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George Eliot

  • Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult.

  • Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.

  • It is better sometimes not to follow great reformers of abuses beyond the threshold of their homes.

  • Don't you meddle with me, and I won't meddle with you.

  • There's times when the crockery seems alive, an' flies out o' your hand like a bird. It's like the glass, sometimes, 'ull crack as it stands. What is to be broke will be broke.

  • I like breakfast-time better than any other moment in the day. No dust has settled on one's mind then, and it presents a clear mirror to the rays of things.

  • Consequences are unpitying.

  • No man can be wise on an empty stomach.

  • ... he was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.

  • ... I'm not denyin' the women are foolish: God Almighty made 'em to match the men.

  • There's folks 'ud hold a sieve under the pump and expect to carry away the water.

  • It's easy finding reasons why other folks should be patient.

  • How is it that the poets have said so many fine things about our first love, so few about our later love? Are their first poems their best? or are not those the best which come from their fuller thought, their larger experience, their deeper-rooted affections?

  • The best fire doesna flare up the soonest.

  • The first sense of mutual love excludes other feelings; it will have the soul all to itself.

  • No story is the same to us after a lapse of time; or rather, we who read it are no longer the same interpreters.

  • One can say everything best over a meal.

  • The words of genius have a wider meaning than the thought that prompted them.

  • Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state.

  • Nature has her language, and she is not unveracious; but we don't know all the intricacies of her syntax just yet, and in a hasty reading we may happen to extract the very opposite of her real meaning.

  • There's no rule so wise but what it's a pity for somebody or other.

  • You must learn to deal with odd and even in life, as well as in figures.

  • Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds ...

  • A patronizing disposition always has its meaner side ...

  • We cannot reform our forefathers.

  • We hand folks over to God's mercy, and show none ourselves.

  • Leisure is gone — gone where the spinning-wheels are gone, and the pack-horses, and the slow wagons, and the peddlers who brought bargains to the door on sunny afternoons.

  • I'm not one o' those as can see the cat i' the dairy, an' wonder what she's come after.

  • It's but little good you'll do a-watering the last year's crop.

  • ... there's folks 'ud stand on their heads and then say the fault was i' their boots.

  • There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and recovered hope.

  • To have suffered much is like knowing many languages. Thou hast learned to understand all.

  • What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life — to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?

  • When death, the great Reconciler, has come, it is never our tenderness that we repent of, but our severity.

  • Surely it is not true blessedness to be free from sorrow, while there is sorrow and sin in the world; sorrow is then a part of love, and love does not seek to throw it off.

  • It's well we should feel as life's a reckoning we cannot make twice over; there's no real making amends in this world, any more nor you can mend a wrong subtraction by doing your addition right.

  • There's many a good bit o' work done with a sad heart.

  • Do we not all agree to call rapid thought and noble impulse by the name of inspiration? After our subtlest analysis of the mental process, we must still say that our highest thoughts and our best deeds are all given to us.

  • It is hardly an argument against a man's general strength of character that he should be mastered by love. A fine constitution doesn't insure one against smallpox.

  • All honour and reverence to the divine beauty of form! Let us cultivate it to the utmost in men, women and children — in our gardens and in our houses. But let us love that other beauty too, which lies in no secret of proportion but in the secret of deep human sympathy.

  • Well, I aren't like a bird-clapper, forced to make a rattle when the wind blows on me. I can keep my own counsel when there's no good i' speaking.

  • ... it was a pity he couldna be hatched o'er again, an' hatched different.

  • If you could make a pudding wi' thinking o' the batter, it 'ud be easy getting dinner.

  • It's them that take advantage that get advantage i' this world ...

  • The men are mostly so slow, their thoughts overrun 'em, an' they can only catch 'em by the tail. I can count a stocking-top while a man's getting's tongue ready; an' when he outs wi' his speech at last, there's little broth to be made on't. It's your dead chicks take the longest hatchin'.

  • The responsibility of tolerance lies with those who have the wider vision.

  • I've never any pity for conceited people, because I think they carry their comfort about with them.

  • We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us.

  • It was one of those dangerous moments when speech is at once sincere and deceptive — when feeling, rising high above its average depth, leaves flood-marks which are never reached again.

  • Anger and jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of their objects than love.

  • More helpful than all wisdom is one draught of simple human pity that will not forsake us.

  • It always seemed to me a sort of clever stupidity only to have one sort of talent — like a carrier pigeon.

  • The happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history.

  • What novelty is worth the sweet monotony where everything is known, and loved because it is known?

