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In Praise of Quotation & Aphorisms

[The most profound or exciting idea you come across in your reading will often seem dull when you return to it after an interval, just words printed on paper. Memorizing it by rote will usually bring back some of the old lustre, but to really bring it to life you must acquire it; that is you must remember it in such a way that you can call it up almost as effortlessly as you call up everyday words and idioms when you open your mouth to speak. The way to acquire an idea is to read it aloud in a strong clear voice, modifying it to fit your natural speaking style or adapting it in whatever way you see fit. With sufficient repetition at intervals, but taking great care not to cram, you will be able to acquire the entire quote or passage without the disagreeable effort of memorization. However, it is essential to remember that the words must come through the ear and not via text (i.e. the printed page)—it is not enough to read them silently to oneself. You will then find these “acquired” ideas springing to your mind whenever you need them, but embodied in words just as if they were proverbs or idiomatic expressions.]

The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages are perpetuated by quotations.

Benjamin Disraeli

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.

Sir Winston Churchill

The only way to read a book of aphorisms without being bored is to open it at random and, having found something that interests you, close the book and meditate.

Prince De Ligne

He is a benefactor of mankind who contracts the great rules of life into short sentences, that may be easily impressed on the memory, and so recur habitually to the mind.

Samuel Johnson

This delivering of knowledge in distinct and disjointed aphorisms doth leave the wit of man more free to turn and toss, and to make use of that which is so delivered to more several purposes and applications.

Sir Francis Bacon

An aphorism is the pithy packaging of deep wisdom. It is the consequence of a long process of analysis. It forces the reader to wrestle with it and to be creative with it.

Aphorisms give you more for your time and money than any other literary form.

Louis Dudek

Someone who can write aphorisms should not fritter away his time writing essays.

Karl Kraus

Pointed axioms and acute replies fly loose about the world, and are assigned successively to those whom it may be the fashion to celebrate.

Samuel Johnson

All the good maxims already exist in the world; we just fail to apply them.


The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other well.

Elias Canetti

I always have a quotation for everything. It saves original thinking.

Dorothy Sayers

A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.


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