Samuel Butler Quotes

  1. Though analogy is often misleading, it is the least misleading thing we have.
  2. The sinews of art and literature, like those of war, are money.
  3. It has been said that the love of money is the root of all evil. The want of money is so quite as truly.
  4. Christ: I dislike him very much. Still, I can stand him. What I cannot stand is the wretched band of people whose profession is to hoodwink us about him.
  5. If we attend continually and promptly to the little that we can do, we shall ere long be surprised to find how little remains that we cannot do.
  6. The function of vice is to keep virtue within reasonable bounds.
  7. People in general are equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted, and at seeing it practiced.
  8. It is the function of vice to keep virtue within reasonable bounds.
  9. We are not won by arguments that we can analyse but by tone and temper, by the manner which is the man himself.
  10. Women can stand a beating except when it is with their own weapons.
  11. There is nothing so unthinkable as thought, unless it be the entire absence of thought.
  12. When you’ve told someone that you’ve left them a legacy the only decent thing to do is to die at once.
  13. Let us eat and drink neither forgetting death unduly nor remembering it. The Lord hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, etc., and the less we think about it the better.
  14. To give pain is the tyranny; to make happy, the true empire of beauty.
  15. To know God better is only to realize how impossible it is that we should ever know him at all. I know not which is more childish to deny him, or define him.
  16. All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it.
  17. Virtue knows that it is impossible to get on without compromise, and tunes herself, as it were, a trifle sharp to allow for an inevitable fall in playing.
  18. Mr. Tennyson has said that more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of, but he wisely refrains from saying whether they are good or bad things.
  19. A sense of humor keen enough to show a man his own absurdities will keep him from the commission of all sins, or nearly all, save those worth committing.
  20. If you follow reason far enough it always leads to conclusions that are contrary to reason.
  21. Theist and atheist: the fight between them is as to whether God shall be called God or shall have some other name.
  22. Men are seldom more commonplace than on supreme occasions.
  23. Some men love truth so much that they seem to be in continual fear lest she should catch a cold on overexposure.
  24. It is seldom very hard to do one’s duty when one knows what it is, but it is often exceedingly difficult to find this out.
  25. And so there is no God but has been in the loins of past gods.
  26. Be virtuous and you will be vicious.
  27. If I die prematurely I shall be saved from being bored to death at my own success.
  28. If people would dare to speak to one another unreservedly, there would be a good deal less sorrow in the world a hundred years hence.
  29. It is tact that is golden, not silence.
  30. The most important service rendered by the press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with distrust.
  31. Is life worth living? This is a question for an embryo not for a man.
  32. The Ancient Mariner would not have taken so well if it had been called The Old Sailor.
  33. He has spent his life best who has enjoyed it most. God will take care that we do not enjoy it any more than is good for us.
  34. The dead should be judged like criminals, impartially, but they should be allowed the benefit of the doubt.
  35. Men should not try to overstrain their goodness more than any other faculty, bodily or mental.
  36. Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.
  37. If God wants us to do a thing, he should make his wishes sufficiently clear. Sensible people will wait till he has done this before paying much attention to him.
  38. A lawyer’s dream of heaven: every man reclaimed his property at the resurrection, and each tried to recover it from all his forefathers.
  39. Priests are not men of the world; it is not intended that they should be; and a University training is the one best adapted to prevent their becoming so.
  40. A skilful leech is better far, than half a hundred men of war.
  41. For truth is precious and divine, too rich a pearl for carnal swine.
  42. They say the test of literary power is whether a man can write an inscription. I say, ‘Can he name a kitten?’
  43. The seven deadly sins: Want of money, bad health, bad temper, chastity, family ties, knowing that you know things, and believing in the Christian religion.
  44. In old times people used to try and square the circle; now they try and devise schemes for satisfying the Irish nation.
  45. The dons of Oxford and Cambridge are too busy educating the young men to be able to teach them anything.
  46. One of the first businesses of a sensible man is to know when he is beaten, and to leave off fighting at once.
  47. Don’t learn to do, but learn in doing. Let your falls not be on a prepared ground, but let them be bona fide falls in the rough and tumble of the world.
