Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Oliver Goldsmith

Irish-born English Poet, Playwright and Novelist best known for his Novel, "The Vicar of Wakefield"

"It is impossible to combat enthusiasm with reason; for though it makes a show of resistance, it soon eludes the pressure, refers you to distinctions not to be understood, and feelings which it cannot explain."

"Man little knows what calamities are beyond his patience to bear till he tries them; as in ascending the heights of ambition, which look bright from below, every step we rise shows us some new and gloomy prospect of hidden disappointment; so in our descent from the summits of pleasure, though the vale of misery below may appear, at first, dark and gloomy, yet the busy mind, still attentive to its own amusement, finds, as we descend, something to flatter and to please. Still as we approach, the darkest objects appear to brighten, and the mortal eye becomes adapted to its gloomy situation."

"Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we may fall."

"Paltry affectation, strained allusions, and disgusting finery are easily attained by those who choose to wear them; they are but too frequently the badges of ignorance or of stupidity, whenever it would endeavor to please."

"People are generally calm at the misfortunes of others."

"None has more frequent conversations with disagreeable self than the man of pleasure; his enthusiasms are but few and transient; his appetites, like angry creditors, are continually making fruitless demands for what he is unable to pay; and the greater his former pleasures, the more strong his regret, the more impatient his expectations. A life of pleasure is, therefore, the most unpleasing life."

"People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy after."

"You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips."

"Tenderness is a virtue."

"Tenderness, without a capacity of relieving, only makes the man who reels it more wretched than the object which sues for assistance."

"The first fault is the child of simplicity, but every other the offspring of guilt."

"The English laws punish vice; the Chinese laws do more, they reward virtue."

"The hours we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasing than those crowned with fruition. In the first instance, we cook the dish to our own appetite; in the latter, nature cooks it for us."

"The little mind who loves itself, will write and think with the vulgar; but the great mind will be bravely eccentric, and scorn the beaten road, from universal benevolence."

"The more various our artificial necessities, the wider is our circle of pleasure; for all pleasure consists in obviating necessities as they rise; luxury, therefore, as it increases our wants, increases our capacity for happiness."

"The polite of every country seem to have but one character. A gentleman of Sweden differs but little, excerpt in trifles, from one of any other country. It is among the vulgar we are to find those distinctions which characterize a people."

"The fortunate circumstances of our lives are generally found, at last, to be of our own producing."

"The soul may be compared to a field of battle, where the armies are ready every moment to encounter. Not a single vice but has a more powerful opponent, and not one virtue but may be overborne by a combination of vices."

"The youth who follows his appetites too soon seizes the cup, before it has received its best ingredients, and by anticipating his pleasures, robs the remaining parts of life of their share, so that his eagerness only produces a manhood of imbecility and an age of pain."

"The true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them."

"There are some faults so nearly allied to excellence that we can scarce weed out the vice without eradicating the virtue."

"Both wit and understanding are trifles without integrity. The ignorant peasant without fault is greater than the philosopher with many. What is genius or courage without a heart?"

"Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies."

"I love everything that is old; old friends, old manners, old books, old wine."

"A boy will learn more true wisdom in a public school in a year than a private education in five. It is not from masters, but from their equals, that youth learn a knowledge of the world."

"A man’s own heart must ever be given to gain that of another."

"Error is always talkative."

"Fear guides more to their duty than gratitude; for one man who is virtuous from the love of virtue, from the obligation he thinks he lies under to the Giver of all, there are ten thousand who are good only from their apprehension of punishment."

"Every absurdity has a champion to defend it; for error is always talkative."

"Filial obedience is the first and greatest requisite of a state; by this we become good subjects to our emperors, capable of behaving with just subordination to our superiors, and grateful dependents on heaven; by this we become fonder of marriage, in order to be capable of exacting obedience from other sin our turn; by this we become good magistrates, for early submission is the truest lesson to those who would learn to rule. By this the whole state may be said to resemble one family."

"If the soul be happily disposed, every thing becomes capable of affording entertainment, and distress will almost want a name."

"For the first time, the best may err, art may persuade and novelty spread out its charms. The first fault is the child of simplicity; but every other the offspring of guilt."

"I must disclaim his friendship who ceases to be a friend to himself."

"Knowledge, wisdom, erudition, arts, and elegance, what are they, but the mere trappings of the mind, if they do not serve to increase the happiness of the possessor? A mind rightly instituted in the school of philosophy, acquires at once the stability of the oak, and the flexibility of the osier. Philosophy can add to our happiness in no other manner but by diminishing our misery; it should not pretend to increase our present stock, but make us economists of what we are possessed of. Happy were we all born philosophers; all born with a talent of thus dissipating our own cares by spreading them upon all mankind."

"Novels teach the youthful mind to sigh after happiness that never existed."

"Our bounty, like a drop of water, disappears, when diffus’d too widely."

"Religion does what philosophy could never do; it shows the equal dealings of Heaven to the happy and the unhappy, and levels all human enjoyments to nearly the same standard. It gives to both rich and poor the same happiness hereafter, and equal hopes to aspire after it."

"Politics resemble religion; attempting to divest either of ceremony is the most certain mode of bringing either into contempt."

"The work of eradicating crimes is not by making punishment familiar, but formidable."

"There is an unspeakable pleasure attending the life of a voluntary student."

"We are never too old to be instructed."

"To a philosopher no circumstance, however trifling, is too minute."

"To be poor, and seem to be poor, is a certain way [method] never to rise."

"Honour sinks where commerce long prevails."

"Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law."

"A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away."

"The ingratitude of the world can never deprive us of the conscious happiness of having acted with humanity ourselves."

"Nothing can exceed the vanity of our existence but the folly of our pursuits."

"Learn the luxury of doing good."

"Modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues."