Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
  • Born: September 18, 1709
  • Died: December 13, 1784
  • Nationality: English
  • Profession: Author









Samuel Johnson, often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. He was a devout Anglican and a generous philanthropist. Politically, he was a committed Tory. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes Johnson as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history". He is the subject of James Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson, described by Walter Jackson Bate as "the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature".

Quote Topics Cited
[Criticizing the American colonists:] How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes? Freedom & Liberty ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
[On his debating style:] Attack is the re-action; I never think I have hit hard unless it rebounds. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
[Sir Robert] Walpole was a minister given by the King to the people. [William] Pitt [the Elder] was a minister given to the King—as an adjunct. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
‘Sir, executions are intended to draw spectators,’ said Dr Johnson. ‘If they do not draw spectators, they don’t answer their purpose.’ Capital Punishment, Dealth Penalty & State Execution
A good history covers not only what was done, but the thought that went into the action. You can read the history of a country through its actions. History
A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches by those to whom excise tax is paid. Taxes
A man had rather a hundred lies told of him than one truth which he does not wish to be told. Public Relations & Image
A news-writer is a man without virtue who lies at home for his own profit. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
About things on which the public thinks long it commonly attains to think right. Public Opinion & Polling
All friendship is preferring the interest of a friend, to the neglect, or perhaps, against the interest of others; so that an old Greek said, "He that has friends has no friend. Loyalty & Loyalty Oaths
All government is ultimately and essentially absolute. Power
All history, so far as it is not supported by contemporary evidence, is romance. History
All theory is against freedom of the will, all experience for it. Freedom & Liberty
Among the calamities of war, may he justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates, and credulity encourages. War & Peace
An English merchant is a new species of gentleman. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Social Sciences
As manners make laws, so manners likewise repeal them. Legislating & Legislative Process
Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at a very small expense Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Freedom & Liberty
Every society has a right to preserve public peace and order, and therefore has a good right to prohibit the propagation of opinions which have a dangerous tendency. Freedom & Liberty
For the general good of the world [written work] should be understood as … belonging to the publick. Copyrights, Patents & Intellectual Property
He that overvalues himself will undervalue others, and he that undervalues others will oppress them. Discrimination & Prejudice
I am willing to love all mankind, except an American. Discrimination & Prejudice
I have always said, the first Whig [Liberal] was the Devil. Liberals & Conservatives
I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government rather than another. Miscellaneous
If a sovereign oppresses his people to a great degree, they will rise and cut his head off. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance
In all political regulations, good cannot be complete, it can only be predominant. Legislating & Legislative Process
Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
It is better that some should be unhappy than that none should be happy, which would be the case in a general state of equality. Equality & Equal Opportunity
It is thus that mutual cowardice keeps us in peace. Were one-half of mankind brave and one-half cowards, the brave would always be beating the cowards. Were all brave, they would leave a very uneasy life; all would be continually fighting; but being all cowards, we go on very well. War & Peace
It seems not more reasonable to leave the right of printing unrestrained, because writers may be afterwards censured, than it would be to sleep with doors unbolted, because by our laws we can hang a thief. Freedom & Liberty
Languages are the pedigrees of nations. English, Languages & Bilingualism
Life cannot subsist in society but by reciprocal concessions. Society ;Life ;Miscellaneous
Men are seldom more innocently employed than when they are making money. Business, Commerce & Finance
Nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little. Women ;Nature ;Power ;Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
No member of any society has a right to teach any doctrine contrary to what the society holds to be true. Freedom & Liberty
Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome. Legislating & Legislative Process
Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Policy & Policy Making ;Management & Managing Government
Our supple tribes repress their patriot throats, And ask no questions but the price of votes.. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Political Parties & Machines
Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Nationalism & Treason ;Citizenship & Patriotism
Political liberty is good only so far as it produces private liberty. Privacy, Abortion & Family Planning
Politics are now nothing more than the means of rising in the world. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and makes some virtues impracticable and others extremely difficult. Poverty
Power is always gradually stealing away from the many to the few, because the few are more vigilant and consistent. Power
Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The chief differences among men are over means, not ends. Miscellaneous
The danger of unbounded liberty [of printing], and the danger of bounding it, have produced a problem in the science of Government, which human understanding seems hitherto unable to solve. Freedom & Liberty