  48. There is no bore like a clever bore.
  49. Faith – you can do very little with it, but you can do nothing without it.
  50. The worst thing that can happen to a man is to lose his money, the next worst his health, the next worst his reputation.
  51. To live is like to love – all reason is against it, and all healthy instinct for it.
  52. From a worldly point of view, there is no mistake so great as that of being always right.
  53. There is no true gracefulness which is not epitomized goodness.
  54. A drunkard would not give money to sober people. He said they would only eat it, and buy clothes and send their children to school with it.
  55. Words are not as satisfactory as we should like them to be, but, like our neighbours, we have got to live with them and must make the best and not the worst of them.
  56. Christ and The Church: If he were to apply for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, adultery and desertion, he would probably get one.
  57. Human life is as evanescent as the morning dew or a flash of lightning.
  58. Opinions have vested interests just as men have.
  59. It is a wise tune that knows its own father, and I like my music to be the legitimate offspring of respectable parents.
  60. Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to lie well.
  61. Most people have never learned that one of the main aims in life is to enjoy it.
  62. Let every man be true and every god a liar.
  63. Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them.
  64. Justice while she winks at crimes, Stumbles on innocence sometimes.
  65. In the midst of vice we are in virtue, and vice versa.
  66. Our ideas are for the most part like bad sixpences, and we spend our lives trying to pass them on one another.
  67. I really do not see much use in exalting the humble and meek; they do not remain humble and meek long when they are exalted.
  68. All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.
  69. It is not he who gains the exact point in dispute who scores most in controversy – but he who has shown the better temper.
  70. When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence.
  71. The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.
  72. A man should be just cultured enough to be able to look with suspicion upon culture at first, not second hand.
  73. What is faith but a kind of betting or speculation after all? It should be, I bet that my Redeemer liveth.
  74. God as now generally conceived of is only the last witch.
  75. Think of and look at your work as though it were done by your enemy. If you look at it to admire it, you are lost.
  76. An apology for the devil: it must be remembered that we have heard one side of the case. God has written all the books.
  77. God was satisfied with his own work, and that is fatal.
  78. Brigands demand your money or your life; women require both.
  79. Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.
  80. He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still.
  81. You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it.
  82. The history of the world is the record of the weakness, frailty and death of public opinion.
  83. Oaths are but words, and words are but wind.
  84. Self-preservation is the first law of nature.
  85. Life is one long process of getting tired.
  86. There are more fools than knaves in the world, else the knaves would not have enough to live upon.
  87. Marriage is distinctly and repeatedly excluded from heaven. Is this because it is thought likely to mar the general felicity?
  88. The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore.
  89. A physician’s physiology has much the same relation to his power of healing as a cleric’s divinity has to his power of influencing conduct.
  90. Death is only a larger kind of going abroad.
  91. There is no such source of error as the pursuit of truth.
  92. Work with some men is as besetting a sin as idleness.
  93. Morality is the custom of one’s country and the current feeling of one’s peers.
  94. Vaccination is the medical sacrament corresponding to baptism. Whether it is or is not more efficacious I do not know.
  95. God cannot alter the past, though historians can.
  96. The Athanasian Creed is to me light and intelligible reading in comparison with much that now passes for science.
  97. Life is not an exact science, it is an art.
  98. The oldest books are only just out to those who have not read them.
  99. A friend who cannot at a pinch remember a thing or two that never happened is as bad as one who does not know how to forget.
  100. People care more about being thought to have taste than about being thought either good, clever or amiable.
  101. Life is a quarry, out of which we are to mold and chisel and complete a character.
  102. It is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.
  103. All philosophies, if you ride them home, are nonsense, but some are greater nonsense than others.
  104. Look before you leap for as you sow, ye are like to reap.
  105. God and the Devil are an effort after specialization and the division of labor.
  106. Lying has a kind of respect and reverence with it. We pay a person the compliment of acknowledging his superiority whenever we lie to him.