  • People who live at a distance are naturally less faulty than those immediately under our own eyes ...

  • Death was not to be a leap: it was to be a long descent under thickening shadows.

  • ... conscientious people are apt to see their duty in that which is the most painful course ...

  • We get a deal o' useless things about us, only because we've got the money to spend.

  • There is no sense of ease like the ease we felt in those scenes where we were born.

  • A man out of temper does not wait for proofs before feeling toward all things, animate and inanimate, as if they were in a conspiracy against him, but at once thrashes his horse or kicks his dog in consequence.

  • You youngsters nowadays think you're to begin with living well and working easy; you've no notion of running afoot before you get on horseback.

  • I should like to know what is the proper function of women, if it is not to make reasons for husbands to stay at home, and still stronger reasons for bachelors to go out.

  • We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.

  • It is always chilling, in friendly intercourse, to say you have no opinion to give.

  • ... the mysterious complexity of our life is not to be embraced by maxims ... to lace ourselves up in formulas of that sort is to repress all the divine promptings and inspirations that spring from growing insight and sympathy.

  • When a workman knows the use of his tools, he can make a door as well as a window.

  • ... the Press has no band of critics who go the round of the churches and chapels, and are on the watch for a slip or defect in the preacher, to make a 'feature' in their article: the clergy are, practically, the most irresponsible of all talkers.

    • George Eliot,
    • in Westminster Review ()
  • Breed is stronger than pasture.

  • Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand ...

  • There's nothing kills a man so soon as having nobody to find fault with but himself.

  • A common fallacy: to imagine a measure will be easy because we have private motives for desiring it.

  • It is seldom that the miserable can help regarding their misery as a wrong inflicted by those who are less miserable.

  • Our consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us: there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud.

  • Hatred is like fire — it makes even light rubbish deadly.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside itself; it only requires opportunity.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Mighty is the force of motherhood! ... It transforms all things by its vital heat ...

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • It is a sad weakness in us, after all, that the thought of a man's death hallows him anew to us; as if life were not sacred too.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • In the man whose childhood has known caresses and kindness, there is always a fibre of memory that can be touched to gentle issues.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • The tale of the Divine Pity was never yet believed from lips that were not felt to be moved by human pity.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • There's things to put up wi' in ivery place, an' you may change an' change an' not better yourself when all's said an' done.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • The blessed work of helping the world forward, happily does not wait to be done by perfect men.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Errors look so very ugly in persons of small means — one feels they are taking quite a liberty in going astray; whereas people of fortune may naturally indulge in a few delinquencies. 'They've got the money for it,' as the girl said of her mistress who had made herself ill with pickled salmon.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Opposition may become sweet to a man when he has christened it persecution ...

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • We reap what we sow, but nature has love over and above that justice, and gives us shadow and blossom and fruit, that spring from no planting of ours.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Blessed influence of one true loving human soul on another!

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • The first condition of human goodness is something to love; the second, something to reverence.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • It's no trifle at her time at her time of life to part with a doctor who knows her constitution.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • The impulse to confession almost always requires the presence of a fresh ear and a fresh heart; and in our moments of spiritual need, the man to whom we have no tie but our common nature, seems nearer to us than mother, brother, or friend. Our daily familiar life is but a hiding of ourselves from each other behind a screen of trivial words and deeds, and those who sit with us at the same hearth, are often the farthest off from the deep human soul within us, full of unspoken evil and unacted good.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • ... it is because sympathy is but a living again through our own past in a new form, that confession often prompts a response of confession.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Any coward can fight a battle when he's sure of winning; but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he's sure of losing. That's my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • History, we know, is apt to repeat itself.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • In every parting there is an image of death.

    • George Eliot,
    • "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • The thing we look forward to often comes to pass, but never precisely in the way we have imagined to ourselves.

    • George Eliot,
    • "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • O the anguish of the thought that we can never atone to our dead for the stinted affection we gave them.

    • George Eliot,
    • "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Net the large fish and you are sure to have the small fry.

    • George Eliot,
    • "The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • One of the tortures of jealousy is, that it can never turn away its eyes from the thing that pains it.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Mr Gilfil's Love Story," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Among all the many kinds of first love, that which begins in childish companionship is the strongest and most enduring.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Mr Gilfil's Love Story," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • We have all our secret sins; and if we knew ourselves we should not judge each other harshly.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Mr Gilfil's Love Story," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Animals are such agreeable friends — they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Mr Gilfil's Love Story," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Our thoughts are often worse than we are.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Mr Gilfil's Love Story," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Many an irritating fault, many an unlovely oddity, has come of a hard sorrow.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Mr Gilfil's Love Story," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • An ass may bray a good while before he shakes the stars down.

