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Transcendentalists > Ralph Waldo Emerson > Quotes

Emerson: Quotes

Emerson quotes

a collection of quotations from Ralph Waldo Emerson, collected by this site's webmaster.  Emerson is perhaps the most widely quoted American writer and many of Emerson's essays are simply packed with quotable quotes.

More: Searchable Emerson Quotes

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I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

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Finish each 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 shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

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To laugh often and much ... this is to have succeeded.  Probably not from Emerson: here's the full quotation and the story.

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Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory. Reform has no gratitude, no prudence, no husbandry.

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Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.

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Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

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A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.

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The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant.

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Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.

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All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

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The only way to have a friend is to be one.

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Go oft to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path.

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When Nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.

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The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it.

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Society acquires new arts, and loses old instincts.

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To fill the hour—that is happiness.

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Every hero becomes a bore at last.

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Hitch your wagon to a star.

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What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.

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There are always two parties; the establishment and the movement.

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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines.  With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.

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Let us treat men and women well; treat them as if they were real. Perhaps they are.

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What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

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To be great is to be misunderstood.

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We boil at different degrees.

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Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

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The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friendship.

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Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them. (attributed, probably erroneously, to Emerson; original source is unknown)

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That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.

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There is properly no history; only biography.

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There is then creative reading as well as creative writing.

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Make yourself necessary to someone.

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Art is a jealous mistress.

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The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.

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It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, ‘Always do what you are afraid to do.’

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All sensible people are selfish, and nature is tugging at every contract to make the terms of it fair.

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In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.

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The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.

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If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mouse-trap than his neighbour, tho' he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

(This is from Emerson according to Sarah S. B. Yule, who wrote that she copied it from a lecture delivered by Emerson. It is not found in his writings, and Elbert Hubbard claimed authorship.)

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