Great Throughts Treasury

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

Samuel Butler

English Poet, Novelist, Scholar, Translator

"Conscience is thoroughly well bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it."

"Every man's work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself, and the more he tries to conceal himself the more clearly his character appear in spite of him."

"From a worldly point of view there is no mistake so great as that of being always right."

"He who does not make his words rather serve to conceal than discover the sense of his heart deserves to have it pulled out like a traitor’s and shown publicly to the rabble."

"Half the vices which the world condemns most loudly have seeds of good in them and require moderate use rather than total abstinence."

"It is the unconscious liar that is the greatest liar."

"Night is the Sabbath of mankind, to rest the body and the mind."

"Our minds want clothes as much as our bodies."

"People care more about being thought to have taste than about being thought either good, clever, or amiable."

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, but the unreasonable man tries to adapt the world to him - therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man."

"The truest characters of ignorance are vanity and pride and arrogance."

"The world will always be governed by self-interest: we should not try to stop this: we should try and make the self-interest of cads a little more coincident with that of decent people."

"There is no permanent absolute unchangeable truth; what we should pursue is the most convenient arrangement of our ideas."

"To have the power to forgive, is empire and prerogative, and ‘tis in crowns a nobler gem, to grant a pardon than condemn."

"We pay a person the compliment of acknowledging his superiority whenever we lie to him."

"A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide."

"A man's work whether in music, painting or literature is always a portrait of himself."

"A truth's prosperity is like a jest's; it lies in the ear of him that hears it."

"All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it - and they do enjoy it as much as man and other circumstances will allow."

"All progress is based on a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income."

"An honest God's the noblest work of man."

"An idea must not be condemned for being a little shy and incoherent; all new ideas are shy when introduced first among our old ones. We should have patience and see whether the incoherency is likely to wear off or to wear on, in which latter case the sooner we get rid of them the better."

"An open mind is all very well in its way, but it ought not to be so open that there is no keeping anything in or out of it. It should be capable of shutting its doors sometimes, or it may be found a little draughty."

"Any class is all right if it will only let others be so."

"Communication of all kinds is like painting - a compromise with impossibilities."

"Every new idea has something of the pain and peril of childbirth about it; ideas are just as mortal and just as immortal as organized beings are."

"Faith, you can do very little with it, but you can do nothing without it."

"Friendship is like money, easier made than kept."

"He is greatest who is most often in men's good thoughts."

"If life must not be taken too seriously, then so neither must death."

"Is life worth living? This is a question for an embryo, not for a man."

"It is death, and not what comes after death, that men are generally afraid of."

"Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule. Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases, though not often."

"Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on."

"Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises... If life is an illusion, then so is death-the greatest of all illusions. If life must not be taken too seriously-then neither must death."

"Oaths are but words, and words are but wind."

"Opinions have vested interests just as men."

"Our latest moment is always our supreme moment. Five minutes delay in dinner now is more important that a great sorrow ten years gone."

"Praise, like gold and diamond,s owes its value only to its scarcity."

"Silence is not always tact and it is tact that is golden, not silence."

"The history of the world is the record of the weakness, frailty and death of public opinion."

"The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore."

"The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them."

"The public buys its opinions as it buys its milk, on the principle that it is cheaper to do this than keep a cow. So it is, but the milk is more likely to be watered."

"The voice of the Lord is the voice of common sense, which is shared by all that is."

"The world will only, in the end, follow those who have despised as well as served it."

"There are two great rules of life, the one general and the other particular. The first is that everyone can in the end, get what he wants, if he only tries. That is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is, more or less, an exception to the rule."

"There is one thing certain, namely, that we can have nothing certain; therefore it is not certain that we can have nothing certain."

"Thought pure and simple is as near to God as we can get, it is through this that we are linked with God."

"Time is the only true purgatory."