The law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
The magistrate has the right to enforce what he thinks, and he who is conscious of the truth has a right to suffer. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
The most obdurate incredulity may be shamed or silenced by facts. Miscellaneous
Their pride has been crushed by the heavy hand of the vindictive conqueror. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
There is but a shallow stream of thought in history. History
There is no less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but then less is learned there. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
There must in every society be some power or other from which there is no appeal. Power
These antipatriotic prejudices are the abortions of folly impregnated by faction. Nationalism & Treason ;Citizenship & Patriotism
They [the American colonists] are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
Those that have done nothing in life are not qualified to judge those that have done little. Miscellaneous
Those who do not feel pain seldom think that it is felt. Human Nature
Though we cannot out-vote them we will out-argue them. Voters, Voting & Elections
To equal robbery with murder is to reduce murder to robbery, to confound in common minds the gradations if iniquity, and incite the commission of a greater crime to prevent the detection of a less. Capital Punishment, Dealth Penalty & State Execution
Treating your adversary with respect is giving him an advantage to which he is not entitled. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
When fiefs inspired military service, it is easily discerned why females could not inherit them; but the reason is at an end. Equality & Equal Opportunity
When there is no hope, there can be no endeavor. Human Nature
Why, Sir, most schemes of political improvement are very laughable things. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves. Equality & Equal Opportunity
A am a great friend of public amusements, they keep people from vice.
A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but, one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still.
A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.
A man may be so much of everything that he is nothing of anything.
A man of genius has been seldom ruined but by himself.
A man ought to read just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good.
A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner.
A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority.
A man will turn over half a library to make one book.
A wise man is cured of ambition by ambition itself; his aim is so exalted that riches, office, fortune and favour cannot satisfy him.
A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain. Time
Actions are visible, though motives are secret.
Adversity has ever been considered the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself.
Adversity leads us to think properly of our state, and so is most beneficial to us.
Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.
All the arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil show it evidently to be a great evil.
All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it. Travel
Allow children to be happy in their own way, for what better way will they find?
Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble.
Almost every man wastes part of his life attempting to display qualities which he does not possess. Life
At seventy-seven it is time to be in earnest. Time
Bachelors have consciences, married men have wives. Families, Children & Parenting
Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.
Between falsehood and useless truth there is little difference. As gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which cannot apply will make no man wise. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Truth
Books like friends, should be few and well-chosen.
Books that you carry to the fire, and hold readily in your hand, are most useful after all.
Bounty always receives part of its value from the manner in which it is bestowed.
By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show. Life
By taking a second wife he pays the highest compliment to the first, by showing that she made him so happy as a married man, that he wishes to be so a second time. Time
Classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world.
Courage is the greatest of all virtues, because if you haven't courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others.
Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.
Depend upon it that if a man talks of his misfortunes there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him; for where there is nothing but pure misery there never is any recourse to the mention of it.
Dictionaries are like watches, the worst is better than none and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.
Disease generally begins that equality which death completes. Death ;Equality & Equal Opportunity
Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test. Truth
Every man is rich or poor according to the proportion between his desires and his enjoyments.
Every man who attacks my belief, diminishes in some degree my confidence in it, and therefore makes me uneasy; and I am angry with him who makes me uneasy.
Everything that enlarges the sphere of human powers, that shows man he can do what he thought he could not do, is valuable.
Exercise is labor without weariness.
Few enterprises of great labor or hazard would be undertaken if we had not the power of magnifying the advantages we expect from them. Power
Friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Friendship
From the middle of life onward, only he remains vitally alive who is ready to die with life. Life
Getting money is not all a man's business: to cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life. Life ;Business, Commerce & Finance ;Money, Coins & Minting
Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance. Patience
He that fails in his endeavors after wealth or power will not long retain either honesty or courage. Power
He that undervalues himself will undervalue others, and he that undervalues others will oppress them.
