Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Harriet Martineau

English Author, Social Theorist and Whig Writer

"Must love be ever treated with profaneness as a mere illusion? or with coarseness as a mere impulse? or with fear as a mere disease? or with shame as a mere weakness? or with levity as a mere accident? whereas it is a great mystery and a great necessity, lying at the foundation of human existence, morality, and happiness - mysterious, universal, inevitable as death."

"What office is there which involves more responsibility, which requires more qualifications, and which ought, therefore, to be more honorable, than that of teaching?"

"You had better live your best and act your best and think your best today; for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow."

"If a test of civilization be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power."

"A soul preoccupied with great ideas best performs small duties. "

"I have no sympathy for those who, under any pressure of circumstances, sacrifice their heart's-love for legal prostitution. "

"Readers are plentiful: thinkers are rare. "

"All women should inform themselves of the condition of their sex and of their own position. It must necessarily follow that the noblest of them will, sooner or later, put forth a moral power which shall prostrate cant, and burst asunder the bonds (silken to some but cold iron to others) of feudal prejudice and usages. In the meantime is it to be understood that the principles of the Declaration of Independence bear no relation to half of the human race? If so, what is the ground of this limitation?"

"Any one must see at a glance that if men and women marry those whom they do not love, they must love those whom they do not marry."

"As for the just and noble idea, that nations, as well as individuals, are parts of one wondrous whole, it has hardly passed the lips or pen of any but religious men and poets. - It is the one great principle of the greatest religion which has ever nourished the morals of mankind."

"For my own part, I had rather suffer any inconvenience from having to work occasionally in chambers and kitchen ... than witness the subservience in which the menial class is held in Europe."

"Fidelity to conscience is inconsistent with retiring modesty. If it be so, let the modesty succumb. It can be only a false modesty which can be thus endangered."

"Beneath this starry arch, Naught resteth or is still; but all things hold their march As if by one great will. Move one, move all: Hark to the footfall! On, on, forever."

"Ballads and popular songs are both the cause and effect of general morals; they are first formed, and then react. - In both points of view they are an index of public morals."

"But is it not the fact that religion emanates from the nature, from the moral state of the individual? Is it not therefore true that unless the nature be completely exercised, the moral state harmonized, the religion cannot be healthy?"

"Goodness and simplicity are indissolubly united. - The bad are the most sophisticated, all the world over, and the good the least."

"Happiness consists in the full employment of our faculties in some pursuit."

"I am in truth very thankful for not having married at all."

"I think that few people are aware how early it is right to respect the modesty of an infant."

"I am sure that no traveler seeing things through author spectacles can see them as they are."

"I want to be a free rover on the breezy common of the universe."

"If there is any country on earth where the course of true love may be expected to run smooth, it is America."

"It is characteristic of genius to be hopeful and aspiring."

"It is my deliberate opinion that the one essential requisite of human welfare in all ways is scientific knowledge of human nature."

"Is it to be understood that the principles of the Declaration of Independence bear no relation to half of the human race?"

"Men who pass most comfortably through this world are those who possess good digestions and hard hearts."

"Laws and customs may be creative of vice; and should be therefore perpetually under process of observation and correction: but laws and customs cannot be creative of virtue: they may encourage and help to preserve it; but they cannot originate it."

"It never enters the lady's head that the wet-nurse's baby probably dies."

"Religion is a temper, not a pursuit."

"School is no place of education for any children whatever till their minds are well put in action. This is the work which has to be done at home, and which may be done in all homes where the mother is a sensible woman."

"Teaching and training children is to a few, a very few, a delightful employment notwithstanding its toils and cares. Except to these few it is irksome: and when accompanied with poverty and mortification intolerable."

"The older I have grown, the more serious and irremediable have seemed to me the evils and disadvantages of married life as it exists among us at this time."

"The progression of emancipation of any class usually, if not always, takes place through the efforts of individuals of that class."

"The instruction furnished is not good enough for the youth of such a country… There is not even any systematic instruction given on political morals: an enormous deficiency in a republic."

"There have been few things in my life which have had a more genial effect on my mind than the possession of a piece of land."

"The sum and substance of female education in America, as in England, is training women to consider marriage as the sole object in life, and to pretend that they do not think so."

"We do not believe in immortality because we can prove it, but we try to prove it because we cannot help believing it."

"Who is apt, on occasion, to assign a multitude of reasons when one will do? This is a sure sign of weakness in argument."

"There is no country in the world where there is so much boasting of the 'chivalrous' treatment she enjoys... In short, indulgence is given her as a substitute for justice."

"Women, like men, must be educated with a view to action, or their studies cannot be called education."