Mortality Quotes
The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page
Home | Topical Guide | Search the Site

 
 

Other related topics at:
Death and Mourning

62. Mortality; Prayer; Resolutions
"I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving: having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming plans of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
Johnson: Prayers
Link


234. After-life; Death; Mortality; Religion
I mentioned to Dr. Johnson, that David Hume's persisting in his infidelity, when he was dying, shocked me much. Johnson: "Why should it shock you, Sir? Hume owned he had never read the New Testament with attention. Here then was a man, who had been at no pains to inquire into the truth of religion, and had continually turned his mind the other way. It was not to be expected that the prospect of death would alter his way of thinking, unless God should send an angel to set him right." I said, I had no reason to believe that the thought of annihilation gave Hume no pain. Johnson: "It was not so, Sir. He had a vanity in being thought easy. It is more probable that he should assume an appearance of ease, than that so very probable a thing should be, as a man not afraid of going (as, in spite of his delusive theory, he cannot be sure but he may go,) into an unknown state, and not being uneasy at leaving all he knew. And you are to consider, that upon his own principle of annihilation he had no motive to speak the truth."
Boswell: Life
Link


235. Death; Mortality
I ventured to tell him, that I had been, for moments in my life, not afraid of death; therefore I could suppose another man in that state of mind for a considerable space of time. He said, "he never had a moment in which death was not terrible to him." He added, that it had been observed, that scarce any man dies in publick, but with apparent resolution; from that desire of praise which never quits us. I said, Dr. Dodd seemed to be willing to die, and full of hopes of happiness. "Sir, (said he,) Dr. Dodd would have given both his hands and both his legs to have lived. The better a man is, the more afraid he is of death, having a clearer view of infinite purity."
Boswell: Life
Link


285. Mortality; Religion
Seward: "One should think that sickness, and the view of death, would make more men religious." Johnson: "Sir, they do not know how to go about it: they have not the first notion. A man who has never had religion before, no more grows religious when he is sick, than a man who has never learnt figures can count when he has need of calculation."
Boswell: Life
Link


289. After-life; Mortality
"Let us, my dear, pray for one another, and consider our sufferings as notices mercifully given us to prepare ourselves for another state.
"I live now in a melancholy way. My old friend Mr. Levet is dead, who lived with me in the house, and was useful and companionable; Mrs. Desmoulins is gone away; and Mrs. Williams is so much decayed , that she can add little to another's gratifications. The world passes away, and we are passing with it; but there is, doubtless, another world, which will endure for ever. Let us fit ourselves for it."
Johnson: Letter to Lucy Porter
Link


292. Mortality
"O! my friend, the approach of death is very dreadful. I am afraid to think on that which I know I cannot avoid. It is vain to look round and round for that help which cannot be had. Yet we hope and hope, and fancy that he who has lived to-day may live to-morrow. But let us learn to derive our hope only from God."
Johnson: Letter to John Taylor
Link


293. Mortality; Salvation
Johnson, talking of the fear of death, said, "Some people are not afraid, because they look upon salvation as the effect of an absolute decree, and think they feel in themselves the marks of sanctification. Others, and those the most rational in my opinion, look upon salvation as conditional; and as they never can be sure they have complied with the conditions, they are afraid."
Boswell: Life
Link


315. Mortality
"That we must all die, we always knew; I wish I had remembered it sooner."
Johnson: Letter to Sir Joshua Reynolds
Link


318. Mortality
"...this world must soon pass away. Let us think seriously on our duty. I send my kindest respects to dear Mrs. Careless: let me have the prayers of both. We have all lived long, and must soon part. God have mercy on us, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Johnson: Letter to Edmund Hector
Link


320. After-life; Mortality
"You know I never thought confidence with respect to futurity any part of the character of a brave, a wise, or a good man. Bravery has no place where it can avail nothing, Wisdom impresses strongly the consciousness of those faults, of which it is itself perhaps an aggravation; and Goodness always wishing to be better, and imputing every deficience to criminal negligence, and every fault to voluntary corruption, never dares to suppose the conditions of forgiveness fulfilled, not what is wanting in the virtue supplied by Penitence.
This is the state of the best; but what must be the condition of him whose heart will not suffer him to rank himself among the best, or among the good? Such must be his dread of the approaching trial, as will leave him little attention to the opinion of those whom he is leaving forever; and the serenity that is not felt, it can be of no virtue to feign."
Johnson: Letter to Hester Thrale [Piozzi]
Link


383. Death; Mortality
"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
Boswell: Life
Link


431. Old Age; Mortality; Sensitivity
...in the decline of life shame and grief are of short duration; whether it be that we bear easily what we have borne long; or that, finding ourselves in age less regarded, we less regard others; or, that we look with slight regard upon afflictions to which we know that the hand of death is about to put an end.
Johnson: Rasselas [Narrator]
Note: If you haven't read it yet, please read this note of caution regarding quotes from Rasselas.
Link


