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Emerson Quotations

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes, Text Many of the peaks of Emerson are below.


Emerson quotation illustrated by the scream by Edvard munch. Litography detail
Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis. [Emerson]
Blunt creeds may reveal some common disease of the intellect. [Cf. Emerson]

Fame is proof that the people are gullible. [Emerson]

Men who prove their ability to outgrow small jobs seldom get fit jobs after that. [Opp. Emerson]

Greatly balanced people are seldom easy to find. *

Greatly balanced people may not be very easily found out.

There is not a tendency for things to right themselves. *

We should not count a man's years until we have nothing else to count. [Emerson]

The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble. [Emerson]

The intellectual man requires a fine bait; the sots are easily amused. [Emerson]

A complete man should need no auxiliaries to his personal presence. [Emerson]

Modern romantic art bears the stamp of caprice and chance. [Emerson]

As soon as love is not sought, not even for pleasure, it stops degrading a person. [Cf. Emerson]

There is a beauty which exactly answers its end; and one that is a mean of many extremes. *

Our high respect for a well read person is praise enough for literature. [Emerson]

There is also this benefit in brag, that the speaker is unconsciously expressing his own ideal. Humour him by all means, draw it all out, and hold him to it. [Emerson]

Do what you know and perception is converted into character. [Emerson]

Big changes of circumstances may sometimes mend defects of character. [Opp Emerson]

We are as much informed of a writer's genius by what he selects as by what he originates. [Emerson]

A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before. [Emerson]

When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand,. [Emerson]

Men's creeds may reveal some common disease of the intellect. [Cf. Emerson]

Criticism should be guiding, instructive, inspiring. [Emerson]

I have heard with admiring submission the experience of the lady who declared that the sense of being perfectly well dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquillity which religion is powerless to bestow. [Emerson]

The secret in education lies in respecting the student. [Emerson]

Enthusiasm is the leaping lightning, not to be measured by the horse-power of the understanding. [Emerson]

Every fact is related on one side to sensation, and, on the other, to morals. [Emerson]

Perhaps fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world. [With Emerson]

Go oft to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path. [Emerson]

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. [Emerson]

Accept your genius and say what you think. [Emerson]

To believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men - that is genius. [Emerson]

Some aim above the mark to hit the mark. [Cf. Emerson]

The great man seldom complains of want of opportunity. [Cf. Emerson]

Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events. [Emerson]

Be true to your own act and congratulate yourself if you have done something strange and extravagant to break the monotony of a decorous age. [Emerson]

We live by our imagination, our admirations, and our sentiments. [Emerson]

Imitation is on the way to suicide. [With Emerson]

A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist. [Emerson]

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. [Emerson]

One definition of man is "an intelligence served by organs". [Emerson]

I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor. [Emerson]

Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society. [Emerson]

People do not deserve to have good writings; they are so pleased with the bad. [Emerson]

Manners are the happy way of doing things . . . They form at last a rich varnish. [Emerson]

When you have got a great fortune, it requires ten times as much skill to keep it. [With Emerson]

Necessity does everything well. [Emerson]

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting . . . Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing. [Emerson]

The worst of charity is that the lives you are asked to preserve are not worth preserving. [Emerson]

Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves. [Emerson]

Let us be silent that we may hear the whispers of the gods. [Emerson]

In much request is conformity, and it loves names and customs. [With Emerson]

Solitude is the school of genius. [Emerson]

To laugh often and much; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and appreciate beauty; to leave the world a bit better because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. [With Emerson]

Trust yourself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. [Emerson]

Men talk as if victory were something fortunate. Work is victory. [Emerson]

The art of getting rich consists (mostly not) in saving, but in a better order, in timeliness, in being at the right spot. [Emerson]

Spiritual . . . that which is its own evidence. [Emerson, Em 346]

There are men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other conditions, become wise. [With Emerson]

It makes a great difference in the force of a sentence, whether a man be behind it or no. [Emerson]

Character is higher than intellect . . . A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think. [Emerson]

Children are all foreigners. [Emerson]

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. [Emerson]

Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good. [Emerson]

Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. [Emerson]

Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him. [Emerson]

Do not make life hard to any. [Emerson]

The only way to have a friend is to be one. [Emerson]

The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it. [Emerson]

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. [Emerson]

Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis. [Emerson]

Treat (men) greatly, and they will show themselves great. [Of Emerson]

The best effect of fine persons is felt after we have left their presence. [Emerson]

Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it. [Emerson]

Every artist was first an amateur. [Emerson]

No force of character can make any stand against good wit. [Cf. Emerson]

Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. [Emerson]

A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life; he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days. [Emerson]

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it. [Emerson]

People only see what they are prepared to see. [Emerson]

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. [Emerson]

He who has one enemy / Shall meet him everywhere. [Emerson]

It is not length of life, but depth of life. [Emerson]

They reckon ill who leave me out . . . I am the doubter and the doubt. [With Emerson, Brahma]

