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The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

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‘Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour’ (1853) ch. 31

7.189 David Sutton

Sorrow in all lands, and grievous omens. Great anger in the dragon of the hills, And silent now the earth’s green oracles That will not speak again of innocence.

‘Settlements’ (1991)

7.190 Hannen Swaffer 1879-1962

Freedom of the press in Britain means freedom to print such of the proprietor’s prejudices as the advertisers don’t object to.

In Tom Driberg ‘Swaff’ (1974) ch. 2

7.191 Jonathan Swift 1667-1745

I conceive some scattered notions about a superior power to be of singular use for the common people, as furnishing excellent materials to keep children quiet when they grow peevish, and providing topics of amusement in a tedious winter-night.

‘An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity’ (1708)

Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.

‘The Battle of the Books’ (1704) preface

Instead of dirt and poison we have rather chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax; thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.

‘The Battle of the Books’ (1704) preface.

Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.

‘A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind’ (1709).

There is nothing in this world constant, but inconstancy.

‘A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind’ (1709)

I have heard of a man who had a mind to sell his house, and therefore carried a piece of brick in his pocket, which he shewed as a pattern to encourage purchasers.

‘The Drapier’s Letters’ (1724) no. 2 (4 August 1724)

He [the emperor] is taller by almost the breadth of my nail than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders.

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726) ‘A Voyage to Lilliput’ ch. 2

He put this engine [a watch] to our ears, which made an incessant noise like that of a watermill; and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion.

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726) ‘A Voyage to Lilliput’ ch. 2

It is alleged indeed, that the high heels are most agreeable to our ancient constitution: but

however this be, his Majesty hath determined to make use of only low heels in the administration of the government.

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726) ‘A Voyage to Lilliput’ ch. 4

I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726) ‘A Voyage to Brobdingnag’ ch. 6

And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever 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.

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726) ‘A Voyage to Brobdingnag’ ch. 7

He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sun-beams out of cucumbers, which were to be put into vials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers.

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726) ‘A Voyage to Laputa, etc.’ ch. 5

These unhappy people were proposing schemes for persuading monarchs to choose favourites upon the score of their wisdom, capacity and virtue; of teaching ministers to consult the public good; of rewarding merit, great abilities and eminent services; of instructing princes to know their true interest by placing it on the same foundation with that of their people: of choosing for employment persons qualified to exercise them; with many other wild impossible chimeras, that never entered before into the heart of man to conceive, and confirmed in me the old observation, that there is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some philosophers have not maintained for truth.

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726) ‘A Voyage to Laputa, etc.’ ch. 6

He replied that I must needs be mistaken, or that I said the thing which was not. (For they have no word in their language to express lying or falsehood).

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726) ‘A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms’ ch. 3

I told him...that we ate when we were not hungry, and drank without the provocation of thirst.

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726) ‘A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms’ ch. 6

We are so fond of one another, because our ailments are the same.

‘Journal to Stella’ (published in ‘Works’, 1768) 1 February 1711

Will she pass in a crowd? Will she make a figure in a country church?

‘Journal to Stella’ (published in ‘Works’, 1768) 9 February 1711

I love good creditable acquaintance; I love to be the worst of the company.

‘Journal to Stella’ (published in ‘Works’, 1768) 17 May 1711

He showed me his bill of fare to tempt me to dine with him; poh, said I, I value not your bill of fare, give me your bill of company.

‘Journal to Stella’ (published in ‘Works’, 1768) 2 September 1711

We were to do more business after dinner; but after dinner is after dinner—an old saying and a true, ‘much drinking, little thinking’.

‘Journal to Stella’ (published in ‘Works’, 1768) 26 February 1712

Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.

Letter to a Young Clergyman, 9 January 1720

If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.

Letter to Miss Vanhomrigh, 12-13 August 1720 (commonly echoed in the form: ‘If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people he gives it to’).

I have ever hated all nations, professions and communities, and all my love is towards individuals...But principally I hate and detest that animal called man; although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth.

