Genius

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Genius is bound to be indulgent. It should know human errors so well — has, with its large luminous forces, such errors itself when it deigns to be human, that, where others may scorn, genius should only pity. ~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Genius (plural genii or geniuses, adjective ingenious) is a term referring to a person, a body of work, a singular achievement of surpassing excellence, or an essential quality of such things. More than just originality, creativity, or intelligence, genius is associated with achievement of insight which has transformational power. A work of genius fundamentally alters the expectations of its audience. In Ancient Rome, the genius was the guiding or "tutelary" spirit of a person, or even of an entire gens. Those individuals who are labeled as geniuses or endowed with genius successfully apply previously unknown techniques in the production of a work of art, science or calculation, or master and personalize known techniques. A genius typically possesses great intelligence or remarkable abilities in a specific subject, or shows an exceptional natural capacity of intellect or ability, especially in the production of creative and original work, something that has never been seen or evaluated previously.

See also:
Imagination
Intelligence
Genius is patience. ~ Anonymous
Alphabetized by author or source
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P -Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · External links

A[edit]

  • Genius is patience.
    • Anonymous proverb, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • A genius is one who can do anything except make a living.
    • Joey Adams, as quoted in The Mammoth Book of Humor (2000) by Geoff Tibballs, p. 355.
  • The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.
  • Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementia.
    • There is no great genius without a mixture of madness.
      • Aristotle. Quoted by Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy. Attributed to Aristotle also by Seneca the Younger, Problem. 30.
      • Same idea in Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi, XVII. 10. Cicero, —Tusculum. I. 33. 80; also in De Div. I. 37.
  • Doing easily what others find it difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius.

B[edit]

Genius does what it must, and talent does what it can. ~ Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton
For me, Kate Bush was always a trump card when the tiresome 'question' of female artistic genius came up. ~ Kitty Empire
  • Men give way before the power of genius, they hate it and try to blow upon it because it takes without sharing the plunder, but they give way if it persists; in short, they worship it on their knees when they have failed in their efforts to bury it under the mud.
  • As diamond cuts diamond, and one hone smooths a second, all the parts of intellect are whetstones to each other; and genius, which is but the result of their mutual sharpening, is character too.
    • Cyrus Augustus Bartol, in Radical Problems, Individualism, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922).
  • There iz this difference between genius and common sense in a fox: Common sense iz governed bi circumstances, but circumstances iz governed by genius.
    • Josh Billings, "The Fox", The complete works of Josh Billings (1873, 1876), p. 116
    • Variant: There is this difference between genius and common sense in a fox: Common sense is governed by circumstances, but circumstances is governed by genius.
      • As rendered in Uncle Sam's Uncle Josh: Or, Josh Billings on Practically Everything (1953) edited by Donald Day, p. 120.
  • Genius seems to be the fakulty ov doing a thing excellently well, that nobody supposed could be done at all.
    • Josh Billings, Josh Billings' Old Farmer's Allminax, 1870-1879: With Comic Illustrations, "May 1875", (New York: G. W. Dillingham Co., 1902)[1]
    • Variant: Genius is the faculty of doing a thing that nobody supposed could be done at all.
      • As rendered in Uncle Sam's Uncle Josh: Or, Josh Billings on Practically Everything (1953) edited by Donald Day, p. 182.
  • Genius after all ain't ennything more than elegant kommon sense.
    • Josh Billings, "Nosegays", The complete works of Josh Billings (1873, 1876), p. 314
    • Variant: Genius ain't anything more than elegant common sense.
      • As rendered in Uncle Sam's Uncle Josh: Or, Josh Billings on Practically Everything (1953) edited by Donald Day, p. 182.
  • Tallent must hav memory, genius don't require it.
    • Josh Billings, "Saws", The complete works of Josh Billings (1873, 1876), p. 308
    • Variant: Talent must have memory; genius don't require it.
      • As rendered in Uncle Sam's Uncle Josh: Or, Josh Billings on Practically Everything (1953) edited by Donald Day, p. 182.
  • Genius learns from nature; talent from books.
    • Josh Billings, attributed by Donald Day, ed., Uncle Sam's Uncle Josh: Or, Josh Billings on Practically Everything (1953), p. 182.
  • Men of genius are scarce, but men of genius who use their genius for the benefit of the world are scarcer.
    • Josh Billings, attributed by Donald Day, ed., Uncle Sam's Uncle Josh: Or, Josh Billings on Practically Everything (1953), p. 182
  • La génie n'est utre chose qu'une grande aptitude à la patience.
  • Genius is bound to be indulgent. It should know human errors so well — has, with its large luminous forces, such errors itself when it deigns to be human, that, where others may scorn, genius should only pity.

