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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There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion . . . 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 man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

To fill the hour — that is happiness.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

All history becomes subjective; in other words there is properly no history, only biography.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

A painter told me that nobody could draw a tree without in some sort becoming a tree; or draw a child by studying the outlines of its form merely . . . but by watching for a time his motions and plays, the painter enters into his nature and can then draw him at every attitude . . .

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The only way to have a friend is to be one.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your reactions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hung my verses in the wind,
Time and tide their faults may find.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Skepticism is unbelief in cause and effect.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk. It is as when a conflagration has broken out in a great city, and no man knows what is safe, or where it will end.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our distrust is very expensive.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

We must be our own before we can be another’s.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, A version of a quote often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, it is an adaptation of a poem published in 1905 by Bessie Stanley. No version of it has been found in Emerson’s writings.

The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

This fact, as far as it symbolizes the moral fact of the Unattainable, the flying Perfect, around which the hands of man can never meet, at once the inspirer and the condemner of every success, may conveniently serve us to connect many illustrations of human power in every department.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world. St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere, and its circumference nowhere. We are all our lifetime reading the copious sense of this first of forms. One moral we have already deduced, in considering the circular or compensatory character of every human action. Another analogy we shall now trace; that every action admits of being outdone.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson
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