  • Necessity does the work of courage.

  • There is no killing the suspicion that deceit has once begotten.

  • Our deeds are like children that are born to us; they live and act apart from our own will.

  • I carry my unwritten poems in cipher on my face!

  • No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence.

  • Marriage must be a relation either of sympathy or of conquest.

  • Justice is like the Kingdom of God — it is not without us as a fact, it is within us as a great yearning.

  • Old men's eyes are like old men's memories; they are strongest for things a long way off.

  • To manage men one ought to have a sharp mind in a velvet sheath.

  • ... the human soul is hospitable, and will entertain conflicting sentiments and contradictory opinions with much impartiality.

  • A bachelor's children are always young: they're immortal children — always lisping, waddling, helpless, and with a chance of turning out good.

  • ... there are two ways of speaking an audience will always like: one is, to tell them what they don't understand; and the other is, to tell them what they're used to.

  • Where Jack isn't safe, Tom's in danger.

  • It's all one web, sir. The prosperity of the country is one web.

  • There's good chances and bad chances, and nobody's luck is pulled only by one string.

  • An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.

  • Blows are sarcasms turned stupid ...

  • Opinions: men's thoughts about great subjects. Taste: their thoughts about small ones: dress, behavior, amusements, ornaments.

  • I hold it blasphemy to say that a man ought not to fight against authority: there is no great religion and no great freedom that has not done it, in the beginning.

  • I think cheerfulness is a fortune in itself.

  • The scornful nostril and the high head gather not the odours that lie on the track of truth.

  • Speech is often barren; but silence also does not necessarily brood over a full nest.

  • In the ages since Adam's marriage, it has been good for some men to be alone, and for some women also.

  • A fool or idiot is one who expects things to happen that never can happen.

  • In our spring-time every day has its hidden growths in the mind, as it has in the earth when the little folded blades are getting ready to pierce the ground.

  • You are discontented with the world because you can't get just the small things that suit your pleasure, not because it's a world where myriads of men and women are ground by wrong and misery, and tainted with pollution.

  • Your trouble's easy borne when everybody gives it a lift for you.

  • Ignorance is not so damnable as humbug, but when it prescribes pills it may happen to do more harm.

  • In all private quarrels the duller nature is triumphant by reason of dullness.

  • I will try to make life less bitter for a few within my reach.

  • There is hardly any mental misery worse than that of having our own serious phrases, our own rooted beliefs, caricatured by a charlatan or a hireling.

  • Play not with paradoxes. That caustic which you handle in order to scorch others, may happen to sear your own fingers, and make them dead to the quality of things. 'Tis difficult enough to see our way and keep our torch steady in this dim labyrinth: to whirl the torch and dazzle the eyes of our fellow-seekers is a poor daring, and may end in total darkness.

  • Best friend, my wellspring in the wilderness!

  • Particular lies may speak a general truth.

  • ... a book which hath been culled from the flowers of all books ...

  • Our words have wings, but fly not where we would.

  • Thanks angrily bestowed are red-hot coin / Burning your servant's palm.

  • He who rules / Must humour full as much as he commands ...

  • Thy speech is like an hourglass; turn it down / The other way, 't will stand as well ...

  • Speech is but broken light upon the depth / Of the unspoken ...

  • Where evil is / True mercy must be terrible.

  • ... thou'rt a poet, crazed with finding words / May stick to things and seem like qualities. / No pebble is a pebble in thy hands: / 'T is a moon out of work, a barren egg, / Or twenty things that no man sees but thee.

  • Jews are not fit for Heaven, but on earth they are most useful.

  • Music sweeps by me as a messenger / Carrying a message that is not for me.

  • It will never rain roses: when we want / To have more roses we must plant more trees.

  • There's no blameless life / Save for the passionless ...

  • Thing are achieved when they are well begun. / The perfect archer calls the deer his own / While yet the shaft is whistling.

  • No great deed is done by falterers who ask for certainty.

  • Might, could, would — they are contemptible auxiliaries.

  • Time, like money, is measured by our needs.

  • In all failures, the beginning is certainly the half of the whole.

  • Genius ... is necessarily intolerant of fetters ...

  • The bow always strung ... will not do.

  • Having once embarked on your marital voyage, it is impossible not to be aware that you make no way, and that the sea is not within sight — that, in fact, you are exploring an enclosed basin.

  • ... correct English is the slang of prigs ...

