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The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

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‘Thoughts and Details on Scarcity’ (1800)

To complain of the age we live in, to murmur at the present possessors of power, to lament the past, to conceive extravagant hopes of the future, are the common dispositions of the greatest part of mankind.

‘Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents’ (1770) p. 4

I am not one of those who think that the people are never in the wrong. They have been so, frequently and outrageously, both in other countries and in this. But I do say, that in all disputes between them and their rulers, the presumption is at least upon a par in favour of the people.

‘Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents’ (1770) p. 7

The power of the crown, almost dead and rotten as Prerogative, has grown up anew, with much more strength, and far less odium, under the name of Influence.

‘Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents’ (1770) p. 10

We must soften into a credulity below the milkiness of infancy to think all men virtuous. We must be tainted with a malignity truly diabolical, to believe all the world to be equally wicked and corrupt.

‘Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents’ (1770) p. 30

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

‘Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents’ (1770) p. 71

Of this stamp is the cant of Not men, but measures; a sort of charm by which many people get loose from every honourable engagement.

‘Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents’ (1770) p. 75

It is therefore our business carefully to cultivate in our minds, to rear to the most perfect vigour and maturity, every sort of generous and honest feeling that belongs to our nature. To bring the dispositions that are lovely in private life into the service and conduct of the commonwealth; so to be patriots, as not to forget we are gentlemen.

‘Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents’ (1770) p. 77

Laws, like houses, lean on one another.

‘A Tract on the Popery Laws’ (planned c.1765) ch. 3, pt. 1 in ‘The Works’ vol. 5 (1812)

In all forms of Government the people is the true legislator.

‘A Tract on the Popery Laws’ ch. 3, pt. 1 in ‘The Works’ vol. 5 (1812)

People crushed by law have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws; and those, who have much to hope and nothing to lose, will always be dangerous, more or less.

Letter to Charles James Fox, 8 October 1777, in ‘The Correspondence of Edmund Burke’ vol. 3 (1961)

The silent touches of time.

Letter to William Smith, 29 January 1795, in ‘The Correspondence of Edmund Burke’ vol. 8 (1969)

Somebody has said, that a king may make a nobleman but he cannot make a gentleman.

Letter to William Smith, 29 January 1795, in ‘The Correspondence of Edmund Burke’ vol. 8 (1969)

His virtues were his arts.

Inscription on the pedestal of the statue of the Marquis of Rockingham in Wentworth Park

Not merely a chip of the old ‘block’, but the old block itself.

On the younger Pitt’s First Speech, 1781

The cold neutrality of an impartial judge.

J. P. Brissot ‘To his Constituents’ (1794) ‘Translator’s Preface’ (written by Burke)

It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph.

Attributed (in a number of forms) to Burke, but not found in his writings.

2.253 Johnny Burke 1908-64

Every time it rains, it rains Pennies from heaven.

Don’t you know each cloud contains Pennies from heaven?

You’ll find your fortune falling All over town

Be sure that your umbrella Is upside down.

‘Pennies from Heaven’ (1936 song)

Like Webster’s Dictionary, we’re Morocco bound.

‘The Road to Morocco’ (1942 film) title song

2.254 Lord Burleigh

See William Cecil (3.60)

2.255 Fanny Burney (Mme d’Arblay) 1752-1840

A little alarm now and then keeps life from stagnation.

‘Camilla’ (1796) bk. 3, ch. 11

There is nothing upon the face of the earth so insipid as a medium. Give me love or hate! a friend that will go to jail for me, or an enemy that will run me through the body!

‘Camilla’ (1796) bk. 3, ch. 12

It’s a delightful thing to think of perfection; but it’s vastly more amusing to talk of errors and absurdities.

‘Camilla’ (1796) bk. 3, ch. 12

Vice is detestable; I banish all its appearances from my coteries; and I would banish its reality, too, were I sure I should then have any thing but empty chairs in my drawing-room.

‘Camilla’ (1796) bk. 5, ch. 6

The cure of a romantic first flame is a better surety to subsequent discretion, than all the exhortations of all the fathers, and mothers, and guardians, and maiden aunts in the universe.

