Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Wit

"Wit is a treacherous dart. It is perhaps the only weapon with which it is possible to stab oneself in one's own back." - Geoffrey Bocca

"The essence of justice is mercy. Making a child suffer for wrong-doing is merciful to the child. There is no mercy in letting a child have its own will, plunging headlong to destruction wit the bits in its mouth. There is no mercy to society nor to the criminal if the wrong is not repressed and the right vindicated. We injure the culprit who comes up to take his proper doom at the bar of justice, if we do not make him feel that he has done a wrong thing. We may deliver his body from the prison, but not at the expense of justice nor to his own injury." - Edwin Hubbell Chapin

"He who does reverence to his own sect, while disparaging the sects of others wholly from attachment to his own, with intent to enhance the glory of his own sect, in reality by such conduct inflicts the severest injury on his own sect. Concord therefore is meritorious, to wit, hearkening and hearkening willingly to the Law of Piety, as accepted by other people." - Edicts of Ashoka NULL

"It is a certain rule that wit and passion are entirely incompatible. When the affections are moved, there is no place for the imagination." - David Hume

"The spirit of the people must frequently be roused, in order to curb the ambition of the court; and the dread of rousing this spirit must be employed to prevent that ambition. Nothing so effectual to this purpose as the liberty of the press; by which all the learning, wit, and genius of the nation, may be employed on the side of freedom, and every one be animated to its defense." - David Hume

"It is not enough to possess wit. One must have enough of it to avoid having too much." -

"Let your wit rather serve you for a buckler to defend yourself, by a handsome reply, than the sword to wound others, though with ever so facetious reproach; remembering that a word cuts deeper than a sharper weapon and the wound it makes is longer curing." - Francis Osborn

"Lust is an enemy to the purse, a foe to the person, a canker to the mind, a corrosive to the conscience, a weakness of the wit, a besotter of the senses, and finally a mortal bane to all the body." - Pliny the Elder, full name Casus Plinius Secundus NULL

"Men are contented to be laughed at for their wit, but not for their folly." - Jonathan Swift, pen names, M.B. Drapier, Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff

"Perpetual aiming at wit is a very bad part of conversation. It is done to support a character: it generally fails; it is a sort of insult on the company, and a restraint upon the speaker." - Jonathan Swift, pen names, M.B. Drapier, Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff

"The wise men of old have sent most of their morality down to the stream of time in the light skiff of apothegm or epigram; and the proverbs of nations, which embody the common sense of nations, have the brisk concussion of the most sparkling wit." - Edwin Percy Whipple

"Wit implies hatred or contempt of folly and crime, produces its effects by brisk shocks of surprise, uses the whip of scorpions and the branding iron, stabs, stings, pinches, tortures, goads, teases, corrodes, undermines." - Edwin Percy Whipple

"To be a wit, intelligence is enough; to be a poet takes imagination." - Cardinal de Bernis Francois-Joachim de Piere de Bernis

"The most brilliant flashes of wit come from a clouded mind, as lightning leaps only from an obscure firmament." - Christian Nestell Bovee

"Wit must be without effort. Wit is play, not work; a nimbleness of the fancy, not a laborious effort of the will; a license, a holiday, a carnival of thought and feeling, not a trifling with speech, a constraint upon language, a duress upon words." - Christian Nestell Bovee

"It is a great misfortune neither to have enough wit to talk well nor enough judgment to be silent." - Jean de La Bruyère

"In every visible Creature there is a Body and a Spirit... or, more Active and more Passive Principle, which may fitly be termed Male and Female, by reason of that Analogy a Husband hath with his Wife. For as the ordinary Generation of Men requires a Conjunction and Co-operation of Male and Female; so also all Generations and Productions whatsoever they be, require an Union, and conformable Operation of those Two Principles, to wit, Spirit and Body; but the Spirit is an Eye or Light beholding its own proper Image, and the Body is a Tenebrosity or Darkness receiving that Image, when the Spirit looks thereinto, as when one sees himself in a Looking-Glass; for certainly he cannot so behold himself in the Transparent Air, nor in any Diaphanous Body, because the reflexion of an Image requires a certain opacity or darkness, which we call a Body: Yet to be a Body is not an Essential property of any Thing; as neither is it a Property of any Thing to be dark; for nothing is so dark that nothing else, neither differs any thing from a Spirit, but in that it is more dark; therefore by how much the thicker and grosser it is become, so much the more remote it is from the degree of Spirit, so that this distinction is only modal and gradual, not essential or substantial." - Anne Conway

"The happy gift of being agreeable seems to consist not in one, but in an assemblage of talents tending to communicate delight; and how many are there, who, by easy manners, sweetness of temper, and a variety of other undefinable qualities, possess the power of pleasing without any visible effort, without the aids of wit, wisdom, or learning, nay, as it should seem in their defiance; and this without appearing even to know that they possess it." - Richard Cumberland, Bishop of Peterborough

