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Ambrose Bierce
Albert Einstein
Ben Franklin
Aldo Leopold
Abraham Lincoln
H.L. Mencken
Shakespeare
George Bernard Shaw
Mark Twain
Oscar Wilde


Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), Devil's Dictionary, 1911Bierce

Alliance; n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.

Aphorism; n. Predigested wisdom.

Apologize; v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offence.

Belladonna: In Italian, a beautiful lady. In English, a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.

Bigot: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.

Compulsion; n. The eloquence of power.

Conservative; n. - A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others

Egotist: a person more interested in himself than in me.

Faith; noun. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

Flag; n. A colored rag borne above troops and hoisted on forts and ships.

Heathen - A benighted creature who has the folly to worship something he can see and feel.

Impiety - Your irreverence toward my deity.

Inventor: A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization.

Justice, n:. A department of the U.S. government. There was once another word with the same spelling, which meant "fairness, decency, equitable resolution of disputes," but this latter term is now obsolete and the two bear no apparent etymological relation.

Literally, adv. Figuratively, as: "The pond was literally full of fish"; "The ground was literally alive with snakes," etc.

Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.

Mad, adj.: Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence.

Magic; n. An art of converting superstition into coin. There are other arts serving the same high purpose, but the discreet lexicographer does not name them.

Mayonnaise: One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.

Mythology: The body of a primitive people's beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.

Optimism: The doctrine that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. ... It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.

Pain; n. An uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a physical basis in something that is being done to the body, or may be purely mental, caused by the good fortune of another.

Pantheism - The doctrine that everything is God, in contradiction to the doctrine that God is everything.

Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.

Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.

Rational, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.

Really, adv. Apparently.

Red-skin, n. A North American Indian, whose skin is not red, at least not on the outside.

Referendum, n. A law for submission of proposed legislation to a popular vote to learn the nonsensus of public opinion.

Religion - A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Scriptures; noun. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.

Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

Experience is a revelation in the light of which we renounce our errors of youth for those of age.

Love is temporary insanity curable by marriage.

There are four kinds of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable and praiseworthy.

In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.

We of the Digital Age are privileged to suffer an inconvenience unknown to Mr. Bierce: the World Wide Web, a three-letter term with a nine-syllable "abbreviation".

 
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

 
EinsteinIf a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism how passionately I hate them!

The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.

If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.

If you keep an open mind, people will try to put garbage in it.

As far as I'm concerned, I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.

To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.

The stupor of authority is the greatest enemy of truth.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it.

It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere...Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

FrankilinBenjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

 
Silence is not always a sign of wisdom, but babbling is ever folly.

Experience is a dear teacher, and only fools will learn from no other.

There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.

Never confuse motion with action.

Where sense is wanting, everything is wanting.

Well done is better than well said.

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.

To find out a girl's faults, praise her to her girl friends.

If Jack's in love, he's no judge of Jill's beauty.

The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.

 I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.

We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately. (upon signing the Declaration of Independence)

The grand leap of the whale up the Fall of Niagara is esteemed, by all who have seen it, as one of the finest spectacles in nature....(in 1765, to the editor of a London newspaper)

If you would not be forgotten,
as soon as you are dead & rotten,
either write things worth reading,
or do things worth the writing.

Franklin's Epitaph

The Body of
B. Franklin, Printer,
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering & Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.-
But the work shall not be lost;
For it will, as he believd, appear once more
In a new and more elegant Edition
Corrected and improved
By the Author.

 
Given by B Franklin to Sam. Morris
August 31, 1776

 
Also see Politics and Separation sections for Ben.

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), Sand County Almanac
Aldo Leoplod

book
"Like wind and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth the cost in things natural, wild, and free. For those of us in the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.

These wild things, I admit, had little human value until mechanization assured us of a good breakfast, and until science disclosed the drama of where they come from and how they live. The whole conflict thus boils down to a question of degree. We of the minority see a law of diminishing returns in progress; our opponents do not."
from the Foreword to Sand County Almanac, 1948

"There are men charged with the duty of examining the construction of the plants, animals, and soils which are the instruments of the great orchestra. These men are called professors. Each selects one instrument and spends his life taking it apart and describing its strings and sounding boards. This process of dismemberment is called research. The place for dismemberment is called a university."

"A good hobby, in these times, is one that entails either making something or making the tools to make it with, and then using it to accomplish some needless thing."

"Our children are our signature to the roster of history; our land is merely the place our money was made. There is as yet no social stigma in the possession of a gullied farm, a wrecked forest, or a polluted stream, provided the dividends suffice to send the youngsters to college."

"The pioneer period gave birth to two ideas... one is the 'go-light' idea, the other the 'one-bullet-one-buck' idea. The pioneer went light of necessity. He lacked the transport, the cash, and the weapons requisite for machine-gun tactics. Let it be clear, then, that in their inception, both of these ideas were forced on us; we made a virtue of necessity."

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

LincolnIf the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.

Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of Temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes at the very principles upon which our government was founded.

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln [1953], vol. II

Too many piglets, not enough tits.

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? - Letter to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820

You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.

The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.

