Quotations From HERMAN MELVILLE


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  • If a drunkard in a sober fit is the dullest of mortals, an enthusiast in a reason-fit is not the most lively.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. The Confidence-Man (1857), ch. 8, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 10, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1984).
  • Great towers take time to construct.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Mardi (1849), ch. 75, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 3, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1970).

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  • 'Tis no dishonor when he who would dishonor you, only dishonors himself.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. White-Jacket (1850), ch. 87, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 5, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1969). Spoken by Ushant, after being flogged.
  • When a companion's heart of itself overflows, the best one can do is to do nothing.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. "Poor Man's Pudding and Rich Man's Crumbs" (1854), The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces 1839-1860, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 9, eds. Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1987).

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  • If some books are deemed most baneful and their sale forbid, how, then, with deadlier facts, not dreams of doting men? Those whom books will hurt will not be proof against events. Events, not books, should be forbid.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. "The Encantadas, Or Enchanted Islands—Sketch Eighth: Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow," The Piazza Tales (1856).

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  • Life folded Death; Death trellised Life; the grim god wived with youthful Life, and begat him curly-headed glories.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Moby-Dick (1851), ch. 102, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 6, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1988).

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  • There is no Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every man's and every being's face. Physiognomy, like every other human science, is but a passing fable.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Moby-Dick (1851), ch. 79, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 6, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1988).
  • The entire merit of a man can never be made known; nor the sum of his demerits, if he have them. We are only known by our names; as letters sealed up, we but read each other's superscriptions.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Mardi (1849), ch. 126, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 3, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1970). Spoken by Babbalanja, the philosopher.
  • The lightning flashes through my skull; mine eyeballs ache and ache; my whole beaten brain seems as beheaded, and rolling on some stunning ground.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Captain Ahab, in Moby Dick, ch. 119 (1851).
  • In their precise tracings-out and subtle causations, the strongest and fieriest emotions of life defy all analytical insight.
    Herman Melville (1819-1891), U.S. author. Pierre (1852), bk. IV, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 7, eds. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1971).

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