Joseph Addison

I shall endeavor to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality.

Joseph Addison (1672-05-01 - 1719-06-17) was an English politician and writer. His name is often remembered in tandem with that of his friend, Richard Steele, with whom he founded The Spectator magazine.


  • Music, the greatest good that mortals know,
    And all of heaven we have below.
    • Song for St. Cecilia's Day (1692), st. 3
  • Music religious heat inspires,
    It wakes the soul, and lifts it high,
    And wings it with sublime desires,
    And fits it to bespeak the Deity.
    • Song for St. Cecilia's Day (1692), st. 4
  • On you, my lord, with anxious fear I wait,
    And from your judgment must expect my fate.
    • A Poem to His Majesty (1695), l. 21
  • Let echo, too, perform her part,
    Prolonging every note with art;
    And in a low expiring strain,
    Play all the concert o'er again.
    • Ode for St. Cecilia's Day (1699), st. 4
  • A thousand trills and quivering sounds
    In airy circles o'er us fly,
    Till, wafted by a gentle breeze,
    They faint and languish by degrees,
    And at a distance die.
    • Ode on St. Cecilia's Day (1699), st. 6
  • For wheresoe'er I turn my ravished eyes,
    Gay gilded scenes and shining prospects rise,
    Poetic fields encompass me around,
    And still I seem to tread on classic ground.
    • A Letter from Italy (1703)
  • Amidst the soft variety I'm lost.
    • A Letter from Italy (1703)
  • Mysterious love, uncertain treasure,
    Hast thou more of pain or pleasure!
    Chill'd with tears,
    Kill'd with fears,
    Endless torments dwell about thee:
    Yet who would live, and live without thee!
    • Rosamond Act III, sc. ii
  • Should the whole frame of Nature round him break,
    In ruin and confusion hurled,
    He, unconcerned, would hear the mighty crack,
    And stand secure amidst a falling world.
    • Horace, Odes, Book III, ode iii
  • When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together.
    • Thoughts in Westminster Abbey (1711)
  • When I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow: when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind.
    • Thoughts in Westminster Abbey (1711)
  • Arguments out of a pretty mouth are unanswerable.
    • The Freeholder, no. 4
  • There is no greater sign of a general decay of virtue in a nation, than a want of zeal in its inhabitants for the good of their country.
    • The Freeholder, no. 5
  • When men are easy in their circumstances, they are naturally enemies to innovations.
    • The Freeholder, no. 42
  • A little nonsense now and then Is relished by the wisest men.
    • Sir Roger on the Bench
  • A man's first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart, his next to escape the censures of the world.
    • Sir Roger on the Bench
  • When you are at Rome, live as Romans live.
    • Sir Roger on the Bench
  • See in what peace a Christian can die.
    • Dying words (1719). From Edward Young, Conjectures on Original Composition (1759)

The Campaign (1704)

  • Great souls by instinct to each other turn,
    Demand alliance, and in friendship burn.
    • Line 101
  • So when an angel by divine command
    With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
    Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,
    Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
    And, pleas'd th' Almighty's orders to perform,
    Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.
  • O Dormer, how can I behold thy fate,
    And not the wonders of thy youth relate;
    How can I see the gay, the brave, the young,
    Fall in the cloud of war, and lie unsung!
    In joys of conquest he resigns his breath,
    And, filled with England's glory, smiles in death.
    • Line 309
  • Rais'd of themselves, their genuine charms they boast,
    And those who paint them truest praise them most.
    • last lines

Cato, A Tragedy (1713)