C[edit]

Common sense is governed by circumstances, but circumstances is governed by genius. ~ Josh Billings
Humor has justly been regarded as the finest perfection of poetic genius. ~ Thomas Carlyle
A harmless hilarity and a buoyant cheerfulness are not infrequent concomitants of genius; and we are never more deceived than when we mistake gravity for greatness, solemnity for science, and pomposity for erudition. ~ Charles Caleb Colton
  • Humor is properly the exponent of low things; that which first renders them poetical to the mind. The man of Humor sees common life, even mean life, under the new light of sportfulness and love; whatever has existence has a charm for him. Humor has justly been regarded as the finest perfection of poetic genius. He who wants it, be his other gifts what they may, has only half a mind; an eye for what is above him, not for what is about him or below him.
    • Thomas Carlyle, in 'Schiller" (1831), in Fraser's Magazine; later in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1839).
  • "[G]enius" (which means transcendent capacity of taking trouble, first of all)...
Genius is a capacity for taking trouble. ~ Leslie Stephen
Genius is an intuitive talent for labor. ~ Jan Walæus (Johannes Walaeus).
  • Perfect works are rare, because they must be produced at the happy moment when taste and genius unite; and this rare conjuncture, like that of certain planets, appears to occur only after the revolution of several cycles, and only lasts for an instant.
    • François-René de Chateaubriand, as quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893) selected and compiled by James Wood.
  • It is paltry philosophy if in the old-fashioned way one lays down rules and principles in total disregard of moral values. As soon as these appear one regards them as exceptions, which gives them a certain scientific status, and thus makes them into rules. Or again one may appeal to genius, which is above all rules; which amounts to admitting that rules are not only made for idiots, but are idiotic in themselves.
    • Carl von Clausewitz, On War (1832), Bk. 3, Ch 3: "Moral Factors", as translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret.
  • The genius stands to the ordinary person as a Buddhist or Hindu jivanmukta (enlightened soul) stands to a jiva (mere soul). He is freed of animal desires, rather than chained to them. He is a passive observer who dwells in an eternal present, rather than an active participant in life driven by regrets about the past and hopes for the future.
    • Jerry S. Clegg, describing the view of Schopenhauer, On Genius' (1994), p. 7.
  • A harmless hilarity and a buoyant cheerfulness are not infrequent concomitants of genius; and we are never more deceived than when we mistake gravity for greatness, solemnity for science, and pomposity for erudition.

D[edit]

  • The man of génie is he whose ranging soul occupies itself with all that is in nature, receiving from her no idea that is not roused by his distinctive play of emotion. All is brought to life, turned to account; nothing is lost, nothing wasted.... He casts upon nature an eye gifted for the comprehension of abysses.... As for his constructs, they are too audacious for ordinary reason to inhabit.... In the arts as in the sciences … the genius seems to change the very nature of things; his character envelops whatever it touches; he casts into the future his piercing lights; he leaps ahead of his century, and it is powerless to follow him. He leaves behind those intellects which seek, even rightly, as may be, to criticize — poor lockstepped minds which leave nature as they found it. Behold him they may but are powerless to know him. For the genius alone may tell us truly who and what he is.
    • Denis Diderot, "Génie" in the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts, et des métiers, ed. Alain Pons (Paris, 1963), pp. 321–29 passim. Translation by Benjamin Taylor in Into the Open: Reflections on Genius and Modernity (New York University Press, 1995), pp. 13–14.
  • Fortune has rarely condescended to be the companion of genius.
  • Many men of genius must arise before a particular man of genius can appear.
    • Isaac D'Israeli, The Literary Character, Illustrated by the History of Men of Genius (1795-1822).
  • To think, and to feel, constitute the two grand divisions of men of genius — the men of reasoning and the men of imagination.
    • Isaac D'Israeli, The Literary Character, Illustrated by the History of Men of Genius (1795-1822), Chapter II.
  • Every work of Genius is tinctured by the feelings, and often originates in the events of times.
    • Isaac D'Israeli, The Literary Character, Illustrated by the History of Men of Genius (1795-1822), Chapter XXV.

