Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

William Matthews

American Author

"Nothing inspires confidence in a business man sooner than punctuality, nor is there any habit which sooner saps his reputation than that of being always behind time."

"Solitary reading will enable a man to stuff himself with information, but without conversation, his mind will become like a pond without an outlet - a mass of unhealthy stagnature. It is not enough to harvest knowledge by study; the wind of talk must winnow it, and blow away the chaff; then will the clear, bright grains of wisdom be garnered, for our own use or that of others."

"Talking is a digestive process which is absolutely essential to the mental constitution of the man who devours many books."

"The difficulties, hardships, and trials of life, the obstacles one encounters on the road to fortune, are positive blessings. They knit the muscles more firmly, and teach self-reliance. Peril is the element in which power is developed."

"Knowledge is acquired by study and observation, but wisdom cometh by opportunity of leisure; the ripest thought comes from the mind which is not always on the stretch, but fed, at times, by a wise passiveness."

"A great deal of the joy of life consists in doing perfectly, or at least to the best of one's ability, everything which one attempts to do... The smallest thing well done, becomes artistic."

"As frost, raised to its utmost intensity, produces the sensation of fire, so any good quality, overwrought and pushed to excess, turns into its own contrary."

"Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of habit."

"God has so framed us as to make freedom of choice and action the very basis of all moral improvement, and all our faculties, mental and moral, resent and revolt against the idea of coercion."

"Goodness is the only value that seems in this world of appearances to have any claim to be an end in itself. Virtue is its own reward."

"I was miserable, of course, for I was seventeen, and so I swung into action and wrote a poem, and it was miserable, for that's how I thought poetry worked: you digested experience and shat literature."

"Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young."

"If truth is a value it is because it is true and not because it is brave to speak it."

"In the world a man lives in his own age; in solitude, in all the ages."

"Intercourse is after all man’s best teacher. “Know thyself” is an excellent maxim; but even self-knowledge cannot be perfected in closets and cloisters—nor amid lake scenery, and on the sunny side of the mountains. Men who seldom mix with their fellow-creatures are almost sure to be one-sided—the victims of fixed ideas, that sometimes lead to insanity."

"It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive."

"It is in vain to torment oneself over sufferings that one cannot alleviate."

"It's a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it."

"Man has always sacrificed truth to his vanity, comfort and advantage. He lives... by make-believe."

"It is salutary to train oneself to be no more affected by censure than by praise."

"Nature cuts queer capers with men’s phizzes at times, and confounds all the deductions of philosophy. Character does not put all its goods, sometimes not any of them, in its shop-window."

"Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than pleasures of youth."

"One well-cultivated talent, deepened and enlarged, is worth 100 shallow faculties. The first law of success in this day, when so many things are clamoring for attention, is concentration-to bend all the energies to one point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right nor to the left."

"Only a mediocre person is always at his best."

"Out of the same substances one stomach will extract nutriment, another poison; and so the same disappointments in life will chasten and refine one man's spirit, and embitter another's."

"Reverie is the groundwork of creative imagination; it is the privilege of the artist that with him is not as with other men an escape from reality, but the means by which he accedes to it."

"People ask for criticism, but they only want praise."

"Punctuality is a compliment you pay to the intelligent and a rebuke you administer to the stupid."

"The common idea that success spoils people making them vain, egotistic and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary, it makes them for the most part, humble, tolerant and kind. Failure makes people cruel and bitter."

"The end of culture is right living."

"The first law of success... is concentration: to bend all the energies to one point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right nor the left."

"The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but they cease to love."

"The countenance may be rightly defined as the title page which heralds the contents of the human volume, but like other title pages, it sometimes puzzles, often misleads, and often says nothing to the purpose."

"The fullest instruction, and the fullest enjoyment are never derived from books, till we have ventilated the ideas thus obtained, in free and easy chat with others."

"The petty cares, the minute anxieties, the infinite littles which go to make up the sum of human experience, like the invisible granules of powder, give the last and highest polish to a character."

"To be contented,--what, indeed, is it? Is it not to be satisfied,--to hope for nothing, to aspire to nothing, to strive for nothing,--in short to rest in inglorious ease, doing nothing for your country, for your own or others' material, intellectual, or moral improvement, satisfied with the condition in which you or they are placed? Such a state of feeling may do very well where nature has fixed an inseparable and ascertained barrier,--a "thus far, shalt thou go and no farther,"--to our wishes, or where we are troubled by ills past remedy. In such cases it is the highest philosophy not to fret or grumble, when, by all our worrying and self-teasing, we cannot help ourselves a jot or tittle, but only aggravate and intensify an affliction that is incurable. To soothe the mind down into patience is then the only resource left us, and happy is he who has schooled himself thus to meet all reverses and disappointments. But in the ordinary circumstances of life this boasted virtue of contentment."

"There is a wide difference between general acquaintance and companionship. You may salute a man and exchange compliments with him daily, yet know nothing of his character, his inmost tastes and feelings."

"Then let us laugh. It is the cheapest luxury man enjoys, and, as Charles Lamb says, "is worth a hundred groans in any state of the market." It stirs up the blood, expands the chest, electrifies the nerves, clears away the cobwebs from the brain, and gives the whole system a shock to which the voltaic-pile is as nothing. Nay, it’s delicious alchemy converts even tears into the quintessence of merriment, and makes wrinkles themselves expressive of youth and frolic."

"Tradition is a guide and not a jailer."

"Unless a man has trained himself for his chance, the chance will only make him ridiculous."

"We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person."

"Tolerance is another word for difference."

"What are the precise characteristics of an epigram it is not easy to define. It differs from a joke, in the fact that the wit of the latter dies in the words, and cannot therefore be conveyed in another language; while an epigram is a wit of ideas, and hence is translatable. Like aphorisms, songs and sonnets, it is occupied with some single point, small and manageable; but whilst a song conveys a sentiment, a sonnet, a poetical, and an aphorism a moral reflection, an epigram expresses a contrast."

"What keeps persons down in the world, besides lack of capacity, is not a philosophical contempt of riches or honors, but thoughtlessness and improvidence, a love of sluggish torpor, and of present gratification. It is not from preferring virtue to wealth--the goods of the mind to those of fortune--that they take no thought for the morrow; but from want of forethought and stern self-command. The restless, ambitious man too often directs these qualities to an unworthy object; the contented man is generally deficient in the qualities themselves. The one is a stream that flows too often in a wrong channel, and needs to have its course altered, the other is a stagnant pool."

"What matters it that a soldier has a sword of dazzling finish, of the keenest edge, and finest temper, if he has never learned the art of fence."

"Who can achieve mastery over others unless he first achieves mastery over himself?"

"What lasting progress was ever made in social reformation, except when every step was insured by appeals to the understanding and the will?"

"You can't learn too soon that the most useful thing about a principle is that it can always be sacrificed to expediency."

"With the civilized man contentment is a myth. From the cradle to the grave he is forever longing and striving after something better, an indefinable something, some new object yet unattained."

"You are not angry with people when you laugh at them. Humor teaches tolerance."