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Quotes of the day: Thornton Wilder

Published Thursday, April 16, 2015 @ 6:12 PM EDT
Apr 16 2015

Thornton Niven Wilder (April 17, 1897 – December 7, 1975) was an American playwright and novelist. He won three Pulitzer Prizes—for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and for the two plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth- and a U.S. National Book Award for the novel The Eighth Day. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


Hope, like faith, is nothing if it is not courageous; it is nothing if it is not ridiculous.

I am convinced that, except in a few extraordinary cases, one form or another of an unhappy childhood is essential to the formation of exceptional gifts.

I am not interested in the ephemeral- such subjects as the adulteries of dentists. I am interested in those things that repeat and repeat and repeat in the lives of the millions.

I hold that we cannot be said to be aware of our minds save under responsibility.

I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for.

I not only bow to the inevitable, I am fortified by it.

I think that it can be assumed that no adults are ever really 'shocked'- that being shocked is always a pose.

I would love to be the poet laureate of Coney Island.

I've never forgotten for long at a time that living is struggle. I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for- whether it's a field, or a home, or a country.

If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were any pattern in human life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off. Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.

Imprisonment of the body is bitter; imprisonment of the mind is worse.

In love's service, only the wounded soldier can serve.

It is only dogs that never bite their masters.

It is only in appearance that time is a river. It is rather a vast landscape and it is the eye of the beholder that moves.

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

Like all the rich he could not bring himself to believe that the poor (look at their houses, look at their clothes!) could really suffer. Like all the cultivated he believed that only the widely read could be said to know that they were unhappy.

Literature is the orchestration of platitudes.

Love is an energy which exists of itself. It is its own value.

Love, though it expends itself in generosity and thoughtfulness, though it gives birth to visions and to great poetry, remains among the sharpest expressions of self-interest. Not until it has passed through a long servitude, through its own self-hatred, through mockery, through great doubts, can it take its place among the loyalties.

Man is not an end but a beginning. We are at the beginning of the second week. We are children of the eighth day.

Many who have spent a lifetime can tell us less of love than the child that lost a dog yesterday.

Marriage is a bribe to make a housekeeper think she's a householder.

Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow.

My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it is on your plate.

Nature reserves the right to inflict upon her children the most terrifying jests.

Never support two weaknesses at the same time. It's your combination sinners- your lecherous liars and your miserly drunkards- who dishonor the vices and bring them into bad repute.

Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are fools and the rest of us are in great danger of contagion.

Nurse one vice in your bosom. Give it the attention it deserves and let your virtues spring up modestly around it. Then you'll have the miser who's no liar; and the drunkard who's the benefactor of the whole city.

People are meant to go through life two by two. 'Tain't natural to be lonesome.

Style is but the faintly contemptible vessel in which the bitter liquid is recommended to the world.

The comic spirit is given to us in order that we may analyze, weigh, and clarify things in us which nettle us, or which we are outgrowing, or trying to reshape.

The difference between a little money and no money at all is enormous...and the difference between a little money and an enormous amount of money is very slight.

The more decisions that you are forced to make alone, the more you are aware of your freedom to choose.

The planting of trees is the least self-centered of all that we do. It is a purer act of faith than the procreation of children.

The public for which masterpieces are intended is not of this earth.

The test of an adventure is that when you're in the middle of it, you say to yourself, 'Oh, now I've got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.' And the sign that something's wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.

There is no drunkenness equal to that of remembering whispered words in the night.'

There's nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.

Those who are silent, self-effacing and attentive become the recipients of confidences.

When God loves a creature he wants the creature to know the highest happiness and the deepest misery... He wants him to know all that being alive can bring. That is his best gift... There is no happiness save in understanding the whole.

Wherever you come near the human race there's layers and layers of nonsense.

Winning children (who appear so guileless) are children who have discovered how effective charm and modesty and a delicately calculated spontaneity are in winning what they want.


(April 17 is also the birthday of Isak Dinesen.)

Categories: Quotes of the day, Thornton Wilder


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