Letter to Pope, 29 September 1725, in Harold Williams (ed.) ‘The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift’ vol. 3 (1963) p. 103

Not die here in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole.

Letter to Bolingbroke, 21 March 1730, in Harold Williams (ed.) ‘The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift’ vol. 3 (1963) p. 382

Surely man is a broomstick!

‘A Meditation upon a Broomstick’ (1710)

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.

‘A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Ireland from being a Burden to their Parents or Country’ (1729)

I mean, you lie—under a mistake.

‘Polite Conversation’ (1738) dialogue 1

She wears her clothes, as if they were thrown on her with a pitchfork.

‘Polite Conversation’ (1738) dialogue 1

Faith, that’s as well said, as if I had said it myself.

‘Polite Conversation’ (1738) dialogue 2

I always love to begin a journey on Sundays, because I shall have the prayers of the church, to preserve all that travel by land, or by water.

‘Polite Conversation’ (1738) dialogue 2

Books, like men their authors, have no more than one way of coming into the world, but there are ten thousand to go out of it, and return no more.

‘A Tale of a Tub’ (1704) ‘The Epistle Dedicatory’

Satire, being levelled at all, is never resented for an offence by any.

‘A Tale of a Tub’ (1704) ‘The Author’s Preface’

What though his head be empty, provided his commonplace book be full.

‘A Tale of a Tub’ (1704) ch. 7 ‘A Digression in Praise of Digressions’

Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe, how much it altered her person for the worse.

‘A Tale of a Tub’ (1704) ch. 9

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.

‘Thoughts on Religion’ (1765)

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

‘Thoughts on Various Subjects’ (1706)

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

‘Thoughts on Various Subjects’ (1706)

What they do in heaven we are ignorant of; what they do not we are told expressly, that they neither marry, nor are given in marriage.

‘Thoughts on Various Subjects’ (1706).

The reasons why so few marriages are happy, is, because young ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages.

‘Thoughts on Various Subjects’ (1706)

Few are qualified to shine in company; but it is in most men’s power to be agreeable.

‘Thoughts on Various Subjects’ (1706)

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

‘Thoughts on Various Subjects’ (1706)

A nice man is a man of nasty ideas.

‘Thoughts on Various Subjects’ (1706)

Old men and comets have been reverenced for the same reason; their long beards, and pretences to foretell events.

‘Thoughts on Various Subjects’ (1706)

The stoical scheme of supplying our wants, by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.

‘Thoughts on Various Subjects’ (1706)

How haughtily he cocks his nose, To tell what every schoolboy knows.

‘The Country Life’ l. 81

A coming shower your shooting corns presage.

‘A Description of a City Shower’ (1710) l. 9

They never would hear, But turn the deaf ear,

As a matter they had no concern in.

‘Dingley and Brent’ (1724)

I often wished that I had clear,

For life, six hundred pounds a-year, A handsome house to lodge a friend, A river at my garden’s end,

A terrace walk, and half a rood Of land, set out to plant a wood.

‘Imitation of Horace’ (1714).

Nor do they trust their tongue alone, But speak a language of their own; Can read a nod, a shrug, a look, Far better than a printed book; Convey a libel in a frown,

And wink a reputation down.

‘The Journal of a Modern Lady’ (1729) l. 188

Hail, fellow, well met, All dirty and wet: Find out, if you can,

Who’s master, who’s man.

‘My Lady’s Lamentation’ (1728) l. 171

Th’ artillery of words.

‘Ode to...Sancroft’ (1692)

Philosophy! the lumber of the schools.

‘Ode to Sir W. Temple’ (1692)

Say, Britain, could you ever boast,— Three poets in an age at most?

Our chilling climate hardly bears A sprig of bays in fifty years.

‘On Poetry’ (1733) l. 5

Then, rising with Aurora’s light, The Muse invoked, sit down to write; Blot out, correct, insert, refine, Enlarge, diminish, interline.

