Oliver Goldsmith

Anglo-Irish writer, poet, and physician (d. 1774)

Oliver Goldsmith (10 November 17284 April 1774) was an Irish novelist, playwright, poet and physician.

Man wants but little here below, Nor wants that little long.


  • A nightcap decked his brows instead of bay,
    A cap by night — a stocking all the day!
    • Description of an Author's Bedchamber (1760).
  • Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
    • The Citizen of the World (1760–1761), Letter VI
  • Men may be very learned, and yet very miserable; it is easy to be a deep geometrician, or a sublime astronomer, but very difficult to be a good man. I esteem, therefore, the traveller who instructs the heart, but despise him who only indulges the imagination. A man who leaves home to mend himself and others, is a philosopher; but he who goes from country to country, guided by the blind impulse of curiosity, is only a vagabond.
    • The Citizen of the World (1760–1761), Letter VII.
  • The better sort here pretend to the utmost compassion for animals of every kind. To hear them speak, a stranger would be apt to imagine they could hardly hurt the gnat that stung them: they seem so tender and so full of pity, that one would take them for the harmless friends of the whole creation; the protectors of the meanest insect or reptile that was privileged with existence. And yet, would you believe it? I have seen the very men who have thus boasted of their tenderness, at the same time devouring the flesh of six different animals toasted up in a fricassee. Strange contrariety of conduct! they pity and they eat the objects of their compassion.
    • The Citizen of the World (1760–1761), Letter XV.
  • Such dainties to them, their health it might hurt;
    It's like sending them ruffles, when wanting a shirt.
    • The Haunch of Venison (1776).
  • There is no arguing with Johnson: for if his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.
  • [To Mr. Johnson] If you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk like whales.
  • You may all go to pot.
    • Verses in reply to an invitation to dine at Dr. Baker's.
  • For he who fights and runs away
    May live to fight another day;
    But he who is in battle slain
    Can never rise and fight again.
    • The Art of Poetry on a New Plan (1761), vol. ii. p. 147.
    • The saying "he who fights and runs away may live to fight another day" dates at least as far back as Menander (ca. 341–290 B.C.), Gnomai Monostichoi, aphorism #45: ἀνήρ ὁ ϕɛύγων καὶ πάλίν μαχήσεται (a man who flees will fight again). The Attic Nights (book 17, ch. 21) of Aulus Gellius (ca. 125–180 A.D.) indicates it was already widespread in the second century: "...the orator Demosthenes sought safety in flight from the battlefield, and when he was bitterly taunted with his flight, he jestingly replied in the well-known verse: The man who runs away will fight again".

The Bee (1759)

  • One writer, for instance, excels at a plan or a title page, another works away at the body of the book, and a third is a dab at an index.
    • No. 1 (Oct. 6, 1759).
  • The true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.
    • No. 3 (Oct. 20, 1759).
  • As writers become more numerous, it is natural for readers to become more indolent.
    • No. 175, Upon Unfortunate Merit.
  • Good people all, with one acord,
    Lament for Madame Blaize,
    Who never wanted a good word —
    From those who spoke her praise.
    • Elegy on Mrs. Mary Blaize, st. 1.
  • The king himself has followed her
    When she has walk'd before.
    • Elegy on Mrs. Mary Blaize, st. 5.

The Captivity, An Oratorio (1764)

  • As aromatic plants bestow
    No spicy fragrance while they grow;
    But crush'd or trodden to the ground,
    Diffuse their balmy sweets around.
    • Act I.
  • That strain once more; it bids remembrance rise.
    • Act I.
  • O Memory! thou fond deceiver.
    • Act I.
  • To the last moment of his breath
    On hope the wretch relies;
    And e'en the pang preceding death
    Bids expectation rise.
    • Act II.
  • Hope, like the gleaming taper's light,
    Adorns and cheers our way;
    And still, as darker grows the night,
    Emits a brighter ray.
    • Act II.

