Samuel Johnson c. 1772,
painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds
|Born||18 September 1709
(O.S. 7 September)
Lichfield, Staffordshire, England
|Died||13 December 1784 (aged 75)
|Occupation||Essayist, lexicographer, biographer, poet|
|Alma mater||Pembroke College, Oxford
|Spouse||Elizabeth Porter (nÃ©e Jervis)|
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.
Adversity has ever been considered the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself.
We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know because they have never deceived us.
Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.
The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.
Paradise Lost is a book that, once put down, is very hard to pick up again.
Bounty always receives part of its value from the manner in which it is bestowed.
From the middle of life onward, only he remains vitally alive who is ready to die with life.
It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentionally lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.
If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, sir, should keep his friendship in a constant repair.
Allow children to be happy in their own way, for what better way will they find?
There are goods so opposed that we cannot seize both, but, by too much prudence, may pass between them at too great a distance to reach either.
A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner.
A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.
When a man says he had pleasure with a woman he does not mean conversation.
Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed.
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 time.
I would be loath to speak ill of any person who I do not know deserves it, but I am afraid he is an attorney.
Prepare for death, if here at night you roam, and sign your will before you sup from home.
Wine gives a man nothing… it only puts in motion what had been locked up in frost.
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.
The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne.
Were it not for imagination a man would be as happy in arms of a chambermaid as of a duchess.
When any calamity has been suffered the first thing to be remembered is, how much has been escaped.
The world is like a grand staircase, some are going up and some are going down.
He that fails in his endeavors after wealth or power will not long retain either honesty or courage.
You teach your daughters the diameters of the planets and wonder when you are done that they do not delight in your company.
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.
Adversity leads us to think properly of our state, and so is most beneficial to us.
Everything that enlarges the sphere of human powers, that shows man he can do what he thought he could not do, is valuable.
Almost every man wastes part of his life attempting to display qualities which he does not possess.
The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape.
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 other.
The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.
We love to expect, and when expectation is either disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting.
You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
Surely a long life must be somewhat tedious, since we are forced to call in so many trifling things to help rid us of our time, which will never return.
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 enjoy it.
No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned… a man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company.
No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library.
There are few things that we so unwillingly give up, even in advanced age, as the supposition that we still have the power of ingratiating ourselves with the fair sex.
All the arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil show it evidently to be a great evil.
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.
A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but, one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still.
Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble.
Books that you carry to the fire, and hold readily in your hand, are most useful after all.
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.
There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern.
There is, indeed, nothing that so much seduces reason from vigilance, as the thought of passing life with an amiable woman.
The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.
You can't be in politics unless you can walk in a room and know in a minute who's for you and who's against you.
I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance.
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 a book.
Few enterprises of great labor or hazard would be undertaken if we had not the power of magnifying the advantages we expect from them.
So many objections may be made to everything, that nothing can overcome them but the necessity of doing something.
To be idle and to be poor have always been reproaches, and therefore every man endeavors with his utmost care to hide his poverty from others, and his idleness from himself.
Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.
The mind is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity… The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.
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.
Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.
I had rather see the portrait of a dog that I know, than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world.
The love of life is necessary to the vigorous prosecution of any undertaking.
Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged.
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.
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.
Leisure and curiosity might soon make great advances in useful knowledge, were they not diverted by minute emulation and laborious trifles.
To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity.
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.
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.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified.
You hesitate to stab me with a word, and know not – silence is the sharper sword.
The wretched have no compassion, they can do good only from strong principles of duty.
Nothing flatters a man as much as the happiness of his wife; he is always proud of himself as the source of it.
Some desire is necessary to keep life in motion, and he whose real wants are supplied must admit those of fancy.
You cannot spend money in luxury without doing good to the poor. Nay, you do more good to them by spending it in luxury, than by giving it; for by spending it in luxury, you make them exert industry, whereas by giving it, you keep them idle.
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.
Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.
Small debts are like small shot; they are rattling on every side, and can scarcely be escaped without a wound: great debts are like cannon; of loud noise, but little danger.
The happiest conversation is that of which nothing is distinctly remembered, but a general effect of pleasing impression.
Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government other than another. It is of no moment to the happiness of an individual.
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 perseverance.
We are long before we are convinced that happiness is never to be found, and each believes it possessed by others, to keep alive the hope of obtaining it for himself.
To get a name can happen but to few; it is one of the few things that cannot be brought. It is the free gift of mankind, which must be deserved before it will be granted, and is at last unwillingly bestowed.
Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.
I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
What makes all doctrines plain and clear? About two hundred pounds a year. And that which was proved true before, prove false again? Two hundred more.
Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it shall be spent.
Getting money is not all a man's business: to cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.
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.
The happiest part of a man's life is what he passes lying awake in bed in the morning.
To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.
He that undervalues himself will undervalue others, and he that undervalues others will oppress them.
The advice that is wanted is commonly not welcome and that which is not wanted, evidently an effrontery.
It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.
No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring.
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.
Between falsehood 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.
Nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little.
A wise man is cured of ambition by ambition itself; his aim is so exalted that riches, office, fortune and favour cannot satisfy him.
What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.
There is no private house in which people can enjoy themselves so well as at a capital tavern… No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.
There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money.
One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.
Subordination tends greatly to human happiness. Were we all upon an equality, we should have no other enjoyment than mere animal pleasure.
In order that all men may be taught to speak the truth, it is necessary that all likewise should learn to hear it.
Nobody can write the life of a man but those who have eat and drunk and lived in social intercourse with him.
The vanity of being known to be trusted with a secret is generally one of the chief motives to disclose it.
Those who attain any excellence, commonly spend life in one pursuit; for excellence is not often gained upon easier terms.
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.
Friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions.
Dictionaries are like watches, the worst is better than none and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.
Every man is rich or poor according to the proportion between his desires and his enjoyments.
He that will enjoy the brightness of sunshine, must quit the coolness of the shade.
Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.
There are some sluggish men who are improved by drinking; as there are fruits that are not good until they are rotten.
It is a most mortifying reflection for a man to consider what he has done, compared to what he might have done.
The world is seldom what it seems; to man, who dimly sees, realities appear as dreams, and dreams realities.
Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
There are minds so impatient of inferiority that their gratitude is a species of revenge, and they return benefits, not because recompense is a pleasure, but because obligation is a pain.
When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.
It is reasonable to have perfection in our eye that we may always advance toward it, though we know it can never be reached.
A man ought to read just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good.
Wine makes a man more pleased with himself; I do not say it makes him more pleasing to others.
So far is it from being true that men are naturally equal, that no two people can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other.