Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

John Ruskin

English Critic, Essayist, Social Reformer

"Education is the leading of human souls to what is best, and making what is best out of them; and these two objects are always attainable together and by the same means; the training which makes men happiest in themselves also makes them most serviceable to others."

"Endurance is nobler than strength, and patience than beauty."

"Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know. It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave. It is not teaching the youth the shapes of letters and the tricks of numbers, and then leaving them to turn their arithmetic to roguery, and their literature to lust. It means, on the contrary, training them into the perfect exercise and kingly continence of their bodies and souls. It is a painful, continual and difficult work, to be done by kindness, by watching, by warning, by precept and by praise, but above all - by example."

"Every duty we omit obscures some truth we should have known."

"Every duty which we omit, obscures some truth which we should have known."

"Every great man is always being helped by everybody; for his gift is to get out of all things and all persons."

"He who has once stood beside the grave, to look back upon the companionship which has been forever closed, feeling how impotent there are the wild love, or the keen sorrow, to give one instant’s pleasure to the measure to the departed spirit for the hour of unkindness, will scarcely for the future incur that debt to the heart which can only be discharged to the dust."

"He who has truth in his heart need never fear the want of persuasion on his tongue."

"Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion - all in one."

"If we pretend to have reached either perfection or satisfaction, we have degraded ourselves and our work."

"If we do justice to our brother, even though we may not like him, we will come to love him; but if we do injustice to him because we do not love him we shall come to hate him."

"I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own powers. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man."

"If you want knowledge, you must toil for it; if food, you must toil for it; and if pleasure, you must toil for it: toil is the law."

"In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes."

"In mortals there is a care for trifles which proceeds from love and conscience, and is most holy; and a care for trifles which comes of idleness and frivolity, and is most base. And so, also, there is a gravity proceeding from thought, which is most noble, and a gravity proceeding from dullness and mere incapability of enjoyment, which is most base."

"It is far better to give work which is above the men than to educate the men to be above their work."

"It is far more difficult to be simple than to be complicated; far more difficult to sacrifice skill and cease exertion in the proper place, than to expend both indiscriminately."

"Life without industry is guilt, industry without art is brutality."

"It is only by labor that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labor can be made happy; and the two cannot be separated with impunity."

"It is not written, blessed is he that feedeth the poor, but he that considereth the poor. A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money."

"It is not the church we want, but the sacrifice; not the emotion of admiration, but the act of adoration; not the gift, but the giving."

"Sin is not in the act, but in the choice."

"The highest reward for man's toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes of it."

"The entire object of true education is to make people not merely do the right thing, but enjoy the right things; not merely industrious, but to love industry; not merely learned, but to love knowledge; not merely pure, but to love purity; not merely just, but to hunger and thirst after justice."

"Taste is not only a part and an index of morality - it is the only morality. The first, and last, and closest trial question to any living creature is, “What do you like?” Tell me what you like, an I’ll tell you what you are."

"There are three material things, not only useful, but essential to life. No one “knows how to live” till he has got them. These are pure air, water and earth. There are three immaterial things, not only useful, but essential to life. No one knows how to live till he has got them also. These are admiration, hope and love. Admiration - the power of discerning and taking delight in what is beautiful in visible form and lovely in human character; and, necessarily, striving to produce what is beautiful in form and to become what is lovely in character. Hope - the recognition, by true foresight, of better things to be reached hereafter, whether by ourselves or others; necessarily issuing in the straightforward and undisappointable effort to advance, according to our proper power, the gaining of them. Love - both of family and neighbor, faithful and satisfied."

"There is no action so slight, nor so mean, but it may be done to a great purpose, and ennobled therefore; nor is any purpose so great but that slight actions may help it, and may be so done as to help it much, most especially that chief of all purposes, the pleasing of God."

"There is a large difference between indolent impatience of labor and intellectual impatience of delay, large difference between leaving things unfinished because we have more to do or because we are satisfied with what we have done."

"There is nothing that this age, from whatever standpoint we survey it, needs more, physically, intellectually, and morally, than thorough ventilation."

"There is nothing so small but that we may honor God by asking His guidance of it, or insult Him by taking it into our own hands; and what is true of the Deity is equally true of His revelation."

"The moment a man can really do his work, he becomes speechless about it; all words are idle to him; all theories. Does a bird need to theorize about building its nest, or boast of it when built? All good work is essentially done that way; without hesitation; without difficulty; without boasting."

"To make your children capable of honesty is the beginning of education."

"Without seeking, truth cannot be known to all. It can neither be declared from pulpits, nor set down in articles, nor in any wise prepared and sold in packages ready for use. Truth must be ground for every man by himself out of its husk, with such help as he can get, indeed, but not without stern labor of his own."

"What is in reality cowardice and faithlessness, we call charity, and consider it the part of benevolence sometimes to forgive men’s evil practice for the sake of their accurate faith, and sometimes to forgive their confessed heresy for the sake of their admirable practice."

"You will find it less easy to uproot faults, than to choke them by gaining virtues."

"Whatever may be the means or whatever the more immediate end of any kind of art, all of it that is good agrees in this, that it is the expression of one soul talking to another, and is precious according to the greatness of the soul that utters it."

"(The sky) Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes awful, never the same for two minutes together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost divine in its infinity."

"A man is known to his dog by the smell, to his tailor by the coat, to his friend by the smile; each of these know him, but how little or how much depends on the dignity of the intelligence. That which is truly and indeed characteristic of the man is known only to God."

"You will find that the mere resolve not to be useless, and the honest desire to help other people, will, in the quickest and delicatest ways, improve yourself."

"All men who have sense and feeling are being continually helped; they are taught by every person they meet and enriched by everything that falls in their way. The greatest is he who has been oftenest aided. Originality is the observing eye."

"All other passions do occasional good; but when pride puts in its word everything goes wrong."

"All real joy and power of progress... depend on finding something to reverence, and all the baseness and misery of humanity begin in a habit of disdain."

"All that is good in art is the expression of one soul talking to another, and is precious according to the greatness of the soul that utters it."

"All the best things and treasure of this world are not to be produced by each generation for itself; but we are all intended, not to carve our work in snow that will melt, but each and all of us to be continually rolling a great white gathering snow-ball, higher and higher, larger and larger, along the Alps of human power."

"All violent feelings produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as the "Pathetic Fallacy.""

"Anything which elevates the mind is sublime. Greatness of matter, space, power, virtue or beauty, are all sublime."

"Art is greatest, which conveys to the mind of the spectator, by any means whatsoever, the greatest number of the greatest ideas, and I call an idea great in proportion as it is received by a higher faculty of the mind, and as it more fully occupies, and in occupying, exercises and exalts, the faculty by which it is received."

"As unity demanded for its expression what at first might have seemed its opposite - variety; so repose demands for its expression the implied capability of its opposite - energy. It is not the most unfailing test of beauty; nothing can be ignoble that possesses it, nothing right that has it not."

"Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together."

"Education is the leading human souls to what is best, and making what is best out of them; and these two objects are always attainable together, and by the same means. The training which makes men happiest in themselves also makes them most serviceable to others."