499. After-life; Contemplation; Mortality; Pleasure
"Pleasure, in itself harmless, may become mischievous by endearing us to a state which we know to be transient and probatory, and withdrawing our thoughts from that of which every hour brings us nearer to the beginning, and of which no length of time will bring us to the end. Mortification is not virtuous in itself, nor has any other use but that it disengages us from allurements of sense. In the state of future perfection, to which we all aspire, there will be pleasure without danger, and security without restraint."
Johnson: Rasselas [Imlac]
Note: If you haven't read it yet, please read this note of caution regarding quotes from Rasselas.
Link


502. After-Life; Mortality; Salvation
"To me ... the choice of life is become less important; I hope hereafter to think only on the choice of eternity."
Johnson: Rasselas
Note: If you haven't read it yet, please read this note of caution regarding quotes from Rasselas.
Link


548. Mortality

"...We represent to ourselves the pleasure of some future possession, and suffer our thoughts to dwell attentively upon it, till it has wholly engrossed the imagination, and permits us not to conceive any happiness but its attainment, or any misery but its loss; every other satisfaction which the bounty of providence has scattered over life is neglected as inconsiderable, in consideration of the great object which we have placed before us, and is thrown from us as incumbering our activity, or trampled under foot as standing in our way.

"Every man has experienced how much of this ardour has been remitted, when a sharp or tedious sickness has set death before his eyes. The extensive influence of greatness, the glitter of wealth, the praises of admirers, and the attendance of supplicants have appeared vain and empty things, when the last hour seemed to be approaching; and the same appearance they would always have, if the same thought was always predominant. We should then find the absurdity of stretching out our arms incessantly to grasp that which we cannot keep, and wearing out our lives in endeavours to add new turrets to the fabric of ambition, when the foundation itself is shaking, and the ground on which it stands is mouldering away."

Johnson: Rambler #17 (May 15, 1750)
Link


551. Mortality
"He that considers how soon he must close his life will find nothing of so much importance as to close it well; and will, therefore, look with indifference upon whatever is useless to that purpose."
Johnson: Rambler #17 (May 15, 1750)
Link


555. Mortality
"The uncertainty of our duration ought at once to set bounds to our designs, and add incitements to our industry; and when we find ourselves inclined either to immensity in our schemes, or sluggishness in our endeavours, we may either check or animate ourselves, by recollecting, with the father of physic, that art is long, and life is short."
Johnson: Rambler #17 (May 15, 1750)
Link


657. Disease; Mortality
"He that ... wishes to see life stripped of those ornaments which make it glitter on stage, and exposed in its natural meanness, impotence, and nakedness, may find all the delusion laid open in the chamber of disease: he will there find vanity divested of her robes, power deprived of her sceptre, and hypocrisy without her mask."
Johnson: Rambler #54 (September 22, 1750)
Link


794. Mortality; Vanity; Virtue
"Among the many improvements made by the last centuries in human knowledge, may be numbered the exact calculations of the value of life; but whatever may be their use in traffic, they seem very little to have advanced morality. They have hitherto rather been applied to the acquisition of money than of wisdom; the computer refers none of his calculations to his own tenure, but persists, in contempt of probability, to foretell old age to himself, and believes that he is marked out to reach the utmost verge of human existence, and see thousands and ten thousands fall into the grave."
Johnson: Rambler #71 (November 20, 1750)
Link


795. Mortality
"We act as if life were without end, though we see and confess its uncertainty and shortness."
Johnson: Rambler #71 (November 20, 1750)
Link


796. Mortality; Time
"As he that lives longest lives but a little while, every man may be certain that he has no time to waste. The duties of life are commensurate to its duration, and every day brings its task, which, if neglected, is doubled on the morrow. But he that has already trifled away those months and years, in which he should have laboured, must remember that he has now only a part of that which the whole is little; and that, since the few moments remaining are to be considered as the last days of Heaven, not one is to be lost."
Johnson: Rambler #71 (November 20, 1750)
Link


876. Futurity; Mortality
"It is, indeed, apparent, from the constitution of the world, that there must be a time for other thoughts; and a perpetual meditation upon the last hour, however it may become the solitude of a monastery, is inconsistent with many duties of common life. But surely the remembrance of death ought to predominate in our minds, as an habitual and settled principle, always operating, though not always perceived; and our attention should seldom wander so far from our own condition as not to be recalled and fixed by the sight of an event which must soon, we know not how soon, happen likewise to ourselves, and of which, though we cannot appoint the time, we may secure the consequence."
Johnson: Rambler #78 (December 15, 1750)
Link


877. Futurity; Mortality; Narrowness
"Every instance of death may justly awaken our fears and quicken our vigilance; but its frequency so much weakens its effect that we are seldom alarmed unless some close connexion is broken, some scheme frustrated, or some hope defeated. Many, therefore, seem to pass on from youth to decrepitude without any reflection on the end of life, because they are wholly involved within themselves, and look on others only as inhabitants of the common earth, without any expectation of receiving good, or intention of bestowing it."
Johnson: Rambler #78 (December 15, 1750)
Link


942. Exercise; Mortality
"Exercise cannot secure us from that dissolution to which we are decreed; but while the soul and body continue united, it can make the association pleasing, and give probable hopes that they shall be disjoined by an easy separation."
Johnson: Rambler #85 (January 8, 1751)
Link


