Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Theodore Dreiser, fully Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser

American Novelist and Journalist of the Naturalist School

"Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail."

"If I were personally to define religion I would say that it is a bandage that man has invented to protect a soul made bloody by circumstance."

"A half-equipped little knight she was, venturing to reconnoitre the mysterious city and dreaming wild dreams of some vague, far-off supremacy..."

"A man, a real man, must never be an agent, a tool, or a gambler — acting for himself or for others — he must employ such. A real man — a financier — is never a tool. He used tools. He created. He led."

"A real flame of love is a subtle thing. It burns as a will-o'-the-wisp, dancing onward to fairy lands of delight. It roars as a furnace. Too often jealousy is the quality upon which it feeds."

"Assure a man that he has a soul and then frighten him with old wives' tales as to what is to become of him afterward, and you have hooked a fish, a mental slave."

"At once Clyde’s countenance darkened. The witchery of her look was too much for him. The skin of his forehead crinkled and then smoothed out. His eyes burned lustfully and bitterly, his old resentment of life and deprivation showing. No doubt all she said was true. There were others who had more and would spend more. He was boasting and being ridiculous and she was laughing at him."

"After reaching the age where she was old enough to go to work, and thus coming in contact with the type of boy and man in whom she was now interested, she was beginning to see that without yielding herself too much, but in acting discreetly, she could win a more interesting equipment than she had before. Only, so truly sensual and pleasure-loving was she that she was by no means always willing to divorce her self-advantages from her pleasures."

"Back then, the reputation of the detective William A. Pinkerton and his inquiry offices has been very valuable. The man was with a series of vicissitudes of poverty had risen to a high reputation in his strange and repulsive to some people work, but for all who need them to be unhappy services, his well-known and patriotic role was in the Civil War and to Abraham Lincoln's person a recommendation. He, or rather his organization had these protected during the entire duration of his stormy tenure in the government palace. His company had offices in Philadelphia, Washington and New York, just to name the most important places."

"Carrie felt this as a personal reproof. She read Dora Thorne, or had a great deal in the past. It seemed only fair to her, but she supposed that people thought it very fine. Now this clear- eyed, fine-headed youth, who looked something like a student to her, made fun of it. It was poor to him, not worth reading. She looked down, and for the first time felt the pain of not understanding."

"And then he sank back and tried, as usual, not to think. He must succeed. That's what the world was made for. That's what he was made for. That was what he would have to do."

"Clyde was not one of them, and under such circumstances could not be. He might smile and be civil enough - yet he would always be in touch with those who were above them, would he not - or so they thought. He was, as they saw it, part of the rich and superior class and every poor man knew what that meant. The poor must stand together everywhere."

"Few people have the sense of financial individuality strongly developed. They do not know what it means to be a controller of wealth, to have that which releases the sources of social action — its medium of exchange... They want money, but not for money's sake. They want it for what it will buy in the way of simple comforts, whereas the financier wants it for what it will control — for what it will represent in the way of dignity, force, power."

"Dusk - of a summer night. And the tall walls of the commercial heart of an American city of perhaps 400,000 inhabitants --such walls as in time may linger in a mere fable."

"He had sought to be as retiring and cautious as possible. For - after that and while connected with the club, he had been taken with the fancy of trying to live up to the ideals with which the seemingly stern face of that institution had inspired him - conservatism - hard work - saving one’s money - looking neat and gentlemanly. It was such an Eveless paradise, that."

"I acknowledge the Furies. I believe in them. I have heard the disastrous beating of their wings."

"Here were these two, bandying little phrases, drawing purses, looking at cards, and both unconscious of how inarticulate all their real feelings were. Neither was wise enough to be sure of the working of the mind of the other. He could not tell how his luring succeeded. She could not realized that she was drifting, until he secured her address. Now she felt that she had yielded something - he, that he had gained a victory. Already he took control in directing the conversation. His words were easy. Her manner was relaxed."

"If I were personally to define religion, I would say that it is a bandage that man has invented to protect a soul made bloody by circumstance."

"In order to have wisdom we must have ignorance."

"How true it is that words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes."

