Quintessential Quotations

Aphorisms And Epigrams


On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse.

Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility, Volume I, Chapter VI

At least in Byblow Bottom when we talked, it was on subjects relevant to our life . . . But here in Bath, conversation was, it seemed, an end in itself. Materials for it were collected like kindling wood, but then used in an artificial and prodigal manner, merely to generate a flame. But to what end? Simply to make a sound, to fill a silence, to pass a period of time. Time which, it seemed to me, could in a thousand ways have been more profitably spent.

Joan Aiken
Eliza's Daughter, (Chapter) V

Women don't want to sit around listening to guys talk about themselves. Women like to have conversations about real things, like feelings— namely, theirs.

Sue Grafton
"H" is for Homicide, Chapter 15

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The Duc de Rochefoucault, I believe, said truly, that "many would be cowards if they dared."

Maria Edgeworth
Belinda, Chapter IV

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Death and Revenge

And as the Italian proverb says, 'Revenge is the dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold.'

Robert Hamer and John Dighton, from a novel by Roy Kerniman
Kind Hearts and Coronets (screenplay)

Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

Dr. Sam: Johnson
Quoted in p. 849, date 19 September 1777, of Life of Johnson, by James Boswell

It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms.

Robert Hamer and John Dighton, from a novel by Roy Kerniman
Kind Hearts and Coronets (screenplay)

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Foolish Mysteries

I believe that half the miseries of the world arise from foolish mysteries—from the want of courage to speak the truth.

Maria Edgeworth
Belinda, Chapter XIV

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Genius does what it must; talent does what it can.

Chinese fortune cookie

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Happiness Theory 1: Life as an Adventure

The secret of realizing the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of existence is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships out into uncharted seas! Live in conflict with your equals and with yourselves! Be robbers and ravagers as long as you cannot be rulers and owners, you men of knowledge! The time will soon be past when you could be content to live concealed in the woods like timid deer!

Friedrich Nietzsche
Quoted in John McCrone, The Myth of Irrationality

Life engenders life, energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.

Sarah Bernhardt
Quoted in Madame Sarah, by Cornelia Otis Skinner, p. 14.

Life, in both its knowing and its doing, has become today a "free fall," so to say, into the next minute, into the future. So that, whereas, formerly, those not wishing to hazard the adventure of an individual life could rest within the pale of a comfortably guaranteed social order, today all the walls have burst. It is not left to us to chooseto hazard the adventure of an unprecedented life: adventure is upon us, like a tidal wave.

Joseph Campell
Mythological Themes in Creative Literature and Art, in Myths Dreams and Religion, ed. Joseph Campbell, p. 146

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Happiness Theory 2: Money

A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.

Jane Austen
Mansfield Park, Chapter 22

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Happiness Theory 3: Ignorance

"And in general," said Lady Anne Percival, "does Mr Vincent wish to confine our sex to the bliss of ignorance?"

"If it be bliss," said Mr Vincent, "what reason would they have for complaint?"

"If," said Belinda; "but that is a question you have not yet decided."

"And how can we decide it?" said Mr Vincent. "The taste and feelings of individuals must be the arbiters of their happiness."

"You leave reason quite out of the question, then," said Mr Percival, "and refer the whole to taste and feeling? So that if the most ignorant person in the world assert that he is happier than you are, you are bound to believe him."

"Why should not I?" said Mr. Vincent.

"Because," said Mr. Percival, "though he can judge of his own pleasures, he cannot judge of yours; his are common to both, but yours are unknown to him."

Maria Edgeworth
Belinda, Chapter XVII

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Happiness Theory 4: Benevolence

How wisely has Providence made the benevolent and generous passions the most pleasurable!

Maria Edgeworth
Belinda, Chapter XXVIII

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Little Things

No, Sir; a man would never undertake great things, could he be amused with small.

Dr. Sam: Johnson
Quoted in p. 909, Tuesday, 7 April 1778, of Life of Johnson, by James Boswell

God is in the details.

Maggie O'Connell in Northern Exposure (probably quoting someone else)

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.

Dr. Sam: Johnson
Quoted in Thursday, 14 July 1763 of Life of Johnson, by James Boswell

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Misfortunes and Obstacles

Happy is he who leaves obstacles to the less fortunate.

Sax Rohmer
Bimbashi Baruk of Egypt, p. 50

He who knows the camel knows the worst.

Sax Rohmer
Bimbashi Baruk of Egypt, p. 48

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Nature, Appreciating

Admiration of those beauties of the inanimate world, which modern poetry so largely and so eloquently describes, is not, even in the best of us, one of the original instincts of our nature. As children, we none of us possess it. No uninstructed man or woman possesses it. Those whose lives are exclusively passed amidst the everchanging wonders of sea and land are also those whoare most universally insensible to every aspect of Nature not directly associated with the human interest of their callin

Wilkie Collins
The Woman in White, The First Epoch, The Story Begun by Walter Hartright, Chapter VIII

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Not Knowing and Not Believing

Philosopher, n. One who loves wisdom but whose love is usually unrequited.

L.A. Rollins

Atheist, n. One who does not believe in God but is still holier than thou.

L.A. Rollins

Schopenhauer was a degenerate, unthinking, unknowing, nonsense scribbling philosopher, whose understanding consisted solely of empty, verbal trash.

Ludwig Boltzmann
Quoted in John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle

Fortunately for the credit of my philosophy, there is no immediate danger of its being put to the test.

Maria Edgeworth
Belinda , Chapter XXX

One learns in life to keep silent and draw one's own confusions.

Cornelia Otis Skinner

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Perceptions and Attitudes

Remember that discontent is the beginning of intent.

Mack Reynolds

Never judge the future by the perceptions of the present.

Mack Reynolds

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Resemblances are the shadows of differences.

Vladimir Nabokov
Pale Fire (Commentary on Line 894)

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The Solitary Hero

In this world of guns and knives, wherever Tang Lung may go to, he will always travel on his own.

The Return of the Dragon (screenplay)

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Tolerance is easy enough if you exclude from it everyone you despise.

Paula Fox
The God of Nightmares, Chapter 1

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When a Little Knowledge is Helpful

"Do you want a map?"

"Oh! I know this country well."

"You? When were you here before?"

"I was brought up here."


"It is worth something, you see, to have been brought up somewhere."

Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers, Ch. LXII

Anatomy has its uses, even in a midnight scuffle.

R. Austin Freeman
The Uttermost Farthing, Ch. III

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