Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robert Burton

English Clergyman, Writer and Scholar at Oxford University

"The fear of some divine and supreme powers keeps men in obedience."

"The miller sees not all the water that goes by his mill."

"The men who succeed are the efficient few. They are the few who have the ambition and will power to develop themselves."

"The passions and desires, like the two twists of a rope, mutually mix one with the other, and twin inextricably round the heart; producing good if moderately indulged; but certain destruction if suffered to become inordinate."

"The world produces for every pint of honey a gallon of gall, for every dram of pleasure a pound of pain, for every inch of mirth an ell of moan; and as the ivy twines around the oak, so does misery and misfortune encompass the happy man. Felicity, pure and unalloyed felicity, is not a plant of earthly growth; her gardens are the skies."

"There are true graces, which, as Homer feigns, are linked and tied hand in hand, because it is by their influence that human hearts are so firmly united to each other."

"The rich Physician, honor'd Lawyers ride, Whilst the poor Scholar foots it by their side."

"There is no such thing as happiness, only lesser shades of melancholy."

"They have cheveril consciences that will stretch."

"'Tis the beginning of hell in this life, and a passion not to be excused. Every other sin hath some pleasure annexed to it, or will admit of an excuse: envy alone wants both."

"'Tis a hydra's head contention; the more they strive the more they may: and as Praxiteles did by his glass, when he saw a scurvy face in it, brake it in pieces; but for that one he saw many more as bad in a moment."

"They had their lean books with the fat of others' works."

"Titles, indeed, may be purchased; but virtue is the only coin that makes the bargain valid."

"To think well of every other man's condition, and to dislike our own, is one of the misfortunes of human nature. "Pleased with each other's lot, our own we hate.""

"Tobacco, divine, rare, superexcellent tobacco, which goes far beyond all the panaceas, potable gold, and philosophers stones, a sovereign remedy to all diseases but as it is commonly abused by most men, which take it as tinkers do ale, 'Tis a plague, a mischief, a violent purger of goods, lands, health; hellish, devilish and damned tobacco, the ruin and overthrow of body and soul."

"To enlarge or illustrate this power and effect of love is to set a candle in the sun."

"Truth is the shattered mirror strewn In myriad bits; while each believes his little bit the whole to own."

"We can make mayors and officers every year, but not scholars."

"We can say nothing but what hath been said. Our poets steal from Homer. ... Our story-dressers do as much; he that comes last is commonly best."

"We have an innate tendency to characterize the unexpected and unlikely according to our worldview."

"We want to be known for having original ideas, inspired hunches, and gut feelings that make a difference. Indeed, a "well-honed sixth sense"' is considered a measure of the good clinician. But being a good doctor also requires sticking with the best medical evidence, even if it contradicts your personal experience. We need to distinguish between gut feeling and testable knowledge, between hunches and empirically tested evidence."

"What is life, when wanting love? Night without a morning; love's the cloudless summer sun, nature gay adorning."

"What a glut of books! Who can read them?"

"What can't be cured must be endured."

"When I lie waking all alone, Recounting what I have ill done, My thoughts on me then tyrannize, Fear and sorrow me surprise, Whether I tarry still or go, Methinks the time moves very slow, All my griefs to this are jolly, Naught so sad as melancholy. 'Tis my sole plague to be alone, I am a beast, a monster grown,I will no light nor company, I find it now my misery. The scene is turn'd, my joys are gone, Fear, discontent, and sorrows come. All my griefs to this are folly, Naught so fierce as melancholy."

"Whoever you may be, I caution you against rashly defaming the author of this work, or cavilling in jest against him. Nay, do not silently reproach him in consequence of others' censure, nor employ your wit in foolish disapproval or false accusation. For, should Democritus Junior prove to be what he professes, even a kinsman of his elder namesake, or be ever so little of the same kidney, it is all up with you: he will become both accuser and judge of you in his petulant spleen, will dissipate you in jest, pulverize you with witticisms, and sacrifice you, I can promise you, to the God of Mirth."

"Where God hath a temple, the devil will have a chapel."

"When he will he shall have nay."

"When they are at Rome, they do there as they see done."

"Whilst the poor Scholar foots it by their side."

"Wit without employment is a disease."

"Why doth one man's yawning make another yawn?"

"Wonders I sing; the sun has set; no night has followed."

"Worldly wealth is the Devil's bait; and those whose minds feed upon riches recede, in general, from real happiness, in proportion as their stores increase, as the moon, when she is fullest, is farthest from the sun."

"All Poets are mad."

"Agencies should encourage their acquisition professionals to limit the use of brand-name specifications and maximize competition."

"A good conscience is a continual feast, but a galled conscience is as great a torment as can possibly happen, a still baking oven (so Pierius in his Hieroglyph compares it), another hell."

"Almost in every kingdom the most ancient families have been at first princes' bastards; their worthiest captains, best wits, greatest scholars, bravest spirits in all our annals, have been base [born]."

"All my joys to this are folly naught so sweet as melancholy."

"A good husband makes a good wife"

"All places are distant from heaven alike"

"Ambition, that high and glorious passion, which makes such havoc among the sons of men, arises from a proud desire of honour and distinction, and, when the splendid trappings in which it is usually caparisoned are removed, will be found to consist of the mean materials of envy, pride, and covetousness. It is described by different authors as a gallant madness, a pleasant poison, a hidden plague, a secret poison, a caustic of the soul, the moth of holiness, the mother of hypocrisy, and, by crucifying and disquieting all it takes hold of, the cause of melancholy and madness."

"Ambitious men may not cease, but as a dog in a wheel, a bird in a cage, or a squirrel in a chain, so Budaeus compares them; they climb and climb still, with much labour, but never make an end, never at the top."

"And hold one another's noses to the grindstone hard."

"Aristotle said melancholy men of all others are most witty."

"As that great captain, Ziska, would have a drum made of his skin when he was dead, because he thought the very noise of it would put his enemies to flight."

"As he said in Machiavel, omnes eodem patre nati, Adam's sons, conceived all and born in sin, etc. "We are by nature all as one, all alike, if you see us naked; let us wear theirs and they our clothes, and what is the difference?""

"At their first coming they are generally entertained by Pleasure and Dalliance, and have all the content that possibly may be given, so long as their money lasts; but when their means fail they are contemptibly thrust out at a back door headlong, and there left to Shame, Reproach, Despair."

"As the rose-tree is composed of the sweetest flowers and the sharpest thorns; as the heavens are sometimes fair and sometimes overcast, alternately tempestuous and serene; so is the life of man intermingled with hopes and fears, with joys and sorrows, with pleasures and with pains."

"Be fearful only of thyself, and stand in awe of none more than thine own conscience."