Quotations From SAMUEL JOHNSON


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  • We love to overlook the boundaries which we do not wish to pass.
    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. Rambler (London, Apr. 20, 1751), no. 114, published in Works of Samuel Johnson, vol. 4, eds. W.J. Bate and Albrecht B. Strauss (1969).

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  • Nobody can write the life of a man, but those who have eat and drunk and lived in social intercourse with him.
    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. Quoted in James Boswell, Life of Dr. Johnson, entry, March 31, 1772 (1791). Johnson was referring specifically to Goldsmith's Life of Parnell. He later reiterated and qualified this statement: "They only who live with a man can write his life with any genuine exactness and discrimination; and few people who have lived with a man know what to remark about him." (Mar. 20, 1776).

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  • Sir John, Sir, is a very unclubbable man.
    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. Quoted in James Boswell, Life of Dr. Johnson, entry, spring 1764 (1791). Referring to eminent musicologist Sir John Hawkins. He was Johnson's literary executor and published an inaccurate Life (1787-1789) and an edition of Johnson's works.
  • Now ... that you are going to marry, do not expect more from life, than life will afford."
    Samuel Johnson (1704-1784), British author, lexicographer. (Originally published 1791). Boswell's Life of Johnson, Nov. 10, 1769, p. 430, Oxford University Press (1980). Said to Boswell.

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  • Avarice is generally the last passion of those lives of which the first part has been squandered in pleasure, and the second devoted to ambition. He that sinks under the fatigue of getting wealth, lulls his age with the milder business of saving it.
    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. repr. in Works of Samuel Johnson, vol. 5, eds. W.J. Bate and Albrecht B. Strauss (1969). quoted in Rambler, no. 151 (London, Aug. 31, 1751).

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  • If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.
    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. Quoted in James Boswell, Life of Dr. Johnson, note to entry, 1755 (1791). Records Johnson's opinion "at a subsequent period of his life" to 1755.

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  • This was a good enough dinner, to be sure; but it was not a dinner to ask a man to.
    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. Quoted in James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791). for Aug. 5, 1763.
  • Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.
    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. repr. in Works of Samuel Johnson, Yale Edition, vol. 2, eds. W.J. Bate, John M. Bullitt and L.F. Powell (1963). The Idler, no. 40, Universal Chronicle (London, Jan. 20, 1759).
  • Sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to England.
    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. Quoted in James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, July 6, 1763 (1791).
  • Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.
    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. letter, Dec. 7, 1782, to Boswell. Quoted in James Boswell, Life of Dr. Johnson (1791).

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