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Quotes of the day: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Published Monday, October 07, 2013 @ 6:41 AM EDT
Oct 07 2013

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (August 29, 1809 - October 7, 1894) was an American physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author. Regarded by his peers as one of the best writers of the 19th century, he is considered a member of the Fireside Poets. His most famous prose works are the "Breakfast-Table" series, which began with The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858). He is also recognized as an important medical reformer. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.

A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.

A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times. It has come to you over a new route, by a new and express train of associations.

Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them!

All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called 'facts.' They are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain.

Apology is only egotism wrong side out.

Beware how you take away hope from any human being.

Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way- and the fools know it.

Death tugs at my ear and says, 'Live. I am coming.'

Every calling is great when greatly pursued.

Every now and then a man's mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.

How many people live on the reputation of the reputation they might have made!

Humility is the first of the virtues- for other people.

I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it- but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.

I hate paying taxes. But I love the civilization they give me.

In my experience, clever food is not appreciated at Christmas. It makes the little ones cry and the old ones nervous.

Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.

It is by little things that we know ourselves; a soul would very probably mistake itself for another, when once disembodied, were it not for individual experiences which differ from those of others only in details seemingly trifling.

It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.

Knowledge and timber shouldn't be much used, till they are seasoned.

Laughter and tears are meant to turn the wheels of the same machinery of sensibility; one is wind-power, and the other water-power; that is all.

Leverage is everything, was what I used to say- don't begin to pry till you have got the long arm on your side.

Life is a fatal complaint, and an eminently contagious one.

Literature is full of coincidences, which some love to believe are plagiarisms. There are thoughts always abroad in the air which it takes more wit to avoid than to hit upon.

Man has his will- but woman has her way!

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one they where they sprang up.

Memory is a net; one finds it full of fish when he takes it from the brook; but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking.

Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer.

Most persons have died before they expire- died to all earthly longings, so that the last breath is only, as it were, the locking of the door of the already deserted mansion.

Old age is fifteen years older than I am.

People who honestly mean to be true really contradict themselves much more rarely than those who try to be 'consistent.'

Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust.

Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man's upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground-floor.

Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.

Some of the sharpest men in argument are notoriously unsound in judgment.

Stupidity often saves a man from going mad.

The best servant does his work unseen.

The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.

The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye: the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.

The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer.

The world's great men have not commonly been great scholars, nor its great scholars great men.

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.

There never was an idea started that woke up men out of their stupid indifference but its originator was spoken of as a crank.

To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old.

Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch; nay, you may kick it about all day, like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.

Unpretending mediocrity is good, and genius is glorious; but a weak flavor of genius in an essentially common person is detestable . It spoils the grand neutrality of a commonplace character, as the rinsings of an unwashed wine-glass spoil a draught of fair water.

We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible.

We forget that weakness is not in itself a sin. We forget that even cowardice may call for our most lenient judgment, if it spring from innate infirmity.

When one has had all his conceit taken out of him, when he has lost all his illusions, his feathers will soon soak through, and he will fly no more.

Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.

Why can't somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks.

You can hire logic, in the shape of a lawyer, to prove anything that you want to prove.

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