Samuel Johnson Quotes

A transition from an author's books to his conversation, is too often like an entrance into a large city, after a distant prospect. Remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples, and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendor, grandeur, and magnificence; but, when we have passed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. Rambler, no. 14 (1750).
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Sir, there is one Mrs. Macaulay in this town, a great republican. One day when I was at her house, I put on a very grave countenance, and said to her, "Madam, I am now become a convert to your way of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are upon an equal footing; and to give you an unquestionable proof, Madam, that I am in earnest, here is a very sensible, civil, well-behaved fellow-citizen, your footman; I desire that he may be allowed to sit down and dine with us." I thus, Sir, shewed her the absurdity of the levelling doctrine. She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. (Originally published 1791). Boswell's Life of Johnson, July 12, 1763, pp. 316-17, Oxford University Press (1980). Johnson's favorite theme of "subordination of rank."
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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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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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Sir, there is more knowledge in a letter of Richardson's, than in all Tom Jones.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. (Originally published 1791). Boswell's Life of Johnson, April 6, 1772, p. 480, Oxford University Press (1980).
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Mrs. Montagu has dropped me. Now, Sir, there are people whom one should like very well to drop, but would not wish to be dropped by.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. Quoted in James Boswell, Life of Dr. Johnson, entry, March 1781 (1791). Referring to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
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They that have grown old in a single state are generally found to be morose, fretful and captious; tenacious of their own practices and maxims; soon offended by contradiction or negligence; and impatient of any association but with those that will watch their nod, and submit themselves to unlimited authority.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. repr. in Works of Samuel Johnson, vol. 4, eds. W.J. Bate and Albrecht B. Strauss (1969). Rambler (London, April 13, 1751), no. 112.
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his bow-wow way
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. (Originally published 1791). Boswell's Life of Johnson, footnote to March 27, 1775, Oxford University Press (1980). Lord Pembroke's description of Johnson's emphatic way of speaking.
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A woman preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. Quoted in James Boswell, Life of Dr. Johnson, entry, July 31, 1763 (1791).
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Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), British author, lexicographer. repr. In Works of Samuel Johnson, vol. 4, ed. W.J. Bate and Albrecht B. Strauss (1969). Rambler (London, Aug. 24, 1751), no. 150.
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