If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

Lincoln's Address at Gettysburg

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate; we cannot consecrate; we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. - Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

Comments on the speech.

Also see separation section.

Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

 
MenckenFaith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.... A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear & realistic thought. He is not a mere ass: he is actually ill.

Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration--courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth.

A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

The truth is that Christian theology, like every other theology, is not only opposed to the scientific spirit; it is also opposed to all other attempts at rational thinking. Not by accident does Genesis 3 make the father of knowledge a serpent slimy, sneaking and abominable. Since the earliest days the church as an organization has thrown itself violently against every effort to liberate the body and mind of man. It has been, at all times and everywhere, the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions. It was, for centuries, an apologist for slavery, as it was the apologist for the divine right of kings.


In this world of sin and sorrow, there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.

Democracy is grounded upon so childish a complex of fallacies that they must be protected by a rigid system of taboos, else even halfwits would argue it to pieces. Its first concern must thus be to penalize the free play of ideas.


Of government, at least in democratic states, it may be said briefly that it is an agency engaged wholesale, and as a matter of solemn duty, in the performance of acts which all self-respecting individuals refrain from as a matter of common decency.

To wage a war for a purely moral reason is as absurd as to ravish a woman for a purely moral reason.

The trouble about fighting for human freedom is that you have to spend so much of your life defending sons of bitches; for oppressive laws are always aimed at them originally, and oppression must be stopped in the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves one of the most useful men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigator. What actually urges him on is not some brummagem idea of Service, but a boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but a dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.

The more I think you over, the more it comes home to me what an unmitigated Middle Victorian ass you are! - about GB Shaw

After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations. (on Shakespeare)

Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.

In brief, she assumed that, being a man, I was vain to the point of imbecility, and this assumption was correct, as it always is.

Those who can do. Those who can't teach.

Capitalism undoubtedly has certain boils and blotches upon it, but has it as many as government? Has it as many as marriage? Has it as many as religion? I doubt it. It is the only basic institution of modern man that shows any genuine health and vigor.

Suppose two-thirds of the members of the national House of Representatives were dumped into the Washington garbage incinerator tomorrow, what would we lose to offset our gain of their salaries and the salaries of their parasites?

Freedom of press is limited to those who own one.

A man may be a fool and not know it but not if he is married.

Truth would quickly cease to become stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.

Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.

It is the fundamental theory of all the more recent American law...that the average citizen is half-witted, and hence not to be trusted to either his own devices or his own thoughts.

A celebrity is one who is known by many people he is glad he doesn't know.

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.

The New Deal began, like the Salvation Army, by promising to save humanity. It ended, again like the Salvation Army, by running flop-houses and disturbing the peace.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

The fact that I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake.

The believing mind is externally impervious to evidence. The most that can be accomplished with it is to induce it to substitute one delusion for another. It rejects all overt evidence as wicked.

Democracy is the theory that holds that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

Nature abhors a moron.

It is the fundamental theory of all the more recent American law...that the average citizen is half-witted, and hence not to be trusted to either his own devices or his own thoughts.

A man's women folk, whatever their outward show of respect for his merit and authority, always regard him secretly as an ass, and with something akin to pity. His most gaudy sayings and doings seldom deceive them; they see the actual man within, and know him for a shallow and pathetic fellow. In this fact, perhaps, lies one of the best proofs of feminine intelligence, or, as the common phase makes it, feminine intuition.

No one in this world, so far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. from Notes on journalism, Chicago Tribune, [19 September 1926]

He marries best who puts it off until it is too late.

Suicide is a belated acquiescence in the opinion of one's wife's relatives.

The New Deal began, like the Salvation Army, by promising to save humanity. It ended, again like the Salvation Army, by running flop-houses and disturbing the peace.

The iconoclast proves enough when he proves by his blasphemy that this or that idol is defectively convincing - that at least one visitor to the shrine is left full of doubts. The liberation of the human mind has been best furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe - that the god in the sanctuary was a fraud. One horse-laugh is worth ten-thousand syllogisms.

Creator - A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.

Puritanism - The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.

Misogynist - A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.

Truth - Something somehow discreditable to someone.

Lawyer: One who protects us against robbery by taking away the temptation.

Immorality: The morality of those who are having a better time.

Jealousy: The theory that some other fellow has just as little taste.

Self-respect: The secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.

Jury - A group of 12 people, who, having lied to the judge about their health, hearing, and business engagements, have failed to fool him.

A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone may be looking.

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.

Life may not be exactly pleasant, but it is at least not dull. Heave yourself into Hell today, and you may miss, tomorrow or next day, another Scopes trial, or another War to End War, or perchance a rich and buxom widow with all her first husband's clothes. There are always more Hardings hatching. I advocate hanging on as long as possible.

Mencken's Creed
     I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.
     I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.
     I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...
     I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.
     I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...
     I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.
     I believe in the reality of progress.
     I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

H.L.Mencken's war aims, according to the handful of observers who deigned to notice his conflict, were the overthrow of American Democracy, the Christian religion, and the YMCA. He was also credited with trying to wipe out poets and luncheon orators. -  Ben Hecht


William Shakespeare

(Obviously there are thousands of memorable lines from Shakespeare, and I've gathered a few.)

