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Gertrude Atherton

  • Is religion impossible without fanaticism?

  • Fame compensates for a column of wants.

  • The grief of childhood is terrible while it lasts, it is so abandoned and so all-possessing.

  • ... the curse of human nature is imagination. When a long anticipated moment comes, we always find it pitched a note too low, for the wings of imagination are crushed into its withering sides under the crowding hordes of petty realities.

  • It is a pretty trick of authors to make nature ever in sympathy with man, but as a matter of fact she seldom is.

  • I see no present solution of a great and intricate problem but that the rich should realize their duty to the poor.

  • Has it ever occurred to you, that the rich are at the mercy of the poor, not the poor at that of the rich? Who permits us to be rich if not the poor?

  • A man is more than one being in his life. If the last persists, why not the first? If there be a hereafter for his age, why not for his youth?

  • ... there is no greater fraud or bore than the writer who has acquired the art of saying nothing brilliantly.

  • If you can't get the very best in this world, take nothing.

  • We never care to know new people unless we are sure we shall like them.

  • ... books are too heterogeneous an interest to furnish a vital one in life, a reason for being alive.

  • The Southerners are the only cooks in the United States. The real difference between the South and the North is that one enjoys itself getting dyspepsia and the other does not.

  • ... when the horrors that men and women make for themselves come into my mind, I go out and look at the solitary peak that towers above the long receding range of mountains at the head of the lake.

  • ... when I am alone in the forest I always say my prayers; and that occasional solitary communion with God is surely the only true religion for intelligent beings.

  • Like all great writers ... he puts his best in his books, and sometimes lacks magnetism and fresh thought in talking.

  • The minority of one generation is usually the majority of the next.

  • Never trust a woman who will not lie about her age after thirty. She is unwomanly and unhuman and there is no knowing what crimes she will commit.

  • I have come to the conclusion that the modern interpretation of the Declaration of Independence is something like this: I am as good as those that think themselves better and a long sight better than those who only think themselves as good.

  • I want books written out of a brain and heart and soul crowded and vital with Life, spelled with a big L. I want poetry bursting with passion. I don't care a hang for the 'verbal felicities.' They'll do for the fringe, but I want the garment to warm me first.

  • No matter how hard a man may labor, some woman is always in the background of his mind. She is the one reward of virtue.

  • ... her imagination modeled no pleasing features upon the ugly skull of matrimony.

  • The magnetism of the Inevitable embraced them and knit their inner selves together, even while they sat decorously apart.

  • The very commonplaces of life are components of its eternal mystery.

  • Did any great genius ever enter the world in the wake of commonplace pre-natal conditions? Was a maker of history ever born amidst the pleasant harmonies of a satisfied domesticity? Of a mother who was less than remarkable, although she may have escaped being great? Did a woman with no wildness in her blood ever inform a brain with electric fire? The students of history know that while many mothers of great men have been virtuous, none have been commonplace, and few have been happy.

  • Rachel's imagination had never worked toward the fact that money could roll down hill and not roll up again.

  • The only two good words that can be said for a hurricane are that it gives sufficient warning of its approach, and that it blows from one point of the compass at a time.

  • In times of panic man seems to exchange his soul for a tail.

  • [Alexander] Hamilton, the High Priest of Energy, had long since declared war against the inherited genius of the American people, who believed in God and the art of leisure. Hamilton believed in God and a cabinet of zealous ministers.

  • [Alexander] Hamilton estimated portrait painters as thieves of time.

  • ... genius must ever be imperfect. Life is not long enough nor slow enough for both brain and character to grow side by side to superhuman proportions.

  • ... [her] musical genius, the least sane of all gifts, put her in touch with the greater mysteries of the Universe ...

  • ... her age was that indeterminate mixture of everlasting youth and anticipated wisdom which is the glory and the curse of genius.

  • ... novelty, the subtlest spring of all passion.

  • Every leader of a great revolution is a fanatic and a Jesuit.

  • The only real rival of love is Art, for that in itself is a deep personal passion, its function an act of creation, fed by some mysterious perversion of sex, and demanding all the imagination's activities.

  • ... the best of all good friends is pride.

  • ... self-admiration giveth much consolation.

  • Our impulses are our birthright. To alter personality would be unjust, almost criminal, for the impulses that make a fool or worse of us in certain circumstances may be necessary for our happiness.

  • ... France is the genius among nations.

  • The French are a race of individuals. There is no type.

  • ... stoicism is the fundamental characteristic of the French.

  • Civilization in certain respects is as inadequate as it was a thousand years ago.

  • Nursing is not only a natural vocation for a woman, but an occupation which increases her matrimonial chances about eighty per cent.

  • ... fiction is not only the historian of life but its apologist.