"Ridicule may be the evidence of wit or bitterness and may gratify a little mind, or an ungenerous temper, but it is no test of reason and truth." - Tyron Edwards

"Experience is the common school-house of fools and ill men. Men of wit and honesty be otherwise instructed." -

"The great secret of succeeding in conversation is to admire little, hear much, always to distrust our own reason, and sometimes that of our friends; never to pretend to wit, but to make that of others appear as much as we possibly can; to hearken to what is said, and to answer to the purpose." - Benjamin Franklin

"At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment." - Henry Grattan

"Wit, without wisdom, is salt without meat; and that is but a comfortless dish to set a hungry man down to." - George Horne

"Disease generally begins that equality which death completes; the distinctions which set one man so much above another are very little perceived in the gloom of a sick-chamber, where it will be vain to expect entertainment from the gay, or instruction from the wise; where all human glory is obliterated, the wit is clouded, the reasoner perplexed, and the hero subdued; where the highest and brightest of mortal being finds nothing left behind him but the consciousness of innocence." -

"Many useful and valuable books lie buried in shops and libraries unknown and unexamined, unless some lucky compiler opens them by chance, and finds an easy spoil of wit and learning." -

"Wit will never make a man rich, but there are places where riches will always make a wit." -

"Wit lying most in the assemblage of Ideas, and putting those together with quickness and variety wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity." - John Locke

"Wit is not leveled so much at the muscles as at the heart; and the latter will sometimes smile when there is not a single wrinkle on the cheek." - George Lyttleton, 1st Baron Lyttleton of Frankley

"Wit is a dangerous weapon, even to the possessor, if he knows not how to use it discreetly." - Michel de Montaigne, fully Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

"To place wit before good sense is to place the superfluous before the necessary." - M. de Montlosier, fully François Dominique de Reynaud, Comte de Montlosier

"Let each man have the wit to go his own way." - Propertius, fully Sextus Propertius NULL

"Be not too slow in the breaking of a sinful custom; a quick, courageous resolution is better than a gradual deliberation; in such a combat he is the bravest soldier that lays about him without fear or wit. Wit pleads, fear disheartens; he that would kill Hydra had better strike off one neck than five heads: fell the tree, and the branches are soon cut off." - Francis Quarles

"A man of wit would often be at a loss, were it not for the company of fools." -

"The greatest fault of a penetrating wit is to go beyond the mark." -

"It requires a great deal of boldness and a great deal of caution to make a great fortune; and when you have got it, it requires ten times as much wit to keep it." - Mayer Rothschild, fully Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild

"A proverb is one man's wit and all men's wisdom." - John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, Lord John Russell

"Thought wit be very useful, yet unless a wise man has the keeping of it, that knows when, where, and how to apply it, it is like wild-fire, that flies at rovers, runs hissing about, and blows up everything that comes in its way. Without any respect or discrimination." -

"If he who has little wit needs a master to inform his stupidity, he who has much frequently needs ten to keeping check his worldly wisdom, which might otherwise, like a high-mettled charger, toss him to the ground." - Christian Scrivner, pseudonym Gotthold

"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." - Sydney Smith

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

"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." - Sydney Smith

"Abstracts, abridgments, summaries, etc., have the same use with burning-glasses - to collect the diffused rays of wit and learning in authors, and make them point with warmth and quickness upon the reader’s imagination." - Jonathan Swift, pen names, M.B. Drapier, Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff

"One isn't amused long by the wit of someone else." -

"Wit cannot take the place of knowledge." -

"Words may show a man’s wit, but actions, his meaning." - Benjamin Franklin

"[A proverb is] the wit of one man, the wisdom of many." - John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, Lord John Russell

"Many will receive great help, and many will be entirely healed by a practice somewhat after the following nature: Wit a mind at peace, and with a heart going out in love to all, go into the quiet of your own interior self, holding the thought - I am one with the Infinite Spirit of Life, the life of my life. I then as spirit, I a spiritual being, can in my own real nature admit of no disease. I now open my body, in w2hich disease has obtained a foothold, I open it fully to the inflowing tide of this Infinite Life, and it now, even now, is pouring in and coursing through my body, and the healing process is going on. Realize this so fully that you begin to feel a quickening and a warming glow imparted by the life forces to the body. Believe the healing process is going on. Believe it, and hold continually to it. Many people greatly desire a certain thing but expect something else. They have greater faith in the power of evil than in the power of good, and hence they remain ill." - Ralph Waldo Trine

"Words may show a man's wit, but actions, his meaning." - Benjamin Franklin

"A proverb is one man's wit and all man's wisdom." - John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, Lord John Russell