Washington Irving


American Essayist, Biographer and Historian

Author Quotes

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 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 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 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 remarkable that circumcision, which is invariably practiced by the Mahometans, and forms a distinguishing rite of their faith, to which all proselytes must conform, is neither mentioned in the Koran nor the Sonna. It seems to have been a general usage in Arabia, tacitly adopted from the Jews, and is even said to have been prevalent throughout the East before the time of Moses. It is said that the Koran forbids the making likenesses of any living thing, which has prevented the introduction of portrait-painting among Mahometans. The passage of the Koran, however, which is thought to contain the prohibition, seems merely an echo of the second commandment, held sacred by Jews and Christians, not to form images or pictures for worship. One of Mahomet's standards was a black eagle. Among the most distinguished Moslem ornaments of the Alhambra at Granada is a fountain supported by lions carved of stone, and some Moslem monarchs have had their effigies stamped on their coins.

Mahomet now proceeded to execute the great object of his religious aspirations, the purifying of the sacred edifice from the symbols of idolatry, with which it was crowded. All the idols in and about it, to the number of three hundred and sixty, were thrown down and destroyed. Among these, the most renowned was Hobal, an idol brought from Balka, in Syria, and fabled to have the power of granting rain. It was, of course, a great object of worship among the inhabitants of the thirsty desert. There were statues of Abraham and Ishmael also, represented with divining arrows in their hands ; an outrage on their memories, said Mahomet, being symbols of a diabolical art which they had never practiced. In reverence of their memories, therefore, these statues were demolished. There were paintings, also, depicting angels in the guise of beautiful women. The angels, said Mahomet, indignantly, are no such beings. There are celestial hour is provided in paradise for the solace of true believers ; but angels are ministering spirits of the Most High, and of too pure a nature to admit of sex. The paintings were accordingly obliterated. Even a dove, curiously carved of wood, he broke with his own hands, and cast upon the ground, as savoring of idolatry.

Poetry is evidently a contagious complaint.

The almighty dollar, that great object of universal devotion throughout our land, seems to have no genuine devotees in these peculiar villages; and unless some of its missionaries penetrate there, and erect banking houses and other pious shrines, there is no knowing how long the inhabitants may remain in their present state of contented poverty.

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.

Those men are most apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home.

With every exertion the best of men can do but a moderate amount of good but it seems in the power of the most contemptible individual to do incalculable mischief.

It is the divine attribute of the imagination that it is irrepressible, unconfinable; that when the real world is shut out, it can create a world for itself, and with a necromantic power can conjure up glorious shapes and forms, and brilliant visions to make solitude populous, and irradiate the gloom of a dungeon.

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American Essayist, Biographer and Historian