Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson

American Lecturer, Essayist and Poet, Leader of the Transcendentalist Movement, Champion of Individualism

"A cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word."

"'Tis curious that we only believe as deeply as we live."

"[People] measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is... Nothing can bring you peace but yourself."

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today."

"A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature."

"A man cannot utter two or three sentences without disclosing to intelligent ears precisely where he stands in life and thought, whether in the kingdom of the senses and the understanding, or in that of ideas and imagination, or in the realm of intuitions and duty."

"A good intention clothes itself with sudden power."

"A man is a method, a progressive arrangement; a selecting principle, gather his like unto him wherever he goes. What you are comes to you."

"A man is a little thing while he works by and for himself; but when he gives voice to the rules of love and justice, he is godlike."

"A man is a pair of hands, pretty dangerous tools, able to subdue the world or to un-build and destroy much faster than others can build."

"A man... makes his inferiors his superiors by heat [anger]."

"A man is known by the books he reads, by the company he keeps, by the praise he gives, by his dress, by his tastes, by his distastes, by the stories he tells, by his gait, by the motion of his eye, by the look of his house, of his chamber; for nothing on earth is solitary, but everything hath affinities infinite."

"All the physicians I have ever seen call themselves believers, but are materialists; they believe only in the existence of matter, and not in matter as an appearance, but as substance, and do not consider template a cause. Their idea of spirit is a chemical agent."

"As a man thinketh so is he, and as a man chooseth so is he."

"Beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue."

"All the mistakes I make arise from forsaking my own station and trying to see the object from another person's point of view."

"A strenuous soul hates cheap success. It is the ardor of the assailant that makes the vigor of the defendant."

"Beware what you set your heart upon. For it surely shall be yours."

"Character gives splendor to youth, and awe to wrinkled skin and gray hairs."

"Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one's self?"

"Character is always known. Thefts never enrich; alms never impoverish; murder will speak out of stone walls. The least admixture of a lie - for example, the taint of vanity, any attempt to make a good impression, a favorable appearance - will instantly vitiate the effect. But speak the truth and all nature and all spirits help you with unexpected furtherance."

"Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as strong to think... Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary."

"Consideration is the soil in which wisdom may be expected to grow, and strength be given to every upspringing plant of duty."

"Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade, in short, in all management of human affairs."

"Cupid is a casuist, a mystic and a cabalist - can your lurking thought surprise, and interpret your device... Heralds high before him run; he has ushers many a one; he spreads his welcome where he goes, and touches all things with his rose. All things wait for and divine him - how shall I dare malign him?"

"Conversation is the vent of character as well as of thought."

"Defect in manners is usually the defect of fine perceptions. Men are too coarsely made for the delicacy of beautiful carriage and customs. It is not quite sufficient to good breeding, a union of kindness and independence."

"Discontent is the want of self-reliance; it is infirmity of will."

"Do not fear to put novels into the hands of young people as an occasional holiday experiment, but above all, good poetry in all kinds - epic, tragedy, lyric. If we can touch the imagination, we serve them; they will never forget it."

"Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain."

"Dreams retain the infirmities of our character."

"Education should be as broad as man."

"Each man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well. He has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the sun."

"Ennui shortens life, and bereaves the day of its light."

"Enthusiasm is the height of man; it is the passing from the human to the divine."

"Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak."

"Every evil to which we do not succumb is a benefactor. As the Sandwich islander believes that the strength and valor of the enemy he kills passes into himself, so we gain the strength of the temptations we resist."

"Events expand with the character."

"Enthusiasm goes out."

"Every man is entitled to be valued by his best moment."

"Every great man is a unique."

"Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm."

"Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood or appreciated."

"Every man believes that he has a greater possibility."

"Every man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he do not cheat his neighbor."

"Every substance is only the reflection or rhyme of some truth."

"Fate is unpenetrated causes."

"Every noble activity makes room for itself."

"Faith makes us, and not we it; and faith makes its own forms."

"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you will begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered by your old nonsense."