.
I regard England as my wife and America as my mistress.
The European traveler in America—at least if I may judge by myself—is struck by two peculiarities: first, the extreme similarity of outlook in all parts of the United States (except the Old South), and secondly, the passionate desire of each locality to prove that it is peculiar and different from every other. The second of these is, of course, caused by the first.
Because I really want to live in a country where the poor people are fat.
The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.
America is not what's wrong with the world.
America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
I'll start to worry about America's standing in the world when people from all corners of the earth cease to want to come here.
America is harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.
The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative.
We have learned one lesson in the last half-century: the well-being of the world depends, above all, on the sensible pursuit of common aims by the United States and the free European peoples. That the Japanese are rapidly transforming this relationship into a triangular one goes without saying. But the U.S.-European axis remains the fulcrum of stability, and the Europeans know it: it is the one fixed point in their geopolitics. For this reason they are remarkably dependent on the workings of the American system, and the character of the man it places in the White House.
I wonder if the word "American" will one day have the same connotation as the word "byzantine."
America is now a land that rewards failure—at the personal, corporate, and state level.
The later chapters of "The Decline and Fall of the United States" will make interesting reading.
I want no criticism of America at my table. The Americans criticize themselves more than enough.
Europe is the product of history. America is the product of philosophy.
Anyone, in any walk of life, who is content with mediocrity is untrue to himself and to American tradition.
It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776 … and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.
America will never be an ordinary country; it's always going to be extraordinary.
Anyone who travels to every part of the United States, as I do, becomes aware that the notion of America oppressing humanity is absurd. To a great extent, America is humanity.
In the 1770s, surveying the immensity and diversity of London, Dr. Samuel Johnson laid down: "Sir, a man who is tired of London is tired of life." The saying could be rephrased today. A man who hates America hates humanity.
No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
The American people, taking one with another, constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goosesteppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages.
The Americans are the illegitimate children of the English.
Americans are very smart about the things they care about, and ignorant about the things they don't.
We [Americans] are fat, overgrown lab rats, and we get too many reward pellets for too little effort.
There are no people in the world who are so slow to develop hostile feelings against a foreign country as the Americans and there are no people who once estranged, are more difficult to win back.
Sometimes it [the witch-hunt] is launched from one end of the ideological spectrum, sometimes from the other, but its characteristics remain the same: fanaticism, self-righteousness, abuse of the legal forms, contempt for justice.
Ammianus is so eloquent, that he writes nonsense.
I don't know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.
Nothing is so soothing to our self-esteem as to find our bad traits in our forebears. It seems to absolve us.
It is certainly desirable to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors.
He who boasts of his descent praises another.
A mule always boasts that its ancestors were horses.
Speak of the moderns without contempt and of the ancients without idolatry; judge them all by their merits and not by their age.
If we had had the cable telegraph in those days, this blood [from the battle of New Orleans] would not have been spilt, those lives would not have been wasted; and better still, Jackson would probably never have been president. We have gotten over the harms done us by the war of 1812, but not over some of those done us by Jackson's presidency.
The best cure for anger is delay.
How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.
Whate'er's begun in anger ends in shame.
When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.
Anger is a vulgar passion directed to vulgar ends, and it always sinks to the level of its object.
The size of a man can be measured by the size of the thing that makes him angry.
He who is slow to anger is longer getting over it.
Never forget what a man says to you when he is angry.
An angry man [differs] from a madman only in the shorter time which his passion [endures].
"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
Anger so clouds the mind, that it cannot perceive the truth.
Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you. Give me a pig. He just looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal.
A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.
The pig, if I am not mistaken,
Supplies us sausage, ham, and bacon.
Let others say his heart is big—
I call it stupid of the pig.
If you have no trouble, buy a goat.
Our toil is lessened, and our wealth is increased, by our dominion over the useful animals …
No answer is also an answer.
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
Let others praise ancient times; I am glad that I was born in these.
Damn the age; I will write for antiquity.
All is not gold that shines like gold. (Non teneas aurum totum quod splendet ut aurum.
- Everything that glitters is not gold.
- Do not hold as gold all that shines as gold.
Three-tenths of a good appearance are due to nature; seven-tenths to dress.
I … smell the stench of appeasement in the air.
I think that if I give him [Stalin] everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.
My good friends this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time.
We seem to be very near the bleak choice between war and shame. My feeling is that we shall choose shame and then have war thrown in a little later on even more adverse terms than at present.
All man's efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied.
Subdue your appetites, and you've conquered human nature.
Appetite comes with eating … but the thirst goes away with drinking.
When most the world applauds you, most beware:
'Tis often less a blessing than a snare.
Better the oppression of Turks than the justice of Arabs.
The life of a wandering Arab [in the time of Gibbon] is a life of danger and distress; and though sometimes, by rapine or exchange, he may appropriate the fruits of industry, a private citizen in Europe is in the possession of more solid and pleasing luxury than the proudest emir, who marches in the field at the head of ten thousand horse.