"In any group of men I have ever known, speaking from the point of view of character and not that of physical appearance, Peter would stand out as deliciously and irrefutably different. In the great waste of American intellectual dreariness he was an oasis, a veritable spring in the desert. He understood life. He knew men. He was free--spiritually, morally, in a thousand ways, it seemed to me."

"I believe in the compelling power of love. I do not understand it. I believe it to be the most fragrant blossom of all this thorny existence."

"Let no one underestimate the need of pity. We live in a stony universe whose hard, brilliant forces rage fiercely."

"It is a sad thing to want for happiness, but it is a terrible thing to see another groping about blindly for it, when it is almost within the grasp."

"In your rocking-chair, by your window dreaming, shall you long, alone. In your rocking- chair, by your window, shall you dream such happiness as you may never feel."

"Literature, outside of the masters, has given us but one idea of the mistress, the subtle, calculating siren who delights to prey on the souls of men. The journalism and the moral pamphleteering of the time seem to foster it with almost partisan zeal. You would imagine that a censorship of life had been established by divinity, and the care of its execution given into the hands of the utterly conservative. Yet there is that other form of liaison which has nothing to do with conscious calculation. In the vast majority of cases it is without design or guile. The average woman, controlled by her affections and deeply in love, is no more capable than a child of anything save sacrificial thought—the desire to give; and so long as this state endures, she can only do this. She may change. Hell hath no fury, etc. But the sacrificial, yielding, solicitous attitude is the chief characteristic of the mistress; and it is this very attitude in contradistinction to the grasping legality of established matrimony that has caused so many wounds in the defenses of the latter. The temperament of man, either male or female, cannot help falling down before and worshiping this non-seeking, sacrificial note. It approaches vast distinction in life. It appears to be related to that last word in art, that largeness of spirit which is the first characteristic of the great picture, the great building, the great sculpture, the great decoration—namely, a giving, freely and without stint, of itself, of beauty."

"Love is the only thing you can really give in all this world. When you give love, you give everything."

"Oh, the moon is fair tonight along the Wabash. From the fields there comes the breath of new-mown hay; Through the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming On the banks of the Wabash, far away."

"One morning, in the fall of 1880, a middle-aged woman, accompanied by a young girl of eighteen, presented herself at the clerk's desk of the principal hotel in Columbus, Ohio, and made inquiry as to whether there was anything about the place that she could do."

"Our civilization is still in a middle stage — scarcely beast in that it is no longer wholly guided by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly guided by reason."

"Many individuals are so constituted that their only thought is to obtain pleasure and shun responsibility. They would like, butterfly-like, to wing forever in a summer garden, flitting from flower to flower, and sipping honey for their sole delight. They have no feeling that any result which might flow from their action should concern them. They have no conception of the necessity of a well-organized society wherein all shall accept a certain quota of responsibility and all realize a reasonable amount of happiness. They think only of themselves because they have not yet been taught to think of society. For them pain and necessity are the great taskmasters. Laws are but the fences which circumscribe the sphere of their operations. When, after error, pain falls as a lash, they do not comprehend that their suffering is due to misbehavior. Many such an individual is so lashed by necessity and law that he falls fainting to the ground, dies hungry in the gutter or rotting in the jail and it never once flashes across his mind that he has been lashed only in so far as he has persisted in attempting to trespass the boundaries which necessity sets. A prisoner of fate, held enchained for his own delight, he does not know that the walls are tall, that the sentinels of life are forever pacing, musket in hand. He cannot perceive that all joy is within and not without. He must be for scaling the bounds of society, for overpowering the sentinel. When we hear the cries of the individual strung up by the thumbs, when we hear the ominous shot which marks the end of another victim who has thought to break loose, we may be sure that in another instance life has been misunderstood--we may be sure that society has been struggled against until death alone would stop the individual from contention and evil."

"Nothing is proved, all is permitted."

