Thoughts On Various Subjects
by Jonathan Swift (1703)

WE have just Religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.

REFLECT on Things past, as Wars, Negotiations, Factions, and the like; we enter so little into those Interests, that we wonder how Men could possibly be so busy, and concerned for Things so transitory: Look on the present Times, we find the same Humour, yet wonder not at all.

A WISE Man endeavours, by considering all Circumstances, to make Conjectures, and form Conclusions: But the smallest Accident intervening, (and in the Course of Affairs it is impossible to foresee all) doth often produce such Turns and Changes, that at last he is just as much in doubt of Events, as the most ignorant and unexperienced Person.

POSITIVENESS is a good Quality for Preachers and Orators; because whoever would obtrude his Thoughts and Reasons upon a Multitude, will convince others the more, as he appears convinced himself.

HOW is it possible to expect that Mankind will take Advice, when they will not so much as take Warning?

I FORGET whether Advice be among the lost Things which, Ariosto says, are to be found in the Moon: That and Time ought to have been there.

NO Preacher is listened to, but Time; which gives us the same Train and Turn of Thought, that elder People have tried in vain to put into our Heads before.

WHEN we desire or sollicit any Thing; our Minds run wholly on the good Side, or Circumstances of it; when it is obtained, our Minds run only on the bad ones.

IN a Glass-House, the Workmen often fling in a small Quantity of fresh Coals, which seems to disturb the Fire, but very much enlivens it. This may allude to a gentle stirring of the Passions, that the Mind may not languish.

RELIGION seems to have grown an Infant with Age, and requires Miracles to nurse it, as it had in its Infancy.

ALL Fits of Pleasure are ballanced by an equal Degree of Pain, or Languor; it is like spending this Year, Part of the next Year's Revenue.

THE latter Part of a wise Man's Life is taken up in curing the Follies, Prejudices, and false Opinions he had contracted in the former.

IF a Writer would know how to behave himself with relation to Posterity; let him consider in old Books, what he finds, that he is glad to know; and what Omissions he most laments.

WHATEVER the Poets pretend, it is plain they give Immortality to none but themselves: It is Homer and Virgil we reverence and admire, not Achilles or Aeneas. With Historians it is quite the contrary; our Thoughts are taken up with the Actions, Persons, and Events we read; and we little regard the Authors.

WHEN a true Genius appears in the World, you may know him by this infallible Sign; that the Dunces are all in Confederacy against him.

MEN, who possess all the Advantages of Life, are in a State where there are many Accidents to disorder and discompose, but few to please them.

IT is unwise to punish Cowards with Ignominy; for if they had regarded that, they would not have been Cowards: Death is their proper Punishment, because they fear it most.

THE greatest Inventions were produced in the Times of Ignorance; as the Use of the Compass, Gunpowder, and Printing; and by the dullest Nation, as the Germans.

ONE Argument to prove that the common Relations of Ghosts and Spectres are generally false; may be drawn from the Opinion held, that Spirits are never seen by more than one Person at a Time: That is to say, it seldom happens that above one Person in a Company is possest with any high Degree of Spleen or Melancholy.

I AM apt to think, that in the Day of Judgment there will be small Allowance given to the Wise for their want of Morals, or to the Ignorant for their want of Faith; because, both are without Excuse. This renders the Advantages equal of Ignorance and Knowledge. But some Scruples in the Wise, and some Vices in the Ignorant, will perhaps be forgiven upon the Strength of Temptation to each.

THE Value of several Circumstances in History, lessens very much by distance of Time; although some minute Circumstances are very valuable; and it requires great Judgment in a Writer to distinguish.

IT is grown a Word of Course for Writers to say, this critical Age, as Divines say, this sinful Age

IT is pleasant to observe, how free the present Age is in laying Taxes on the next. Future Ages shall talk of this: This shall be famous to all Posterity. Whereas, their Time and Thoughts will be taken up about present Things, as ours are now.

THE Camelion, who is said to feed upon nothing but Air, hath of all Animals the nimblest Tongue.

WHEN a Man is made a spiritual Peer, he loses his Sirname; when a temporal, his Christian Name.

IT is in Disputes as in Armies; where the weaker Side sets up false Lights, and makes a great Noise, that the Enemy may believe them to be more numerous and strong than they really are.

SOME Men, under the Notions of weeding out Prejudices; eradicate Religion, Virtue, and common Honesty.

IN all well-instituted Commonwealths, Care hath been taken to limit Mens Possessions; which is done for many Reasons; and among the rest, for one that perhaps is not often considered: Because when Bounds are set to Mens Desires, after they have acquired as much as the Laws will permit them, their private Interest is at an End; and they have nothing to do, but to take care of the Publick.

THERE are but three Ways for a Man to revenge himself of a censorious World: To despise it; to return the like; or to endeavour to live so as to avoid it. The first of these is usually pretended; the last is almost impossible; the universal Practice is for the second.

Herodotus tells us, that in cold Countries Beasts very seldom have Horns; but in hot they have very large ones. This might bear a pleasant Application.

I NEVER heard a finer Piece of Satyr against Lawyers, than that of Astrologers; when they pretend by Rules of Art to foretell in what Time a Suit will end, and whether to the Advantage of the Plaintiff or Defendant: Thus making the Matter depend entirely upon the Influence of the Stars, without the least regard to the Merits of the Cause.

THAT Expression in Apocrypha about Tobit, and his Dog following him, I have often heard ridiculed; yet Homer has the same Words of Telemachus more than once; and Virgil says something like it of Evander. And I take the Book of Tobit to he partly poetical.

I HAVE known some Men possessed of good Qualities, which were very serviceable to others, but useless to themselves; like a Sun-Dial on the Front of a House, to inform the Neighbours and Passengers, but not the Owner within.

IF a Man would register all his Opinions upon Love, Politicks, Religion, Learning, and the like; beginning from his Youth, and so go on to old Age: What a Bundle of Inconsistencies and Contradictions would appear at last?

WHAT they do in Heaven we are ignorant of; what they do not we are told expresly; that they neither marry, nor are given in Marriage.

WHEN a Man observes the Choice of Ladies now-a-days, in the dispensing of their Favours; can he forbear paying some Veneration to the Memory of those Mares mentioned by Xenophon; who, while their Manes were on; that is, while they were in their Beauty, would never admit the Embraces of an Ass. De re equestri.

IT is a miserable Thing to live in Suspence; it is the Life of a Spider. Vive quidem, pende tamen, improba, dixit

THE Stoical Scheme of supplying our Wants, by lopping off our Desires; is like cutting off our Feet when we want Shoes.

PHYSICIANS ought not to give their Judgment of Religion, for the same Reason that Butchers are not admitted to be Jurors upon Life and Death.

THE Reason why so few Marriages are happy, is, because young Ladies spend their Time in making Nets, and not in making Cages.

IF a Man will observe as he walks the Streets, I believe he will find the merriest Countenances in Mourning-Coaches.

NOTHING more unqualifies a Man to act with Prudence, than a Misfortune that is attended with Shame and Guilt.

THE Power of Fortune is contest only by the Miserable; for the Happy impute all their Success to Prudence or Merit

AMBITION often puts Men upon doing the meanest Offices: so climbing is performed in the same Posture with Creeping.

ILL Company is like a Dog, who fouls those most whom he loves best.

CENSURE is the Tax a Man pays to the Publick for being eminent.