[The] noblest of [Arabs] united the love of arms with the profession of merchandise.
[Arabs are] a people, whom it is dangerous to provoke, and fruitless to attack.
But [the Arabs'] friendship was venal, their faith inconstant, their enmity capricious: it was an easier task to excite than to disarm these roving barbarians; and, in the familiar intercourse of war, they learned to see, and to despise, the splendid weakness both of Rome and of Persia.
The character of Hatem is the perfect model of Arabian virtue: he was brave and liberal, an eloquent poet, and a successful robber …
He was swearing audibly, and when he found that the infirmities of the English tongue hemmed in his rage, he sought consolation in Arabic, which is expressly designed for the use of the afflicted.
The principal foundations of all states are good laws and good arms; and there cannot be good laws where there are not good arms.
Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of their arms.
An army of stags led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a stag.
That's what an army is—a mob; they don't fight with courage that's born in them, but with courage that's borrowed from their mass, and from their officers.
[Their] minds were not yet humbled to their condition …
Art for art's sake makes no more sense than gin for gin's sake.
Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult.
Art imitates nature as well as it can, as a pupil follows his master; thus it is a sort of grandchild of God.
You must treat a work of art like a great man: stand before it and wait patiently till it deigns to speak.
No one can explain how the notes of a Mozart melody, or the folds of a piece of Titian's drapery, produce their essential effects. If you do not feel it, no one can by reasoning make you feel it.
I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like.
Another unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before.
By a curious confusion, many modern critics have passed from the proposition that a masterpiece may be unpopular to the other proposition that unless it is unpopular it cannot be a masterpiece.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
I passionately hate the idea of being with it, I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time.
I don't know what art is, but I do know what it isn't. And it isn't someone walking around with a salmon over his shoulder, or embroidering the name of everyone they have slept with on the inside of a tent.
The photographer is like the cod which produces a million eggs in order that one may reach maturity.
I always ask the sitter if they want truth or flattery. They always ask for truth, and I always give them flattery.
Yes—one does like to make one's mummy just as nice as possible!
All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.
If a scientist were to cut his ear off, no one would take it as evidence of a heightened sensibility.
The joy of conceptual art is that the description is everything. Oh yes, there is real artistry at work here. It just isn't on the walls but in the catalogue descriptions.
The gods that first taught artists their craft laid a great curse on mankind.
Artists are on the average less happy than men of science.
There is no virtue in penance and fasting which waste the body; they are only fanatical and monkish.
A dominant religion is never ascetic.
Asceticism may be a mere expression of organic hardihood, disgusted with too much ease.
He that asketh faintly beggeth a denial.
The man who is afraid of asking is ashamed of learning.
Men would be angels, angels would be gods.
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's Heaven for?
The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life:
Try to be Shakespeare, leave the rest to fate.
Hitch your wagon to a star.
Assassination is the last resource of cowards.
I am always longing to be with men more excellent than myself.
When a dove begins to associate with crows its feathers remain white but its heart grows black.
[Astrology] is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeit of our own behavior) we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and teachers by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence.
I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarius and we're sceptical.
[The] sublime science of astronomy … elevates the mind of man to disdain his diminutive planet and momentary existence.
It is atheism and blasphemy to dispute what God can do: good Christians content themselves with His will revealed in His Word.
A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth a man's mind about to religion.
The three great apostles of practical atheism, that make converts without persecuting, and retain them without preaching, are wealth, health, and power.
Practical atheism, seeing no guidance for human affairs but its own limited foresight, endeavors itself to play the god, and decide what will be good for mankind and what bad.
… by cutting the umbilical cord with God, our source of ethical vitality would be gone. Morally, we would be come nothing better than a species of fantastically clever monkeys. Our ultimate fate would be too horrible to contemplate. For the truth is that we humans are all Jekyll and Hyde creatures, and the monster within each of us is always striving to take over.
The kingdom that is infested by atheists is beset by famine and disease and soon perishes.
To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.
A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.
The play was a great success, but the audience was a total failure.
The best part of every author is in general to be found in his book, I assure you.
While an author is yet living we estimate his powers by his worst performance, and when he is dead we rate them by his best.
An author is like a baker; it is for him to make the sweets, and others to buy and enjoy them.
An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations.
Authors with a mortgage never get writer's block.
An author places himself uncalled before the tribunal of criticism, and solicits fame at the hazard of disgrace.
Nothing has been found so mighty
That it has not found a master.
Autobiography is now as common as adultery and hardly less reprehensible.
An autobiography is an obituary in serial form with the last installment missing.
To write one's memoirs is to speak ill of everybody except oneself.
Is fuel efficiency really what we need most desperately? I say that what we really need is a car that can be shot when it breaks down.
I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either.
Men lose more conquests by their own awkwardness than by any virtue in the woman.
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Last updated: August 17, 2022