Samuel Butler

Samuel Butler quotes
1835 – 1902

Life is not an exact science, it is an art.

Friendship is like money, easier made than kept.

It is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.

People are always good company when they are doing what they really enjoy.

The truest characters of ignorance are vanity and pride and arrogance.

All animals, except man,
know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it.

We all like to forgive, and love best not those who offend us least, nor who have done most for us, but those who make it most easy for us to forgive them.

Don’t learn to do, but learn in doing. Let your falls not be on a prepared ground, but let them be bona fide falls in the rough and tumble of the world.

It is not he who gains the exact point in dispute who scores most in controversy – but he who has shown the better temper.

The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.

Man is the only animal that can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them.

Every man’s work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.

A hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.  😃

In law, nothing is certain but the expense.

Lying has a kind of respect and reverence with it.
We pay a person the compliment of acknowledging his superiority whenever we lie to him.
If I die prematurely I shall be saved from being bored to death at my own success.

Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.

Most people have never learned that one of the main aims in life is to enjoy it.

Fear is static that prevents me from hearing myself.

Morality is the custom of one’s country and the current feeling of one’s peers.

No mistake is more common and more fatuous than appealing to logic in cases which are beyond her jurisdiction.

Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.

Christ: I dislike him very much. Still, I can stand him. What I cannot stand is the wretched band of people whose profession is to hoodwink us about him.

“Words are not as satisfactory as we should like them to be, but, like our neighbours, we have got to live with them and must make the best and not the worst of them.”

To live is like to love – all reason is against it, and all healthy instinct for it.

Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.

A physician’s physiology has much the same relation to his power of healing as a cleric’s divinity has to his power of influencing conduct.

Parents are the last people on earth who ought to have children.

An apology for the devil: it must be remembered that we have heard one side of the case. God has written all the books.

A drunkard would not give money to sober people. He said they would only eat it, and buy clothes and send their children to school with it.

Look before you leap
for as you sow,
ye are like to reap.

Self-preservation is the first law of nature.

God cannot alter the past, though historians can.

The worst thing that can happen to a man is to lose his money, the next worst his health, the next worst his reputation.

To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead.

Human life is as evanescent as the morning dew or a flash of lightning.

The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously.

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.

We are not won by arguments that we can analyse but by tone and temper, by the manner which is the man himself.

From a worldly point of view, there is no mistake so great as that of being always right.

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

A friend who cannot at a pinch remember a thing or two that never happened is as bad as one who does not know how to forget.

Man is the only animal that laughs and has a state legislature.

Marriage is distinctly and repeatedly excluded from heaven. Is this because it is thought likely to mar the general felicity?

Men are seldom more commonplace than on supreme occasions.

Men should not try to overstrain their goodness more than any other faculty, bodily or mental.

Opinions have vested interests just as men have.

People care more about being thought to have taste than about being thought either good, clever or amiable.

It is tact that is golden, not silence.

People in general are equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted, and at seeing it practiced.

A sense of humor keen enough to show a man his own absurdities will keep him from the commission of all sins, or nearly all, save those worth committing.

Christ and The Church: If he were to apply for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, adultery and desertion, he would probably get one.

Money is the last enemy that shall never be subdued.
While there is flesh there is money or the want of money, but money is always on the brain so long as there is a brain in reasonable order.

Priests are not men of the world; it is not intended that they should be; and a University training is the one best adapted to prevent their becoming so.

Mr. Tennyson has said that more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of, but he wisely refrains from saying whether they are good or bad things.

The youth of an art is, like the youth of anything else, its most interesting period.
When it has come to the knowledge of good and evil it is stronger, but we care less about it.

To know God better is only to realize how impossible it is that we should ever know him at all. I know not which is more childish to deny him, or define him.

Virtue knows that it is impossible to get on without compromise, and tunes herself, as it were, a trifle sharp to allow for an inevitable fall in playing.

Some men love truth so much that they seem to be in continual fear lest she should catch a cold on overexposure.

The advantage of doing one’s praising for oneself is that one can lay it on so thick and exactly in the right places.

The Athanasian Creed is to me light and intelligible reading in comparison with much that now passes for science.

Neither irony or sarcasm is argument.

The function of vice is to keep virtue within reasonable bounds.

The history of the world is the record of the weakness, frailty and death of public opinion.

The voice of the Lord is the voice of common sense, which is shared by all that is.

The want of money is the root of all evil.

There are more fools than knaves in the world, else the knaves would not have enough to live upon.

There is no true gracefulness which is not epitomized goodness.

There is such a thing as doing good that evil may come.

Think of and look at your work as though it were done by your enemy. I you look at it to admire it, you are lost.

The only living works are those which have drained much of the author’s own life into them.

The sinews of art and literature, like those of war, are money.

Those who have never had a father can at any rate never know the sweets of losing one. To most men the death of his father is a new lease of life.

Though analogy is often misleading, it is the least misleading thing we have.

What is faith but a kind of betting or speculation after all? It should be, I bet that my Redeemer liveth.

