Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

E. B. White, fully Elwyn Brooks White

American Humorist,Essayist, Book Author including Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little

"I believe television is going to be the test of the modern world, and that in this new opportunity to se beyond the range of our vision we shall discover either a new and unbearable disturbance of the general peace or a saving radiance in the sky. We shall stand or fall by television - of that I am quite sure."

"I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that doesn’t have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born upright. The beauty of the American free press is that the slants and the twists and the distortions come from so many directions, and the special interests are so numerous, the reader must sift and sort and check and countercheck in order to find out what the score is."

"Many of the commonest assumptions, it seems to me, are arbitrary ones: that the new is better than the old, the untried superior to the tried, the complex more advantageous than the simple, the fast quicker than the slow, the big greater than the small, and the world as remodeled by Man the Architect functionally sounder and more agreeable than the world as it was before he changed everything to suit his vogues and his conniptions."

"One of the most time-consuming things is to have an enemy."

"The first day of spring was once the time for taking the young virgins into the fields, there in dalliance to set an example in fertility for Nature to follow. Now we just set the clock an hour ahead and change the oil in the crankcase."

"A poet's pleasure is to withhold a little of his meaning, to intensify by mystification. He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it."

"Not even a collapsing world looks dark to a man who is about to make his fortune."

"A "fraternity" is the antithesis of fraternity. The first... is predicated on the idea of exclusion; the second (that is, the abstract thing) is based on a feeling of total equality."

"Nationalism has two fatal charms for its devotees: it presupposes local self-sufficiency, which is a pleasant and desirable condition, and it suggests, very subtly, a certain personal superiority by reason of one's belonging to a place which is definable and familiar, as against a place which is strange, remote."

"I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them. "

"Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time."

"A book is a sneeze."

"A block or two west of the new City of Man in Turtle Bay there is an old willow tree that presides over an interior garden. It is a battered tree, long suffering and much climbed, held together by strands of wire but beloved of those who know it. In a way it symbolizes the city: life under difficulties, growth against odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete, and the steady reaching for the sun. Whenever I look at it nowadays, and feel the cold shadow of the planes, I think: This must be saved, this particular thing, this very tree. If it were to go, all would go -- this city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death."

"A child was left out in the cold, bearing the stigma of being different. It is this one child that our Constitution is concerned about?his tranquility, his health, his safety, his conscience. What a kindly old document it is, and how brightly it shines, through interpretation after interpretation!"

"A despot doesn't fear eloquent writers preaching freedom ? he fears a drunken poet who may crack a joke that will take hold."

"A good farmer is nothing more nor less than a handy man with a sense of humus."

"A library is many things. It?s a place to go, to get in out of the rain. It?s a place to go if you want to sit and think. But particularly it is a place where books live, and where you can get in touch with other people, and other thoughts, through books. If you want to find out about something, the information is in the reference books ? the dictionaries, the encyclopedias, the atlases. If you like to be told a story, the library is the place to go. Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together ? just the two of you. A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people ? people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book."

"A husband and wife should tell each other about the things that are on their mind, otherwise you get nowhere,"

"A mistake is simply another way of doing things."

"A man who publishes his letters becomes a nudist - nothing shields him from the world's gaze except his bare skin. A writer, writing away, can always fix things up to make himself more presentable, but a man who has written a letter is stuck with it for all time."

"A more immediate question is whether democracy has had its day."

"A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive."

"A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer... He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring."

"A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can?t get it by breeding for it, and you can?t buy it with money. It just happens along."

"A shaft of sunlight at the end of a dark afternoon, a note of music, and the way the back of a baby?s neck smells if it?s mother keeps it tidy, answered Henry. Correct, said Stuart. Those are the important things. You forgot one thing, though. Mary Bendix, what did Henry Rackmeyer forget? He forgot ice cream with chocolate sauce on it, said Mary quickly."

"A schoolchild should be taught grammar--for the same reason that a medical student should study anatomy. Having learned about the exciting mysteries of an English sentence, the child can then go forth and speak and write any damn way he pleases."

"A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, diminishes the whole, and a carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for the reader, the object of the writer's enthusiasm."

"A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life."

"A writer is like a bean plant - he has his day and then becomes stringy."

"A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper."

"A writer must reflect and interpret his society, his world; he must also provide inspiration and guidance and challenge. Much writing today strikes me as deprecating, destructive, and angry. There are good reasons for anger, and I have nothing against anger. But I think some writers have lost their sense of proportion, their sense of humor, and their sense of appreciation. I am often mad, but I would hate to be nothing but mad: and I think I would lose what little value I may have as a writer if I were to refuse, as a matter of principle, to accept the warming rays of the sun, and to report them, whenever, and if ever, they happen to strike me. One role of the writer today is to sound the alarm. The environment is disintegrating, the hour is late, and not much is being done. Instead of carting rocks from the moon, we should be carting the feces out of Lake Erie."

"A writer's style reveals something of his spirit, his habits, his capacities, his bias...it is the Self escaping into the open."

"A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. I feel no obligation to deal with politics. I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life."

"Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don't write about Man, write about a man."

"Advertisers are the interpreters of our dreams ? Joseph interpreting for Pharaoh. Like the movies, they infect the routine futility of our days with purposeful adventure. Their weapons are our weaknesses: fear, ambition, illness, pride, selfishness, desire, ignorance. And these weapons must be kept as bright as a sword."

"After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die."

"All dwellers in cities must dwell with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer who might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm."

"All poets who, when reading from their own works, experience a choked feeling, are major. For that matter, all poets who read from their own works are major, whether they choke or not."

"All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world."

"Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."

"All his thoughts were of how lucky he was to inhabit such a beautiful earth, how lucky he had been to solve his problems with music, and how pleasant it was to look forward to another night of sleep and another day tomorrow, and the fresh morning, and the light that returns with the day."

"Almost all spiders are rather nice-looking."

"Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder."

"An editor is a person who knows more about writing than writers do but who has escaped the terrible desire to write."

"Americans are willing to go to enormous trouble and expense defending their principles with arms, very little trouble and expense advocating them with words. Temperamentally we are ready to die for certain principles (or, in the case of overripe adults, send youngsters to die), but we show little inclination to advertise the reasons for dying."

"An unhatched egg is to me the greatest challenge in life."

"And then, just as Wilbur was settling down for his morning nap, he heard again the thin voice that had addressed him the night before. Salutations! said the voice. Wilbur jumped to his feet. Salu-what? he cried. Salutations! repeated the voice. What are they, and where are you? screamed Wilbur. Please, please, tell me where you are. And what are salutations? Salutations are greetings, said the voice. When I say 'salutations,' it's just my fancy way of saying hello or good morning."

"Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it."

"And when your stomach is empty and your mind is full, it's always hard to sleep."

"Any husband who loses interest in the drama of family life, as it unfolds, isn?t worth his salt."