‘Camilla’ (1796) bk. 5, ch. 6

O, we all acknowledge our faults, now; ’tis the mode of the day: but the acknowledgement

passes for current payment; and therefore we never amend them.

‘Camilla’ (1796) bk. 6, ch. 2

No man is in love when he marries. He may have loved before; I have even heard he has sometimes loved after: but at the time never. There is something in the formalities of the matrimonial preparations that drive away all the little cupidons.

‘Camilla’ (1796) bk. 6, ch. 10

Travelling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building here after seeing Italy.

‘Cecilia’ (1782) bk. 4, ch. 2

‘True, very true, ma’am,’ said he, yawning, ‘one really lives no where; one does but vegetate, and wish it all at an end.’

‘Cecilia’ (1782) bk. 7, ch. 5

‘The whole of this unfortunate business,’ said Dr Lyster, ‘has been the result of pride and prejudice.’

‘Cecilia’ (1782) bk. 10, ch. 10

‘Do you come to the play without knowing what it is?’ ‘O yes, Sir, yes, very frequently; I have no time to read play-bills; one merely comes to meet one’s friends, and show that one’s alive.’

‘Evelina’ (1778) Letter 20

The freedom with which Dr Johnson condemns whatever he disapproves is astonishing.

‘Diary and Letters...1778-1840’ 23 August 1778

The delusive seduction of martial music.

‘Diary and Letters...1778-1840’ 5-6 May 1802

Such a set of tittle tattle, prittle prattle visitants! Oh dear! I am so sick of the ceremony and fuss of these fall lall people! So much dressing—chit chat—complimentary nonsense—In short, a country town is my detestation.

‘Journal’ 17 July 1768 in ‘The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney’ (ed. L. E. Troide, 1988) vol. 1

O! how short a time does it take to put an end to a woman’s liberty!

‘Journal’ 20 July 1768 in ‘The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney’ (ed. L. E. Troide, 1988) vol. 1 (referring to a wedding)

2.256 John Burns 1858-1943

The Thames is liquid history.

To an American who had compared the Thames disparagingly with the Mississippi, in ‘Daily Mail’ 25 January 1943

2.257 Robert Burns 1759-96

O thou! whatever title suit thee, Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie.

‘Address to the Deil’ (1786)

Ye high, exalted, virtuous dames, Tied up in godly laces,

Before ye gie poor Frailty names,

Suppose a change o’ cases:

A dear-lov’d lad, convenience snug,

A treach’rous inclination—

But, let me whisper in your lug,

Ye’re aiblins nae temptation.

Then gently scan your brother man, Still gentler sister woman;

Tho’ they may gang a kennin wrang,

To step aside is human.

‘Address to the Unco Guid’ (1787); aiblins perhaps

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever; Ae fareweel, and then for ever!

‘Ae fond Kiss’ (1792)

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes, Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise. My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream, Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

‘Afton Water’ (1792)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot And never brought to mind?

‘Auld Lang Syne’ (1796)

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, For auld lang syne.

‘Auld Lang Syne’ (1796)

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! And gie’s a hand o’thine!

‘Auld Lang Syne’ (1796)

Freedom and Whisky gang thegither!

‘The Author’s Earnest Cry and Prayer’ (1786) l. 185

Ay, waulkin, Oh, Waulkin still and weary: Sleep I can get nane,

For thinking on my dearie.

‘Ay Waukin O’ (1790)

Ye banks and braes o’ bonny Doon, How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair; How can ye chant, ye little birds, And I sae weary fu’ o’ care!

‘The Banks o’ Doon’ (1792)

Thou minds me o’ departed joys, Departed, never to return.

‘The Banks o’ Doon’ (1792)

And my fause luver stole my rose, But ah! he left the thorn wi’ me.

‘The Banks o’ Doon’ (1792)

O saw ye bonnie Lesley

As she gaed o’er the border? She’s gane, like Alexander,

To spread her conquests farther.

To see her is to love her, And love but her for ever;

For Nature made her what she is

And never made anither!

‘Bonnie Lesley’ (1798)

Gin a body meet a body Comin thro’ the rye, Gin a body kiss a body Need a body cry?

‘Comin thro’ the rye’ (1796)

Contented wi’ little and cantie wi’ mair, Whene’er I forgather wi’ Sorrow and Care, I gie them a skelp, as they’re creeping alang,

Wi’ a cog o’ gude swats and an auld Scotish sang.

‘Contented wi’ little’ (1796)

Th’ expectant wee-things, toddlin’, stacher through To meet their Dad, wi’ flichterin’ noise an’ glee.

‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’ (1786) st. 3

They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright.

‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’ (1786) st. 6

The healsome porritch, chief of Scotia’s food.

‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’ (1786) st. 11

The sire turns o’er, wi’ patriarchal grace, The big ha’-Bible, ance his father’s pride.

‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’ (1786) st. 12

From scenes like these old Scotia’s grandeur springs, That makes her loved at home, revered abroad: Princes and Lords are but the breath of kings,

‘An honest man’s the noblest work of God.’

‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’ (1786) st. 19.

I wasna fou, but just had plenty.

‘Death and Dr Hornbook’ (1787) st. 3

On ev’ry hand it will allow’d be,

He’s just—nae better than he shou’d be.

‘A Dedication to G[avin] H[amilton]’ (1786) l. 25

There’s threesome reels, there’s foursome reels, There’s hornpipes and strathspeys, man,

But the ae best dance e’er cam to the land Was, the deil’s awa wi’ th’ Exciseman.

‘The Deil’s awa wi’ th’Exciseman’ (1792)

Perhaps it may turn out a sang; Perhaps, turn out a sermon.

‘Epistle to a Young Friend’ (1786) st. 1

I waive the quantum o’the sin; The hazard of concealing; But och! it hardens a’ within, And petrifies the feeling!

‘Epistle to a Young Friend’ (1786) st. 6

An atheist-laugh’s a poor exchange For Deity offended!

‘Epistle to a Young Friend’ (1786) st. 9

Gie me ae spark o’ Nature’s fire, That’s a’ the learning I desire.

‘Epistle to J. L[aprai]k’ (1786) st. 13

For thus the royal mandate ran, When first the human race began, ‘The social, friendly, honest man, Whate’er he be,

’Tis he fulfils great Nature’s plan, And none but he’

‘To the same’ [John Lapraik] st. 15

The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, The man’s the gowd for a’ that!

‘For a’ that and a’ that’ (1790)

A man’s a man for a’ that.

‘For a’ that and a’ that’ (1790)

Green grow the rashes, O, Green grow the rashes, O;

The sweetest hours that e’er I spend, Are spent among the lasses, O.

‘Green Grow the Rashes’ (1787)

Auld nature swears, the lovely dears Her noblest work she classes, O; Her prentice han’ she tried on man, An’ then she made the lasses, O.

‘Green Grow the Rashes’ (1787)

O, gie me the lass that has acres o’ charms, O, gie me the lass wi’ the weel-stockit farms.

‘Hey for a Lass wi’ a Tocher’ (1799)

Here, some are thinkin’ on their sins, An’ some upo’ their claes.

‘The Holy Fair’ (1786) st. 10

Leeze me on drink! it gi’es us mair Than either school or college.

‘The Holy Fair’ (1786) st. 19

There’s some are fou o’ love divine; There’s some are fou o’ brandy.

‘The Holy Fair’ (1786) st. 27

O L—d thou kens what zeal I bear, When drinkers drink, and swearers swear, And singin’ there, and dancin’ here,

Wi’ great an’ sma’;

For I am keepet by thy fear, Free frae them a’.

But yet—O L—d—confess I must—

At times I’m fash’d wi’ fleshly lust...

O L—d—yestreen—thou kens—wi’ Meg— Thy pardon I sincerely beg!

O may ’t ne’er be a living plague, To my dishonour!

And I’ll ne’er lift a lawless leg

Again upon her.

‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’ (1785)

There’s death in the cup—so beware!

‘Inscription on a Goblet’ (published 1834)

It was a’ for our rightfu’ King We left fair Scotland’s strand.

‘It was a’ for our Rightfu’ King’ (1796)

John Anderson my jo, John,

When we were first acquent, Your locks were like the raven, Your bonny brow was brent.

‘John Anderson my Jo’ (1790)

I once was a maid, tho’ I cannot tell when, And still my delight is in proper young men.