  107. The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.
  108. Young people have a marvelous faculty of either dying or adapting themselves to circumstances.
  109. Those who have never had a father can at any rate never know the sweets of losing one. To most men the death of his father is a new lease of life.
  110. Our minds want clothes as much as our bodies.
  111. Christ was only crucified once and for a few hours. Think of the hundreds of thousands whom Christ has been crucifying in a quiet way ever since.
  112. Evil is like water, it abounds, is cheap, soon fouls, but runs itself clear of taint.
  113. Money is the last enemy that shall never be subdued. While there is flesh there is money or the want of money, but money is always on the brain so long as there is a brain in reasonable order.
  114. A hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.
  115. If life must not be taken too seriously, then so neither must death.
  116. Neither irony or sarcasm is argument.
  117. Half the vices which the world condemns most loudly have seeds of good in them and require moderate use rather than total abstinence.
  118. The want of money is the root of all evil.
  119. Nobody shoots at Santa Claus.
  120. It is our less conscious thoughts and our less conscious actions which mainly mould our lives and the lives of those who spring from us.
  121. The Bible may be the truth, but it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
  122. My main wish is to get my books into other people’s rooms, and to keep other people’s books out of mine.
  123. The truest characters of ignorance are vanity and pride and arrogance.
  124. Fear is static that prevents me from hearing myself.
  125. Man is the only animal that laughs and has a state legislature.
  126. Letters are like wine; if they are sound they ripen with keeping. A man should lay down letters as he does a cellar of wine.
  127. There is such a thing as doing good that evil may come.
  128. There is nothing which at once affects a man so much and so little as his own death.
  129. Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.
  130. When you have told anyone you have left him a legacy, the only decent thing to do is die at once.
  131. In law, nothing is certain but the expense.
  132. We shall never get people whose time is money to take much interest in atoms.
  133. Logic is like the sword – those who appeal to it, shall perish by it.
  134. I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.
  135. The three most important things a man has are, briefly, his private parts, his money, and his religious opinions.
  136. The voice of the Lord is the voice of common sense, which is shared by all that is.
  137. Belief like any other moving body follows the path of least resistance.
  138. Parents are the last people on earth who ought to have children.
  139. The advantage of doing one’s praising for oneself is that one can lay it on so thick and exactly in the right places.
  140. People are lucky and unlucky not according to what they get absolutely, but according to the ratio between what they get and what they have been led to expect.
  141. People are always good company when they are doing what they really enjoy.
  142. No mistake is more common and more fatuous than appealing to logic in cases which are beyond her jurisdiction.
  143. Silence and tact may or may not be the same thing.
  144. Man is God’s highest present development. He is the latest thing in God.
  145. Justice is my being allowed to do whatever I like. Injustice is whatever prevents my doing so.
  146. I never knew a writer yet who took the smallest pains with his style and was at the same time readable.
  147. The only living works are those which have drained much of the author’s own life into them.
  148. Man is the only animal that can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them.
  149. We all like to forgive, and love best not those who offend us least, nor who have done most for us, but those who make it most easy for us to forgive them.
  150. Academic and aristocratic people live in such an uncommon atmosphere that common sense can rarely reach them.
  151. Every man’s work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.
  152. A man’s friendships are, like his will, invalidated by marriage – but they are also no less invalidated by the marriage of his friends.
  153. To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead.
  154. The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously.
  155. Friendship is like money, easier made than kept.
  156. To die is but to leave off dying and do the thing once for all.
  157. The youth of an art is, like the youth of anything else, its most interesting period. When it has come to the knowledge of good and evil it is stronger, but we care less about it.
  158. The healthy stomach is nothing if it is not conservative. Few radicals have good digestions.
  159. All truth is not to be told at all times.
  160. A virtue to be serviceable must, like gold, be alloyed with some commoner, but more durable alloy.
  161. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a little want of knowledge is also a dangerous thing.
  162. If the headache would only precede the intoxication, alcoholism would be a virtue.
  163. Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.
  164. The history of art is the history of revivals.

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