Oliver Wendell Holmes
A goose flies by a chart which the Royal Geographical Society could
A man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he
cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.
A new untruth is better than an old truth.
A person is always startled when he hears himself called old for the
A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were
given for such cause, and death ensued, the jury would be judges both
of the facts and of the pun, and might, if the latter were of an
aggravated character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide.
A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times.
Apology is only egotism wrong side out.
Between two groups of people who want to make inconsistent kinds of
worlds, I see no remedy but force.
Beware how you take away hope from another human being.
Chicago sounds rough to the maker of verse. One comfort we have -
Cincinnati sounds worse.
Death tugs at my ear and says: "Live, I am coming".
Do not be bullied out of your common sense by the specialist; two to
one, he is a pedant.
Don't be "consistent" but be simple true.
Don't flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say
disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into
relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become.
Don't you stay at home of evenings? Don you love a cushioned seat in a
corner, by the fireside, with your slippers on your feet?
Even for practical purposes theory generally turns out the most
important thing in the end.
Every idea is an incitement...Eloquence may set fire to reason.
Every real thought on every real subject knocks the wind out of
somebody or other.
Fame usually comes to those who are thinking about something else.
Fresh air is good if you do not take too much of it; most of the
achievements and pleasures of life are in bad air.
Grow we must, if we outgrow all that loves us.
Happiness consists in activity. It is running steam, not a stagnant
Have the courage to act instead of react.
He has half the deed done who has made a beginning.
How many people live on the reputation of the reputation they might
I don't generally feel anything until noon, then it's time for my nap.
I hate facts. I always say the chief end of man is to form general
propositions - adding that no general proposition is worth a damn.
I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man
that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of
being judged not to have lived.
I won't accept anything less than the best a player's capable of
doing... and he has the right to expect the best that I can do for him
and the team!
If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I would not pass it round.
Trouble creates a capacity to handle it. I don't embrace trouble;
that's as bad as treating it as an enemy. But I do say meet it as a
friend, for you'll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms
If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively
calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free
thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for
the thought that we hate.
Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.
It is by no means certain that our individual personality is the single
inhabitant of these our corporeal frames... We all do things both awake
and asleep which surprise us. Perhaps we have cotenants in this house
we live in.
It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes life
Knowledge like timber shouldn't be mush use till they are seasoned.
Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of
which they grow.
Life and language are alike sacred. Homicide and verbicide - that is,
violent treatment of a word with fatal results to its legitimate
meaning, which is its life - are alike forbidden.
Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum.
Little-minded people's thoughts move in such small circles that five
minutes conversation gives you an arc long enough to determine their
Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.
Love prefers twilight to daylight.
Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the
one where they sprung up.
Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too
often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they
know it, time runs out.
Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more
readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other
Memory is a net: one that finds it full of fish when he takes it from
the brook, but a dozen miles of water have run through it without
Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because
they quit playing.
Old age is fifteen years older than I am.
One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original
Our brains are seventy-year clocks. The Angel of Life winds them up
once for all, then closes the case, and gives the key into the hand of
the Angel of the Resurrection.
People who honestly mean to be true really contradict themselves much
more rarely than those who try to be 'consistent'.
People who make puns are like wanton boys that put coppers on the
railroad tracks. They amuse themselves and other children, but their
little trick may upset a freight train of conversation for the sake of
a battered witticism.
Pick my left pocket of its silver dime, but spare the right - it holds
my golden time!
Pretty much all the honest truth-telling there is in the world is done
Rough work, iconoclasm, but the only way to get at truth.
Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man's upper chamber,
if he has common sense on the ground floor.
Several years before birth, advertise for a couple of parents belonging
to long-lived families.
Simple people... are very quick to see the live facts which are going
on about them.
Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.
Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it
Stupidity often saves a man from going mad.
Sweet is the scene where genial friendship plays the pleasing game of
The advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a
list of the hundred best books.
The Amen of nature is always a flower.
The books we read should be chosen with great care, that they may be,
as an Egyptian king wrote over his library, "The medicines of the soul."
The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts
but learning how to make facts live.
The man who is always worrying about whether or not his soul would be
damned generally has a soul that isn't worth a damn.
The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never
returns to its original size.
The minute a phrase, becomes current, it becomes an apology for not
thinking accurately to the end of the sentence.
The mode by which the inevitable comes to pass is effort.
The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo
lasts a great deal longer.
The very aim and end of our institutions is just this: that we may
think what we like and say what we think.
The world is always ready to receive talent with open arms. Very often
it does not know what to do with genius.
The world's great men have not commonly been great scholars, nor its
great scholars great men.
The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.
This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.
Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched
with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a
profound and passionate thing.
To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes
against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.
Truth, when not sought after, rarely comes to light.
We do not quit playing because we grow old, we grow old because we quit
When in doubt, do it.
Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our
Why can't somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and
nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody
Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face
for each friend.