Quotations by Lewis, Sinclair


There are two insults which no human will endure: the assertion that he hasn’t a sense of humor, and doubly impertinent that he has never known trouble.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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It is impossible to discourage the real writers — they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Dec-15 | Last updated 1-Dec-15
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When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
(Spurious)

Not found in Lewis' writing. Variants:
  • James Waterman Wise, Jr., Christian Century (5 Feb 1936): "In a recent address here before the liberal John Reed club said that Hearst and Coughlin are the two chief exponents of fascism in America. If fascism comes, he added, it will not be identified with any 'shirt' movement, nor with an 'insignia,' but it will probably be 'wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution.'"
  • Halford E. Luccock, Keeping Life Out of Confusion (1938): "When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled 'made in Germany'; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, 'Americanism.'"
  • Harrison Evans Salisbury, The Many Americas Shall Be One (1971): "Sinclair Lewis aptly predicted in It Can't Happen Here that if fascism came to America it would come wrapped in the flag and whistling 'The Star Spangled Banner.'" [The quotation is not found in that book.]
Added on 4-Aug-15 | Last updated 4-Aug-15
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There was much conversation, most of which sounded like the rest of it.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Arrowsmith, ch. 14 (1925)
Added on 3-Nov-15 | Last updated 3-Nov-15
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I must say I’m not very fond of oratory that’s so full of energy it hasn’t any room for facts.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Arrowsmith, ch. 22, part 3 (1925)
    (Source)
Added on 18-May-15 | Last updated 18-May-15
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I’ve never done a single thing I’ve wanted to do in my whole life! I don’t know’s I’ve accomplished anything except just get along.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Babbitt, 34.6 [George F. Babbitt] (1922)
Added on 24-Mar-09 | Last updated 24-Mar-09
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All of them perceived that American Democracy did not imply any equality of wealth, but did demand a wholesome sameness of thought, dress, painting, morals, and vocabulary.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Babbitt, ch. 34 (1922)
Added on 27-Oct-15 | Last updated 27-Oct-15
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The men leaned back on their heels, put their hands in their trouser-pockets, and proclaimed their views with the booming profundity of a prosperous male repeating a thoroughly hackneyed statement about a matter of which he knows nothing whatever.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Babbitt, ch. 8 (1922)
Added on 20-Oct-15 | Last updated 20-Oct-15
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“The trouble with this country is,” observed Herndon, “that there’re too many people going about saying: ‘The trouble with this country is –‘”

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Dodsworth, ch. 10 (1929)
    (Source)
Added on 25-Aug-15 | Last updated 25-Aug-15
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   “Even if some details of dogma aren’t true — or even all of ’em — think what a consolation religion and the church are to weak humanity!”
   “Are they? I wonder! Don’t cheerful agnostics, who know they are going to die dead, worry much less than good Baptists, who worry lest their sons and cousins and sweethearts fail to get into the Baptist heaven — or what is even worse, who wonder if they may not have guessed wrong — if God may not be a Catholic, maybe, or a Mormon or Seventh-day Adventist instead of a Baptist, and then they’ll go to hell themselves. Consolation? No!”

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Elmer Gantry (1927)
Added on 10-Nov-15 | Last updated 10-Nov-15
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The Maker of the universe with stars a hundred thousand light-years apart was interested, furious, and very personal about it if a small boy played baseball on Sunday afternoon.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Elmer Gantry (1927)
Added on 17-Nov-15 | Last updated 17-Nov-15
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Under a tyranny, most friends are a liability. One quarter of them turn “reasonable” and become your enemies, one quarter are afraid to speak, and one quarter are killed and you die with them. But the blessed final quarter keep you alive.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
It Can’t Happen Here (1935)
Added on 24-Nov-15 | Last updated 24-Nov-15
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On the whole, with scandalous exceptions, Democracy has given the ordinary worker more dignity than he ever had.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
It Can’t Happen Here (1935)
Added on 13-Apr-16 | Last updated 13-Apr-16
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He was afraid that the world struggle today was not of Communism against Fascism, but of tolerance against the bigotry that was preached equally by Communism and Fascism. But he saw too that in America the struggle was befogged by the fact that the worst Fascists were they who disowned the word “Fascism” and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty. For they were thieves not only of wages but of honor. To their purpose they could quote not only Scripture but Jefferson.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
It Can’t Happen Here, ch. 36 (1935)
    (Source)
Added on 11-Aug-15 | Last updated 11-Aug-15
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It has not yet been recorded that any human being has gained a very large or permanent contentment from meditation upon the fact that he is better off than others.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street (1920)
Added on 15-Sep-15 | Last updated 15-Sep-15
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The doctor asserted, “Sure religion is a fine influence — got to have it to keep the lower classes in order — fact, it’s the only thing that appeals to a lot of these fellows and makes ’em respect the rights of property. And I guess this theology is O.K.; lot of wise old coots figured it out, and they knew more about it than we do.” He believed in the Christian religion, and never thought about it; he believed in the church, and seldom went near it; he was shocked by Carol’s lack of faith, and wasn’t quite sure what was the nature of the faith that she lacked.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street (1920)
Added on 29-Sep-15 | Last updated 29-Sep-15
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Carol herself was an uneasy and dodging agnostic. When she ventured to Sunday School and heard the teachers droning that the genealogy of Shamsherai was a valuable ethical problem for children to think about; when she experimented with the Wednesday prayer-meeting and listened to store-keeping elders giving unvarying weekly testimony in primitive erotic symbols and such gory Chaldean phrases as “washed in the blood of the lamb” and “a vengeful God…” then Carol was dismayed to find the Christian religion, in America, in the twentieth century, as abnormal as Zoroastrianism — without the splendor.

