He that would eat the nut must crack the shell.

—Plautus, c. 200 BC

Toil is man’s allotment; toil of brain, or toil of hands, or a grief that’s more than either, the grief and sin of idleness.

—Herman Melville, 1849

The best augury of a man’s success in his profession is that he thinks it the finest in the world.

—George Eliot, 1876

The most fitting occupation for a civilized man is to do nothing.

—Théophile Gautier, c. 1835

In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it; they must not do too much of it; and they must have a sense of success in it.

—John Ruskin, 1850

Man must be doing something, or fancy that he is doing something, for in him throbs the creative impulse; the mere basker in the sunshine is not a natural, but an abnormal man.

—Henry George, 1879

I hate the present modes of living and getting a living. Farming and shopkeeping and working at a trade or profession are all odious to me. I should relish getting my living in a simple, primitive fashion.

—Henry David Thoreau, 1855

Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.

—Ulysses S. Grant, 1877

A human being must have occupation, if he or she is not to become a nuisance to the world.

—Dorothy L. Sayers, 1947

Labor is no disgrace.

—Hesiod, c. 700 BC

Sick, irritated, and the prey to a thousand discomforts, I go on with my labor like a true workingman, who, with sleeves rolled up, in the sweat of his brow, beats away at his anvil, not caring whether it rains or blows, hails or thunders.

—Gustave Flaubert, 1845

One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day, nor drink for eight hours a day, nor make love for eight hours.

—William Faulkner, 1958

God sells us all things at the price of labor.

—Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1500

“Work” does not exist in a nonliterate world. The primitive hunter or fisherman did no work, any more than does the poet, painter, or thinker of today. Where the whole man is involved there is no work.

—Marshall McLuhan, 1964

You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation.

—Billie Holiday, 1956

If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper that did his job well.

—Martin Luther King Jr., 1954

All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.

—Aristotle, c. 330 BC

A tremendous number of people in America work very hard at something that bores them. Even a rich man thinks he has to go down to the office everyday. Not because he likes it but because he can't think of anything else to do.

—W.H. Auden, 1946

Hang work! I wish that all the year were holiday; I am sure that Indolence—indefeasible Indolence—is the true state of man.

—Charles Lamb, 1805

The workers are the saviors of society, the redeemers of the race.

—Eugene V. Debs, 1905

A man is not idle, because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labor and there is an invisible labor.

—Victor Hugo, 1862

Plough deep while sluggards sleep.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1758

I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.

—Jerome K. Jerome, 1889

Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another.

—Anatole France, 1881

Every man is worth just so much as the things he busies himself with.

—Marcus Aurelius, c. 175

To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual.

—Oscar Wilde, 1891

Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will.

—Slogan of the National Labor Union of the United States, 1866

It is shameful and inhuman to treat men like chattels to make money by, or to regard them merely as so much muscle or physical power.

—Pope Leo XIII, 1891

I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours, a fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do.

—Roald Dahl, 1984

Man is a tool-using animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.

—Thomas Carlyle, 1836

Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

—Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

The three little sentences that will get you through life. Number 1: Cover for me. Number 2: Oh, good idea, Boss! Number 3: It was like that when I got here.

—Nell Scovell, 1991

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

—Upton Sinclair, 1935

I am a friend of the workingman, and I would rather be his friend than be one.

—Clarence Darrow, 1932