"Is getting a hundred thousand pounds a proof of excellence?
That has been done by a scoundrel commissary."
Fitzpatrick: "I have been looking at this famous antique
marble dog of Mr. Jennings, valued at a thousand guineas, said to
be Alcibiades's dog." ... Burke: "A thousand guineas!
The representation of no animal whatever is worth so much. At
this rate a dead dog would indeed be better than a living lion."
Johnson: "Sir, it is not the worth of the thing, but of
the skill in forming it which is so highly estimated. Every
thing that enlarges the sphere of human powers, that shows man he
can do what he thought he could not do, is valuable. The first
man who balanced a straw upon his nose; Johnson, who rode upon
three horses at a time; in short, all such men deserved the
applause of mankind, not on account of the use of what they did,
but of the dexterity which they exhibited."
"In the esteem of uncorrupted reason, what is of most use is of
Johnson: Rambler #60 (October 13, 1750)
739. Effort; Quality; Value
"Where there is no difficulty there is no praise."
Johnson: Dryden (Lives of the Poets)
873. Value; Virtue; Wisdom
"It is ... the business of wisdom and virtue to select, among
numberless objects striving for our notice, such as may enable us
to exalt our reason, extend our views, and secure our happiness.
But this choice is to be made with very little regard to rareness
or frequency; for nothing is valuable merely because it is either
rare or common, but because it is adapted to some useful purpose,
and enables us to supply some deficiency of our natures."
Johnson: Rambler #78 (December 15, 1750)
1,232. Class; Value
"If we estimate dignity by immediate usefulness, agriculture is
undoubtedly the first and noblest science; yet we see the plough
driven, the clod broken, the manure spread, the seeds scattered,
and the harvest reaped, by men whom those that feed upon their
industry will never be persuaded to admit into the same rank with
heroes or with sages; and who, after all the confessions which
truth may extort in favour of their occupation, must be content
to fill up the lowest class of the commonwealth, to form the base
of the pyramid of subordination, and lie buried in obscurity
themselves, while they support all that is splendid, conspicuous,
Johnson: Rambler #145 (August 6, 1751)
"Remuneratory honours are proportioned at once to the usefulness
and difficulty of performances, and are properly adjusted by
comparison of the mental and corporeal abilities which they
appear to employ. That work, however necessary, which is carried
on only by muscular strength and manual dexterity, is not of
equal esteem, in the consideration of rational beings, with the
tasks that exercise the intellectual powers, and require the
active vigour of imagination, or the gradual and laborious
investigations of reason."
Johnson: Rambler #145 (August 6, 1751)
1,368. Envy; Value
"Every possession is endeared by novelty; every gratification is
exaggerated by desire. It is difficult not to estimate what is
lately gained above its real value; it is impossible not to annex
greater happiness to that condition from which we are unwillingly
excluded than nature has qualified us to obtain."
Johnson: Rambler #172 (November 9, 1751)
1,594. Desire; Value
"For a mind diseased with vain longings after unattainable
advantages, no medicine can be prescribed, but an impartial
enquiry into the real worth of that which is so ardently desired.
It is well known, how much the mind, as well as the eye, is
deceived by distance; and, perhaps, it will be found, that of
many imagined blessings it may be doubted, whether he that wants
or possesses them has more reason to be satisfied with his
Johnson: Adventurer #111 (November 27, 1753)
1,606. Desires; Value
"To prize every thing according to its real use ought to
be the aim of a rational being. There are few things which can
much conduce to happiness, and, therefore, few things to be
Johnson: Adventurer #119 (December 25, 1753)
1,856. Reading; Value
"Compositions merely pretty have the fate of other pretty things,
and are quitted in time for something useful: they are flowers
fragrant and fair, but of short duration; or they are blossoms to
be valued only as they foretell fruits."
Johnson: Waller (Lives of the Poets)
1,868. Desires; Value
"Value is more frequently raised by scarcity than by use. That
which lay neglected when it was common, rises in estimation as
its quantity becomes less. We seldom learn the true want of what
we have, till it is discovered that we can have no more."
Johnson: Idler #103 (April 5, 1760)