‘On Poetry’ (1733) l. 85

As learned commentators view

In Homer more than Homer knew.

‘On Poetry’ (1733) l. 103

So geographers, in Afric-maps, With savage-pictures fill their gaps; And o’er unhabitable downs

Place elephants for want of towns.

‘On Poetry’ (1733) l. 177

He gives directions to the town, To cry it up, or run it down.

‘On Poetry’ (1733) l. 269

Hobbes clearly proves, that every creature Lives in a state of war by nature.

‘On Poetry’ (1733) l. 319

So, naturalists observe, a flea

Hath smaller fleas that on him prey; And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em, And so proceed ad infinitum.

Thus every poet, in his kind,

Is bit by him that comes behind.

‘On Poetry’ (1733) l. 337

Walls have tongues, and hedges ears.

‘A Pastoral Dialogue between Richmond Lodge and Marble Hill’ (1727) l. 8

Humour is odd, grotesque, and wild, Only by affectation spoiled;

’Tis never by invention got,

Men have it when they know it not.

‘To Mr Delany’ (1718) l. 25

Hated by fools, and fools to hate, Be that my motto and my fate.

‘To Mr Delany’ (1718) l. 171

In all distresses of our friends, We first consult our private ends;

While nature, kindly bent to ease us, Points out some circumstance to please us.

‘Verses on the Death of Dr Swift’ (1731) l. 7

Poor Pope will grieve a month, and Gay A week, and Arbuthnot a day.

St John himself will scarce forbear To bite his pen, and drop a tear. The rest will give a shrug, and cry, ‘I’m sorry—but we all must die!’

‘Verses on the Death of Dr Swift’ (1731) l. 207

Yet malice never was his aim;

He lashed the vice, but spared the name; No individual could resent,

Where thousands equally were meant.

‘Verses on the Death of Dr Swift’ (1731) l. 512

He gave the little wealth he had To build a house for fools and mad; And showed, by one satiric touch,

No nation wanted it so much.

‘Verses on the Death of Dr Swift’ (1731) l. 538

In Church your grandsire cut his throat; To do the job too long he tarried,

He should have had my hearty vote, To cut his throat before he married.

‘Verses on the Upright Judge’

‘Libertas et natale solum’:

Fine words! I wonder where you stole ’em.

‘Whitshed’s Motto on his Coach’ (1724) (Libertas... Freedom and the land of my birth)

Good God! what a genius I had when I wrote that book.

On A Tale of a Tub, in Sir Walter Scott ‘Life of Swift. Works of Swift’ (1824) vol. 1, p. 89

I shall be like that tree, I shall die at the top.

In Sir Walter Scott ‘Life of Swift’

Ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit.

Where fierce indignation can no longer tear his heart.

Swift’s epitaph

7.192 Algernon Charles Swinburne 1837-1909

Superflux of pain.

‘Anactoria’ l. 27

Maiden, and mistress of the months and stars Now folded in the flowerless fields of heaven.

‘Atalanta in Calydon’ (1865) l. 1

When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces, The mother of months in meadow or plain

Fills the shadows and windy places With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain;

And the brown bright nightingale amorous Is half assuaged for Itylus,

For the Thracian ships and the foreign faces, The tongueless vigil and all the pain.

‘Atalanta in Calydon’ (1865) ‘First Chorus’ st. 1

For winter’s rains and ruins are over, And all the season of snows and sins; The days dividing lover and lover, The light that loses, the night that wins;

And time remembered is grief forgotten, And frosts are slain and flowers begotten, And in green underwood and cover

Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

‘Atalanta in Calydon’ (1865) ‘First Chorus’ st. 4

And soft as lips that laugh and hide The laughing leaves of the tree divide,

And screen from seeing and leave in sight The god pursuing, the maiden hid.

‘Atalanta in Calydon’ (1865) ‘First Chorus’ st. 6

Before the beginning of years There came to the making of man Time with a gift of tears,

Grief with a glass that ran.

