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Quotations

  • Books of quotations ... afford me one of the most undemanding but satisfying forms of reading pleasure.

  • One has to secrete a jelly in which to slip quotations down people's throats — and one always secretes too much jelly.

    • Virginia Woolf,
    • 1938, in Nigel Nicolson, ed., Leave the Letters Till We're Dead, vol. 6 ()
  • [Proverbs] are short sayings made out of long experience.

  • The next best thing to being clever is being able to quote some one who is.

  • Borrowed thoughts, like borrowed money, only show the poverty of the borrower.

    • Countess of Blessington,
    • in R.R. Madden, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, vol. 1 ()
  • ... a book which hath been culled from the flowers of all books ...

  • It's a nicety of conversation which I would have you attend to — much quotation of any sort, even in English, is bad. It tends to choke ordinary remark. One couldn't carry on life comfortably without a little blindness to the fact that everything has been said better than we can put it ourselves.

  • I think the effective use of quotation is an important point in the art of writing. Given sparingly, quotations serve admirably as a climax or as a corroboration, but when they are long and frequent, they seriously weaken the effect of a book. We lose sight of the writer — he scatters our sympathy among others than himself — and the ideas which he himself advances are not knit together with our impression of his personality.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1853, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 8 ()
  • How do people go to sleep? I'm afraid I've lost the knack. I might try busting myself smartly over the temple with the night-light. I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things.

  • ... the majority of critical, and plenty of uncritical, readers find quotations a bore.

  • The habit some writers indulge in of perpetual quotation is one it behooves lovers of good literature to protest against, for it is an insidious habit which in the end must cloud the stream of thought, or at least check spontaneity. If it be true that le style c'est l'homme, what is likely to happen if l'homme is for ever eking out his own personality with that of some other individual?

  • No doubt other writers have often put a thing more brilliantly, more subtly than even a very cunning artist in words can hope to emulate, a supreme phrase being a bit of luck that only happens now and then. And inasmuch as the condiments and secret travail of human nature are always the same, and that certain psychological moments must ever and ever recur, what more tempting than to pin down such a moment with the blow of a borrowed hammer?

  • ... the writer must resist this temptation [to quote] and do his best with his own tools. It would be most convenient for us musicians if, arrived at a given emotional crisis in our work, we could simply stick in a few bars of Brahms or Schubert. Indeed many composers have no hesitation in so doing. But I have never heard the practice defended; possibly because that hideous symbol of petty larceny, the inverted comma, cannot well be worked into a musical score.

  • An epigram is a flashlight of a truth; a witticism, truth laughing at itself.

  • ... quotations can be valuable, like raisins in the rice pudding, for adding iron as well as eye appeal.

  • ... I always have a quotation for everything — it saves original thinking.

  • An aphorism is the last link in a long chain of thought.

  • [On collectors of quotations:] How far our literature may in future suffer from these blighting swarms, will best be conceived by a glance at what they have already withered and blasted of the favourite productions of our most popular poets ...

  • The everlasting quotation-lover dotes on the husks of learning.

  • ... an apt quotation is like a lamp which flings its light over the whole sentence.

  • Though collecting quotations could be considered as merely an ironic mimetism — victimless collecting, as it were ... in a world that is well on its way to becoming one vast quarry, the collector becomes someone engaged in a pious work of salvage. The course of modern history having already sapped the traditions and shattered the living wholes in which precious ones found their place, the collector may now in good conscience go about excavating the choicer, more emblematic fragments.

  • The taste for quotations (and for the juxtaposition of incongruous quotations) is a Surrealist taste.

  • I quote others only to better express myself.

  • [On her use of quotations:] When a thing has been said so well that it could not be said better, why paraphrase it? Hence my writing, is, if not a cabinet of fossils, a kind of collection of flies in amber.

  • He lik'd those literary cooks / Who skim the cream of others' books, / And ruin half an author's graces, / By plucking bon-mots from their places.

    • Hannah More,
    • "Florio" (1786), The Works of Hannah More, vol. 1 ()
  • The most disheartening tendency common among readers is to tear out one sentence from a work, as a criterion of the writer's ideas or personality.

  • A collector of quotations inevitably has some of the qualities of a parasite, feeding off the labors of others.

  • [On quotations:] I love them because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognizedly wiser than oneself.

  • Quotations are feeble; you always regret making them.

  • Quoting, like smoking, ... is a dirty habit to which I am devoted. But then ... I am a professor of English literature; it is an occupational hazard.

  • That's the point of quotations, you know: one can use another's words to be insulting.

  • Sometimes it seems the only accomplishment my education ever bestowed on me, the ability to think in quotations.

  • I imagine we're going to find this full of quotations!

    • Ruth Draper,
    • "The Italian Lesson," The Art of Ruth Draper ()
  • A good quotation must be a complete entity. It must be like a headline — sharp, clear, whole.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • 1944, in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • One of my favorite times was sitting reading quote books, which I did for hours on end ...

  • Quotations (such as have point and lack triteness) from the great old authors are an act of filial reverence on the part of the quoter, and a blessing to a public grown superficial and external.

  • ... those quotations were really quite obscure. Anyone can see that he is a very well-read man.

  • It was often difficult to think of an apt quotation when one was in a hurry.

  • You can tell a really wonderful quote by the fact that it's attributed to a whole raft of wits.

  • I think of quotes as mini-instruction manuals for the soul.