Joseph Addison


English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician

Author Quotes

Talking with a friend is nothing else but thinking aloud.

The antiquaries are for cramping their subject into as narrow a space as they can; and for reducing the whole extent of a science into a few general maxims.

The desire of fame betrays an ambitious man into indecencies that lessen his reputation: he is still afraid lest any of his actions should be thrown away in private.

The following question is started by one of the schoolmen:?Supposing the whole body of the earth were a great ball or mass of the finest sand, and that a single grain or particle of this sand should be annihilated every thousand years: Supposing then that you had it in your choice to be happy all the while this prodigious mass of sand was consuming by this slow method until there was not a grain of it left, on condition you were to be miserable forever after? Or, supposing that you might be happy forever after, on condition that you would be miserable until the whole mass of sand were thus annihilated at the rate of one sand in a thousand years: which of these two cases would you make your choice?? Reason therefore tells us, without any manner of hesitation, which would be the better part in this choice?. But when the choice we actually have before us is this, whether we will choose to be happy for the space of only threescore and ten, nay, perhaps of only twenty or ten years, I might say of only a day or an hour, and miserable to all eternity, or, on the contrary, miserable for this short term of years, and happy for a whole eternity: what words are sufficient to express that folly and want of consideration which in such a case makes a wrong choice?

The Hand that made us is divine.

The last method which I shall mention for the giving life to a man?s faith is frequent retirement from the world, accompanied by religious meditation. When a man thinks of anything in the darkness of the night, whatever deep impressions it may make in his mind, they are apt to vanish as soon as the day breaks about him. The light and noise of the day, which are perpetually soliciting his senses, and calling off his attention, wear out of his mind the thoughts that imprinted themselves in it, with so much strength, during the silence and darkness of the night. A man finds the same difference as to himself in a crowd and in a solitude: the mind is stunned and dazzled amidst that variety of objects which press upon her in a great city. She cannot apply herself to the consideration of those things which are of the utmost concern to her. The cares or pleasures of the world strike in with every thought, and a multitude of vicious examples gives a kind of justification to our folly. In our retirements everything disposes us to be serious. In courts and cities we are entertained with the works of men; in the country, with those of God. One is the province of art; the other, of nature.

The most skillful flattery is to let a person talk on, and be a listener.

The pleasures of the imagination are not wholly confined to such particular authors as are conversant in material objects, but are often to be met with among the polite masters of morality, criticism, and other speculations abstracted from matter, who, though they do not directly treat of the visible parts of nature, often draw from them similitudes, metaphors, and allegories. By these allusions, a truth in the understanding is, as it were, reflected by the imagination; we are able to see something like color and shape in a notion, and to discover a scheme of thoughts traced out upon matter. And here the mind receives a great deal of satisfaction, and has two of its faculties gratified at the same time, while the fancy is busy in copying after the understanding, and transcribing ideas out of the intellectual world into the material.

The Roman medals were their current money: when an action deserved to be recorded on a coin, it was stamped, and issued out of the mint.

The terms are loose and undefined; and, what less becomes a fair reasoner, he puts wrong and invidious names on everything to color a false way of arguing.

The universities of Europe, for many years, carried on their debates by syllogism, insomuch that we see the knowledge of several centuries laid out into objections and answers, and all the good sense of the age cut and minced into almost an infinitude of distinctions.

There are a sort of knight-errants in the world, who, quite contrary to those in romance, are perpetually seeking adventures to bring virgins into distress, and to ruin innocence. When men of rank and figure pass away their lives in these criminal pursuits and practices, they ought to consider that they render themselves more vile and despicable than any innocent man can be, whatever low station his fortune or birth have placed him in.

There is a great affinity between designing and poetry; for the Latin poets, and the designers of the Roman medals, lived very near one another, and were bred up to the same relish for wit and fancy.

There is no kind of false wit which has been so recommended by the practice of all ages, as that which consists in a jingle of words, and is comprehended under the general name of punning. It is indeed impossible to kill a weed which the soil has a natural disposition to produce. The seeds of punning are in the minds of all men; and though they may be subdued by reason, reflection, and good sense, they will be very apt to shoot up in the greatest genius that is not broken and cultivated by the rules of art. Imitation is natural to us, and when it does not raise the mind to poetry, painting, music, or other more noble arts, it often breaks out in puns and quibbles.

There is not, in my opinion, anything more mysterious in nature than this instinct in animals, which thus rises above reason and falls infinitely short of it. It cannot be accounted for by any properties in matter, and at the same time works after so odd a manner that one cannot think it the faculty of an intellectual being. For my own part, I look upon it as upon the principle of gravitation in bodies, which is not to be explained by any known qualities inherent in the bodies themselves, nor from the laws of mechanism, but, according to the best notions of the greatest philosophers, is an immediate impression from the first mover, and the divine energy acting in the creatures.

There is something very sublime, though very fanciful, in Plato?s description of the Supreme Being: that ?truth is his body, and light his shadow.? According to this definition, there is nothing so contradictory to his nature as error and falsehood. The Platonists had so just a notion of the Almighty?s aversion to everything which is false and erroneous, that they looked upon truth as no less necessary than virtue to qualify a human soul for the enjoyment of a separate state.

This fear of any future difficulties or misfortune is so natural to the mind, that were a man?s sorrows and disquietudes summed up at the end of his life, it would generally be found that he had suffered more from the apprehension of such evils as never happened to him, than from those evils which had really befallen him. To this we may add, that among those evils which befall us, there are many which have been more painful to us in the prospect than by their actual pressure.

Religion ? prescribes to every miserable man the means of bettering his condition; nay, it shows him that the bearing of his afflictions as he ought to do will naturally end in the removal of them: it makes him easy here because it can make him happy hereafter.

Should a writer single out and point his raillery at particular persons, or satirize the miserable, he might be sure of pleasing a great part of his readers, but must be a very ill man if he could please himself.

Some virtues are only seen in affliction, and some in prosperity.

Temperance gives nature her full play, and enables her to exert herself in all her force and vigor.

The beloved of the Almighty are: the rich who have the humility of the poor, and the poor who have the magnamity of the rich.

The devout man does not only believe, but feels, there is a Deity. He has actual sensations of him; his experience concurs with his reason; he sees him more and more in all his intercourses with him, and even in this life almost loses his faith in conviction.

The fraternity of the henpecked.

The harshness of reasoning is not a little softened and smoothed by the effusions of mirth and pleasantry.

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English Essayist, Poet, Playwright and Politician