Meaning of a quote

I collect quotes, and I probably have several hundred of them. Now and then I find one that looks like it means something profound, but I am unclear on what the originator meant by it.

Such is Samuel Johnson’s, “Let me smile with the wise and feed with the rich.”

I see this as meaning let me take what benefit I can, wherever I find it; be it material, spiritual, financial, social, etc.

Or does it mean I wiil agree to anything if it will benefit me over the long haul?

Youir thoughts?

“The rich are dull but there’s free grub, dear boy”

“I want to be as happy and secure in the non-material (wisdom) as a wise person and as secure in the material (food and other physical comforts/possessions) as a rich person.”

Let me share in the advantages of those who I’m with.

Money provides the practical necessities (food), but wisdom is the source of true happiness.

I compare it to a question my boss asked me often years ago in my first job after college: “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” I didn’t have an answer at the time, but many years later I came to realize that being smart/wise/educated often had little to do with being adept at making (or inheriting) money.


We smile when we are comfortable, relaxed, understand and/or can contribute. I read it as “Let me associate with the wise men and be comfortable around them because I understand and can make valuable contributions to the conversation, but dayum, them rich boyz gots lobster!”

If you feed with the poor, will you smile? Or even feel particularly wise about the company you’re keeping?

To me it means contentment is more easily found when keeping the company of the content.

I think it means It’s great to empathize with the masses and understand the big picture but in the here-and-now I’m as self-serving as anybody else, so “Let [me] eat cake!”

I believe the standard answer is “I’d rather be rich than stupid.”

It sounds to me like something that would be more clear in context. So here’s the context:

Mrs. Thrale then praised Garrick’s talents for light gay poetry; and, as a specimen, repeated his song in “Florizel and Perdita,” and dwelt with peculiar pleasure on this line:
[INDENT] “I’d smile with the simple, and feed with the poor.”
JOHNSON. “Nay, my dear Lady, this will never do. Poor David! Smile with the simple; — What folly is that? And who would feed with the poor that can help it? No, no; let me smile with the wise, and feed with the rich.” I repeated this sally to Garrick, and wondered to find his sensibility as a writer not a little irritated by it. To sooth him I observed, that Johnson spared none of us; and I quoted the passage in Horace, in which he compares one who attacks his friends for the sake of a laugh, to a pushing ox, that is marked by a bunch of hay put upon his horns: "fænum habet in cornu.” “Ay, (said Garrick, vehemently,) he has a whole mow of it.”[/INDENT]

A little more context: Garrick is running for office, and Johnson doesn’t seem to like him, but we’re not sure, since he gets upset over the silliest things.

Pretty much this. It’s saying sure, intelligence, wisdom, and all that jazz is great, but at the end of the day material goods are pretty nice. Starving genius artists are good friends to hang around with and talk philosophy, but to be one? Meh.