In the first edition of our new “Quotables” series I shared five of my favorite “Chestertonisms”, challenging our readers to name anyone who could be considered a more “quotable” writer than G.K. Chesterton. That challenge was accepted and the great Samuel Johnson was named.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), made a lasting mark on English literature as a literary critic, biographer, poet, essayist, and more. Perhaps his greatest achievement was A Dictionary of the English Language, which was the result of nine years of labor and is widely acknowledged to be one of English literature’s greatest scholarly works.
Here are eight (because I did not want to offer 7 or 9) quotable offerings from the unforgettable Samuel Johnson:
1. “As pride sometimes is hid under humility, idleness if often covered by turbulence and hurry.”
2. “Nothing is more common than for men to make partial and absurd distinctions between vices of equal enormity, and to observe some of the divine commands with great scrupulousness, while they violate others, equally important, without any concern, or the least apparent conciousness of guilt. Alas, it is only wisdom which perceives this tragedy.”
3. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing – it only hastens fools to rush in where angels fear to tread.”
4. “He that is warm for truth, and fearless in its defense, performs one of the duties of a good man; he strenghtens his own conviction, and guards others from delusion; but steadiness of belief, and boldness of profession, are yet only part of the form of godliness.”
5. “A contempt of the monuments and the wisdom of the past, may be justly reckoned one of the reigning follies of these days, to which pride and idleness have equally contributed.”
6. “People have now-a-days got a strange opinion that everything should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do so much as reading the books from which the lectures are taken.”
7. “Works of imagination excel by their allurement and delight; by their power of attracting and detaining the attention. That book is good in vain which the reader throws away. He only is the master who keeps the mind in pleasing captivity; whose pages are perused with eagerness, and in hope of new pleasure are perused again; and whose conclusion is perceived with an eye of sorrow, such as the traveller casts upon departing day.”
8. “It is to be steadily inculcated, that virtue is the highest proof of understanding, and the only solid basis of greatness.”