Famous Quotes from ...

Ambrose Bierce



    Painting, n.: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather, and exposing them to the critic.

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    Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.

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    Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.

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    The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling.

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    Education, n.: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

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    Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.

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    Experience - the wisdom that enables us to recognise in an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.

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    Future. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.

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    Happiness: an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.

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    Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence.

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    Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

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    Marriage, n: the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.

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    Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.

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    Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.

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    Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

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    Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught. Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught.

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    Success is the one unpardonable sin against our fellows.

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    Inventor: A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization.

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    Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.

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    Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent.

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    Beauty, n: the power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband.

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    History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.

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    Lawsuit: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

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    Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.

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    Bride: A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.

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    Women in love are less ashamed than men. They have less to be ashamed of.

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    A wedding is a ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable.

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    WOMAN, n.An animal usually living in the vicinity of Man, and having a rudimentary susceptibility to domestication. It is credited by many of the elder zoologists with a certain vestigial docility acquired in a former state of seclusion, but naturalists of the postsusananthony period, having no knowledge of the seclusion, deny the virtue and declare that such as creation's dawn beheld, it roareth now. The species is the most widely distributed of all beasts of prey, infesting all habitable parts of the globe, from Greeland's spicy mountains to India's moral strand. The popular name (wolfman) is incorrect, for the creature is of the cat kind. The woman is lithe and graceful in its movement, especially the American variety (_felis pugnans_), is omnivorous and can be taught not to talk. --Balthasar Pober

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    RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable."What is your religion my son?" inquired the Archbishop of Rheims."Pardon, monseigneur," replied Rochebriant; "I am ashamed of it.""Then why do you not become an atheist?""Impossible! I should be ashamed of atheism.""In that case, monsieur, you should join the Protestants."

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    ACKNOWLEDGE, v.t. To confess. Acknowledgement of one another's faults is the highest duty imposed by our love of truth.

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    Ardor, n. The quality that distinguishes love without knowledge.

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    ELECTRICITY, n. The power that causes all natural phenomena not known to be caused by something else. It is the same thing as lightning, and its famous attempt to strike Dr. Franklin is one of the most picturesque incidents in that great and good man's career. The memory of Dr. Franklin is justly held in great reverence, particularly in France, where a waxen effigy of him was recently on exhibition, bearing the following touching account of his life and services to science:"Monsieur Franqulin, inventor of electricity. This illustrious savant, after having made several voyages around the world, died on the Sandwich Islands and was devoured by savages, of whom not a single fragment was ever recovered."Electricity seems destined to play a most important part in the arts and industries. The question of its economical application to some purposes is still unsettled, but experiment has already proved that it will propel a street car better than a gas jet and give more light than a horse.

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    The world has suffered more from the ravages of ill-advised marriages than from virginity.

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    LOVE, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder... It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.

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    ARISTOCRACY, n. Government by the best men. (In this sense the word is obsolete; so is that kind of government.) Fellows that wear downy hats and clean shirts --guilty of education and suspected of bank accounts.

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    In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.

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    OPPOSITION, n. In politics the party that prevents the Government from running amuck by hamstringing it.

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    LIGHTHOUSE, n. A tall building on the seashore in which the government maintains a lamp and the friend of a politician.

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    DELUSION, n. The father of a most respectable family, comprising Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity and many other goodly sons and daughters.All hail, Delusion! Were it not for thee The world turned topsy-turvy we should see; For Vice, respectable with cleanly fancies, Would fly abandoned Virtue's gross advances. --Mumfrey Mappel

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    MAMMALIA, n.pl. A family of vertebrate animals whose females in a state of nature suckle their young, but when civilized and enlightened put them out to nurse, or use the bottle.

