Quotations by Hawthorne, Nathaniel


Our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
“The Old Manse,” Mosses from an Old Manse (1846)
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In the depths of every heart, there is a tomb and a dungeon, though the lights, the music, and revelry above may cause us to forget their existence, and the buried ones, or prisoners whom they hide. But sometimes, and oftenest at midnight, those dark receptacles are flung wide open. In an hour like this, when the mind has a passive sensibility, but no active strength; when the imagination is a mirror, imparting vividness to all ideas, without the power of selecting or controlling them; then pray that your griefs may slumber, and the brotherhood of remorse not break their chain.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
“The Haunted Mind,” Twice-Told Tales (1851)
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Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
(Attributed)
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Easy reading is damn hard writing.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
(Attributed)

Also attributed to others, including Ernest Hemingway. The reference to Hawthorne can be dated back to Maya Angelou in "The Art of Fiction," Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990):

Nathaniel Hawthorne says, "Easy reading means damn hard writing."

Per Wikiquote, Angelou put it differently previously, in Conversations With Maya Angelou (1989) [ed. Jeffrey M. Elliot]:

I think it's Alexander Pope who says, "Easy writing is damn hard reading," and vice versa, easy reading is damn hard writing.

Which first clause may refer in turn not to Pope but Richard Brinsley, Clio's Protest, or the Picture Varnished (1771, pub. 1819):

You write with ease, to show your breeding, But easy writing's curst hard reading.
Added on 3-Jul-12 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
American Notebooks (25 Oct 1836)

In Passages from the American Note-Books of Nathaniel Hawthorne, ed. S. Hawthorne (1868). Full text.

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We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream: it may be so the moment after death.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
American Notebooks (25 Oct 1836)

In Passages from the American Note-Books of Nathaniel Hawthorne, ed. S. Hawthorne (1868). Full text.
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Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
American Notebooks (3 Nov 1851)

In Passages from the American Note-Books of Nathaniel Hawthorne, ed. S. Hawthorne (1868). Full text.
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No sagacious man will long retain his sagacity if he lives exclusively among reformers and progressive people, without periodically returning into the settled system of things, to correct himself by a new observation from that old standpoint.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Blithedale Romance, ch. 16 “Leave-Takings” (1852)
    (Source)
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The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may not be going to prove one’s self a fool; the truest heroism is, to resist the doubt; and the profoundest wisdom, to know when it ought to be resisted, and when to be obeyed.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Blithedale Romance, ch. 2 (1852)
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The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The House of the Seven Gables, ch. 20 “The Flower of Eden” (1851)
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One picture in ten thousand, perhaps, ought to live in the applause of mankind, from generation to generation until the colors fade and blacken out of sight or the canvas rot entirely away.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Marble Faun (1860)
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Romance and poetry, ivy, lichens and wallflowers need ruin to make them grow.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Marble Faun, Preface (1860)
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It contributes greatly towards a man’s moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, “Introduction: The Custom-House” (1850)
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The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, ch. 1 “The Prison Door” (1850)
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Trusting no man as his friend, he could not recognize his enemy when the latter actually appeared.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, ch. 10 “The Leech and His Patient” (1850)

 

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It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom. Each, in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowledge; each renders one individual dependent for the food of his affections and spiritual life upon another; each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his object.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, ch. 14 “Conclusion” (1850)
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I have laughed in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am!

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, ch. 17 (1850)
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No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, ch. 20 “The Minister in a Maze” (1850)
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There is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghostlike, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color to their lifetime; and still the more irresistibly, the darker the tinge that saddens it.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, ch. 5 “Hester at Her Needle” (1850)
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It is a good lesson — though it may often be a hard one — for a man who has dreamed of literary fame, and of making for himself a rank among the world’s dignitaries by such means, to step aside out of the narrow circle in which his claims are recognized, and to find how utterly devoid of all significance, beyond that circle, is all that he achieves, and all he aims at.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
The Scarlet Letter, Introduction, “The Custom House” (1850)
Added on 22-May-09 | Last updated 22-May-09
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The only sensible ends of literature are, first, the pleasurable toil of writing; second, the gratification of one’s family and friends; and, lastly, the solid cash.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) American writer
Letter to Horatio Bridge (15 Mar 1851)

Full text.

Added on 20-Mar-09 | Last updated 20-Mar-09
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