  • Who can tell what just criticisms Murr the Cat may be passing on us beings of wider speculation?

  • One's self-satisfaction is an untaxed kind of property which it is very unpleasant to find depreciated.

  • ... the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome, dubious eggs, called possibilities.

  • One must be poor to know the luxury of giving!

  • There is a sort of jealousy which needs very little fire: it is hardly a passion, but a blight bred in the cloudy, damp despondency of uneasy egoism.

  • It is as useless to fight against the interpretations of ignorance as to whip the fog.

  • ... there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it.

  • If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new.

  • In marriage, the certainty, 'She will never love me much,' is easier to bear than the fear, 'I shall love her no more.'

  • Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending.

  • We are all of us born in moral stupidity, taking the world as an udder to feed our supreme selves.

  • If you are not proud of your cellar, there is no thrill of satisfaction in seeing your guest hold up his wineglass to the light and look judicial.

  • Miserliness is a capital quality to run in families; it's the safe side for madness to dip on.

  • Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.

  • We are all of us imaginative in some form or other, for images are the brood of desire ...

  • Appearances have very little to do with happiness.

  • The right word is always a power and communicates its definiteness to our action.

  • ... blameless people are always the most exasperating.

  • ... a prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions.

  • [It is easier] to quell emotion than to incur the consequences of venting it.

  • What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?

  • We must not inquire too curiously into motives. ... they are apt to become feeble in the utterance: the aroma is mixed with the grosser air. We must keep the germinating grain away from the light.

  • Has anyone ever pinched into its pilulous smallness the cobweb of prematrimonial acquaintanceship?

  • Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous.

  • Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self.

  • There are characters which are continually creating collisions and nodes for themselves in dramas which nobody is prepared to act with them.

  • What is your religion? I mean — not what you know about religion but the belief that helps you most?

  • The wit of a family is usually best received among strangers.

  • There are natures in which, if they love us, we are conscious of having a sort of baptism and consecration.

  • But let the wise be warned against too great readiness to explanation: it multiplies the sources of mistake, lengthening the sum for reckoners sure to go wrong.

  • Souls live on in perpetual echoes.

  • Certainly the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.

  • What makes life dreary is the want of motive.

  • In the multitude of middle aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much in the same way as they tie their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little.

  • The truth is the hardest missile one can be pelted with.

  • She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.

  • It is surely better to pardon too much than to condemn too much.

  • It always remains true that if we had been greater, circumstance would have been less strong against us.

  • He said he should prefer not to know the sources of the Nile, and that there should be some unknown regions preserved as hunting-grounds for the poetic imagination.

  • When you get me a good man made out of arguments, I will get you a good dinner with reading you the cookery book.

  • We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinnertime.

  • Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.

  • There is no sorrow I have thought more about than that — to love what is great, and try to reach it, and yet to fail.

  • But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.

  • What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?

  • It is a very good quality in a man to have a trout-stream.

  • There are answers which, in turning away wrath, only send it to the other end of the room ...

  • ... one always believes one's own town to be more stupid than any other.

  • Brothers are so unpleasant.

  • Hear everything and judge for yourself ...

  • I believe that people are almost always better than their neighbors think they are.

  • We are rather apt to consider an act wrong because it is unpleasant to us.

  • If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of the roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.

  • To superficial observers his chin had too vanishing an aspect, looking as if it were being gradually reabsorbed. And it did indeed cause him some difficulty about the fit of his satin stocks, for which chins were at that time useful.

  • When the animals entered the Ark in pairs, one may imagine that allied species made much private remark on each other, and were tempted to think that so many forms feeding on the same store of fodder were eminently superfluous, as tending to diminish the rations.

  • ... the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.

  • I daresay she is like the rest of the women — thinks two and two'll come to make five, if she cries and bothers enough about it.

  • I would not creep along the coast, but steer / Out in mid-sea, by guidance of the stars.

  • But how little we know what would make paradise for our neighbours! We judge from our own desires, and our neighbours themselves are not always open enough even to throw out a hint of theirs.

  • Only those who know the supremacy of the intellectual life — the life which has a seed of ennobling thought and purpose within it — can understand the grief of one who falls from that serene activity into the absorbing soul-wasting struggle with worldly annoyances.

  • Alas! the scientific conscience had got into the debasing company of money obligation and selfish respects.

  • Men and women make sad mistakes about their own symptoms, taking their vague uneasy longings, sometimes for genius, sometimes for religion, and oftener still for a mighty love.

  • Unwonted circumstances may make us all rather unlike ourselves: there are conditions under which the most majestic person is obliged to sneeze, and our emotions are liable to be acted on in the same incongruous manner.