"Parents are frequently inclined, because of a time-flattered sense of security, to take their children for granted. Nothing ever has happened, so nothing ever will happen. They see their children every day, and through the eyes of affection; and despite their natural charm and their own strong parental love, the children are apt to become not only commonplaces, but ineffably secure against evil... The astonishment of most parents at the sudden accidental revelation of evil in connection with any of their children is almost invariably pathetic... But it is possible. Very possible. Decidedly likely. Some, through lack of experience or understanding, or both, grow hard and bitter—on the instant. They feel themselves astonishingly abased in the face of notable tenderness and sacrifice. Others collapse and go to pieces before the grave manifestation of the insecurity and uncertainty of life and mortal chemistry. Others, taught roughly by life, or furnished broadly by understanding or intuition, or both, see in this the latest manifestation of that incomprehensible chemistry which we call life and personality, and, knowing that it is quite vain to hope to gainsay it, save by greater subtlety, put the best face they can upon the matter and call a truce until they can think. We all know that life is unsolvable—we who think. The remainder imagine a vain thing, and are full of sound and fury signifying nothing."

"Rather, as he saw it now, the difficulty lay, not in the deed itself, but in the consequences which followed upon not thinking or not knowing."

"People in general attach too much importance to words. They are under the illusion that talking effects great results. As a matter of fact, words are, as a rule, the shallowest portion of all the argument. They but dimly represent the great surging feelings and desires which lie behind. When the distraction of the tongue is removed, the heart listens."

"Remember, love is all a woman has to give, but it is the only thing which God permits us to carry beyond the grave."

"She had no desire for accuracy—those so organized rarely do—no desire for precise information. Innate sensuousness rarely has. It basks in sunshine, bathes in color, dwells in a sense of the impressive and the gorgeous, and rests there. Activity is not necessary except in the case of aggressive, acquisitive natures when it manifests itself in a desire to seize. Sensuousness can be so manifested in the most active dispositions, and apparently only in such."

"Religion is a bandage that man has invented to protect a soul made bloody by circumstance."

"She merely beamed a fatty beam. She was almost ponderous, and pink, with a tendency to a double chin."

"The conventional mind is at best a petty piece of machinery. It is oyster-like in its functioning, or, perhaps better, clam-like. It has its little siphon of thought-processes forced up or down into the mighty ocean of fact and circumstance; but it uses so little, pumps so faintly, that the immediate contiguity of the vast is not disturbed. Nothing of the subtlety of life is perceived. No least inkling of its storms or terrors is ever discovered except through accident."

"She turned; she bruised under her heel the scaly head of this dark suspicion-as terrifying to her as his guilt was to him. 'O Absalom, my Absalom! Come, come, we will not entertain such a thought. God himself would not urge it upon a mother."

"The effect of such a house for its owner is unmistakable. [...] It is a mutual exchange of dignity, meaning and power, and any beauty (or lack thereof) constantly spins like a Rushing shuttles back and forth from one to the secret threads. They cut through the threads, separate the people from what is by law and its own characteristic of him, and what remains is a strange creature, half success and half failure, like the spider without power, which may be no more is what it was when it all Would not his income and to give back."

"The Irish are a practical and philosophic race. Their first and strongest instinct is to make the best of a bad situation — to put a better face on evil than it will normally wear."

"The most futile thing in this world is any attempt, perhaps, at exact definition of character. All individuals are a bundle of contradictions — none more so than the most capable."

"The love of a mother for her children is dominant, selfish and selfless at the same time.... The love of a father for his son or daughter is, if it is ever to love is a far-hearted, generous, moody and thoughtful gift giving without hope of reply, a farewell to a troubled wanderer wants to protect he likes, a properly weighed judgment about the strength and weakness, full of compassion for the failure, and full of pride to success."

"The mystery of life--its inexplicability, beauty, cruelty, tenderness, folly . . . has occupied the greater part of my waking thoughts; and in reverence or rage or irony, as the moment or situation might dictate, I have pondered and even demanded of cosmic energy to know Why."

"The principal thing that troubled Clyde up to his fifteenth year, and for long after in retrospect, was that the calling or profession of his parents was the shabby thing that it appeared to be in the eyes of others."

"The thing that impressed me then as now about New York ... was the sharp, and at the same time immense, contrast it showed between the dull and the shrewd, the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the wise and the ignorant.... The strong, or those who ultimately dominated, were so very strong, and the weak so very, very weak — and so very, very many."

"To the untraveled, territory other than their own familiar heath is invariably fascinating. Next to love, it is the one thing which solaces and delights."

"The whole earth was brimming sunshine that morning. She tripped along, the clear sky pouring liquid blue into her soul."