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. The Merchant of Venice

Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em. Twelfth Night

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.

When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies.

This above all: to thine own self be true. Polonius

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures. Julius Caesar

At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in 's new- fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows. Love's Labour Lost

Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once. Julius Caesar

#define QUESTION ((bb) || !(bb))
 

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

BG ShawYou see things, and you say "Why?" But I dream things that never were, and say "Why not?

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. Man and Superman, 1903

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.

One man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who haven't and don't.

Reading made Don Quixote a gentleman, but believing what he read made him mad.

I often quote myself; it adds spice to my conversation.

The nice thing about being a celebrity is that if you bore people they think its their fault. - Henry Kissinger

Virtue is insufficient temptation.

All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

The power of accurate observation is frequently called cynicism by those who don't have it.

 
Comments on Shaw .

Mark Twain (1835-1910)Twain

false Twain quotes
Twain site
Twain quotes, the source of most of the sources here

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any; also to strangers, and sometimes to others. If a person offends you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measure; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. That will be sufficient. If you shall find that he had not intended any offense, come out frankly and confess yourself in the wrong when you struck him; acknowledge it like a man, and say you didn't mean to. - Advice to Youth speech, 15 May 1882

Patriotism means being loyal to your country all the time and to its government when it deserves it. [variant in The Czar's Soliloquy]

It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive. - Following the Equator

The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. Eruption

I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices or caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being--that is enough for me; he can't be any worse. - "Concerning the Jews"

Just the omission of Jane Austen's books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it. [at least a paraphrase]

To me his prose is unreadable -- like Jane Austin's [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane's. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death. - Letter to W. D. Howells, 18 January 1909

Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. - "Consistency" speech, essay

I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said, "I don't know." - Life on the Mississippi

We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men every day who don't know anything and can't read. - 4th of July speech 1873

When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear. - Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. == quoted by Rudyard Kipling in From Sea to Shining Sea

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear. - Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

If there is a God, he is a malign thug. [?]

I thoroughly disapprove of duels. I consider them unwise and I know they are dangerous. Also, sinful. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet retired spot and kill him. - Autobiography of Mark Twain

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again. . . and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore. - Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect). Notebook, 1904

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.  More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards. Following the Equator; Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them. - Notebook, 1898

We despise all reverences and all objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our list of sacred things and yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy for us. Following the Equator

Man is a Religious Animal. Man is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven.... The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste. "The Lowest Animal"

The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive...but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before Christian religion was born. A Biography

(The Bible) is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies. - Letters from the Earth

In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.. Autobiography of Mark Twain

Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat. [?]

During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for 800 years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry....There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain. "Bible Teaching and Religious Practice," Europe and Elsewhere

By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean. Following the Equator

The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little. Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy. "The Refuge of the Derelicts" - 1905

Classic--a book which people praise and don't read.- Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man's character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours. [?]

There is nothing you can say in answer to a compliment. I have been complimented myself a great many times, and they always embarrass me I always feel that they have not said enough. [at least a paraphrase]

What, then, is the true Gospel of consistency? Change. Who is the really consistent man? The man who changes. Since change is the law of his being, he cannot be consistent if he stick in a rut. [at least a paraphrase]

War talk by men who have been in a war is always interesting; whereas moon talk by a poet who has not been in the moon is likely to be dull. - Life on the Mississippi

Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to. Following the Equator

Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to get himself envied. - Following the Equator

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. - Pudd'nhead Wilson

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed. - Following the Equator; Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart: the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.- Following the Equator

The very ink in which history is written is merely fluid prejudice. Following the Equator

True irreverence is disrespect for another man's god. Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.- Notebook, 1888

Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with. Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child's loss of a doll and a king s loss of a crown are events of the same size. Which Was the Dream?

Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins. Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds. Following the Equator

There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist. Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

My books are water; those of the great geniuses is wine. Everybody drinks water. [?]

I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos . . . A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, "Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him." The man studied his bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife into falling down stairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life, he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him into the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the priest, who said that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way. Letters From the Earth

There are many humorous things in the world: among them the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages. Following the Equator

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog. -- Speech, 11/23/1900

[Robert Jones Burdette, not Twain] Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
[probably not Twain] Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
[probably not Twain] History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot.
[probably not Twain] The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.

Also see politics and superstition sections.


Oscar WildeOscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Some temptations are so great it takes great courage to yield to them.

As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied.

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

Action is the last refuge of those who cannot dream.

True friends stab you in the front.

The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.

If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn't. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism.

Truth in matters of religion is simply the opinion that has survived.

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.

Always be sincere, no matter how much you don't mean it.

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.

Its failings notwithstanding, there is much to be said in favor of journalism in that by giving us the opinion of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.

This wallpaper is killing me. One of us has to go. - dying statement

To have lost one parent is a misfortune. To have lost both looks like carelessness.

Cleverness becomes a public nuisance.

Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

It is a much cleverer thing to talk nonsense than to listen to it.

To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up. - An Ideal Husband

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

 
If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to make an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.
- Dorothy Parker

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