‘Atalanta in Calydon’ (1865) chorus ‘Before the beginning of years’ st. 7

Strength without hands to smite, Love that endures for a breath; Night, the shadow of light, And Life, the shadow of death.

‘Atalanta in Calydon’ (1865)

For words divide and rend;

But silence is most noble till the end.

‘Atalanta in Calydon’ (1865)

For a day and a night Love sang to us, played with us, Folded us round from the dark and the light;

And our hearts were fulfilled with the music he made with us, Made with our hands and our lips while he stayed with us, Stayed in mid passage his pinions from flight

For a day and a night.

‘At Parting’

The deep division of prodigious breasts, The solemn slope of mighty limbs asleep.

‘Ave atque Vale’ st. 6

Sleep; and if life was bitter to thee, pardon,

If sweet, give thanks; thou hast no more to live; And to give thanks is good, and to forgive.

‘Ave atque Vale’ st. 17

Villon, our sad bad glad mad brother’s name.

‘Ballad of François Villon’

O slain and spent and sacrificed

People, the grey-grown speechless Christ.

‘Before a Crucifix’

We shift and bedeck and bedrape us,

Thou art noble and nude and antique.

‘Dolores’ (1866) st. 7

Change in a trice

The lilies and languors of virtue For the raptures and roses of vice.

‘Dolores’ (1866) st. 9

O splendid and sterile Dolores, Our Lady of Pain.

‘Dolores’ (1866) st. 9

Ah beautiful passionate body That never has ached with a heart!

‘Dolores’ (1866) st. 11

For the crown of our life as it closes Is darkness, the fruit thereof dust; No thorns go as deep as a rose’s, And love is more cruel than lust. Time turns the old days to derision, Our loves into corpses or wives; And marriage and death and division Make barren our lives.

‘Dolores’ (1866) st. 20

I shall remember while the light lives yet And in the night time I shall not forget.


In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland, At the sea-down’s edge between windward and lee, Walled round with rocks as an inland island,

The ghost of a garden fronts the sea.

‘A Forsaken Garden’

As a god self-slain on his own strange altar, Death lies dead.

‘A Forsaken Garden’

Pale, beyond porch and portal, Crowned with calm leaves, she stands Who gathers all things mortal

With cold immortal hands.

‘The Garden of Proserpine’

Fiddle, we know, is diddle: and diddle, we take it, is dee.

‘The Heptalogia’ (1880) ‘The Higher Pantheism in a Nutshell’.

But God, if a God there be, is the substance of men which is man.

‘Hymn of Man’

Glory to Man in the highest! for Man is the master of things.

‘Hymn of Man’

Yea, is not even Apollo, with hair and harpstring of gold, A bitter God to follow, a beautiful God to behold?

‘Hymn to Proserpine’

Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from Thy breath; We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death.

‘Hymn to Proserpine’.

Though these that were Gods are dead, and thou being dead art a God, Though before thee the throned Cytherean be fallen, and hidden her head, Yet thy kingdom shall pass, Galilean, thy dead shall go down to thee dead.

‘Hymn to Proserpine’

I remember the way we parted, The day and the way we met;

You hoped we were both broken-hearted, And knew we should both forget.

‘An Interlude’

And the best and the worst of this is That neither is most to blame,

If you have forgotten my kisses And I have forgotten your name.

‘An Interlude’

Swallow, my sister, O sister swallow, How can thine heart be full of the spring? A thousand summers are over and dead.

What hast thou found in the spring to follow? What hast thou found in thine heart to sing? What wilt thou do when the summer is shed?

‘Itylus’ (1864)

Till life forget and death remember, Till thou remember and I forget.

‘Itylus’ (1864)

Ah, yet would God this flesh of mine might be Where air might wash and long leaves cover me; Where tides of grass break into foam of flowers, Or where the wind’s feet shine along the sea.

‘Laus Veneris’ (1866)

If love were what the rose is, And I were like the leaf,

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