E[edit]

Powder comes across as a cross between Cliff Robertson's Charly, the Elephant Man, Mr. Spock, E. T. and Jesus. He is wise beyond his years, has great compassion and insight, suffers much, and attracts intolerance and meanness even better than lightning. He is also very smart. ~ Roger Ebert
  • The hearing ear is always found close to the speaking tongue; and no genius can long or often utter anything which is not invited and gladly entertained by men around him.

F[edit]

  • Genius goes around the world in its youth incessantly apologizing for having large feet. What wonder that later in life it should be inclined to raise those feet too swiftly to fools and bores.
  • Vivitur ingenio, that damn'd motto there
    Seduced me first to be a wicked player.
    • George Farquhar, Love and a Bottle. Epilogue written and spoken by Joseph Haynes. The motto "Vivitur ingenio" appears to have been displayed in Drury Lane Theatre.
  • Genius and its rewards are briefly told:
    A liberal nature and a niggard doom,
    A difficult journey to a splendid tomb.
    • John Foster, Dedication of the Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith (1837).
  • Genius is the power of lighting one's own fire.
    • John Foster, as quoted in Tact, Push, and Principle (1882) by William Makepeace Thayer, p. 48.

G[edit]

  • Das erste und letzte, was vom Genie gefordert wird, ist Wahrheits-Liebe.
  • Here lies our good Edmund, whose genius was such
    We scarcely can praise it or blame it too much;
    Who, born for the universe, narrow'd his mind,
    And to party gave up what was meant for mankind.

H[edit]

  • Perhaps, moreover, he whose genius appears deepest and truest excels his fellows in nothing save the knack of expression; he throws out occasionally a lucky hint at truths of which every human soul is profoundly though unutterably conscious.
  • Gift, like genius, I often think only means an infinite capacity for taking pains.
    • Ellice Hopkins, Work amongst Working Men, in Notes and Queries (13 September 1879), p. 213, a correspondent, H. P. states that he was the first to use the exact phrase, "Genius is the capacity for taking pains."
  • At ingenium ingens
    Inculto latet sub hoc corpore.
    • Yet a mighty genius lies hid under this rough exterior.
      • Horace, Satires, Book I. 3. 33.
  • We declare to you that the earth has exhausted its contingent of master-spirits. Now for decadence and general closing. We must make up our minds to it. We shall have no more men of genius.

I[edit]

J[edit]

  • The true Genius is a mind of large general powers, accidentally determined to some particular direction.
  • Genius is the aptitude for seeing invisible things, for stirring intangible things, for painting things that have no features.
    • Joseph Joubert, The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert (1983) as translated by Paul Auster

K[edit]

  • The genuinely extraordinary person is the genuine ordinary person. The more of the universally human an individual can actualize in his life, the more extraordinary a human being he is. The less of the universal he can assimilate, the more imperfect he is. It is true that he may then be an extraordinary person, but not in the good sense.
  • The genius is an omnipotent Ansich [in-itslef] which as such would rock the whole world. For the sake of order, another figure appears along with him, namely, fate. Fate is nothing. It is the genius himself who discovers it, and the more profound the genius, the more profoundly he discovers fate, because that figure is merely the anticipation of providence.