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    EXECUTIVE, n. An officer of the Government, whose duty it is to enforce the wishes of the legislative power until such time as the judicial department shall be pleased to pronounce them invalid and of no effect. Following is an extract from an old book entitled, _The Lunarian Astonished_ --Pfeiffer & Co., Boston, 1803:LUNARIAN: Then when your Congress has passed a law it goes directly to the Supreme Court in order that it may at once be known whether it is constitutional? TERRESTRIAN: O no; it does not require the approval of the Supreme Court until having perhaps been enforced for many years somebody objects to its operation against himself --I mean his client. The President, if he approves it, begins to execute it at once. LUNARIAN: Ah, the executive power is a part of the legislative. Do your policemen also have to approve the local ordinances that they enforce? TERRESTRIAN: Not yet --at least not in their character of constables. Generally speaking, though, all laws require the approval of those whom they are intended to restrain. LUNARIAN: I see. The death warrant is not valid until signed by the murderer. TERRESTRIAN: My friend, you put it too strongly; we are not so consistent. LUNARIAN: But this system of maintaining an expensive judicial machinery to pass upon the validity of laws only after they have long been executed, and then only when brought before the court by some private person --does it not cause great confusion? TERRESTRIAN: It does. LUNARIAN: Why then should not your laws, previously to being executed, be validated, not by the signature of your President, but by that of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? TERRESTRIAN: There is no precedent for any such course. LUNARIAN: Precedent. What is that? TERRESTRIAN: It has been defined by five hundred lawyers in three volumes each. So how can any one know?

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    DEATH, n. To stop sinning suddenly.

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    LORD, n. In American society, an English tourist above the state of a costermonger

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    POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When we wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.

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    WOMAN, n. An animal usually living in the vicinity of Man, and having a rudimentary susceptibility to domestication.

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    ORPHAN, n. A living person whom death has deprived of the power of filial ingratitude --a privation appealing with a particular eloquence to all that is sympathetic in human nature. When young the orphan is commonly sent to an asylum, where by careful cultivation of its rudimentary sense of locality it is taught to know its place. It is then instructed in the arts of dependence and servitude and eventually turned loose to prey upon the world as a bootblack or scullery maid.

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    MARTYR, n. One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a desired death.

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    ORPHAN, n. A living person whom death has deprived of the power of filial ingratitude . . .

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    BAIT, n. A preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The best kind is beauty.

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    EAT, v.i. To perform successively (and successfully) the functions of mastication, humectation, and deglutition."I was in the drawing-room, enjoying my dinner," said Brillat- Savarin, beginning an anecdote. "What!" interrupted Rochebriant; "eating dinner in a drawing-room?" "I must beg you to observe, monsieur," explained the great gastronome, "that I did not say I was eating my dinner, but enjoying it. I had dined an hour before."

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    DAWN, n. The time when men of reason go to bed. Certain old men prefer to rise at about that time, taking a cold bath and a long walk with an empty stomach, and otherwise mortifying the flesh. They then point with pride to these practices as the cause of their sturdy health and ripe years; the truth being that they are hearty and old, not because of their habits, but in spite of them. The reason we find only robust persons doing this thing is that it has killed all the others who have tried it.

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    IMMORAL, adj. Inexpedient. Whatever in the long run and with regard to the greater number of instances men find to be generally inexpedient comes to be considered wrong, wicked, immoral. If man's notions of right and wrong have any other basis than this of expediency; if they originated, or could have originated, in any other way; if actions have in themselves a moral character apart from, and nowise dependent on, their consequences --then all philosophy is a lie and reason a disorder of the mind.

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    RAPACITY, n. Providence without industry. The thrift of power.

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    PLENIPOTENTIARY, adj. Having full power. A Minister Plenipotentiary is a diplomatist possessing absolute authority on condition that he never exert it.

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    FORMA PAUPERIS. [Latin] In the character of a poor person --a method by which a litigant without money for lawyers is considerately permitted to lose his case.When Adam long ago in Cupid's awful court(For Cupid ruled ere Adam was invented) Sued for Eve's favor, says an ancient law report, He stood and pleaded unhabilimented."You sue _in forma pauperis_, I see," Eve cried;"Actions can't here be that way prosecuted." So all poor Adam's motions coldly were denied: He went away --as he had come --nonsuited. --G.J.

