Quotes By Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”


“Much as the sage may affect to despise the opinion of the world, there are few who would not rather expose their lives a hundred times than be condemned to live on, in society, but not of it - a by-word of reproach to all who know their history, and a mark for scorn to point his finger at.”


“Thus did they nurse their folly, as the good wife of Tam O’Shanter did her wrath, “to keep it warm.”


“We all pay an involuntary homage to antiquity – a “blind homage,” as Bacon calls it in his “Novum Organum,” which tends greatly to the obstruction of truth. To the great majority of mortal eyes, Time sanctifies everything that he does not destroy. The mere fact of anything being spared by the great foe makes it a favourite with us, who are sure to fall his victims.”


“Injury was aggravated by insult, and insult was embittered by pleasantry.”


“A company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.”


“Three causes especially have excited the discontent of mankind; and, by impelling us to seek for remedies for the irremediable, have bewildered us in a maze of madness and error. These are death, toil, and ignorance of the future—the doom of man upon this sphere, and for which he shews his antipathy by his love of life, his longing for abundance, and his craving curiosity to pierce the secrets of the days to come. The first has led many to imagine that they might find means to avoid death, or, failing in this, that they might, nevertheless, so prolong existence as to reckon it by centuries instead of units. From this sprang the search, so long continued and still pursued, for the elixir vitæ, or water of life, which has led thousands to pretend to it and millions to believe in it. From the second sprang the absurd search for the philosopher's stone, which was to create plenty by changing all metals into gold; and from the third, the false sciences of astrology, divination, and their divisions of necromancy, chiromancy, augury, with all their train of signs, portents, and omens.”


“In England many persons have a singular love for the relics of thieves and murderers, or other great criminals. The ropes with which they have been hanged are very often bought by collectors at a guinea per foot. Great sums were paid for the rope which hanged Dr. Dodd, and for those more recently which did justice upon Mr. Fauntleroy for forgery, and on Thurtell for the murder of Mr. Weare. The murder of Maria Marten, by Corder, in the year 1828, excited the greatest interest all over the country. People came from Wales and Scotland, and even from Ireland, to visit the barn where the body of the murdered woman was buried. Every one of them was anxious to carry away some memorial of his visit. Pieces of the barn-door, tiles from the roof, and, above all, the clothes of the poor victim, were eagerly sought after. A lock of her hair was sold for two guineas, and the purchaser thought himself fortunate in getting it so cheaply.”


“During seasons of great pestilence men have often believed the prophecies of crazed fanatics, that the end of the world was come. Credulity is always greatest in times of calamity. Prophecies of all sorts are rife on such occasions, and are readily believed, whether for good or evil. During the great plague, which ravaged all Europe, between the years 1345 and 1350, it was generally considered that the end of the world was at hand. Pretended prophets were to be found in all the principal cities of Germany, France, and Italy, predicting that within ten years the trump of the Archangel would sound, and the Saviour appear in the clouds to call the earth to judgment.”