Joseph Addison


English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician

Author Quotes

There is not any present moment that is unconnected with some future one. The life of every man is a continued chain of incidents, each link of which hangs upon the former. The transition from cause to effect, from event to event, is often carried on by secret steps, which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity is unable to trace. Evil may at some future period bring forth good; and good may bring forth evil, both equally unexpected.

There is scarce a Man living who is not, in some Degree, guilty of this Offence; tho?, at the same time, however we treat one another, it must be confessed, that we all consent in speaking ill of the Persons who are notorious for this Practice. It generally takes its Rise either from an Ill-will to Mankind, a private Inclination to make ourselves esteemed, an Ostentation of Wit, a Vanity of being thought in the Secrets of the World, or from a Desire of gratifying any of these Dispositions of Mind in those Persons with whom we converse.

They were a people so primitive they did not know how to get money, except by working for it.

This will appear to us if we reflect, in the first place, that upon the reading of a fable we are made to believe we advise ourselves. We peruse the author for the sake of the story, and consider the precepts rather as our own conclusions than his instructions. The moral insinuates itself imperceptibly; we are taught by surprise, and become wiser and better unawares. In short, by this method a man is so far over-reached as to think he is directing himself, while he is following the dictates of another, and consequently is not sensible of that which is the most unpleasing circumstance in advice.

Reason shows itself in all occurrences of life; whereas the brute makes no discovery of such a talent, but in what immediately regards his own preservation or the continuance of his species. Animals in their generation are wiser than the sons of men; but their wisdom is confined to a few particulars, and lies in a very narrow compass. Take a brute out of his instinct, and you find him wholly deprived of understanding.

Shallow pedants cry up one another much more than men of solid and useful learning. To read the titles they give an editor, or collator of a manuscript, you would take him for the glory of the commonwealth of letters, and the wonder of his age, when perhaps upon examination you find that he has only rectified a Greek particle, or laid out a whole sentence in proper commas.

Socrates introduced a catechetical method of arguing. He would ask his adversary question upon question, till he had convinced him out of his own mouth that his opinions were wrong. This way of debating drives an enemy up into a corner, seizes all the passes through which he can make an escape, and forces him to surrender at discretion.

Talk not of love: thou never knew'st its force.

The ambitious man has little happiness, but is subject to much uneasiness and dissatisfaction.

The dawn is overcast, the morning lowers, And heavily in clouds brings on the day, The great, the important day, big with the fate Of Cato and of Rome.

The first thing to be considered in an epic poem is the fable, which is perfect or imperfect according as the action which it relates is more or less so. This action should have three qualifications in it. First, it should be but one action; secondly, it should be an entire action; and, thirdly, it should be a great action.

The greatest sweetener of human life is Friendship. To raise this to the highest pitch of enjoyment, is a secret which but few discover.

The jealous man?s disease is of so malignant a nature that it converts all it takes into its own nourishment. A cool behavior sets him on the rack, and is interpreted as an instance of aversion or indifference; a fond one raises his suspicions, and looks too much like dissimulation and artifice. If the person he loves be cheerful, her thoughts must be employed on another; and if sad, she is certainly thinking on himself. In short, there is no word or gesture so insignificant, but it gives him new hints, feeds his suspicions, and furnishes him with fresh matter of discovery: so that if we consider the effects of his passion, one would rather think it proceeded from an inveterate hatred, than an excessive love; for certainly none can meet with more disquietude and uneasiness than a suspected wife, if we except the jealous husband.

The most exquisite words and finest strokes of an author are those which very often appear the most doubtful and exceptionable to a man who wants a relish for polite learning; and they are those which a sour undistinguishing critic generally attacks with the greatest violence.

The pleasantest part of a man's life is generally that which passes in courtship, provided his passion be sincere, and the party beloved kind with discretion. Love, desire, hope, all the pleasing emotions of the soul, rise in the pursuit.

The Roman emperors were possessed of the whole legislative as well as executive power.

The talent of turning men into ridicule, and exposing to laughter those one converses with, is the qualification of little ungenerous tempers. A young man with this cast of mind cuts himself off from all manner of improvement. Everyone has his flaws and weaknesses; nay, the greatest blemishes are often found in the most shining characters; but what an absurd thing is it to pass over all the valuable parts of a man, and fix our attention on his infirmities to observe his imperfections more than his virtues; and to make use of him for the sport of others, rather than for our own improvement?

The union of the Word and the Mind produces that mystery which is called Life... Learn deeply of the Mind and its mystery, for therein lies the secret of immortality.

The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds.

There cannot be a greater judgment befall a country than such a dreadful spirit of division as rends a government into two distinct people, and makes them greater strangers and more averse to one another than if they were actually two different nations. The effects of such a division are pernicious to the last degree, not only with regard to those advantages which they give the common enemy, but to those private evils which they produce in the heart of almost every particular person. This influence is very fatal both to men?s morals and their understandings; it sinks the virtue of a nation, and not only so, but destroys even common sense.

There is no greater sign of a general decay of virtue in a nation, than a want of zeal in its inhabitants for the good of their country.

There is not so variable a thing in nature as a lady?s head-dress. Within my own memory, I have known it to rise and fall within thirty degrees.

There is scarce a State of Life, or Stage in it which does not produce Changes and Revolutions in the Mind of Man. Our Schemes of Thought in Infancy are lost in those of Youth; these too take a different Turn in Manhood, till old Age often leads us back into our former Infancy. A new Title or an unexpected Success throws us out of ourselves, and in a manner destroys our Identity. A cloudy Day, or a little Sunshine, have as great an Influence on many Constitutions, as the most real Blessings or Misfortunes. A Dream varies our Being, and changes our Condition while it lasts; and every Passion, not to mention Health and Sickness, and the greater Alterations in Body and Mind, makes us appear almost different Creatures. If a Man is so distinguished among other Beings by this Infirmity, what can we think of such as make themselves remarkable for it even among their own Species? It is a very trifling Character to be one of the most variable Beings of the most variable Kind, especially if we consider that He who is the great Standard of Perfection has in him no Shadow of Change, but is the same Yesterday, To-day, and forever.

They were famous originals that gave rise to statues, with the same air, posture, and attitudes.

This would effectually kill in us all the little seeds of pride, vanity, and self-conceit, which are apt to shoot up in the minds of such whose thoughts turn more on those comparative advantages which they enjoy over some of their fellow-creatures than on that infinite distance which is placed between them and the supreme model of all perfection. It would likewise quicken our desires and endeavors of uniting ourselves to him by all the acts of religion and virtue.

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English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician