Oliver Wendell Holmes Quotes

A few can touch the magic string, and noisy fame is proud to win them: Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!

A goose flies by a chart which the Royal Geographical Society could not mend.

A great calamity is as old as the trilobites an hour after it has happened.

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 first time.

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.

A woman never forgets her sex. She would rather talk with a man than an angel, any day.

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.

But friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold.

Chicago sounds rough to the maker of verse. One comfort we have – Cincinnati sounds worse.

Controversy equalizes fools and wise men – and the fools know it.

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’t 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 calling is great when greatly pursued.

Every idea is an incitement… Eloquence may set fire to reason.

Every library should try to be complete on something, if it were only the history of pinheads.

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 pool.

Have the courage to act instead of react.

He has half the deed done who has made a beginning.

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 were dying my last words would be: Have faith and pursue the unknown end.

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 the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.

It is very lonely sometimes, trying to play God.

It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.

Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.

Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum.

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 channel.

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 sticking.

Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.

Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer.

Nature, when she invented, manufactured, and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left.

Nothing is so common-place as to wish to be remarkable.

Old age is fifteen years older than I am.

One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

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’.

Pretty much all the honest truth-telling there is in the world is done by children.

Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust.

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.

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 fall.

Stillness of person and steadiness of features are signal marks of good breeding.

Stupidity often saves a man from going mad.

Sweet is the scene where genial friendship plays the pleasing game of interchanging praise.

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 great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.

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 mode by which the inevitable comes to pass is effort.

The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men – from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms.

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 be civilized is to be potentially master of all possible ideas, and that means that one has got beyond being shocked, although one preserves one’s own moral aesthetic preferences.

To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old.

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 is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch; nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.

Truth, when not sought after, rarely comes to light.

We do not quit playing because we grow old, we grow old because we quit playing.

When in doubt, do it.

Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.

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 thinks.

Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the promise of the future.

Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face for each friend.