‘The Jolly Beggars’ (1799) l. 57 (also known as ‘Love and Liberty—A Cantata’)

Partly wi’ love o’ercome sae sair, And partly she was drunk.

‘The Jolly Beggars’ (1799) l. 183

A fig for those by law protected! Liberty’s a glorious feast! Courts for cowards were erected,

Churches built to please the priest.

‘The Jolly Beggars’ (1799) l. 254

Life is all a variorum,

We regard not how it goes; Let them cant about decorum, Who have characters to lose.

‘The Jolly Beggars’ (1799) l. 270

Some have meat and cannot eat, Some cannot eat that want it: But we have meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.

‘The Kirkudbright Grace’ (1790) (also known as ‘The Selkirk Grace’)

I’ve seen sae mony changefu’ years, On earth I am a stranger grown:

I wander in the ways of men, Alike unknowing and unknown.

‘Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn’ (1793)

Nature’s law,

That man was made to mourn

‘Man was made to Mourn’ st. 4 (1786)

Man’s inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourn!

‘Man was made to Mourn’ st. 7 (1786)

O Death, the poor man’s dearest friend, The kindest and the best!

‘Man was made to Mourn’ st. 11 (1786)

May coward shame distain his name,

The wretch that dares not die!

‘McPherson’s Farewell’ (1788)

Go fetch to me a pint o’ wine, An’ fill it in a silver tassie.

‘My Bonnie Mary’ (1790)

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here; My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer; Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe, My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

‘My Heart’s in the Highlands’ (1790)

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North; The birth-place of valour, the country of worth.

‘My Heart’s in the Highlands’ (1790)

The minister kiss’d the fiddler’s wife, An’ could na preach for thinkin’ o’t.

‘My Love She’s but a Lassie yet’ (1790)

The wan moon sets behind the white wave, And time is setting with me, Oh.

‘Open the door to me, Oh’ (1793)

O, my Luve’s like a red, red rose That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve’s like the melodie That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

‘A Red Red Rose’ (1796) (derived from various folk-songs)

Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled, Scots, wham Bruce has aften led, Welcome to your gory bed,— Or to victorie.

Now’s the day, and now’s the hour; See the front o’ battle lour;

See approach proud Edward’s power,

Chains and slaverie.

‘Robert Bruce’s March to Bannockburn’ (1799) (also known as ‘Scots, Wha Hae’)

Liberty’s in every blow! Let us do—or die!!!

‘Robert Bruce’s March to Bannockburn’ (1799)

Good Lord, what is man! for as simple he looks, Do but try to develop his hooks and his crooks,

With his depths and his shallows, his good and his evil, All in all he’s a problem must puzzle the devil.

‘Sketch’ inscribed to Charles James Fox (1800)

His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony, Tam lo’ed him like a vera brither; They had been fou for weeks thegither.

‘Tam o’ Shanter’ (1791) l. 42

Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious, O’er a’ the ills o’ life victorious!

‘Tam o’ Shanter’ (1791) l. 57

But pleasures are like poppies spread, You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed; Or like the snow falls in the river,

A moment white—then melts for ever.

‘Tam o’ Shanter’ (1791) l. 59

Nae man can tether time or tide.

‘Tam o’ Shanter’ (1791) l. 67

Inspiring, bold John Barleycorn,

What dangers thou canst make us scorn! Wi’ tippenny, we fear nae evil;

Wi’ usquebae, we’ll face the devil!

‘Tam o’ Shanter’ (1791) l. 105

As Tammie glowr’d, amaz’d, and curious, The mirth and fun grew fast and furious.

‘Tam o’ Shanter’ (1791) l. 143

Tam tint his reason a’ thegither,

And roars out—’Weel done, Cutty-sark!’

‘Tam o’ Shanter’ (1791) l. 185

Ah Tam! ah Tam! thou’ll get thy fairin’! In hell they’ll roast thee like a herrin!

‘Tam o’ Shanter’ (1791) l. 201

A man may drink and no be drunk; A man may fight and no be slain; A man may kiss a bonnie lass, And aye be welcome back again.

‘There was a Lass’ (1788)

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race! Aboon them a’ ye tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace As lang’s my arm.

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