All mankind love a lover. [Emerson]

Men are what their mothers made them. [Emerson]

Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss. [Emerson]

A beautiful form . . . gives a higher pleasure than statues or pictures. [Emerson]

This whole business of Trade gives me to pause and think. [Emerson]

What a new face courage puts on everything. [Emerson]

The faith that stands on authority is not faith. [Emerson]

There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination. [Emerson]

Like the vegetable bud, you have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason. [Emerson]

To find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. [Emerson]

How soon it will be too late. [Emerson]

A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking. [Emerson]

It can be as difficult to appropriate the thoughts of others as it is to invent. [With Emerson]

Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. [With Emerson]

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction . . . that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion. [Emerson]

If a man can write a better book . . . or make a better mousetrap, than his neighbour, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door. [Emerson]

If we do not use the gifts the hours bring, they carry them silently away. [From Emerson]

A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us. [Emerson]

The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the merchants a merchant. [With Emerson]

Go often to the house of your friend, for weeds choke the unused path. [Emerson]

Society acquires new arts, and loses old instincts. [Emerson]

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered. [Emerson]

Let us treat men and women well; treat them as if they were real. Perhaps they are. [Emerson]

To be great is (often) to be misunderstood. [With Emerson]

We boil at different degrees. [Emerson]

Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them. [Emerson]

There is then creative reading as well as creative writing. [Emerson]

In skating over thin ice, one little help can be our speed. [Cf. Emerson]

What torments of grief you endured, / From evils which never arrived. [Emerson]

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true. [Emerson]

In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire. [Emerson]

But in the mud and scum of things / There always, always something sings. [Emerson]

To help the young soul, to inspire hope and blow the coals into a useful flame, is the work of living, divine man. [With Emerson]

We judge of man's wisdom by his hope. [Emerson]

Wise men put their trust in ideas and perhaps not in circumstances. [Cf. Emerson]

When it's dark enough men see stars. [Emerson]

The great God lets loose a thinker, and no man knows what is safe. [With Emerson]

The less a man thinks or knows about his virtues, the better we like him. [Emerson]

Is not marriage an open question, when it is alleged, from the beginning of the world, that such as are in the institution wish to get out, and such as are out wish to get in. [Emerson]

The glory of friendship is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friendship. [Emerson]

Imagination is not a talent of some men but is in the health of every man. [Cf. Emerson]

Nature belongs to the eyes that see them. [With Emerson]

Many are the prisoners of ideas. [Cf. Emerson]

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is an outstanding accomplishment. [Cf. Emerson]

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is for you. [Emerson]

Universities are . . . hostile to geniuses, which, seeing and using ways of their own, discredit the routine. [Emerson]

We lie in the lap of immense intelligence. [Emerson]

The studious class are their own victims: they are thin and pale, their feet are cold, their heads are hot, the night is without sleep, the day a fear of interruption - pallor, squalor, hunger, and egotism. [Emerson]

We learn geology the morning after the earthquake. [Emerson]

Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books. Hence, instead of Man Thinking, we have the book-worm. [Emerson]

Be a little careful about your library. Do you foresee what you will do with it? Very little to be sure. But the real question is, What it will do with you? [Emerson]

A man's library is a sort of harem. [Emerson]

Inventors one is sometimes ashamed of. [Emerson]

The right merchant is one who has the just average of faculties we call common sense. [Emerson]

There is always a reason . . . for one's good or bad fortune in making money. [Emerson]

Many a consumer ought to search and strive to become more of a producer. [Cf. Emerson]

We estimate the wisdom of nations by seeing what they did with their surplus capital. [Emerson]

Money is the representative of a certain quantity of corn or other commodity. It is so much warmth, so much bread. [Emerson]

Man was born to . . . grow rich by use of his faculties, by the union of thought with nature. [Emerson]

The German intellect . . . has a certain probity, which never rests in a superficial performance, but asks steadily, To what end? [Emerson]

The adventurer, after years of strife, has nothing broader than his shoes for his pedestal. [Cf. Emerson]

The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume, and do not invigorate men. [Emerson]

To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven. [Emerson]

The heroic act is also decent enough. [Cf. Emerson]

A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples. [Emerson]

The death of a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted occupation, or a household, or style of living, and allows the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of character. [Emerson]

If I cannot brag of knowing something, then I brag of not knowing it; at any rate, brag. [Emerson]

The city is largely recruited from the country. [With Emerson]

Cities force growth and make people . . . artificial. [Emerson]

May that good profit, which we can taste with all doors open, and which serves all men. [With Emerson]

The perception of the comic is a tie of sympathy . . . and a protection from those perverse tendencies and gloomy insanities in which fine intellects sometimes lose themselves. [Emerson]

Hold your peace and do not pollute the morning. [With Emerson]

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. [Emerson]

The chief mourner does not always attend the funeral. [Emerson]

Many might go to Heaven with half the labour they go to hell. [Emerson]

