Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Nathaniel Hawthorne

American Novelist, Short-Story Writer best known for novels The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables

"A man's soul may be buried and perish under a dungheap or in a furrow of the field, just as well as under a pile of money."

"If conscience smite thee once, it is an admonition; if twice, it is a condemnation... What other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!"

"Insincerity in a man's own heart must make all his enjoyments - all that concerns him, unreal; so that his whole life must seem like a merely dramatic representation."

"Selfishness is one of the qualities apt to inspire love."

"A bodily disease which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may, after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part."

"There is no such thing in man's nature as a settled and full resolve either for good or evil, except at the very moment of execution."

"A stale article, if you dip it in good, warm, sunny smile, will go off better than a fresh one that you have scowled upon."

"No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true."

"Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us on a wild goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we caught happiness without dreaming of it."

"Genius is the ability to act wisely without precedent - power to do the right thing the first time."

"If we take the freedom to put a friend under our microscope, we thereby insulate him from many of his true relations, magnify his peculiarities, inevitably tear him into parts, and, of course, patch him very clumsily together again. What wonder, then, should we be frightened by the aspect of a monster."

"Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not."

"All brave men love; for he only is brave who has affections to fight for, whether in the daily battle of life or in physical contests."

"In truth there is no such thing in man’s nature as a settled and full resolve either for good or evil, except at the very moment of execution."

"It is very singular how the fact of a man’s death often seems to give people a truer idea of his character, whether possessed while he was living and acting among them."

"It is not the statesman, the warrior, or the monarch that survives, but the despised poet, whom they may have fed with their crumbs, and to whom they owe that they are now or have - name"

"Is it a fact - or have I dreamt it - that by means of electricity the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time? Rather, the round globe is a vast head, a brain, instinct with intelligence; or shall we say it is itself a thought, nothing but thought, and no longer the substance which we dreamed it."

"The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may not be going to prove one's self a fool; the truest heroism is to resist the doubt; and the profoundest wisdom, to know when it ought to be resisted, and when it be obeyed."

"Nobody has any conscience about adding to the improbabilities of a marvelous tale."

"Let us acknowledge it wiser, if not more sagacious, to follow out one's daydream to its natural consummation, although if the vision have been worth the having, it is certain never to be consummated otherwise than by a failure."

"Our most intimate friend is not he to whom we show the worst, but the best of our nature."

"Nothing is more unaccountable than the spell that often lurks in a spoken word. A thought may be present to the mind, and two minds conscious of the same thought, but as long as it remains unspoken their familiar talk flows quietly over the hidden idea."

"Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet and artist has actually expressed."

"There is evil in every human heart, which may remain latent, perhaps, through the whole of life; but circumstances may rouse it to activity."

"The best of us being unfit to die, what an inexpressible absurdity to put the worst to death."

"Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind."

"The love of posterity is the consequence of the necessity of death. If a man were sure of living forever here, he would not care about his offspring."

"We are but shadows: we are not endowed with real life, and all that seems most real about us is but the thinnest substance of a dream - till the heart be touched. that touch creates us - then we begin to be - thereby we are beings of reality and inheritors of eternity."

"There is something more awful in happiness than in sorrow - the alter being earthly and finite, the former composed of the substance and texture of eternity, so that spirits still embodied may well tremble at it."

"We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream - it may be so the moment after death."

"We do ourselves wrong, and too meanly estimate the holiness about us, when we deem that any act or enjoyment good in itself, is not good to do religiously."

"It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom. Each, in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowledge; each renders one individual dependent for the food of his affections and spiritual life upon another; each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his object."

"What we call real estate - the solid ground to build a house on - is the broad foundation on which nearly all the guilt of this world rests."

"Life is made up of marble and mud."

"Words so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."

"Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."

"Generosity is the flower of justice."

"Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers."

"What other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!"

"Easy reading is damn hard writing. "

"This dull river has a deep religion of its own; so, let us trust, has the dullest human soul, though, perhaps, unconsciously."

"There is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghostlike, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the tinge that saddens it."

"It contributes greatly towards a man's moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate."

"There is so much wretchedness in the world, that we may safely take the word of any mortal professing to need our assistance; and, even should we be deceived, still the good to ourselves resulting from a kind act is worth more than the trifle by which we purchase it."

"The ideas of people in general are not raised higher than the roofs of the houses. All their interests extend over the earth's surface in a layer of that thickness. The meeting-house steeple reaches out of their sphere."

"Amid the seeming confusion of our mysterious world, individuals are so nicely adjusted to a system, and systems to one another and to a whole, that, by stepping aside for a moment, a man exposes himself to a fearful risk of losing his place forever."

"Caresses, expressions of one sort or another, are necessary to the life of the affections, as leaves are to the life of a tree. If they are wholly restrained, love will die at the roots."

"In youth men are apt to write more wisely than they really know or feel; and the remainder of life may be not idly spent in realizing and convincing themselves of the wisdom which they uttered long ago."

"By the sympathy of your human hearts for sin ye shall scent out all the places — whether in church, bedchamber, street, field, or forest — where crime has been committed, and shall exult to behold the whole earth one stain of guilt, one mighty blood spot."

"What we need for our happiness is often close at hand, if we knew but how to seek for it."