Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Jonathan Swift, pen names, M.B. Drapier, Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff

Irish Satirist, Dean of Saint Patrick's. Swift originally published all of his works under pseudonyms—such as Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, M.B. Drapier—or anonymously.

"A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday."

"A wise man is never less alone than when he is alone."

"A wise man should have money in his head, not in his heart."

"Although men are accused for not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps as few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owners knows not of."

"Brisk talkers are usually slow thinkers. There is, indeed, no wild beast more to be dreaded than a communicative man having nothing to communicate. If you are civil to the voluble they will abuse your patience; if brusque, your character."

"Every man desires to live long, but no man would be old."

"How often do we contradict the right rules of reason in the course of our lives! Reason itself is true and just, but the reason of every particular man is weak and wavering, perpetually swayed and turned by his interests, his passions, and his vices."

"If a man would register all his opinions upon love, politics, religion, learning, etc., beginning from his youth, and so go to old age, what a bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions would appear at last!"

"Men always grow vicious before they become unbelievers."

"Men are contented to be laughed at for their wit, but not for their folly."

"Nothing more unqualifies a man to act iwth prudence, than a misfortune that is attended with shame and guilt."

"Perpetual aiming at wit is a very bad part of conversation. It is done to support a character: it generally fails; it is a sort of insult on the company, and a restraint upon the speaker."

"Simplicity, without which no human performance can arrive at perfection."

"Some men, under the notion of weeding our prejudices, eradicate virtue, honesty and religion."

"The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Dr. Merryman."

"The latter part of a wise man's life is taken up in curing the follies, prejudices, and false opinions he had contracted in the former."

"The only benefit of flattery is that by hearing what we are not, we may be instructed what we ought to be."

"The worthiest people are the most injured by slander, as we usually find that to be the best fruit which the birds have been pecking at. A little, and a little, collected together become a great deal; the heap in the barn consists of single grains, and drop and drop from an inundation."

"There is no vice or folly that requires so much nicety and skill to manage as vanity; nor any which by ill management makes so contemptible a figure."

"There is no vice which mankind carries to such wild extremes as that of avarice."

"To be vain is rather a mark of humility than pride."

"Trifles discover character more than actions of seeming importance; what one is in little things he is also in great."

"Very few men, properly speaking, live at present, but are providing to live another time."

"Violent zeal for truth has a hundred to one odds to be either petulancy, ambition, or pride."

"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."

"Abstracts, abridgments, summaries, etc., have the same use with burning-glasses - to collect the diffused rays of wit and learning in authors, and make them point with warmth and quickness upon the reader’s imagination."

"Kitchen physic is the best physic."

"Necessity is the mother of invention."

"Nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want."

"Our Knowledge is but mere Remembrance all, Remembrance is our Treasure and our Food."

"There is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some philosophers have not maintained for truth."

"When we desire or solicit any thing, our minds run wholly on the good side or circumstances of it; when it is obtained, our minds run wholly on the bad ones."

"Wisdom is a fox who, after long hunting, will at last cost you the pains to dig out; it is a cheese, which, by how much the richer, has the thicker, the homelier, and the coarser coat; and whereof to a judicious palate, the maggots are best. It is a sack posset, wherein the deeper you go, you’ll find it the sweeter. Wisdom is a hen, whose cackling we must value and consider, because it is attended with an egg. But lastly, it is a nut, which, unless you choose with judgment, may cost you a tooth, and pay you with nothing but a worm."

"No wise man ever wished to be younger."

"It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind."

"I never saw, heard nor read, that the clergy were beloved in any nation where Christianity was the religion of the country. Nothing can render them popular, but some degree of persecution."

"Whosoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together."

"No wise person ever wished to be younger."

"I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed."

"May you live all the days of your life."

"The preaching of divines helps to preserve well-inclined men in the course of virtue, but seldom or never reclaims the vicious."

"Vision is the art of seeing things invisible."

"When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in confederacy against him."

"Health is the greatest of all possessions; a pale cobbler is better than a sick king. "