Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Edwin Percy Whipple

American Essayist and Critic

"Character is the spiritual body of the person, and represents the individualization of vital experience, the conversion of unconscious things into self-conscious men."

"In activity we must find our joy as well as glory; and labor, like everything else, that is good, is its own reward."

"Talent repeats; Genius creates. Talent is a cistern; Genius a fountain... Talent jogs to conclusions to which Genius takes giant leaps... Talent is full of thoughts, Genius of thought."

"The saddest failures in life are those that come from the not putting forth of power and will to succeed."

"The wise men of old have sent most of their morality down to the stream of time in the light skiff of apothegm or epigram; and the proverbs of nations, which embody the common sense of nations, have the brisk concussion of the most sparkling wit."

"There is natural disposition with us to judge an author’s personal character by the character of his works. We find it difficult to understand the common antithesis of a good writer and a bad man."

"There seem to be some persons, the favorites of fortune and darlings of nature, who are born cheerful. “A star danced” at their birth. It is no superficial visibility, but a bountiful and beneficent soul that sparkles in their eyes and smiles on their lips. Their inborn geniality amounts to genius, the rare and difficult genius which creates sweet and wholesome character, and radiates cheer."

"Wit implies hatred or contempt of folly and crime, produces its effects by brisk shocks of surprise, uses the whip of scorpions and the branding iron, stabs, stings, pinches, tortures, goads, teases, corrodes, undermines."

"Dignity is often a veil between us and the real truth of things."

"A true teacher should penetrate to whatever is vital in his pupil, and develop that by the light and heat of his own intelligence."

"Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time."

"Every author, indeed, who really influences the mind, who plants in it thoughts an sentiments which take root and grow, communicates his character. Error and immorality - two words for one thing, for error is the immorality of the intellect, and immorality the error of the heart - these escape from him if they are in him, and pass into the recipient mind through subtle avenues invisible to consciousness."

"Knowledge, like religion, must be "experienced" in order to be known."

"Man, being essentially active, must find in activity his joy, as well as his beauty and glory; and labor, like everything else that is good, is its own reward."

"No education deserves the name unless it develops thought, unless it pierces down to the mysterious spiritual principle of mind, and starts that into activity and growth."

"Talent repeats; genius creates."

"The eye observes only what the mind, the heart, and the imagination are gifted to see; and sight must be reinforced by insight before souls can be discerned as well as manners, ideas as well as objects, realities and relations as well as appearances and accidental connections."

"Talent repeats; Genius creates. Talent is a cistern; Genius, a fountain… Talent accumulates knowledge, and has it packed up in the memory; Genius assimilates it with its own substance, grows with every new accession, and converts knowledge into power. Talent gives out what it has taken in; Genius, what has risen from its unsounded wells of living thought."

"The universal line of distinction between the strong and the weak is that one persists; the other hesitates, falters, trifles, and at last collapses or “caves in.”"

"A composition which dazzles at first sight by gaudy epithets, or brilliant turns or expression, or glittering trains of imagery, may fade gradually from the mind, leaving no enduring impression; but words which flow fresh and warm from a full heart, and which are instinct with the life and breath of human feeling, pass into household memories, and partake of the immortality of the affections from which they spring."

"A nation may be in a tumult to-day for a thought which the timid Erasmus placidly penned in his study more than two centuries ago."

"A person with a bad name is already half hanged, saith the old proverb."

"A politician weakly and amiably in the right is no match for a politician tenaciously and pugnaciously in the wrong. You cannot, by tying an opinion, to a man's tongue, make him the representative of that opinion; and at the close of any battle for principles, his name will be found neither among the dead nor among the wounded, but among the missing."

"A politician weakly and amiably in the right, is no match for a politician tenaciously and pugnaciously in the wrong."

"A thought embodied and embrained in fit words walks the earth a living being."

"A writer who attempts to live on the manufacture of his imagination is continually coquetting with starvation."

"An epigram often flashes light into regions where reason shines but dimly."

"A man of letters is often a man with two natures,--one a book nature, the other a human nature. These often clash sadly."

"A large portion of human beings live not so much in themselves as in what they desire to be. - They create an ideal character the perfections of which compensate in some degree for imperfections of their own."

"An imposing air should always be taken as an evidence of imposition. - Dignity is often a veil between us and the real truth of things."

"Any style formed in imitation of some model must be affected and straight-laced."

"As men neither fear nor respect what has been made contemptible, all honor to him who makes oppression laughable as well as detestable. - Armies cannot protect it then; and walls that have remained impenetrable to cannon have fallen before a roar of laughter or a hiss of contempt."

"As the grave grows nearer my theology is growing strangely simple, and it begins and ends with Christ as the only Saviour of the lost."

"But the conceit of one's self and the conceit of one's hobby are hardly more prolific of eccentricity than the conceit of one's money. Avarice, the most hateful and wolfish of all the hard, cool, callous dispositions of selfishness, has its own peculiar caprices and crotchets. The ingenuities of its meanness defy all the calculations of reason, and reach the miraculous in subtlety."

"Cervantes shrewdly advises to lay a bridge of silver for a flying enemy."

"Cheerfulness in most cheerful people is the rich and satisfying result of strenuous discipline."

"Conservatism is a very good thing; but how many conservatives announce principles which might have shocked Dick Turpin, or nonsensicalities flat enough to have raised contempt in Jerry Sneak!"

"Do we, mad as we all are after riches, hear often enough from the pulpit the spirit of those words in which Dean Swift, in his epitaph on the affluent and profligate Colonel Chartres, announces the small esteem of wealth in the eyes of God, from the fact of His thus lavishing it upon the meanest and basest of His creatures?"

"All history shows the power of blood over circumstances, as agriculture shows the power of the seeds over the soil."

"Even in social life, it is persistency which attracts confidence, more than talents and accomplishments."

"Every great originating mind produces in some way a change in society; every great originating mind, whose exercise is controlled by duty, effects a beneficial change. This effect may be immediate, may be remote. A nation may be in a tumult today for a thought which the timid Erasmus placidly penned in his study more than two centuries ago."

"Every style formed elaborately on any model must be affected and straight-laced."

"Everybody knows that fanaticism is religion caricatured, and yet, with many, contempt of fanaticism is regarded as a sign of hostility to religion."

"Everybody knows that fanaticism is religion caricatured; bears, indeed, about the same relation to it that a monkey bears to a man; yet, with many, contempt of fanaticism is received as a sure sign of hostility to religion."

"Felicity, not fluency of language, is a merit"

"From Lucifer to Jerry Sneak there is not an aspect of evil, imperfection, and littleness which can elude the lights of humor or the lightning of wit."

"From the hour of the invention of printing, books, and not kings, were to rule the world. Weapons forged in the mind, keen-edged, and brighter than a sunbeam, were to supplant the sword and battle-axe."

"God is glorified, not by our groans but by our thanksgivings; and all good thought and good action claim a natural alliance with good cheer."

"Genius may be almost defined as the faculty of acquiring poverty."

"Genius is not a single power, but a combination of great powers. It reasons, but it is not reasoning; it judges, but it is not judgment; it imagines, but it is not imagination; it feels deeply and fiercely, but it is not passion. It is neither, because it is all."