Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robert Burton

English Clergyman, Writer and Scholar at Oxford University

"If you like not my writing, go read something else."

"Like dogs in a wheel, birds in a cage, or squirrels in a chain, ambitious men still climb and climb, with great labor, and incessant anxiety, but never reach the top."

"Like the watermen that row one way and look another."

"Make a virtue of necessity."

"Many men are melancholy by hearing music, but it is a pleasing melancholy that it causeth; and therefore to such as are discontent, in woe, fear, sorrow, or dejected, it is a most present remedy."

"If the world will be gulled, let it be gulled."

"It is believable because unbelievable."

"It never yet happened to any man since the beginning of the world, nor ever will, to have all things according to his desire, or to whom fortune was never opposite and adverse."

"It is most true, our style betrays us."

"Isocrates adviseth Demonicus, when he came to a strange city, to worship by all means the gods of the place."

"Like Aesop's fox, when he had lost his tail, would have all his fellow foxes cut off theirs."

"Melancholy can be overcome only by melancholy."

"Matches are made in heaven."

"Melancholy advanceth men's conceits more than shy humor whatever."

"Marriage and hanging go by destiny; matches are made in heaven."

"Naught so damn'd as melancholy."

"Naught so sweet as melancholy."

"Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time, which every day produces, and which most men throw away, but which nevertheless will make at the end of it no small deduction for the life of man."

"Many things happen between the cup and the lip."

"Misery assails riches, as lightning does the highest towers; or as a tree that is heavy laden with fruit breaks its own boughs, so do riches destroy the virtue of their possessor."

"Most part of a lover's life is full of agony, anxiety, fear and grief, complaints, sighs, suspicions, and cares (heigh-ho my heart is woe), full of silence and irksome solitariness"

"No cord or cable can draw so forcibly, or bind so fast, as love can do with a single thread."

"No one seriously doubts Socrates' maxim: The unexamined life isn't worth living. Self-assessment and attempts at self-improvement are essential aspects of "the good life." Yes, we should engage in ruthless self-reflection and harsh scrutiny, but we should simultaneously acknowledge that such introspection will, at best, only result in a partial view of our minds at work. Complete objectivity is not an option."

"Old friends become bitter enemies on a sudden for toys and small offenses."

"No rule is so general, which admits not some exception."

"One was never married and that's his hell; another is, and that's his plague."

"Of all vanities of fopperies, the vanity of high birth is the greatest. True nobility is derived from virtue, not from birth. Titles, indeed, may be purchased, but virtue is the only coin that makes the bargain valid."

"Our mental limitations prevent us from accepting our mental limitations."

"Our writings are so many dishes, our readers guests, our books like beauty; that which one admires another rejects; so are we approved as men's fancies are inclined."

"Our wrangling lawyers . . . are so litigious and busy here on earth, that I think they will plead their clients' causes hereafter, some of them in hell."

"Out of too much learning become mad."

"Penny wise, pound foolish."

"Perigrination charms our senses with such unspeakable and sweet variety that some count him that never traveled--a kind of prisoner, and pity his case: that, from his cradle to his old age, he beholds the same still, still,--still, the same, the same."

"Properly conducted scientific studies . . . give us a pretty good idea of when something is likely to be correct. To me, pretty good is a linguistic statistic that falls somewhere in between more likely than not and beyond a reasonable doubt, et avoides the pitfalls arising from the belief in complete objectivity."

"Restore a man to his health, his purse lies open to thee."

"Put his shoulder to the wheel."

"See one promontory (said Socrates of old) one mountain, one sea, one river, and see all."

"Sickness is the mother of modesty, as it puts us in mind of our mortality, and while we drive on heedlessly in the full career of worldly pomp and jollity, kindly pulls us by the ear, and brings us to a sense of our duty."

"Set a beggar on horseback, and he will ride a gallop. [Set a beggar on horseback, and he'll outride the Devil.]"

"So good things may be abused, and that which was first invented to refresh men's weary spirits."

"Sports and gaming, whether pursued from a desire of gain or love of pleasure, are as ruinous to the temper and disposition of the party addicted to them, as they are to his fame and fortune."

"Temperance is a bridle of gold; he who uses it rightly, is more like a god than a man."

"That which is a law today is none tomorrow."

"Speak with contempt of no man. Every one hath a tender sense of reputation. And every man hath a sting, which he may, if provoked too far, dart out at one time or other."

"The band of conjugal love is adamantine."

"The devil is the author of confusion."

"The Chinese say that we Europeans have one eye, they themselves two, all the world else is blinde."

"The falling out of lovers is the renewing of love."

"The Devil himself, which is the author of confusion and lies."

"The fear of death is worse than death."