If you arrange your books according to their contents, you are sure to get an untidy shelf. If you arrange them according to their size and colour, you get an attractive shelf, but you may lose sight of the books which you want.
In order to master the English language and to be able to appreciate English literature, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the Englishman’s character.
Democracy is something very recent. It is first of all the belief that individual human beings are what matter most. Then it is the belief in equality in the sense that everyone should have certain basic opportunities.
To think of the future in relation to the present is essential to civilization. Instead of spending all the money he earns as fast as he earns it, he will, if an intelligent man, save a large part of it as a provision against future want.
Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. The group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.
A man does not pardon another’s faults who has more of his own.
In my boyhood I had acquired the habit of going about alone to amuse myself in my own way.
My mother would miss me when she looked out to see what the children were doing. I would be called and searched for, to be found hidden away somewhere in the plantation.
Most of the work is not interesting in itself but even such work has certain great advantages. Work fills hours of the day without deciding what to do. Most people are at a loss to think of anything pleasant to be worth doing.
Democracy is the highest form of political government, but its cultural side has weaknesses. If the masses have power, the national culture will be molded by their tastes, and standards of the culture will decline to the second and third class.
The work of the peasant who cultivates his own land is varied. He is very conscious of his dependence on the elements, while the man who works a modern mechanism acquires the sense that man is the master, not the slave, of natural forces.
A person who has enough to live on proposes to engage in some everyday kind of job takes the bread out of other people’s mouths. If this argument were valid, it would be necessary for us to be idle. What a man earns he usually spends, and in spending he gives employment.
Perhaps it is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives. In later life we are likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what is in our minds already. In childhood all books tell us the future and influence the future.
It is hard enough to know whether one is happy or unhappy now, and still harder to compare the relative happiness or unhappiness of different times of one’s life; the utmost that can be said is that we are fairly happy so long as we are distinctly aware of being miserable.
A good farmer is always one of the most intelligent and best educated men in our society. Agriculture is the base of our whole economy and it has been so throughout history. The man who owns land and cherishes it and works it well is the source of our stability as a nation.
Too much sympathy with children is a mistake. They understand that an adult who is sometimes a little stern is best for them. Their instinct tells them whether they are loved or not, and they will put up with whatever strictness results from genuine desire for their proper development.
Many times a day, I realize how much of my own inner and outer life is built upon the labours of my fellow-men. My peace of mind is often troubled by the depressing sense that I have borrowed too heavily from the work of other men.
Recent advances of science make us know less than we thought we knew. We all knew that the body is in time and space, but the soul is in time only. Although the plain man and a man of science considered the existence of the body self-evident, the philosopher was apt to analyze it away after one fashion or another.
The knowledge that men must ultimately die does not weaken the pleasure in being at present alive. To the poet flowers that are doomed to wither appear still more beautiful. He hugs the pleasure of beauty all the more closely because he knows it cannot be his for long.
The belief that death is a gateway to a better life ought, logically, to prevent men from feeling any fear of death. But one does not find that believers in a future life are less afraid of illness or more courageous in battle than those who think that death ends all.
The principal reason why he was always being asked to umpire a game was that he never failed to try to please both teams. If one side did not like his decisions, he would let the players of both sides swear at him as much as they pleased until they were tired of arguing and wanted to get back to playing ball.
The human race has just passed through one of the darkest periods of its history. The unprecedented violence of the conflict destroyed whatever illusions we might have had as to the solidity and permanence of the civilization man was so proud of.
Human nature does not change. The fact that we can understand the earliest specimens of art and literature is proof enough that not only men’s feelings and instincts, but also their intellectual and imaginative powers, were in the remotest times what they are now.
We cannot know too much about the language. We can get along fairly well without knowing very much about our language and without taking the trouble to open a volume of “The Oxford English Dictionary.” But knowledge is power. The power of rightly chosen words is very great.
The people I admire most are those who are sensitive and want to create something or discover something, and do not see life in terms of power. They found religion or produce literature and art or do disinterested scientific research or they may be “ordinary people,” who bring up their children decently or help their neighbors.
Modern parents do not realize the importance to a child of having one day like another. The pleasures of childhood should in the main be such as the child extract himself from his environment by means of some effort and inventiveness.
On arriving at Liverpool, I made the acquaintance of a man who had been in America, and not having his hopes realized, had returned desperate to England and was making a second attempt with as much enthusiasm as others in making their first.
A well-known publisher was asked to equip a library in a new house. It was not the contents of the books that mattered, but the size. You will not find a decent book-shop in any average provincial town. It is not because we cannot afford to buy books. Many people can afford to buy motor-cars at anything from two hundred pounds.
We have all had the experience of chancing upon a passage quoted without indication of authorship, and exclaiming― “So and so must have written that.” It is often not the thought that strikes us as familiar so much as the way in which the thought is expressed.
When someone asks for you on the phone and, finding you out, leaves a message begging you to call him up the moment you come in, and it’s important, the matter is more often important to him than to you.
She had never been invited to any parties, partly because many of her neighbours had never spoken to her, partly because they did not think she would want to come, and partly because they would not have known what to do with her if she had. As a matter of course she loved parties.
The relation between a language and the people is so intimate that people can scarcely think of the two apart. The greatness of the language is that given to it by the people who use it as their native tongue. English, French, and German are great and important languages because they are the languages of great and important peoples.
The end of study is not to possess knowledge but to make it a part of ourselves.
The best way to read fiction is to mix one’s reading. I am continually turning from the most vital work of our time to the classic novels, and I find no opposition between them. They are not mutually exclusive.
Every household in the English-speaking world must have a copy of Holy Bible and the works of William Shakespeare as symbols of Religion and English Culture.
The book-shelves tell us what sort of person the stranger is. A house without books is a mindless and characterless house.
There are two peculiarities in America: first the extreme similarities of outlook in all parts of the United States, and secondly the passionate desire of each locality to prove that it is different from every other. The second of these is caused by the first. The greater the uniformity, the more eager becomes the search for differences.
The commonest form of forgetfulness occurs in the matter of posting letters. I am always reluctant to trust a departing visitor to post an important letter. As for myself, even if I carry the letter in my hand I am always past the pillar-box before I remember that I ought to have posted it.