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Quotes of the day: William Hazlitt

Published Thursday, September 17, 2015 @ 5:06 PM EDT
Sep 17 2015

William Hazlitt (April 10, 1778 – September 18, 1830) was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, as the greatest art critic of his age, and as a drama critic, social commentator, and philosopher. He was also a painter. He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Yet his work is currently little read and mostly out of print. During his lifetime he befriended many people who are now part of the 19th-century literary canon, including Charles and Mary Lamb, Stendhal, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A gentleman is one who understands and shows every mark of deference to the claims of self-love in others, and exacts it in return from them.

A grave blockhead should always go about with a lively one- they shew one another off to the best advantage.

A nickname is the heaviest stone that the devil can throw at a man.

An honest man speaks the truth, though it may give offense; a vain man, in order that it may.

Any one who has passed through the regular gradations of a classical education, and is not made a fool by it, may consider himself as having had a very narrow escape.

Anyone must be mainly ignorant or thoughtless, who is surprised at everything he sees; or wonderfully conceited who expects everything to conform to his standard of propriety.

As is our confidence, so is our capacity.

Corporate bodies are more corrupt and profligate than individuals, because they have more power to do mischief, and are less amenable to disgrace or punishment. They feel neither shame, remorse, gratitude, nor goodwill.

Cunning is the art of concealing our own defects, and discovering other people's weaknesses.

Do not keep on with a mockery of friendship after the substance is gone- but part, while you can part friends. Bury the carcass of friendship: it is not worth embalming.

Envy among other ingredients has a mixture of the love of justice in it. We are more angry at undeserved than at deserved good-fortune.

Even in the common affairs of life, in love, friendship, and marriage, how little security have we when we trust our happiness in the hands of others!

Every man, in his own opinion, forms an exception to the ordinary rules of morality.

Good temper is an estate for life...

Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.

Great thoughts reduced to practice become great acts.

He who comes up to his own idea of greatness, must always have had a very low standard of it in his mind.

He will never have true friends who is afraid of making enemies.

Hope is the best possession. None are completely wretched but those who are without hope; and few are reduced so low as that.

I like a friend the better for having faults that one can talk about.

I think it is a rule that men in business should not be taught other things. Any one will be almost sure to make money who has no other idea in his head. A college education, or intense study of abstract truth, will not enable a man to drive a bargain... The best politicians are not those who are deeply grounded in mathematical or in ethical science. Rules stand in the way of expediency. Many a man has been hindered from pushing his fortune in the world by an early cultivation of his moral sense.

If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago.

If the world were good for nothing else, it is a fine subject for speculation.

If we wish to know the force of human genius, we should read Shakespeare. If we wish to see the insignificance of human learning, we may study his commentators.

If you think you can win, you can win. Faith is necessary to victory.

In art, in taste, in life, in speech, you decide from feeling, and not from reason... If we were obliged to enter into a theoretical deliberation on every occasion before we act, life would be at a stand, and Art would be impracticable.

Indeed some degree of affectation is as necessary to the mind as dress is to the body; we must overact our part in some measure, in order to produce any effect at all.

Indolence is a delightful but distressing state; we must be doing something to be happy.

It is better to be able neither to read nor write than to be able to do nothing else.

It is hard for any one to be an honest politician who is not born and bred a Dissenter.

It is well that there is no one without a fault; for he would not have a friend in the world.

Learning is, in too many cases, but a foil to common sense; a substitute for true knowledge.

Look up, laugh loud, talk big, keep the colour in your cheek and the fire in your eye, adorn your person, maintain your health, your beauty, and your animal spirits, and you will pass for a fine man.

Man is a make-believe animal- he is never so truly himself as when he is acting a part.

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.

Mankind are an incorrigible race. Give them but bugbears and idols- it is all that they ask; the distinctions of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood, of good and evil, are worse than indifferent to them.

Men of genius do not excel in any profession because they labour in it, but they labour in it because they excel.

Modesty is the lowest of the virtues, and is a real confession of the deficiency it indicates. He who undervalues himself is justly undervalued by others.

No man is truly great who is great only in his lifetime. The test of greatness is the page of history.

No really great man ever thought himself so.

No wise man can have a contempt for the prejudices of others; and he should even stand in a certain awe of his own, as if they were aged parents and monitors. They may in the end prove wiser than he.

No young man believes he shall ever die.

One shining quality lends a lustre to another, or hides some glaring defect.

One truth discovered is immortal, and entitles its author to be so; for, like a new substance in nature, it cannot be destroyed.

Our friends are generally ready to do everything for us, except the very thing we wish them to do.

Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern- why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be?

Prejudice is the child of ignorance...

Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity is a greater. Possession pampers the mind; privation trains and strengthens it.

Satirists gain the applause of others through fear, not through love.

Some persons make promises for the pleasure of breaking them.

The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and to endure much.

The art of will-making chiefly consists in baffling the importunity of expectation.

The confession of our failings is a thankless office. It savors less of sincerity or modesty than of ostentation. It seems as if we thought our weaknesses as good as other people's virtues.

The least pain in our little finger gives us more concern and uneasiness, than the destruction of millions of our fellow-beings.

The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.

The mind of man is like a clock that is always running down, and requires to be as constantly wound up.

The more we do, the more we can do; the more busy we are, the more leisure we have.

The most learned are often the most narrow-minded men.

The most sensible people to be met with in society are men of business and of the world, who argue from what they see and know, instead of spinning cobweb distinctions of what things ought to be.

The objects that we have known in better days are the main props that sustain the weight of our affections, and give us strength to await our future lot. The future is like a dead wall or a thick mist hiding all objects from our view; the past is alive and stirring with objects, bright or solemn, and of unfading interest.

The only vice which cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.

The origin of all science is in the desire to know causes; and the origin of all false science and imposture is in the desire to accept false causes rather than none; or, which is the same thing, in the unwillingness to acknowledge our own ignorance.

The person whose doors I enter with most pleasure, and quit with most regret, never did me the smallest favour.

The public have neither shame or gratitude.

The temple of fame stands upon the grave: the flame that burns upon its altars is kindled from the ashes of dead men.

The thing is plain. All that men really understand is confined to a very small compass; to their daily affairs and experience; to what they have an opportunity to know and motives to study or practise. The rest is affectation and imposture.

The true barbarian is he who thinks every thing barbarous but his own tastes and prejudices.

The truly proud man knows neither superiors nor inferiors. The first he does not admit of: the last he does not concern himself about.

The truth is, we pamper little griefs into great ones, and bear great ones as well as we can... To great evils we submit; we resent little provocations.

The way to get on in the world is to be neither more nor less wise, neither better nor worse than your neighbours.

The way to procure insults is to submit to them. A man meets with no more respect than he exacts.

There is a feeling of Eternity in youth which makes us amends for everything. To be young is to be as one of the Immortals.

There is not a more mean, stupid, dastardly, pitiful, selfish, spiteful, envious, ungrateful animal than the Public. It is the greatest of cowards, for it is afraid of itself.

Those only deserve a monument who do not need one; that is, who have raised themselves a monument in the minds and memories of men.

Those who can command themselves, command others.

Those who make their dress a principal part of themselves, will, in general, become of no more value than their dress.

Though familiarity may not breed contempt, it takes off the edge of admiration.

To a superior race of beings the pretensions of mankind to extraordinary sanctity and virtue must seem equally ridiculous.

To be remembered after we are dead, is but a poor recompense for being treated with contempt while we are living.

To get others to come into our ways of thinking, we must go over to theirs; and it is necessary to follow, in order to lead.

To give a reason for anything is to breed a doubt of it...

Unlimited power is helpless, as arbitrary power is capricious. Our energy is in proportion to the resistance it meets. We can attempt nothing great, but from a sense of the difficulties we have to encounter: we can persevere in nothing great, but from a pride in overcoming them.

We are all of us more or less the slaves of opinion.

We are not hypocrites in our sleep.

We are very much what others think of us. The reception our observations meet with gives us courage to proceed, or damps our efforts.

We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.

We grow tired of every thing but turning others into ridicule, and congratulating ourselves on their defects.

We never do anything well till we cease to think about the manner of doing it.

When a man is dead, they put money in his coffin, erect monuments to his memory, and celebrate the anniversary of his birthday in set speeches. Would they take any notice of him if he were living? No!

When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest.

Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food.

Wit is, in fact, the eloquence of indifference.

You know more of a road by having travelled it then by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world.

Zeal will do more than knowledge.

Categories: Quotes of the day, William Hazlitt


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