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    LONGEVITY, n. Uncommon extension of the fear of death.

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    CARMELITE, n. A mendicant friar of the order of Mount Carmel.As Death was a-rising out one day, Across Mount Camel he took his way, Where he met a mendicant monk, Some three or four quarters drunk, With a holy leer and a pious grin, Ragged and fat and as saucy as sin, Who held out his hands and cried:"Give, give in Charity's name, I pray. Give in the name of the Church. O give, Give that her holy sons may live!" And Death replied, Smiling long and wide:"I'll give, holy father, I'll give thee --a ride."With a rattle and bang Of his bones, he sprang From his famous Pale Horse, with his spear; By the neck and the foot Seized the fellow, and put Him astride with his face to the rear.The Monarch laughed loud with a sound that fell Like clods on the coffin's sounding shell:"Ho, ho! A beggar on horseback, they say, Will ride to the devil!" --and _thump_ Fell the flat of his dart on the rump Of the charger, which galloped away.Faster and faster and faster it flew, Till the rocks and the flocks and the trees that grew By the road were dim and blended and blue To the wild, wild eyes Of the rider --in size Resembling a couple of blackberry pies. Death laughed again, as a tomb might laugh At a burial service spoiled, And the mourners' intentions foiled By the body erecting Its head and objecting To further proceedings in its behalf.Many a year and many a day Have passed since these events away. The monk has long been a dusty corse, And Death has never recovered his horse. For the friar got hold of its tail, And steered it within the pale Of the monastery gray, Where the beast was stabled and fed With barley and oil and bread Till fatter it grew than the fattest friar, And so in due course was appointed Prior. --G.J.

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    ZOOLOGY, n. The science and history of the animal kingdom, including its king, the House Fly (_Musca maledicta_). The father of Zoology was Aristotle, as is universally conceded, but the name of its mother has not come down to us. Two of the science's most illustrious expounders were Buffon and Oliver Goldsmith, from both of whom we learn (_L'Histoire generale des animaux_ and _A History of Animated Nature_) that the domestic cow sheds its horn every two years.

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    LOVE, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like _caries_ and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.

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    Religion. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

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    Love is a temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder.

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    Clairvoyant, n.: A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron - namely, that he is a blockhead.

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    LOOKING-GLASS, n. A vitreous plane upon which to display a fleeting show for man's disillusion given. The King of Manchuria had a magic looking-glass, whereon whoso looked saw, not his own image, but only that of the king. A certain courtier who had long enjoyed the king's favor and was thereby enriched beyond any other subject of the realm, said to the king: "Give me, I pray, thy wonderful mirror, so that when absent out of thine august presence I may yet do homage before thy visible shadow, prostrating myself night and morning in the glory of thy benign countenance, as which nothing has so divine splendor, O Noonday Sun of the Universe!" Please with the speech, the king commanded that the mirror be conveyed to the courtier's palace; but after, having gone thither without apprisal, he found it in an apartment where was naught but idle lumber. And the mirror was dimmed with dust and overlaced with cobwebs. This so angered him that he fisted it hard, shattering the glass, and was sorely hurt. Enraged all the more by this mischance, he commanded that the ungrateful courtier be thrown into prison, and that the glass be repaired and taken back to his own palace; and this was done. But when the king looked again on the mirror he saw not his image as before, but only the figure of a crowned ass, having a bloody bandage on one of its hinder hooves --as the artificers and all who had looked upon it had before discerned but feared to report. Taught wisdom and charity, the king restored his courtier to liberty, had the mirror set into the back of the throne and reigned many years with justice and humility; and one day when he fell asleep in death while on the throne, the whole court saw in the mirror the luminous figure of an angel, which remains to this day.

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