Samuel Johnson

Quotations

He has, indeed, done it very well; but it is a foolish thing well done.

Life of Johnson by James Boswell (1791)

I have no more pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit and failing, than in seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch and tumbling into it.

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

This quote has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Samuel Johnson, among others.

We are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure.

Rambler #60 (October 13, 1750)

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.

the Astronomer, in Samuel Johnson's Rasselas

Among the inferior professors of medical knowledge, is a race of wretches, whose lives are only varied by varieties of cruelty; whose favourite amusement is to nail dogs to tables and open them alive; to try how long life may be continued in various degrees of mutilation, or with the excision or laceration of the vital parts; to examine whether burning irons are felt more acutely by the bone or tendon; and whether the more lasting agonies are produced by poison forced into the mouth, or injected into the veins.

Idler #17

What is alleged in defence of those hateful practices, every one knows; but the truth is, that by knives, fire, and poison, knowledge is not always sought and is very seldom attained. The experiments that have been tried, are tried again; he that burned an animal with irons yesterday, will be willing to amuse himself with burning another tomorrow. I know not, that by living dissections any discovery has been made by which a single malady is more easily cured. And if the knowledge of physiology has been somewhat increased, he surely buys knowledge dear, who learns the use of lacteals at the expense of his humanity. It is time that universal resentment should arise against these horrid operations, which tend to harden the heart, extinguish those sensations which give man confidence in man, and make the physician more dreadful than the gout or stone.

Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.

Study requires solitude, and solitude is a state dangerous to those who are too much accustomed to sink into themselves.

Surely life, if it be not long, is tedious, since we are forced to call in the assistance of so many trifles to rid us of our time, of that time which never can return.

That man is never happy for the present is so true, that all his relief from unhappiness is only forgetting himself for a little while. Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment.

Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.

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.

The longer we live, and the more we think, the higher value we learn to put on the friendship and tenderness of parents and of friends. Parents we can have but once; and he promises himself too much, who enters life with the expectation of finding many friends.

All censure of a man’s self is oblique praise. It is in order to show how much he can spare. It has all the invidiousness of self-praise, and all the reproach of falsehood.

I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

letter to Lord Chesterfield, 7 Feb 1755