1,165. Death; Fear; Mortality
"To be always afraid of losing life is, indeed, scarcely to enjoy a life that can deserve the care of preservation. He that once indulges idle fears will never be at rest. Our present state admits only of a kind of negative security; we must conclude ourselves safe when we see no danger, or none inadequate to our powers of opposition. Death, indeed, continually hovers about us, but hovers commonly unseen, unless we sharpen our sight by useless curiosity."
Johnson: Rambler #126 (June 1, 1751)
Link


1,331. Life; Mortality; Satisfaction
"That life is short we are all convinced, and yet suffer not that conviction to repress our projects or limit our expectations; that life is miserable we all feel, and yet we believe that the time is near when we shall feel it no longer. But to hope happiness and immortality is equally vain. Our state may indeed be more or less imbittered as our duration may be more or less contracted; yet the utmost felicity which we can ever attain will be little better than alleviation of misery, and we shall always feel more pain from our wants than pleasure form our enjoyments."
Johnson: Rambler #165 (October 15, 1751)
Link


1,474. Happiness; Life; Mortality
"Every period of life is obliged to borrow its happiness from the time to come. In youth we have nothing to entertain us, and in age we derive little from retrospect but hopeless sorrow. Yet the future likewise has its limits, which the imagination dreads to approach, but which we see to be not far distant. The loss of our friends and companions impresses hourly upon the necessity of our own departure; we know that the schemes of man are quickly at an end, that we soon must lie down in the grave with the forgotten multitudes of former ages, and yield our place to others, who, like us, shall be driven a while by hope and fear about the surface of the earth, and then like us be lost in the shades of death. Beyond this termination of our material existence, we are therefore obliged to extend our hopes..."
Johnson: Rambler #203 (February 25, 1752)
Link


1,540. Delusion; Mortality

Tully has long ago observed, that no man, however weakened by long life, is so conscious of his own decrepitude, as not to imagine that he may yet hold his station in the world for another year.

Of the truth of this remark every day furnishes new confirmation: there is no time of life, in which men for the most part seem less to expect the stroke of death, than when every other eye sees it impending; or are more busy in providing for another year, than when it is plain to all but themselves, that at another year they cannot arrive.

Johnson: Adventurer #69 (July 3, 1753)
Link


1,693. Mortality; Mourning
"Nothing is more evident than that the decays of age must terminate in death; yet there is no man, says Tully, who does not believe that he may yet live another year; and there is none who does not, upon the same principle, hope for another year for his parent or his friend: but the fallacy will be in time detected; the last year, the last day must come. It has come, and is passed. The life which made my own life pleasant is at an end, and the gates of death are shut upon my prospects."
Johnson: Idler #41 (January 27, 1759)
Link


1,697. Mortality; Mourning
"Such is the course of nature, that whoever lives long must outlive those whom he loves and honours. Such is the condition of our present existence, that life must one time lose its associations, and every inhabitant of the earth must walk downward to the grave alone and unregarded, without any partner of his joy or grief, without any interested witness of his misfortunes or success."
Johnson: Idler #41 (January 27, 1759)
Link


1,855. Hot Air; Mortality
On Sunday, April 12, I found him at home before dinner; Dr. Dodd's poem entitled Thoughts in Prison was lying upon his table. This appearing to me an extraordinary effort by a man who was in Newgate for a capital crime, I was desirous to hear Johnson's opinion of it: to my surpize, he told me he had not read a line of it. I took up the book and read a passage to him. JOHNSON. "Pretty well, if you are previously disposed to like them." I read another passage, with which he was better pleased. He then took the book into his own hands, and having looked at the prayer at the end of it, he said, "What evidence is there that this was composed the night before he suffered? I do not believe it." He then read aloud where he prays for the King, &c. and observed, "Sir, do you think that a man the night before he is to be hanged cares for the succession of a royal family?— Though, he may have composed this prayer, then. A man who has been canting all his life, may cant to the last.— And yet a man who has been refused a pardon after so much petitioning, would hardly be praying thus fervently for the King."
Boswell: Life of Johnson
Link


1,863. Birthdays; Mortality; Regret
"Boswel, with some of his troublesome kindness, has informed this family, and reminded me that the eighteenth of September is my birthday. The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape. I can now look back upon threescore and four years, in which little has been done, and little has been enjoyed, a life diversified by misery, spent part in the sluggishness of penury, and part under the violence of pain, in gloomy discontent, or importunate distress. But perhaps I am better than I should have been, if I had been less afflicted. With this I will try to be content."
Johnson: Letter to Hester Thrale (September 21, 1773)
Link


1,867. Death; Mortality; Old Age
"Every funeral may justly be considered as a summons to prepare for that state, into which it shews us that we must sometime enter; and the summons is more loud and piercing, as the even of which it warns us is at less distance. To neglect at any time preparation for death, is to sleep on our post at a siege, but to omit it in old age, is to sleep at an attack."
Johnson: Rambler #78 (December 15, 1750)
Link


The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page
Back to Top
Home | Topical Guide | Search the SiteThis image is only to register visitors
who come through cached search engine pages.