Quotations by White, E.B.


I am inordinately proud these days of the quill, for it has shown itself, historically, to be the hypodermic which inoculates men and keeps the germ of freedom always in circulation, so that there are individuals in every time in every land who are the carriers, the Typhoid Mary’s, capable of infecting others by mere contact and example. These persons are feared by every tyrant — who shows his fear by burning the books and destroying the individuals.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
“Freedom” (Jul 1940)
Added on 25-Feb-16 | Last updated 5-Jul-16
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Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
“Talk of the Town,” New Yorker (3 Jul 1943)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Aug-15
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Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the purely scientific mind.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
“The Preaching Humorist,” The Saturday Review of Literature (18 Oct 1941)

The apparent origin of "Analyzing humor is a bit like dissecting a frog: You learn how it works but you end up with a dead frog" (and variants). Also attributed to Mark Twain (not found in his writing) and André Maurois (who said something similar in 1960). See here for more.
Added on 16-Feb-15 | Last updated 16-Feb-15
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It is easier for a man to be loyal to his club than to his planet; the by-laws are shorter, and he is personally acquainted with the other members.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world, and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting laundry.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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I have one share in corporate Earth, and I am nervous about the management.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
(Attributed)
Added on 26-Feb-08 | Last updated 26-Feb-08
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Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
Interview by G. Plimpton, F. Crowther, The Paris Review (1969)

Full text.

Added on 18-Feb-10 | Last updated 18-Feb-10
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A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
Interview by George Plimpton and Frank H. Crowther, “E. B. White, The Art of the Essay No. 1,” Paris Review #48 (Fall 1969)
    (Source)
Added on 18-Oct-13 | Last updated 18-Oct-13
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The press in our free country is reliable and useful not because of its good character but because of its great diversity. As long as there are many owners, each pursuing his own brand of truth, we the people have an opportunity to arrive at the truth and to dwell in the light. The multiplicity of ownership is crucial. It’s only when there are a few owners, or, as in a government-controlled press, one owner, that truth becomes illusive and the light fails.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
Letter to W. B. Jones (30 Jan 1976)
Added on 24-May-12 | Last updated 24-May-12
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I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

E.B. White (1899-1985) American author, critic, humorist [Elwyn Brooks White]
Recalled on his death, Newsweek (14 Oct 1985)
Added on 26-Jul-07 | Last updated 26-Jul-07
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