L[edit]

Many a genius has been slow of growth. Oaks that flourish for a thousand years do not spring up into beauty like a reed. ~ George Henry Lewes
  • Entre esprit et talent il y a la proportion du tout à sa partié.
  • Genius is not so much a light as it is a constant awareness of the surrounding gloom.
    • Stanisław Lem, in His Master's Voice (1968) as translated by Michael Kandel (1983).
  • Many a genius has been slow of growth. Oaks that flourish for a thousand years do not spring up into beauty like a reed.
  • Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.
  • There are people who possess not so much genius as a certain talent for perceiving the desires of the century, or even of the decade, before it has done so itself.
  • It is in the gift for employing all the vicissitudes of life to one's own advantage and to that of one's craft that a large part of genius consists.
  • All the means of action
    The shapeless masses, the materials —
    Lie everywhere about us. What we need
    Is the celestial fire to change the flint
    Into transparent crystal, bright and clear.
    That fire is genius!
  • Talent is that which is in a man's power! genius is that in whose power a man is.
  • Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge.
  • Ubi jam valideis quassatum est viribus ævi
    Corpus, et obtuseis ceciderunt viribus artus,
    Claudicat ingenium delirat linguaque mensque.
    • When the body is assailed by the strong force of time and the limbs weaken from exhausted force, genius breaks down, and mind and speech fail.

M[edit]

Is there a word for total screaming genius that sounds modest and a tiny bit sexy? ~ Steven Moffat

N[edit]

  • Genius still means to me, in my Russian, fastidiousness and pride of phrase, a unique dazzling gift. The gift of James Joyce, and not the talent of Henry James.
  • I don't mean to suggest... that he is a man who is without controversy. He speaks his mind. Sometimes he has rivals who disagree with him; sometimes they are right, and he is the first to admit that sometimes he might be wrong. But the greatness of the American military service, and particularly the greatness of the Navy, is symbolized in this ceremony today, because this man, who is controversial, this man, who comes up with unorthodox ideas, did not become submerged by the bureaucracy, because once genius is submerged by bureaucracy, a nation is doomed to mediocrity.
  • The Art of a well-developed genius is far different from the Artfulness of the Understanding, of the merely reasoning mind. Shakspeare was no calculator, no learned thinker; he was a mighty, many-gifted soul, whose feelings and works, like products of Nature, bear the stamp of the same spirit; and in which the last and deepest of observers will still find new harmonies with the infinite structure of the Universe; concurrences with later ideas, affinities with the higher powers and senses of man. They are emblematic, have many meanings, are simple and inexhaustible, like products of Nature; and nothing more unsuitable could be said of them than that they are works of Art, in that narrow mechanical acceptation of the word.

O[edit]

P[edit]

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. ~ George S. Patton
  • Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
  • Almost all the noblest things that have been achieved in the world, have been achieved by poor men; poor scholars, poor professional men, poor artisans and artists, poor philosophers, poets, and men of genius.
    • Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (1871), Ch. XXII : Knight of the Royal Axe, or Prince of Libanus, p. 347.
  • Sir Isaac Newton, having perhaps the greatest scientific mind of all time, accepted the books of Book of Daniel and Revelation as revelations from God, being very detailed and accurate representations of the history of the world's dominating kingdoms, and prophesying both the first and second coming of Christ. He understood that the scriptures taught that the true Church of Jesus Christ had been lost, and he awaited three separate future events: 1) the restoration of the gospel by an angel, 2) the re-establishment of the true church, and 3) the rise of a new world kingdom led by the Savior himself, which will crush the kingdoms of the world as the stone pulverized the statue to powder. He saw the whole purpose of these revelations is not to satisfy man's curiosity about the future, but to be a testimony of the foreknowledge of God after they are all fulfilled in the last days. He proposed that the revelations can be understood by discovering rules governing their consistent imagery, but only after they have been fulfilled, unless an interpretation is given with the revelation. Truly Newton's genius was remarkable, and we could learn much from his insights and systematic methods.

Q[edit]

  • Ilud ingeniorum velut præcox genus, non temere unquam pervenit ad frugem.
    • It seldom happens that a premature shoot of genius ever arrives at maturity.