No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character. [Emerson]

There never was a child so lovely, but his mother was glad to get him asleep. [Emerson]

Science often does not know its debt to imagination. [With Emerson]

A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist. [Emerson]

'Tis a rule of manners to avoid exaggeration. [Emerson]

The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth wholesome. They who lived with them found life glad and nutritious. [Emerson]

Know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, good humour, nothing too much. [With Emerson]

Respect the child. Trespass not on his solitude. [With Emerson]

I can reason down or deny everything, except this perpetual Belly: feed he must and will, and I cannot make him respectable. [Emerson]

We eat because the meat is savoury and the appetite is keen. [With Emerson]

Liberty is difficult because freedom is the accomplishment and perfectness of man. [With Emerson]

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. [Emerson]

A man of genius is privileged only as far as he is genius. His dullness is as insupportable as any other dullness. [Emerson]

A sign of health is cheerfulness. [With Emerson]

When you have resolved to be great, abide by yourself, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world. [Emerson]

That man is idle who can do something better. [Emerson]

We live by our imagination, our admirations, and our sentiments. [Emerson]

Of course, money will do after its kind, and will steadily work to unspiritualize and unchurch the people to whom it was bequeathed. [Emerson]

Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society. [Emerson]

The life of man is the true romance, which when it is valiantly conduced, will yield the imagination a higher joy than any fiction. [Emerson]

If we live truly, we can see truly. [With Emerson]

By his machines man can dive and remain under water like a shark . . . and divine the future possibility of the planet and its inhabitants by his perception of laws of nature. [Cf. Emerson]

There are men whose manners have the same essential splendour as the simple and awful sculpture on the friezes of the Parthenon. [Emerson]

The basis of many good manners is self-reliance. [With Emerson]

Masses need not to be flattered, but to be well schooled. I wish to divide and break them up, and draw individuals out of them. [With Emerson]

Shall we judge a country by the majority or by the minority? By the minority, surely. [Emerson]

To the illumined mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light. [Emerson]

Emerson in a Book by Adolphe Meyer

Cherish mother wit [and] smuggle in a little contraband wit, fancy, imagination, and thought. [Ralph Waldo Emerson, aiming at good teachers. - Essence from book on great thinkers of education, by Dr. Adolphe Meyer - Grt 267-8]

I pay the schoolmaster, but it is the school boys who educate my son. [Emerson]
      The latter form of education involves good co-learning too.

Let teachers insist on order and obedience, if they must . . . but if a boy stops you in your speech and cries out that you are wrong and sets you right, hug him! [Emerson, in Grt 268]

How sad a spectacle to see a young man after . . . years of college education, come out ready for his voyage of life, and to see that the entire ship is made of rotten timber! [Emerson deploring some effects of secondary school and higher spheres, in Grt 266]

[Perhaps] one of the benefits of a college education is to show the boy its little avail. [Emerson, in Grt 266]

Only so much do I know as I have lived. [Emerson in Grt 268]

Let the child develop a decent respect for exactness.

Teach (the child) the difference between the similar and the same. [Emerson, in Grt 265]

The search after the great men is the dream of youth, and the most serious occupation of manhood. [Emerson]

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is [well-nigh] the greatest accomplishment. [Emerson]

The years teach us much the days never knew. [Emerson]

From this I learn . . .

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote illustrated by a Scream detail. Lithography
"A young man after . . . years of college education". [Emerson]

From Emerson we may get inspiring words that slowly could change our outlooks for the better, in the long run to bring a rich harvest, at least in some cases. Emerson's outpourings did not depend a lot on rigid university frameworks in his day. He himself took steps to keep an inner drive flowing. He trusted what he felt to resound as true and did not go against it.

Many respond to selected works of his to this day, but he wrote in part hilarious rubbish along with it, as you can see if you study him a bit. See what he writes about the English: "Heavy fellows, steeped in beer and fleshpots, they are hard of hearing and dim of sight. Their drowsy minds need to be flagellated by war." Or, "When they [the English] have pounded each other to a poultice, they will shake hands and be friends for the remainder of their lives.". [More]

Emerson's broad, sweeping over-generalisation does not take individual characteristics and differences into account. He obviously has no room for the notoriously romantic British poet Lord Byron in his twisted scenario, for example. If what he says hold some kernel of truth in it, is it proved it does, or can it be proved? There are different approaches to humour among the nations, a study show, and other differences pop up too in studies of various quality. The British Dr Richard Wiseman has found differences between nations in terms of the jokes they found funny. For example:

Americans and Canadians much preferred gags where there was a sense of superiority - either because a person looked stupid, or was made to look stupid by another person. [◦A Wiseman page]
This is what American Emerson does to the British at large, one may add.

More quotes by Emerson More Emerson quotations


Emerson Quotations, Literature  

Em: Atkinson, Brooks, ed. Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York: Modern Library, 1950.

Grt: Meyer, Adolphe. Grandmasters of Educational Thought. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975.

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