The Traveller (1764)

  • Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
    Or by the lazy Scheldt, or wandering Po.
    • Line 1.
  • Where'er I roam, whatever realms I see,
    My heart untraveled fondly turns to thee;
    Still to my brother turns with ceaseless pain,
    And drags at each remove a lengthening chain.
    • Line 7.
  • And learn the luxury of doing good.
    • Line 22.
  • Some fleeting good, that mocks me with the view.
    • Line 26.
  • These little things are great to little man.
    • Line 42.
  • Creation's heir, the world, the world is mine!
    • Line 50.
  • Such is the patriot's boast, where'er we roam,
    His first, best country ever is, at home.
    • Line 73.
  • Where wealth and freedom reign contentment fails,
    And honor sinks where commerce long prevails.
    • Line 91.
  • Man seems the only growth that dwindles here.
    • Line 126.
  • The canvas glow'd beyond ev'n Nature warm,
    The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form.
    • Line 137.
  • By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd;
    The sports of children satisfy the child.
    • Line 153.
  • But winter lingering chills the lap of May.
    • Line 172.
  • Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose,
    Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes.
    • Line 185.
  • So the loud torrent and the whirlwind's roar
    But bind him to his native mountains more.
    • Line 217.
  • Unknown those powers that raise the soul to flame,
    Catch every nerve, and vibrate through the frame.
    Their level life is but a mouldering fire,
    Unquenched by want, unfanned by strong desire.
    • Line 219.
  • Alike all ages. Dames of ancient days
    Have led their children through the mirthful maze,
    And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore,
    Has frisk'd beneath the burden of threescore.
    • Line 251.
  • They please, are pleased, they give to get esteem,
    Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they seem.
    • Line 265.
  • To men of other minds my fancy flies,
    Embosomed in the deep where Holland lies.
    Methinks her patient sons before me stand,
    Where the broad ocean leans against the land.
    • Line 281.
  • Pride in their port, defiance in their eye,
    I see the lords of humankind pass by.
    • Line 327.
  • The land of scholars and the nurse of arms.
    • Line 356.
  • For just experience tells; in every soil,
    That those that think must govern those that toil.
    • Line 371.
  • Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.
    • Line 386.
  • Forc'd from their homes, a melancholy train,
    To traverse climes beyond the western main;
    Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around,
    And Niagara stuns with thundering sound.
    • Line 409.
  • Vain, very vain, my weary search to find
    That bliss which only centers in the mind.
    • Line 423.
  • Luke's iron crown, and Damien's bed of steel.
    • Line 436.
  • A book may be very amusing with numerous errors, or it may be very dull without a single absurdity.
    • Preface.
  • I was ever of the opinion that the honest man who married and brought up a large family, did more service than he who continued single, and only talked of population.
    • Ch. 1, opening lines.
  • I...chose a wife, as she did her wedding gown, not for a fine glossy surface, but such qualities as would wear well.
    • Ch. 1.
  • We sometimes had those little rubs which Providence sends to enhance the value of its favors.
    • Ch. 1.
  • Handsome is that handsome does.
    • Ch. 1.
  • Let us draw upon Content for the deficiencies of fortune.
    • Ch. 3.
  • That virtue which requires to be ever guarded is scarce worth the sentinel.
    • Ch. 5.
  • The premises being thus settled, I proceed to observe that the concatenation of self-existence, proceeding in a reciprocal duplicate ratio, naturally produces a problematical dialogism, which in some measure proves that the essence of spirituality may be referred to the second predicable.
    • Ch. 7.
  • I find you want me to furnish you with argument and intellects too.
    • Ch. 7.
  • Turn, gentle Hermit of the Dale,
    And guide my lonely way
    To where yon taper cheers the vale
    With hospitable ray.
    • Ch. 8, The Hermit (Edwin and Angelina), st. 1.
  • No flocks that range the valley free
    To slaughter I condemn;
    Taught by that Power that pities me,
    I learn to pity them:
    But from the mountain’s grassy side
    A guiltless feast I bring;
    A scrip with herbs and fruits supplied,
    And water from the spring.
    • Ch. 8, The Hermit (Edwin and Angelina), st. 6-7.
  • Man wants but little here below,
    Nor wants that little long.
    • Ch. 8, The Hermit (Edwin and Angelina), st. 8.
  • And what is friendship but a name,
    A charm that lulls to sleep,
    A shade that follows wealth or fame,
    And leaves the wretch to weep?
    • Ch. 8, The Hermit (Edwin and Angelina), st. 19.
  • The sigh that rends thy constant heart
    Shall break thy Edwin's too.
    • Ch. 8, The Hermit (Edwin and Angelina), st. 33.
  • By the living jingo, she was all of a muck of sweat.
    • Ch. 9.
  • They would talk of nothing but high life, and high-lived company, with other fashionable topics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and the musical glasses.
    • Ch. 9.
  • It has been a thousand times observed, and I must observe it once more, that the hours we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasing than those crowned with fruition.
    • Ch. 10.
  • Conscience is a coward, and those faults it has not strength enough to prevent it seldom has justice enough to accuse.
    • Ch. 13.
  • It seemed to be pretty plain, that they had more of love than matrimony in them.
    • Ch. 16.
  • A kind and gentle heart he had,
    To comfort friends and foes;
    The naked every day he clad
    When he put on his clothes.
    • Ch. 17, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog, st. 3.
  • And in that town a dog was found,
    As many dogs there be,
    Both mongrel, puppy, whelp, and hound,
    And curs of low degree.
    • Ch. 17, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog, st. 4.
  • The dog, to gain some private ends,
    Went mad, and bit the man.
    • Ch. 17, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog, st. 5.
  • The man recovered of the bite,
    The dog it was that died.
    • Ch. 17, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog, st. 8.
  • To what happy accident is it that we owe so unexpected a visit?
    • Ch. 19.
  • To what fortuitous occurrence do we not owe every pleasure and convenience of our lives.
    • Ch. 21.
  • When lovely woman stoops to folly,
      And finds too late that men betray,
    What charm can soothe her melancholy,
      What art can wash her guilt away?
    • Ch. 29, Song, st. 1.
  • The only art her guilt to cover,
      To hide her shame from every eye,
    To give repentance to her lover,
      And wring his bosom——is to die.
    • Ch. 29, Song, st. 2.
    • Variant: And wring his bosom, is—to die.
      • Parodied by T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922):
        When lovely woman stoops to folly and
        Paces about her room again, alone,
        She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
        And puts a record on the gramophone.
  • This same philosophy is a good horse in the stable, but an arrant jade on a journey.
    • Act I.
  • He calls his extravagance, generosity; and his trusting everybody, universal benevolence.
    • Act I.
  • All his faults are such that one loves him still the better for them.
    • Act I.
  • Friendship is a disinterested commerce between equals; love, an abject intercourse between tyrants and slaves.
    • Act I.
  • Don't let us make imaginary evils, when you know we have so many real ones to encounter.
  • Silence gives consent.
    • Act II.
  • Measures, not men, have always been my mark.
    • Act II.
  • Certainly, in two opposite opinions, if one be perfectly reasonable, the other can't be perfectly right.
    • Act IV.

