Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Charles Caleb Colton

English Writer, Clergyman and Collector

"It is with diseases of the mind as with those of the body; we are half dead before we understand our disorders, and half cured when we do."

"It is not so difficult a task to plant new truths as to root out old errors; for there is this paradox in men - they run after that which is new, but are prejudiced in favor of that which is old."

"It is much easier to ruin a man of principle than a man of none, for he may be ruined through his scruples. Knavery is supple and can bend; but honesty is firm and upright, and yields not."

"It is more easy to forgive the weak who have injured us, than the powerful whom we have injured. The conduct will be continued by our fears which commenced in our resentment."

"It is a curious paradox that precisely in proportion to our own intellectual weakness will be our credulity, to those mysterious powers assumed by others."

"In an age remarkable for good reasoning and bad conduct, for sound rules and corrupt manners, when virtue fills our heads, but vice our hearts; when those who would fain persuade us that they are quite sure of heaven, appear in no greater hurry to go there than other folks, but put on the livery of the best master only to serve the worst; in an age when modesty herself is more ashamed of detection than delinquency; when independence of principle consists in having no principle on which to depend; and free thinking, not in thinking freely, but in being free from thinking; in an age when patriots will hold anything except their tongues; keep anything except their word; and lose nothing patiently except their character; to improve such an age must be difficult; to instruct it dangerous; and he stands no chance of amending it who cannot at the same time amuse it."

"In cases of doubtful morality, it is usual to say, Is there any harm in doing this? This question may sometimes be best answered by asking ourselves another: Is there any harm in letting it alone?"

"Idleness is the grand Pacific Ocean of life, and in that stagnant abyss, the most salutary things produce no good, the most noxious no evil."

"In religion as in politics it so happens that we have less charity for those who believe half our creed, than for those who deny the whole of it."

"Injuries accompanied with insults are never forgiven; all men, on these occasions, are good haters and layout their revenge at compound interest."

"In life, we shall find many men that are great, and some men that are good, but very few men that are both great and good."

"I will not be revenged, and this I owe to my enemy; but I will remember, and this I owe to myself."

"Honor is the most capricious in her rewards. She feeds us with air, and often pulls down our house, to build our monument."

"Honor is unstable, and seldom the same; for she feeds upon opinion, and is as fickle as her food. She builds a lofty structure on the sandy foundation of the esteem of those who of all beings the most subject to change."

"He that swells in prosperity will be sure to shrink in adversity."

"He that openly tells his friends all that he thinks of them, must expect that they will secretly tell his enemies much that they do not think of him."

"Honesty is not only the deepest policy, but the highest wisdom."

"Habit will reconcile us to everything but change, and even to change if it recur not too quickly."

"He that knows himself knows others."

"He that is good, will infallibly become better, and the that is bad, will as certainly become worse; for vice, virtue, and time, are three things that never stand still."

"He that has energy enough in his constitution to root out a vice should go a little further, and try to plant a virtue in its place; otherwise he will have his labor to renew. A strong soil that has produced weeds may be made to produce wheat with far less difficulty than it would cost to make it produce nothing."

"Gross and vulgar minds will always pay a higher respect to wealth than to talent; for wealth, although it be a far less efficient source of power than talent, happens to be far more intelligible."

"Grant graciously what you cannot refuse safely, and conciliate those you cannot conquer."

"Friendship often ends in love; but love in friendship - never."

"God is as great in minuteness as He is in magnitude."

"Forgiveness, that noblest of all self-denial, is a virtue which he alone who can practice in himself can willingly believe in another."

"For all the practical purposes of life, truth might as well be in a prison as in the folio of a schoolman; and those who release her from her cow-webbed shelf and teach her to live with men have the merit of liberating, if not of discovering, her."

"Falsehood is often rocked by truth; but she soon outgrows her cradle and discards her nurse."

"Few things are more agreeable to self-love than revenge, and yet no cause so effectually restrains us from revenge as self-love. And this paradox naturally suggests another; that the strength of the community is not infrequently built upon the weakness of those individuals that compose it."

"Evils in the journey of life are like the hills which alarm travelers upon their road; they both appear great at a distance, but when we approach them we find that they are far less insurmountable than we had conceived."

"Falsehood is never so successful as when she baits her hook with truth, and no opinions so fatally mislead us as those that are not wholly wrong, as no watches so effectually deceive the wearer as those that are sometimes right."

"Envy, if surrounded on all sides by the brightness of another’s prosperity, like the scorpion confined within a circle of fire, will sting itself to death."

"Error is always more busy than ignorance. Ignorance is a blank sheet on which we may write; but error is a scribbled one from which we must first erase."

"Envy ought in strict truth to have no place whatever allowed it in the heart of man; for the goods of this present world are so vile and low that they are beneath it, and those of the future world are so vast and exalted that they are above it."

"Ennui, perhaps, has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many; suicides as despair."

"Deliberate with caution, but act with decision (and promptness); and yield with graciousness, or oppose with firmness."

"Deformity of heart I call the worst deformity of all; for what is form, or face, but the soul's index, or its case?"

"Cruel men are the greatest lovers of mercy, avaricious men of generosity, and proud men of humility; that is to say, in others, not in themselves."

"Corruption is like a ball of snow: whence once set a-rolling it must increase."

"Courage is generosity of the highest order, for the brave are prodigal of the most precious things. Our blood is nearer and dearer to us than our money, and our life than our estate."

"Contemporaries appreciate the man rather than his merit; posterity will regard the merit rather than the man."

"By paying our other debts, we are equal with all mankind; but in refusing to pay a debt of revenge, we are superior."

"Calumniators are those who have neither good hearts nor good understandings. We ought not to think ill of any one till we have palpable proof; and even then we should not expose them to others."

"Analogy, although it is not infallible, is yet the telescope of the mind by which it is marvelously assisted in the discovery of both physical and moral truth."

"Attempts at reform, when they fail, strengthen despotism; as he that struggles tightens those cords he does not succeed in breaking."

"Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out."

"Avarice has ruined more men than prodigality, and the blindest thoughtlessness of expenditure has not destroyed so many fortunes as the calculating but insatiable lust of accumulation."

"Deliberate with caution, but act with decision; and yield with graciousness, or oppose with firmness."

"Man is an embodied paradox, a bundle of contradictions."

"There is a paradox in pride – it makes some men ridiculous, but prevents others from become so."