R[edit]

S[edit]

My way hither was the way of destiny; for I am he of whose genius you are the symbol: part brute, part woman, and part God— nothing of man in me at all. Have I read your riddle, Sphinx? ~ George Bernard Shaw
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
  • Un genio es alguien que descubre que la piedra que cae y la luna que no cae representan un solo y mismo fenómeno.
    • A genius is someone who discovers that the stone that falls and the moon that doesn't fall represent one and the same phenomenon.
    • Variant translation: A genius is someone who discovers that the falling stone and the moon that falls represent one and the same phenomenon.
  • My way hither was the way of destiny; for I am he of whose genius you are the symbol: part brute, part woman, and part God — nothing of man in me at all. Have I read your riddle, Sphinx?
  • Das Licht des Genie's bekam weniger
    Fett, als das Licht des Lebens.
  • Über Naive und Sentimentalische Dichtung.
    • Every true genius is bound to be naive.
  • Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. With people with only modest ability, modesty is mere honesty; but with those who possess great talent, it is hypocrisy.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, as quoted in The Little Book of Bathroom Philosophy : Daily Wisdom from the Greatest Thinkers (2004) by Gregory Bergman, p. 137.
  • Nullum sæculum magnis ingeniis clausum est.
  • There is none but he
    Whose being I do fear; and, under him,
    My Genius is rebuk'd: as, it is said,
    Mark Antony's was by Cæsar.
  • Marmora Mæonii vincunt monumenta libelli
    Vivitur ingenio; cætera mortis erunt.
    • The poets' scrolls will outlive the monuments of stone. Genius survives; all else is claimed by death.
      • Edmund Spenser, Shepherd's Calendar, Colin's Emblem. End (1715). Quoted. Peacham, Minerva Britanna I (1612). Said to be from Consolatio ad Liviam, by an anonymous author, written shortly after Mæcenas' death. Attributed to Vergil and Ovid. See Notes and Queries, Jan., 1918, p. 12. Robinson Ellis, Appendix Vergiliana. Riese, Anthologia Latina.
  • Genius is essentially creative; it bears the stamp of the individual who possesses it.
  • Genius inspires this thirst for fame: there is no blessing undesired by those to whom Heaven gave the means of winning it.
  • Genius is a capacity for taking trouble.
    • Leslie Stephen, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Genius can never despise labour.
  • Even if we accept, as the basic tenet of true democracy, that one moron is equal to one genius, is it necessary to go a further step and hold that two morons are better than one genius?
    • Leó Szilárd, The Voice of the Dolphins : And Other Stories (1961)
    • Variant translation: I'm all in favor of the democratic principle that one idiot is as good as one genius, but I draw the line when someone takes the next step and concludes that two idiots are better than one genius.
      • As quoted in "Some Szilardisms on War, Fame, Peace", LIFE‎ magazine, Vol. 51, no. 9 (1 September 1961), p. 79.

T[edit]

  • Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered — either by themselves or by others. But for the Civil War, Lincoln and Grant and Sherman and Sheridan would not have been discovered, nor have risen into notice.
    • Mark Twain in notes (26 May 1907); published in The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959) edited by Charles Neider

U[edit]

V[edit]

Hendrix had conjured – with his vision and sense of sound, his personality and genius – the most extraordinary guitar music ever played, the most remarkable sound-scape ever created; of that there is little argument. ~ Ed Vulliamy
  • Genius loci.
    • The presiding genius of the place.
      • Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), VII, 136. Genius signifies a divinity. Monumental stones were inscribed by the ancient Romans, "Genio loci"—"To the Divinity of the locality." Altar to the Unknown God. (See Acts XVII. 23).

W[edit]

  • Genius is an intuitive talent for labor.
    • Jan Walæus, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Genius is more often found in a cracked pot than in a whole one.

X[edit]

Y[edit]

  • Learning we thank, Genius we revere: That gives us pleasure, This gives us rapture; That informs, This inspires; and is itself inspired; for genius is from heaven, learning from man.

Z[edit]

External links[edit]

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