The Deserted Village (1770)

  • Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain.
    • Line 1.
  • The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
    For talking age and whispering lovers made.
    • Line 13.
  • The bashful virgin's sidelong looks of love,
    The matron's glance that would those looks reprove.
    • Line 29.
  • Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
    Where wealth accumulates, and men decay;
    Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;
    A breath can make them, as a breath has made;
    But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
    When once destroyed, can never be supplied.
    • Line 51.
  • His best companions, innocence and health;
    And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
    • Line 61.
  • How happy he who crowns in shades like these,
    A youth of labour with an age of ease.
    • Line 99.
  • Bends to the grave with unperceived decay,
    While resignation gently slopes the way;
    And, all his prospects brightening to the last,
    His heaven commences ere the world be past.
    • Line 109.
  • The watchdog's voice that bayed the whispering wind,
    And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind.
    • Line 121.
  • A man he was to all the country dear,
    And passing rich with forty pounds a year.
    • Line 141.
  • Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done,
    Shoulder'd his crutch, and shew'd how fields were won.
    • Line 157.
  • Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
    His pity gave ere charity began.
    Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
    And e'en his failings leaned to Virtue's side.
    • Line 161.
  • And, as a bird each fond endearment tries
    To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies,
    He tried each art, reproved each dull delay,
    Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.
    • Line 167.
  • Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
    And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.
    • Line 179.
  • Even children followed with endearing wile,
    And plucked his gown, to share the good man's smile.
    • Line 183.
  • A man severe he was, and stern to view;
    I knew him well, and every truant knew:
    Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace
    The day's disasters in his morning face;
    Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee,
    At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
    Full well the bust whisper, circling round,
    Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned;
    Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,
    The love he bore to learning was in fault;
    The village all declared how much he knew;
    'Twas certain he could write, and cipher too.
    • Line 197.
  • As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
    Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,—
    Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
    Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
    • Line 189.
  • Well had the boding tremblers learn'd to trace
    The day's disasters in his morning face;
    Full well they laugh'd with counterfeited glee
    At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
    Full well the busy whisper circling round
    Convey'd the dismal tidings when he frown'd.
    Yet was he kind, or if severe in aught,
    The love he bore to learning was in fault;
    The village all declar'd how much he knew,
    'T was certain he could write and cipher too.
    • Line 199.
  • In arguing too, the parson owned his skill,
    For e'en though vanquished, he could argue still;
    While words of learned length, and thundering sound
    Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
    And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
    That one small head could carry all he knew.
    • Line 211.
  • Where village statesmen talked with looks profound,
    And news much older than their ale went round.
    • Line 223.
  • The whitewashed wall, the nicely sanded floor,
    The varnished clock that clicked behind the door;
    The chest contrived a double debt to pay,
    A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day.
    • Line 227.
  • The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose.
    • Line 232.
  • To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
    One native charm, than all the gloss of art.
    • Line 253.
  • And, ev'n while fashion's brightest arts decoy,
    The heart distrusting asks, if this be joy.
    • Line 263.
  • Her modest looks the cottage might adorn,
    Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn.
    • Line 329.
  • Through torrid tracts with fainting steps they go,
    Where wild Altama murmurs to their woe.
    • Line 344.
  • In all the silent manliness of grief.
    • Line 384.
  • O Luxury! thou curst by Heaven's decree!
    • Line 385.
  • Thou source of all my bliss, and all my woe,
    That found'st me poor at first, and keep'st me so.
    • Line 413.

