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Samuel Johnson


Age and Aging

When I was as you are now, towering in the confidence of twenty-one, little did I suspect that I should be at forty-nine, what I now am.

Approval

The applause of a single human being is of great consequence.

Bachelor

They that have grown old in a single state are generally found to be morose, fretful and captious; tenacious of their own practices and maxims; soon offended by contradiction or negligence; and impatient of any association but with those that will watch their nod, and submit themselves to unlimited authority.

Books and Reading

Books that you carry to the fire, and hold readily in your hand, are most useful after all.

Calamity

Do not accustom yourself to consider debt only as an inconvenience. You will find it a calamity.

Change

Such is the state of life, that none are happy but by the anticipation of change: the change itself is nothing; when we have made it, the next wish is to change again. The world is not yet exhausted; let me see something tomorrow which I never saw before.

Complaints and Complaining

Depend upon it that if a man talks of his misfortunes there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him.

Concentration

Those who attain to any excellence commonly spend life in some single pursuit, for excellence is not often gained upon easier terms.

Contrast

The luster of diamonds is invigorated by the interposition of darker bodies; the lights of a picture are created by the shades; the highest pleasure which nature has indulged to sensitive perception is that of rest after fatigue.

Courage

He that would be superior to external influences must first become superior to his own passions.

Creation

There are innumerable questions to which the inquisitive mind can in this state receive no answer: Why do you and I exist? Why was this world created? Since it was to be created, why was it not created sooner?

Curiosity

Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.

Death and Dying

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.

Desire

Some desire is necessary to keep life in motion, and he whose real wants are supplied must admit those of fancy.

Disease

Disease generally begins that equality which death completes.

Effort

What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.

Example

They teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master.

Fame

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.

Fear

Shame arises from the fear of men, conscience from the fear of God.

Friends and Friendship

I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance. To let friendship die away by negligence and silence is certainly not wise. It is voluntarily to throw away one of the greatest comforts of the weary pilgrimage.

Generations

Our tastes greatly alter. The lad does not care for the child's rattle, and the old man does not care for the young man's whore.

Greatness

The superiority of some men is merely local. They are great because their associates are little.

Happiness

To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity.

Heroes and Heroism

Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.

Hope

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.

Humor

I am a great friend to public amusements, for they keep the people from vice.

Idleness

As peace is the end of war, so to be idle is the ultimate purpose of the busy.

Indifference

I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds: I therefore dismiss it with frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from censure or from praise.

Involvement

It is easy to talk of sitting at home contented, when others are seeing or making shows. But not to have been where it is supposed, and seldom supposed falsely, that all would go if they could; to be able to say nothing when everyone is talking; to have no opinion when everyone is judging; to hear exclamations of rapture without power to depress; to listen to falsehoods without right to contradict, is, after all, a state of temporary inferiority, in which the mind is rather hardened by stubbornness, than supported by fortitude. If the world be worth winning let us enjoy it, if it is to be despised let us despise it by conviction. But the world is not to be despised but as it is compared with something better.

Kindness

To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.

Knowledge

Knowledge is of two kinds: We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information about it.

Labor

Excellence in any department can be attained only by the labor of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price.

Language

I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigrees of nations.

Laziness

Turn on the prudent ant thy heedful eyes. Observe her labors, sluggard, and be wise.

Letters

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.

Marriage

Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures. There is, indeed, nothing that so much seduces reason from vigilance, as the thought of passing life with an amiable woman.

Memory

The true art of memory is the art of attention.

Misers and Misery

Do not discourage your children from hoarding, if they have a taste to it; whoever lays up his penny rather than part with it for a cake, at least is not the slave of gross appetite; and shows besides a preference always to be esteemed, of the future to the present moment.

Money

Whatever you have spend less.

Pain

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.

Patriotism

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Perspective

Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye.

Piety

A wicked fellow is the most pious when he takes to it. He'll beat you all at piety.

Pleasure

No man is a hypocrite in his pleasures.

Portraits

I had rather see the portrait of a dog that I know, than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world.

Poverty and The Poor

It is the great privilege of poverty to be happy and yet unenvied, to be healthy with physic, secure without a guard, and to obtain from the bounty of nature what the great and wealthy are compelled to procure by the help of art.

Praise

The real satisfaction which praise can afford, is when what is repeated aloud agrees with the whispers of conscience, by showing us that we have not endeavored to deserve well in vain.

Pride

Pride is seldom delicate; it will please itself with very mean advantages.

Quotations

He is a benefactor of mankind who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences, that may be easily impressed on the memory, and so recur habitually to the mind.

Reputation

The blaze of reputation cannot be blown out, but it often dies in the socket; a very few names may be considered as perpetual lamps that shine unconsumed.

Retirement

Don't think of retiring from the world until the world will be sorry that you retire. I hate a fellow whom pride or cowardice or laziness drive into a corner, and who does nothing when he is there but sit and growl. Let him come out as I do, and bark.

Rhetoric

Some people wave their dogmatic thinking until their own reason is entangled.

Secrets

To keep your secret is wisdom; but to expect others to keep it is folly.

Self-love

Self-love is often rather arrogant than blind; it does not hide our faults from ourselves, but persuades us that they escape the notice of others.

Skepticism

Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.

Sorrow

Sorrow is the rust of the soul and activity will cleanse and brighten it.

Statistics

Round numbers are always false.

Suspicion

He that is already corrupt is naturally suspicious, and he that becomes suspicious will quickly become corrupt.

Things and Little Things

There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.

Travel and Tourism

He that travels in theory has no inconveniences; he has shade and sunshine at his disposal, and wherever he alights finds tables of plenty and looks of gaiety. These ideas are indulged till the day of departure arrives, the chaise is called, and the progress of happiness begins. A few miles teach him the fallacies of imagination. The road is dusty, the air is sultry, the horses are sluggish. He longs for the time of dinner that he may eat and rest. The inn is crowded, his orders are neglected, and nothing remains but that he devour in haste what the cook has spoiled, and drive on in quest of better entertainment. He finds at night a more commodious house, but the best is always worse than he expected.

Tyranny

No government power can be abused long. Mankind will not bear it. There is a remedy in human nature against tyranny, that will keep us safe under every form of government.

Value

The longer we live the more we think and the higher the value we put on friendship and tenderness towards parents and friends.

Virtue

Wickedness is always easier than virtue, for it takes a short cut to everything.

Wit

He who has provoked the shaft of wit, cannot complain that he smarts from it.

Work

It is wonderful when a calculation is made, how little the mind is actually employed in the discharge of any profession.

Writers and Writing

The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.

Youth

Youth enters the world with very happy prejudices in her own favor. She imagines herself not only certain of accomplishing every adventure, but of obtaining those rewards which the accomplishment may deserve. She is not easily persuaded to believe that the force of merit can be resisted by obstinacy and avarice, or its luster darkened by envy and malignity.

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