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|Titus Lucretius Carus
c. 94 - 55 BC
(Ist Baron Verulam and Viscount St Albans)
1561 - 1626
English lawyer, courtier, philosopher, and essayist
|Nothing can be created out of
De Rerum Natura
bk. 1, 1. 155
So the vital strength of his spirit won through, and
he made his way far outside the flaming walls of the world and ranged
over the measureless whole, both in mind and spirit.
Lovely it is, when the winds are churning up the waves on the great
sea, to gaze out from the land on the great efforts of someone else; not
because it's an enjoyable pleasure that somebody is in difficulties, but
because it's lovely to realise what troubles you are yourself spared.
Lovely also to witness great battle-plans of war, carried out across the
plains, without your having any share in the danger. But nothing is
sweeter than to occupy the quiet precincts that are well protected by
the teachings of the wise, from where you can look down on others and
see them wandering all over the place, getting lost and striving as they
seek the way in life, striving by their wits, pitting their noble birth,
by night and by day struggling by superior efforts to rise to power at
the top and gain possession of all things.
Some races increase, others are reduced, and in a short while the
generations of living creatures are changed and like runners relay the
torch of life.
Death therefore is nothing to us nor does it concern us a scrap,
seeing that the nature of the spirit we possess is something mortal.
We can know there is nothing to be feared in death, that one who is
not cannot be made unhappy, and that it matters not a scrap whether one
might ever have been born at all, when death that is immortal has taken
over one's mortal life.
Why not, like a banqueter fed full of life, withdraw with contentment
and rest in peace, you fool?
And life is given to none freehold, but it is leasehold for all.
From the midst of the fountain of delights rises something bitter
that chokes them all amongst the flowers.
|If a man will begin with
certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin
with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
The Advancement of Learning (1605)
bk. 1, ch.4, sect. 8
So let great authors have their due, as time, which is
the author of authors, be not deprived of his due, which is further and
further to discover truth.
Poesy was ever thought to have some participation of
divineness, because it doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting the
shows of things to the desires of the mind; whereas reason doth buckle
and bow the mind unto the nature of things.
The knowledge of man is as the waters, some descending
from above, and some springing from beneath; the one informed by the
light of nature, the other inspired by divine revelation.
They are ill discoverers that think there is no land,
when they can see nothing but sea.
Words are the tokens current and accepted for
conceits, as moneys are for values.
A dance is a measured pace, as a verse is a measured
But men must know, that in this theatre of man's life
it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers on.
It is in life as it is in ways, the shortest way is
commonly the foulest, and surely the fairer way is not much about.
Riches are a good handmaid, but the worst mistress.
Silence is the virtue of fools.
That all things are changed, and that nothing really
perishes, and that the sum of matter remains exactly the same, is
I hold every man a debtor to his profession.
If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it
shows he is a citizen of the world.
He that will not apply new remedies must expect new
evils; for time is the greatest innovator.
God Almighty first planted a garden; and,
indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.
A crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of
pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.
Men in great place are thrice servants: servants of
the sovereign or state, servants of fame, and servants of business.
It is a strange desire to seek power and lose liberty.
There is little friendship in the world, and least of
all between equals.
Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a
hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers for the
observers of his law. The people assembled: Mahomet called the hill to
come to him again and again; and when the hill stood still, he was never
a whit abashed, but said, 'If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet
will go to the hill.'
To choose time is to save time.
Houses are built to live in and not to look on;
therefore let use be preferred before uniformity, except where both may
There is no excellent beauty that hath not some
strangeness in the proportion.
A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism,
but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds to religion.
In civil business; what first? boldness; what second
and third? boldness: and yet boldness is a child of ignorance and
Boldness is an ill keeper of promise.
I had rather believe all the fables in the legend, and
the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a
|Three hours a day will produce
as much as a man ought to write.
Autobiography (1883) ch.15
A man's mind will very generally refuse to make itself
up until it be driven and compelled by emergency.
How did I respect you when you dared to speak the
truth to me? Men don't know women, or they would be harder to them.
There is no road to wealth so easy and respectable as
that of matrimony.
Let no man boast himself that he has got through the
perils of winter till at least the seventh of May.
We cannot have heroes to dine with us. There are none.
And were those heroes to be had, we should not like them ... the persons
whom you cannot care for in a novel, because they are so bad, are the
very same that you so dearly love in your life, because they are so
For the most of us, if we do not talk of ourselves, or
at any rate of the individual circles of which we are the centres, we
can talk of nothing. I cannot hold with those who wish to put down the
insignificant chatter of the world.
They who do not understand that a man may be brought
to hope that which of all things is the most grievous to him, have not
observed with sufficient closeness the perversity of the human mind.
She understood how much louder a cock can crow in its
own farmyard than elsewhere.
It's dogged as does it. It ain't thinking about it.
With many women I doubt whether there be any more
effectual way of touching their hearts than ill-using them and then
confessing it. If you wish to get the sweetest fragrance from the herb
at your feet, tread on it and bruise it.
As for conceit, what man will do any good who is not
conceited? Nobody holds a good opinion of a man who has a low opinion of
Perhaps there is no position more perilous to a man's
honesty than that ... of knowing himself to be quite loved by a girl
whom he almost loves himself.
She knew how to allure by denying, and to make the
gift rich by delaying it.
Take away from English authors their copyrights, and
you would very soon take away from England her authors.
He must have known me had he seen me as he was wont to
see me, for he was in the habit of flogging me constantly. Perhaps he
did not recognise me by my face.
It is admitted that a novel can hardly be made
interesting or successful without love ... It is necessary because the
passion is one which interests or has interested all. Everyone feels it,
has felt it, or expects to feel it.
Those who have courage to love should have courage to
What man thinks of changing himself so as to suit his
wife? And yet men expect that women should put on altogether new
characters when they are married, and girls think that they can do so.
To think of one's absent love is very sweet; but it
becomes monotonous ... I doubt whether any girl would be satisfied with
her lover's mind if she knew the whole of it.
Why is it that girls so constantly do this, - so
frequently ask men who have loved them to be present at their marriages
with other men? There is no triumph in it. It is done in sheer kindness
and affection. They intend to offer something which shall soften and not
aggravate the sorrow that they have caused ... I fully appreciate the
intention, but in honest truth, I doubt the eligibility of the proffered
It may almost be a question whether such wisdom as
many of us have in our mature years has not come from the dying out of
the power of temptation, rather than as the results of thought and
Is it not singular how some men continue to obtain the
reputation of popular authorship without adding a word to the literature
of their country worthy of note? ... To puff and to get one's self
puffed have become different branches of a new profession.
Love is like any other luxury. You have no right to it
unless you can afford it.