  • There is a strong conservative instinct in the average man or woman, born of the hereditary fear of life, that prompts them to cling to old standards, or, if too intelligent to look inhospitably upon progress, to move very slowly. Both types are the brakes and wheelhorses necessary to a stable civilization, but history, even current history in the newspapers, would be dull reading if there were no adventurous spirits willing to do battle for new ideas.

  • Like most Americans, he was a specialist, and had studied only that branch of his art necessary to his own interests.

  • It is seldom that the imagination is disappointed in the 'ancestral piles' of England.

  • Men are not amusing during the shooting season; but, after all, my dear, men were not especially designed to amuse women.

  • ... I am a Californian, and we have twice the individuality and originality of any people in the United States. We always get quite huffy when we are spoken of as merely Americans.

  • The sudden nostalgia was as much of the body as of the spirit. Her very veins seemed full of tears ...

  • Her conversation was like a very light champagne, sparkling but not mounting to the brain.

  • ... California has all the beauties of youth as well as its idiocies and vices ...

  • The world changed somewhat in form during its progress, but never in substance.

  • Plot and melodrama were in every life; in some so briefly as hardly to be recognized, in others—in that of certain men and women in the public eye, for instance—they were almost in the nature of a continuous performance.

  • No loose fish enters our quiet bay.

  • There is nothing so carking as the pangs of unsatisfied curiosity.

  • New York has always prided itself on its bad manners. That is the real source of our strength.

  • Oh, what is young love! The urge of the race. A blaze that ends in babies or ashes.

  • The world is equally astonished—and resentful—at every new discovery, but it in a short time accepts it as a commonplace.

  • Here is a simple recipe to begin with. Get up every morning with the set intention of writing and go to your desk and sit there for three hours, whether you accomplish anything or not. Before long you will find that you are writing madly, not waiting for inspiration.

  • ... the 'creative faculty'... was lethargic; it sometimes roused itself to spurts and flashes during wakeful nights, but slept like a boa-constrictor that had swallowed a pig when he tried to invoke it.

  • A little superstition is a good thing to keep in one's bag of precautions.

  • ... if there's a spirit world why don't the ghosts of dead artists get together and inhibit bad playwrights from tormenting first-nighters?

  • ... orthodoxy is a fixed habit of mind. The average man and woman hug their orthodoxies and spit their venom on those that outrage them.

  • ... nothing in life is more corroding than habit.

  • ... power, after it has ceased from troubling, is the dominant passion in human nature.

  • ... he always settled on the obvious like a hen on a porcelain egg ...

  • Whether you fail or set the world on fire cannot make so very much difference if only you have the opportunity to try for it, to work for it, to think of nothing else!

  • An ardent feminist, he believed in women taking precisely the same liberties with orthodoxies as men had done since the beginning of time ...

  • I am not so sure that an egocentric childhood—when combined with a strong will—is a bad beginning for one whom life has destined for a career. One at least does not start out in life with an inferiority complex, than which surely nothing can be more hampering. All careers are beset with disappointments, knock-down blows, failures, the persistent enmity of mean vestigial minds. To say nothing of one's own mistakes. But if one has that inner conviction, however illogical it may appear at the time, that one must succeed (i.e. have one's own way), that the reverse is unthinkable, pertinacity is as natural as confidence and the battle is half won.

  • It took me years to learn that character is fate and that no one can be made over.

  • Nowhere can it rain harder and with a more tiresome persistence than in California during the brief season when it rains at all.

  • It took me some time to learn that although every one secretly cherishes the ambition to be 'put in a book,' no one is ever satisfied with anything save incense, butter, and honey, unrelieved by salt or spice.

  • ... the only revenge worth having is success.

  • All women want to be understood until they understand themselves.

  • The human mind has an infinite capacity for self-deception.

  • ... he talked as if every sentence had been carefully rehearsed; every semi-colon, every comma, was in exactly the right place, and his rounded periods dropped to the floor and bounced about like tiny rubber balls.

  • ... there is only one thing we do know and that is that we do not know anything.

  • Writing was my real life and I was more at home with the people of my imagination than with the best I met in the objective world.

  • The world, and the great and free United States in particular, is full of narrow-minded, ignorant, moronic, bigoted, cowardly, self-righteous, anemic, pig-headed, stupid, puritanical, hypocritical, prejudiced, fanatical, cocoa-blooded atavists, who soothe their inferiority complex by barking their hatred of anything new.

  • A long while ago an eager group of reformers wrote to me asking if I could suggest anything that would improve the morals of the American people. I replied that the trouble with the American people in general was not lack of morals but lack of brains ...

  • The final result of too much routine is death in life.

  • No country can reach a high stage of civilization without a leisure class ...

  • ... the irony of life is not that you cannot forget but that you can.

  • Jesus Christ has seduced more women than Don Juan.

Gertrude Atherton, U.S. writer

(1857 - 1948)

Full name: Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton