“In Madame Bovary Flaubert never allows anything to go on too long; he can suggest years of boredom in a paragraph, capture the essence of a character in a single conversational exchange, or show us the gulf between his soulful heroine and her dull-witted husband in a sentence (and one that, moreover, presages all Emma’s later experience of men). . . This is one of the summits of prose art, and not to know such a masterpiece is to live a diminished life.” – Michael Dirda
“Let a man, as most men do, rate themselves at the highest value they can, yet their true value is no more than it is esteemed by others.” – Thomas Hobbs, Leviathan, I, 10
“What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain understanding must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. What would be the use of discovering so-called objective truth, of working through all the systems of philosophy and of being able, if required to review them all and show up the inconsistencies within each system ;—what good would it do me to be able to develop a theory of the state and combine all the details into a single whole, and so construct a world in which I did not live, but only held up to the view of others;—what good would it do me to be able to explain the meaning of Christianity if it had no deeper significance for me and for my life;—what good would it do me if truth stood before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I recognized her or not and producing in me a shudder of fear rather than a trusting devotion? I certainly do not deny that I still recognize an imperative of understanding that through it one can work upon men, but it must be taken up into my life, and that is what I now recognize as the most important thing. That is what my soul longs after as the African desert thirsts for water.” – Søren Kierkegaard, Journals (August 1, 1835)
“Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means.” – Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
“As we grew older, we began to realize what our books were worth: Anne of Green Gables was worth two Bobbsey Twins; two Rover Boys were an even swap for two Tom Swifts. Aesthetic frissons [shudders or shivers, as of excitement, fear, or pleasure] ran a poor second to the thrills of acquisition. The goal, a full set of a series, was attained only once by an individual of exceptional greed – he swapped his sister’s doll buggy.” – Harper Lee in a letter to Oprah Winfrey
“The first primitive electric telegraph line [which was built before Samuel Morse created Morse code] was built in the 1790s by Francisco Salva and was capable of transmitting sparks from Madrid to Aranjuez fifty kilometres away. Salva proposed a separate wire for each letter of the alphabet with the arriving spark briefly illuminating letters in turn in order to spell out messages. (He apparently also considered connecting a person to each wire and having them shout out the letter when they received an electric shock.)” – Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc
“Scribbler, n. A professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.” – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
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Two quotes from Downton Abbey:
Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham: [to his wife Cora and to his mother the Dowager about acceding to their request to put Tom in charge of the estate] Second, you will both admit it when you realize you were wrong.
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham: Oh, well, that is an easy caveat to accept because I’m never wrong.
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Isobel Crawley: But it’s immoral to react in such a jealous and selfish way.
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham: If we only had moral thoughts, what would the churchmen find to do?