When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence.

Work with some men is as besetting a sin as idleness.

Is life worth living? This is a question for an embryo not for a man.

Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Justice is my being allowed to do whatever I like. Injustice is whatever prevents my doing so.

They say the test of literary power is whether a man can write an inscription. I say, ‘Can he name a kitten?’

When you have told anyone you have left him a legacy, the only decent thing to do is die at once.

Man is God’s highest present development. He is the latest thing in God.

The Ancient Mariner would not have taken so well if it had been called The Old Sailor.

A lawyer’s dream of heaven: every man reclaimed his property at the resurrection, and each tried to recover it from all his forefathers.

For truth is precious and divine, too rich a pearl for carnal swine.

Logic is like the sword – those who appeal to it, shall perish by it.

Oaths are but words, and words are but wind.

Be virtuous and you will be vicious.

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.

Let every man be true and every god a liar.

Our minds want clothes as much as our bodies.

Theist and atheist: the fight between them is as to whether God shall be called God or shall have some other name.

The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.

A man should be just cultured enough to be able to look with suspicion upon culture at first, not second hand.

A man’s friendships are, like his will, invalidated by marriage – but they are also no less invalidated by the marriage of his friends.

A skilful leech is better far, than half a hundred men of war.

All philosophies, if you ride them home, are nonsense, but some are greater nonsense than others.

Young people have a marvelous faculty of either dying or adapting themselves to circumstances.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a little want of knowledge is also a dangerous thing.

Vaccination is the medical sacrament corresponding to baptism. Whether it is or is not more efficacious I do not know

Academic and aristocratic people live in such an uncommon atmosphere that common sense can rarely reach them.

There is no such source of error as the pursuit of truth.

All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.

Half the vices which the world condemns most loudly have seeds of good in them and require moderate use rather than total abstinence.

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.

Faith – you can do very little with it, but you can do nothing without it.

God and the Devil are an effort after specialization and the division of labor.

God as now generally conceived of is only the last witch.

We shall never get people whose time is money to take much interest in atoms.

Letters are like wine; if they are sound they ripen with keeping.
A man should lay down letters as he does a cellar of wine.

Life is a quarry, out of which we are to mold and chisel and complete a character.

Christ was only crucified once and for a few hours. Think of the hundreds of thousands whom Christ has been crucifying in a quiet way ever since.

There is no bore like a clever bore.

It is our less conscious thoughts and our less conscious actions which mainly mould our lives and the lives of those who spring from us.

There is nothing so unthinkable as thought, unless it be the entire absence of thought.

You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it.

A virtue to be serviceable must, like gold, be alloyed with some commoner, but more durable alloy.

All truth is not to be told at all times.

And so there is no God but has been in the loins of past gods.

It is a wise tune that knows its own father, and I like my music to be the legitimate offspring of respectable parents.

Belief like any other moving body follows the path of least resistance.

Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them.

Death is only a larger kind of going abroad.

Evil is like water, it abounds, is cheap, soon fouls, but runs itself clear of taint.

God was satisfied with his own work, and that is fatal.

He has spent his life best who has enjoyed it most. God will take care that we do not enjoy it any more than is good for us.

He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still.

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

In the midst of vice we are in virtue, and vice versa.

The Bible may be the truth, but it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The dead should be judged like criminals, impartially, but they should be allowed the benefit of the doubt.

The dons of Oxford and Cambridge are too busy educating the young men to be able to teach them anything.

To die is but to leave off dying and do the thing once for all.

It has been said that the love of money is the root of all evil. The want of money is so quite as truly.

It is seldom very hard to do one’s duty when one knows what it is, but it is often exceedingly difficult to find this out.

It is the function of vice to keep virtue within reasonable bounds.

Justice while she winks at crimes, Stumbles on innocence sometimes.

My main wish is to get my books into other people’s rooms, and to keep other people’s books out of mine.

Nobody shoots at Santa Claus.

One of the first businesses of a sensible man is to know when he is beaten, and to leave off fighting at once.

Our ideas are for the most part like bad sixpences, and we spend our lives trying to pass them on one another.

Silence and tact may or may not be the same thing.

The healthy stomach is nothing if it is not conservative. Few radicals have good digestions.

Life is one long process of getting tired.

The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore.

To give pain is the tyranny; to make happy, the true empire of beauty.

The most important service rendered by the press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with distrust.

The oldest books are only just out to those who have not read them.

The three most important things a man has are, briefly, his private parts, his money, and his religious opinions.

When you’ve told someone that you’ve left them a legacy the only decent thing to do is to die at once.

Brigands demand your money or your life; women require both.

I really do not see much use in exalting the humble and meek; they do not remain humble and meek long when they are exalted.

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

People are lucky and unlucky not according to what they get absolutely, but according to the ratio between what they get and what they have been led to expect.

Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to lie well.

I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.

I never knew a writer yet who took the smallest pains with his style and was at the same time readable.

The history of art is the history of revivals.