Act I

  • In my time, the follies of the town crept slowly among us, but now they travel faster than a stagecoach.
  • I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines.
  • The very pink of perfection.
  • The genteel thing is the genteel thing any time, if as be that a gentleman bees in a concatenation accordingly.
  • Let schoolmasters puzzle their brain,
    With grammar, and nonsense, and learning;
    Good liquor, I stoutly maintain,
    Gives genus a better discerning.
  • I'll be with you in the squeezing of a lemon.

Act II

  • A modest woman, dressed out in all her finery, is the most tremendous object of the whole creation.
  • The first blow is half the battle.
  • We are the boys
    That fear no noise
    Where the thundering cannons roar.
  • They liked the book the better the more it made them cry.
  • Travellers, George, must pay in all places: the only difference is, that in good inns, you pay dearly for your luxuries, and in bad inns you are fleeced and starved.


  • Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no fibs.
  • Oh sir! I must not tell my age.
    They say women and music should never be dated.

Act IV

  • Baw! Damme, but I'll fight you both, one after the other!
    With baskets.
  • We modest Gentlemen don't want for much success among the women.

Retaliation (1774)

  • Our Garrick's a salad; for in him we see
    Oil, vinegar, sugar, and saltness agree!
    • Line 11.
  • Who mix'd reason with pleasure, and wisdom with mirth:
    If he had any faults, he has left us in doubt.
    • Line 24.
  • Here lies our good Edmund, whose genius was such,
    We scarcely can praise it, or blame it too much;
    Who, born for the universe, narrow'd his mind,
    And to party gave up what was meant for mankind;
    Though fraught with all learning, yet straining his throat
    To persuade Tommy Townshend to lend him a vote.
    Who too deep for his hearers still went on refining,
    And thought of convincing while they thought of dining:
    Though equal to all things, for all things unfit;
    Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit.
    • Line 29.
  • His conduct still right, with his argument wrong.
    • Line 46.
  • A flattering painter, who made it his care
    To draw men as they ought to be, not as they are.
    • Line 63.
  • Here lies David Garrick, describe me, who can,
    An abridgment of all that was pleasant in man.
    • Line 93.
  • As a wit, if not first, in the very first line.
    • Line 96.
  • On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting;
    'Twas only that when he was off he was acting.
    • Line 101.
  • He cast off his friends as a huntsman his pack,
    For he knew when he pleased he could whistle them back.
    • Line 107.
  • Who peppered the highest was surest to please.
    • Line 112.
  • When he talked of their Raphaels, Correggios, and stuff,
    He shifted his trumpet and only took snuff.
    • Line 145.
  • The best-humour'd man, with the worst-humour'd Muse.
    • Postscript.
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