Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

"Pride eradicates all vices but itself."

"Our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of innumerable minds."

"Our faith comes in moments: our vice is habitual. Yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences."

"Our happiness depends more on what we think of ourselves than on what others think of us."

"People are to be taken in very small doses."

"Power obeys reality, and not appearances; power is according to quality, and not quantity."

"Our strength grows out of our weakness."

"Patience and fortitude conquer all things."

"People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character."

"Science does not know its debt to imagination."

"Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself."

"Proverbs, like the sacred books of each nation, are the sanctuary of the intuitions."

"Security is mortal’s chiefest enemy."

"Revolutions never go backwards."

"Self-sacrifice is the real miracle out of which all reported miracles grow."

"Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect."

"Prudence is the virtue of the senses. It is the science of appearances. It is the outmost action of the inward life."

"Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances: it was somebody’s name, or he happened to be there at the time, or it was so then, and another day it would have been otherwise. Strong men believe in cause and effect. The man was born to do it, and his father was born to be the father of him and for this deed, and, by looking narrowly, you shall see there was no luck in the matter, but it was all a problem in arithmetic, or an experiment in chemistry."

"Self-trust is the first secret of success."

"Skepticism is slow suicide."

"Sincerity is the highest compliment you can pay."

"Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity, is to genius the stern friend, the cold, obscure shelter where moult the wings which will bear it farther than suns and stars. He who would inspire and lead his race must be defended from traveling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily time-worn yoke of their opinions."

"Society does not love its unmaskers."

"Speech is better than silence; silence is better than speech."

"Stay at home in your mind. Don't recite other people's opinions."

"That is ever the difference between the wise and the unwise: the latter wonders at what is unusual; the wise man wonders at the usual."

"Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity."

"That only which we have within, can we see without. If we meet no gods, it is because we harbor none. If there is grandeur in you, you will find grandeur in porters and sweeps."

"Talent for talents’ sake is a bauble and a show. Talent working with joy in the cause of universal truth lifts the possessor to new power as a benefactor."

"Take egotism out, and you would castrate the benefactor."

"The action of the soul is oftener in that which is felt and left unsaid than in that which is said in any conversation. It broods over every society, and men unconsciously seek for it in each other."

"That which befits us, embosomed in beauty and wonder as we are, is cheerfulness, and courage, and the endeavor to realize our aspirations. Shall not the heart which has received so much trust the power by which it lives?"

"The Americans have no faith, they rely on the power of a dollar; they are deaf to sentiment."

"The basis of good manners is self-reliance."

"The accepted and betrothed lover has lost the wildest charms of his maiden in her acceptance of him. She was heaven whilst he pursued her as a star, she cannot be heaven if she stoops to such a one as he."

"The astonishment of life is the absence of any appearance of reconciliation between the theory and the practice of life."

"The beautiful rests on the foundations of the necessary."

"The best of life is conversation, and the greatest success is confidence, or perfect understanding between sincere people."

"The conscious utterance of thought, by speech or action, to any end, is art."

"The effects of opposition are wonderful. There are men who rise refreshed on hearing of a threat; men to whom a crisis which intimidates and paralyzes the majority - demanding, not the faculties of prudence and thrift, but comprehension, immovableness, the readiness to sacrifice - comes graceful and beloved as a bride."

"The earth is a machine which yields almost gratuitous service to every application of intellect. Every plant is a manufacturer of soil. In the stomach of the plant development begins. The tree can draw on the whole air, the whole earth, on all the rolling main. The plant is all suction-pipe, imbibing from the ground by its root, from the air by its leaves, with all its might."

"The essence of greatness is the perception that virtue is enough."

"The finest poetry was first experience."

"The finest people marry the two sexes in their own person."

"The eye obeys exactly the action of the mind."

"The finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom."

"The first point of courtesy must always be truth."

"The force of character is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this."

"The foundation of culture, as of character, is at last the moral sentiment."

"The firmest and noblest ground on which people can live is truth; the real with the real; a ground on which nothing is assumed."