Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

George Henry Lewes

English Author, Philosopher and Critic of Literature

"Among the many strong servilities mistaken for piety, one of the least lovely is that which hopes to flatter God by despising the world and vilifying human nature."

"Character is built out of circumstances. From exactly the same materials one man builds palaces, while another builds hovels."

"Instead of saying that man is the creature of circumstances, it would be nearer the mark to say man is the architect of circumstance. It is character which builds an existence out of circumstance."

"It is not true that a man can believe or disbelieve what he will. But it is certain that an active desire to find any proposition true will unconsciously tend to that result, by dismissing importunate suggestions which run counter to the belief, and welcoming those which favor it. The psychological law, that we only see what interests us, and only assimilate what is adapted to our condition, causes the mind to select its evidence."

"The only cure for grief is action."

"No man ever made a great discovery without the exercise of the imagination."

"Not only the individual experience slowly acquired, but the accumulated experience of the race, organized in language, condensed in instruments and axioms, and in what may be called the inherited intuitions - these form the multiple unity which is expressed in the abstract term “experience.”"

"The world desires to know what you have done, and hot how you did it."

"Science is the systematic classification of experience."

"Insight is the first condition of Art. "

"Insincerity is always weakness; sincerity even in error is strength."

"Originality is independence, not rebellion; it is sincerity, not antagonism. "

"A man may be buoyed up by the efflation of his wild desires to brave any imaginable peril; but he cannot calmly see one he loves braving the same peril; simply because he cannot feel within turn that which prompts another. He sees the danger, and feels not the power that is to overcome it."

"A man may be variously accomplished, and yet be a feeble poet."

"All bad Literature rests upon imperfect insight, or upon imitation, which may be defined as seeing at second-hand."

"All good Literature rests primarily on insight."

"All great authors are seers."

"And to some men popularity is always suspicious. Enjoying none themselves, they are prone to suspect the validity of those attainments which command it."

"As all Art depends on Vision, so the different kinds of Art depend on the different ways in which minds look at things."

"Books have become our dearest companions, yielding exquisite delights and inspiring lofty aims."

"Books minister to our knowledge, to our guidance, and to our delight, by their truth, their uprightness, and their art."

"Bright April showers will bid again the fresh green leaves expand; and May, light floating in a cloud of flowers, will cause thee to rebloom with magic hand."

"Endeavor to be faithful, and if there is any beauty in your thought, your style will be beautiful; if there is any real emotion to express, the expression will be moving."

"Genius is rarely able to give any account of its own processes."

"Good writers are of necessity rare."

"If you feel yourself to be above the mass, speak so as to raise the mass to the height of your argument."

"Imagination is not the exclusive appanage of artists, but belongs in varying degrees to all men."

"In all sincere speech there is power, not necessarily great power, but as much as the speaker is capable of."

"In complex trains of thought signs are indispensable."

"It is not by his faults, but by his excellences, that we measure a great man."

"It is unhappily true that much insincere Literature and Art, executed solely with a view to effect, does succeed by deceiving the public."

"Language, after all, is only the use of symbols, and Art also can only affect us through symbols."

"Literature delivers tidings of the world within and the world without."

"Literature is at once the cause and the effect of social progress."

"Many a genius has been slow of growth. Oaks that flourish for a thousand years do not spring up into beauty like a reed."

"Murder, like talent, seems occasionally to run in families."

"No deeply rooted tendency was ever extirpated by adverse judgment. Not having originally been founded on argument, it cannot be destroyed by logic."

"No man ever made a discovery (he may have stumbled on one) without the exercise of as much imagination as, employed in another direction and in alliance with other faculties, would have gone to the creation of a poem."

"No man was ever eloquent by trying to be eloquent, but only by being so."

"Ordinary men live among marvels and feel no wonder, grow familiar with objects and learn nothing new about them."

"Personal experience is the basis of all real Literature."

"Philosophy and Art both render the invisible visible by imagination."

"Remember that every drop of rain that falls bears into the bosom of the earth a quality of beautiful fertility."

"Science is not addressed to poets."

"Shakespeare is a good raft whereon to float securely down the stream of time; fasten yourself to that and your immortality is safe."

"Sincerity is moral truth."

"Sincerity is not only effective and honorable, it is also much less difficult than is commonly supposed."

"Speak for yourself and from yourself, or be silent."

"The delusions of self-love cannot be prevented, but intellectual misconceptions as to the means of achieving success may be corrected."

"The great desire of this age is for a doctrine which may serve to condense our knowledge, guide our researches, and shape our lives, so that conduct may really be the consequence of belief."