Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Sydney Smith

English Clergyman and Essayist

"If idleness do not produce vice or malevolence, it commonly produces melancholy."

"It is the calling of great men, not so much to preach new truths, as to rescue from oblivion those old truths which it is our wisdom to remember and our weakness to forget."

"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can."

"Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love and to be loved is the greatest happiness of existence."

"Never teach false modesty. How exquisitely absurd to teach a girl that beauty is of no value, dress of no use! Beauty is of value; her whole prospects and happiness in life may often depend upon a new gown or a becoming bonnet: if she has five grains of common sense she will find this out. The great thing is to teach her their proper value."

"One of the best methods of rendering study agreeable is to live with able men, and to suffer all those pangs of inferiority which the want of knowledge always inflicts."

"Politeness is good nature regulated by good sense."

"Poverty is no disgrace to a man but it is confoundedly inconvenient."

"Repose is agreeable to the human mind; and decision is repose. A man has made up his opinions; he does not choose to be disturbed; and he is much more thankful to the man who confirms him in his errors, and leaves him alone, than he is to the man who refutes him, or who instructs him at the expense of his tranquillity."

"Solitude cherishes great virtues and destroys little ones."

"That charity alone endures which flows from a sense of duty and a hope in God. this is the charity that treads in secret those paths of misery from which all but the lowest of human wretches have fled; this is that charity which no labor can weary, no ingratitude detach, no horror disgust; that toils, that pardons, that suffers; that is seen by no man, and honored by no man, but, like the great laws of Nature, does the work of God in silence, and looks to a future and better world for its reward."

"All great alterations in human affairs are produced by compromise."

"Digestion is the great secret of life."

"Dress covers the mortal body and adorns it, but style is the vehicle of the spirit."

"Errors to be dangerous must have a great deal of truth mingled with them; it is only from this alliance that they can ever obtain an extensive circulation; from pure extravagance, and genuine, unmingled falsehood, the world never has, and never can sustain any mischief."

"Have the courage to be ignorant of a great number of things, in order to avoid the calamity of being ignorant of everything."

"I once gave a lady two-and-twenty receipts against melancholy; one was a bright fire; another, to remember all the pleasant things said to her; another, to keep a box of sugarplums on the chimney-piece and a kettle simmering on the hob. I thought this mere trifling at the moment, but have in after life discovered how true it is that these little pleasures often banish melancholy better than higher and more exalted objects; and that no means ought to be thought too trifling which can oppose it either in ourselves or in others."

"Living a good deal alone will, I believe, correct me of my faults; for a man can do without his own approbation in much society, but he must make great exertions to gain it when he lives alone. Without it I am convinced solitude is not to be endured."

"Marriage resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated; often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them."

"Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out."

"No enjoyment, however inconsiderable, is confined to the present moment. A man is the happier for life from having made once an agreeable tour, or lived for any length of time with pleasant people, or enjoyed any considerable interval of innocent pleasure."

"The essence of every species of wit is surprise; which, vi termini, must be sudden; and the sensations which wit has a tendency to excite are impaired or destroyed as often as they are mingled with much thought or passion."

"The greatest curse that can be entailed on mankind is a state of war. All the atrocious crimes committed in years of peace, all that is spent in peace by the secret corruptions, or by the thoughtless extravagance of nations, are mere trifles compared with the gigantic evils which stalk over this world in a state of war. God is forgotten in war; every principle of Christianity is trampled upon."

"The real object of education is to give children resources that will endure as long as life endures; habits that time will ameliorate, not destroy; occupation that will render sickness tolerable, solitude pleasant, age venerable, life more dignified and useful, and death less terrible."

"The wit of language is so miserably inferior to the wit of ideas that it is very deservedly driven out of good company."

"The writer does the most who gives his reader the most knowledge, and takes from him the least time."

"We know nothing of to-morrow; our business is to be good and happy to-day."

"We should accustom the mind to keep the best company by introducing it only to the best books."

"Whatever you are from nature, keep to it; never desert your own line of talent. Be what nature intended you for, and you will succeed; be anything else, and you will be ten thousand times worse than nothing."

"Why destroy present happiness by a distant misery which may never come at all, or you may never live to see it? Every substantial grief has twenty shadows, and most of them shadows of your own making."

"Why, you never expected justice from a company, did you? They have neither a soul to lose nor a body to kick."

"Wit gives to life one of its best flavors; common-sense leads to immediate action, and gives society its daily motion; large and comprehensive views, its annual rotation; ridicule chastises folly and imprudence, and keeps men in their proper sphere; subtlety seizes hold of the find threads of truth; analogy darts away in the most sublime discoveries; feeling paints all the exquisite passions of man’s soul, and rewards him by a thousand inward visitations for the sorrows that come from without."

"You never expected justice from a company, did you? They have neither a soul to lose, nor a body to kick."

"Among the smaller duties of life, I hardly know any one more important than that of not praising where praise is not due. Reputation is one of the prizes for which men contend: it produces more labor and more talent than twice the wealth of a country could ever rear up. It is the coin of genius, and it is the imperious duty of every man to bestow it with the most scrupulous justice and the wisest economy."

"The only true way to make the mass of mankind see the beauty of justice is by showing to them in pretty plain terms the consequences of injustice."

"Justice - Truth is its handmaid, freedom is its child, peace its companion, safety walks in its steps, victory follows in its train; it is the brightest emanation from the gospel; it is the attribute of God."

"A comfortable house is a great source of happiness. It ranks immediately after health and a good conscience."

"A good marriage is at least 80 percent good luck in finding the right person at the right time. The rest is trust."

"A great deal of talent is lost in the world for the want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves a number of obscure men who have only remained in obscurity because their timidity has prevented them from making a first effort; and who, if they could have been induced to begin, would in all probability have gone great lengths in the career of fame. The fact is, that to do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can. It will not do to be perpetually calculating risks and adjusting nice chances."

"A life of knowledge is not often a life of injury and crime."

"A man who wishes to make his way in life could do no better than go through the world with a boiling tea-kettle in his hand."

"A nation grown free in a single day is a child born with the limbs and the vigor of a man, who would take a drawn sword for his rattle, and set the house in a blaze that he might chuckle over the splendor."

"A true sarcasm is like a swordstick - it appears, at first sight, to be much more innocent than it really is, till, all of a sudden, there leaps something out of it - sharp and deadly and incisive - which makes you tremble and recoil."

"A wise man struggling with adversity is said by some heathen writer to be a spectacle on which the gods might look down with pleasure."

"Ah, you flavor everything; you are the vanilla of society."

"All affectation proceeds from the supposition of possessing something better than the rest of the world possesses. Nobody is vain of possessing two legs and two arms, because that is the precise quantity of either sort of limb which everybody possesses."

"All mankind are happier for having been happy, so that if you make them happy new, you make them happy twenty years hence by the memory of it."

"All musical people seem to be happy; it is to them the engrossing pursuit; almost the only innocent and unpunished passion."

"All this class of pleasures inspires me with the same nausea as I feel at the sight of rich plum-cake or sweetmeats; I prefer the driest bread of common life."

"Among the smaller duties in life, I hardly know any one more important than that of not praising when praise is not due."