He who does not mind his belly, will hardly mind anything else.
He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts. Life ;Nature ;Happiness & Unhappiness
He who praises everybody, praises nobody.
He who waits to do a great deal of good at once will never do anything.
Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed. Life
I had rather see the portrait of a dog that I know, than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world.
I have always considered it as treason against the great republic of human nature, to make any man's virtues the means of deceiving him. Nature
I have found men to be more kind than I expected, and less just.
I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance.
I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
I will be conquered; I will not capitulate.
I would be loath to speak ill of any person who I do not know deserves it, but I am afraid he is an attorney.
I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government other than another. It is of no moment to the happiness of an individual. Happiness & Unhappiness ;Government
If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, sir, should keep his friendship in a constant repair. Life ;Friendship
If pleasure was not followed by pain, who would forbear it?
If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.
In order that all men may be taught to speak the truth, it is necessary that all likewise should learn to hear it. Truth
It generally happens that assurance keeps an even pace with ability.
It is a most mortifying reflection for a man to consider what he has done, compared to what he might have done.
It is better that some should be unhappy rather than that none should be happy, which would be the case in a general state of equality. Equality & Equal Opportunity
It is better to live rich than to die rich.
It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust. Trust
It is dangerous for mortal beauty, or terrestrial virtue, to be examined by too strong a light. The torch of Truth shows much that we cannot, and all that we would not, see. Truth
It is not true that people are naturally equal for no two people can be together for even a half an hour without one acquiring an evident superiority over the other.
It is reasonable to have perfection in our eye that we may always advance toward it, though we know it can never be reached.
It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time. Time
Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. Power
Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Language is the dress of thought.
Leisure and curiosity might soon make great advances in useful knowledge, were they not diverted by minute emulation and laborious trifles. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Let me smile with the wise, and feed with the rich.
Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified. Life ;Success
Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment. Life
Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass in idle deliberation how it shall be spent. Life
Love is only one of many passions. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Man alone is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed.
Many things difficult to design prove easy to performance.
Melancholy, indeed, should be diverted by every means but drinking.
Money and time are the heaviest burdens of life, and... the unhappiest of all mortals are those who have more of either than they know how to use. Life ;Time ;Money, Coins & Minting
My dear friend, clear your mind of cant.
No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money. Money, Coins & Minting
No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring.
No man was ever great by imitation.
No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned... a man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company. Nutrition, Food, Starvation, Farming & Agriculture
No money is better spent than what is laid out for domestic satisfaction. Money, Coins & Minting
No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library.
Nobody can write the life of a man but those who have eat and drunk and lived in social intercourse with him. Life
Nothing flatters a man as much as the happiness of his wife; he is always proud of himself as the source of it. Happiness & Unhappiness
Nothing is more hopeless than a scheme of merriment.
Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.
Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable. Music, Chants & Rapps
Of the blessings set before you make your choice, and be content.
One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts. Humor
Paradise Lost is a book that, once put down, is very hard to pick up again.
Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth. Truth ;Literature, Writers & Writing ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Power is not sufficient evidence of truth. Truth ;Power
Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity.
Prepare for death, if here at night you roam, and sign your will before you sup from home. Death
Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult. Happiness & Unhappiness
Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged.
Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.
Small debts are like small shot; they are rattling on every side, and can scarcely be escaped without a wound: great debts are like cannon; of loud noise, but little danger.
So far is it from being true that men are naturally equal, that no two people can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other.
So many objections may be made to everything, that nothing can overcome them but the necessity of doing something.
Some desire is necessary to keep life in motion, and he whose real wants are supplied must admit those of fancy. Life
Subordination tends greatly to human happiness. Were we all upon an equality, we should have no other enjoyment than mere animal pleasure. Happiness & Unhappiness ;Equality & Equal Opportunity
Such is the state of life, that none are happy but by the anticipation of change: the change itself is nothing; when we have made it, the next wish is to change again. Life
Surely a long life must be somewhat tedious, since we are forced to call in so many trifling things to help rid us of our time, which will never return. Life ;Time
That we must all die, we always knew; I wish I had remembered it sooner.