But when she went to church suppers a felt the friendliness, saw the gaiety with which the sisters served cold ham and scalloped potatoes; when Mrs. Champ Perry cried to her, on an afternoon call, ‘”My dear, if you just knew how happy it makes you to come into abiding grace,” then Carol found the humanness behind the sanguinary and alien theology.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street (1920)
Added on 6-Oct-15 | Last updated 6-Oct-15
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There are two insults which no human being will endure: The assertion that he hasn’t a sense of humor, and the doubly impertinent assertion that he has never known trouble.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street (1920)
Added on 13-Oct-15 | Last updated 13-Oct-15
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I think perhaps we want a more conscious life. We’re tired of drudging and sleeping and dying. We’re tired of seeing just a few people able to be individualists. We’re tired of always deferring hope till the next generation. We’re tired of hearing politicians and priests and cautious reformers (and the husbands!) coax us, “Be calm! Be patient! Wait! We have the plans for a Utopia already made; just wiser than you.” For ten thousand years they’ve said that. We want our Utopia now — and we’re going to try our hands at it.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street, ch. 16 [Carol] (1920)
    (Source)
Added on 8-Sep-15 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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In the manner of one who has just beheld a two-headed calf they repeated that they had “never heard such funny ideas!” They were staggered to learn that a real tangible person, living in Minnesota, and married to their own flesh-and-blood relation, could apparently believe that divorce may not always be immoral; that illegitimate children do not bear any special and guaranteed form of curse; that there are ethical authorities outside of the Hebrew Bible; that men have drunk wine yet not died in the gutter; that the capitalistic system of distribution and the Baptist wedding-ceremony were not known in the Garden of Eden; that mushrooms are as edible as corn-beef hash; that the word “dude” is no longer frequently used; that there are Ministers of the Gospel who accept evolution; that some persons of apparent intelligence and business ability do not always vote the Republican ticket straight; that it is not a universal custom to wear scratchy flannels next the skin in winter; that a violin is not inherently more immoral than a chapel organ; that some poets do not have long hair; and that Jews are not always pedlers or pants-makers.
    “Where does she get all them the’ries?” marveled Uncle Whittier Small; while Aunt Bessie inquired, “Do you suppose there’s many folks got notions like hers? My! If there are,” and her tone settled the fact that there were not, “I just don’t know what the world’s coming to!”

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street, ch. 20 (1920)
    (Source)
Added on 22-Sep-15 | Last updated 22-Sep-15
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Myron reflected that there are so many people in the world who are eager to do for you things that you do not wish done, provided only that you will do for them things that you don’t wish to do.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Work of Art, ch. 21 (1934)
Added on 1-Sep-15 | Last updated 1-Sep-15
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Fortune has dealt with me rather too well. I have known little struggle, not much poverty, many generosities. Now and then I have, for my books or myself, been somewhat warmly denounced — there was one good pastor in California who upon reading my Elmer Gantry desired to lead a mob and lynch me, while another holy man in the state of Maine wondered if there was no respectable and righteous way of putting me in jail. And, much harder to endure than any raging condemnation, a certain number of old acquaintances among journalists, what in the galloping American slang we call the “I Knew Him When Club,” have scribbled that since they know me personally, therefore I must be a rather low sort of fellow and certainly no writer. But if I have now and then received such cheering brickbats, still I, who have heaved a good many bricks myself, would be fatuous not to expect a fair number in return.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1930)
Added on 18-Aug-15 | Last updated 18-Aug-15
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Intellectually I know America is no better than any other country; emotionally I know she is better than every other country.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Radio interview, Berlin (29 Dec 1930)

Reported in the New York Times (30 Dec 1930)
Added on 8-Jan-08 | Last updated 19-May-15
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