  • ... there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it.

  • Our deeds still travel with us from afar, / And what we have been makes us what we are.

  • ... she found to her surprise that an old friend is not always the person whom it is easiest to make a confidant of: there was the barrier of remembered communication under other circumstances — there was the dislike of being pitied and informed by one who had been long wont to allow her the superiority.

  • Truth has rough flavors if we bite it through.

    • George Eliot,
    • Armgart ()
  • Excellence encourages one about life generally; it shows the spiritual wealth of the world.

  • The gods have a curse for him who willingly tells another the wrong road.

  • The best augury of a man's success in his profession is that he thinks it the finest in the world.

  • Genius at first is little more than a great capacity for receiving discipline.

  • Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down.

  • The intensest form of hatred is that rooted in fear.

  • ... the strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.

  • A difference of taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections.

  • Those who trust us educate us.

  • Gossip is a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it; it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker.

  • ... ignorance gives one a large range of probabilities.

  • Friendships begin with liking or gratitude — roots that can be pulled up.

  • It's a nicety of conversation which I would have you attend to — much quotation of any sort, even in English, is bad. It tends to choke ordinary remark. One couldn't carry on life comfortably without a little blindness to the fact that everything has been said better than we can put it ourselves.

  • Receptiveness is a rare and massive power, like fortitude.

  • It is one thing to see your road, another to cut it.

  • Better a wrong will than a wavering; better a steadfast enemy than an uncertain friend; better a false belief than no belief at all.

  • Human experience is usually paradoxical.

  • Men's men: gentle or simple, they're much of a muchness.

  • This is the bitterest of all, — to wear the yoke of our own wrong-doing.

  • If you are to rule men, you must rule them through their own ideas.

  • Unhappily the habit of being offensive 'without meaning it' leads usually to a way of making amends which the injured person cannot but regard as a being amiable without meaning it.

  • It is not true that a man's intellectual power is, like the strength of a timber beam, to be measured by its weakest point.

  • As to memory, it is known that this frail faculty naturally lets drop the facts which are less flattering to our self-love — when it does not retain them carefully as subjects not to be approached, marshy spots with a warning flag over them.

  • ... his mind is furnished as hotels are, with everything for occasional and transient use.

  • It is always your heaviest bore who is astonished at the tameness of modern celebrities: naturally; for a little of his company has reduced them to a state of flaccid fatigue.

  • Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact ...

  • It is in the nature of foolish reasonings to seem good to the foolish reasoner.

  • ... bad literature of the sort called amusing is spiritual gin.

  • ... the poverty of our imagination is no measure of the world's resources. Our posterity will no doubt get fuel in ways that we are unable to devise for them.

  • To his quick eye, ear, and tongue, a few predatory excursions in conversation where there are instructed persons, gradually funish surprisingly clever modes of statement.

  • True, some persons are so constituted that the very excellence of an idea seems to them a convincing reason that it must be, if not solely, yet especially theirs. It fits in so beautifully with their general wisdom, it lies implicitly in so many of their manifested opinions, that if they have not yet expressed it (because of preoccupation), it is clearly a part of their indigenous produce, and is proved by their immediate eloquent promulgation of it to belong more naturally and apppropriately to them than to the person who seemed first to have alighted on it, and who sinks in their all-originating consciousness to that low kind of entity, a second cause.

  • ... in spite of his practical ability, some of his experience had petrified into maxims and quotations.

  • ... voices ... must go deeper into us than other things. I have often fancied heaven might be made of voices.

  • We must find our duties in what comes to us, not in what we imagine might have been.

  • Enveloped in a common mist, we seem to walk in clearness ourselves, and behold only the mist that enshrouds others.

  • I take a dose of mathematics every day to prevent my brain from becoming quite soft.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1849), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • I am obliged to give up the few visits which would be really attactive and fruitful in order to avoid the many visits which would be the reverse. It is only by saying, 'I never pay visits,' that I can escape being ungracious or unkind — only by renouncing all social intercourse but such as comes to our own fireside, that I can escape sacrificing the chief objects of life. I think it very good of those with whom I have much fellow-feeling, if they will let me have the pleasure of seeing them without their expecting the usual reciprocity of visits; and I hope I need hardly say that you are among the visitors who would be giving me pleasure in this way. ... I am not afraid of your misinterpreting my stay-at-home rule into churlishness.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1861), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • It is impossible, to me at least, to be poetical in cold weather.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1840), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1840), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • We want people to feel with us more than to act for us.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1856), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • The last refuge of intolerance is in not tolerating the intolerant ...

