Washington Irving


American Essayist, Biographer and Historian

Author Quotes

There is a majestic grandeur in tranquility.

There, in a gloomy street not far from the monastic walls of the Sorbonne, he pursued his favorite speculations. Sometimes he spent hours in the great libraries of Paris, those catacombs of departed authors, rummaging among their hoards of dusty and obsolete works in quest of food for his unhealthy appetite. He was, in a manner, a literary ghoul, feeding in the charnel-house of decayed literature.

Whenever a man's friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.

It has also been the peculiar lot of our country to be visited by the worst kind of English travelers.

Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long settled retreats; but are trampled under-foot, by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarce had time to finish their first nap, and turn themselves in their graves, before their surviving friends have traveled away from the neighborhood, so that when they turn out of a night to walk the rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our long established Dutch communities.

Others may write from the head, but he writes from the heart, and the heart will always understand him.

Temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.

The mysterious event caused much speculation at the Church on the following Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips were collected in the church yard, at the bridge, and at the spot where the hat and pumpkin had been found. The stories of Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of others, were called to mind; and when they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with the symptoms of the present case, they shook their heads, and came to the conclusion that Ichabod had been carried off by the galloping Hessian. As he was a bachelor, and in nobody’s debt, nobody troubled his head any more about him, the school was removed to a different quarter of the hollow, and another pedagogue reigned in his stead.

There is a remembrance of the dead, to which we turn even from the charms of the living. These we would not exchange for the song of pleasure or the bursts of revelry.

They are given to all kinds of marvelous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions; and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air.

Who can look down upon the grave even of an enemy, and not feel a compunctious throb, that he should ever have warred with the poor handful of earth that lies moldering before him!

It is a fair wind that blew men to the ale.

Luxury spreads its ample board before their eyes; but they are excluded from the banquet. Plenty revels over the fields; but they are starving in the midst of its abundance: the whole wilderness has blossomed into a garden; but they feel as reptiles that infest it.

Over no nation does the press hold a more absolute control than over the people of America, for the universal education of the poorest classes makes every individual a reader.

That happy age when a man can be idle with impunity.

The natural effect of sorrow over the dead is to refine and elevate the mind.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.

They claim to be the first inventors of those recondite beverages, cocktail, stone-fence, and sherry cobbler.

Whoever hears of fat men heading a riot, or herding together in turbulent mobs? No -- no, your lean, hungry men who are continually worrying society, and setting the whole community by the ears.

It is not poverty so much as pretense that harasses a ruined man - the struggle between a proud mind and an empty purse - the keeping up of a hollow show that must soon come to an end.

Mahomet has been extolled by Moslem writers for the chastity of his early life ; and it is remarkable that, with all the plurality of wives indulged in by the Arabs, and which he permitted himself in subsequent years, and with all that constitutional fondness which he evinced for the sex, he remained single in his devotion to Cadijah to her dying day, never giving her a rival in his house, nor in his heart. Even the fresh and budding charms of Ayesha, which soon assumed such empire over him, could not obliterate the deep and mingled feeling of tenderness and gratitude for his early benefactress. Ayesha was piqued one day at hearing him indulge in these fond recollections: O, apostle of God, demanded the youthful beauty, was not Cadijah stricken in years? Has not Allah given thee a better wife in her stead? Never! exclaimed Mahomet, with an honest burst of feeling — never did God give me a better ! When I was poor, she enriched me; when I was pronounced a liar, she believed in me; when I was opposed by all the world, she remained true tome!

Poetry had breathed over and sanctified the land.

That inexhaustible good-nature which is the most precious gift of Heaven, spreading itself like oil over the troubled sea of thought, and keeping the mind smooth and equable in the roughest weather.

The natural principle of war is to do the most harm to our enemy with the least harm to ourselves; and this of course, is to be effected by stratagem.

There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.

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American Essayist, Biographer and Historian