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The middle way is no way at all. If we finally
fail in this great and glorious contest, it will
be by bewildering ourselves in groping for
the middle way.
--John Adams (1735—1826)
First VP and second President of the United States.
Letter to Gen. Horatio Gates [1776].

They fail, and they alone, who have not striven.
--Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836—1907)
American poet, short-story writer, and editor.
"Enamoured Architect of Airy Rhyme"

People always get what they want. But there is a
price for everything. Failures are either those who
do not know what they want or are not prepared
to pay the price asked them. The price varies from
individual to individual. Some get things at bargain-
sale prices, others only at famine prices. But it is
no use grumbling. Whatever price you are asked,
you must pay.
--W.H. [Wystan Hugh] Auden (1907—1973)
English-born poet and man of letters.
"The Smith College Commencement Address" [17 June 1940]

Argue for your limitations and sure enough they're yours.
--Richard Bach (b. 1936)
American writer.
_Illusions_ [1977]

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
--Samuel Beckett (1906—1989)
Irish dramatist, novelist, and poet.
_Worstward Ho_ [1983]

How the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle.
"II Samuel" 1:25

Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try
new things. The saddest summary of life contains
three descriptions: could have, might have, and
should have.
--Louis Boone (b. 1941)
American academic author.
Quoted in John L. Mason _Conquering an Enemy Called Average_ [1996].


Better to have failed in the high aim, as I,
Than vulgarly in the low aim succeed, —
As God be thanked! I do not.
--Robert Browning (1812—1889)
English poet.
_The Inn Album_, Pt iv, l. 450 [1875]

The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life;
Try to be Shakespeare, leave the rest to fate!
--Robert Browning (1812—1889)
English poet.
'Bishop Blougram's Apology', in _Men and Women_ [1855].


His early dreams of good outstripp'd the truth,
And troubled manhood follow'd baffled youth.
--Lord Byron [George Gordon Byron] (1788—1824)
English Romantic poet and satirist.
_Lara: A Tale_, Canto 1, XVIII [1814]

Success is the ability to go from one failure
to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
--attributed to Winston Churchill (1874—1965)
British Conservative statesman and
Prime Minister [1940—1945, 1951—1955].

Then join Hand in Hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.
--John Dickinson (1732—1808)
American politician.
"A Song for American Freedom," called The Liberty Song,
first published in _The Boston Gazette_ [18 July 1768].


I have not failed. I've just found
10,000 ways that won't work.
--Thomas Alva Edison (1847—1931)
American inventor.
Quoted in Richard E Londgren
_ Communication by Objectives_, p. 117 [1983].

& see:

[On the ending of an attempted around-the-world balloon flight:]
I don't think we have failed, we have just
found another way that doesn't work.
--Andy Elson
British balloon pilot.
Hamamatsu, Japan [7 March 1999].


If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then
quit. No use being a damn fool about it.
--W. C. Fields [William Claude Dukenfield] (1880—1946)
American vaudeville star and film actor.
Attributed in Art Cohn _The Joker is Wild: The Story of Joe E. Lewis_ [1955].

The bigger they come, the harder they fall.
--Bob Fitzsimmons (1863—1917)
British boxer.
When asked by a newspaper reporter if he could defeat the much
heavier James J. Jeffries [9 June 1899]. (Fitzsimmons lost.)

And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope.
--Robert Frost (1874—1963)
American poet.
"The Death of the Hired Man", in _North of Boston_ [1914].

Because a fellow has failed once or twice, or a dozen
times, you don't want to set him down as a failure —
unless he has failing too easy. No man's a failure till
he's dead or loses his courage, and that's the same
--John Graham
Letter to his son Pierrepont [4 October 189-]
In George Lorimer _Old Gorgon Graham - More
Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son_ [1904]

Anybody's life may be just as romantic and strange and interesting if
he or she fails as if he or she succeed. All the difference is, that the
last chapter is wanting in the story.
--Thomas Hardy (1840—1928)
English novelist and poet.
_A Pair of Blue Eyes_, ch. 19 [1873]

We don't discover what we can't achieve
until we make an effort not to try.
--Piet Hein (1905—1996)
Danish poet and mathematician.
"Making an Effort"

For want of a nail the shoe is lost, for want of
a shoe the horse is lost, for want of a horse the
rider is lost.
--George Herbert (1593—1633)
English religious poet.
_Jacula Prudentum_ (Outlandish Proverbs) [1640]


There is no loneliness greater than
the loneliness of a failure.
--Eric Hoffer (1902—1983)
American longshoreman, philosopher, and author who
received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982.
_The Passionate State of Mind: And Other Aphorisms_ [1955]

There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than
an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything
permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day:
we have to prove that we are as good today as we were
yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving
anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.
--Eric Hoffer (1902—1983)
American longshoreman, philosopher, and author who
received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982.
_The Passionate State of Mind: And Other Aphorisms_ [1955]


A failure is a man who has blundered, but
is not able to cash in on the experience.
--Elbert Hubbard (1859—1915)
American editor, publisher, and author who died in the sinking of the "Lusitania."
_The Roycroft Dictionary and Book of Epigrams_ [1923]

It is a most mortifying reflection for a man to consider what
he has done, compared to what he might have done.
--Samuel Johnson (1709—1784)
English poet, critic, and lexicographer.
In James Boswell _The Life of Samuel Johnson_ [1791].