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1857), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • I am open to conviction on all points except dinner and debts. I hold that the one must be eaten and the other paid.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1857), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • Childhood is only the beautiful and happy time in contemplation and retrospect: to the child it is full of deep sorrows, the meaning of which is unknown.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1844), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • Few women, I fear, have had such reason as I have to think the long sad years of youth were worth living for the sake of middle age.

    • George Eliot,
    • journal (1857), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • My books don't seem to belong to me after I have once written them; and I find myself delivering opinions about them as if I had nothing to do with them.

    • George Eliot,
    • journal (1857), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • It's always good to know, if only in passing, a charming human being; it refreshes one like flowers and birds and clear brooks.

    • George Eliot,
    • journal (1850), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • The fact is, both callers and work thicken — the former sadly interfering with the latter.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1852), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • ... autobiography at least saves a man or woman that the world is curious about from the publication of a string of mistakes called 'Memoirs.'

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1876), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • The intense happiness of our union is derived in a high degree from the perfect freedom with which we each follow and declare our own impressions.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1860), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • Life is too precious to be spent in this weaving and unweaving of false impressions, and it is better to live quietly under some degree of misrepresentation than to attempt to remove it by the uncertain process of letterwriting.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1856), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • The years seem to rush by now, and I think of death as a fast approaching end of a journey — double and treble reasons for loving as well as working while it is day.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1861), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • What courage and patience are wanted for every life that aims to produce anything!

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1861), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • It so often happens that others are measuring us by our past self while we are looking back on that self with a mixture of disgust and sorrow.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1861), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • How impossible it is for strong healthy people to understand the way in which bodily malaise and suffering eats at the root of one's life! The philosophy that is true — the religion that is strength to the healthy — is constantly emptiness to one when the head is distracted and every sensation is oppressive.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1863), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • ... I have the conviction that excessive literary production is a social offense. ... Everyone who contributes to the 'too much' of literature is doing grave social injury.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1871), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • I easily sink into mere absorption of what other minds have done, and should like a whole life for that alone.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1872), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • ... when one's outward lot is perfect, the sense of inward imperfection is the more pressing.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1872), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • There is nothing I should care more to do, if it were possible, than to rouse the imagination of men and women to a vision of human claims in those races of their fellow-men who most differ from them in customs and beliefs.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe (1876), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • ... the usual attitude of Christians towards Jews is — I hardly know whether to say more impious or more stupid, when viewed in the light of their professed principles. ... They hardly know Christ was a Jew. And I find men, educated, supposing that Christ spoke Greek. To my feeling, this deadness to the history which has prepared half our world for us, this inability to find interest in any form of life that is not clad in the same coat-tails and flounces as our own, lies very close to the worst kind of irreligion.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe (1876), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. I am not sure that you are of the same mind. But the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of light and speech, and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1875), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • ... in certain crises direct expression of sympathy is the least possible to those who most feel sympathy.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1865), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • 'Tis God gives skill, but not without men's hands: He could not make Antonio Stradivari's violins without Antonio.

  • God, immortality, duty ... how inconceivable was the first, how unbelievable was the second, yet how peremptory and absolute the third.

    • George Eliot,
    • in Mary H. Deakin, The Early Life of George Eliot ()
  • Say 'I love you' to those you love. The eternal silence is long enough to be silent in, and that awaits us all.

    • George Eliot,
    • in Hester Thackeray, Thackeray and His Daughter ()
  • He had the superficial kindness of a good-humored, self-satisfied nature, that fears no rivalry, and has encountered no contrarieties.

    • George Eliot,
    • "The Lifted Veil" (1859), in A. Susan Williams, The Lifted Veil ()
  • In the first moments when we come away from the presence of death, every other relation to the living is merged, to our feeling, in the great relation of a common nature and a common destiny.

    • George Eliot,
    • "The Lifted Veil" (1859), in A. Susan Williams, The Lifted Veil ()
  • O may I join the choir invisible / Of those immortal dead who live again / In minds made better by their presence ...

    • George Eliot,
    • "O May I Join the Choir Invisible," The Legend of Jubal and Other Poems, Old and New ()
  • ... men and women are but children of a larger growth ...

