81 Smart Quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last updated on Jun 18th, 2023

81 Smart Quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American Transcendentalist poet, philosopher, lecturer, and essayist during the 19th century. Born on May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts, he was the son of Ruth Haskins and William Emerson, a Unitarian minister.

After studying at Harvard, Emerson entered the ministry, but after the death of his wife in 1831, he resigned his pastorate. Next year, Emerson traveled to Europe to visit Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. When he returned home in 1833, he began to lecture, and most of his lectures during the 1830s ended up in essays. These essays, especially Nature (1836), are perhaps the best expression of his Transcendentalism.

The 1840s were the most fertile years for Emerson. During that time, he published two volumes of essays: Essays: First Series (1841) and Essays: Second Series (1844). These two collections represent the core of his thinking and include some well-known essays such as Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Poet, and Experience.

As a champion of individualism, his work influenced numerous thinkers, writers, and poets. He presented his thoughts through essays and public lectures across the United States.

The only way to have a friend is to be one. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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The only way to have a friend is to be one.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay VI. Friendship, Page 176

Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature 1836 Quotes)
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Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.Nature (ed. 1836), Chapter III. Beauty, Page 29

Always do what you are afraid to do. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Always do what you are afraid to do.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay VIII. Heroism, Page 176

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Society and Solitude Quotes)
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Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.Society and Solitude (ed. 1870), Essay VII. Works and Days, Page 157

Men are what their mothers made them. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Men are what their mothers made them.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay I. Fate, Page 8

Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay VII. Considerations by the Way, Page 230

We must be our own before we can be another's. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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We must be our own before we can be another’s.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay VI. Friendship, Page 174

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay VI. Worship, Page 191

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay XII. Art, Page 295

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume VI, Page 302

For every thing you have missed, you have gained something else; and for every thing you gain, you lose something. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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For every thing you have missed, you have gained something else; and for every thing you gain, you lose something.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay III. Compensation, Page 81

Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The American Scholar Quotes)
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Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.The American Scholar (1837), (ed. 1901), Page 31

Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay VIII. Beauty, Page 263

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay II. Self-Reliance, Page 47

Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay VII. Prudence, Page 196

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume VI, Page 410

To be great is to be misunderstood. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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To be great is to be misunderstood.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay II. Self-Reliance, Page 47

Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Letters and Social Aims Quotes)
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Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.Letters and Social Aims (ed. 1876), Essay VII. Progress of Culture, Page 215

Money often costs too much. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Money often costs too much.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay III. Wealth, Page 94

Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of our science. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Society and Solitude Quotes)
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Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of our science.Society and Solitude (ed. 1870), Essay VII. Works and Days, Page 142

Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Representative Men Quotes)
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Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.Representative Men (ed. 1850), Essay II. Plato; or, the Philosopher, Page 46

Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Friendship, like the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay VI. Friendship, Page 163

Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Letters and Social Aims Quotes)
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Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.Letters and Social Aims (ed. 1876), Essay VII. Progress of Culture, Page 217

We are always getting ready to live but never living. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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We are always getting ready to live but never living.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume III, Page 276

Before we acquire great power we must acquire wisdom to use it well. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Lectures and Biographical Sketches Quotes)
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Before we acquire great power we must acquire wisdom to use it well.Lectures and Biographical Sketches (ed. 1887), Essay I. Demonology, Page 26

Every man is a consumer, and ought to be a producer. He fails to make his place good in the world, unless he not only pays his debt, but also adds something to the common wealth. Nor can he do justice to his genius, without making some larger demand on the world than a bare subsistence. He is by constitution expensive, and needs to be rich. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Every man is a consumer, and ought to be a producer. He fails to make his place good in the world, unless he not only pays his debt, but also adds something to the common wealth. Nor can he do justice to his genius, without making some larger demand on the world than a bare subsistence. He is by constitution expensive, and needs to be rich.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay III. Wealth, Page 73

A great man is always willing to be little. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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A great man is always willing to be little.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay III. Compensation, Page 97

Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: Second Series Quotes)
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Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.Essays: Second Series (ed. 1844), Essay II. Experience, Page 55

Science does not know its debt to imagination. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Letters and Social Aims Quotes)
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Science does not know its debt to imagination.Letters and Social Aims (ed. 1876), Essay I. Poetry and Imagination, Page 16

Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay I. Fate, Page 9

In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay VII. Prudence, Page 194

The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay VI. Worship, Page 196

Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume III, Page 74

Every experiment, by multitudes or by individuals, that has a sensual and selfish aim, will fail. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Representative Men Quotes)
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Every experiment, by multitudes or by individuals, that has a sensual and selfish aim, will fail.Representative Men (ed. 1850), Essay VI. Napoleon; or, the Man of the World, Page 252

Knowledge is the knowing that we can not know. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Representative Men Quotes)
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Knowledge is the knowing that we can not know.Representative Men (ed. 1850), Essay IV. Montaigne; or, the Skeptic, Page 173

Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay IX. The Over-Soul, Page 221

All diseases run into one, Old Age. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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All diseases run into one, Old Age.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume V, Page 438

People only see what they are prepared to see. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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People only see what they are prepared to see.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume IX, Page 548

Genius always finds itself a century too early. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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Genius always finds itself a century too early.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume V, Page 498

Wisdom has its root in goodness, and not goodness its root in wisdom. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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Wisdom has its root in goodness, and not goodness its root in wisdom.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume IX, Page 122

Every burned book or house enlightens the world. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Every burned book or house enlightens the world.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay III. Compensation, Page 98

As we grow old, the beauty steals inward. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume VII, Page 26

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For every benefit which you receive, a tax is levied. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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For every benefit which you receive, a tax is levied.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay III. Compensation, Page 93

Truth is the property of no individual, but is the treasure of all men. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Letters and Social Aims Quotes)
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Truth is the property of no individual, but is the treasure of all men.Letters and Social Aims (ed. 1876), Essay VI. Quotation and Originality, Page 183

The faith that stands on authority is not faith. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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The faith that stands on authority is not faith.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay IX. The Over-Soul, Page 244

Every hero becomes a bore at last. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Representative Men Quotes)
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Every hero becomes a bore at last.Representative Men (ed. 1850), Essay I. Uses of Great Men, Page 32

Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay III. Compensation, Page 96

We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay V. Love, Page 155

What we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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What we seek we shall find; what we flee from flees from us.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay I. Fate, Page 40

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay II. Self-Reliance, Page 69

The reason why men do not obey us, is because they see the mud at the bottom of our eye. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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The reason why men do not obey us, is because they see the mud at the bottom of our eye.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay V. Behavior, Page 158

In every society some men are born to rule, and some to advise. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature, Addresses and Lectures Quotes)
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In every society some men are born to rule, and some to advise.Nature, Addresses and Lectures (ed. 1849), Chapter X. The Young American, Page 374

A man is the whole encyclopaedia of facts. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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A man is the whole encyclopaedia of facts.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay I. History, Page 4

Great geniuses have the shortest biographies. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Representative Men Quotes)
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Great geniuses have the shortest biographies.Representative Men (ed. 1850), Essay II. Plato; or, the Philosopher, Page 47

Cause and effect are two sides of one fact. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Cause and effect are two sides of one fact.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay X. Circles, Page 260

Every sweet hath its sour; every evil its good. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Every sweet hath its sour; every evil its good.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay III. Compensation, Page 81

Our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of innumerable minds. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Letters and Social Aims Quotes)
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Our knowledge is the amassed thought and experience of innumerable minds.Letters and Social Aims (ed. 1876), Essay VI. Quotation and Originality, Page 190

The key to every man is his thought. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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The key to every man is his thought.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay X. Circles, Page 251

The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Society and Solitude Quotes)
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The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.Society and Solitude (ed. 1870), Essay V. Domestic Life, Page 115

Whatever limits us, we call Fate. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Whatever limits us, we call Fate.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay I. Fate, Page 16

The first wealth is health. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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The first wealth is health.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay II. Power, Page 47

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay X. Circles, Page 265

In the morning a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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In the morning a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume V, Page 164

The revelation of Thought takes man out of servitude into freedom. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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The revelation of Thought takes man out of servitude into freedom.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay I. Fate, Page 21

Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay XI. Intellect, Page 283

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay II. Self-Reliance, Page 73

Manners require time, as nothing is more vulgar than haste. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Manners require time, as nothing is more vulgar than haste.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay V. Behavior, Page 163

Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay I. History, Page 11

Children are all foreigners. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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Children are all foreigners.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume V, Page 260

The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay VIII. Beauty, Page 264

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series Quotes)
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Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind.Essays: First Series (ed. 1841), Essay II. Self-Reliance, Page 41

Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense. - Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes
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Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense.Celebration of Intellect: An Address at Tufts College (July 10, 1861)

No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: Second Series Quotes)
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No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.Essays: Second Series (ed. 1844), Essay III. Character, Page 106

Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The American Scholar Quotes)
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Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding.The American Scholar (1837), (ed. 1901), Page 14

The value of a principle is the number of things it will explain. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Lectures and Biographical Sketches Quotes)
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The value of a principle is the number of things it will explain.Lectures and Biographical Sketches (ed. 1887), Essay VIII. The Preacher, Page 223

This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The American Scholar Quotes)
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This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.The American Scholar (1837), (ed. 1901), Page 50

Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume IV, Page 16

The measure of a master is his success in bringing all men round to his opinion twenty years later. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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The measure of a master is his success in bringing all men round to his opinion twenty years later.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay IV. Culture, Page 142

As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume VI, Page 298

Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Conduct of Life Quotes)
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Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.The Conduct of Life (ed. 1860), Essay VI. Worship, Page 197

If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes)
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If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson (ed. 1909), Volume VIII, Page 528