I dislike modern memoirs. They are generally written by people who have either entirely lost their memories, or have never done anything worth remembering.
(Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. Ernest, in The Critic as Artist, pt. 1, published in Intentions (1891).
He continued, "which, however, is, no doubt, the true explanation of their popularity, as the English public always feels perfectly at its ease when a mediocrity is talking to it." In reply, Gilbert disagreed with Ernest's view of autobiography: "In literature mere egotism is delightful.")
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.
(Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. letter, Sept. 21, 1773, to Hester Thrale. The Letters of Samuel Johnson, vol. 1, no. 326, ed. R.W. Chapman (1952).
Johnson added, "I can now look back upon threescore and four years, in which little has been done, and little has been enjoyed, a life diversified by misery, spent part in the sluggishness of penury, and part under the violence of pain, in gloomy discontent, or importunate distress.")
The necessity of labor and conversation with many men and things to the scholar is rarely well remembered.
(Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 1, p. 108, Houghton Mifflin (1906).)
Solitude is dangerous to reason, without being favourable to virtue.... Remember that the solitary mortal is certainly luxurious, probably superstitious, and possibly mad.
(Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. repr. In Johnsonian Miscellanies, vol. 1, ed. George Birkbeck Hill, p. 219 (1891). Quoted in Hester Piozzi, Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson (1786).)
Do you remember you shot a seagull? A man came by chance, saw it and destroyed it, just to pass the time.
(Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904), Russian dramatist, author. Nina, in The Seagull, act 4 (1896), trans. by Elisaveta Fen (1954).
Spoken to Trepliov, who shot the bird in act 1, laying it at Nina's feet as a symbol of his ruined hopes.)