    • George Eliot,
    • 1839, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • ... I love words; they are the quoits, the bows, the staves that furnish the gymnasium of the mind.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1841, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • Loquacity with tongue or pen is its own reward — or, punishment.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1841, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • To fear the examination of any proposition apears to me an intellectual and a moral palsy that will ever hinder the firm grasping of any substance whatever.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1842, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • One has to spend many years in learning how to be happy.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1844, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • It is necessary to me, not simply to be but to utter, and I require utterance of my friends.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1848, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • Dear Friends all, A thousand Christmas pleasures and blessings to you — good resolutions and bright hopes for the New Year! Amen. People who can't be witty exert themselves to be pious or affectionate.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1849, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • I have no courage to write much unless I am written to. I soon begin to think that there are plenty of other correspondents more interesting — so if you all want to hear from me you know the conditions.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1851, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • Of new acquaintances one can never be sure because one likes them one day that it will be so the next. Of old friends one is sure that it will be the same yesterday, today, and forever.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1852, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • I am so grieved to hear that Sara does not get better. What a wretched lot of old shrivelled creatures we shall be bye-and-bye. Never mind, the uglier we get in the eyes of others the lovelier we shall be to each other — that has always been my firm faith about friendship, and now it is in a slight degree my experience.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1852, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • ... one's own faults are always a heavy chain to drag through life and one can't help groaning under the weight now and then.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1853, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • The evil one has incited the people next door to have the outside of their house painted, which constitutes a small purgatory for me apart from anything else.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1854, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • If I could only fancy myself clever, it would be better, but to be a failure of Nature and to know it is not a comfortable lot. It is the last lesson one learns, to be contented with one's inferiority — but it must be learned.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1854, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • For 'Live and learn,' we should sometimes read 'Live and grow stupid.'

    • George Eliot,
    • 1855, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • 'La carrière ouverte aux talents,' whether the talents be feminine or masculine, I am quite confident is a right maxim. Whether 'La carrière ouverte à la sottise,' be equally just, when made equally universal, it would be too much like 'taking sides' for me to say.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1857, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • It is pleasant to have a kind word now and then when one is not near enough to have a kind glance or a hearty shake by the hand.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1857, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • My own experience and development deepen every day my conviction that our moral progress may be measured by the degree in which we sympathize with individual suffering and individual joy.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1857, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • There is so much to read and the days are so short! I get more hungry for knowledge every day, and less able to satisfy my hunger.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1857, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • The worst service, I fancy, that anyone can do for truth, is to set silly people writing on its behalf.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1858, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • Yes, Isaac Taylor, who has just published 'The World of Mind,' is the Isaac Taylor, author of the 'Natural History of Enthusiasm.' I dare say by this time there is a want of fatty particles in his brain.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1858, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • ... even those who call themselves 'intimate' know very little about each other — hardly ever know just how a sorrow is felt, and hurt each other by their very attempts at sympathy or consolation. We can bear no hand on our bruises.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1858, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • It is easy to say how we love new friends, and what we think of them, but words can never trace out all the fibres that knit us to the old.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1858, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • ... the business of life shuts us up within the environs of London and within sight of human advancement, which I should be so very glad to believe in without seeing.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1859, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 3 ()
  • People who write finely must not expect to be left in repose; they will be molested with thanks, at least.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1859, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 3 ()
  • If Art does not enlarge men's sympathies, it does nothing morally.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1858, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 3 ()
  • I don't want the world to give me anything for my books except money enough to save me from the temptation to write only for money.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1859, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 3 ()
  • What moments of despair that life would ever be made precious to me by the consciousness that I lived to some good purpose! It was that sort of despair that sucked away the sap of half the hours which might have been filled by energetic youthful activity: and the same demon tries to get hold of me again whenever an old work is dismissed and a new one is being meditated.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1861, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 3 ()
  • ... to my thinking, it is more pitiable to bore than to be bored.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1861, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 3 ()
  • Some people are born to make life pretty, and others to grumble that it is not pretty enough.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1864, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 4 ()
  • ... trouble always seems heavier when it is only one's thought and not one's bodily activity that is employed about it.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1864, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 4 ()
  • I have nothing to tell except travellers' stories, which are always tiresome, like the description of a play which was very exciting to those who saw it.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1867, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 4 ()
  • ... learning to love any one is like an increase of property, — it increases care, and brings many new fears lest precious things should come to harm.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1870, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 5 ()
  • What is better than to love and live with the loved? — But that must sometimes bring us to live with the dead; and this too turns at last into a very tranquil and sweet tie, safe from change and injury.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1871, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 5 ()
  • If people will be censors, let them weigh their words. I mean that the words were unfair by that disproportionateness of the condemnation, which everybody with some conscience must feel to be one of the great difficulties in denouncing a particular person. Every unpleasant dog is only one of many, but we kick him because he comes in our way, and there is always some want of distributive justice in the kicking.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1872, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 5 ()
  • ... it is one of the gains of advancing age that the good of young creatures becomes a more definite intense joy to us. With that renunciation for ourselves which age inevitably brings, we get more freedom of soul to enter into the life of others; what we can never learn they will know, and the gladness which is a departed sunlight to us is rising with the strength of morning to them.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1873, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 5 ()
  • All writing seems to me worse in the state of proof than in any other form. In manuscript one's own wisdom is rather remarkable to one, but in proof it has the effect of one's private furniture repeated in the shop windows. And then there is the sense that the worst errors will go to press unnoticed!

