A am a great friend
of public amusements, they keep people from vice.
A cucumber should
be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown
out, as good for nothing.
A fly may sting
a stately horse and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the
other is a horse still.
A hardened and shameless
tea drinker, who has for twenty years diluted his meals with only the
infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle scarcely has time to
cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight,
and with tea welcomes the morning.
A Judge may be a
farmer; but he is not to geld his own pigs. A Judge may play a little
at cards for his own amusement; but he is not to play at marbles, or
chuck farthing in the Piazza.
A man may be so
much of everything that he is nothing of anything.
A man of genius
has been seldom ruined but by himself.
A man ought to read
just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him
A man seldom thinks
with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner.
A man who exposes
himself when he is intoxicated, has not the art of getting drunk.
A short letter to
a distant friend is, in my opinion, an insult like that of a slight
bow or cursory salutation - a proof of unwillingness to do much, even
where there is a necessity of doing something.
A wise man is cured
of ambition by ambition itself; his aim is so exalted that riches, office,
fortune and favour cannot satisfy him.
A wise man will
make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and
will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.
Adversity has ever
been considered the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted
now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore
become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and
by eloquences sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic.
All the arguments
which are brought to represent poverty as no evil show it evidently
to be a great evil.
All theory is against
freedom of the will; all experience for it.
All travel has its
advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to
improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to
Allow children to
be happy in their own way, for what better way will they find?
Almost all absurdity
of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble.
Almost every man
wastes part of his life attempting to display qualities which he does
Among the calamities
of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth,
by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.
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.
it is time to be in earnest.
Bachelors have consciences,
married men have wives.
Being in a ship
is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.
and useless truth there is little difference. As gold which he cannot
spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which cannot apply will make
no man wise.
Books like friends,
should be few and well-chosen.
Books that you carry
to the fire, and hold readily in your hand, are most useful after all.
Boswell: That, Sir,
was great fortitude of mind. Johnson: No, Sir, stark insensibility.
Bounty always receives
part of its value from the manner in which it is bestowed.
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.
By taking a second
wife he pays the highest compliment to the first, by showing that she
made him so happy as a married man, that he wishes to be so a second
Claret is the liquor
for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.
is the parole of literary men all over the world.
Courage is the greatest
of all virtues, because if you haven't courage, you may not have an
opportunity to use any of the others.
Curiosity is one
of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.
Depend upon it that
if a man talks of his misfortunes there is something in them that is
not disagreeable to him; for where there is nothing but pure misery
there never is any recourse to the mention of it.
like watches, the worst is better than none and the best cannot be expected
to go quite true.
Difficult do you
call it, Sir? I wish it were impossible.
begins that equality which death completes.
Do not suffer life
to stagnate; it will grow muddy for want of motion: commit yourself
again to the current of the world.
Every man has a
right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right
to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test.
Every man is rich
or poor according to the proportion between his desires and his enjoyments.
Every man who attacks
my belief, diminishes in some degree my confidence in it, and therefore
makes me uneasy; and I am angry with him who makes me uneasy.
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.
Every other enjoyment
malice may destroy; every other panegyric envy may withhold; but no
human power can deprive the boaster of his own encomiums.
enlarges the sphere of human powers, that shows man he can do what he
thought he could not do, is valuable.
Exercise is labor
are like expanded gold, exchanging solid strength for feeble splendor.
Fear is implanted
in us as a preservative from evil but its duty, like that of other passions,
is not to overbear reason, but to assist it. It should not be suffered
to tyrannize in the imagination, to raise phantoms of horror, or to
beset life with supernumerary distresses.
of great labor or hazard would be undertaken if we had not the power
of magnifying the advantages we expect from them.
Fraud and falsehood
only dread examination. Truth invites it.
From the middle
of life onward, only he remains vitally alive who is ready to die with
Getting money is
not all a man's business: to cultivate kindness is a valuable part of
the business of life.
Great works are
performed not by strength but by perseverance.
He that embarks
on the voyage of life will always wish to advance rather by the impulse
of the wind than the strokes of the oar; and many fold in their passage;
while they lie waiting for the gale."
He that fails in
his endeavors after wealth or power will not long retain either honesty
He that pursues
fame with just claims, trusts his happiness to the winds; but he that
endeavors after it by false merit, has to fear, not only the violence
of the storm, but the leaks of his vessel.
He that will enjoy
the brightness of sunshine, must quit the coolness of the shade.
He to whom many
objects of pursuit arise at the same time, will frequently hesitate
between different desires till a rival has precluded him, or change
his course as new attractions prevail, and harass himself without advancing.
He was dull in a
new way, and that made many people think him great.
He who does not
mind his belly, will hardly mind anything else.
He who has so little
knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything
but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.
He who praises everybody,
He who sees different
ways to the same end, will, unless he watches carefully over his own
conduct, lay out too much of his attention upon the comparison of probabilities
and the adjustment of expedients, and pause in the choice of his road,
till some accident intercepts his journey.
He who waits to
do a great deal of good at once will never do anything.
Hope is itself a
species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world
affords: but, like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses
of hope must be expiated by pain; and expectations improperly indulged
must end in disappointment.
Human life is everywhere
a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed.
Hunger is never
delicate; they who are seldom gorged to the full with praise may be
safely fed with gross compliments, for the appetite must be satisfied
before it is disgusted.
I am aware that
by many persons, it is considered in the nature of a joke to to become
a candidate and to be elected as a member of the Legislature.
I am sorry I have
not learnt to play at cards. It is very useful in life: it generates
kindness, and consolidates society.
