Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thomas Carlyle

Scottish Essayist, Historian, Biographer and Philosopher

"We observe with confidence that the truly strong mind, view it as intellect or morality, or under any other aspect, is nowise the mind acquainted with its strength; that here the sign of health is unconsciousness."

"Virtue is like health: the harmony of the whole man."

"True humor springs not more from the head than from the heart. It is not contempt; its essence is love. It issues not in laughter, but in still smiles, which lie far deeper."

"True humor springs not more from the head than from the heart; it is not contempt; its essence is love: it issues not in laughter, but in still smiles, which lie far deeper. It is a sort of inverse sublimity, exalting as it were, into our affections what is below us, while sublimity draws down into our affections what is above us."

"Thoughts work in silence, so does virtue."

"To propose a reward for virtue is to render virtue impossible."

"There is no greater every-day virtue than cheerfulness. This quality in man among men is like sunshine to the day or gentle renewing moisture to parched herbs. The light of a cheerful face diffuses itself, and communicates the happy spirit that inspires it. The sourest temper must sweeten in the atmosphere of continuous good humor."

"There needs not a great soul to make a hero; there needs a God-created soul which will be true to its origin; that will be a great soul."

"There is in man a higher than love of happiness; he can do without happiness, and instead thereof find blessedness."

"To know, to get into the truth of anything, is ever a mystic act, of which the best logics can but babble on the surface."

"There is but one thing without honor, smitten with eternal barrenness, inability to do or to be, and that is unbelief. He who believes nothing, who believes only the show of things, is not in relation with nature and fact at all."

"There is always hope in a man who actually and earnestly works. In idleness alone is there perpetual despair."

"The world is a thing that a man must learn to despise, and even to neglect, before he can learn to reverence it, and work in it , and for it."

"The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green."

"The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity. The believing man is the original man; whatsoever he believes, he believes it for himself, not for another."

"The idea is in thyself. The impediment, too, is in thyself."

"The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none."

"The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder - a wait, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you."

"The man who cannot wonder is but a pair of spectacles behind which there is no eye."

"The grand result of schooling is a mind with just vision to discern, with free force to do: the grand schoolmaster is Practice."

"Tell a man he is brave, and you help him to become so."

"Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together."

"The genuine essence of truth never dies."

"The fearful unbelief is unbelief in yourself."

"Reform yourself. That way there will be one less rascal in the world."

"Our works are the mirror wherein the spirit first sees its natural lineaments. Hence, too, the folly of that impossible precept, Know thyself; till it be translated into this partially possible one, Know what thou canst work at."

"Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none."

"Let him who gropes painfully in darkness or uncertain light, and prays vehemently that the dawn may ripen into day, lay this precept well to heart: “Do the duty which lies nearest to thee,” which thou knowest to be a duty! Thy second duty will already have become clearer."

"One example is worth a thousand arguments."

"Of all paths a man could strike into, there is, at any given moment, a best path for every man, a thing which, here and now, it were of all things wisest for him to do; which, he could he but be led or driven to do, he were then doing like a man, as we phrase it. His success, in such a case, were complete, his felicity a maximum."

"No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad."

"Of a truth, it is the duty of all men, especially of all philosophers, to note down with accuracy the characteristic circumstances of their education - what furthered, what hindered, what in any way modified it."

"Men do less than they ought, unless they do all that they can."

"Not what you possess but what you do with what you have, determines your true worth."

"Man’s unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the finite."

"Obedience is our universal duty and destiny; wherein whoso will not bend must break; too early and too thoroughly we cannot be trained to know that “would,” in this world of ours, is a mere zero to “should,” and for most part as the smallest of fractions even to “shall.”"

"Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure that there is one rascal less in the world."

"Islam means, in this way, denial of self. This is yet the highest wisdom that heaven has revealed to our earth."

"It’s a man’s sincerity and depth of vision that makes him a poet."

"It is the heart always that sees, before the head can see."

"If her means sincere men, why may not every one of us be a hero."

"It is the spiritual always which determines the material."

"It is not to taste sweet things, but to do noble and true things, and vindicate himself under God’s heaven as a God-made man, that the poorest son of Adam dimly longs. Show him the way of doing that, the dullest day-drudge kindles into a hero. They wrong man greatly who say he is to be seduced by ease. Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom, death, are the allurements that act on the heart of man. Kindle the inner genial life of him, you have a flame that burns up all lower considerations."

"How a thing grows in the human memory, in the human imagination, when love, worship, and all that lies in the human heart, is there to encourage it."

"He who talks much about virtue in the abstract, begins to be suspected; it is shrewdly guessed that where there is great preaching there will be little almsgiving."

"If there be not a religious element in the relations of men, such relations are miserable and doomed to ruin."

"He is wise who can instruct us and assist us in the business of daily virtuous living."

"History, as it lies at the root of all science, is also the first distinct product of man’s spiritual nature; his earliest expression of what can be called thought."

"Habit is the deepest law of human nature."

"Habit and imitation - there is nothing more perennial in us than these two. They are the source of all working, and all apprenticeship, of all practice, and all learning, in this world."