Whate’er thou art, act well thy part.
Fools look to tomorrow; wise men use tonight.
Know yourself, and your neighbor will not mistake you.
A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.
I am biased in favour of boys learning English. I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour and Greek as a treat. But the only thing I would whip them for is not knowing English. I would whip them hard for that.
English orthography satisfies all the requirements of the canons of reputability under the law of conspicuous waste. It is archaic, cumbrous, and ineffective; its acquisition consumes much time and effort; failure to acquire it is easy of detection.
Language is mobile and liable to change. It is a free country, and a man may call a “vase” a “vawse,” a “vahse,” a “vaze,” or a “vase” as he pleases. And why should he not? We do not all think alike, walk alike, dress alike, write alike, or dine alike; why should we not use our liberty in speech also, so long as the purpose of speech, to be intelligible, and its grace, are not interfered with?
The English Bible—a book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power.
In the sense in which the world understands the term “religious book,” the Bible is not a religious book.
May it not be that, just as we have to have faith in Him, God has to have faith in us and, considering the history of the human race so far, may it not be that “faith” is even more difficult for Him than it is for us?
It takes little talent to see what lies under one’s nose, a good deal to know in what direction to point that nose.
We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.
To be an heir, one must be a pioneer.
Intelligent people will tend to overvalue intelligence.
It is very difficult to write about being happy—and very easy to write about being miserable.
Those who lack courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.
Having the critics praise you is like having the hangman say you’ve got a pretty neck.
A stone thrown at the right time is better than gold given at the wrong time.
Liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or humanity or a quiet conscience.
The reason that there are so few good books written is that so few people who write know anything.
To blurb: to make a sound like a publisher. “A blurb is a check drawn on fame, and it is seldom honored.”
We have a habit in writing articles published in scientific journals to make the work look as finished as possible, to cover up all the tracks, to not worry about the blind alleys or describe how you had the wrong idea first, and so on. So there isn’t any place to publish, in a dignified manner, what you actually did in order to get to do the work.
The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.
The map is not the territory.
I said what I said. I did not say what I did not say.
We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts.
May I be allowed to recommend to the reader that, whenever in this human world he finds totally unreasonable opinion adopted by large bodies of people, he make a practice of looking, not for reasons, but for motives.
Cultivate in yourself a dislike and suspicion of all learned-sounding words and technical terms, a habit of regarding them not as fine things, but at best as temporary evils.
I do not want to go back to the past. I want to go back to the past way of facing the future.
Always do right. This will gratify some and astonish the rest.
An American is a person who does things because they haven’t been done.
A writer dies when he ceases to have, and exercise, omnivorous curiosity.
Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand.
The function of poetry is to debunk by lucidity.
Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency to either acknowledge the debt outright, or try to conceal it.
Poetry is a sort of inspired mathematics, which gives us equations, not for abstract figures, triangles, spheres, and the like, but equations for the human emotions.
Good writers are those who keep the language efficient.
Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.
What do you despise? By this are you truly known.
Causes were to the twentieth century intellectuals as manners had been to the Victorians.
A good story cannot be devised, it has to be distilled.
“Shut up,” he explained.
Winners learn from the past, and let go of it. Losers yearn for the past and get stuck in it.
I can write better than anyone who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.
The best music in the world is the music of what happens.
When you blow your own horn, you get to call the tune.
Luxury is the wolf at the door and its fangs are the varieties and conceits germinated by success. When an artist learns this, he knows where the danger is.
I have no idea whether fifty years from now anybody will want to read a book of mine, but I have a fairly precise idea of what makes me, as a writer, tick. It is the wish to trade a hundred contemporary readers against ten readers in ten years’ time and one reader in a hundred years’ time. This has always seemed to me what a writer’s ambition should be.
I am not aware that I have deserved fame, and I take no pleasure in its clatter.
Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act—if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behavior. You will always have the last word.