Wide World of Quotes > Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson
American philosopher, poet and essayist

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If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!
-- Nature (1836)

It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, 'Always do what you are afraid to do.'
-- Essays (1841), "Heroism"

He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.
-- Address on The Method of Nature (1841)

Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates all whom it floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right and a perfect contentment.
-- Spiritual Laws (1841)

Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.
-- Self Reliance (1841)

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
-- "Self-Reliance" in: Essays: First Series (1841)

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.
-- Self Reliance (1841)

To fill the hour -- that is happiness.
-- Essays. Second Series (1844), "Experience"

Make yourself necessary to someone.
-- The Conduct of Life (1860)

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
-- The Conduct of Life (1860)

Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a thousand years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is here written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.
-- Society and Solitude (1870)

To live without duties is obscene.
-- Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883)

Misattibuted to Emerson:

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
-- This quote, although widely attributed to Emerson on the World Wide Web, actually first came to light in the essay "What is Success?" by Bessie Anderson Stanley, which was first published in: Heart Throbs Volume Two (1911) Edited by Joseph Mitchell Chapple

Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.
or the longer version:
"If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he builds his house in the woods the world will make a beaten path to his door. If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he builds his house in the woods the world will make a beaten path to his door."
-- No one has been able to confirm that Emerson said this (see: John H. Lienhard. "A better moustrap", Engines of our Ingenuity; however, Emerson did say: "If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell ... you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house."

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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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