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
--Robert F. Kennedy (1925—1968)
American Democratic politician.
Speech to the National Union of South African students [7 June 1966].

He had delusions of adequacy.
--attributed to Walter Kerr (1913—1996)
American theater critic [husband of Jean Kerr].

Every great improvement has come after repeated
failures. Virtually nothing comes out right the first
time. Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts
on the road to achievement.
--Charles F. Kettering (1876—1958)
American inventor.
Attributed in "Science Education" [1961].

A man may fall many times but he won't be a
failure until he says that someone pushed him.
--Elmer G. Leterman (1897—1982)
American insurance executive and author.
Quoted in Jacob Morton Braude _The Speaker's Desk
Book of Quips, Quotes, and Anecdotes_ [1966].


The *probability* that we may fail in the struggle
*ought not* deter us from the support of a cause
we believe to be just; it *shall not* deter me.
--Abraham Lincoln (1809—1865)
American Republican statesman, President [1861—1865].
"The Sub-Treasury" speech in the House of
Representatives at Springfield, Illinois [26 December 1839].

Abraham Lincoln's failures:

He failed as a business man - as a storekeeper.
He failed as a farmer - he despised this work.
He failed in his first attempt to obtain political office.
When elected to the legislature he failed when he sought the office of speaker.
He failed in his first attempt to go to Congress.
He failed when he sought the appointment to the United States Land Office.
He failed when he ran for the United States Senate.
He failed when friends sought for him the nomination for the Vice-Presidency in 1856.


It takes as much courage to have tried and
failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.
--Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906—2001)
American writer and wife of Charles Lindbergh.
Quoted in "Time" (mag.) [1977].

The common idea that success spoils people by making
them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous;
on the contrary, it makes them, for the most part, humble,
tolerant, and kind. Failure makes people bitter and cruel.
--W. Somerset Maugham (1874—1965)
English novelist, playwright, and short-story writer.
_The Summing Up_ [1938]

The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of
a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true
desserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world,
all of his congenital incapacity and damfoolishness, to the
machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or
some other such den of infamy. If these villains could be put
down, he holds, he would at once become rich, powerful
and eminent. Nine politicians out of every ten, of whatever
party, live and have their being by promising to perform
this putting down. In brief, they are knaves who maintain
themselves by preying on the idiotic vanities and pathetic
hopes of half-wits.
--H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (1880—1956)
American journalist and literary critic.
Baltimore "Evening Sun" [15 June 1936]

Be nice to people on your way up because
you'll meet them on your way down.
--Wilson Mizner (1876—1933)
American playwright.
Quoted in Evan Esar _The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations_ [1949].

[Of doctors:]
The sun shines on their successes,
and the earth hides their failures.
--Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533—1592)
French moralist and essayist.
_Essays_ [1588] tr. Donald M. Frame [1958]
"Of the Resemblance of Children to Fathers"

Curses, foiled again.
--"Moon Mullins' (comic strip) in _Chicago Daily Tribune_ [9 January 1930].

There are few pains so grievous as to have seen, divined, or
experienced how an exceptional man has missed his way
and deteriorated.
--Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844—1900)
German classical scholar, philosopher, and critic of culture.
_Beyond Good and Evil_ [1887]

If he did not succeed, he at least
failed in a glorious undertaking.
--Ovid [Publius Ovidius Naso] (43 B.C.—18 A.D.)
Roman poet.
Attributed in J. K. Hoyt & Anna L. Ward (eds.)
_The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations_ [4th ed. 1882].

Empty pockets never held anyone back. It's
only empty heads and empty hearts that do
--Norman Vincent Peale (1898—1993)
American preacher and author.
_Enthusiasm Makes the Difference_ [1985]

Supposing you have tried and failed again and again.
You may have a fresh start any moment you choose,
for this thing that we call "failure" is not the falling
down, but the staying down.
--Mary Pickford [Gladys Mary Smith] (1894—1979)
Canadian-born American motion-picture actress.
_Why Not Try God?_ [1934]

Being young is greatly overestimated. . . . Any
failure seems so total. Later on you realize you
can have another go.
--Mary Quant (b. 1934)
English fashion designer.
In "Observer" [5 May 1996].

Like the sorry tapping of Neville Chamberlain's
umbrella on the cobblestones of Munich.
--Ronald Reagan (1911—2004)
American President [1981—1989] and former Hollywood actor.
On the foreign policy of Jimmy Carter [1980].

