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[ Also see Argument Cleverness Conversation Dullness Eloquence Epigrams Humor Irony Jesting Jokes Language Levity Merriment Pun Repartee Ridicule Sarcasm Satire Smiles Speech Wisdom Witticisms ]

Look, he's winding up the watch of his wit; by and by it will strike.
      - William Shakespeare, The Tempest
         (Sebastian at II, i)

I know so. But, gentle Lady Anne,
  To leave this keen encounter of our wits
    And fall something into a slower method--
      Is not the causer of the timeless deaths
        Of these Plantagenets, Henry and Edward,
          As blameful as the executioner?
      - William Shakespeare,
        The Tragedy of King Richard the Third
         (King Richard at I, ii)

Methinks sometimes I have no more wit than a Christian or an ordinary man has.
      - William Shakespeare,
        Twelfth Night, or, What You Will
         (Andrew at I, iii)

Wit, an't be thy will, put me into good fooling. Those wits that think they have thee do very oft prove fools, and I that am sure I lack thee may pass for a wise man. For what says Quinapalus? "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit?"
      - William Shakespeare,
        Twelfth Night, or, What You Will
         (Clown at I, v)

Find enough clever things to say, and you're a Prime Minister; write them down and you're a Shakespeare.
      - George Bernard Shaw

His fine wit makes such a wound, the knife is lost in it.
      - Percy Bysshe Shelley

Superiority in wit is more frequently the cause of vanity than superiority of judgment; as the person that wears an ornamental sword is even more vain than he that wears a useful one.
      - William Shenstone

Wit is the refractory pupil of judgment.
      - William Shenstone

There's no possibility of being witty without a little ill-nature; the malice of a good thing is the barb that makes it stick.
      - Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The essence of every species of wit is surprise; which, vi termini, must be sudden; and the sensations which wit has a tendency to excite are impaired or destroyed as often as they are mingled with much thought or passion.
      - Sydney Smith

The wit of language is so miserably inferior to the wit of ideas that it is very deservedly driven out of good company.
      - Sydney Smith

When wit is combined with sense and information; when it is softened by benevolence and restrained by strong principle; when it is in the hands of a man who can use it and despise it, who can be witty and something much better than witty, who loves honor, justice, decency, good-nature, morality, and religion, ten thousand times better than wit,--wit is then a beautiful and delightful part of our nature.
      - Sydney Smith

Wit gives to life one of its best flavors; common-sense leads to immediate action, and gives society its daily motion; large and comprehensive views, its annual rotation; ridicule chastises folly and imprudence, and keeps men in their proper sphere; subtlety seizes hold of the fine threads of truth; analogy darts away in the most sublime discoveries; feeling paints all the exquisite passions of man's soul, and rewards him by a thousand inward visitations for the sorrows that come from without.
      - Sydney Smith

Man could direct his ways by plain reason, and support his life by tasteless food; but God has given us wit, and flavour, and brightness, and laughter, and perfumers, to enliven the days of man's pilgrimage, and to "charm his pained steps over the burning marle."
      - Sydney Smith,
        Dangers and Advantages of Wit

Surprise is so essential an ingredient of wit that no wit will bear repetition;--at least the original electrical feeling produced by any piece of wit can never be renewed.
      - Sydney Smith, Lectures of Moral Philosophy
         (no. 10)

One wit, like a knuckle ham in soup, gives a zest and flavour to the dish, but more than one serves only to spoil the pottage.
      - Tobias George Smollett, Humphrey Clinker

As the repute of wisdom, so of wit also, is very casual, sometimes a lucky saying or a pertinent reply has procured an esteem of wit to persons otherwise very shallow; so that, if such a one should have the ill-hap to strike a man dead with a smart saying, it ought in all reason and conscience to be judged but a chance medley.
      - Bishop Robert South

Even when there is a real stock of wit, yet the wittiest sayings and sentences will be found in a great measure the issue of chance, and nothing else but so many lucky hits of a roving fancy.
      - Bishop Robert South

That is not wit which consists not with wisdom.
      - Bishop Robert South

Oh, help thou my weak wit, and sharpen, my dull tongue!
      - Edmund Spenser

Wit consists in knowing the resemblance of things which differ, and the difference of things which are alike.
      - Madame de Stael (Baronne Anne Louise Germaine de Stael-Holstein),
        Germany (pt. III, ch. VIII)

It is having in some measure a sort of wit to know how to use the wit of others.
      - Leszczynski Stanislaus ("Stanislaus I"),
        Maxims and Moral Sentences

If wit is to be measured by the circumstances of time and place, there is no man has generally so little of that talent as he who is a wit by profession. What he says, instead of arising from the occasion, has an occasion invented for bringing it in.
      - Sir Richard Steele

I cannot imagine why we should be at the expense to furnish wit for succeeding ages, when the former have made no sort of provision for ours.
      - Jonathan Swift

Perpetual aiming at wit is a very bad part of conversation. It is done to support a character: it generally fails; it is a sort of insult on the company, and a restraint upon the speaker.
      - Jonathan Swift

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