    • George Eliot,
    • 1875, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 6 ()
  • ... as usual I am suffering much from doubt as to the worth of what I am doing and fear lest I may not be able to complete it so as to make it a contribution to literature and not a mere addition to the heap of books.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1875, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 6 ()
  • I don't mind how many letters I receive from one who interests me as much as you do. The receptive part of correspondence I can carry on with much alacrity. It is writing answers that I groan over.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1875, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 6 ()
  • Even success needs its consolation.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1876, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 6 ()
  • But I confess, that the more I think of the book [Harriet Martineau's memoirs] and all connected with it, the more it deepens my repugnance — or rather creates a new repugnance in me — to autobiography, unless it can be so written as to involve neither self-glorification nor impeachment of others. I like that the 'He, being dead, yet speaketh,' should have quite another meaning than that.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1877, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 6 ()
  • Letter-writing I imagine is counted as 'work' from which you must abstain, and I scribble this letter simply from the self-satisfied notion that you will like to hear from me. You see, I have asked no questions, which are the torture-screws of correspondence. Hence you have nothing to answer.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1878, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 7 ()
  • The perpetual mourner — the grief that can never be healed — is innocently enough felt to be wearisome by the rest of the world. And my sense of desolation increases. Each day seems a new beginning — a new acquaintance with grief.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1879, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 7 ()
  • Joy and sorrow are both my perpetual companions, but the joy is called Past and the sorrow Present.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1879, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 7 ()
  • I am feeling easy now, and you will well understand that after undergoing pain this ease is opening paradise. Invalids must be excused for being eloquent about themselves.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1879, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 7 ()
  • I think the effective use of quotation is an important point in the art of writing. Given sparingly, quotations serve admirably as a climax or as a corroboration, but when they are long and frequent, they seriously weaken the effect of a book. We lose sight of the writer — he scatters our sympathy among others than himself — and the ideas which he himself advances are not knit together with our impression of his personality.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1853, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 8 ()
  • ... the fallibility of human brains is in nothing more obvious than in proof reading.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1854, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 8 ()
  • The sweetest of all success is that which one wins by hard exertion ...

    • George Eliot,
    • 1857, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 8 ()
  • ... happy husbands and wives can hear each other say the same thing over and over again without being tired.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1873, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 9 ()
  • I wish always to be quoted as George Eliot.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1879, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 9 ()
  • It is never too late to be what you might have been.

    • George Eliot
  • Whether happiness may come or not, one should try and prepare one's self to do without it.

    • George Eliot
  • Every woman is supposed to have the same set of motives, or else to be a monster.

    • George Eliot
  • Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles.

    • George Eliot
  • Decide what you think is right and stick to it.

    • George Eliot
  • Hell is oneself; Hell is alone, the other figures in it merely projections. There is nothing to escape from and nothing to escape to. One is always alone.

    • George Eliot
  • But, bless us, things may be lovable that are not altogether handsome, I hope?

    • George Eliot
  • Human feeling is like the mighty rivers that bless the earth: it does not wait for beauty — it flows with resistless force and brings beauty with it.

    • George Eliot
  • When we get to wishing a great deal for ourselves, whatever we get soon turns into mere limitation and exclusion.

    • George Eliot
  • I told her it was not quite en règle to bring one so far out of our own set; but she said, 'Genius itself is not en règle; it comes into the world to make new rules.'

  • We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.

    • George Eliot
  • There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.

  • Every man's work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life.

  • Character is not cut in marble — it is not something solid and unalterable. It is something living and changing, and may become diseased as our bodies do.

  • Jealousy is never satisfied with anything short of an omniscience that would detect the subtlest fold of the heart.

  • Ignorant kindness may have the effect of cruelty.

  • There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence.

  • It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.

George Eliot, English novelist, writer

(1819 - 1880)

Full name: Mary Ann Evans Cross. Most of us were introduced to Eliot when we were too young to appreciate her. She’s brilliant — try again sometime.