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Samuel Butler
English novelist
(1835-1902)



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The wish to spread those opinions that we hold conduicive to our own welfare is so deeply rooted in the English character that few of us can escape its influence.
-- Erewhon (1872)


Exploring is delightful to look forward to and back upon, but it is not comfortable at the time, unless it be of such an easy nature as not to deserve the name.
-- Erewhon (1872)


It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four.
-- Letter to Mrs. E. M. A. Savage, 21 November 1884

We meet people every day whose bodies are evidently those of men and women long dead, but whose appearance we know through their portraits.
-- Ramblings in Cheapside (1890)

I do not like books. I believe I have the smallest library of any literary man in London, and I have no wish to increase it. I keep my books at the British Museum and at Mudie's, and it makes me very angry if anyone gives me one for my private library.
-- Ramblings in Cheapside (1890)

We do not know what death is. If we know so little about life which we have experienced, how shall be know about death which we have not— and in the nature of things never can?
-- Ramblings in Cheapside (1890)

Life is like playing the violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.
-- Speech at the Somerville Club, 27 February 1895

It has been said that though God cannot alter the past, historians can; it is perhaps because they can be useful to Him in this respect that He tolerates their existence.
-- Erewhon Revisited (1901), ch. 14

We know so well what we are doing ourselves and why we do it, do we not? I fancy that there is some truth in the view which is being put forward nowadays, that it is our less conscious thoughts and our
less conscious actions which mainly mould our lives and the lives of those who spring from us.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 5

Youth is like spring, an overpraised season.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 6

Taking numbers into account, I should think more mental suffering had been undergone in the streets leading from St George’s, Hanover Square, than in the condemned cells of Newgate.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 13

All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it—and they do enjoy it as much as man and other circumstances will allow.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 19

How is it, I wonder, that all religious officials, from God the Father to the parish beadle, should be so arbitrary and exacting.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 23 [Note: This was one of the passages excised by the editor. R. Streatfeild, in the 1903 edition but restored in the 1965 Daniel F. Howard edition.]

Sensible people get the greater part of their own dying done during their own lifetime.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 24

To me it seems that those who are happy in this world are better and more lovable people than those who are not.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 26

The advantage of doing one's praising for oneself is that one can lay it on so thick and exactly in the right places.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 34

The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 39

A man's friendships are, like his will, invalidated by marriage.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903), ch. 75

There's many a good tune played on an old fiddle.
-- The Way of All Flesh (1903)





All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 1

The healthy stomach is nothing if not conservative. Few radicals have good digestions.
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 6

How thankful we ought to be that Wordsworth was only a poet and not a musician. Fancy a symphony by Wordsworth! Fancy having to sit it out! And fancy what it would have been if he had written fugues!
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 8

The history of art is the history of revivals.
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 8

It is said of money that it is more easily made than kept and this is true of many things, such as friendship; and even life itself is more easily got than kept.
(often paraphrased as: Friendship is like money, easier made than kept.)
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 9

An apology for the Devil: It must be remembered that we have only heard one side of the case. God has written all the books.
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 14

The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 14

A definition is the enclosing a wilderness of idea within a wall of words.
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 14

To live is like to love — all reason is against it, and all healthy instinct for it.
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 14

The public buys its opinions as it buys its meat, or takes in its milk, on the principle that it is cheaper to do this than to keep a cow. So it is, but the milk is more likely to be watered.
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 17

You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it.
-- Notebooks (1912), ch. 20

As soon as any art is pursued with a view to money, then farewell, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, all hope of genuine good work.
-- Notebooks (1912)

Science, after all, is only an expression for our ignorance of our own ignorance.
-- Notebooks (1912)

The three most important things a man has are, briefly, his private parts, his money, and his religious opinions.
-- Notebooks (1912)

Conscience is thoroughly well-bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.
-- Further Extracts from Notebooks (1934)

Jesus! with all thy faults I love thee still.
-- Further Extracts from Notebooks (1934)

A lawyer's dream of heaven: every man reclaimed his own property at the resurrection, and each tried to recover it from his forefathers.
-- Further Extracts from Notebooks (1934)


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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