The advice that is wanted is commonly not welcome and that which is not wanted, evidently an effrontery.
The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.
The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.
The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Friendship
The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading in order to write. A man will turn over half a library to make a book. Time
The happiest conversation is that of which nothing is distinctly remembered, but a general effect of pleasing impression.
The happiest part of a man's life is what he passes lying awake in bed in the morning. Life ;Morning
The love of life is necessary to the vigorous prosecution of any undertaking. Life ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
The mind is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity... The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope. Future ;Hope
The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope. Hope
The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape.
The true art of memory is the art of attention. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.
The two offices of memory are collection and distribution.
The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are. Travel
The usual fortune of complaint is to excite contempt more than pity.
The vanity of being known to be trusted with a secret is generally one of the chief motives to disclose it.
The world is like a grand staircase, some are going up and some are going down.
The world is seldom what it seems; to man, who dimly sees, realities appear as dreams, and dreams realities.
The wretched have no compassion, they can do good only from strong principles of duty.
There are charms made only for distant admiration.
There are few things that we so unwillingly give up, even in advanced age, as the supposition that we still have the power of ingratiating ourselves with the fair sex. Power
There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money. Money, Coins & Minting
There are goods so opposed that we cannot seize both, but, by too much prudence, may pass between them at too great a distance to reach either.
There are some sluggish men who are improved by drinking; as there are fruits that are not good until they are rotten.
There is no private house in which people can enjoy themselves so well as at a capital tavern... No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn. Happiness & Unhappiness
There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern. Happiness & Unhappiness
There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible. Happiness & Unhappiness ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
There is, indeed, nothing that so much seduces reason from vigilance, as the thought of passing life with an amiable woman. Life
Those who attain any excellence, commonly spend life in one pursuit; for excellence is not often gained upon easier terms. Life
To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.
To be idle and to be poor have always been reproaches, and therefore every man endeavors with his utmost care to hide his poverty from others, and his idleness from himself.
To get a name can happen but to few; it is one of the few things that cannot be brought. It is the free gift of mankind, which must be deserved before it will be granted, and is at last unwillingly bestowed.
To keep your secret is wisdom; but to expect others to keep it is folly.
To love one that is great, is almost to be great one's self. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity.
Treating your adversary with respect is striking soft in battle. Respect
We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know because they have never deceived us.
We are long before we are convinced that happiness is never to be found, and each believes it possessed by others, to keep alive the hope of obtaining it for himself. Hope ;Happiness & Unhappiness
We love to expect, and when expectation is either disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Were it not for imagination a man would be as happy in arms of a chambermaid as of a duchess.
What is easy is seldom excellent.
What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
What makes all doctrines plain and clear? About two hundred pounds a year. And that which was proved true before, prove false again? Two hundred more.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. Life
When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.
When a man says he had pleasure with a woman he does not mean conversation.
When any calamity has been suffered the first thing to be remembered is, how much has been escaped.
When making your choice in life, do not neglect to live. Life
When men come to like a sea-life, they are not fit to live on land.
Where grief is fresh, any attempt to divert it only irritates.
Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o'clock is a scoundrel.
Wine makes a man more pleased with himself; I do not say it makes him more pleasing to others.
Without frugality none can be rich, and with it very few would be poor.
Words are but the signs of ideas. Communication & Communications
Worth seeing? Yes; but not worth going to see.
You cannot spend money in luxury without doing good to the poor. Nay, you do more good to them by spending it in luxury, than by giving it; for by spending it in luxury, you make them exert industry, whereas by giving it, you keep them idle. Money, Coins & Minting
You can't be in politics unless you can walk in a room and know in a minute who's for you and who's against you. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. Life
You hesitate to stab me with a word, and know not - silence is the sharper sword.
You teach your daughters the diameters of the planets and wonder when you are done that they do not delight in your company.
Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.