  • Is there not some chosen curse,
    Some hidden thunder in the stores of heaven,
    Red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man
    Who owes his greatness to his country's ruin?
    • Act I, sc. i
  • The dawn is overcast, the morning lowers,
    And heavily in clouds brings on the day,
    The great, the important day,
    Big with the fate Of Cato, and of Rome.
    • Act I, sc. i
  • 'Tis not in mortals to command success,
    But we'll do more, Sempronius; we'll deserve it.
    • Act I, sc. ii
  • Thy father's merit sets thee up to view,
    And shows thee in the fairest point of light,
    To make thy virtues, or thy faults, conspicuous.
    • Act I, sc. ii
  • Oh! think what anxious moments pass between
    The birth of plots, and their last fatal periods,
    Oh! 'tis a dreadful interval of time,
    Filled up with horror all, and big with death!
    • Act I, sc. iii
  • Better to die ten thousand deaths,
    Than wound my honour.
    • Act I, sc. iv
  • If the following day he chance to find
    A new repast, or an untasted spring,
    Blesses his stars, and thinks it luxury.
    • Act I, sc. iv
  • 'Tis pride, rank pride, and haughtiness of soul:
    I think the Romans call it Stoicism.
    • Act I, sc. iv
  • Were you with these, my prince, you'd soon forget
    The pale, unripened beauties of the north.
    • Act I, sc. iv
  • Beauty soon grows familiar to the lover,
    Fades in his eye, and palls upon the sense.
    • Act I, sc. iv
  • My voice is still for war.
    Gods! Can a Roman senate long debate
    Which of the two to choose, slavery or death?

    No, let us rise at once,
    Gird on our swords, and,
    At the head of our remaining troops, attack the foe,
    Break through the thick array of his throng'd legions,
    And charge home upon him.
    Perhaps some arm, more lucky than the rest,
    May reach his heart, and free the world from bondage.
    • Act II, sc. i
  • A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty
    Is worth a whole eternity in bondage.
    • Act II, sc. i
  • Great Pompey's shade complains that we are slow,
    And Scipio's ghost walks unavenged amongst us!
    • Act II, sc. i
  • Young men soon give and soon forget affronts;
    Old age is slow in both.
    • Act II, sc. v
  • The friendships of the world are oft
    Confederacies in vice, or leagues of pleasure;
    Ours has severest virtue for its basis,
    And such a friendship ends not but with life.
    • Act III, sc. i
  • When love's well-timed 'tis not a fault of love;
    The strong, the brave, the virtuous, and the wise,
    Sink in the soft captivity together.
    • Act III, sc. i
  • Loveliest of women! heaven is in thy soul,
    Beauty and virtue shine forever round thee,
    Bright'ning each other! thou art all divine!
    • Act III, sc. ii
  • Talk not of love: thou never knew'st its force.
    • Act III, sc. ii
  • To my confusion, and eternal grief,
    I must approve the sentence that destroys me.
    • Act III, sc. ii
  • See they suffer death,
    But in their deaths remember they are men,
    Strain not the laws to make their tortures grievous.
    • Act III, sc. v
  • Why wilt thou add to all the griefs I suffer
    Imaginary ills, and fancy'd tortures?
    • Act IV, sc. i
  • When love once pleas admission to our hearts,
    (In spite of all the virtue we can boast),
    The woman that deliberates is lost.
    • Variant: "When love once pleads admission to our hearts..."
    • Act IV, sc. i
  • I will indulge my sorrows, and give way
    To all the pangs and fury of despair.
    • Act IV, sc. iii
  • Curse on his virtues! they've undone his country.
    • Act IV, sc. iv
  • How beautiful is death, when earn'd by virtue!
    Who would not be that youth? What pity is it
    That we can die but once to serve our country!
    • Act IV, sc. iv
  • In doing what we ought we deserve no praise,
    Because it is our duty.
    • Act IV, sc. iv
  • Content thyself to be obscurely good.
    When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,
    The post of honor is a private station.
    • Act IV, sc. iv
  • O ye powers that search
    The heart of man, and weigh his inmost thoughts,
    If I have done amiss, impute it not!
    The best may err, but you are good.
    • Act IV, sc. iv
  • Thanks to the gods! my boy has done his duty.
    • Act IV, sc. iv
  • The honors of this world, what are they
    But puff, and emptiness, and peril of falling?
    • Act IV, sc. iv
  • The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
    Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years,
    But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
    Unhurt amidst the wars of elements,
    The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds.
    • Act V, sc. i
  • If there's a power above us,
    (And that there is all nature cries aloud
    Through all her works) he must delight in virtue.
    • Act V, sc. i
  • It must be so — Plato, thou reasonest well!
    Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
    This longing after immortality?
    Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
    O falling into nought? Why shrinks the soul
    Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
    'Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
    'Tis heaven itself, that points out an hereafter,
    And intimates eternity to man.
    • Act V, sc. i
  • Eternity! thou pleasing dreadful thought!
    Through what variety of untried being,
    Through what new scenes and changes must we pass!
    • Act V, sc. i
  • My death and life,
    My bane and antidote, are both before me.
    • Act V, sc. i
  • Nature does nothing without purpose or uselessly.
    • Act V, sc. i
  • The ideal man bears the accidents of life
    With dignity and grace, the best of circumstances.
    • Act V, sc. i
  • The soul, secured in her existence, smiles
    At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
    • Act V, sc. i
  • What means this heaviness that hangs upon me?
    This lethargy that creeps through all my senses?
    Nature, oppress'd and harrass'd out with care,
    Sinks down to rest.
    • Act V, sc. i
  • Sweet are the slumbers of the virtuous man.
    • Act V, sc. iv
  • From hence, let fierce contending nations know,
    What dire effects from civil discord flow.
    • Act V, sc. iv

The Drummer (1716)

  • Round-heads and Wooden-shoes are standing jokes.
    • prologue, l. 8
  • We are growing serious, and,
    Let me tell you, that's the very next step to being dull.
    • Act IV, sc. vi
  • Antidotes are what you take to prevent dotes.
    • Act IV, sc. vi
  • There is nothing more requisite in business than dispatch.
    • Act V, sc. 1

The Spectator (1711-1714)

  • If I can any way contribute to the diversion or improvement of the country in which I live, I shall leave it, when I am summoned out of it, with the secret satisfaction of thinking that I have not lived in vain.
    • No. 1 (1 March 1711)
  • Thus I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind than as one of the species.
    • No. 1 (1 March 1711)
  • To be exempt from the passions with which others are tormented, is the only pleasing solitude.
    • No. 4 (5 March 1711)
  • To be an atheist requires an indefinitely greater measure of faith than to receive all the great truths which atheism would deny.
    • No. 7 (8 March 1711)
  • I would... earnestly advise them for their good to order this paper to be punctually served up, and to be looked upon as a part of the tea equipage.
    • No. 10 (11 March 1711)
  • I shall endeavor to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality.
    • No. 10 (11 March 1711)
  • True happiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise; it arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one's self, and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.
    • No. 15 (March 17, 1711)
  • The Fear of Death often proves Mortal, and sets People on Methods to save their Lives, which infallibly destroy them.
    • No. 25 (29 March 1711)
  • It is indeed very possible, that the Persons we laugh at may in the main of their Characters be much wiser Men than our selves; but if they would have us laugh at them, they must fall short of us in those Respects which stir up this Passion.
    • No. 47 (24 April 1711)
  • There is not a more unhappy being than a superannuated idol.
    • No. 73 (24 May 1711)
  • A man that has a taste of music, painting, or architecture, is like one that has another sense, when compared with such as have no relish of those arts.
    • No. 93 (16 June 1711)
  • Of all the diversions of life, there is none so proper to fill up its empty spaces as the reading of useful and entertaining authors.
    • No. 94 (18 June 1711)
  • There is not so variable a thing in Nature as a lady's head-dress.
    • No. 98 (22 June 1711)
  • There is no defense against reproach but obscurity.
    • No. 101 (26 June 1711)
  • It is a folly for an eminent man to think of escaping it [i.e. censure], and a weakness to be affected with it. All the illustrious persons of antiquity, and indeed of every age in the world, have passed through this fiery persecution.
    • No. 101 (26 June 1711)
  • It is the privilege of posterity to set matters right between those antagonists who, by their rivalry for greatness, divided a whole age.
    • No. 101 (26 June 1711)
  • Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week.
    • No. 112 (9 July 1711)
  • Exercise ferments the humors, casts them into their proper channels, throws off redundancies, and helps nature in those secret distributions, without which the body cannot subsist in its vigor, nor the soul act with cheerfulness.
    • No. 115 (12 July 1711)
  • When I consider the Question, Whether there are such Persons in the World as those we call Witches? my Mind is divided between the two opposite Opinions; or rather (to speak my Thoughts freely) I believe in general that there is, and has been such a thing as Witchcraft; but at the same time can give no Credit to any Particular Instance of it.
    • No. 117 (14 July 1711)
  • Animals in their generation are wiser than the sons of men; but their wisdom is confined to a few particulars, and lies in a very narrow compass.
    • No. 120 (18 July 1711)
  • The most violent appetites in all creatures are lust and hunger: the first is a perpetual call upon them to propogate their kind; the latter to preserve themselves.
    • No. 120 (18 July 1711)
  • Much might be said on both sides.
    • No. 122 (20 July 1711)
  • Authors have established it as a kind of rule, that a man ought to be dull sometimes; as the most severe reader makes allowances for many rests and nodding places in a voluminous writer.
    • No. 124 (23 July 1711)
  • A cloudy day or a little sunshine have as great an influence on many constitutions as the most real blessings or misfortunes.
    • No. 162 (5 September 1711)
  • Mutability of temper and inconsistency with ourselves is the greatest weakness of human nature.
    • No. 162 (5 September 1711)
  • The circumstance which gives authors an advantage above all these great masters, is this, that they can multiply their originals; or rather, can make copies of their works, to what number they please, which shall be as valuable as the originals themselves.
    • No. 166 (10 September 1711)
  • Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation, as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.
    • No. 166 (10 September 1711)
  • Man is subject to innumerable pains and sorrows by the very condition of humanity, and yet, as if nature had not sown evils enough in life, we are continually adding grief to grief, and aggravating the common calamity by our cruel treatment of one another.
    • No. 169 (13 September 1711)
  • Good nature is more agreeable in conversation than wit, and gives a certain air to the countenance which is more amiable than beauty.
    • No. 169 (13 September 1711)
  • I have somewhere met with the epitaph of a charitable man, which has very much pleased me. I cannot recollect the words, but the sense of it is to this purpose; What I spent I lost; what I possessed is left to others; what I gave away remains with me.
    • No. 177 (22 September 1711)
  • The man who will live above his present circumstances is in great danger of living in a little time much beneath them; or as the Italian proverb runs, "The man who lives by hope, will die by hunger."
    • No. 191 (9 October 1711)
  • Were I to prescribe a rule for drinking, it should be formed upon a saying quoted by Sir William Temple: the first glass for myself, the second for my friends, the third for good humor, and the fourth for mine enemies.
    • No. 195 (13 October 1711)
  • I consider an human soul without education like marble in the quarry, which shews none of its inherent beauties till the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the surface shine, and discovers every ornamental cloud, spot and vein that runs through the body of it.
    • No. 215 (6 November 1711)
  • What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the human soul.
    • No. 215 (6 November 1711)
  • A just and reasonable modesty does not only recommend eloquence, but sets off every great talent which a man can be possessed of.
    • No. 231 (24 November 1711)
  • Mere bashfulness without merit is awkward; and merit without modesty, insolent. But modest merit has a double claim to acceptance, and generally meets with as many patrons as beholders.
    • No. 231 (24 November 1711)
  • Modesty is not only an ornament, but also a guard to virtue.
    • No. 231 (24 November 1711)
  • A man must be excessively stupid, as well as uncharitable, who believes that there is no virtue but on his own side, and that there are not men as honest as himself who may differ from him in political principles.
    • No. 243 (8 December 1711)
  • What an absurd thing it is to pass over all the valuable parts of a man, and fix our attention on his infirmities.
    • No. 249 (15 December 1711)
  • Were not this desire of fame very strong, the difficulty of obtaining it, and the danger of losing it when obtained, would be sufficient to deter a man from so vain a pursuit.
    • No. 255 (22 December 1711)
  • Admiration is a very short-lived passion that immediately decays upon growing familiar with its object, unless it be still fed with fresh discoveries, and kept alive by a new perpetual succession of miracles rising up to its view.
    • No. 256 (24 December 1711)
    • Often only the first half of this statement is quoted
  • Some virtues are only seen in affliction and some in prosperity.
    • No. 257 (25 December 1711)
  • I have often thought, says Sir Roger, it happens very well that Christmas should fall out in the Middle of the Winter
    • No. 269 (8 January 1712)
  • A true critic ought to dwell rather upon excellencies than imperfections, to discover the concealed beauties of a writer, and communicate to the world such things as are worth their observation.
    • No. 291 (2 February 1712)
  • These widows, sir, are the most perverse creatures in the world.
    • No. 335 (25 March 1712)
  • Mirth is like a flash of lightning, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity.
    • No. 381 (17 May 1712)
  • Sir Roger made several reflections on the greatness of the British Nation; as, that one Englishman could beat three Frenchmen; that we could never be in danger of Popery so long as we took care of our fleet; that the Thames was the noblest river in Europe...with many other honest prejudices which naturally cleave to the heart of a true Englishman.
    • No. 383 (20 May 1712)
  • Cheerfulness is...the best promoter of health.
    • No. 387 (24 May 1712)
  • Health and cheerfulness mutually beget each other.
    • No. 387 (24 May 1712)
  • Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed.
    • No. 412 (23 June 1712)
  • Our delight in any particular study, art, or science rises and improves in proportion to the application which we bestow upon it. Thus, what was at first an exercise becomes at length an entertainment.
    • No. 447 (2 August 1712)
  • When all thy mercies, O my God,
    My rising soul surveys,
    Transported with the view, I'm lost
    In wonder, love and praise.
    • No. 453 (9 August 1712)
  • The spacious firmament on high,
    With all the blue ethereal sky,
    And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
    Their great Original proclaim.
    • No. 465, Ode (23 August 1712)
  • Soon as the evening shades prevail,
    The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
    And nightly to the listening earth
    Repeats the story of her birth;
    While all the stars that round her burn,
    And all the planets in their turn,
    Confirm the tidings as they roll,
    And spread the truth from pole to pole.
    • No. 465, Ode (23 August 1712)
  • Forever singing as they shine,
    "The Hand that made us divine."
    • No. 465, Ode (23 August 1712)
  • A woman seldom asks advice before she has bought her wedding clothes.
    • No. 475 (4 September 1712)
  • Method is not less requisite in ordinary conversation than in writing, provided a man would talk to make himself understood.
    • No. 476 (5 September 1712)
  • Our disputants put me in mind of the skuttle fish, that when he is unable to extricate himself, blackens all the water about him, till he becomes invisible.
    • No. 476 (5 September 1712)
  • Irregularity and want of method are only supportable in men of great learning or genius, who are often too full to be exact, and therefore choose to throw down their pearls in heaps before the reader, rather than be at the pains of stringing them.
    • No. 476 (5 September 1712)
  • I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.
    • No. 477 (6 September 1712)
  • The fraternity of the henpecked.
    • No. 482 (12 September 1712)
  • Man is distinguished from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter.
    • No. 494 (26 September 1712)
  • There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice.
    • No. 512 (17 October 1712)
  • If we hope for what we are not likely to possess, we act and think in vain, and make life a greater dream and shadow than it really is.
    • No. 535 (13 November 1712)
  • An ostentatious man will rather relate a blunder or an absurdity he has committed, than be debarred from talking of his own dear person.
    • No. 562 (2 July 1714)
  • A man should always consider how much he has more than he wants.
    • No. 574 (30 July 1714)
  • Upon the whole, a contented mind is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world.
    • No. 574 (30 July 1714)
  • We are always doing something for Posterity, but I would fain see Posterity do something for us.
    • No. 587 (20 August 1714)

The Guardian

  • There in no virtue so truly great and godlike as justice.
    • No. 99
  • To be perfectly just is an attribute in the divine nature; to be so to the utmost of our abilities, is the glory of man.
    • No. 99
  • Justice discards party, friendship, kindred, and is therefore always represented as blind.
    • No. 99
  • Knowledge is, indeed, that which, next to virtue, truly and essentially raises one man above another.
    • No. 111
  • When I read the rules of criticism, I immediately inquire after the works of the author who has written them, and by that means discover what it is he likes in a composition.
    • No. 115
  • Courage that grows from constitution very often forsakes a man when he has occasion for it, and when it is only a kind of instinct in the Soul breaks out on all occasions without judgment or discretion. That courage which proceeds from the sense of our duty, and from the fear of offending Him that made us, acts always in a uniform manner, and according to the dictates of right reason.
    • No. 117
  • Blessings may appear under the shape of pains, losses and disappointments; but let him have patience, and he will see them in their proper figures.
    • No. 117
  • A good conscience is to the soul what health is to the body; it preserves a constant ease and serenity within us, and more than countervails all the calamities and afflictions which can possibly befall us.
    • No. 135
  • The sense of honour is of so fine and delicate a nature, that it is only to be met with in minds which are naturally noble, or in such as have been cultivated by good examples, or a refined education.
    • No. 161
  • Charity is a virtue of the heart, and not of the hands.
    • No. 166
  • Gifts and alms are the expressions, not the essence, of this virtue.
    • No. 166

The Tatler

  • Men may change their climate, but they cannot change their nature. A man that goes out a fool cannot ride or sail himself into common sense.
    • No. 93
  • Silence never shows itself to so great an advantage, as when it is made the reply to calumny and defamation, provided that we give no just occasion for them.
    • No. 133
  • A misery is not to be measured from the nature of the evil, but from the temper of the sufferer.
    • No. 146
  • Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body. As by the one, health is preserved, strengthened, and invigorated: by the other, virtue (which is the health of the mind) is kept alive, cherished, and confirmed.
    • No. 147
  • A cheerful temper joined with innocence will make beauty attractive, knowledge delightful and wit good-natured.
    • No. 192
  • Advertisements are of great use to the vulgar. First of all, as they are instruments of ambition. A man that is by no means big enough for the Gazette, may easily creep into the advertisements; by which means we often see an apothecary in the same paper of news with a plenipotentiary, or a running footman with an ambassador.
    • No. 224
  • The great art in writing advertisements is the finding out a proper method to catch the reader's eye; without which a good thing may pass over unobserved, or be lost among commissions of bankrupt.
    • No. 224


  • Discretion is the perfection of reason and a guide to win all the duties of life.
  • If men would consider not so much where they differ, as wherein they agree, there would be far less of uncharitableness and angry feeling in the world.
  • If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother and hope your guardian genius.
  • It is only imperfection that complains of what is imperfect. The more perfect we are the more gentle and quiet we become towards the defects of others.
  • Justice is an unassailable fortress, built on the brow of a mountain which cannot be overthrown by the violence of torrents, nor demolished by the force of armies.
  • [Mr. Langton observed, that he was not like Addison, who was content with the fame of his writings, and did not aim also at excellency in conversation, for which he found himself unfit; and that he said to a lady, who complained of his having talked little in company,] "Madam, I have but nine-pence in ready money, but I can draw for a thousand pounds".
    • Boswell Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), sub 7 May 1773
  • Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.
    • Also, and more plausibly, attributed to the American philosopher Mortimer J Adler.
  • The beloved of the Almighty are: the rich who have the humility of the poor, and the poor who have the magnanimity of the rich.
    • Normally attributed to Saadi.
  • The chief ingredients in the composition of those qualities that gain esteem and praise, are good nature, truth, good sense, and good breeding.
  • The greatest sweetener of human life is Friendship. To raise this to the highest pitch of enjoyment, is a secret which but few discover.
  • The unassuming youth seeking instruction with humility gains good fortune.
  • The utmost extent of man's knowledge, is to know that he knows nothing.
    • These precise words, sometimes attributed to Addison, have not been found in his works; but in The Spectator, no. 54, Addison translates the following words of Socrates, as quoted in Plato's Apology: "When I left him, I reasoned thus with myself: I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know."
  • They were a people so primitive they did not know how to get money, except by working for it.
  • Tradition is an important help to history, but its statements should be carefully scrutinized before we rely on them.
  • What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.
  • With regard to donations always expect the most from prudent people, who keep their own accounts.


