Ambition, n. An overmastering desire to be vilified
by enemies while
living and made ridiculous by friends when dead. Ambrose Gwinett Bierce The Cynic's Word Book. Retitled The Devil's
'I only took the regular course.' 'What was that?'
inquired Alice. Carroll 'Reeling and Writhing, of course, to
begin with,'the MockTurtle replied; 'and then the
different branches of ArithmeticAmbition,
Distraction,Uglification, and Derision.' Dodgson
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, ch.9,'The Mock Turtle's Story'.
who lived behind those clean lace curtains in row after row of
identical boxes were newspaper readers, and every
word in at any rate my newspaper must be clear and
comprehensible to them, must be interesting to
them, must encourage them to break away from littleness,
stimulate their ambition, help them to want to build a
better land. Arthur Christiansen Headlines all my Life, ch.1.
This monstrous mixture of imbecility, extravagance and political hysteria,
better known as the Bill for the future government of
Irelandthis farrago of superlative nonsense, is to be
put in motion for this reason and no other: to
gratify the ambition of an old man in a hurry. Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill Pamphlet attacking Gladstone's Home Rule Bill,
At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And
myambition has been growing steadily ever
since. Salvador Dal| The Secret Life of Salvador Dal|, prologue.
What argufies pride and ambition? Soon or late death
will take us in tow: Each bullet has got
its commission, And when our time's
come we must go. Porfirio Diaz 'Each Bullet Has Got
Its Commission'. First published1803.
And all my endeavours are unlucky explorers come back,
abandoning the expedition; the specimens, the
lilies of ambition still spring in
their climate, still unpicked; but time, time is
all I lacked to find them, as
the great collectors before me. Gavin Douglas 'On a Return from Egypt,1943^44' (published1946).
What cannot praise effect in mighty minds, When flattery
soothes, and when ambition blinds! John Dryden Absalom and Achitophel, pt.1, l.303^4.
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil, Their homely joys
and destiny obscure; Nor Grandeur hear,
with a disdainful smile, The short and
simple annals of the poor. The boast of
heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that
beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits alike th'
inevitable hour, The paths of glory
lead but to the grave. Thomas Gray Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, l.29^36.
writer's ambition should beto trade a hundred contemporary
readers for ten readers in ten years'time and for one reader
in a hundred years. Arthur Koestler In the NewYork Times Book Review,1 Apr.
Iwanted toattempt something of ambition and size even if that meant I
might be accused of straying too close to ambition's ugly
twin, pretentiousness. Tony Kushner Of his Angels in America, written in two parts.
In the New York Times, 21 Nov.
Shenever wantedtobe sexy, but inthose daysambitions were different, and
she was the most ambitious of them all. Karl Lagerfeld Of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. In
the NewYork Times,19 Sep.
My ambition is that men should have a voluptuous feeling when they
look at the portraits I paint of women. Love interests me
more than painting. My pictures are the love stories I
tell to myself and which I want to tell others. Marie Laurencin Quoted in Gabrielle Buffet 'Marie
Laurencin', in The Arts 3 (1903).
Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present: fear, avarice, lust and
ambition look ahead. C(live) S(taples) Lewis The Screwtape Letters, no.15.
It is ambition enough to be employed as an under- labourer in clearing
ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that
lies in the way to knowledge. 514 John Locke Essay Concerning Human Understanding,'Epistle to
The lower still I fall, only supreme In misery; such joy
ambition finds. John Milton Satan. Paradise Lost (published1667), bk.4, l.91^2.
Here, of all her cities, throbbed the true lifethe
true power and spirit of
America; gigantic, crude with the crudityof youth,
disdaining rivalry; saneand healthyand vigorous; brutal in
its ambition, arrogant in the new- found knowledge of
its giant strength, prodigal of its wealth, infinite in
its desires. Frank Benjamin Franklin Norris Of Chicago. The Pit, ch.2.
During my tenure of power, myearnest wish has beento impress the people
of this country with a belief that the legislature was
animated bya sincere desire to frame its legislation upon
the principles of equity and justice Deprive me of power
tomorrow, but you can never deprive me of the
consciousness that I have exercised the powers committed
to me from no corrupt or interested motives,
from no desire to gratifyambition, or to attain any personal
object. Sir Robert Peel On the repeal of the Corn Laws, House of Commons, 15 May.
Amid the wreck and the misery of nations it is our just exaltation that we
have continued superior to all that ambition or
despotism could effect; and our still higher exaltation ought to
be that we provide not only for our own safety but hold
out a prospect for nations now bending under the
yoke of tyranny of what the exertions of a free people
can effect. William known as theYounger Pitt Speech to the House of Commons, 25 Apr.
Awake, my St.John! leave all meaner things To low ambition,
and the pride of kings. Let us (since Life
can little more supply Than just to look
about us and to die) Expatiate free o'er
all this scene of man; A mighty maze! but
not without a plan. Alexander Pope An Essay on Man, epistle1, l.1^6.
No one ever complains if a great artist says that he was driven to create a
masterpiece by a hunger for recognition and
money.But a scientist? Well, he ismeant to be
disinterested, pure, his ambition merely to descry the cement of the
universe. He isn't meant to use it to start laying his
own patio. Will Self The QuantityTheory of Insanity and Five Supporting Propositions,'The
QuantityTheory of Insanity'.
Whatever may have been my enthusiasm or impatience to be up and doing
on the night before, the hour for getting up always
finds me with no other ambition in the world than to be
permitted to lie where I am and sleep, sleep, sleep.Not
soTilman.Ihave never met anyonewith such a complete
disregard for the sublime comforts of the early morning
bed. However monstrously early we might decide,
thenight before, toget up, hewas about at least half an hour
before the time. He was generally very good about it, and
used to sit placidly smoking his pipe over the fire. Eric Earle Shipton On climbing with H W (Bill) Tilman. Nanda Devi.
Ambition if it feeds at all, does so on the ambition of others. Susan Sontag The Benefactor, ch.1.
Ambition, madam, is a great man's madness, That is not kept in
chains, and close-pent rooms, But in fair
lightsome lodgings, and isgirt With the wild noise
of prattling visitants, Which makes it
lunatic beyond all cure. John Webster The Duchess of Malfi, act1, sc.1.