I can't drink a
little, therefore I never touch it. Abstinance is as easy for me as
tempreance would be difficult.
I deny the lawfulness
of telling a lie to a sick man for fear of alarming him; you have no
business with consequences you are to tell the truth.
I had done all that
I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it
ever so little.
I hate historic
talk, and when Charles Fox said something to me once about Catiline's
Conspiracy, I withdrew my attention, and thought about Tom Thumb.
I have always considered
it as treason against the great republic of human nature, to make any
man's virtues the means of deceiving him.
I have found men
to be more kind than I expected, and less just.
I look upon every
day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance.
I never desire to
converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
If your determination
is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible
to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but
If, sir, men were
all virtuous, I should with great alacrity teach them all to fly. But
what would be the security of the good if the bad could at pleasure
invade them from the sky? Against an army sailing through the clouds
neither wall, nor mountains, nor seas could afford any security.
In a man's letters
you know, Madam, his soul lies naked, his letters are only the mirror
of his breast, whatever passes within him is shown undisguised in its
natural process. Nothing is inverted, nothing distorted, you see systems
in their elements, you discover actions in their motives.
knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous
It is better that
some should be unhappy rather than that none should be happy, which
would be the case in a general state of equality.
It is dangerous
for mortal beauty, or terrestrial virtue, to be examined by too strong
a light. The torch of Truth shows much that we cannot, and all that
we would not, see.
It is not true that
people are naturally equal for no two people can be together for even
a half an hour without one acquiring an evident superiority over the
It is reasonable
to have perfection in our eye that we may always advance toward it,
though we know it can never be reached.
It is so far from
being natural for a man and woman to live in a state of marriage, that
we find all the motives which they have for remaining in that connection,
and the restraints which civilised society imposes to prevent separation,
are hardly sufficient to keep them together.
It is thus that
mutual cowardice keeps us in peace. Were one half of mankind brave and
one cowards, the brave would be always beating the cowards. Were all
brave, they would lead a very uneasy life; all would be continually
fighting; but being all cowards, we go on very well.
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.
Knowledge is of
two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find
information upon it.
Leisure and curiosity
might soon make great advances in useful knowledge, were they not diverted
by minute emulation and laborious trifles.
Like an image in
a dream the world is troubled by love, hatred, and other poisons. So
long as the dream lasts, the image appears to be real; but on awaking
Love is only one
of many passions.
Love is the wisdom
of the fool and the folly of the wise.
Man alone is born
crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed.
Many things difficult
to design prove easy to performance.
Money and time are
the heaviest burdens of life, and the unhappiest of all mortals are
those who have more of either than they know how to use.
Nature has given
women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little.
No man but a blockhead
ever wrote except for money.
No man can taste
the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers
No man was ever
great by imitation.
No money is better
spent than what is laid out for domestic satisfaction.
Nothing is more
hopeless than a scheme of merriment.
Nothing will ever
be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.
Of all noises, I
think music is the least disagreeable.
Our brightest blazes
of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.
Paradise Lost is
a book that, once put down, is very hard to pick up again.
Patriotism is the
last refuge of the scoundrel.
is the first requisite to great undertakings.
So many objections
may be made to everything, that nothing can overcome them but the necessity
of doing something.
The world is seldom
what it seems; to man, who dimly sees, realities appear as dreams, and
The wretched have
no compassion, they can do good only from strong principles of duty.
We are inclined
to believe those whom we do not know because they have never deceived
What is easy is
What is written
without effort is in general read without pleasure.
is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original,
and the part that is original is not good.
In 1773 Johnson
toured Scotland with his friend James Boswell and recorded his impressions
in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. Johnson attempted to
produce an objective account of the way of life he found in the islands,
but his own prejudices and viewpoints were too strong to be kept in
the background. He had hoped to find a way of life very different from
that he knew, but was frequently disappointed:
"We came hither too late to see what we expected, a people of peculiar
appearance, and a system of antiquated life. The clans retain little
now of their original character, their ferocity of temper is softened,
their military ardour is extinguished, their dignity of independence
is depressed, their contempt of government subdued, and their reverence
for their chiefs abated ...They are now acquainted with money, and the
possibility of gain will by degrees make them industrious. Such is the
effect of the late regulations, that a longer journey than to the Highlands
must be taken by him whose curiosity pants for savage virtues and barbarous
, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775) p50
It is no great surprise that Johnson left a trail of offended Highlanders
in his wake; consider this passage from Boswell's journal:
"Dr Johnson got into one of his fits of railing at the Scots. He
owned that they had been a very learned nation for a hundred years,
from about 1550 to about 1650; but that they afforded the only one instance
of a people among whom the arts of civil life did not advance in proportion
with learning; that they had hardly any trade, any money, or any elegance,
before the Union; that it was strange that, with all the advantages
possessed by other nations, they had not any of those conveniencies
and embellishments which are the fruit of industry, till they came in
contact with a civilized people. 'We have taught you, (said he,) and
we'll do the same in time to all barbarous nations, - to the Cherokees,
- and at last to the Ouran-Outangs;' laughing with much glee ..."
James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, (1785) pp347-8
Johnson constantly compared the Highlands (the unknown) with England
(the known norm). In his journal he tries to give empirical evidence
but makes continual subconscious distortions; he gives a descriptive
account followed by a philosophical interpretation. He believed that
oral traditions were dying, but it is obvious that he had little understanding
of those oral traditions. He claimed, for instance, that no bard could
have memorized the length of poem that they were renowned for reciting
- he could not, or would not acknowledge the level of skill possessed
by Gaelic bards.