Don't let yourself be victimized by the age you
live in. It's not the times that will bring us down,
any more than it's society. When you put blame
on the society, then you end up turning to society
for the solution. [...] There's a tendency today to
absolve individuals of moral responsibility and
tread them as victims of social circumstance. You
buy that, you pay with your soul. It's not men who
limit women, it's not straights who limit gays, it's
not whites who limit blacks. What limits people is
lack of character. What limits people is that they
don't have the fucking nerve or imagination to
star in their own movie, let alone direct it.
--Tom Robbins (b. 1936)
American author.
_Still Life with Woodpecker_ [1980]

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious
triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to
rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much
nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight
that knows not victory nor defeat.
--Theodore Roosevelt (1858—1919)
American Republican statesman and President [1901—1909].
Speech in Chicago, Illinois [10 April 1899].

It is greatly to Mrs. Patrick Campbell's credit that,
bad as the play was, her acting was worse. It was
a masterpiece of failure.
--George Bernard Shaw (1856—1950)
Irish dramatist and critic.
Review of "Fedora" [25 May 1895].

You may be disappointed if you fail,
but you are doomed if you don't try.
--Beverly Sills (1929—2007)
American opera singer.
Quoted in _Time_, vol. 117 [1981].

Trying is the first step toward failure.
"The Simpsons" [7 December 1997]
(Spoken by Homer Simpson)

Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.
--attributed to Sophocles (496?—406 B.C.)
Greek dramatist.

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I
can give you the formula for failure, which is:
Try to please everybody.
--Herbert Bayard Swope (1882—1958)
American editor and journalist; the first recipient
of the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting [1917].
Speech, St. Louis, Missouri [20 December 1950].

He slandered the world in revenge for
his complete lack of success in it.
--Voltaire (Franηois Marie Arouet) (1694—1778)
French writer and philosopher.
_Zadig_ [1747], tr. H.I. Woolf [1949]


[Of Ulysses S. Grant:]

He married Julia in 1848, and had three sons and a daughter. The army
sent him to a Pacific outpost without them. He was miserable and lonely,
unable to earn enough extra money to bring his family west. A grocery
failed; so did a scheme to raise potatoes. His savings melted away. He
began to drink. "You do not know how forsaken I feel here," he wrote
Julia. "I sometimes get so anxious to see you and our little boys, that
I am almost tempted to resign and trust to Providence, and my own
exertions for a living. Whenever I get to thinking upon the subject,
however, poverty, poverty begins to stare me in the face."

In 1854, he did resign his commission and went back east to rejoin
Julia and work a piece of land his father-in-law gave him. He called
it "hardscrabble farm" and could not make a go of it, either, even
when he hired two slaves to help with the work.

He tried bill collecting, real estate, peddling firewood on the streets
of St. Louis. Nothing worked. One Christmas, he pawned his watch
to buy his family Christmas presents. Finally, his father gave him a
job clerking in his leather store in Galena, Illinois; his older brother
was the boss. He was there, living quietly and sometimes talking
politics with a neighbor, John A. Rawlings, when the war began.

--Geoffrey C. Ward (b. 1940)
American editor, author, & historian.
_The Civil War: An Illustrated History_ [1990], ch. 4 "Most Hallowed Ground"
(Written w/Ric Burns and Ken Burns.)


I always turn to the sports pages first, which
records people's accomplishments. The front
page has nothing but man's failures.
--Earl Warren (1891—1974)
American jurist, the 14th Chief Justice of the United States [1953-69].
Quoted in "Sports Illustrated" [22 July 1968].

If a man has a talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If he
has a talent and uses only half of it, he has partly failed. If
he has a talent and learns somehow to use the whole of it,
he has gloriously succeeded, and won a satisfaction and a
triumph few men ever know.
--Thomas Wolfe (1900—1938)
American novelist.
_The Web and the Rock_ [1939]


Our greatest glory consists not in never
falling, but in rising every time we fall.
In "The Literary World" [19 July 1851].

The great question is not whether you have failed,
but whether you are content with failure.
In "The Sabbath Recorder" (Plainfield, N.J.) [8 August 1910].

If you always do what you always did,
you will always get what you always got.


bathos (noun) ['bζ-thos]
A dramatic fall from the exalted to the commonplace
in a ludicrous manner, usually because of a common
foible; banality.

declivity (noun) [dκ-'kli-vκ-tee]
A downward slope.

demimonde [DEM-ee-mond; Fr. duh-mee-MAWND], noun:
1. A group characterized by lack of success
or status: the literary demimonde.
2. (Especially during the last half of the 19th
century) a class of women who have lost their
standing in respectable society because of
indiscreet behavior or sexual promiscuity.

1. Ineffective: unable or unwilling to do anything useful
2. Unlikely to be successful: lacking the thought or organization necessary to succeed

insuperable [in-SOO-pur-uh-bul], adjective:
Incapable of being passed over, surmounted, or overcome; insurmountable.

recidivism (noun):
A tendency to lapse into a previous condition or pattern of
behavior; especially, a falling back or relapse into prior
criminal habits.

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