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Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotations


Emerson Quotations

Emerson from a Book by Adolphe Meyer

Considering Emerson quotations
We boil at different degrees. - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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]

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]

Emerson quotations - illustration
A young man after years of education. [Emerson]
[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]



Trust Yourself

Titbits from Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance", parts 2-4

Emerson quotations are compared to a beautiful woman
OUR SYSTEM of education fosters restlessness. - (Gist from part 3) ◊

The civilized man . . . is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle. 4

What a contrast between the well-clad, reading, writing, . . . and the naked New Zealander, whose property is a club, a spear, a mat, and an undivided twentieth of a shed to sleep under! But compare the health of the two men, and you shall see that the white man has lost his aboriginal strength. 4

THERE IS no more deviation in the moral standard than in the standard of height . . . 4

Phocion, Socrates, Anaxagoras, Diogenes, are great men, but they leave no class. He who is really of their class will not be called by their name, but will be his own man, and, in his turn, the founder of a sect. 4

The reformers summon conventions, and vote and resolve in multitude. Not so, O friends! will the God deign to enter and inhabit you, but by . . . the reverse. 4

Who travels to be amused . . . carries ruins to ruins. 2 ◊

The reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of Self-Reliance. Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long, that they have come to esteem the religious, learned, and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. 4

The civilized man . . . has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun. 4

HE WHO travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. 2

Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. 3

A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. 4

No greater men are now than ever were. 4

Society never advances . . . it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration. 4

"Your lot or portion of life," said the Caliph Ali, "is seeking after you; therefore be at rest from seeking after it." Our dependence on . . . goods leads us to our slavish respect for numbers. 4

Great genius returns to essential man. 4

[The whole essay]


  1. Well, he whose property is a club may still have a measure of aboriginal strength.
  2. Will a god enter and inhabit you, leave no class and call forth a new sect, insists our New England thinker. And you can include sound reliance on those who attack wrongly had property.
  3. Emerson says every great man is unique. But just what is uniqueness if not some common, basic factor - i.e. something not unique in itself and a thing shared by unique fellows? And where everyone is unique, what is unique about being unique? The uniqueness that is recognised as belonging to shared or quite common (paté) uniqueness, may not be really unique.

    How can sound self-reliance be had or helped onwards by some system? These matters - individual uniqueness and extraneous systems - are highly different in themselves. Let that observation come in addition.

    On the other hand, by such as becoming unique you think good days are preparing for you. Heh! The bad fare of really many good artists may disprove much of that idealization, along with the Emerson-like "Societies don't advance. Their changes are not ameliorations but favour machines over men often and grotesquely." It can be seen. It may pay if many return to essentials for man - but refrain to go for it all on your own, because the costs may be horrible. Better be on the safe side, and that is the one of rustic conformity surprisingly often.

It could do well to learn these things

Throughout history, some have felt free to:

  • Get a spear and club and arrows and bows, even crossbows.
  • Stick tenaciously to your wrongly had property, castles and whores, like nobility of many countries, some celebrities, and more obscure personages.
  • Claim on top of it that God is yours for "blessings" had by brute force, or "monkey power", and you may end up seemingly successful - but we do not recommend monkey success at all. Try to refrain from a fare like that for decency's sake.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotations, END MATTER

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotations, LITERATURE  

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

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