  • a companion which no misfortunes can depress, no clime destroy, no enemy alienate, no despotism enslave: at home a friend, abroad an introduction, in solitude a solace, in society an ornament: it chastens vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once a grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage.
    • Though sometimes attributed to Addison, it actually comes from a speech delivered by the Irish lawyer Charles Phillips in 1817, in the case of O'Mullan v. M'Korkill. See Irish Eloquence: The Speeches of the Celebrated Irish Orators (1834) pp. 91-92.
  • He that would pass the latter part of life with honour and decency, must, when he is young, consider that he shall one day be old; and remember, when he is old, that he has once been young.
    • Not Addison, as often claimed, but Dr. Johnson in The Rambler, no. 50 (8 September 1750).
  • Jesters do often prove prophets.
    • Not found in Addison's works. 'Jesters do oft prove prophets' is in King Lear, Act V, sc. iii.
  • No oppression is so heavy or lasting as that which is inflicted by the perversion and exorbitance of legal authority.
    • From Dr. Johnson's The Rambler, no. 148 (17 August 1751).
  • Plenty of people wish to become devout, but no one wishes to be humble.
    • Often said to be by Addison, but in fact a translation of one of La Rochefoucauld's maxims, published posthumously in 1693. In the original: "Force gens veulent être dévots, mais personne ne veut être humble."
  • That he delights in the misery of others no man will confess, and yet what other motive can make a father cruel?
    • Another misattribution to Addison of a quotation from Johnson's The Rambler, no. 148 (17 August 1751).
  • The union of the Word and the Mind produces that mystery which is called Life... Learn deeply of the Mind and its mystery, for therein lies the secret of immortality.
  • The unjustifiable severity of a parent is loaded with this aggravation, that those whom he injures are always in his sight.
    • Once more an extract from Johnson's The Rambler no. 148 (17 August 1751) is widely misattributed to Addison.
  • There is not any present moment that is unconnected with some future one. The life of every man is a continued chain of incidents, each link of which hangs upon the former. The transition from cause to effect, from event to event, is often carried on by secret steps, which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity is unable to trace. Evil may at some future period bring forth good; and good may bring forth evil, both equally unexpected.
    • Almost always described as being by Addison, it is in fact by Hugh Blair. See Blair's Sermons (1815) vol. 1 pp. 196-197.
  • The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.
    • This very widely quoted Addison maxim was not written by him, but by the American clergyman George Washington Burnap (1802-1859). It appears in Burnap's The Sphere and Duties of Woman: A Course of Lectures, Lecture IV.
  • To a man of pleasure every moment appears to be lost, which partakes not of the vivacity of amusement.
    • Here is another case of a passage from Hugh Blair's Sermons being almost universally ascribed to Addison. After mentioning "the men of pleasure and the men of business" Blair continues, "To the former every moment appears to be lost, which partakes not of the vivacity of amusement". See Blair's Sermons (1815) vol. 1 p. 219.
  • To say that authority, whether secular or religious, supplies no ground for morality is not to deny the obvious fact that it supplies a sanction.
    • Not Addison, but the British philosopher Sir Alfred Ayer. It comes in his "The Meaning of Life", collected in The Meaning of Life, and Other Essays (1990).


  • Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar, but not coarse, and elegant, but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.
    • Samuel Johnson, Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1779-81), "Addison".
  • Just men, by whom impartial laws were given;
    And saints who taught and led the way to heaven.
  • Nor e’er was to the bowers of bliss conveyed
    A fairer spirit or more welcome shade.
  • There taught us how to live; and (oh, too high
    The price for knowledge!) taught us how to die.

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Last modified on 24 September 2008, at 04:41