Joseph Addison


English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician

Author Quotes

Those who believe a future state of rewards and punishments act very absurdly if they form their opinions of a man?s merit from his successes. But certainly, if I thought the whole circle of our being was included between our births and deaths, I should think a man?s good fortune the measure and standard of his real merit, since Providence would have no opportunity of rewarding his virtue and perfections, but in the present life. A virtuous unbeliever, who lies under the pressure of misfortunes, has reason to cry out, as they say Brutus did, a little before his death, ?O virtue, I have worshipped thee as a substantial good, but I find thou art an empty name.?

Thy father's merit sets thee up to view, and shows thee in the fairest point of light, to make thy virtues, or thy faults, conspicuous.

To conclude, As I am a Compound of Soul and Body, I consider myself as obliged to a double Scheme of Duties; and I think I have not fulfilled the Business of the Day when I do not thus employ the one in Labor and Exercise, as well as the other in Study and Contemplation.

True happiness... arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one's self.

We are always doing something for posterity, but I would fain see posterity do something for us.

We may further observe, that such a Man will be more grieved for the Loss of Fame, than be could have been pleased with the Enjoyment of it. For tho? the Presence of this imaginary Good cannot make us happy, the Absence of it may make us miserable: Because in the Enjoyment of an Object we only find that Share of Pleasure which it is capable of giving us, but in the Loss of it we do not proportion our Grief to the real Value it bears, but to the Value our Fancies and Imaginations set upon it.

What a majesty and force does one meet with in these short inscriptions: are not you amazed to see so much history gathered into so small a compass?

When a man has been guilty of any vice or folly, I think the best atonement he can make for it is to warn others not to fall into the like.

When I look into the frame and constitution of my own mind, there is no part of it which I observe with greater satisfaction than that tenderness and concern which it bears for the good and happiness of mankind. My own circumstances are indeed so narrow and scanty that I should taste but very little pleasure could I receive it only from those enjoyments which are in my own possession; but by this great tincture of humanity, which I find in all my thoughts and reflections, I am happier than any single person can be, with all the wealth, strength, beauty, and success, that can be conferred upon a mortal, if he only relishes such a proportion of these blessings as is vested in himself and in his own private property. By this means, every man that does himself any real service does me a kindness. I come in for my share in all the good that happens to a man of merit and virtue, and partake of many gifts of fortune and power that I was never born to. There is nothing in particular in which I so much rejoice as the deliverance of good and generous spirits out of dangers, difficulties, and distresses.

When men of learning are acted by a knowledge of the world, they give a reputation to literature and convince the world of its usefulness.

Whether the different motions of the animal spirits may have any effect on the mold of the face, when the lineaments are pliable and tender, I shall leave to the curious.

With what astonishment and veneration may we look into our own souls, where there are such hidden stores of virtue and knowledge, such inexhaustible sources of perfection. We know not yet what we shall be, nor will it ever enter into the heart to conceive the glory that will be always in reserve for it.

Though a man cannot abstain from being weak, he may from being vicious.

Thy steady temper, Portius, can look on guilt, rebellion, fraud, and C‘sar, in the calm lights of mild philosophy.

To consider an author as the subject of obloquy and detraction, we may observe with what pleasure a work is received by the invidious part of mankind in which a writer falls short of himself.

True modesty avoids everything that is criminal; false modesty everything that is unfashionable.

We are growing serious, and, let me tell you, that's the very next step to being dull.

We may observe that in the first ages of the world, when the great souls and masterpieces of human nature were produced, men shined by a noble simplicity of behavior, and were strangers to those little embellishments which are so fashionable in our present conversation. And it is very remarkable, that notwithstanding we fall short at present of the ancients in poetry, painting, oratory, history, architecture, and all the noble arts and sciences which depend more upon genius than experience, we exceed them as much in doggerel humor, burlesque, and all the trivial arts of ridicule. We meet with more raillery among the moderns, but more good sense among the ancients.

What a pity is it That we can die but once to save our country!

When a Man has but a little Stock to improve, and has opportunities of turning it all to good Account, what shall we think of him if he suffers nineteen Parts of it to lie dead, and perhaps employs even the twentieth to his Ruin or Disadvantage? But because the Mind cannot be always in its Fervours, nor strained up to a Pitch of Virtue, it is necessary to find out proper Employments for it in its Relaxations.

When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tombs of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow; when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great Day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together.

When men of rank and fortune pass away their lives in criminal pursuits and practices they render themselves more vile and despicable than any innocent man can be, whatever low station his fortune and birth have placed him in.

Whether zeal or moderation be the point we aim at, let us keep the fire out of the one, and the frost out of the other.

Without constancy, there is neither love, friendship, nor virtue in the world.

Though a man has all other perfections, and wants discretion, he will be of no great consequence in the world; but if he has this single talent in perfection, and but a common share of others, he may do what he pleases in his station of life.

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English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician