Great Throughts Treasury

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

Joseph Addison

English Essayist, Critic, Poet, Playwright, Politician and Man of Letters

"A contemplation of God's works, a generous concern for the good of mankind, and the unfeigned exercise of humility - these only, denominate men great and glorious."

"‘Tis the divinity that stirs within us; ‘tis Heaven itself that points out an hereafter, and intimates eternity to man."

"A contented mind is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world; and if in the present life his happiness arises from the subduing of his desires, it will arise in the next from the gratification of them."

"A cheerful temper, joined with innocence, will make beauty attractive, knowledge delightful, and wit good natured. It will lighten sickness, poverty and affliction; convert ignorance into an amiable simplicity, and render deformity itself agreeable."

"A friend exaggerates a man’s virtues; an enemy inflames his crimes."

"A good conscience is to the soul what health is to the body; it preserves constant ease and serenity within us, and more than countervails all the calamities and afflictions which can befall us without."

"A friendship that makes the least noise is very often the most useful; for which reason I should prefer a prudent friend to a zealous one."

"A good character, good habits, and iron industry are impregnable to the assaults of all the ill-luck that fools ever dreamed of."

"A jealous man is very quick in his application: he knows how to find a double edge in an invective, and to draw a satire on himself out of a panegyrick on another."

"A man’s first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart; his next, to escape the censures of the world."

"A man must be excessively stupid, as well as uncharitable, who believes there is no virtue but on his own side."

"A great deal of knowledge, which is not capable of making a man wise, has a natural tendency to make him vain and arrogant."

"A man's first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart; his next, to escape the censures of the world. If the last interferes with the former, it ought to be entirely neglected; but otherwise there cannot be a greater satisfaction to an honest mind, than to see those approbations which it gives itself, seconded by the applauses of the public. A man is more sure of his conduct, when the verdict which he passes upon his own behavior is thus warranted and confirmed by the opinion of all that know him."

"A soul exasperated by its ills, falls out with everything, with its friend and itself."

"A statue lies hid in a block of marble, and the art of the statuary only clears away the superfluous matter and removes the rubbish. The figure is in the stone; the sculptor only finds it. What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. The philosopher, the saint, or the hero - the wise, the good, or the great man - very often lies hid and concealed in a plebeian, which a proper education might have disinterred, and have brought to light."

"Ambition raises a secret tumult in the soul; it inflames the mind, and puts it into a violent hurry of thought."

"An evil intention perverts the best actions, and makes them sins."

"By anticipation we suffer misery and enjoy happiness before they are in being. We can set the sun and stars forward, or lose sight of them by wandering into those retired parts of eternity when the heavens and earth shall be no more."

"An idol may be undeified by many accidental causes. Marriage, in particular, is a kind of counter apotheosis, as a deification inverted. When a man becomes familiar with his goddess she quickly sinks into a woman."

"Charity is a virtue of the heart and not of the hands."

"Charity is the perfection and ornament of religion."

"Cheerfulness is, in the first place, the best promoter of health. Repining and secret murmurs of heart give imperceptible strokes to those delicate fibres of which the vital parts are composed."

"An ostentatious man will rather relate a blunder or an absurdity he has committed, than be debarred from talking of his own dear person."

"Complaisance renders a superior amiable, an equal agreeable, and an inferior acceptable."

"Content thyself to be obscurely good."

"Cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity."

"Complaisance, though in itself it be scarce reckoned in the number of moral virtues, is that which gives lustre to every talent a man can be possessed of."

"Dependence is a perpetual call upon humanity, and a greater incitement to tenderness and pity than any other motive whatever."

"He who would pass the declining years of his life with honor and comfort, should when young, consider that he may one day become old, and remember, when he is old, that he has once been young."

"Good-nature is more agreeable in conversation than wit, and gives a certain air to the countenance which is more amiable than beauty. It shows virtue in the fairest light; takes off in some measure from the deformity of vice; and makes even folly and impertinence supportable."

"Honor's a sacred tie, the noble mind's distinguish perfection, that aids and strengthens virtue where it meets her, and imitates her actions where she is not."

"Health and cheerfulness mutually beget each other."

"Discourses on morality and reflection on human nature are the best means we can make use of to improve our minds, gain a true knowledge of ourselves, and recover our souls out of the vice, ignorance, and prejudice which naturally cleave to them."

"Education is leading human souls to what is best, and no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate, no despotism can enslave."

"How can it enter into the thoughts of man, that the soul, which is capable of such immense perfections, and of receiving new improvements to all eternity, shall fall away into nothing almost as soon as it is created?"

"I consider a human soul without education like marble in the quarry, which shows none of its inherent beauty until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colors and makes the surface shine."

"I would have every zealous man examine his heart thoroughly, and I believe he will often find that what he calls a zeal for his religion is either pride, interest, or ill-repute."

"If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius."

"If gratitude, when exerted towards another, naturally produces a very pleasing sensation in the mind of a grateful man, it exalts the soul into rapture when it is employed on this great object of gratitude to the beneficent Being who has given us everything we already possess, and from whom we expect everything we hope for."

"In short, heaven is not to be looked upon only as the reward, but as the natural effect, of a religious life."

"If the minds of men were laid open, we should see but little difference between them and that of the fool; there are infinite reveries and numberless extravagancies pass through both."

"In private conversation between intimate friends, the wisest men very often talk like the weakest; for indeed the talking with a friend is nothing else but thinking aloud."

"It is folly for an eminent man to think of escaping censure, and a weakness to be affected with it. All the illustrious persons of antiquity, and indeed of every age in the world, have passed through this fiery persecution."

"Inconsistency with ourselves is the great weakness of human nature."

"It is not the business of virtue to extirpate the affections of the mind, but to regulate them."

"Irresolution on the schemes of life which offer themselves to our choice, and inconstancy in pursuing them, are the greatest causes of all our unhappiness."

"It is ridiculous for any man to criticize the works of another who has not distinguished himself by his own performance."

"Mankind are more indebted to industry than ingenuity; the gods set up their favors at a price, and industry is the purchaser."

"Many actions calculated to procure fame are not conducive to ultimate happiness."

"Men may change their climate, but they cannot change their nature. A man that goes out a fool cannot ride or sail himself into common sense."