From the notebooks of Samuel Butler:

  • “When I was a boy at school at Shrewsbury, old Mrs. Brown used to keep a tray of spoiled tarts which she sold cheaper. They most of them looked pretty right till you handled them. We are all spoiled tarts.”
  • “Words are like money; there is nothing so useless, unless when in actual use.”
  • “They say the test of [literary power] is whether a man can write an inscription. I say ‘Can he name a kitten?’ And by this test I am condemned, for I cannot.”
  • “The extremes of vice and virtue are alike detestable; absolute virtue is as sure to kill a man as absolute vice is, let alone the dullnesses of it and the pomposities of it.”
  • “When fatigued, I find it rests me to write very slowly with attention to the formation of each letter. I am often thus able to go on when I could not otherwise do so.”
  • “Is life worth living? This is a question for an embryo, not for a man.”
  • “When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence.”
  • “Life is one long process of getting tired.”
  • “I believe that more unhappiness comes from this source than from any other — I mean from the attempt to prolong family connection unduly and to make people hang together artificially who would never naturally do so. The mischief among the lower classes is not so great, but among the middle and upper classes it is killing a large number daily. And the old people do not really like it much better than the young.”

“The true writer will stop everywhere and anywhere to put down his notes,” he wrote, “as the true painter will stop everywhere and anywhere to sketch.”