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Samuel Butler Quotes


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I should not advise anyone with ordinary independence of mind to attempt the public ear unless he is confident that he can out-lung and out-last his own generation; for if he has any force, people will and ought to be on their guard against him, inasmuch as there is no knowing where he may not take them.
 

Ideas and opinions, like living organisms, have a normal rate of growth which cannot be either checked or forced beyond a certain point. They can be held in check more safely than they can be hurried. They can also be killed; and one of the surest ways to kill them is to try to hurry them.
 

If a man has not studied painting, or at any rate black and white drawing, his eyes are wild; learning to draw tames them. The first step towards taming the eyes is to teach them not to see too much.
 

If a man would get hold of the public era, he must pay, marry, or fight
 

If a person would understand either the Odyssey or any other ancient work, he must never look at the dead without seeing the living in them, nor at the living without thinking of the dead. We are too fond of seeing the ancients as one thing and the moderns as another.
 

If God wants us to do a thing, he should make his wishes sufficiently clear. Sensible people will wait till he has done this before paying much attention to him.
[Attention]
 

If I die prematurely, at any rate I shall be saved from being bored by my own success.
 

If life must not be taken too seriously, then so neither must death.
 

If people like being deceived - and this can hardly be doubted - there can rarely have been a time during which they can have had more of the wish than now. The literary, scientific and religious worlds vie with one another in trying to gratify the public.
 

If people would dare to speak to one another unreservedly, there would be a good deal less sorrow in the world a hundred years hence.
 

If the headache would only precede the intoxication, alcoholism would be a virtue.
 

If we are asked what is the most essential characteristic that underlies this word, the word itself will guide us to gentleness, to absence of such things as brow-beating, overbearing manners and fuss, and generally to consideration for other people.
 

If we attend continually and promptly to the little that we can do, we shall ere long be surprised to find how little remains that we cannot do.
 

If you follow reason far enough it always leads to conclusions that are contrary to reason.
 

If you tie Handel's hands by debarring him from the rendering of human emotion, and if you set Bach's free by giving him no human emotion to render - if, in fact, you rob Handel of his opportunities and Bach of his difficulties - the two men can fight after a fashion, but Handel will even so come off victorious.
 

In art, never try to find out anything, or try to learn anything until the not knowing it has come to be a nuisance to you for some time. Then you will remember it, but not otherwise. Let knowledge importune you before you will hear it. Our schools and universities go on the precisely opposite system.
 

In books, it is the chief of all perfections to be plain and brief.
[Books]
 

In law, nothing is certain but the expense.
[Law]
 

In old times people used to try and square the circle; now they try and devise schemes for satisfying the Irish nation.
 

In the highest consciousness there is still unconsciousness, in the lowest unconsciousness there is still consciousness. If there is no consciousness there is no thing, or nothing. To understand perfectly would be to cease to understand at all.
 


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