image of the walk up to the Old Manse, with house in background (Concord, MA)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalist philosopher and critic of religion, was a popular lecturer in his day. Many have quoted him from his essays, journals, and speeches.

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The moral sense reappears today with the same morning newness that has been from of old the fountain of beauty and strength. You say there is no religion now. ‘Tis like saying in rainy weather, There is no sun, when at that moment we are witnessing one of its superlative effects.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Public opinion, I am sorry to say, will bear a great deal of nonsense. There is scarcely any absurdity so gross, whether in religion, politics, science or manners, which it will not bear.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not believe that possibly you can escape the reward of your action.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, the worst. What is the right use? What is the end which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire. I had better never see a book than be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satelite instead of a system.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders, so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stay at home in your mind. Don’t recite other people’s opinions. I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1843

All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-trust is the first secret of success.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friendship should be surrounded with ceremonies and respects, and not crushed into corners. Friendship requires more time than poor busy men can usually command.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and adore.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own focus.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

For what avail the plough or sail,
Or land or life, if freedom fail?

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Gods we worship write their names on our faces; be sure of that. A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

So is cheerfulness, or a good temper, the more it is spent, the more remains.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they be executed.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is it so bad to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

What a man does, that he has. What has he to do with hope or fear? In himself is his might. Let him regard no good as solid but that which is in his nature, and which must grow out of him as long as he exists. The goods of fortune may come and go like summer leaves; let him scatter them on every wind as the momentary signs of his infinite productiveness.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

We aim above the mark to hit the mark.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The ancestor of every action is a thought.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everything in nature contains all the power of nature. Everything is made of one hidden stuff.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson
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